#Weeknotes 43 (12 Nov) — Sustainability as an accountability and responsibility issue

While putting groceries away from our weekly Ocado deliveries this week, I started thinking about sustainability again. Ocado has a bag recycling service that encourages the return and recycling of their grocery bags and even other plastic bags one has collected elsewhere. While this is isn’t as great as bringing your own reusable bags for grocery shopping, it is still a step in the right direction. As more and more organisations look to implement sustainability into their processes and brand, I can’t help but think there’s still so much we can all do to reverse or at least minimise the footprint we are leaving behind, such that we don’t destroy the environment that sustains us.

If our planet is a house, it is currently rotting and at the risk of breaking apart. Shouldn’t we, the people that live in it, have the responsibility to maintain it to ensure this home can continue to be a safe shelter for us for as long as our survival depends on it?

The only way to maintain this home is for everyone in it: individuals, businesses, organisations, and governments to be held responsible and accountable for the wear and tear we cause (aka our environmental footprint that’s damaging the Earth).

  • Hearing that governing bodies setting up agreements such as the Paris agreement shows the right intentions even if it isn’t enough.
  • Businesses and organisations are also increasingly more environmentally conscious, from using more recyclable materials to looking at the full life cycle of products not just the stage of production. I just love how Patagonia addresses the full cycle of the clothes they make and invests in initiatives to reduce environmental footprint and rethinking how clothing is made. The fact that they’ve been doing this since 1973 and are still flourishing shows that these sustainability models can work and be truly sustainable.
  • The rise of electric vehicles also reflects a demand for a more sustainable means of transportation that doesn’t pollute the air we breathe. The car share economy is here to stay and as it becomes the norm, it’s reducing the reliance on car ownership and thus reducing the environmental impact of car production. Less is more.
  • Individually, as consumers, our choices impact the market and the direction of businesses that want to thrive. Successful businesses are attuned to the needs and wants of their customers. We see more and more meat replacement options in supermarkets and a wider variety of vegetarian options on the menu of restaurants because the demand has increased and thus the market. More and more people especially in the younger generations choose to forgo meat, much to the incomprehension of my parent’s generation. Besides making more thoughtful choices as consumers there is a lot we can do individually at home. The key is creating small habits that stick.

While I love the catchy 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse & Recycle, it’s just as important to choose quality over beauty in the first place, like sourcing veggies and fruits from Odd box or getting the best of both worlds in sustainability and beauty like these brands from fashion to homeware.

I love this blog that lists many great ideas we can start doing at home to do our part to live more sustainability while reducing waste.

My partner Sven and I have developed several habits to do our part in minimising our footprint:

  • We started composting over a year ago and soon after we came to a shocking realisation that most of our waste comes from food when our weekly rubbish is reduced to the amount of a full standard-sized grocery bag. We have a system of two small compost bins on rotation in which we throw our food scraps in. Once one is filled up we seal it until the other bin is nearly full before releasing the contents to our large compost bin in the garden. After a year of composing, the garden compost bin now contains many worms and other helpful creatures which has been converting the scraps into fertile soil which we can then use to aid our gardening efforts.
  • We also developed a habit of making sure we clean the items that are ready to be recycled. We found out that recyclable items that still have food stains on them can’t be recycled and are often trashed with other rubbish. And if the number inside the recycling symbol on the plastic is neither a 1 or 2 then you likely can’t recycle it. At least not via curbside collection.

Though it is extra effort to compost and clean the recycling. I do find that once a habit is formed they cease to be a “hassle” but rather a part of the maintenance routine, like brushing teeth. It also becomes easier to then develop new habits. The key isn’t trying to do everything at once. We’re not going to be “living off the land” and be self-sufficient anytime soon, but we can live more content knowing we are doing our part in taking responsibility for the footprint we leave on this planet. We’re currently looking into recycling plastic bags that require a visit to the supermarkets as we found out recently that many plastics and films cannot be recycled via curbside collection but can be recycled at specific facilities. Like batteries, they need to be recycled separately. As a user experience designer, I know the cost of just adding an extra step can be the barrier that breaks motivation and disincentivises positive actions.

If we want people to live more sustainably, governments and organisations need to reduce the barriers such that a sustainable life is easier to adopt. Better yet, make it a no brainer decision. This could mean subsidies on sustainable products such that they’re more affordable (such as more affordable organic produce), better recycling programs (ideally curbside collection that can take everything that can be recycled including films and batteries); incentives for less waste produced; the environmental footprint of products to be factored into the costs (this can include the number of natural resources used: drinkable water, trees consumed etc and the environmental impact caused by its creation: carbon emission; deforestation /loss of habits etc). Actions and policies like these that hold not only government bodies and organisations but also individuals accountable can really help normalise more sustainable living and get us to be more environmentally conscious which in turn protect this planet. Our survival depends on it.



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Julie Sun

Julie Sun

Senior UX Consultant at @cxpartners | Mindful Optimist