Trading in plastic for a sustainable future.
Plastic free July is a great way to reflect and do some self evaluation about how much plastic is used in your daily life. This month encourages you to find alternatives to eliminate the use of single use plastic - a process that will hopefully change your habits forever, so you can reduce waste at home and live a more sustainable lifestyle while setting a good example for your family, friends, and co-workers.
It is mind boggling when you hear these numbers….
1,000,000 plastic bottles are PURCHASED PER MINUTE in the world.
4 trillion plastic bags are USED worldwide EVERY YEAR.
500,000 straws are used in the world EVERY DAY….
and the list goes on and on……
When I lived in California, everyone had a stash of reusable bags in their car because any time you purchased anything from the store you would be charged if you didn’t bring your own bag. It’s amazing how a charge of 25 cents per bag changed the plastic bag habit of Northern Californians almost overnight.
Now, more and more states are starting to implement the “charge for bag” policy not only to eliminate plastic waste, but primarily because they are running out of landfill space!
This is a problem that is amplified many times over in third world countries like Egypt where plastic waste presents a major challenge. The biodynamic farm where all Under the Nile products are made has implemented a “No Plastic” policy on the farm. Reusable bags are sewn at our factory and then given to workers and surrounding communities for free, so that everyone can afford to work towards a plastic free Egypt.
Students from the Heliopolis University of Sustainability, Florian Mende and Killi Pohl, along with Mr. Ahmed Abdullah from the Vocational Training Center, display their recycling machine prototype.
The farm we work with has also pioneered the University for Sustainable Development, where students are encouraged to come up with sustainable solutions that can help address Egypt’s environmental problems. Florian Mende and Killi Pohl are two students who decided to tackle the plastic problem head on by constructing recycling machines using simple and locally available materials. With the support of our metal Vocational Training Center, they have already built 8 recycling machines which are spread out on the main farm and on the university campus. Both students and workers from our factory can bring plastic from home and try their hands at recycling. The project has been so successful that companies across Egypt are requesting their own recycling machines!
These are initiatives we’re taking at our farm, but there are many ways to reduce plastic waste no matter where you live in the world. Let’s all band together to make the change.
Here are some ways to reduce plastic use:
- Use your own reusable shopping bags at the grocery store and for shopping trips to the mall.
- Bring your own reusable containers when ordering take out or leftovers from a restaurant. We always designate a family member to bring containers when we go out to eat. It’s a great incentive to have a prepared lunch for the next day.
- Use reusable water bottles.
- Bring your lunch in a lunch box with reusable utensils and containers.
- Buy in bulk to avoid plastic packaging.
- Bring your own jars. Fresh Thyme market checkout people have finally been trained on how to charge minus the weight of the containers!
- Say NO to straws, plastic utensils and plastic plates.
- Lead by example. Teach your children from early on about living plastic free. Introduce your children to plastic free ideas by doing DIY projects. Have them prepare the mason jars and reusable bags for the trip to the grocery store.
- Take your own coffee cups when getting your caffeine fix.
One of our core values here at Under the Nile is being environmentally sustainable.
I hold myself accountable for running the company in the most sustainable way possible, and I know there is always room for improvement. One issue that I have been struggling to solve over the years, is the way we package products being shipped from Egypt, and how we ship orders to our customers. I know we can do better.
We need to figure out a solution to ship plastic free and to keep our products clean, all without increasing the costs for our customers. I have been working on a list of ideas with possible solutions and a call to action that I would like to share with you.
1. Reducing the use of plastic bags in packing
ACTION ITEM: Bulk pack. Possibly packing inner packs of 10 instead of individually.
2. Working with bulk packed goods at the fulfillment center
ACTION ITEM: Figure out how to keep products clean in the warehouse. Conduct a test by pulling orders from bulk packed boxes.
3. Finding new bag sourcing options
ACTION ITEM: Check in Egypt to see all possible sustainable options for packing material.
4. Eliminating plastic bags
ACTION ITEM: Ship retail customers in one reusable bag instead of individually wrapped bags whenever possible.
5. Changing from plastic to compostable mailers
ACTION ITEM: Look for companies that have plastic alternatives that are not cost inhibited. Ship retail customers in compostable mailers instead of plastic. Work with our fulfillment center to make the change.
Today I’m happy to report that I have found a sustainable solution to our plastic mailer. Starting in August, we will start shipping our customers in a compostable mailer made from corn! The mailer can be reused or simply put in your recycle or compost bin. We are also in the process of conducting bulk testing and hope to be shipping in a reusable bag soon.
Can’t wait to get started!
I would also like to ask our Under the Nile community to join us and take the Plastic Free Challenge this month as well and share your pictures, and stories that will inspire others. We will post them as they are submitted!
We all can do better. And we will!