It's that time of year again, when I head off to Asia for an annual conference on palm oil. That's right, in addition to my work with ecochair, I have a secret life as a sustainability consultant. I've been going to these conferences on and off for close to a decade, and I am always impressed by the number of passionate people working tirelessly, year after year, to solve some of the biggest challenges facing our planet.
However, these days, I feel much more passionate about having an impact where I live, here in the Basel area. The phrase 'think global, act local' has been widely used since the 1970s, and really resonates with me these days. Making good, ecologically responsible choices here, where we live, is as important as working on far-away projects.
There are really simple things you can do every day through your buying habits that will have ripple effects back to the countries where many of the raw materials are grown, mined and extracted and in the world's oceans. Here are some ideas:
1. Never use a plastic bag. If you are getting take-away food, in a little corner shop, or are on holiday somewhere, just tell them you don't want a bag. There are so many options for beautiful, foldable bags these days, there is no excuse.
2. Skip the straw. Unless your jaw is wired shut or you've just had your wisom teeth pulled, you actually don't need that little piece of plastic to consume your drink. After all, humans have consumed beverages for hundreds of thousands of years without the plastic straw (which was only invented in the 1960s, though earlier versions were made from paper, plant tubes and precious metals).
3. Check where your precious metals and diamonds come from. Mining can be have a really negative environmental impact, not to mention slave and child labour that is known to occur, and fund wars. If you want to learn more about work being done in this area, check out the Responsible Jewellery Council, the Conflict-free Gold Standard and the Kimberly Process.
4. Eat less meat and cheese. Ok, this one's a bit controversial, but all the studies we are seeing these days suggest that reducing meat and dairy products is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact on the planet. According to the largest study to date, published in 2018, livestock produces only 18% of calories but takes up 83% of farmland. Apparently reducing these has a far bigger impact than even cutting down on your flights. Start with little steps, like choosing a veggie option at lunch once a week.
5. Resist the temptation to get a new phone every two years. e-waste is a huge problem, not to mention the mining of the rare earth minerals used in the electronics (see above). Try to squeeze out another year, and make sure you take your old phone to be recycled back where you bought. Check out digitech.ch secondhand and refurbished options, instead of buying new!
6. Buy secondhand furniture! We've just launched our map of local secondhand furniture shops, so in addition to ecochair.chh, you can go visit the shops in your neighbourhood.
7. Repair and upcycle what you have. Got a scratch on your table, or waterspots on wood furniture? We'd be happy to give you tips on how to get in looking like new, or even recommend local services for re-painting and upholstery.
That's a few tips to get you started! Do you have more ideas? Let us know.
Now, I'm going to go sleep off my jet lag and count up how much my carbon offset for my flight to Asia will cost. And maybe next year, I will stay here instead.Kate