Going lean is the new green

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

And going lean here means especially reducing the waste that we produce on a daily basis, much of it, most of it, in fact, by way of packaging waste. The next movement in green marketing, therefore, is and must be about focusing on waste reduction.

While we, as individuals, can do little with regards to packaging waste and the waste that is produced by industry, we can do a great deal by reducing the waste that we produce in our homes (and offices). Here reuse, repurposing and upcycling comes into its own, as far as packaging and such waste is concerned, and then there is reducing food waste by proper storage, not buying too much and by understanding what the dates on the packages mean.

There will soon be 9.5 billion people on Planet Earth and 3 billion more consumers in the “middle” class. And they are all wanting to buy cars, use products with packaging, and so on. But, frankly, there are not enough resources on the Planet to sustain that.

It just is not enough to buy so-called green products – we have to promote responsible consumption and we have to get away also from what I like to refer to as greensumption; buying green goods because “we must have them to be green”.

Often people buy recycled products because they think that that makes them “green” while they do not consider reuse of something that they have – such as an item of waste that, by reuse, can fulfill the same task as something they will buy recycled. An empty and cleaned out tin can for a pencil bin for the desk instead of buying one made from recycled steel is just such an example.

When it comes to recyclable packaging and those that are compostable people still do not take the necessary steps to ensure that the items go into the correct bins, for instance. It is great that we now have compostable potato chip bags, but we need consumers to put those into a composting system and not just the trash. But many of those so-called compostable items do not compost in your ordinary compost heap; they require commercial composting with heat. So here we also have some kind of greenwash going on.

I personally hate to see things go to waste and therefore I am always on the lookout as to what might possibly be done with this or that item of packaging waste (or other kind of waste) by way, first of all, of reusing and upcycling and then sharing those ideas with others.

Probably, no, not just probably but definitely, my approach to waste and hating it and trying to make use of everything that can possibly be used, reused and upcycled, stems from my childhood of not having very much and the attitude of my parents and their parents of making do with what could be had.

When it comes to industry and marketing and products people are usually, at least before the recession, attracted to “green”, but not at any price and not to greenwash. The interest can have many reasons; the great outdoors, health, caring about animals, concern about resources and minimizing waste, or several combined.

The biggest problem, even with so-called “green” products is that even those are rarely repairable and have a limited lifespan (built in) without the ability to be repaired. That is not “green” and that does not prevent waste.

On the other hand people also – even, it would appear, people in the “green movement” – to make do and mend and as long as it says “made from recycled” and “recyclable” they buy into it. That, however, is not the answer. Products need to be redesigned to be repairable and to have a low impact and secondly people need to come to value what they have and not always desire the latest.

We are slowly getting to that goal, at least with some people, and also slowly but surely, methinks, people are beginning to understand, or so, at least, I hope, that reuse and upcycling is a thousand times more important that recycling and products being recyclable.

Every item of waste, especially packaging waste, should be seen as a potential resource for reuse and upcycling and only when all possibilities have been exhausted should recycling be considered. Not before.

To me reuse and upcycling is something that comes rather natural and I put that down to my upbringing when there was not much in the way of things, including toys, and we made use of what came along, and not just for our own use but even for sale on markets. But then again, it was a different era. And no, I am not as old as Methuselah.

Going lean and not just green can save lots of green though, in the form of greenbacks, that is to say Dollars, or Pounds or Rubles or Euros. The colors of those currencies may vary but the result is the same.

© 2015