Let’s face it: we can all make more sustainable lifestyle choices with a little bit of effort. It doesn’t require much—a keep cup kept in the car or office, a re-usable shopping bag in the boot, even choosing to buy local or make more eco-conscious shopping decisions—it all adds up. While caring for the environment and making sustainable choices is ultimately up to the individual, there are some people whose efforts are truly commendable and their work offers a source of inspiration and motivation for us all to do better.
One such person is New Zealander-based entrepreneur Rebecca Percasky, who launched sustainable packaging company The Better Packaging Co. after years spent working in e-commerce left her feeling disillusioned by the amount of plastic waste her industry was creating. Her valiant efforts in the carbon neutral space have led to major developments in sustainable packing solutions, with The Better Packaging Co. offering everything from home compostable garment bags, carry bags, sticky tape and mailers to sustainable postage and shipping bags.
Percasky’s efforts are so successful, she’s caught the attention of the Cartier Women’s Initiative, the annual international women’s entrepreneurship program founded in 2006. One hundred per cent funded by Cartier, but wholly separate from the commercial side of the business, the initiative seeks to empower female entrepreneurs and is compliant with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs).
With Percasky just announced as a Laureate for the South East Asia & Oceania branch of the 2021 Cartier Women’s Initiative, we thought it was worth celebrating by asking her to share a few of her insights and tips for reducing plastic waste in the home.
1. Vote with your purchase
Whenever you buy anything, consider the environmental impact and sustainability of your purchase. Are there more sustainable options? Are there products that use natural, renewable materials?
Whenever you purchase something you are, essentially, voting for the world you want to live in. If you vote for low-cost, low sustainability and high environmental impact, you’re also choosing that for the rest of us. It’s supply and demand. Send a message to manufacturers and brands that we, the people, want sustainability, ethical practices, and the protection of our planet to be at the forefront of their business.
2. Buy second-hand first
It’s far too easy to grab whatever you need from the mall. We all have busy lives and sometimes, it’s just the convenience that wins out at the end of the day. But a little effort can go a long way. In my house, we encourage everyone to purchase second-hand wherever possible or practical. Need a new appliance? New car? Clothes or devices? You’ll be amazed at what perfectly good items are available online and will save you money in the process too.
Second-hand goods typically reduce the environmental burden of producing 'things’ and the inevitable swathes of single-use plastic packaging any new item comes packaged in. It also gives unwanted items a second chance, saving them from ending up in landfill.
3. Take the plunge on coffee
Coffee pods have changed the way we make coffee. They’re super convenient and typically deliver an above-average coffee in a short timeframe. But all those pods! It’s added a significant environmental burden on the planet. Go for a plunger or stove-top percolator instead, or (if you can) an espresso machine that grinds the beans. That way you’ve got far less plastic (or other packaging) and the leftover bean grounds are a composter’s best friend.
4. Take rubbish seriously
In our home, we have a four-bin system: standard recyclables, soft plastics, compost and last (and usually least) landfill. They’re kept mostly out of sight, and we are reasonably strict on ensuring family members are separating rubbish so we can maximise recycling and composting. By taking a stance on rubbish at home, you keep everyone thinking about their impact, since they’re reminded multiple times a day.
Visiting friends and family are also encouraged to learn more about our treatment of waste and many have adopted some of our simple practices. Our compost bin takes all food scraps, compostable packaging, even natural fibres like wool and cotton. You’ll be amazed at what can actually be composted! We are fortunate to have a back yard with a healthy compost system that has evolved over time. If you cannot do the same, see point seven below.
5. Go naked
Originally, we bought our groceries, like most people, from the local supermarket but once we sat down and actually worked out what we were buying and understood the food miles some of that produce carried, we decided to find a local grocer who provides naked fruit and vegetables that are grown locally. The produce is always in-season and our purchase supports local growers. It tastes better when you know it has been grown locally, without contributing to unnecessary packaging and shipping burdens.
6. Go au naturale
If you pause for a moment and look around your home—how many items do you notice are made from plastic? What is the purpose of these items? Are there any alternatives that might be upcycled or made from natural materials? Furniture, shelves, rugs, dishcloths ... there are so many items in a typical home that are made from plastic-derived synthetics designed to never break down. Take a moment to think about what you are buying, what options are available and what those options say about your environmental stance. When you really get down to it, there’s probably a tonne of more sustainable alternatives... and if not, refer to point number two.
7. And our personal favourite–COMPOST!
As purveyors of compostable packaging solutions for eCommerce, we are all about composting. It is an incredibly simple and rewarding way to reduce your overall environmental impact on several levels. Firstly, food waste isn’t going to landfill where it will generate methane; and secondly, all the amazing nutrients contained in those peels and scraps aren’t ‘lost’ from the eco-system. Making compost and using it in your garden supports the nutrients and ecology of the soil by returning it to nature in the most efficient way.
I personally think everyone should compost—there's really no reason not to. Then, when you buy stuff, you can vote with your purchase by choosing products supplied in compostable packaging—so when you’ve finished re-using it, you can throw the packaging into the compost bin knowing it’ll be gone in a few months (and there’ll be a few fatter worms in your garden). If you don’t have a backyard or area suitable for a compost bin, check out sharewaste.com—it’s kind of like Airbnb for food scraps but completely free. Most cities offer compost collection or provide industrial composting—so check out where your nearest one is and make the effort to compost your organic waste.
Written by Yeong Sassall.
This article originally appeared on Vogue Living Australia.