Part of the solution to addressing climate change is using products with reduced greenhouse gas effects, empowering consumers to make better choices, and delivering information that is comprehensive and will stem behavioral change. Government can create policy that is sound; however, people need to be behind these policies for their lifestyle and behavior to be in line with maintaining a healthy planet. Treating the root issue (i.e. behavior/mentality towards the environment) will likely yield results, as opposed to creating restrictions on our population.
The most common argument that I hear as an environmental advocate is, “What is the point of having a green product when it is produced by oil?”. This is an excellent question. My goal is to present “eco-friendly” products that include the entire life cycle of the product, from raw material to disposal. “Eco-friendly” assumes sustainable practices are being used at all stages (i.e. raw material, production, disposal). A rudimentary analysis will be done by comparing a more traditionally used product against its green counterpart.
At times it can be overwhelming to understand all the effects of our lifestyle on the environment. We want to be responsible citizens, but we are so bombarded with information that we feel there is no impact no matter what we do. The problem becomes too big for us to feel like we can contribute.
The following article will be part of an ongoing series about “eco-friendly” products accessible to consumers, considering the willingness to pay. This is not a series that will give you tips such as: use cloth bags vs plastic, use rechargeable batteries, take shorter showers, etc. The objective of this series is to present solutions that could not only impact how we consume, but also could lead to behavioral changes that will encourage sustainable use of our finite resources, leaving future generations with a healthier planet.
*Disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with any of the products mentioned. Additionally, there are other factors that can be attributed to reducing the negative impact of our product consumption, such as keeping it local—multiple factors will not be considered in this series. This series is meant to inform consumers of alternatives to the usual products that are currently being offered.
Part 1: The Water Bottle
There have been numerous studies published on the damaging effects of un-recycled plastics and the production of plastic bottles, none of which I will examine via this media platform. However, if you’re interested in learning more about this topic, please feel free to read the following recently published articles:
Erikson, M. (2017) Junk Raft: An ocean voyage and rising tide of activism to fight plastic pollution. Boston Beacon Press.
D’Altrui, E. M. (2017). Bottle Water Bans: How can we curb the thirst for bottled water? Elements, 13(1).
This feature profiles JUST, an eco-friendly bottled water company. Although this is an A-list celebrity product (created by Jaden and Will Smith), the innovation is noteworthy.
Price point: US 99 cents
Water source: Local – Glen Falls, NY
Factory: New York, just outside of Glen Falls
Bottle: Paper (from certified forests) & Sugarcane (grown with rainwater, high density, reducing farmland needed for production)
The product is broken down into the following considerations:
- Raw material for packaging
- Water source
1. Raw material for packaging
The raw material of the bottle is paper-based, promoting plant-based plastics, rather than the removal of plastics altogether. Traditional plastic is petroleum derived; however, making the switch to a plant-derived product is not enough if its cultivation upsets food supplies, creates unfair labour, and results in habitat loss. 52% of the package is made of paperboard from wood fibers. The Forest Stewardship Council certifies the forests from which the raw material is extracted as sustainable—coming from strong communities with healthy and responsibly harvested forests.
The use of sugarcane in the cap is an example of how each process in the development of the product has been scrutinized for sustainability. JUST ensures they use sugarcane produced in sustainable ways, considering everything from density (i.e. amount of space needed for cultivation) to water consumption (uses solely rainwater to grow) to overseeing regulating government bodies (ensuring policies are being followed).
See here for more details on the raw materials.
JUST uses flat rolls of paper (the container that will be formed further in the production line), transporting 13 truckloads of traditional water bottles in just one truck.
See here for more detail on the production process.
3. Water Source
JUST considers water scarcity in their business model and procures the raw material from excess water sitting in reservoirs in New York. The business model uses the parameters of water scarcity and impact in selecting their water source.
See here for more detail on the water source.
Lastly, to give perspective, JUST iterates that the production of 200,000 tons of sugar for plastic represents an annual reduction of 800,000 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere, which is equal to the annual emissions of either 800,000 cars or 200,000 families.*
See here for more detail on this process.
All diagrams used in the article have been sourced from the JUST website.
2006 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Emissions
Brazilian Government Ministry of Science and Technology-Nations Climate Change Project