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Sustainability: What our Future Holds...

Posted by Kelly Farhangi on 14th Apr 2017

Sustainability

Our global future depends on sustainability. Moving towards the implementation of sustainable development practices is important to ensure that everyone has a fair share of the world’s natural resources and that future generations can sufficiently meet their own needs. The rapid growth of population, increasing the demand for food and water in addition to industrialization and economic globalization has put tremendous pressure on the environment and earth’s natural resources. We only have one Earth. It’s important to find ways to reduce our harmful impact on our precious planet.

Problem

The earth’s natural resources are limited and if used continuously, they will eventually get exhausted. Today’s consumers are meeting a variety of their needs more than ever before and the scarcity of resources is becoming a problem. For instance, some of the today’s most cherished electronic products such as mobile phones and computers rely on one or more of the rare-earth elements that have no substitute, such as Europium, Gadolinium and Terbium. Unless people recycle their old electronics, we can't recover those elements.

Today’s abundant economy has created a culture of over consumption which has led to more waste. Each year recycling continues to climb in popularity but we also produce more waste, particularly waste generated by packaging materials and electronic waste (e-waste). We consume a large amount of natural resources as a matter of habit without considering their continued availability in the future. Over the past several decades, businesses, communities, and individuals have tried to protect their interests by investing in the supply of natural resources that provide them with economic growth, without consideration for the environment and future generations.

Businesses are aggressively engaged in creating consumer societies, which is a major issue for sustainability. People excessively purchase and consume resources because they are affordable and our society is continuously bombarded by marketing messages every day. Businesses actively promote and support the formation of a consumer society through their aggressive advertising and promotions. Discount stores such as Costco, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, etc. encourage large quantity purchases with higher discounts. Companies are manufacturing less expensive one-time use products, such as disposable utensils and plastic water bottles, so they can continue to increase their profitability. Thus, people are encouraged to consume more and waste more. The solid waste contribution to landfills is increasing both in volume and in total toxicity because companies are not pressured to prioritize recycling, reuse, or use less toxic alternatives in the first place. When products become old, they are simply replaced by newer ones.

Mobil Phone Generations

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

New generations no longer repair their items because they have grown up with “disposable culture” created by corporations and cheap manufactured goods from Asia. Through aggressive marketing campaigns and planned obsolescence, many large corporations artificially reduce the life cycle of their products (such as computers, laptops, and cell phones). This will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the environment. Earth will face a catastrophic future if people and corporations do not change their activities.

(Source: baselactionnetwork/ Flickr)

Solution 1 – Education

Major causes of the continued deterioration of our environment include a lack of education and environmental awareness. Public education plays an important role in creating a more sustainable society. Reducing wastes and practicing a sustainable lifestyle requires changes in individuals’ consumption habits and daily behaviors. Therefore, individuals must know why they are recycling and reducing waste, understand the meaning of waste prevention and learn how to implement waste prevention strategies in their own daily lives. 

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

It is imperative that individuals realize that it will require everyone’s participation in conserving the earth’s precious natural resources. Landfills could run out of space if they are not carefully managed by ways of reducing trash. We must begin educating our younger generations at the earliest possible age and continue to promote protecting natural resources throughout their lives. Environmental education must be a part of every school curriculum. This type of education increases awareness in future generations and knowledge about environmental issues while encouraging them to actively participate in resolving the problems we all face. 

Solution 2 - Recyclable from Cradle to Grave

Today’s recycling programs, supported by states, counties, cities, and responsible citizens, are aimed at reducing landfill solid waste disposal. In order for recycling to succeed and take root, there should be recycling incentive programs for both manufacturers and consumers. Manufacturers need to be encouraged to engineer easily recyclable products to begin with and consumers must be motivated to recycle.  

Many developed countries have adopted the principle of extended producer responsibility (EPR) in order to reduce wastes and pollution while providing incentives for manufacturers to incorporate sustainability into their product design. The EPR is a policy approach that makes companies responsible for managing their products and their packaging when consumers are done with them. It provides manufacturers incentives to design products that use less raw material, less toxic chemicals and utilize recyclable materials. By using less toxic chemicals, it becomes less costly to recycle the products creating a sustainable system. EPR can also reduce the extraction of rare natural resources that cause damage to the planet during their mining, extraction, and processing, forcing manufacturers to be more socially responsible. Back in the day, if a company produced a great product, such as Apple and their iPhone, that company was considered “great”. Today, it is crucial to extend the manufacture’s responsibility beyond making a great product. A “great” company is one that can manufacture state-of-the-art products that, once they are no longer useful, can be easily dismantled and recycled instead of being thrown in a landfill.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

 Solution 3- Take Back programs and Deposit –Refund Systems

A socially responsible manufacturer will find ways to “take back” their used product and reuse or recycle into other useful products instead of throwing everything into a landfill. This practice also incentivizes consumers to responsibly recycle products at the end of their life cycle. Corporations must adhere to “cradle to grave” ownership of their own product. If they make a product that is not recyclable, then they have to own that product. Simply burying it in a landfill or shipping it to other third world countries for disposal should no longer be an option. A socially responsible corporation will put upfront research and development into designing and manufacturing a product that can and will be recycled. In order to establish a “zero waste” policy in landfills, packaging waste should cost more money to both manufacturers and consumers to encourage the public to evaluate environmental consequences when making purchasing decisions.

Deposit-Refund Systems that offer a refund for returned products can encourage proper disposal of products and packaging. This system also prevents littering and promotes material recovery for goods such as beverage containers, paints, batteries and more. A battery manufacturer, such as Duracell, should set up a “Take Back” program in every grocery store. To encourage consumers to bring back used batteries. A deposit charge on every battery sold will be incentivizing for consumer to return the batteries to store. Deposit-Refund Systems should be the “new normal” if we want to keep our planet healthy and thriving for the next generation.

Considering earth’s natural resources are limited, and our current waste disposal is hazardous to humans and all living species, it is our responsibility to develop and implement innovative approaches to make our planet more sustainable.

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

      Considering earth’s natural resources are limited, and our current waste disposal is hazardous to humans and all living species, it is our responsibility to develop and implement innovative approaches to make our planet more sustainable.

About the author:

Kelly Farhangi is the co-founder and CEO of CP Lab Safety, based in Novato, California.

In April, 2016 Kelly and CP Lab Safety received an Environmental Stewardship Award from California Congressman Jared Huffman

CP Lab Safety is the inventor, manufacturer and worldwide distributor of a number environmentally friendly products such as ECO Funnel system and ECO Battery Bin.

For more information: www.calpaclab.com