Impact Everywhere You Look

Sorry for the long gap between posts, but even mostly confined to the house there are still crazy periods.  2021 planning sessions at work and the start of softball season entails a lot of preparation and a lot of coaching.  I have been collecting some interesting articles in the meantime and wanted to share three of them with you today, all centered on different impacts we can have on community and the world around us with a definite slant as always towards eco-living.

Knowing the Carbon Footprint of your Amazon Purchases

There is a new browser extension called Neutral that allows you to check the carbon footprint of any item you are looking to purchase on Amazon.  It is available for both Chrome and Firefox and shows you the emissions for each product from its creation to transport to eventual disposal.  The information appears right on the Amazon page and also includes some context to explain the impact of the emissions.  The extension was created by a group of Toronto Area university students whose goal is to make online shopping more sustainable.  Something which is very top of mind given the pandemic induced explosion in e-commerce this year.  At this point the extension only works on Amazon, but they are looking to expand to additional e-commerce sites.  In addition, it also allows people to purchase carbon offsets directly from Neutral and so far they have helped offset more than 116,000 pounds of Carbon.  You can read the whole article on Fast Company here.

As a heavy user of Amazon, even before the pandemic, I love this concept as I firmly believe the more information we have available to us as consumers the more we can make educated choices.  From a brand and manufacturer standpoint, what a great way to carve out an additional role for your products and get credit for doing the hard work of making your products more sustainable.  I know I will always look to support brands that are focused on lowering their impact on the environment while still delivering innovative products and services.

Algae Based Flip Flops

An estimated 3 billion flip flops end up in global waterways and the oceans every year.  A small San Diego lab called Algenesis has found a solution to the world’s flip flop problem.  It has developed a biodegradable, algae-based, polyurethane – which is the spongy plastic that’s commonly used to make the footbeds of shoes and sandals.  Next year, it is planning on launching its own line of flip flops to demonstrate the material in action.  Their material requires less carbon to manufacture, algae is a completely renewable resource, and algae actually takes carbon out of the atmosphere as it grows via photosynthesis.  At end of life, the material will completely biodegrade just like any other organic material, completely breaking down in a matter of months.  Algenesis is looking at the next stage of this end of life – molecular recycling – where 100% of the material can be broken down into constituent molecular components and rebuilt into new material.  Their next step in product development is other plastic forms – polyester for clothing and PVC used in food wrap.  You can read the complete article here.

I had no idea that over 20 billion flip flops a year are manufactured globally.  When you look at the sheer amount of plastic around us it does some impossible to find new, more sustainable replacement materials, but perhaps the answer lies in changing the way we make plastic as the solution.  Flip flops seem like an ideal start, as it would seem to have a perfect target market in surfers, beach goers, etc.. so that the company can provide proof of concept to the larger shoe manufacturers.  I would certainly give them a try when I need a new pair of flip flops.

The Brooklyn Bridge & A Guatemalan Forest

The wooden planks on the pedestrian part of the Brooklyn Bridge are made from a tropical hardwood from a rainforest.  Not exactly the eco-friendly message that anyone wants to send at this point in time.  However, designer Scott Francisco is looking at how that can be turned into something with a positive impact.  The planks are due to be replaced now (they have to be changed every few decades) and in a project called Brooklyn Bridge Forest, Francisco is suggesting that the bridge be refurbished with wood that can help keep tropical forests standing.  The project is proposing that the 20,000 new planks should come from a “partner forest” near Uaxactun, Guatemala that protects around 200,000 acres of rainforest.  The community focuses on preserving the rainforest, while also creating economic opportunities for the residents.  One of the linchpins of their model is to sell sustainably harvested wood based on a very rigorous management plan.  The city would also work with Uaxactun to supply other needed wood for park benches, and the model could serve as an example for other cities to partner with similar “forest” communities.  You can read the full article here and learn about some of the other great changes the project is suggesting for the bridge.

If this project comes to pass, I would make a point of going out of my way to walk across the refurbished bridge.  I hope these types of projects capture the creative imagination of their respective communities to not only bring sustainable solutions to these types of infrastructure projects, but also create bonds that are mutually beneficial with other parts of the world.  How can you argue with adding beauty and sustainability to infrastructure while helping communities in other parts of the world be economically viable while preserving their natural resources?

There is a ton of pessimism in the world right now, between politics and Covid-19, but hopefully some of these articles help inject some optimism as there are a lot of people working on great things to improve the world in big and small ways.  

The Free Range Viking

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