a look behind the scenes

Two recent incidents are connected in this blog. first, i placed an order for 2021 journals, three little notebooks: two made from “cow-dung and cotton rags” and one described more humbly as “recycled“. second, a friend called and he spoke about some people who had started (yet another) “environmental” product. i could not help telling him that in my experience, claims of environmental products often come with huge air-quotes.

which is why this article published in nature sustainability caught my eye. it explains that when paper is recycled, greenhouse gas emissions may surprisingly be higher during recycling than when manufacturing virgin paper. the reason? the greater use of electricity as an energy source when recycling paper.

apparently in the virgin paper mills that the paper studied, the main energy source was a by-product of paper manufacturing. unlike the recycling facilities where fossil-fuel based electricity was used.

>> do note that this study does not look at other impacts such as land use change due to deforestation, toxicity due to chemicals used or water use. it is never as simple as saying x is better than y , but it will hopefully make us look at a very important factor when considering product sustainability, the energy used during manufacture and distribution or in this case, recycling. <<

if you ask me, the most sustainable product is the one that was never used or manufactured. for everything else, here’s a handy checklist that i even managed to acronymise.

MULTIPLICITY can it be shared with many people or can it be used many times?
ORGANIC does it have a high % of biodegradable components? such as low use of plastic, glass, multi-layer packaging
RENEWABLE is it made of or use renewable resources?
AFTERLIFE do you know how to dispose of its non-biodegradable components? and that does not mean “throw it in dustbin”
LOCAL is it locally sourced?
the new M.O.R.A.L code, the product with the most number of “yes” to the questions, is a step closer to being more sustainable and environmental. this is not perfect and only for quick evaluations