Simple Sustainability · Waste Management

Get Plastic Waste Out of This Place

During my summer abroad, I saw the result of the waste from San José making its way down the Tarcolos River (see picture above). A year ago, this beach was littered in primarily, if not entirely, of plastics. There was so much waste in this beach a group of 10 (made up of my peers, faculty, and other volunteers) could not even make a dent in the trash waste spending an entire day cleaning it up.

Recently I have adopted the trend, like other environmental supporters, in banning plastic straws from every day use. With this new choice some of my close friends and family members have joined me in this effort to reduce plastic waste streams in our garbage.  Some friends have completely eradicated straws from their life where others have purchased paper or reusable straws.

Straws are just one of my ways to cut down on plastics. Plastic reduction is great for the environment. For example Americans, alone “use 500 million straws daily.

Plastic straws make up a tiny fraction of the “[s]even billion [of plastics] tons is stuck on Earth as garbage in landfills, recycled trash or pollution in the environment, including deep oceans.” Often these plastics end up in animals’ digestive systems as they mistake it for food causing health problems or death.

Plastics reduction is not only good for protecting the environmental but can be great for business. In coastal regions, like the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica means more space for business, tourism, and livelihood (such as fishing). In post-industrialized areas such as San Francisco it can also be good for business. Environmental Attorney Robin Purchia reports at Pagan Idol using compostable paper straws “provides for its patroons while reducing waste, protecting the environment and lowering its bills.” A bartender at the bar stated they saved $900 a month on their recycling bill.

However reducing your use of plastics alone cannot combat the excessive amount of plastics in the waste stream. “A small amount [of trash] is eliminated in incinerators.” Waste management companies along with companies using plastic products can work together in closing the circuit for packaging. For example the company with the product can ensure their product is recyclable, reusable, or biodegradable as the waste management company ensures the ability to recycle the waste.

Consumers alone cannot eradicate dangerous plastics in the economy or eco-sphere. With more efficient ways of disposing of waste or biodegradable plastics, ecosystems could be protected in tandem of thriving businesses. The potential of closed circuits waste systems has the potential for circular economies to thrive with the health of the environment.


Food Transparency and Media: Sustainable Food System

Food transparency, is the “growing movement by farmers, food companies, restaurants and grocery stores to tell stories about the origin of the vegetables, fruits and meats they use or sell,” (Wu, 2017). In the article, Wu discusses how this rising trend in the food market may be damaging businesses’ reputation instead of promoting it. If consumers are not pleased with businesses’ practices, they will go to a source with more ethical practices. In this situation, the business has two options: (a) different marketing or (b) change in practices.

A Boston business, I admire for their efforts in transparent appearance, is Clover. They appear to be transparent by outlining their success and failures, both online and at their stores. This is not typical for food service businesses, however it could become the new trend in the food market.

Increased transparency can be a great addition to the food market, especially for consumers. The more open the food market is about their practices, the more consumers can make decisions based on the practices they agree with most. With transparency, consumers may become more educated on the labor that goes into their food. Food labor is something rarely discussed in the United States.

The television show, American Crime, in its most recent season, addresses the taboo topic of immigrant farm workers in the US. Taking place in North Carolina, this season talks about trafficking in the farms. Season character, Abby Tanaka states “39 percent of the state’s 150,000 farm workers report being illegally trafficked or otherwise abused. That is physical abuse, sexual abuse, death threats and wage theft. There’s always the possibility of exposure to farm chemicals,” (Betancourt). Additionally, in a fact sheet of North Carolina Farmworkers state, “[t]he US Department of Labor reports that 53% of farmworkers nationally are undocumented (working without legal authorization)” (2012).

With the help of media outlets starting discussions on food, food transparency can change the food system. A more sustainable food system is possible with more awareness of sustainability issues (i.e. abusive farm labor, pollution, pesticides, poor animal treatment, environmental injustice). A sustainable food system can rely on consumer choice, proper legislation, and corporate responsibility.


Who Am I? Why did I start a blog?

Welcome to my blog and thank you for joining my journey.

I started this blog to help organize and share my thoughts on all topics of sustainability. I plan on sharing insights on environmental and social sustainability. My goal of this website is to connect with others and learn more of all aspects of sustainability.

I have a huge passion for sustainability, leadership, and learning. I studied Sustainability Studies for my undergraduate degree both in the United States and abroad.