Why your packages may be wrapped in plastic.
What a crazy two days it has been! I have been blown away by the support and trust you have all given me, with the launch of this new site. It has been so exciting reading all your messages, watching all your special orders come in, and the happiness you are feeling right alongside me!
As I spent the day wrapping up all your packages, it reminded me of something Ive been thinking about for a while, and I realised now is probably the most perfect time to talk about it. As most of you would probably be aware, we are coming to the end of a pretty big community movement month- that of 'Plastic Free July'. It is a beautiful and necessary movement- more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year, and even more relative to this conversation, packaging is the largest end use market segment accounting for just over 40% of total plastic usage.
On Instagram, I have watched this social movement take shape. There have been so many people sharing their commitment to the challenge, and what they are doing to reduce their single-use plastic usage. With that has come perfectly styled photos of plastic-free alternatives- mainly cotton bags with a stylish label attached. The plastic bags we have stuffed in the backs of our cupboards have long been forgotten, and the mismatched ugly old 'Woolies' green bags have been pushed out for a more 'insta-worthy' alternative.
Please tell me you see where Im going? Tell me you see the irony that lies in the inbetween?
One of the most comprehensive papers on the environmental impact of bags, published in 2007 by the Government of South Australia, noted that a cotton bag has major environmental impacts of its own. Only 2.4 percent of the world’s cropland is planted with cotton, yet it accounts for 24 percent of the global market for insecticides and 11 percent for pesticides, the World Wildlife Fund reports. A kilo of cotton requires more than twenty thousand litres of water on average, a thirst far greater than that of any vegetable and even most meats. And cotton, unlike paper, is not currently recycled in most places.
The Australian study concluded that the best option appears to be a reusable bag, but one made from recycled plastic, not cotton. “A substantial shift to more durable bags would deliver environmental gains through reductions in greenhouse gases, energy and water use, resource depletion and litter,” the study concluded. “The shift from one single-use bag to another single-use bag may improve one environmental outcome, but be offset by another environmental impact.”- found via wired.
What does this mean? Well, this means that unless the bags that you're replacing plastic with are already recycled, you could be ADDING to the destruction of our environment, not reducing your imprint. That's a hard pill to swallow, right? It's also not a 'pretty' pill either. Instead of using what we already have, which is the best thing we can do, we have been replacing them with something else. This is not helping. The more I see it online- the trend to be 'eco' friendly with our matching bags- the more I think we may have missed the point of all this to begin with. We have to try and soften the load, we have to stop walking heavy on the earth with all our consuming and discarding and taking and profiteering. We have to re-use, reduce, re-cycle- not buy more to combat the destruction of the earth due to us buying more...
Which brings me to what made me think about chatting to all of you guys about this to begin with. As I wrapped the amber bottles of my homegrown, handmade hydrosols with a big roll of plastic I thought- I bet you there will be a whole bunch of you that may think it a bit hypocritical as you unwrap your package, that I chose to use plastic as some of my packaging material. After all that yabbering on about healing the earth, and treading lightly... here I am killing it all with bubble wrap! The thing is though, I bought this bubble wrap years ago when I had no idea about my environmental footprint. I bought it when I thought 'saving the world' was somebody else's job- somebody that wore those tie dye t-shirts and had dreads in their hair (ha!). I was completely disconnected, and needed a quick and easy way to ship my stick branch macrame creations off around the world, safely and without concern. So, I became the owner of a big bundle of bubble wrap, and its still here all these years later.
Now, Im going to be honest. When I first started thinking about how I was going to ship these remedies out, I quickly rejected the plastic. I needed to keep with my image- whatever landed in your mail boxes had to be authentic and 'true to my brand' (whatever that means!). I looked at the brown paper bubble-wrap alternatives, I thought about buying cardboard boxes and putting in those little air packages that sometimes come with things I order from overseas. I researched and I stalked other businesses packaging... I looked at everything else other than that big old roll of plastic tucked under my husbands desk in the corner of our dingy dark office. But then I started reading about how big a carbon footprint paper has. Yes they're degradable, but more energy is required to produce and transport cardboard, mainly due to it's thickness and weight. Paper production is making a huge impact on the destruction of our environment. I would just be adding to it all by buying more... but its a better choice than plastic, and damn it looks better for the aesthetic of Hayley Gemma, so...
Meanwhile, I continued watching other people on social media show their latest eco bag purchases and I silently judged the irony in their purchases. Of course at some point, it fell on me like a tonne of bricks- Hayley, you're the hypocrite here! Why are you looking at replacing the bubble wrap, when you already have the bubble wrap. Use it. Use it consciously and considerately, only wrap that which you have to, and encourage your customers to re-use that plastic when they go to send something off to someone else. Its something you've already bought. Yes, it was a DUMB decision to buy it in the first place, but you did it, so put it to use already!
So that is where we're at right now. When you receive your package and it comes in bubble wrap, don't throw it out. Reuse it somewhere. Pop it by your sticky tape and wait for that perfect moment when you're sending something breakable to someone else. Keep it circulating- not decimating the oceans or suffocating our animals. And when this roll runs out, I promise I will never buy an inch of bubble wrap again. I will wrap your packages in ripped up old t-shirts, and recycled cardboard. And if all else fails, I will buy that beautiful new brown paper with the patented slits, and send those packages totally on trend!
This is not a judgement of any of you reading this. I know many of you have proudly showed those cool matching bags online many times over the past month. What Im trying to do here is encourage you to use critical thought. This is just another way I'm asking you to think about what it is that is being sold to you (us, as consumers) as 'better', and what it is you (and this earth) truly need. Sometimes we get swept away with a movement that is doing good and wonderful things, by the people profiteering off those movements. We don't always need what is being sold to us; and the best thing about all this, is that we have the choice to say 'No thanks, I'll just reuse this old cloth bag Ive had for years, I really don't need my (individually plastic-wrapped) veggies to be in matching totes!'. We have the privilege of choice many times over. What is it you will choose to go with next time?
In kindness and encouragement, always-