Unconsumption means the accomplishment of properly recycling your old cellphone, rather than the guilt of letting it sit in a drawer.
Unconsumption means the thrill of finding a new use for something that you were about to throw away.
Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a service like Freecycle (or Craigslist, Goodwill, or Salvation Army) to find a new home for the functioning DVD player you just replaced, rather than throwing it in the garbage.
Unconsumption means enjoying the things you own to the fullest – not just at the moment of acquisition.
Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a pair of sneakers until they are truly worn out – as opposed to the nagging feeling of defeat when they simply go out of style.
Unconsumption means feeling good about the simple act of turning off the lights when you leave the room.
Unconsumption is not about the rejection of things, or the demonization of things. It’s not a bunch of rules.
Unconsumption is an idea, a set of behaviors, a way of thinking about consumption itself from a new perspective.
Unconsumption is free.
Founder & Editor:Rob Walker, journalist, Savannah, GA
Editorial & Community Manager: Molly Block, marketing and business development geek, Houston, TX
Could recycled plastic bottles help stop coastal erosion?
Off the coast of Louisiana, volunteers have assembled and planted floating islands made from recycled plastic water bottles.
The islands are several inches thick and feel like brillo pads. They contain a series of holes, evenly spaced out, where marsh grasses can be planted. Each one holds between 50 to 60 plants a piece. The idea is, once the islands are anchored, the plants will grow and the roots will eventually collect sediment— helping build new land within six months to a year.
"We’ll put the islands next to those existing marshes and they will act as a buffer to protect the current existing marshes," said Buddy Boe of America’s Wetland Foundation. "What we’re doing is a restoration and an experiment all at the same time."
Over the next year, Martin Ecosystems [a Baton Rouge-based company that developed the floating islands] and America’s Wetland Foundation will monitor the islands to see if they are successful in creating new land.
Hoping to reduce the billions of grocery bags circulating throughout the city, an L.A. councilman Tuesday called for a sweeping ban on single-use paper and plastic bags.
By including paper bags in the ban, the proposal goes beyond similar measures taken recently by other California cities and counties. Although L.A. County, Santa Monica and other municipalities have banned plastic bags in recent years, most have allowed stores to sell paper ones for a small fee.
"With paper bags, you’re still generating litter," said Councilman Paul Koretz, who introduced the motion proposing the ban. "We’re taking the next step."
Environmentalists celebrated the news and said they hoped that it would push Sacramento lawmakers to enact a statewide ban.
Under the L.A. proposal, stores would be permitted to give away or sell only reusable tote bags, or risk a fine. An exemption would be made for small plastic bags meant to keep raw vegetables and meats separated from other groceries to prevent cross-contamination.
The City Council’s Energy and Environment Committee will decide whether to move forward with the proposed ban.
Patagonia always had a reputation for making durable, low-impact outdoor apparel, but the California label is taking its sustainable ethos one step further with the launch of Common Threads, an initiative that seeks to help consumers, well, consume less. Together with online-auction website eBay, Patagonia created a virtual swap meet on Wednesday for buying and selling used Patagonia gear—an unexpected retail model that’s a first for a major brand. The underlying message, one that underscore one of eBay’s core commandments, is clear: The greenest product is the one that already exists.
Consumers can purchase Sharps’ postage-paid envelopes at Walgreens, CVS/pharmacy, Rite Aid, and Kroger stores, among other outlets, to mail in non-controlled substances.
"This addresses a problem we’ve had for years," David Tusa, president and CEO of Sharps, said. "Meds remain in the medicine cabinet and then people or children accidentally overdose, or people flush them and they work their way into the water systems. It’s estimated that 35 to 40 percent of medicines go unused in any given year."
Sharps’ envelopes go to a disposal company in Texas that … burns the medicines. The ash in Texas is then repurposed into concrete and used to create roads.
An alternative: Consumers in the U.S. can, on a designated day (most recently April 30, 2011), drop off medications at locations participating in the Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.
In packaging news: PepsiCo unveils North America’s first soft drink bottle made from 100 percent recycled PET plastic
PepsiCo’s press release says the ”development of the 7UP EcoGreen™ bottle is a significant achievement” and a “breakthrough” for the beverage sector.
Creating a bottle made from 100 percent recycled plastic for soft drinks is more challenging than creating a bottle for non-carbonated beverages because of the stress on materials from carbonation pressure.
By introducing the 7UP EcoGreen bottle in Canada, PepsiCo Beverages Canada will reduce the amount of virgin plastic used by approximately six million pounds over the course of one year. Studies published by the Association for Post-Consumer Plastic Recyclers in 2010, estimate this reduced use of virgin plastic will lead to a reduction of more than 30 percent in greenhouse gas emissions and more than 55 percent in energy use, based on current 7UP production levels.
Wine producers from New Zealand, the United States and even France are switching from glass to plastic wine bottles, saying they are lighter, good for the environment and not bad for the wine.
The PET, polyethylene terephthalate, bottles are 100 per cent recyclable, unbreakable, lighter and smaller to transport than glass and take less energy to create.
“We see [plastic] as a positive step in terms of energy and production,” said Michael Wentworth, of New Zealand’s Yealands Estate. “It’s 89 per cent lighter than glass, so you’re reducing your carbon footprint there, as well as any time you ship it.”
The plastic containers have not changed the taste of the wine … Yealands said because its sauvignon blanc and merlot, which have both been bottled in plastic, have done well in blind-tasting wine competitions.
Texas to get the first packaging-free grocery store in the U.S.
In.gredients, which is slated to open this fall in Austin, will sell loose and bulk items, including “local, organic meats, dairy, baking goods, cooking oils, spices, grains, seasonal produce — the whole spectrum.” Customers will need to bring reusable containers from home (or use the store’s compostable containers), and weigh them before filling with the products they want.
In.gredients’ package-free, zero-waste retail concept, similar to that of Unpackaged in London, is a great business model. The benefits of precycling — avoiding wasteful packaging — and buying only the amounts you need of locally sourced products, creating less landfill and saving money in the process, are many.
If you have friends in Austin, encourage them to support in.gredients. And let’s hope in.gredients will expand to other markets. [Hi, Houston next, please.]
No matter where you live, check it out: You can follow the company’s progress here (blog and Web site), here (Facebook), and here (Twitter).
The United Nations said Wednesday that about 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted every year, which amounts to roughly one third of all the food produced for human consumption.
According to the [United Nations] report, food losses occur as a result of inefficiencies in food production and processing operations that diminish supplies. Food waste, by contrast, is when retailers and consumers throw edible food in the trash.
Consumers in rich nations waste a combined 222 million tons a year, according to the report. That’s almost as much as all the food produced in sub-Saharan Africa.
The report puts much of the blame on retailers in rich nations that throw out food simply because it looks unappealing, and the food industry’s ‘all-you-can-eat’ marketing tactics, which encourage consumers to buy more than they need.
Two [Brown University] undergraduates have teamed up to create Brown’s first student-run thrift store, providing an outlet for students to donate, exchange and buy used goods. The Vault, which opened two weeks ago, was started by Hannah Winkler ‘13 and Tara Noble ‘12.5 in the hopes of providing various environmentally friendly ways for the community to handle unwanted items.
There are three components to the Vault — a thrift store, an item exchange and a workshop. The thrift store currently sells clothes, jewelry, books and other accessories donated by students, and Winkler said she also hopes to offer housewares in the future. For the item exchange, Brown students can bring in their unwanted clothing or other items to receive store credit for other goods in the thrift store.
The Vault is also unique in that it offers various workshops that align with Winkler and Noble’s goal of upcycling, a process that converts old or useless materials into items that have more value and a positive environmental impact.
The Vault offered a T-shirt workshop Monday in Salomon, where students could bring in used clothing and upcycle them into other items, such as bags or wristbands. Noble said other workshops are also planned for the future, on papermaking, repair-and-mending and seasonal workshops.
Would love to see student-entrepreneurs launch similar ventures on or near other college campuses.