Guest Blog: Does ‘sustainable’ mean anything anymore?

GUEST BLOG: Sustainability: The S-Word… Love it or hate it, do you still use it… appropriately?

In this SustMeme Guest Post, the word ‘sustainability’, its origins and usage are discussed – plus, its relevance today and credibility ultimately disputed – by Robert Blood, founder of SIGWATCH, which tracks NGO campaigns to help business monitor reputational risk and predict emerging issues. 

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RB: Orange is the new black, and sustainable is the new green. Except that the term ‘sustainable’, coined by the Club of Rome movement to argue for an economy that does not use up the planet’s resources faster than they can be replenished, has now been stretched well past the already elastic limits of its predecessor, ‘environmentally friendly’.

Sustainability has become the value of choice for marketers. No self-respecting food or consumer-goods maker can promote its products without including on the packaging the word ‘sustainable’, preferably in a delicate green or brown serif font.

Moreover, sustainable seems only marginally invoked to draw attention to the environmentally positive attributes of the product’s ingredients or manufacture. Rather, it is put there to confirm the moral superiority of those that buy it. Never mind that their act of consumption is likely at odds with what sustainability is meant to be all about. A word intended to persuade us to consume less, ends up being used to encourage us to consume just as much as before, only more expensively.

Advocacy groups must share some of the blame for the increasing vagueness of the once precise term they helped to popularise. From the outset, environmental campaigners used the term ‘sustainability’ to examine how things are made and especially how they are grown minimising man-made inputs and pesticides, preserving soil health, and so forth. They still tend to use it that way. Then development NGOs used ‘sustainable’ to embrace non-environmental concerns, such as income fairness and job creation in developing countries. For human rights groups, a ‘sustainable product’ became one whose maker ensured that workers in their supply chains were properly treated and had their labour rights respected. Animal rights advocates adopted it to argue for higher welfare standards and promote a vegan dress code. Climate activists calling-out products that create excessive carbon emissions, use it to distinguish those that don’t.

The result of this definition creep is that the word ‘sustainable’ has become loaded with the myriad concerns and demands of thousands of campaigners with quite different agendas. Businesses, under pressure from these same groups to show that they are listening, have adopted their language. Unsurprisingly they have then made it work for them, in their own way.

The word ‘sustainable’ finally lost all meaning for me when I read a statement from a company claiming, seemingly with a completely straight face, that it was sustainable – because it turned a profit. This is technically true – lossmaking is not sustainable, unless you are state-owned, or a tech start-up – but, surely, it misses the point?


Do you know of some inappropriate or questionable uses of the word’sustainable’? Please Tweet us at @SustMeme and share your examples!


To trial SIGWATCH for free and receive its daily NGO campaigning intelligence, plus access its databases and trend forecasting tools, visit the company website here. You can also Follow Robert Blood on Twitter at: @SIGWATCH



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SUSTMEME: Get the Susty Story Straight!

Guest Blog: 15 Unexpected Items You Didn’t Know Could Be Recycled


GUEST BLOG: You might be surprised to discover some of the more unexpected items that can actually be recycled, if you know where and how…

When we consider recycling, we usually think of paper, glass and cans. However, recycling is continually evolving. In this SustMeme Guest Post, Rebecca Currier, Marketing Manager at CarTakeBack, the largest scrap car recycling network in the UK, reveals lots of other unexpected items we can actually recycle. It shows the huge progress made over the past few years with recycling and helping to sustain our planet. Plus, just because it can’t be recycled now, doesn’t mean we won’t be able to soon. 

RC: Every year in Britain, we throw away over 22M tons of rubbish – and the majority of our unwanted goods end up in landfill. We know we can recycle our plastic bottles, tin cans and old papers, but what unexpected items can we also recycle to reduce thisimpact?

In fact, there are so many other everyday objects that can be reused and recycled…

Furthermore, by optimising opportunities to recycle, we can also take steps to cut carbon emissions, save energy and reduce pollutants into our environment.

So, join the war against climate change today — ask yourself, have you got any of these lying around the house that you could recycle… ?

Wine corks

Wine disappears surprisingly easily! However the same can’t be said for the cork in the bottles. Corks won’t break down in landfill, but you can recycle them with Recorked UK.

When you do so, they can re-sell them – and for each donated cork, they give a percentage of profit to nominated charities and also provide free corks to schools for arts and crafts.

Donate your corks for recycling here

Cars

Even the best vehicles come to the end of their life. Did you know you can recycle your car… and get paid to do so? CarTakeBack gives you the best price for your scrap car, their licensed recycling centres safely remove all harmful materials from it and re-use or recycle up to a whopping 95% of the car.

I want to scrap my car

Trainers

Trainers can take a hammering, and once they can no longer hack another step, you can recycle them with Nike. Their Reuse-A-Shoe programme gives your running shoes plenty more miles.

Find a Nike store to drop off your athletic shoes

Bras

Do you have unwanted and unloved bras lying around? Don’t bin them, Against Breast Cancer recycle them and at the same time, raise vital funds for cancer research.

We can avoid bras going into landfill and give them a new lease of life in countries where bras are too expensive to produce locally.

Find a bra bank near you

Eyeglasses

‘Donate, Recycle, Transform’ – Vision Aid Overseas recycle donated eyeglasses so they can provide affordable eye care in isolated communities. Their incredible work reaches the poorest people in need of eye care.

Donate your glasses with Vision Aid Overseas

Bikes

One peddle turn at a time, Re-Cycle change lives by sending bikes to people in Africa who desperately need them. They recycle UK bikes and send them to rural communities – in some parts, it can take up to 4 hours to get to school or to a water source. Re-Cycle have helped to improve school attendance by 30%.

Find out where you can recycle your old bike

Inhalers

Surprisingly, you can recycle your old respiratory inhalers. ‘Breathe new life into your old inhalers’ with Complete the Cycle.

Some 73 million inhalers are prescribed every year in the UK, when they’re not disposed of correctly they end up in landfills and harm the environment.

Find your local participating pharmacy and recycle your inhaler

Clothes and tights

H&M runs a global Garment Collecting Programme. They guarantee ‘all clothes collected by H&M are either reused, reworn or recycled with 0% going to landfill’.

They’ll accept any unwanted clothes, in any condition. Plus, you can secure yourself a £5 voucher for each bag you donate.

I want to find out more about recycling my unwanted clothes and tights at H&M

Mobile phones

We’re always upgrading our phones to the latest gadget. But what happens to all your old phones? There’s usually a whole drawer full at home. If no-one wants them, most charities accept donated old phones.

There are a number of ways to recycle phones – find out more here

Writing tools

When writing tools dry up and can no longer form another letter, you can recycle them. The BIC programme accepts any brand of pen, highlighter, marker, felt tip, and mechanical pencil.

Find out more about recycling your pens here

Paint

Post-DIY, any leftover paint can be donated to your local scheme with Community RePaint. They redistribute the paint so communities in need can brighten their spaces and lives.

Find out more about the Community RePaint scheme

Toothbrushes

Terracycle and Colgate have partnered so we can recycle oral care products and packaging. This also directly helps those in need too, you can redeem points you collect into financial donations for your chosen charity or school.

I want to recycle my toothbrush and oral care

Mattresses

Dreams don’t just bring you a new comfy mattress, they also pick up your old bed and mattress and take them to a bed recycling facility.

Find out how to recycle your mattress with Dreams

Tennis balls

When tennis balls can take no more hits and they’ve lost their pressure, they end up in landfill. However, Recycaball is a not-for-profit and they recycle them. What’s more, you can even get paid 25p for each one you recycle.

Find out how to recycle your tennis balls here

Fairy lights

Your festive and fairy lights are WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment), so can’t just go into your normal black bin. They can actually be recycled, though, at your local household waste recycling centre. Some authorities across the UK even collect them from you.

Find out where to recycle your fairy lights here.


If you know of any more surprising items that can be recycled, feel free to Tweet us at @SustMeme and let us know!


More information on CarTakeBack can be found on the company’s website here.



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SUSTMEME: Get the Susty Story Straight!

Guest Blog: Are you an unwitting polluter?

GUEST BLOG: Eco-conscious consumers are cutting plastic, but confused about how they can help most…

When it comes to recycling, do you have the best of intentions, but not always the information or knowledge to match? Are you an unwitting polluter? In this SustMeme Guest Post, Yanyan Ji, SVP Marketing at Gazelle, a known leader in electronic waste, talks us through the findings of a representative survey of British consumers, which explored their environmental beliefs and lifestyle behaviours, plus, in some cases, the disconnect between the two…

YJ: New research finds 83% of Britons are doing more than ever to cut the amount of plastic they use and throw away. Women are leading this plastic-cutting charge with 90% saying their desire to use less is higher than ever.

However, the survey, which was carried out by the phone-recycling company, Gazelle, also found that over 35 million Brits (57% of those surveyed) are still risking dangerous chemicals leaching into the ground and contaminating our soils and waterways, by throwing away electronic gadgets such as old phones. Read more

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