Black Friday, which happened just two days ago, is a day full of great deals, ones that are bringing millions out to shop; but at the same time, it is also fueling a new weave of throwaway culture. On Black Friday, companies typically make record sales.
And his year was no exception; companies made over $7 billion in sales this time around. But while many are raving about the great deals they got, some environmental activists are drawing attention to the impact of throwaway culture.
Specifically, as online shopping becomes increasingly popular and convenient for customers, how is it impacting throwaway culture? And what role has Amazon had in perpetuating that culture?
The Shift To Online Shopping Exacerbates Throwaway Culture
While the majority of Black Friday shopping still takes place in brick-and-mortar stores, each year an increasing amount of the day’s transactions are taking place online. From 2017 to 2018, online shopping on Black Friday increased by 23.6%.
Totals for 2019 are still up in the air, but the upward trend of online shopping will likely increase again. An estimated 800 million packages will be shipped in the upcoming weeks by the United States Postal Service alone.
At first, it might seem that online shopping is a benefit for the environment. After all, consumers are not driving in their cars to get to stores.
However, with the rise of one day- and two day- shipping, largely driven by Amazon, online shopping has taken a sharp swing towards becoming unsustainable.
Fast Shipping Generates Lots Of Waste, Sparks Throwaway Culture
The waste generated from these fast shipping rates is certainly not a secret. The topic has drawn concern from many environmental activists.
Shipping goods within one or two days means giving each item bought individual packaging. This packaging often cannot be recycled, composted, or reused. Then, items can be shipped separately to prevent delays.
As a result, more delivery trucks are put out on the roads to transport them, increasing vehicle emissions.
Many retailers offer returns for free. Then, instead of taking the effort to restock returned goods, retailers may just throw them away.
This is very common with returned cosmetic items. Not only does this generate large amounts of waste as a reckless nonuse of resources, but it also doubles all of the transport and packaging environmental tolls.
As shoppers opt for online deals, these effects will increase. One of the largest and most popular companies giving shoppers an online shopping option is Amazon, and many protesters are taking aim.
Black Friday Protests: Concerns About Climate Continue
Climate protesters took to the streets all over the world on Friday in an attempt to bring attention to environmental concerns. Many took place in France, where the American cultural phenomenon has caught on over the past few years.
Protesters weren’t alone. More than 200 companies, most of them based in France, boycotted the event, closing doors and taking down websites for 24 hours.
These 200 companies follow in the footsteps of outdoor merchandise retailer REI, a more familiar brand in the States. Since 2015, the company has kept stores closed on Black Friday, while still paying employees.
Instead, they encourage their staff and families to explore the outdoors and spend time together.
French Parliament Motions To Ban Black Friday
The French Parliament, receiving a strong signal from the country’s population, has even put forth an amendment to “ban” Black Friday.
While still far from becoming a law, the proposal nonetheless has gained attention worldwide.
Large amounts of the protesters were youth, as Black Friday also coincided with the “Fridays for Future” campaign started by teen activist Greta Thunberg. Many protests were also aimed at Amazon, as a result of the environmental cost of fast shipping.
Activists gathered outside of the headquarters in France and distribution centers, trying to voice environmental concerns to Jeff Bezos.
What Is Amazon Doing To Combat The Issue
Protesters focused on two topics: Amazon and the consumer. Amazon has responded to the unrest by restating its environmental goals, announced several months ago.
The company aims to obtain 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Specialists at Amazon currently estimate that about 40% of the total energy used comes from renewable sources.
Amazon also stated that it plans to invest $100 million to restore rainforests and wetlands. Finally, they will attempt to become net carbon neutral by 2040. If able to do so, the company will be 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement.
What Can We Do To Combat Throwaway Culture?
What can consumers do this holiday season to help the environment? Asking everyone to cease online shopping altogether is unreasonable.
Certainly, consumers should not take full blame blame for the environmental crisis, as those selling the products, and governments that oversee the transactions should take responsibility as well.
Nonetheless, there are some small steps that everyone can take in these next few weeks to minimize harm.
- Choose longer shipping options when shopping online, so items can be packaged, transported, and delivered together, cutting down on waste and emissions.
- Order required items all at once instead of individually over time to help to achieve the same effect. This helps reduce the throwing away of multiple packages, common of throwaway culture.
- Limit online returns as much as possible, especially with items that will likely just be thrown away by the manufacturer. While some returns are necessary, limiting impulse buys and similar habits can help.
- Support green companies and companies that focus on protecting the environment.
Whether on Black Friday or any other time, if we are all a little more mindful of the environmental effects of our shopping habits, we can make a big impact.
This Restaurant Giant Is Making An Ambitious Commitment To Sustainable Packaging
With 12 Taco Party Packs and refreshing Baja Blasts, there is no question as to how Taco Bell attracts over 40 million customers each week in the United States. Unfortunately, each of these orders presents a more pressing issue: sustainable packaging.
Each year, only 29% of all fast-food containers and packaging are recovered. The rest accumulates in landfills, unable to serve another purpose in their lifetime. Fortunately, Taco Bell wants to address the issue of sustainable packaging.
Kicking 2020 off with a bang, the fast-food giant recently released a plan promising a sustainable mindset. Here’s what its plan is all about.
Sustainable Packaging: Recyclable, Compostable, and Reusable Products Only
Last week, Taco Bell announced its goal to make all consumer-facing packaging recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2025 world wide.
With 7,000 stores open across the globe, the company sits as one of the largest fast-food corporations in the world. However, with this comes great environmental responsibility. Fortunately, Mark King, Taco Bell’s CEO, is already preparing for the company’s future.
In his own words, “As Taco Bell expands its footprint, our responsibility to drive positive impact increases.”
King adds, “Our business growth in the last decade has positioned us to create change for good and implement creative solutions for our planet, our people and our food. We’re excited to shake things up and make 2020 even more about what matters most: our purpose”.
Fast-Food Giant Eliminates Chemicals and Adds In-Store Recycling Opportunities
In order to achieve its goal for sustainable packaging, Taco Bell is altering many of its products.
Moving forward, several things such as fountain drink cups to paper bags will no longer have PFAS, Phthalates, and BPA. Despite being found in many food packaging, there is an unsettling link between these chemicals and multiple negative health effects.
For example, research suggests that BPA, or bisphenol A, may cause cancer and affect brain development in the womb.
By doing so, the brand strives to increase its products’ ability to be recycled, compostable, or reusable. Taco Bell did not release any information on what materials they will be using in its future packaging.
In addition to this, Taco Bell will also be offering sustainable in-store options in the near future. As of right now, these changes include implementing recycling and/or composting bins into all restaurants (where infrastructure permits).
However, there is a possibility that the restaurant will soon be supplying reusable food baskets for dine-in meals.
Taco Bell’s Previous Actions On Sustainable Packaging
In 2019, Taco Bell banned plastic straws from all of its locations in Romania and Moldova. Unfortunately, the company does not have any official commitments on bans involving plastic bags or foam containers.
Reducing Its Carbon Footprint
There is no doubt that Taco Bell is ringing in the new year with ambitious goals. However, this is not the first time that it has tried to implement sustainable goals.
In 2019, the fast-food giant publicized 7 of its prioritized goals. Surprisingly, almost half of them can be attributed to reducing its carbon footprint.
For example, Taco Bell vowed to work to ensure that all its beef is sustainable, as well as to improve recycling efforts and include menu diversity for those leaning towards a plant-based diet.
Although already having successfully launched new favorites like the Black Bean Crunchwrap, it seems like Taco Bell hopes to continue this momentum.
As another one of its 2020 goals, the company is currently striving to be the number one QSR for vegetarians.
Needless to say, environmental activists, vegetarians, and flexitarians around the globe are all happy for these announcements.
It’s Time For All Fast-Food Brands To Use Sustainable Packaging
With its efforts, Taco Bell is one of many fast-food restaurants to begin adopting a greener mindset. Working with similar ideas, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway have already made sustainable commitments. However, there is still room for improvement in this industry.
Although there are many options for companies to reduce their environmental footprint, there are a few ideas that should be implemented as soon as possible:
- Reduce packaging or use of plastic wherever possible.
- Ditch hard to recycle materials such as polystyrene.
- Like Taco Bell, offer in-store recycling opportunities.
By doing so, monumental change can quickly occur.
JetBlue Airways Will Become Carbon Neutral By July 2020, Making It The First In US History
This year, JetBlue Airways Corporation may become the first large U.S. airline to go carbon neutral.
As the quickest way around the world, the airline industry engages with over 4 billion individuals each year. However, it is one of the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Shockingly, a singular commercial flight produces more carbon dioxide than the amount that some citizens produce in an entire year. Taking note of the situation, environmental activists are putting the travel industry under fire and calling out its contribution to climate change.
However, amidst all of the criticism, JetBlue is choosing to step up to the challenge.
In order to do so, the company is set to invest in eco-friendly projects across the globe.
JetBlue Goes Green With Fuel Choices
In a press release publicized on Monday, JetBlue vowed to mitigate emissions and go carbon neutral by July 2020. With expanding efforts, JetBlue can offset 15 to 17 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This is equivalent to removing 1.5 million passenger vehicles off the road each year.
As the leading project in its initiative, the company will be beginning to use sustainable fuel for all flights outbound of San Francisco. Fortunately, the fuel is already fully compatible with the existing jet engine technology.
Sustainable fuels, or biomass fuels, are any fuels derived from a once-living matter. For example, wood, corn, and other waste from agricultural crops are used in its production. This provides a sustainable solution to fossil fuels being popularly used today.
As of 2018, airplanes produce 11% of all CO2 emissions in the world and significantly contribute to climate change. However, by utilizing this alternative, JetBlue says that they can reduce each flight’s fuel carbon footprint by 80%.
JetBlue Makes Becoming Carbon Neutral A Group Effort
On top of its sustainable fuel swap-out, JetBlue stated that they will continue to partner with Carbonfund.org. As a U.S. nonprofit organization, Carbonfund.org focuses on reducing carbon emissions and creating climate solutions.
The airline company and the nonprofit have been working together since 2008. In the last 10 years, the two have already mitigated more than 2.6 billion pounds of CO2 emissions.
On top of this, JetBlue now has new carbon offsetting partners. Adding to the list, EcoAct and South Pole are working with the company to promote carbon-neutral travels.
Airline Goes Green On Land Too
As part of its carbon offsetting program, the airline company is engaging with projects around the world to mitigate the overall need for jet fuel. Focusing on areas that will opt for eco-friendly, renewable resources, JetBlue is striving to lower emissions in the atmosphere when possible.
Currently, JetBlue announced support of carbon offset projects such as:
- Forest conservation by declining plans that will convert forests for other purposes.
- Promoting landfill gas capture (LFG) and converting it into renewable energy resources.
- Developing solar and wind farms to replace the need for fossil fuels like coal, diesel, and furnace oil.
JetBlue did not disclose the cost of any of its sustainable programs.
Collaboration Pivotal in Becoming Carbon Neutral Industry-Wide
According to JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes, the solution to this problem is a community effort.
“The airline industry is one of the few industries that has collectively committed to an international emissions reduction goal,” said Hayes. “Air travel brings so much good to the world and JetBlue has always been about making our essential industry better. Carbon offsetting is a bridge to, not a silver bullet for, a lower carbon future. Reducing and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions is a fundamental aspect of our business plan and our mission to inspire humanity.”
Hopefully, JetBlue achieves its mission and inspires others to do the same. If several other companies follow JetBlue’s environmental initiatives, the future of airline travels may be promising.
Spanish Energy Company Invests $500 Million In South Australian Renewable Energy Park
Recently, Spanish renewable energy company Iberdrola announced that it would invest $500 million in an Australian renewable energy park. Set to be located in Port Augusta, South Australia, the 320MW hybrid solar and wind farm will be operational as soon as 2021.
Why Australia for a New Energy Park?
Currently, Iberdrola already has over 30GW of installed capacity, in Europe, the US and South America. But at the moment, the company has very little presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Consequently, looking to Australia as a high-potential renewables market, Iberdrola believes its investment in the new energy park can be a good first step into the region.
Recently, Iberdrola’s Head of Renewables Xavier Viteri told Australian media outlets that his company has major plans for Australia. Indeed, Port August presents a great opportunity for wind power, and solar power is a formidable supplement, Viteri mentioned.
Perfect Location for Renewable Energy Park
According to DP Energy’s Australia Manager Catherine Way, the energy park in Port Augusta is “shovel ready”.
Based on the DP Energy website, the chosen location allows the project to optimize for balancing wind and solar generation. Moreover, its placement will allow for an approach that is more tailored to the needs of the electric grid.
Is the Australian Renewable Energy Market Coming Back?
South Australia is not new to renewable energy innovation. For instance, in 2017, Tesla CEO Elon Musk won a $65.5 million bet with the South Australian government by installing a massive 100MW battery in the state’s north within 100 days.
The question is: will Iberdrola’s new $500 million investment be enough to encourage other companies to bring back the Australian renewable energy market?
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