By Ryan Williams
As anticipation for the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro ramped up, the host city's environmental issues were just as hot a topic as who would medal in the games' marquee events. With rumors of unclean water and dangerous pollution, concerns for athlete welfare were at an all-time high. With the 2016 Games now complete, however, contaminated supplies are still an issue that affect many citizens.
Unfortunately, polluted water isn't an issue specific to the bays of Ipanema. An estimated 8 trillion metric tons of plastic enter ocean waters from land each year, polluting and harming as many as 100 million marine animals.
The Olympics Games are a massive stage for not only athletes, but also for awareness of global issues. But when it comes to saving our water from the daily crisis of plastic pollution, a massive spotlight shone from a worldwide event shouldn't kickstart a movement toward reform.
Businesses and consumers can do their part to attack the situation by increasing their own of use of non-virgin plastics, pursuing other alternatives, educating the public.
Do your part to clean up plastic
I work at a small and scrappy soap company, Method. We don't have delusions of cleaning up the ocean single-handedly. But we can raise awareness and use our platform to demonstrate smart ways of using and reusing the resources we already have — such as using post-consumer recycled plastic in our own products.
Every company, no matter how small, has a responsibility to make "green" mainstream. Here's what you can do:
1. Tell everyone. Awareness is everything as we try to defeat the problem of plastics, and your company can help. Promote consciousness of the issue by telling other companies how much you care about it.
Share articles with colleagues. During meetings and planning sessions, keep green practices top of mind.
Sunglass company animation illuminating Florida’s environmental problems. This simple investment of branding energy has initiated a wave of awareness, traveling out to all Costa’s customers and competitors.is baking environmental awareness into its brand. It teamed up with an agency to create
2. Be choosey. It's imperative that companies develop products and services that are less disposable, but can easily be dispatched. Preferably, those outlets lead to sorting and recycling. Impacting pollution can be as simple as installing green options throughout your production chain. When possible, use PCR and other alternatives to virgin materials.
Utilize environmentally friendly cleaning products and packaging. It’s amazing what you can do by just making better choices.
3. Assemble a team. Many hands make light work. Carpet tile producer Interface beefed up its Net Effect carpet collection with Net-Works, a project designed to utilize discarded fish netting from the Philippines. The campaign weaves the recycled content into nylon that gets used in Interface's carpet samples.
That project is a sign of the times indicating that the next level of pollution-fighting is teaming up with a green partner. We set out to raise awareness by earth-conscious teammates, including local beach cleanup groups, volunteers, and organizations such as Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, Hawaii Wildlife Fund and Surfrider Kauai. Together, we hand-collected several tons of plastic from the beaches of Hawaii.
4. Engage your supply chain. If you can go further in the fight against pollution, do it. Use your resources to push your products. Innovate solutions, explore recovered plastics, push your supply chain, and demand better alternatives to post-consumer recycled plastic. You may be surprised how willing your existing partners are to get involved.
Our recycling partner, Envision Plastics, was willing to push the boundaries of our capability. Together, we’ve discovered how to take plastic from the beach and turn it into bottles.
5. Educate your audience. Just like you, your customers also want to make a difference. Save the ocean, and help your customers play their part at the same time.
You can alert your audience by showing them how to recycle and reuse plastic and extend a product's life cycle. Connecting them to a resources likeshould be the foundation of this education.
Use your influence to bring awareness, your resources to do your part, and your voice to educate others. Your company can help make the Olympic-size plastics problem a thing of the past.
Image credit: Flickr/Edward Conde
Ryan Williams holds a Ph.D. in environmental toxicology and has more than 15 years of experience assessing ingredients for human health and environmental impacts, applying this knowledge to bring sustainable product innovation to the Method business. Ryan collaborates with global authorities in government, industry, NGOs, and universities to identify emerging topics and sustainable technologies in chemical ingredients to ensure that Method maintains its industry leading Dirty Ingredient List.