Single-Use-Madness

It’s actually quite amazing how many different materials can be used instead of plastic to replace some of the items we use every single day. It would make you wonder why on earth we ever resorted to plastic in the first place.

You use it for a fleeting moment, and then it remains as a scar on nature for the rest of conceivable time. The oceans filled, the landscapes stained, the animals strangled, a world gone insane. 

Single-use-plastic is one of the most ridonkulous, disgusting, absurd, and unnecessary evils our crazy crazy consume-as-much-as-possible-and-then-consume-some-more-just-for-the-laugh-focused world has ever dared to dream up, but thankfully, people are beginning to see sense. 

Even better than that, people are beginning to take action, and I’m not just talking about taking action as ‘consumers’. People have jumped over to the production side of the crazy coin and started coming up with innovative ideas and launching companies that offer alternatives to single-use-plastic. Alternatives that respect the planet instead of polluting it. 

It’s actually quite amazing how many different materials can be used instead of plastic to replace some of the items we use every single day. It would make you wonder why on earth we ever resorted to plastic in the first place. Sigh.

But anyways, enough with the problematic plastic past and on to the fortifying fabulous future!

Here’s what the average beach might look like in the future if these new single-use-plastic battling companies have their way. Notice? There’s no plastic anywhere! Sadly this often isn’t the case when you go to the beach in reality, but if more and more people start using the kinds of eco-friendly plastic alternatives in this article, we can start building a world where every beach looks like this! (Okay so the beaches in Ireland are never going to look this tropical, and there’s inevitably going to be the good old grey cloudy sky and raindrops in the background, but as long as they’re plastic-free that’s all the tropical I need!

Here are five fantastic emerging companies who are leading the charge against single-use-plastic, and for the purpose of outlining the sheer number of alternative materials available to us, each company I have chosen is using a different material as a plastic alternative. So enjoy and delight in the beautiful planet-cleaning variety on offer!

Biofase – Cutlery and Straws made from Avocado Pits 

Biofase offer biodegradable cutlery and straws (on the left) made from Avocado pits and biodegradable bags (on the right) made from cassava starch.

Ever go into a shop or a restaurant or a cafe on a super busy day and order your tiramisu kebab and pineapple milkshake to go and then eat it at the speed of sound with a plastic knife and fork and straw and then throw these indestructible single-use-utensils in the bin so they can litter the earth for the rest of eternity? 

Okay, so maybe you didn’t order exactly that for lunch, but we can all admit that we’ve used the single-use-utensils at least once before. We live in a pronto pronto world people, where convenience is key so we can get things done before we know we have to do them and until they pass a law stating that everyone has to keep their best silverware on them at all times (not the worst idea?), disposable cutlery is going to be a part of that world. 

So how can we make disposable cutlery that doesn’t harm the environment? Well, enter Biofase. Biofase makes biodegradable cutlery and straws out of avocado pits. Flipping avocado pits for crying out sustainably! 

By utilising avocado pits, a material that would otherwise just end up as food waste, Biofase have actually found an alternative to plastic that doesn’t require the chopping down of any extra forests or harvesting of any extra raw materials.

According to the good folks at Biofase: 60% of the material in these utensils naturally biodegrades within 240 days and the rest takes a little bit longer, but fantastically, no smelly smelly microplastics are created by these products!

The product will biodegrade into a nutrient-rich organic material called humus, which creates a healthy soil environment for new plant growth. If it ends up in the landfill it will biodegrade with the other products around it and if it goes to the incinerator it does not emit methane gas.

By utilising avocado pits, a material that would otherwise just end up as food waste, Biofase have actually found an alternative to plastic that doesn’t require the chopping down of any extra forests or harvesting of any extra raw materials. The avocados have already been produced for consumption, and Biofase is just turning the leftover bits into these eco-friendly utensils.

Whenever possible, it’s probably best to avoid disposable utensils altogether and use the good old fashioned stainless steel versions from ancient times, but when there is a need for disposable utensils, making them out of food waste is probably as environmentally friendly as you’re gonna get.

Cutlery, made from avocado pits!

And remember, no innocent avocados are harmed in the making of these planet-friendly, single-use-plastic banishing utensils, as the avocados involved have already been used for consumption. 

Biofase also offers a plastic bag alternative that looks and feels like plastic but is actually made entirely from cassava starch and other natural ingredients and contains absolutely zero plastic whatsoever. The bags dissolve in water, soil, or landfill under natural conditions. So why in the heck are we still using plastic bags at all? There’s really no excuse. Get these cassava starch bags into the shops double pronto I say!

Biofase is a Mexican company but based all around the world, and below are links to the Mexican website and also the UK based branch. To avocado pits, and beyond!

Biofase Mexico Website: https://www.biofase.com.mx/
Biofase UK Website: https://4eco.uk.com/

VirtueBrush – Toothbrushes made from Bamboo

The VirtueBrush, a 100% Biodegradable toothbrush made out of bamboo!

Okay so toothbrushes may not be single-use-plastic, but they are ‘only-a-few-times-use-plastic’, a term I’ve just coined that’s sure to become mainstream within the week, I’m telling you, just you watch. Cough. And plastic toothbrushes are not recyclable. Every plastic toothbrush you’ve ever used still exists somewhere, clogging up some river or ocean crevice and leaking its smelly microplastics all over its disgusted neighbours. I mean I thought toothbrushes were supposed to keep things clean?

Well they certainly can. We don’t have to make toothbrushes out of plastic you know? There are plenty of alternative materials, and a very suitable one seems to be bamboo.

Not only is VirtueBrush battling the relentless plastic toothbrush army by offering a bamboo alternative that naturally biodegrades, they are also working with ‘Trees for the Future’ to plant three trees per VirtueBrush sold online and one tree per brush sold in retail shops.

When grown and harvested in the right way, bamboo is an incredibly sustainable material for a number of wonderful reasons:

– It grows flipping fast, up to 3.5 feet a day, and reaches full size in 3-5 years. 

– It regenerates from its own roots so doesn’t need to be replanted.

– It doesn’t require any chemical fertilisers for cultivation.

– It sequesters a whole load of CO2 from the atmosphere as it grows.

– It produces up to 35% more oxygen than an equivalent sized tree.

– It can be grown in nearly every region of this great green gargantuan earth.

So clearly, bamboo has a lot to offer, and there are a number of companies currently offering bamboo toothbrushes and other products, but Dublin based VirtueBrush is a particularly interesting one. 

Not only is VirtueBrush battling the relentless plastic toothbrush army by offering a bamboo alternative that naturally biodegrades, they are also working with ‘Trees for the Future’ to plant three trees per VirtueBrush sold online and one tree per brush sold in retail shops. This ensures that any carbon emissions created through the creation and shipping of the toothbrushes is accounted for. So that’s less plastic rotting in the oceans, and more trees sucking in CO2 on land. A pretty virtuous combination if you ask me.

When you use a VirtueBrush, not only are you helping reduce the amount of plastic in the world, you are also helping the not-for-profit organisation ‘Trees for the Future’ with land regeneration, community revitalising, tree planting initiatives around the globe. Now that’s a pretty wonderful combination! Above are some folks from Trees for the Future in Kenya celebrating the organisations 30th birthday party, by, you guessed it, planting more trees! It’s a really wonderful initiative and VirtueBrush are helping to make it possible.

The VirtueBrush itself is composed of a 100% “moso bamboo’ handle, and dental grade nylon bristles. The handle is biodegradable, and after removing the bristles, you can just throw the handle in the compost or use it as fire kindling once you’re done with it. The packaging is also 100% recyclable white cardboard and contains zero plastic.

Trees for the Future by the way is a not-for-profit that since 1989 has planted over 115 million trees around the world, using a ‘forest garden approach‘ to regenerating land and helping to revitalise local communities in the process. You can learn more about them and VirtueBrush through some nice little links provided below. But now that we’ve finally managed to clean our teeth without destroying the planet, it’s time to smile, and move on. (And that’s a pearly white super-sustainable smile by the way!)

VirtueBrush Website: https://virtuebrush.com/
Trees for the future Website: https://trees.org/

Ecovative Design – Packaging (and other things) made from Mushrooms 

Oh cool, just look at that, it’s a wine bottle surrounded by styrofoam packaging, how amazing. Well guess again buster! That ain’t no styrofoam, that’s mycelium baby! (Ecovative actually grow packaging and all sorts of other cool products out of mushrooms, now how amazing is that?)

Hahaha you know what? I just got the name. All they had to do was switch the c with the v and they turned ‘evocative’ into ‘Ecovative’. Clever clever super-clever. And what these guys are doing is certainly evocative, and eco-friendly. And clever. 

Packaging can be a real pain in the planet. In the EU alone in 2016, 16.3 million tonnes of plastic waste was generated, and 170kg of packaging waste (all materials) was generated per person. 170kg of waste PER PERSON in only ONE YEAR just from packaging, and a lot of that was plastic. And I’m sure we’ve all heard that notorious statistic that 91% of plastic worldwide does not get recycled! This is all very damning stuff really, but enough with the statistics, and on with the solutions! 

Ecovative Design is a New York-based ‘biomaterials company’ that harnesses the power of mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, to grow ‘advanced materials’ that can be used to replace plastic in multiple industries. As well as packaging, this super-adaptable material can be used in the skincare industry, for textiles, clothes, and even to create meat alternatives.

No microplastics involved when it comes to the disposal of this mycelium-based packaging, just tiny pieces of nutrient-rich mushroom goodness dissolving back into the great green earth instead. Now that’s a plastic alternative I can get on board with.

With regard to the ‘mushroom packaging’, it can be grown in 9 days to a custom shape, and is flame-resistant, water-resistant, and unlike our good old arch nemesis plastic over there in the naughty corner, this packaging is completely biodegradable. Ecovative even offers a ‘grow-it-yourself’ kit where you can grow your own mushroom packaging at home! I mean does it get any better than that? It kind of does make a whole lot of sense that if you’re growing your packaging out of natural ingredients, it’s not going to do much harm to the planet when the time comes for it to break back down into little pieces. 

So no microplastics involved when it comes to the disposal of this mycelium-based packaging, just tiny pieces of nutrient-rich mushroom goodness dissolving back into the great green earth instead. Now that’s a plastic alternative I can get on board with.

You might have read recently actually that Ikea has replaced their polystyrene packaging with mushroom-based packaging? Well it’s Ecovative Design who are behind that truly wonderful development! 

Ecovative make all sorts of stuff out of mushrooms, even these super groovy looking lamp shades. I mean who knew you could make all this stuff out of mushrooms? I mean seriously, at this stage, I think it’s time to say a permanent goodbye to Mr and Mrs plastic. We don’t need them anymore!!!

Really lovely stuff altogether. And you know I actually wrote an article a while back about the wonders (or the magic?) of mushrooms and all the ways they can help both people and the planet. From treating depression to cleaning up oil spills to ‘eating’ plastic waste, it’s super interesting stuff. If you’d like to read about that in detail (go on, goooooo on, you know you want to) then just click right here, and if you wanna check out Ecovative Design and all the wonderful things they’re doing I’ve very kindly provided a link to their website below. 

Wow. This plastic-free world is looking pretty lovely so far really isn’t it? Maybe we don’t need to use plastic for anything anymore, ever again? Ever? Just wait there for a second though, I’m gonna go grab a coffee.

Ecovative Design Website: https://ecovativedesign.com/

rCUP – Reusable Coffee Cups made from Used Coffee Cups

These funky looking colourful cups, flasks, mugs or whatever you wanna call them are actually made out of used coffee cups, helping to cut down on single-use-plastic waste and lay the foundations for a circular economy for disposable cups as well. Now I’ll drink to that. Tea anyone?

Okay I’m finished my coffee. But what should I do with the cup?? It’s one of those disposable paper cups but it’s got a flipping plastic lid and the inside of the cup is lined with a plastic coating so the cup can’t be recycled. Flip it! I guess I’ll just have to throw it on the landfill then. Well not if UK based eco-friendly, planet-loving, circular economy-embracing ‘rCUP’ has anything to do with it! (Also I didn’t actually use a disposable unrecyclable coffee cup in the making of this article. I filled my ceramic cup full of tea instead!) 

As I mentioned so theatrically above, most disposable coffee cups cannot be recycled because they are lined with a thin plastic coating on the inside to stop the hot liquid seeping through the cup. Most also come with a big chunky plastic top as well, which is no fun for anybody, least of all the planet. According to the BBC last year, 99.75% of coffee cups are not recycled. I mean my goodness, that’s basically all coffee cups not being recycled. Ridiculous. 

But thankfully, rCUP has come up with a solution that not only provides an eco-friendly alternative to disposable coffee cups, but also helps put old coffee cups to good use so they don’t end up on the rubbish tip.

rCUP really is killing two plastic birds with one perfectly circular stone here because as well as creating a product that will reduce the overall demand for disposable cups, they’re also helping to form the infrastructure needed to make disposable cups recyclable, and therefore, circular.

rCUP make high-quality reusable cups out of old single-use cups. These ‘rCUPs’ are super resilient, and maintain all the qualities you would want in a reusable cup. They’re 100% leak-proof, robust, keep drinks warm or cool, and can be picked up when the contents are very hot. rCUP is the only company that makes reusable cups out of coffee cups, and the idea is to create a circular economy for coffee cups.

As rCUP states on its website, ‘by creating products from used cups we’ve stimulated the demand for the once worthless used paper cup. This demand increases the value of used paper cups, which enables recycling firms to invest in the infrastructure required to recycle them.’ 

So rCUP really is killing two plastic birds with one perfectly circular stone here because as well as creating a product that will reduce the overall demand for disposable cups, they’re also helping to form the infrastructure needed to make disposable cups recyclable, and therefore, circular. The reusable rCUP itself can also be entirely recycled into a new rCUP at the end of its life, which rCUP say will be at least 10 years. So the rCUP is not only a wonderful alternative to disposable coffee cups and the single-use-plastic they contain, it is also leading the way towards a more circular economy, which is a tremendously wonderful thing. 

Not that you ever would throw it into the bushes, because why would anyone ever do that? This isn’t just some one-time-use disposable you know! But the rCUP even looks kind of nice surrounded by leaves and plants and stuff. Something that certainly doesn’t hold true with plastic bottles and paper cups!

I’ve actually written at length about the circular economy and how exciting it is here if you fancy a peak, and you can find out more about rCUP through the link below. rCUP is created by an award-winning design company called ‘ashortwalk’ based in Cornwall in England, and they’re doing lots of other interesting stuff too so I’ve included their website below as well. Absolutely fabulous stuff so far, but to be honest, I’m getting kind of hungry now. Time for a takeaway I think!

rCUP Website: https://www.rcup.co.uk/
ashortwalk Website:  https://www.ashortwalk.com/

Ark Reusables – Reusable Takeaway Containers made from Silicone 

These Ark Reusable containers are made from 100% recyclable silicone and can be used as a replacement for disposable food containers that hold your dinner for all of five minutes and then spend the rest of eternity clogging up the planet in landfills or the ocean or your local park. The more reusables we can use, the better!

Doooooooon’t worry, I’ll leave the theatrics out this time and get right down to business. A lot of disposable food containers are made from styrofoam or different forms of plastic. Not only can this affect your personal health by leaking lots of horrible plastic chemicals into your food, but it also harms the health of the planet. According to the National Resources Defence Council in the US, 269,000 tonnes of plastic pollution is currently floating in the oceans and waterways of the world as a result of plastic litter from ‘takeout’ orders in the US alone. A gargantuan amount of plastic. 

Fortunately, a lot of food places lately seem to be adopting more environmentally friendly containers made out of compostable materials like sugarcane, wood, paper, even banana leaves, and all sorts of other things as well. But what about forgoing the disposable container altogether and bringing your own?

This may not always be the best option as reusable containers can often be made from plastic themselves and can be pretty bulky and a pain in the convenience to transport, but Amsterdam based startup Ozarka offers a nifty solution to these problems in the form of the ‘Ark Reusable’ container. 

By combining wonderful innovations like the Ark Reusable with planet-friendly disposables, we can go a long way towards making convenience food convenient for the planet as well as for us humans.

The Ark Reusable is a beautifully designed container made from 100% food-safe silicone. (Silicone is made out of sand, does not give off nasty chemicals, and does not break down into microplastics, and you can learn more about it here, and here) It is dishwasher safe, oven and microwave safe, freezer safe and pretty much folds completely flat when empty so it’s easy to transport. The ‘Ark’ also comes with a lifetime guarantee and is 100% recyclable. Ozarka also offers recycling services for the products once you’re done using them. 

The idea is that you bring this container with you when you’re grabbing your super-fast on-the-go lunch and hand it to the food vendor instead of using one of the wasteful disposable containers on offer. Ozarka say that they have ‘spoken with dozens of chefs and food vendors, and found huge excitement around reusable containers. The interest is there, it just needs the right system, the right containers, and a shift in how people think about waste.’ So it does sound promising that with a little shift in everyone’s thinking, we could make disposable food containers a thing of the past entirely. 

The Ark Reusable containers fold nearly flat when empty so they’re incredibly portable, making them very convenient. And that’s what it’s all about really isn’t it? Convenience!

But there will always be a time when you need to grab your dinner on the go and you just don’t have your disposable container with you you say? We can’t just keep these silicone containers strapped to our bodies at all times you say? Well you’re dead right, that would be absolutely absurd! But whenever we can’t use a disposable container, we can put pressure on food vendors to start using any of the plastic-free, biodegradable options mentioned above. By combining wonderful innovations like the Ark Reusable with planet-friendly disposables, we can go a long way towards making convenience food convenient for the planet as well as for us humans.

And just like with all the other sections in this article, below is a link to the Ozarka and Ark Reusables websites so ‘ye can have a wee look for yerselves.’ (Not sure who I’m quoting there, maybe myself, but sure why not?)

Ozarka Website: https://www.ozarka.club/
Ark Reusables Website: https://arkreusables.com/

To a Plastic-Free Future 

Whenever possible, it’s much better to avoid disposable products altogether and use a more permanent option, but we all know that’s not possible 100% of the time. This is a crazy world we live in after all. But when we do have to use disposable products, from what we’ve seen in this article, there is really no reason at all that we should have to use plastic.

Products such as the rCUP and the Ark Reusable are great examples of how reusable products can make the planet a better place, and Biofase, VirtueBrush and Ecovative Design show us that there’s really no need to make any of our single-use or ‘only-a-few-times-use’ (told you it would catch on) products out of plastic at all. There are plenty of other, better materials out there to choose from. 

As the chorus of this song written from the perspective of single-use-plastic itself proclaims, “Single-use-plastic, I am indestructible, a momentary use, for a permanent object.” A momentary use, for a permanent object. That explains the ridiculousness of the whole thing really. 

So it’s great to see that there are now loads of forward-thinking companies out there who are taking a moment, to come up with ideas that can lead us to a more sustainable, ‘just-don’t-use-plastic’ future. And then keep us there, permanently. 

Maybe ‘just-don’t-use-plastic’ is more likely to catch on?

Well, I certainly hope so.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

We can’t do it all Ourselves.

The Amazons and the Googles of this world have got to change as well if we’re going to have any chance.

We hear a whooooooooooole lot these days about what we can do, as individuals, to help the planet. Stop eating meat, stop having kids, stop taking flights, stop using single-use-plastic. Take half as many breaths per minute and only move our muscles when we really have to. All decent solutions, but will they really make much of a difference if the big bad energy devouring corporations of the world carry on emitting like there’s no (if they do keep doing what they’re doing there actually might not be) tomorrow? Probably not. 

The Amazons and the Googles of this world have got to change as well if we’re going to have any chance. And you know what? It seems like they’re really starting to. Here’s a run-through of what some of the largest companies in the world are doing to benefit this great little planet of ours. Things really do seem to be changing on a large scale, and just maybe, we might actually have a chance after all. Have a look for yourself.

Amazon 

Amazon will order 100,000 fully-electric delivery vehicles. This is what they’ll look like. You know what? It just pretty much looks like a van doesn’t it really. (It’s what’s inside that counts I guess!)

Just the other week, Amazon, who up until then had pretty much kept its mouth shut about the climate crisis, announced a commitment to meet the Paris Agreement, a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C, 10 years early. To fulfil this commitment, Amazon has pledged to do the following:

  • Commit to net-zero carbon by 2040 and 100% renewable energy by 2030. 
  • Order 100,000 fully-electric delivery vehicles, the largest order ever of its kind.
  • Invest $100 million in reforestation projects around the world to begin removing carbon from the atmosphere now. 
  • Launch a new sustainability website to report progress on commitments. 

When a big player like Amazon is the instigator, others tend to follow.

This all comes as part of The Climate Pledge, an initiative Amazon has co-founded with social enterprise Global Optimism. Companies who sign up to The Climate Pledge initiative agree to do the following: 

  • Measure and report greenhouse gas emissions on a regular basis.
  • Implement decarbonization strategies in line with the Paris Agreement through real business changes and innovations, including efficiency improvements, renewable energy, materials reductions, and other carbon emission elimination strategies.
  • Neutralize any remaining emissions with additional, quantifiable, real, permanent, and socially-beneficial offsets to achieve net-zero annual carbon emissions by 2040.

I can’t find any evidence of other companies signing up to the climate pledge yet, but I’m pretty sure they will in time. It’s still early days, as the pledge was only announced like 13 days ago, and when a big player like Amazon is the instigator, others tend to follow.

Google

Google is making significant investments in renewable energy across the globe. Woooooooooble for Google.

Google recently announced a major investment in renewable energy, and is currently running various other planet-friendly projects as well. Here’s a breakdown of what they’re doing, or what they will be doing to help the environment in the near future:

  • Google recently announced 18 new energy deals across the US, Chile, and Europe, which will involve purchasing energy from solar farms across the United States, and making investments in Chile that combine both wind and solar power. 1600 Megawatts of clean energy will be purchased in total, which will ‘kick-start the development of millions of solar panels, wind turbines and other construction.’
  • Google.org, the companies philanthropic arm, will gift a $500,000 grant to the Renewable Energy buyers alliance in the US, and €500,000 to Re-Source in Europe. (Haha, the Europeans got a slightly better deal there! But it’s all good for the world I suppose.) The money will be used to research new renewable energy business models and provide training for consumers. 
  • Since last year, Google have also been publishing sustainability reports about its products and supply chain processes, and has recently pledged to make its ‘Made by Google’ line of products more sustainable, claiming that all its products will contain recyclable materials by 2022. (What percentage of each product will be made from recycled material is unclear, but you would hope that whatever it is, it will increase in time.)
  • Google has also said that all of its shipments, to or from customers, will be carbon neutral by 2020. Progress has already been made on this front, according to Anna Meegan, Google’s head of sustainability for hardware, who has stated that Google managed to reduce emissions by a hefty 40% just by switching from air shipments to cargo shipments. Quite a significant number. If it’s true, that’s very impressive! 
  • Finally, Google also has a recycling programme for customers in the US, where it will send customers a shipping label to send back unwanted products so the raw materials can be re-used. 

So there we are, that was a flip load of bullet points, and that was just Google! Onto the next one.

Apple

It’s clear that Apple is making a tremendous effort to become a more sustainable operation, and as these efforts progress, they are bound to rub off on other companies as well.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but only if the apples are clean! Well not only do all of Apple’s stores, data centres, and offices now run on renewable energy, a milestone the company achieved last year, but Apple is also now offering financial help to the companies in its supply chain so they can switch to renewable energy as well. As part of Apple’s Supplier Clean Energy program, 44 of its suppliers have already pledged to transition to 100% clean energy, with even more to follow. Apple is also aiming to introduce 4 gigawatts of clean energy into the companies supply chain by 2020. Now that’s a whole lot of clean!

Significant structural alterations to Apple’s supply chains and production processes are also being implemented, with the company working towards a closed-loop supply chain (woooooo the circular economy!!!), and adopting more efficient manufacturing processes and materials to further reduce the raw materials needed to produce its products.

Although far from perfect, it seems Apple (the company not the fruit), have started trying to become the apple on the right.

Although far from perfect yet, and still with some major concerns being voiced about the sustainability of some of its products, and the working conditions in some of its factories, it’s clear that Apple is making a tremendous effort to become a more sustainable operation, and as these efforts progress, they are bound to rub off on other companies as well.

The Others

This has nothing to do with Lost!

Placing all these other companies in a section called ‘the others’ doesn’t mean they’re any less important or significant than the ones I’ve already described, neither does it mean that these companies care less about saving the planet, or that they’re bad guys on a very popular but questionable TV show from the mid to late noughties. It just means that I have limited time to write this article today as I’m a busy busy boy with lots of things to do and it’s Friday, so I’m giving you the gist of what these companies are up to here and then if you like, you can go research the hell out of them yourself and respond back in the comments below with the dirty (or hopefully clean) details about exactly what these companies are up to! Sound cool? Freezing. 

People are starting to demand that companies treat the planet with respect, and companies are starting to respond.

Microsoft

Microsoft is also moving toward renewable energy, and will be buying 230 MW of solar and wind power in Texas from a company called Engie. The company is planning to cut its carbon emission by 75% by 2030, and is targeting over 70% renewable energy for its data centres by 2023. Not quite as ambitious or effective as Apple or Amazon, but still heading in the right direction. Microsoft is also making it more expensive for its business units to ignore climate change by doubling its internal carbon fee to $15 per metric tonne. Tax that flipping carbon baby!

Facebook

There’s no getting away from it to be honest; Facebook is a pretty dodgy company. Scandal after scandal, privacy breach after privacy breach, Cambridge after Analytica. It certainly doesn’t look like Mr. Zuckleburgers has the prosperity of the entire human race in mind with most of his decisions, but at least Facebook do seem to be making some moves with regard to the shift toward renewable energy. The social media (data gathering) giant has recently signed a deal for 200MW of Texas wind power as it continues its ‘track record as a major buyer of renewable energy.’ Now if they could just stop all the other dodgy business, they’d be golden! (Or green.)

Ikea

Ikea probably deserves a much bigger section, as they seem to be doing quite a lot of amazing stuff with regard to the planet, but I’m running out of time! So here’s a headline that pretty much sums it up: ‘Ikea has invested in enough clean energy to power all of its operations (plus extra). The company believes that ‘the future is renewable’, and they are doing loads of brilliant stuff for the planet right now. You can read more about that here, and maybe I’ll dedicate a whole article to Ikea sometime soon, so look out for that one!

Nike

Nike have just opened a 1.5 million square foot distribution centre in Ham, Belgium, which will be powered by 100% locally sourced renewable energy. Now that is a flipping massive massive operation to be powered by 100% renewable, and incredibly impressive. Wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass energy will be utilised.

The Other Others

McDonald’s, Dell, Wall-Mart, Honda, Starbucks, Coca Cola, and plenty of other companies, to varying degrees, have also started to incorporate sustainability into their business models. This list suggests that the big companies of 2019 know they have to start taking sustainability seriously. They know it’s not just some optional extra shiny green string anymore that they can add to their business portfoli(bow) to make them seem more environmentally conscious. People are starting to demand that companies treat the planet with respect, and companies are starting to respond. Their sustainability efforts and initiatives, will only increase from here. So it seems the future of business, is very much so, looking like a sustainable one. (If it’s not then we better get out the butter and jam, and the marmalade, chocolate spread, possibly peanut butter too. Maybe some cheese?…. Cause if it’s not, then, we’re toast!)

Sustainability: The New Normal

The next time you question whether the changes you make to your own lifestyle will make a difference, just remember that a lot of the big bad companies are starting to make changes too.

A combination of evolving consumer expectation and the increasing financial viability of renewable energy and green technology is making the drive for sustainability an unavoidable reality for big companies today. Sustainability, in every sense of the word, is going mainstream.

Another apple image. Why am I using so many apple images? Anyways, green is becoming the new normal, and in 2019, the companies that aren’t trying to become more sustainable are the ones that stand out, for all the wrong reasons!

Whether the companies listed above are finally starting to clean up their act because they care about the planet, or because it’s saving them money is anyone’s best guess (it’s probably the money thing), but either way, it doesn’t matter too much. The important thing is that change is happening. Some of the biggest companies in the world are starting to move towards a more sustainable future, and that will only push other companies to follow suit.

So the next time you question whether the changes you make to your own lifestyle will make a difference, just remember that a lot of the big bad companies are starting to make changes too.

We’re all in this together, and to truly make sustainability the new normal, we will all have to evolve. Human, and corporation, alike.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

Too Many Sick People, Not Enough Beds

I arrived at the A&E ward of Sligo General Hospital (my local hospital in the west of Ireland) last Monday morning after a weekend of stomach pain and no idea what was wrong with me. I remained in A&E for over 36 hours, propped up on a makeshift trolley bed in a brightly-lit, loud and frenzied hallway packed full of sick and suffering people. I was awake all night, and in quite a lot of pain. I was told by nurses that they had 24 people waiting for beds at the time. Poor bastards. (The nurses, as well as the patients.)

My Super-Comfy Hallway Bed

I was finally given a bed in the surgical ward on Tuesday around midnight after the doctors diagnosed me with a perforated colon. (Shit happens I suppose.) (Unfortunately, in my case it wasn’t happening quite as it was supposed to!) (I guess I was shit out of luck?) (But who gives a shit really?) (It’s all bullshit in the end.) (Everything comes down to poo.) (Okay, that’s enough!) (Enough of my shit!) (Right that’s it now.) (That’s shit now.) (haha).

I have been moved to three different rooms since then due to overwhelming patient overload and limited beds. (And once because they needed to check me for MRSA.) Due to cutbacks cutbacks cutbacks implemented over the last decade or so, this hospital, and the majority of Irish hospitals it would seem, really are not equipped with the necessary facilities to provide proper care for the growing number of patients admitted, and as most of the nurses have said; it is not even winter yet. Things will only get busier in the coming months.

The Staff here have Superpowers!

The genuine care, love, and warmth shown by the staff here spreads to the patients, and creates a wonderful atmosphere of ‘we’re all in this together’.

All of this really should make for a truly horrible experience for me. A hole in the colon and an overrun hospital doesn’t exactly sound like a winning combination, but honestly, I have found the whole experience to be quite lovely, and incredibly inspiring. When I said Irish hospitals aren’t equipped with the necessary facilities, I was not talking about the human facilities. The staff here are the very best of the best. Top-notch, dedicated, talented professionals, and top-notch down to earth human beings as well. You can tell that everyone really gives a shit, and all colon jokes aside, that’s not something you find everywhere. It’s not something you find most places.

The genuine care, love, and warmth shown by the staff here spreads to the patients, and creates a wonderful atmosphere of ‘we’re all in this together’. It feels like everyone is looking out for each other, everyone really cares for each other; nurses, cleaning dudes, patients, doctors, everyone. It’s really very uplifting, which I’m sure in itself helps with patient recovery, and it all stems from the incredible people who work here. I mean it’s not like their jobs are easy! I found it hard not to be miserable when I worked on the tills in SuperValu. These people are under constant stress and pressure, and they radiate love and togetherness. They are legends.

The staff at Sligo General Hospital

Feeling the Love

In hospital, life gets ramped up a bit. People are in serious situations, and it becomes clear as people interact how much they genuinely care for each other. The atmosphere in this place is so real, and so full of love and sincerity between strangers that it makes you feel like you’re at a music festival or something. Sligo General Hospital, it’s the new Body & Soul! 

Just like all the crazy beautiful characters you meet and instantly fall in love with at a music festival, the same is true at the hospital. Since I’ve been here I have met some really wonderful people. Nurses, cleaning dudes, restaurant staff, doctors, fellow patients, all sorts. Warm bonds have been instantly formed between people of all shapes, ages, sizes, and walks of life. You can really tell that everyone cares for each other. The patients as well as the staff. People in pain showing concern for others in pain. People in shit situations coming together to joke about it and make the most of it. Philosophical conversations with roommates about how we all take things for granted and collectively remembering how lucky we really are. 

Warm bonds have been instantly formed between people of all shapes, ages, sizes, and walks of life. You can really tell that everyone cares for each other. The patients as well as the staff.

The Best of the Best

Every staff member I have so far come into contact with is a legend.

And my goodness we are so lucky, certainly those of us living in Ireland and in need of medical assistance anyway. People complain about the makeshift beds in the hallway (and to be honest the government can and should flipping do something about that, it’s really not fair on the staff, or the patients), but with regard to the quality of person that works in Irish hospitals, we are second to none in the universe. And that’s quality of wholesomeness, as well as expertise.

Every staff member I have so far come into contact with is a legend. A big wholesome beautiful legend with kindness in their heart and a passion for what they do. And that goes for the nurses, the doctors, the cleaning staff, the restaurant staff, everyone. They are all so very kind. They are doing a colossal job with limited resources and managing to care for far far far more patients than the hospital is really equipped to deal with. These people are at the very top of their professions, the work they do is ridiculously difficult in so many ways, and they deserve much, much better. 

If the staff at Sligo General were a footballer, they would be this man, Lionel Messi; the very best in the world.

The staff here manage to create an atmosphere of love and kindness that rubs off on the patients, and it transforms what should be a poopy poopy experience (I just can’t stop with the poo jokes!), into an inspirational, truly heartwarming one. I’ve met some great people here, and have actually made some fond memories. If the staff weren’t so superhumanly uplifting, everyone here would be miserable, and I probably wouldn’t have the will to be writing anything right now. Yet I’m sat here, buzzing.

I thank the staff wholeheartedly for doing what they do. I’m lucky in that my condition isn’t serious, but for the unfortunate souls in here who do have serious conditions, I wish them a full and speedy recovery, and I know the staff will make that as likely as possible. They inspire a tremendous amount of hope.

These People are the Best, and They Deserve the Best

If the staff at Sligo General Hospital ran the world, life would be like a great big music festival. There would be love all around us, people would feel uplifted, people would feel inspired, people would genuinely care for each other and want to help each other. There would be joking, laughter, philosophical conversations about the meaning of life and death. There would be pain and sickness but people would be nursed back to health by those around them. There would be realness. There would be life. There would be connection.

The people here, and most likely the people in the majority of Irish hospitals and medical facilities, are brilliant at what they do. So how about giving these inspirational people the appreciation they deserve, financial compensation that mirrors the deep technical and emotional work required of them, and the facilities they need to really work their magic and take care of everyone properly?

It wouldn’t be the worst idea on earth. My goodness, they certainly deserve it.

(The non-stop supply of Tay and Toasht makes all the difference as well. You’d know you’re in the weshht.)

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

What’s in a Name Anyway?

B Corporations. I’m not so sure about that name. Sounds like they’re just slightly better than average corporations. Like they didn’t quite make the A grade, but they’re not quite as bad as a C, so we gave them a B. Maybe they’re named after the Bumble Bee, since Bumble Bees are so important for the future of our planet? Or maybe the B stands for Brilliant? Or Better? Or Bloody Brilliant and a much Better Bet? Maybe. I suppose I could just check really couldn’t I? But it doesn’t matter anyway, forget about the name, because this isn’t just some jumped-up marketing campaign. This is the real deal yo! Like a bee pollinating the flowers so the forest can grow. B corporations are changing the business world, and by doing that, they can change the real world too. So what’s the deal B?

What the Flip is a B Corporation? 

B Corporations must be officially certified to ensure that they ‘meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.’

Well I looked it up and it turns out that the B in B Corporation doesn’t seem to stand for any particular word. They just have B stamped all over their website with no explanation as to what word it stands for at all. So it’s just ‘B’. I guess that makes the first paragraph seem a little silly, but I like the first paragraph, so it’s staying just as it is, and we’re going to move on from here. Like the human race focusing on building a beautiful future while leaving our negligent past behind us. Is that first negligent paragraph a mistake, or my motivation to write the rest of the article more prudently? Well does a bee shit in the woods? Does a bee even shit? You know I’m not entirely sure. Maybe B Corporations can help us find the answer?

A Certified B Corporation is basically a for-profit company that works to help the world instead of destroying it. As stated in ‘The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence’, The B Corp vision is one of ‘a global economy that uses business as a force for good.’ Now I like the sound of that!

The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence basically states that B Corporations strive to work together to build a better world instead of working independently to mess everything up. A pretty wonderful break from the planet shattering norm if you ask me!

These companies make it their mission to solve social and environmental problems as well as making a profit. B Corporations must be officially certified by a not-for-profit, The B Lab Company, to ensure that they ‘meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.’ B Corporations must also re-certify their credentials every two years to keep in line with evolving standards if they want to hold onto their precious B. 

So a B Corporation pretty much has to help communities and the environment at all times while always being transparent about their actions and legally committing to not being greedy, and they have to prove that they’re doing all these things every two years through a rigorous assessment from an independent not-for-profit organisation. I mean we probably should have made every corporation since the very dawn of corporating follow these kinds of rules but we’ve got to start somewhere haven’t we? And thank goodness, it seems, we have started!

Okay so this whole B Corporation thing seems like a truly fabulous planet-altering idea, but one thing I was wondering was this: Hmmmmm so the B Corporations are monitored by ‘The B Lab Company’, but who the hell is monitoring those guys? How do we know they’re not the devil in disguise? Or worse, politicians, or flaming lobbyists? Well after checking out the governing bodies and advisory bodies that oversee the work of B-Lab, it seems that all the people involved come from different independent foundations, companies, and initiatives that all have to do with good things like sustainability, philanthropy, and improving the environment. The B Impact assessment is also overseen by an independent committee of 20-22 members, each with deep industry or stakeholder expertise.

So it seems like the guys keeping the B Corporations in line are legit, which suggests that the good work the B Corporations are doing must be genuine. But what exactly sets them apart from regular companies?

What Makes B Corporations Better?

When a company is certified as a B Corporation, you can be pretty sure that they’re treating both people, and planet, with respect.

As we’ve already discussed, to become a ‘Certified B Corporation’, a company has to commit to doing things differently. So what exactly do they have to do? Below are some of the commitments wannaB (haha) B Corporations have to make and genuinely implement in order to pass the ongoing B Impact assessments.

  • Directors are required to consider the impact of their actions on all stakeholders, including the social and environmental impacts, as well as the financial. So if a project is proposed within the company that will make bucket tonnes of cash dollar, but will also pollute a couple of rivers or negatively affect the local community, the company cannot go through with the project. Actions must be beneficial for everyone involved. 
  • The company must publish regular reports outlining overall social and environmental performance assessed against a third-party standard. So there’s really no hiding if you wanna be a long term member of the B Brigade!
  • The company must achieve a minimum verified score on the ‘B Impact Assessment’, and must maintain this score every two years against evolving assessment standards. And these assessments aren’t just a short walk through a supposedly un-polluted corporate park, they involve measuring a companies entire social and environmental performance, and evaluating how the companies operations and overall business model impacts their workers, community, environment, and customers. From supply chain and input materials to charitable giving and employee benefits. You can even find a directory on the B Lab Website where you can find every single Certified B Corporation, and view their exact impact scores over time in areas of governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. So when a company is certified as a B Corporation, you can be pretty sure that they’re treating both people, and planet, with respect.
Here you can see an example of Patagonia’s profile on the B Corporation directory page. You can see exactly how they score in very specific areas of their business (if you scroll down on the page there are breakdown scores for workers, community, environment, and customers as well), and you can view past records to see how they’ve scored in the past in each of these areas too. The overall score is visible at the top of the profile, which is compared against the median score for non B Corporations (50.9), the score required for B Corporation Certification (80), and Patagonia’s score of 151.5. Not a bad score at all. Most of the businesses I’ve seen on here score way higher than the required 80. I think the fact that B Corporations are transparently compared against each other is another motivation for them to keep raising their number and doing better things for the planet.

The B Lab website states that the positive impact of B Certified Corporations is supported by transparency and accountability requirements, so the B Corp Certification doesn’t just prove where the company excels in the present, but also commits it to consider stakeholder impact for the long term by building it into the companies legal structure. So to become a B Corporation, a company has to make itself legally responsible for improving the environment and the communities in which it operates.

The B Corporation model represents a way for us to utilise the structures and institutions we already have in place to do good instead of bad. To build instead of destroy.

You know I was going to do a section after this one titled ‘So how can B Corporations save the world?’, but I don’t think there’s any need for a whole section on that. I think it’s quite simple really: If every single business on earth had a legal obligation to improve the environment and the communities they operate in, thereby working to heal the planet and the human race, as opposed to destroying them, what do you think would happen? I think we’d probably save the world, that’s what. 

The B Corporation model represents a way for us to utilise the structures and institutions we already have in place to do good instead of bad. To build instead of destroy. We don’t have to come up with great big revolutionary systems of commerce or governance to create the change that’s needed. We can use the structures we already have to save the world, we just have to start holding them to higher standards; standards we should have held them to from the very beginning. Some might argue that this is all fanciful idealism, and that it can’t possibly work in the real world. But those arguments are invalid. It’s already working in the real world, and there are some really big Certified B Corporations already who are fully operational, profitable, and absolutely thriving! Do have a look below.

To become a B Corporation, a company has to make itself legally responsible for improving the environment and the communities in which it operates.

Who’s on Board Already? 

Ben and Jerry’s are just one big company already helping to save the world by committing to the B Corporations Movement. There will be many more to follow.

There are currently over 2,500 Certified B Corporations in over 50 countries around the world, and you may have heard of a few of them. Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, Etsy, Danone North America, and so many other companies are all Certified B Corporations, which means that all of these companies are actually improving the health of the planet and the people around them, as opposed to causing damage.

Danone really is an incredible example of how a huge multinational corporation can operate in a way that helps the world instead of harming it. Danone North America, a business unit of Danone which contains 14 subsidiary companies, is entirely B Certified, while Danone have many other B Certified subsidiaries around the world, and are working towards becoming entirely B Certified. This is proof that the B Corporation model doesn’t just work for the little guys. Danone is one of the largest multinational food production companies in the world, spanning over 120 markets worldwide with a reported yearly profit approaching €25 Billion. If they can fundamentally change their ways and operate successfully while also healing the planet, then surely everybody can. The question to ask though, is will everybody try?

What’s the Future Looking Like for The B Corp Movement? 

Just last week something completely out of the norm happened. Something quite incredible. And it directly involves the B Corp Movement. Over 30 Certified B Corporations, including Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, and Danone North America, took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times urging members of ‘The Business Roundtable Lobby Group’, which represents pretty much all of the US’s biggest companies, to ‘get to work’ on making real change happen. This follows the recent decision of The Business Roundtable to ‘shift its statement of the purpose of a corporation to include all of its stakeholders, including employees, suppliers, and broader society.’ That was big talk from a group which contains the CEOs of companies like Apple, Amazon, Coca Cola, AT&T, Chevron, Exxon, Deloitte, Pepsi, Pfizer, Ford, and pretty much everyone else, and The B Corporation movement has now officially, and publicly, challenged these influential companies, to start walking the walk. 

This is the incredible full page advertisement taken out in the New York Times last week by a large group of B Certified Corporations. As you can read, since I went to the trouble of finding a super high quality image of the ad, it wasn’t easy, it took a while, but I thought everyone would want to see it, not that anyone’s actually reading this, I mean if you are, well fucking done! Anyways, just read the text in the ad, it’s really an incredible, heart-warming, optimism pumping, re-assuring message, but there’s no need for me to re-explain it here. I’m not your mother. Or am I? What an ad! Bravo Bravo to the B Corporations! Wait a minute? Maybe the B stands for Bravo? ….. Bravo Corporations. Yes, I’m going with that. A Certified B Corporation from here on in will now officially be referred to as a ‘Certified Bravo Corporation’, courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman, Adam Cats. 😉 Bravo.

The fact that these kinds of things are happening in the business world is absolutely astonishing really. The big guys claiming they’re going to start changing their ways is one thing, but being publicly challenged to actually do it by companies who already have is another (B)east entirely. (hahaha)

So with thousands of companies around the world already B Certified, many more in the process of joining, and huge multinational companies like Danone and Ben and Jerry’s banging The B Corp drum, I’m inclined to think the future is looking pretty bright for The B Corp Movement, and dare I say it, for our planet as well?

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

Where is the Magic?

You know I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms. The one’s Mam puts in the dinner at least. White mushrooms I think they’re called? It’s the texture you see. Too squidgy. (No not squidy, you heard right the first time, I did say squidgy. With a g before the y. I think this word accurately sums up that spine-tingling huffy puffy mushy feeling you get when you bite into one of those funny-looking fungus bumps.) Portobello’s are the same, too squidgy for Adam. But you know what? Mushrooms are a whole lot more magical than a hearty bowl of stroganoff with fungi soup on the side, and I’m not just talking about that 60’s kind of magic.

A bunch of innocent looking ‘white mushrooms‘. Ugh, Squidge Squidge Squidge.

The world is in such a state these days that we could do with a little magic. Or a lot of magic. I mean where to even start? Micro-plastics have been found floating around from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the highest mountain peaks (so basically everywhere). A red-faced wig-wearing racist alien masquerading as a president wants to actually purchase Greenland, an island that contains so much ice that its own fate may very well determine the fate of the entire world. Another red-faced chaos declaring racist alien masquerading as a headmaster wants to financially strangle his own country while potentially starting a war in another. The arctic is on fire, Spain is on fire, the world is on fire! More people suffer from heart problems, obesity and diabetes than ever before, while nearly a billion people go hungry every day. Anxiety is rife. Depression rates are at an all-time high. 1% of the human population hold 45% of the financial wealth and 3 flipping men in the United States hold more wealth than the entire bottom half of the population. 3 men. 

It seems the world has categorically lost its flipping mind. Our species has lost its way. The indigenous mycelium chefs have lost the magic recipe. So what I’ll explore in this article, is how mushrooms might help us get some of that magic back. The magic of being at peace with ourselves, each other, and the world around us. 

Now obviously mushrooms aren’t going to stop a no-deal Brexit from happening, unless somebody spikes the tea bags at number 10 Downing Street, in which case all those overpaid pompously educated goober heads might actually have a genuinely enlightening epiphany for the first time in their pampered lives and finally figure out a way to stop being egotistical apathetic parasites, but since that’s not going to happen, let’s discuss how mushrooms can help us with some of our other issues. We can start with the one closest to home, our personal health. 

A Mushroom a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Healing Ourselves 

We can’t expect a world full of sick people to heal a sick planet, so improving our personal health could be seen as the first step towards a planetary recovery. Embracing the versatile magic of the mushroom has so much potential to heal each one of us, physically, mentally, and spiritually, and if we can learn to heal ourselves, maybe we can learn to come together and heal the planet as well. Here’s how mushrooms can help. 

Healing the Body 

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and is responsible for a third of all deaths. A quite remarkable statistic. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes are all conditions that can lead to cardiovascular death, and can all be prevented or treated one way or another using mushrooms.

High blood pressure and cholesterol for example, can be treated with the shiitake and maitake mushroom strains, which contain various vitamins and minerals linked with reductions in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The reishi mushroom can be used to treat diabetes and obesity by lowering blood glucose levels, and by reducing inflammation and insulin resistance. This truly magical (and legal) reishi mushroom has also been found to help treat arthritis, liver damage, and the second leading cause of death worldwide, cancer.

The reishi mushroom, a curious looking medicinal wizard.

Now it must be stated that some of these mushroom strains can cause significant side-effects, and people should always consult with their doctors before using them, and also that mushrooms are not the holy grail for disease prevention, and that a relatively balanced lifestyle is of course required as well, but the potential of mushrooms for healing the most widespread physical health problems we face as a species is clear to see. Here’s a list of all (or at least most) of the conditions mushrooms can be used to treat

  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Cancer.
  • Arthritis.
  • Liver Damage. 
  • Asthma.
  • Renal Failure.
  • Stroke Damage.

As well as treating these diseases, mushrooms also provide the following benefits

  • Boosted Immune System.
  • Improved gut health.
  • Increased Vitamin D.
  • Provides antioxidants. 
  • Boosts metabolism.
  • Protects bladder health.
  • Increased energy.
  • Decreased stress.
  • Improved cognitive function.

Even if we leave the medicinal benefits of mushrooms aside for a second, merely incorporating more edible mushrooms into our everyday diets would provide all sorts of valuable proteins, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for achieving and maintaining sound physical health. It’s actually quite fascinating to contemplate how compatible these little fungus filled friends really are with the human body, and how they can work to heal it.

You would swear it was all connected or something.

The potential of mushrooms for healing the most widespread physical health problems we face as a species is clear to see.

Healing the Mind 

It is a truly disturbing and saddening reality that mental health problems such as depression and anxiety disorders are more common throughout the world now than ever before, and are showing no signs of disappearing any time soon. There is no single factor behind these troubling statistics, and I’m sure many of the problems I mentioned in the opening paragraph play their part. I mean how can people not be depressed and anxious when the planet is on the brink of collapse, everyone’s eating a poisonous diet, and the marketeers keep reminding everyone that they’re just not good enough?

It’s a bit of a catch 22 really; the sorry state the world is in is making people depressed and anxious, but we can’t really do anything to improve the state the world is in because everyone is depressed and anxious. So what to do? Mushrooms can certainly be a part of the solution.

Up until now all the mushrooms strains I’ve mentioned could generally be classified as ‘legal’, whereas the mushrooms that can help us overcome depression and anxiety disorders are generally considered ‘illegal’. Just remember though that slavery was once legal, women voting was once illegal, and condoms were illegal in Ireland up until 1985 for christ’s sake (literally), so sometimes ‘the law’ might not be designed with everyone’s health and wellbeing in mind. With that in mind, let’s talk about how ‘illegal’ psilocybin mushrooms can help to heal the mind. If you wouldn’t mind. 

A poster declaring that allowing women to vote would be detrimental to men’s employment and the business world. Sometimes, the law is nonsense.

Psilocybin mushrooms are the mushrooms more commonly referred to as ‘magic mushrooms’, and increasingly are showing capabilities for treating depression without the ‘dulling’ side-effects of conventional antidepressants. The psilocybin compound in these mushrooms works to activate a specific subtype of serotonin receptor, the 5-HT2A receptor, which is known to play a key role in regulating mood, anxiety, schizophrenia and consciousness.

Recent studies have found that when administered in a supportive environment, psilocybin mushroom therapy can be effective at facilitating emotional breakthrough and renewed perspective, and treating psychiatric conditions including: 

  • End-of-life anxiety and depression. 
  • Alcohol and tobacco addiction. 
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder. 
  • Treatment-resistant major depression. 

Multiple trials, volunteer studies, and clinical studies have shown that these treatments can have a rapid and lasting positive impact on mental health, often after just one or two doses. A truly incredible reality.

It seems quite obvious to me that these ‘illegal’ mushrooms can help. We keep trying to treat mental health conditions with chemical-ridden pharmaceutical drugs that often just make the conditions worse, when there’s a completely natural solution right in front of us. These mushrooms grow in the ground, not a lab, and are clearly designed by nature to connect with us, work with us, and heal us, physically and mentally. 

We’ve barely even scratched the surface when it comes to the potential of psychedelic mushrooms for healing our minds. Maybe if we legalised them, studied them more deeply, and started sharing their healing properties with the world, they might gift us the mental clarity and wisdom to grow as individuals, and then, as a collective as well.

We keep trying to treat mental health conditions with chemical-ridden pharmaceutical drugs that often just make the conditions worse, when there’s a completely natural solution right in front of us. These mushrooms grow in the ground, not a lab, and are clearly designed by nature to connect with us, work with us, and heal us, physically and mentally. 

(Thankfully the legalisation of these magical little friends is already well under way in the States, and once the Americans do something, the dominoes tend to start falling all over the western world.)

Healing the Soul 

Can mushrooms bring us closer to ‘god’? I mean nobody knows really but this picture sure is groovy!

I’m not going to dive too far into this one, as obviously there can be no objective evidence that mushrooms help to ‘heal the soul’ or to ‘deepen ones spirituality’, regardless of how many people claim that they’ve ‘tripped out on shrooms and talked to god.’ I mean we don’t even know for sure if the soul is actually a thing.

So all I will say is this: Regardless of spiritual or religious beliefs, it’s easier to be happy when you’re healthy, and mushrooms can help us achieve that. Connection to a ‘higher power’, or ‘deeper purpose’ may very well come as a result. Maybe that deeper purpose might come in the form of a collective effort to save the planet? 

A Mushroom a Day Keeps the Apocalypse at Bay: Healing the Planet

Mushrooms are the ‘great facilitators’, the ‘glue that holds everything together’, the ‘bridge from sun to plants to human prosperity’.

So mushrooms can make us healthy, but what good is that when the planet’s already drawing up our eviction papers? The planet is becoming inhospitable and we need to do everything we can to reverse the damage we’ve done. We still have time to save ourselves, and yes, you guessed it, mushrooms can help us do it. 

Fungal mycelia holds the soil together, helps it retain water, and makes its nutrients available to vegetation. Certain species use their mycelia to envelop or penetrate plant roots, contributing nitrogen compounds and mineral salts in exchange for sugars from the host organism. Mushroom-producing fungi also feed animals, and animals return the favour by spreading fungal spores. Basically, mushrooms make everything work. They are the ‘great facilitators’, the ‘glue that holds everything together’, the ‘bridge from sun to plants to human prosperity’. 

Mushrooms were the first organism on this planet to live on land, and they are responsible for creating a liveable environment for plants and animals to prosper. Unfortunately, we have done our very best to push that environment to the verge of destruction. Here’s how mushrooms can help make it liveable again.

Boosting Reforestation 

As I’ve mentioned already, mushrooms make everything work. They allow plants and trees to grow bigger and stronger by helping their roots absorb nutrients and water from the soil. This, in turn, allows plants to absorb energy from the sun through photosynthesis, which makes it possible for animals to thrive as well. Mushrooms can even be used in micro-forestry to kill sickness in other plants, as they can live off the bacteria that make other plants sick. 

Mushrooms and trees are connected through their root systems, and they help each other prosper.

As well as the natural maintenance of forests and other ecosystems, different types of fungi are already being used in human-led reforestation efforts in Scotland and China. It seems clear from these examples that if we’re going to grow enough trees in time to rebalance the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, mushrooms are going to be essential to our success. 

Tackling Toxic Pollution

Through a process known as mycoremediation mushrooms can be used to clean up all sorts of polluted areas and damaged habitats. Different types of fungi are able to secrete digestive enzymes which work to break down various contaminants. Mushrooms are incredibly effective at the following: 

  • Cleaning polluted water.
  • Removing pollution from soil. 
  • Cleaning up oil spills. 
  • Remediating radioactive contamination and waste.

It’s incredible really. We have made such a royal mess of this planet, spilling oil and filth and radioactive waste all over the rivers, oceans and lands, and it turns out, mushrooms are actually capable of ‘eating’ all these toxic chemicals and converting them into harmless organic matter. Now if that doesn’t sound like magic, I don’t know what does? 

Turning Plastic Waste into Organic Matter and Food 

Here’s something else that sounds like magic. What if I told you there was a way to just wave a magic wand, and make all the mountains of plastic we have piling up around the world simply disappear? Okay so it’s not quite as simple as that, but it’s still pretty magical: there is one particular species of mushroom that can survive on a diet of pure plastic. A flipping mushroom that eats plastic! I mean isn’t that surely the answer to all our problems? Our single-use plastic packaging problems at least? 

This truly majestical ‘Pestalotiopsis Microspora’ mushroom can also live without oxygen, making it perfectly suitable for landfill clean-up. Scientists are hopeful that mushroom-based community composting centres and home recycling kits will soon replace landfills altogether, which could go a long way to eradicating rubbish entirely. I mean imagine if we could just use mushrooms to eat all the garbage? It really just might be possible. 

The plastic devouring ‘Pestalotiopsis Microspora‘ mushroom. What a beautiful beast.

There’s actually another type of mushroom called the ‘oyster’ mushroom that can transform plastic waste into an edible biomass that’s completely free of any toxicity. I mean my goodness gracious me, a mushroom with the ability to turn plastic waste into food? Just imagine the possibilities. The more plastic we remove from the world, the more mouths we feed? It’s just simply incredible. 

Revolutionising Consumer Products (In a Sustainable Way)

There’s an initiative called the FungusChain project that’s transforming mushroom waste into usable eco-friendly products. There’s a company called Ecovative Design that uses mycelium to produce compostable packaging, skincare products, leather alternatives, clothes, bags, shoes, and all sorts of other stuff. It’s really quite astonishing how many things you can make out of mushrooms. Here’s a list:

  • Plastic bag alternatives.
  • Cling film.
  • Cleaning products.
  • ‘Rubber’ gloves. 
  • Food additives. 
  • Building bricks.
  • Material for clothes, bags and other accessories. 
  • Robust and compostable packaging.
  • Skincare products. 
Is this a nice bag? I don’t know. Is it even a bag? Maybe it’s a purse? Why don’t we just call it a smooner? Anyways, I think it’s as stylish as style itself, and it’s made entirely out of mushrooms. Woopa!

The possibilities really do seem endless. It could very soon be the reality that instead of carrying your new pair of plastic-based rubber gloves home in a plastic bag wearing a polystyrene (plastic) outfit to clean your house with artificial chemical-based cleaning products, you could be carrying your brand spanking new mushroom gloves home in a mushroom bag wearing mushroom clothes to clean your mushroom house with your mushroom-based cleaning products. Okay so maybe you won’t be living in a mushroom house, but who knows what the future might hold right?

Point is, we can make a whole lot of products that would normally be made out of plastic and chemicals, with mushrooms instead. And we should.

Making Batteries more Powerful and Better for the Environment

Is there anything mushrooms can’t do? It seems like their magic knows no bounds. 

As if the mushrooms haven’t done enough for us already, they can even be used to make batteries more efficient; helping conserve energy while also replacing non-renewable materials such as graphite. 

In 2015, researchers created a new type of lithium-ion battery using portobello mushrooms, which are inexpensive, environmentally friendly, and easy to produce, replacing the high-cost and environmentally damaging graphite. 

The mushroom batteries are actually more powerful than the graphite ones, and last longer, all while being much cheaper to produce and better for the environment. I mean is there anything mushrooms can’t do? It seems like their magic knows no bounds. 

I Take it Back 

I started this post by saying I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms. Well, I take it back. Entirely back. I’m a tremendously big fan of mushrooms. I couldn’t be a bigger fan of mushrooms. Mushrooms are God. Mushrooms are everything. Mushrooms are my one and only true love. Mushrooms, simply put, are life. 

Mushroom tea anyone? Yes please.

Mushrooms may not be able to stop a no-deal Brexit, de-clownify a presidency, or immediately solve inequality, but they can make us healthy, help the trees grow back, remove toxic pollution and plastic waste from the world, offer sustainable product solutions across multiple industries, power all our phones and gadgets and electric cars more efficiently, and maybe, even offer us a little drop of ancient cosmic wisdom as well.

They may not be the answer to all our problems, but mushrooms can go a long way to helping us live on this planet for years to come. And it wouldn’t be the first time.

We would certainly be lost without them.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

We are what we Eat – and that’s why we’re Fucked! (But Kelp can Help)

I don’t think it’s news to anyone these days that our planet is in trouble, and that one of the reasons we find ourselves in such a mess has to do with the way we eat. How we choose to farm our food, how we process it, package it, transport it, and what it is we actually choose to eat has a massive effect on the world around us, for good or for bad, and lately we’ve been putting all our red-meat-wrapped, methane-soaked, factory-farmed, chemical-ridden, anti-nutritional eggs in the bad basket. Well if a quite brilliant man named Bren Smith has anything to do with it, the good basket might soon be gaining some weight, and he’s going to fill it with seaweed!   

Bren Smith is a fisherman turned ‘restorative ocean farmer’, and quite honestly is such an inspirational figure I wanted to just write this article about his unrivalled suitability for the role of ‘president of the world’, but I think he would agree that it’s more important to talk about what he, and many like him, are trying to create; a food system that works for everyone, including the planet. 

How we choose to farm our food, how we process it, package it, transport it, and what it is we actually choose to eat has a massive effect on the world around us, for good or for bad.

At the age of just 14 years old, Mr. Smith left school to become a fisherman, and spent over 20 years working within the industrialised fishing economy, ‘tearing up entire ecosystems’ in ‘one of the most unsustainable forms of food production on the planet’. When the cod stocks crashed in the 90’s, thousands of fisherman were thrown out of work, and Mr. Smith knew that something had to change.

Today, he has envisioned exactly what that change needs to look like, and is leading the push to make it a widespread reality. As an alternative to plundering the oceans and polluting the skies in search of ever-dwindling fish stocks, Mr. Smith has designed a method of ‘3D Ocean Farming’ which involves growing kelp and high-value shellfish in a way that actually improves the health of the oceans. Not only that, he has set up a not-for-profit called GreenWave that aims to help others become 3D Ocean Farmers by giving the designs away for free, as well as providing all sorts of other financial and educational support. Pretty amazing stuff, but I did say that I wasn’t going to write this post as a stars-in-my-eyes tribute to the magnificence of Mr. Smith, so I think it’s time we talked about kelp.

What’s so Great about Kelp?

Kelp can sequester up to 20 times more CO2 per acre than forests.

Kelp is a type of seaweed, or ‘macroalgae’, and has a whole load of benefits. Not only is it an extremely nutritional food, it also helps de-acidify the oceans, can sequester up to 20 times more CO2 per acre than forests, and can be used as organic fertiliser, animal feed, biofuel, and a number of other wonderful things. Sounds tremendous right? But what’s the catch? You know what? There is no catch. Just more details below about how great it is!

Great for the Planet 

Kelp draws in so much CO2 from the water around it that it actually helps de-acidify the ocean, which provides an ideal environment for shell growth, which in turn help to clean the water as well. I don’t think there’s any need to elaborate on why sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere and cleaning up the oceans is an essential thing for the future of the planet, and since Kelp seems to do these things so effectively, I think it’s very reasonable to start yelling from the rooftops: ‘All hail master kelp! All hail master kelp! We need seaweed we need seaweed to grow and save the planet’s health! 

Great for the Health

Kelp is good for you. Very good for you. It is packed full of calcium, copper, iodide and iron, and is also rich in protein, fibre, and vitamins, while being low in calories and fat. Sounds pretty ideal. It is thought to help lower blood pressure, promote heart health, assist the body in fighting illness and disease, and ultimately lead to increased life-expectancy. Sounds like it could be worth our while munching down the odd seaweed salad or two. 

Other Uses and Benefits 

Kelp and other seaweed’s can be used as natural fertilisers so beautiful fruit and veg like this can be grown without the use of artificial chemical poison.

Kelp seems to dramatically improve the health of everything it touches, and it’s possible uses stretch far beyond just super-nutritious food and saving the oceans. Here are some of the main ones. 

  • It works well as a natural fertiliser, improving soil quality while negating the need to use pollution heavy industrial fertilisers.
  • It can be used as animal feed, and it has even been reported that ingestion of kelp can significantly reduce the amount of methane produced by cows. (Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas; so kelp-fed farts are happier farts! 
  • Kelp can be used as a biofuel, and may have the potential to one day replace fossil fuels! 
  • Another huge advantage of kelp is the speed at which it grows; at rates more than 30 times that of land-plants, making it a super-efficient option. 

So it’s pretty damn clear that kelp, can help! In a number of incredible ways. But it’s not just kelp we’re talking about here, it’s the innovative method of ocean farming designed by our main man Bren Smith that might really help to save the world. So what exactly is 3D Ocean Farming? Well we’re about to find out.

3D Ocean Farming

3D Ocean Farming is a restorative method of ocean farming where seaweed (kelp) and mussels grow in the water on vertical floating ropes, with oysters and clam cages underneath. By de-acidifying the water around it, the kelp creates the ideal conditions for the cultivation of the shellfish, which in turn help to further clean the water. This is all done in a vertical design that utilises the entire depth of the water, so maximum produce can be farmed from a significantly smaller area. Where as most agricultural systems are often quite resource-intensive, and can damage the environment through use of fertilisers and pesticides, 3D Ocean Farming requires very few resources, and actually restores environmental health. You can see in the image below how it might work. 

A groovy illustration of how a 3D Ocean Farm might look.

The Benefits of 3D Ocean Farming 

According to GreenWave, the not-for-profit founded by Bren Smith that is working to help grow and improve 3D Ocean Farming around the world, farming roughly 5% of US waters could achieve the following: 

  • Produce the protein equivalent to 3 trillion cheeseburgers. (That’s a whole lotta beef!)
  • Sequester 135 million tonnes of Carbon and 10 million tonnes of Nitrogen a year.
  • Reduce the methane output from cattle by over 58%.
  • Create 50 million new jobs.

3D Ocean Farms can also serve as storm-surge protectors, artificial reefs that attract more than 150 species of aquatic life, and they require absolutely no fresh water, fertilisers, pesticides, or feed, adding to the already monumental list of environmental and economic benefits of growing food this way. Referring to his move from traditional farming methods to 3D Ocean Farming in a wonderful article he wrote on Medium, Mr. Smith states that his farm ‘used to be 100 acres; now it’s down to 20 acres, but it produces much more food than before.’

So 3D Ocean Farming really does seem like a great idea both economically and environmentally, and the good news is, it is growing in all the right ways. 

3D Ocean Farms require absolutely no fresh water, fertilisers, pesticides, or feed, adding to the already monumental list of environmental and economic benefits of growing food this way.

A New Economy 

Okay so I know we’re not talking about tomatoes here, or maybe we are talking about tomatoes? I just don’t know anymore. Either way, I chose this photo to illustrate the act of sharing, which is exactly what Bren Smith did with his 3D Ocean Farming design. Sharing is an essential ingredient of the community-driven ‘new-economy’. (I also chose the photo because I fugging love tomatoes!)

As I mentioned earlier, although Mr. Smith is responsible for designing this innovative method of farming, instead of opting to patent or franchise it, he decided to make the design available to others for free. He set up a not-for-profit called GreenWave which is dedicated to helping other people start their own farms, using his design! This is such a refreshing break from the usual capitalistic tendency to maximise personal profit above all else. In that same article he wrote on Medium, Mr. Smith repeatedly talks about ‘the old economy’ and how it is ‘built on the arrogance of growth at all costs, profiting from pollution, and the refusal to share economic gains with 99 percent of (people.) Rejecting the principles of this old economy, it is through ‘new-economy’ principles of collaboration, community-driven innovation, shared profits, and meeting social needs that GreenWave is helping to proliferate the 3D Ocean Farming revolution. 

GreenWave guarantee to purchase 80 percent of all farmers crops for the first five years at triple the market rate.

They have open-sourced the farming model so that ‘anybody with 20 acres and a boat and $30,000 can start his or her own farm.’ That may sound like a lot, but it would be a whole lot more if Mr. Smith had decided to patent the design instead of sharing it. GreenWave also provide all new farmers with startup grants, access to free seed, gear donated by Patagonia, two years of free consulting, and most incredibly, they guarantee to purchase 80 percent of all farmers crops for the first five years at triple the market rate.

Now I’ve never bolded something in the middle of a blog post before, but I just find that last bit absolutely astonishing, and entirely worthy of a good bolding! One of the biggest factors that’s likely to deter new farmers from joining this planet-saving aquacultural revolution is likely to be the fear of economic struggle or failure, and GreenWave have absolutely unanimously incredibly mitigated that fear by virtually guaranteeing all new farmers economic stability for the first five years of their venture. I mean that really is something. 

So it’s clear that 3D Ocean Farming and the absolute Goddess of the ocean that is kelp can have a big part to play in solving the climate crisis, and could also play a significant role in ushering in the circular economy. (A fascinating economic system of the future that you can read more about in this blog post.) It’s also clear that a whole lot is being done to ensure that 3D Ocean Farming becomes a popular and profitable farming method, for the people, and not just for the big bad corporations. So what could possibly be stopping it from instant global domination? Well, more than anything, it’s that same old pesky pest that just loves itself a bit of planet bashing trouble……. Us.

Help Kelp to Help Us

If we want to harness the full potential of kelp’s planet-saving capabilities, we have to start eating the flipping stuff. It may not be a big juicy steak, but this does look at least a little delicious?

As I’ve already mentioned a tremendous number of times in this article, the benefits of kelp float (haha) far beyond just providing us with a nutritious meal, but we do still need to start eating the stuff if we want to increase it’s production. More demand for kelp equals more 3D Ocean Farms, equals more kelp in the water, equals less CO2 in the environment and acid in the seas. The biggest immediate increase in demand for kelp can be created by choosing to eat it, and that’s where the main problem might lie; will people really be willing to swap the sweet big mac’s for the seaweed snacks??

Your guess is as good as mine on that one. Mr. Smith suggests that ‘as the price of fertilizer, water, and feed goes up, zero-input food (such as 3D Ocean Farmed Kelp) is going to be the most affordable food on the planet. The economics of it will drive us to eat ocean greens.’

So maybe the supply is destined to create the demand in this case, as opposed to the other way around, but either way, adding the odd seaweed sandwich or two to our diets certainly won’t do our chances of saving the planet any harm.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer for hire with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help businesses tell their sustainability stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

Gone Farming 

I haven’t posted on the wall for a while, my goodness, it’s been a month and a flaming half! But worry not, I certainly haven’t stopped building it, and the posts will be coming thick and fast and skinny and quick from now on. I’ve been pre-occupied the last few months volunteering on sustainable farms in Portugal while also setting up a freelance writing service which focuses on helping planet-conscious businesses with their communications. So it’s been busy busy busy times but I have returned from the farm with a wealth of knowledge, experience, sunburn, aching muscles, questionable tattoos, a couple of vineyard related scars, a hankering for fresh fruit and veg, and bucket loads of sustainable agriculture shaped joy and appreciation that I’m very keen to start sharing with the world. (I did manage to keep the Facebook page regularly updated with heartwarming, hope-restoring news from around the world if you’re in the market for daily bouts of positivity and hilarious posting skills.) (Wink wink.)

A quality farm selfie.

What the WWOOF?

Now that I’m back from the farm and writing full time again I shall be posting much more regularly on here about all sorts of interesting stuff but first I wanted to do a little post about my farming experience, because that’s interesting stuff too! I was farming as a member of what’s called the ‘WWOOFing’ community, making me a ‘WWOOFer’, which because of my extreme fondness for daft and ridiculous words made the whole experience even more rewarding; I’m a flaming WWOOFer for Spiderman’s sake, I mean what could be better than that? Nothing, that’s what.

WWOOF stands for ‘worldwide opportunities on organic farms’, and it’s an international movement that links curious volunteers such as myself with organic farmers and growers around the world. WWOOFing gives people with an interest in sustainability, green business, and self-sufficient living a chance to learn about and experience these things hands-on, while also providing organic farmers with a cost-effective way of finding enthusiastic ‘helping hands’ to work on their farms. (Believe me, there’s always plenty of work to be done.) So how does WWOOFing work? Well if you’re brave enough to move on to the next paragraph, I’m about to explain the whole process! (Don’t worry, it’s not too scary. Actually, it’s not scary at all. It’s like, the opposite of scary. It’s yracs? Time to move on.)

‘WWOOF’ is an international movement that links curious volunteers with organic farmers and growers around the world.

How does WWOOFing work?

So how does WWOOFing work? It’s actually incredibly simple to become a WWOOFer (hahaha, it gets me every time, WWOOFer!), and if you decide it’s something you want to do, you could be off around the world WWOOFing within weeks. First I’ll give you some of the main things you need to know about WWOOFing, and then I’ll give you a step-by-step run-through of how to set up your WWOOFing adventure. And yes, I am trying to type WWOOF as many times as possible in this post, because why the WWOOF not? Hehe, here’s some of the main things you need to know about WWOOFing. 

Things you should know

  • You don’t get paid.

You won’t earn a wage as a WWOOFer, but you will receive free room and board (accommodation and food) in exchange for your effort on the farm. I WWOOF’d in two different places and the food and accommodation in both was tremendous.

  • It’s (basically) free to sign up.

It’s 15 euro for a years membership on the Portuguese WWOOFing site, which allows you to apply to as many farms as you want within the year. I mean 15 euro for a year? That’s organically grown, sustainably produced beans if you ask me!

  • It’s incredibly affordable. 

Once you’ve arranged transport to your farm of choice, you can actually survive without any money. All meals are provided, as well as a place to sleep, so if you’re not flush with cash all the basics are there. There’s no reason you couldn’t WWOOF for a year on 500 euro or so (transport between farms and a little spending money), but if you’re like me, when I WWOOF’d in the Algarve, a little extra cash came in handy. (Wine wine wine.)

  • You can WWOOF nearly anywhere.

Seriously, you can find WWOOFer friendly farms in most countries in the world, so set sail, we’re going on a WWOOFventure! (couldn’t resist.)

All the green and yellow countries are WWOOF friendly. Now that’s quite a portion of the globe!
  • You will live on the farm. 

Maybe this one was obvious, but just in case it wasn’t, as a WWOOFer, you will be living on the farm with the people who run it, so get ready to meet your new farming family! 

  • It’s easy to organise, and incredibly fun and educational. 

How to sign up

It’s as simple as sausages

So how do you sign up? It’s flipping simple. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

1. Choose your location.

Because WWOOFing basically spans the entirety of the globe, each country organises it’s own community, and has it’s own website, so you need to choose your location and sign up to the WWOOFing community in your country of choice before you can start applying to farms. You can choose your location here.

2. Register with your chosen community. 

Whichever country you choose to WWOOF in, you will have to sign up to that particular website before you can start applying. Just sign up, pay the very minimal yearly fee, and then you’re ready to move on to step 3!

3. Create your personal bio. 

You will then have to create a bio with some information about you. What you’re all about, why you want to be a WWOOFer, previous farming experience, dietary requirements, all that kind of stuff. Don’t worry, it’s very light-hearted, and pretty much all the farms are happy taking people on who have no farming experience whatsoever. (Like me.)

The bio section looks like this!

4. Find a farm you like. 

There are loads of different farms, and it’s important that you find one that suits you. I for example wanted to work on my writing while I was WWOOFing, so I needed somewhere with WIFI, and a room to myself so I had a quiet place to work. I also wanted a farm where I was the only WWOOFer there in order to limit distractions. This was easy to organise. Each farm has to set up their own WWOOF profile, where they detail things like accommodation type, cooking arrangements, number of other WWOOFers staying, work schedule etc, so it’s easy to find a farm that’s suited to your needs.

5. Reach out to the farm. 

Once you’ve found a farm you fancy, send them a message through the WWOOF platform explaining your motivations for choosing them and boom, you’re nearly done. It doesn’t usually take long to receive an answer. 

6. Get accepted. 

Not all farms will accept you, as they may be booked up or not accepting WWOOFers at that particular time. (you can check their calendar before you apply.) Just wait for your ‘visit request’ to be confirmed, and hey presto! You’re ready for your adventure. (My goodness I haven’t said ‘hey presto’ in a while. I wonder how presto’s doing these days? Hey Presto, how’s it going? Aaaaah good man Presto, good to see you. Nice hat Presto, I’m pretty impressed yo, did you buy it in Tesco? Okay, let’s go. (To number 7.) 

7. Sort your transport. 

Once your visit request has been accepted all you have to do is book your transport, pack your bags, and gooooooooooooooo farming. Woooo, see, told you it was flipping simple!

8. Go. 

This may involve getting on a bus, or a plane, or a combination of the two, maybe even a train, but basically, put one foot in front of the other, repeat for an unspecified number of steps, and voila, you’re a WWOOFer. 

No particular reason why I’m putting this photo here, I was just pretty proud of the photo and wanted to include it somewhere. This flower was queen of the vineyard! (In this photo at least)

So that’s pretty much everything you need to know about setting up your WWOOFing adventure, it’s as simple as sausages, but what are the main benefits of becoming a WWOOFer? And what can you expect to learn from your WWOOFing experience? Well now, you’ll just have to wait and see won’t you? Just kidding, all shall be revealed in the next section.

Why go WWOOFing? 

The main benefits 

I’ve gone bullet point crazy in this post, but it’s that kind of post isn’t it? Is it? Who knows. But anyways, here are the main benefits of going WWOOFing. (In bullet points!)

  • Learning

From my experience, WWOOFing is incredibly educational. From running a farm using only natural methods, to processing, bottling, and marketing organic wine, to living a self-sufficient, planet-friendly lifestyle, I really did learn so much. If you choose a farm that’s aligned with your interests and learning goals, and you approach your WWOOFing experience with an open mind and a willingness to soak up information, you will learn a tremendous amount. 

  • Travelling (on the cheap)

WWOOFing presents the opportunity to travel the world on the smallest of budgets. After paying for my flight to Portugal (about 50 euro one-way), and my bus from Lisbon to the farm (about 20 euro), I’m pretty sure I only spent about 20 euro in the first month I was there, and that was on a beer, an ice cream, and a flowery cork hat (which I ended up losing at the beach, don’t ask me how!). The point is, WWOOFing allows you to pretty much travel the world for nothing more than the cost of the transport. 

My wonderful flowery cork hat, currently owned by some lucky randomer who must have found it on the beach!
  • Experiencing the local culture (for real)

This isn’t just a regular holiday where you barely scratch the surface of the place you’re staying. You will be living with the people/family who run the farm, and they are likely to be connected and immersed in the local community. One of my favourite things about my WWOOFing experience was meeting the locals and experiencing their way of life. At one point I found myself in a neighbours house with their family drinking homemade wine, cracking fresh walnuts straight from the farm, and cooking chorizo sausage over a tray filled with burning alcohol. Apparently this is a post-work tradition in the area of rural Portugal I was staying. I was there with my WWOOFing family and the neighbours family, and I could really feel that I was having a genuine experience of rural Portuguese family life. Now you certainly won’t get that on your all expenses paid three-star package holiday to tourismville. WWOOFing is the way to go if you’re looking for an authentic insight into local life, wherever you may choose to WWOOF. 

  • Meeting wonderful people

I met so many fascinating characters and lovely people while WWOOFing. Not just the people who hosted me, but their friends and neighbours as well, and the locals I met while adventuring around on my bicycle. I really did make some friends for life, and I couldn’t say a better word about any of my hosts. I think something like WWOOFing tends to attract kind, wholesome, insightful, knowledgeable people who share a passion for helping the planet and sharing their experiences. I would imagine that wherever you decide to WWOOF, you would be surrounding yourself with top-notch humans. 

A selfie with one of my hosts, a wonderful woman named Christine.
  • Staying healthy 

Working on the farm, any farm, inevitably involves being outdoors and constantly exercising, and it’s likely this will be coupled with eating mainly fresh, healthy, organic food. Not a bad combination for staying healthy. The peace of the farm and working with the land is also great for nourishing the mind and spirit, and I would highly recommend it. 

So those are the main WWOOF shaped benefits I can think of, and there really are no downsides. Also, if you’re a host, you get enthusiastic people to help you on your farm for the very reasonable price of a bed and a bit of food; not a bad deal all in all I would say. 

What did I learn? 

Everyone is different, every farm is different, and every WWOOFing experience is different, so I’m not going to go into detail about the specific work I was doing on each farm or anything like that. You can read about the kind of work you can expect to be doing on each farm’s WWOOFing profile, so instead, here are some of the main insights I picked up while working on the farm and learning from my hosts. 

  • Nature is beautiful. (And can surprise you)

Okay so I didn’t learn this for the first time on the farm, but I was certainly reminded of it. Nature is beautiful, and I’m not just talking about big wondrous landscapes and brightly coloured flowers; one of the loveliest things I saw on the farm was ants. I was in the middle of placing bio-degradable sheeting around wine trees in the vineyard to control weed growth and direct as much energy to the wine trees as possible when I noticed three particular ants. (There were a whole lot of ants.) One of the ants was injured, and the two other ants were carrying the injured ant back to the nest. This really reminded me that things like intelligence, awareness, love, and compassion are very much present all around us. Humans are not ‘the be all and end all’, and we’re not the only ones who care for our neighbours and friends. I think it’s important to remember that. 

Okay so this isn’t a picture of the ants, I didn’t get a picture of that, but I did get this picture of wasps/hornets/bees/superheroes building their nest. I mean wow. The colours of the insects and the geometric shapes in the nest, it’s just flaming flipping flooping wonderful.
  • Everything we do has consequences. (The butterfly effect)

On the farm you quickly realise that every little action has consequences, and this is a lesson that applies to everyday life as well. If I use too much water while watering the plants in the orchard there may not be enough water for the neighbour to water her plants, and if she can’t water her plants they may wither and die, meaning the bees and insects will lose their home, meaning the birds will lose their source of food, meaning bigger plants and trees may have trouble dispersing their seeds, meaning plant life and wildlife in the local and wider area may begin to disappear etc etc etc. This of course is an extreme example, but you get the point. What seem like insignificant actions in life, can have significant ‘knock-on’ effects. Everything is connected, and this becomes much more obvious on the farm. 

  • Change is the only thing that’s constant. (Nothing lasts, and that’s okay)

When dealing with crops and plants that give fruits and flowers and then shrivel up and die it becomes crystal clear that everything has it’s day in the sun, however long that may be, and then it dies and decomposes, so that other things can grow. (And that includes us!) There was one particular plant I saw that only flowers for one night in the year. You could actually see the flower appear over the space of 12 hours, open up gradually, bloom, and then close and fall off by the following day. I think there are lessons to be learned here for everyday life as well. We tend to worry so much about change while trying to cling on to what’s familiar, we forget that change is inevitable and natural. Whether it’s a failed relationship, an old job or house, whatever it is, old ways will die, and new ways will bloom, and the more openly and willingly we embrace this constant change, the more enjoyable our lives will be. Think like the flowers maaaaaaaaaaaaan; and you will bloom.

(WordPress doesn’t let you put a caption below a ‘gallery’ for some reason, the silly sausages, so I shall put the caption at the top instead. The gallery below consists of photos taken over a 12-15 hour period. The flower was fully shut around 3pm, began opening around 6pm, was in full bloom by midnight, and was already half closed when I found it at 7am the next morning. By that afternoon it had fallen off the plant. This is a wonderful illustration of the fact that nothing lasts, but it can be beautiful while it does, and then, when it’s finished, we move on, and wait for the next bloom! (Such a beautiful flower though and the smell was something else.)

  • People can make a difference 

The first farm I volunteered on had been neglected before my hosts moved in. The land was basically barren and the trees were so diseased they weren’t giving fruit. The previous owner had left the land idle for over three years. But within a year, my hosts had transformed the place. The trees were giving more fruit than they could handle, there was veg growing everywhere, and there were newly planted trees growing all over the place. The insects and birds had moved in, and the place was a wildlife paradise! This really underlined for me the incredible effect people have on nature, either positive or negative. If we work with nature as a species, everyone, we can absolutely save this planet and turn it into a haven for humans, plants and animals alike. 

  • There are brilliant people out there in the world. (And they want to save the planet!)

It brought me great hope and comfort to witness first hand the passion and commitment people can have for making the world a better place. All my hosts and their friends and neighbours are incredibly dedicated to doing things as naturally and organically as possible. Not using chemicals, treating the land and nature with respect, minimising waste and plastic use, only buying ethically sourced goods. All of these things and much much more. These people are more than willing to put in the extra time, effort, and finances to make a real difference for the planet, and it’s inspirational to witness. I will try my best to do the same myself. 

Happy WWOOFing

Here’s a heart-shaped leaf I found while working on the farm. At first I thought it was a special leaf because it was shaped like a heart, but then I realised that all the leaves from that particular tree were heart-shaped, but then I realised that all the leaves were special, because everything is special, especially a bunch of hearts, which is what the human race is.

So that’s it really, it’s been an absolute WWOOF of a time writing this post, and I hope you found it WWOOFfull (that works as useful doesn’t it?) Haha, anyways, if you’re interested in sustainability or self-sufficiency or green business or even if you just wanna travel on the cheap, I would absolutely recommend WWOOFing as an option to consider. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and intend to WWOOF again in the near future.

Aaaaaaaaah, it sure is nice to post on the wall again. Do stay tuned for plenty more interesting posts in the near future. Cheerio dudes.

WWOOF WWOOF.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer, blogger, and published poet with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help sustainable businesses tell the world their stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

Sunday Morning Madness

I have been known for spending entire weeks only rising at the GODLY hour of 1-2pm, and spending entire Sundays in bed after a long weekend’s workout routine of using pint glasses as dumbbells and dancefloors as pilates mats.

It’s early in the morning on a Sunday, 7.44am to be nearly precise, which may not seem early for many, but for me it’s the crack of dawn, especially for a Sunday. I’ve been getting up at 7am every day this week to work on the farm and I’m loving it but really I’m still a night owl masquerading as a bird with a worm addiction. (The early bird usually makes me squirm, unless it’s a menu, in which case it makes me jump for Joy, somersault for Debra, and Cartwheel for Samantha. I wonder why Joy get’s all the jumps? She must be doing something right!) I have been known for spending entire weeks only rising at the GODLY hour of 1-2pm, and spending entire Sundays in bed after a long weekend’s workout routine of using pint glasses as dumbbells and dancefloors as pilates mats.

Me on a typical Sunday back in the day (and still sometimes today), minus the guitar playing and walking around of course. Walking around? On a Sunday? You must be mad!

But alas, I am awake, breakfast in my belly (Granola, not worms) and I even had some coffee, which is unusual for me, I usually stick to tea, cause tea will set you free! A few minutes ago, I got smacked unrelentingly in the jaw with a spontaneous urge to start writing while I roughly brushed my teeth at 7.42.39 am. (That’s not a date, it’s the time with milliseconds included. No of course I don’t remember the exact time I started brushing my teeth, it’s a joke baby! See I put the roughly before the brushed up there and then proceeded to provide an exact time for brushing my teeth, insinuating that I knew exactly when my teeth received their makeover, and it was the manner in which I delivered the makeover that was rough, not my recalling of the time it was done. Well that’s actually not the case; I brushed my teeth gently, but the exact time in which I did it has sadly eluded me, so we will just have to move on. (Move on with sparkling white teeth I might add!)

This is how mental my Sunday morning has been. This isn’t even a photo of the granola I had for breakfast, I didn’t know I was going to end up writing like a mad man after breakfast so I never thought to take a photo. So this is the closest representation I could find online of the granola I ate. The bowl is similar, and the makeup of the actual muesli, I think you could call it muesli right? Yes. The makeup of the actual muesli in this photo is similar to what I had, although mine had goji berries in it which added a tasty sprinkling of psychedelic looking red. It also had ginger in it which certainly tangoed with the taste buds, my goodness. Anyways, pure madness!

Too much good stuff to write about!

I’ve found so many incredible stories about inspirational people and wonderful environment soothing technologies since starting this blog that to write about them all in detail would be impossible.

So this tremendous urge to dive fingers first into a brand new document has led me exactly here (hehe, I just hyperlinked from this page to: this page! That’s like hyperlinkception or something, the hypermatrix! Maybe I’m hyper? Is that what coffee does to you???? Goodness.) (I also had to write this post, and then come back and edit it to add the URL in, now that’s flipping dedication for you) and although I have a never-ending list of topics I want to write about for A Wall of Hope, and that’s barely an exaggeration, I’ve found so many incredible stories about inspirational people and wonderful environment soothing technologies since starting this blog that to write about them all in detail would be impossible, (especially while working six days a week on a farm in Portugal, which I am doing right now!) and I just keep finding more and more every day.

That was all a bit wordy so it’s best we go back to the start of the sentence again so this next bit actually makes sense without you having to read back and start connecting dots that lie entire flaming paragraphs apart! SO, although I have a never-ending list of topics I want to write about for A Wall of Hope,  I haven’t actually done any topic-specific research yet today, and I usually do quite a lot of research when I write an article on here.

Me diving into this article this morning with no research done whatsoever. Minus the muscles and six pack and clean shaven face of course.

My mind, body, soul, tail, hair, wings, extremities, organs, capillaries, hopes, dreams, insecurities, sweat glands, knees, ankles, hands, everything really, was strongly in favour of writing over research this morning (it was more like one of those, who can shout the loudest kind of voting situations you tend to see on game shows and silly sausage shaped singing competitions than an actual democratic vote, and every single part of me started animalistically screaming when the MC exclaimed with financially motivated artificial enthusiasm ‘everybody make some nooooooise for wrriiitttting’, (that was a dig at game shows and commercialised singing competitions and ‘The X Factor’, and certainly not at my motivation for writing, I mean who in their right mind would ever pay me for this nonsense?) where as every little molecule in the Adam shaped blood flesh and consciousness arena fell silent after research had staked it’s claim for the prize. To be honest maybe there’s not a whole lot of difference between the ‘who can shout the loudest’ form of gameshow democracy and the generally accepted and utilised western political version? Voices are just replaced by dollars is all. Or Euros. Or whatever it’s all just numbers on a screen these days. ‘Democracy’ my arse.) I digress.

So with no research done, and a hankering (hehe, that’s a nice word) to start writing immediately, I decided to just write about the fact that I have so much to write about on here. I mean isn’t it an incredibly positive sign that after setting out to find uplifting and inspirational stories about the current human situation and our future, I have found, and constantly continue to find, far more than I can ever hope to write about? That has to be the greatest cause for hope yet. There’s so much good happening in the world it’s unwriteableaboutable. (Un-write-able-about-able) (I just realised that I could probably delete everything but this paragraph, and probably delete some of this paragraph as well, and still make the point I set out to make in this article, but where’s the fun in that? It’s stream of consciousness baby! Beautiful coffee-fueled Sunday morning stream of consciousness. Wooooooo!)

I mean isn’t it an incredibly positive sign that after setting out to find uplifting and inspirational stories about the current human situation and our future, I have found, and constantly continue to find, far more than I can ever hope to write about?

I genuinely thought I’d be struggling to find stuff to write about when I set up this site, and I’ve found it very motivating that I’ve found much more than I can handle. If you want proof by the way, go have a look at the Facebook and Twitter pages, as I’m constantly posting all the good news I can find on those, and I even have a backlog of articles and stories to share there! There’s just so much of it.

Now I’m not saying at all that the world is all safe and rosy or anything, and that we can all just forget about the climate epidemic’s and mass extinctions and the plastic sea monsters because someone else has got us covered, it’s quite dangerous to think that way, and plenty plenty more has to be done, by everybody, but it’s just nice to know that there is plenty of good stuff going on as well as all the carnage. Stuff to build on. Stuff to be inspired by. Stuff for hope.

On the dot

Now would you look at that, 8:41:00 on a flaming Sunday, and I’ve already written an article. (yes of course, it’s a silly article, but it’s an article nonetheless) Also, I actually had to change the time settings on my laptop so that I could see the milliseconds in order to take that reading, and the moment I clicked in to change the settings, the time ticked over to exactly 8:41 on the dot, so I probably didn’t need the milliseconds after all, but there you are, you have them now, two zeroes, side by side, like an owls eyes without the pupils, or an arse, or boobs without nipples, or coconuts, or eggs.

Hahaha, look at this guy! What a peculiar looking creature. Looks like it’s up to something. Mischievous. So it turns out owls don’t have oval shaped eyes, I could have sworn their eyes were more egg shaped than round. Maybe that’s just cartoon eyes? Who knows. Anyways, the reference shall stay.

Well, that was intense. Time for a second breakfast now I reckon. Maybe I’ll have eggs, or coconuts, or an arse, or an owls eyes without pupils,

or boobs without nipples? Now that would be berzerk.

Peace out dudes.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer, blogger, and published poet with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help sustainable businesses tell the world their stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.

The word ‘economy’ can be defined as the
‘careful management of available resources’,
or the ‘sparing or careful use of something’.
Think about that.

The Non-Economy

People love ‘stuff.’ It’s the modern day, the western way, to buy and try then throw away and it’s not doing the planet much good. (Even if it does seem like it rhymes sometimes.) People’s unrelenting addiction to stuff, or rather, the way that stuff is being produced, used, and then disposed of, has led to gargantuan islands of plastic mess floating around in our oceans, great big shit heaps of rubbish building up in the ‘developing’ countries of the world, countless beautiful creatures choking to death and being found with plastic packed into their stomachs, and so much more disgustingly common scenery disfigurement and animal cruelty. They’ve even found plastic in some of the deepest parts of the ocean now, I mean for goodness gracious the world’s contagious sake, there’s disregarded stuff all over the place, and I haven’t even mentioned the monumental effect our appetite for buying stuff, using it for a short while, and then throwing it on the rubbish pile is having on the planet’s natural resources and the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. (No need to elaborate on that at this stage I’m sure, as if you’re a regular human being you already know, and if you’re a climate change denier I don’t actually speak your language anyway.)

This is a photograph of the average climate change denier doing some research.

So yes, we really do love our stuff, and a lot of the time, the slogans on the stuff might rhyme, but the fact is, when it comes to rhyming with nature, the ‘stuff’ just doesn’t. (All the rhyming in this paragraph was done partly to make a point, but mainly because, well, it just happened okay? Good day.) (Okay, the ‘Good day’ there was in no way an effort to say farewell, or goodbye, it was just for the sake of rhyming; I’m not done with the article yet, I’ve barely even started.) (I just farted.) Let’s move on.

You know what does rhyme with nature though? Circular Economy, that’s what. Okay so not in the literal ‘Peter Piper Picked a woolly sweater’ kind of way, but in an ‘ecological harmony’ kind of way. See the picture I painted so rhythmically above (I just have bloody rhyme on the mind today, apologies) of pollution and destruction and environmental disgust is a picture created by ‘the linear economy’, which is the model most of us use to produce and consume things right now. Under the linear economy model, sometimes referred to as the ‘take-make-waste model, a product is manufactured, used for a short time, and then disposed of, resulting in resource-guzzling greenhouse gas emitting damage during production, and physical waste after use. So beautiful, wonderful, preciously finite resources get plundered from the earth, turned into our little toys and trinkets in an environmentally destructive manner, and then, after a short time, get thrown on the shit-heap with the rest of the shit to clog up the lands and oceans for all eternity. Not the most nature-friendly system we have going on is it?

The ‘linear economy‘ process of resource extraction and waste.

The linear economy model isn’t really an ‘economy’ at all, according to the definition of the word, so how do we build an economy that does fulfil that definition? Enter, the circular economy.

An Economy based on Nature

I insisted above that the circular economy rhymes with nature because it is inspired by nature. In nature nothing ever goes to waste. When a leaf falls from a tree, it breaks down and is used to fertilise the ground. A dead animal becomes food for another animal, which then dies and feeds another. There is no waste involved, and everything operates in a big replenishing cycle, or, you could even say, if you were feeling frisky, in a circle! That is basically how the circular economy works. It can be defined as, according to the world economic forum, ‘an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals, which impair reuse and return to the biosphere, and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models.’ Wooof, sounds exciting doesn’t it? It sounds flipping necessary if we want to even mildly continue our addiction to ‘stuff’ without turning the planet into an un-habitable boiling soup bowl of melted plastic and glow in the dark fertiliser mountains. If you’re optimistic, the circular economy sounds like the future. But how would it work?

In nature nothing ever goes to waste. When a leaf falls from a tree, it breaks down and is used to fertilise the ground. A dead animal becomes food for another animal, which then dies and feeds another. There is no waste involved, and everything operates in a big replenishing cycle, or, you could even say, if you were feeling frisky, in a circle! That is basically how the circular economy works.

How does The Circular Economy work?

Here’s a nice diagram I found which explains it pretty well, but do read those paragraphs I wrote below it as well, they’re hilarious I promise! 😀

As complicated as the diagram above may seem, the Circular Economy is actually rather simple. There are three main attributes you need to remember, and I have been kind enough to ramble on about them all below.

1. Products are designed for Zero Waste

Around 80% of environmental impacts are determined at the design stage. The waste and pollution that results from our constant consumption of stuff isn’t just a freak accident, it’s a fault in the design! The circular economy aims to design out waste entirely by optimizing products for a cycle of disassembly and reuse. By making sure from the very start that every ounce of material in a product can be used again effectively when the product has been used, (You may be thinking ‘but isn’t that what recycling is for?’, but currently, taking plastic as an example, only 9% of what go’s into our products actually ends up being recycled, the rest ends up as waste) we can practically eliminate waste and ensure that once the raw materials have been taken from the earth to create some of our stuff, they never have to be taken again, and can be re-used in their entirety, again and again and again; just like nature. A beautiful continuous circle of planet saving design efficiency!

Around 80% of environmental impacts are determined at the design stage.

2. ‘Consumers’ become ‘Users’

I’ve always really quite despised how people are so often referred to as ‘consumers’. I think it sounds really disgusting, and kind of proliferates the hopeless idea that people are born to just work, fuck, work, consume, work, work, consume, work, and die, but in the linear economy model people are just ‘consumers’. That’s really just how it works. In a circular model, people instead become ‘users’. In order to ensure that people actually return products to the manufacturers when they’re finished using them, the manufacturer retains ownership over the products and the raw materials composing them, ensuring that the raw materials retain their value, and people just lease the products from the manufacturers when they need them. Now this may sound quite odd and awkward at first because, well, isn’t it just nicer and simpler if we actually own our nice comfy thick woolly jumpers and flat screen TVs instead of having to go to the bother of leasing them? But if you think about it, when do you actually need your nice big woolly jumper? Are you planning on wearing it to the boom boom pow pow pool pool party your work is throwing in July? And then dragging it along for the mid-summer weekend blow out in Vegas the following weekend? Probably not. Wouldn’t it make more sense if you could bring your big thick 100% turnableintosomethingelseable jumper back to the manufacturer when the weather gets warmer in February, (or May if you’re from anywhere near the west of Ireland) and swap it for six pairs of flowery swimming shorts and some flip flops? Safe in the knowledge that the manufacturer can then turn 100% of your well worn, winter torn jumper into a completely new product without having to use any extra raw materials? Hmmmm, maybe this leasing products business isn’t such a bad idea after all! I’m sure we could get used to it.

This is a photo of how you will feel when you realise you can stop leasing your woolly jumper when the weather get’s warm and lease a summer outfit or two instead, for no extra cost! Wooooo, it’s like magic!

3. Clean energy is used wherever possible

This one’s pretty simple; elimination of fossil fuels. The circular economy would operate entirely by using renewable energy sources. Although this may not be 100% possible today, the aim is to utilise as much clean energy as possible right now, and to push the transition toward 100% clean energy infrastructure as rapidly as possible. The future is clean and it turns in circles!

When you learn about how the circular economy works it just makes so much sense on so many levels. It’s better for the planet, better for people, and it’s even better financially! (Which is good, because it’s finance that really get’s the ball rolling on these things.) Here are some of the benefits of going circular.

What are the benefits of a Circular Economy?

Above all else, moving to a Circular Economy can stop this from happening. Yes, okay, the picture might be a little dramatic, but you know what I mean. There are also economic and financial benefits from going circular as well.

Saving the planet

Well, that was an obvious one.

Boosting the economy!

Using resources more effectively could increase the size of the global economy by $2 trillion by 2050, so the benefits of going circular really are economic as well as environmental.

Contrary to the idea that to save the planet we’ll have to completely demolish the economy and go back to living in the woods and gathering nuts and berries (which I actually think would be tremendous fun), going circular can actually boost local communities and local jobs, both through its potential to create new markets and products and its emphasis on creating local material loops and shortening supply chains. The International Resource Panel, part of the UN’s Environment Programme, says that using resources more effectively could increase the size of the global economy by $2 trillion by 2050, so the benefits of going circular really are economic as well as environmental.

Good for business

In a circular economy model materials are completely re-used, which is much more cost efficient than the linear method of extracting or purchasing brand new materials for every product produced, so the circular method brings with it financial benefits for businesses and manufacturers.

Good for Humans

A cleaner planet to live on, an economy that runs smoothly for us and for nature as well, cost-benefits from increased manufacturing efficiency, and the potential for always being able to ‘lease’ whatever product you may want or need at a given point in time, and then trade it in for a different one when you’re done with it. There are so many benefits from going circular, and the possibilities are endless. (Haha, that’s funny, because circles don’t actually have an end, they just go around and around and around and around, so maybe I should say, the possibilities are infinite. Aaaaaaaah, yes, that’s better.)

In my mind, the circular economy is the future, but what really does make me optimistic is that this isn’t just some distant theoretical concept that’s never actually going to happen, it’s already happening, and seems to be gathering speed as we speak! Here are just a few examples of how the economy is starting to turn in circles today.

Real World Examples

Construction Europe

Construction and demolition waste accounts for 25 to 30% of all waste created within European Union countries, which is quite a hefty chunk. Enter circularity. The Committee for European Construction Equipment (CECE), which represents the interests of over 1200 construction equipment manufacturers, is currently working together with other industry bodies in calling for a circular economy approach to construction. A total of eight construction industry organisations have signed a declaration entitled Construction in the circular economy: Towards circular materials, products and buildings. The organisations state that the industry needs an expert platform to develop a comprehensive strategy within the future construction policy initiative. This is an incredible example of the circular economy taking shape. This is not merely a greenwashing campaign or a corporate social responsibility stunt, it is an entire multi-nation spanning industry realising that the current way of doing things isn’t working and that a circular approach is the way forward. Circularity is going to happen, and is already happening, in one of the most raw materials heavy industries in the world.

Adidas

The Adidas Futurecraft.Loop shoe is designed to be 100% recyclable, so all the raw materials that make up the shoe can be used again and again and again, to produce shoe after shoe after shoe. It sounds hard to believe but it’s true. Woo!

Adidas has created a running shoe, christened the ‘Futurecraft.Loop’, that can be 100% recycled, over and over and over again. Unlike traditional shoes, which are constructed from diverse materials, the Futurecraft.Loop is made entirely from TPU, from the sole to the laces, and its various elements are fused together with heat, so there’s no glue or stitching required. So once the shoe is worn out, or the person ‘leasing’ the show fancies a newer, shinier, prettier shoe, it can be broken down into pellets, which will then be used to make a brand new Futurecraft.Loop sneaker. This can be done over and over and over again, meaning that no new raw materials will be needed to create shoes in the future. The materials that make up the shoe you buy in 2021 when the shoes are released (obviously you don’t have to buy a pair, but it might be a good idea!) can be used repeatedly, meaning that you can keep running and running and running for years and years to come in brand spanking new beautiful shoes, but the actual raw material in the shoes will stay the same. Now that’s pretty nifty. This may seem like a small development right now, I mean it’s just one shoe design, but don’t underestimate the influence it is likely to have on the industry. Adidas are a big big player, and if this proves to be a financial success, which I really think it will be, circularity is likely to proliferate through the fashion industry as if it’s sprinting at top speed while wearing lightweight sustainably produced running shoes! (That one was bad, I know.)

Spotify, AirBNB, Uber etc etc etc

Spotify, AirBNB, Uber, all these kinds of companies that we’re well accustomed to using on a regular basis are all a part of the circular economy as well. Spotify has turned what was an incredibly raw material heavy industry into an entirely digital one, where we lease our music for a monthly fee instead of owning it, and the music is produced and distributed in a waste free manner. AirBNB (when it is used properly and not taken advantage of by greedy flipheads with too much time, too much money, and too much property) allows people to make use of homes and spaces that would otherwise be sitting idle, a demand altering phenomenon which may have already contributed to Jeramiah knows how many extra hotels and guesthouses not being built. And Uber and Lyft and apps like that have the potential to allow for car sharing and a reduction in private car ownership. These are all examples of how the circular economy can exist and prosper in today’s world, and there are plenty more examples out there if you look for them!

Into the Future

The future is buzzing.

So that’s it then, I’ve said my bit, talked my shit, now it’s time to split. (I’ve still got the rhyming bug, after writing an entire article, interesting, it’s like I started with rhyming, wrote all the paragraphs in between, and now I’ve managed to come: full circle!) Goodness, I’ll stop now. Do spread the word though, the circular economy is the future.

As Buzz Lightyear would say if he was designed to be 100% recyclable, manufactured and distributed using only clean energy, and leased by his lucky owner for a short time before being traded in for the Spanish speaking version in a manner that requires no extra raw materials to be harvested;

to circularity, and beyond!

And if you’ve managed to make it this far, for one, I’m absolutely astonished, and for two, fair flooping play to you! As a reward, here’s a tremendously concise video that pretty much sums up everything it just took me 2500+ words to explain. I could have just put the video at the start of course, and saved you the bother, but where’s the hilarity in that? Enjoy, and Bon Voy.

About the Author

Adam Millett is a freelance writer, blogger, and published poet with an affinity for dressing up as Spiderman and writing about saving the planet. He likes to climb trees and stare at the stars in his spare time and likes to help sustainable businesses tell the world their stories while he’s working. Visit his website at wordchameleon.com if you want to tell the world yours.