By Sage Lenier
Sage Lenier, an environmental activist and graduate from UC Berkeley, created a wildly popular course at her university dedicated to sustainable solutions and circular systems thinking against the broader backdrop of environmental justice. In Spring 2020, the course enrolled more than 300 students eager to learn how they can drive the shift toward a more ethical and sustainable society. The World Economic Forum sat down with Sage for a quick Q&A.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Around the holidays, it's estimated that Americans throw out an extra 1 million tons of trash per week – and one of the biggest offenders of seasonal waste is single-use gift wrap.
Use the tips in this eco-friendly gift wrapping guide to cut down your environmental impact this year.
1. Wrap Boxes With Brown Paper Bags<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODEwNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTk3MjQ1OH0.lkGK1xl0bRqKuI4NcbjNtQxk1a45dFH_kYK-0hL_pT8/img.jpg?width=1200&coordinates=0%2C1520%2C0%2C1520&height=800" id="c2de7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d8195023cd1ceaa122ad09763ee876fb" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1200" data-height="800" />
2. Reuse Cardboard Shipping Boxes<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODQxOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjU1Mjg2MH0.5ZjP3o-ODvXH0fKbwEKD9inQza-qisGF5sox9AkpMLA/img.jpg?width=980" id="9c03f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a928dd386cfa9785c06a8b3118f9fe6b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="6000" data-height="4000" />
3. Upcycle Other Shipping Supplies<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODQ4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjkxNDA0Mn0.z7aKpl6Vz7y7-oaFUG1zYzFbffG10-pcIB-mU_pOp2E/img.jpg?width=980" id="6094e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3835fe812cc589bc0fe1ec1af3a21128" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3024" data-height="2016" />
4. Make Your Own Stamps<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODQ0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NDMzOTIzMH0.KmPzag9aTA7Rcjat1VYG3KS_Mf4ohwHQXwK1lrdIMOw/img.jpg?width=1200&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=800" id="84efc" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="174c01a0adf5877b937353a0e4b0386d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1200" data-height="800" />
5. Add Natural Festive Touches<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODQ1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODQ4NTE0N30.QPH7jTcTlKfQZc_2aZO08F3ptQUbf1Lor_szK0gKq9Q/img.jpg?width=1200&coordinates=0%2C1440%2C0%2C1440&height=800" id="22df4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="811c947ee0010c432f2a1798d7845155" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1200" data-height="800" />
6. Swap Paper for Fabric Gift Wrap<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="490c93b9dc835241815ffb3c0afc1b1a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rxl0X2F2Jiw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Make your eco-friendly gift wrapping part of your present by opting for a scarf, shawl, pocket square, or handkerchief over traditional paper. As the above video shows, it takes just seconds to package items using the Furoshiki method of fabric wrapping – and you don't even need to box the item beforehand, which cuts out another piece of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/waste-free-holiday-2641562236.html" target="_self">holiday waste</a>.</p>
7. Use Biodegradable Paper Tape<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODQ3MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1OTkwMDQ5Nn0.wkjMReu4YTscu60WiK6Dwb4N7tusVZz4JxFqPX8WySY/img.jpg?width=980" id="f2b88" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9bc225e154f806bb190d83e6acd6fa9d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2007" />
8. Ditch the Tape Altogether<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ae8e240fc389d37f7f0facf88dd1082e"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7TA4Whui_xA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>You don't have to be an origami pro to learn the art of tape-free gift wrapping. As you can see in the video above, it's pretty simple to fold your wrapping paper into itself and secure your gift with no tape required. If you <em>do </em>happen to be an origami pro (or if all the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/social-distancing-celebrations-2645538300.html" target="_self">holiday cheer</a> has left you optimistically ambitious), there are ways to incorporate <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccL-e0zJG8w" target="_blank">fun folds</a> into your wrapping, too.</p>
9. Turn Old Clothes Into Ribbons and Bows<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODQ3Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NTc0MTQ3Mn0.IWybrXLdL_z-6QXh4auuvyv0sbUCa0BjILbm_G1ZvPk/img.jpg?width=980" id="a17e4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac16e3a0c4b5de2717b22e8872b3e799" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="6000" data-height="4000" />
10. Tie Gifts Up With Compostable Twine<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODQ1OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjgzNjcwOX0.zdFSHdFZd1u5zJFMurETn7UZWxROQQBu_UixG4L56bY/img.jpg?width=1200&coordinates=0%2C1376%2C0%2C1376&height=800" id="d6faa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b213b586ab133aadd3960b4b3cbca9e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1200" data-height="800" />
11. Look Through Old Household Items<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODQ3My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTg1NDkyN30.rerLN_d5X_D0AhYpooxPe5oewX3lUBB87kV3A4vBxfc/img.jpg?width=980" id="50ab1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="48d8b9e5b27b8877cf7905159f1eb6bf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2000" />
FAQ: Eco-Friendly Gift Wrapping<p><strong>Is wrapping paper recyclable?</strong></p><p>Some wrapping paper is recyclable, and some is not. If it's metallic, has glitter on it, is textured, or has a waxy coating, it can't be recycled. However, plain, unlaminated wrapping papers are usually able to be recycled. Check with your local waste management agency to see specific guidelines for your area.</p> <p><strong>Is tissue paper recyclable?</strong></p><p>Because most tissue paper is made with low-grade paper, it is not typically recyclable. However, some recycling facilities may accept it, so be sure to check with your local waste management agency. Thankfully, tissue paper tends to hold up well year after year, so it can be reused for many holiday seasons.</p> <p><strong>How do you wrap a gift?</strong></p><p>Wrapping gifts is like riding a bike: once you learn, you'll never forget it – but there may be some ugly moments along the way. Check out the video below to learn the basics of wrapping presents (but make sure you implement our eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas, too).</p>
Watch this video on how to gift wrap a box:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ffdda9fd0538c28037dd807fdc02791f"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/l_pp-1qu9Ig?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
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According to the UN Environment Program, up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used globally each year, and because of the material they're made from, most municipal recycling centers don't accept them (more on this below).
The most sustainable option is to skip the bag altogether. You can also make your own reusable produce bags out of old T-shirts. But if you'd rather purchase them new, here are our recommendations for the best reusable produce bags on the market today.
Eco Joy<p>If you're making the switch to more sustainable shopping bags and want a variety of products to use, the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Sandwich-Biodegradable-Eco-Drawstring/dp/B003PK4W3I/ref=sr_1_36?crid=3TDUCB8ZOM7WI&dchild=1&keywords=produce+bags+grocery+reusable&qid=1613484643&sprefix=produce+bags%2Caps%2C189&sr=8-36" target="_blank">Eco Joy Cotton Reusable Produce Bags</a> set is a great place to start. The set comes with three mesh drawstring bags, three muslin drawstring bags, a large mesh tote and a zippered sandwich-size pouch.</p><p>Each product is made with organic, non-GMO cotton that's ethically sourced in accordance with Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) standards. The cotton comes from India and Turkey, and the bags are hand-assembled in Canada by the owner of Eco Joy, so you can feel good about supporting a small business while reducing your environmental impact.</p><p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 300 Amazon reviews</p><p><strong>Why buy: </strong>Zero-waste; Handmade in Canada; WRAP compliant; Machine washable</p>
Organic Cotton Mart<p>Some shoppers prefer to use mesh bags when shopping for fruits and veggies. We recommend checking out <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Best-Reusable-Produce-Organic-Cotton/dp/B07CK2TJKL/ref=sr_1_16?crid=10A7NM0LQ0B7E&dchild=1&keywords=mesh+produce+bags&qid=1613483897&s=home-garden&sprefix=mesh+pro%2Cgarden%2C162&sr=1-16" target="_blank">Organic Cotton Mart's Reusable Cotton Mesh Produce Bags</a> if you're in this camp, as they're made with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton.</p> <p>Mesh reusable produce bags can make the checkout process easier than muslin bags since you can see what's inside them without having to open them up. Plus, the tare weight (i.e., the weight of the empty bag that should be subtracted from the total weight of your produce to make sure you don't pay extra for using your bag) is printed right on the label of Organic Cotton Mart's bags, making everything that much more convenient.</p> <p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.6 out of 5 stars with nearly 1,000 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable
Simple Ecology<p>On the other hand, if you just want to purchase muslin bags, we like <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Simple-Ecology-Reusable-Organic-Shopping/dp/B004UJ0U0C" target="_blank">Simple Ecology's Reusable Produce Bags</a>, which are also made with GOTS-certified organic cotton. Simple Ecology also has a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N6AUMBG/ref=sspa_dk_detail_2?psc=1&pd_rd_i=B01N6AUMBG&pd_rd_w=MA3ZS&pf_rd_p=cbc856ed-1371-4f23-b89d-d3fb30edf66d&pd_rd_wg=hVunQ&pf_rd_r=G6RTQ1Z5DKEY325MAJZ9&pd_rd_r=5d298b3a-1be7-4ebd-a9e1-d5d672a40497&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUExMzc4RVAxWjNLOTdCJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNTc0NTAwMzBDMjFYOVJPTUpWSCZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwNjYyOTM4M0s4Vk81SVBPS1NFSyZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2RldGFpbF90aGVtYXRpYyZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=" target="_blank">starter kit</a> that comes with several reusable grocery bags if you're looking for more variety.</p> <p>The benefit of using muslin reusable produce bags is that, unlike mesh, there are no holes for small items to slip through. This means that in addition to larger produce, you can use them to purchase bulk foods like lentils, beans and rice — or even powders like flour or spices — without worrying about anything leaking. They're also best for keeping leafy greens fresh.</p> <p><strong>Customer rating:</strong> 4.7 out of 5 stars with nearly 1,500 Amazon reviews</p><strong>Why buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable; Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) certified packaging when purchased from manufacturer
ECOBAGS<p>Whether you're buying bread, fresh flowers, produce or all of the above, the <a href="https://www.amazon.com/ECOBAGS-Market-Collection-Reusable-Natural/dp/B08KFGPGN5" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ECOBAGS Market Collection Reusable Bag Set</a> is ideal for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/farmers-markets-coronavirus-safety-2645581711.html" target="_self">farmers market</a> shopping or large grocery hauls. The netted bags are durable, flexible, and pack down small so they're easy to keep in your car or purse.</p> <p>ECOBAGS is a woman-owned certified B Corp, which means it uses sound social and environmental practices. These bags come in packs of three or five and have a few different handle lengths and color options, but they're all made with GOTS-certified organic cotton.</p> <p><strong>Customer rating: </strong>Not applicable</p><p><strong>Why buy:</strong> GOTS certified; Machine washable; Biodegradable; Certified B Corp; SA8000 certified for the protection of basic human rights of workers</p>
By Olivia Sullivan
One of the many unfortunate outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic has been the quick and obvious increase in single-use plastic products. After COVID-19 arrived in the United States, many grocery stores prohibited customers from using reusable bags, coffee shops banned reusable mugs, and takeout food with plastic forks and knives became the new normal.
Kamikatsu, Japan. Yuki Shimazu / CC BY-SA 2.0<p>This reveals a worldwide truth: Even products made mostly from easily recyclable materials like paper, aluminum or cardboard can't be sorted and recycled if they contain plastic components that can't be separated.</p><p>The truth is, some materials simply aren't recyclable, and <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782" target="_blank">only 9%</a> of all the plastic ever created has <em>been </em>recycled. As Kamikatsu's residents have painstakingly proven, no matter how many categories consumers sort their waste into or how diligently they scrub down their plastic food containers, most plastics <a href="https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Greenpeace-Report-Circular-Claims-Fall-Flat.pdf" target="_blank">cannot be recycled</a>.</p><p>Meanwhile we keep hearing the <a href="https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/504091-the-insanity-of-plastic-recycling" target="_blank">industry-driven narrative</a> that recycling can stop plastic from choking our marine life or littering our natural places. That's intentionally misleading.</p><p>Around the world, as in Kamikatsu, plastic is everywhere. With excessive amounts of plastic products and packaging stocked on store shelves, it's clear that zero-waste goals cannot be achieved by consumers alone. Plastic is not a "zero waste" material, so in order to achieve zero waste, companies must stop making so much plastic.</p>
Marine debris collected at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. NOAA<p>We can achieve that. The first steps include banning some of the worst and most polluting single-use plastics, placing a pause on the development of new plastics facilities, and protecting state and local governments' ability to enact more stringent regulations.</p><p>We must also shift the paradigm by holding producers responsible for the waste they create. By requiring new plastic products to contain recycled plastic and making producers fund the collection and recycling of plastic products, producers would be incentivized to design longer lasting products that can <em>actually</em> be reused and recycled.</p><p>These goals — outlined in numerous scientific studies and advocacy reports — have some forward motion. In the United States, a federal bill was recently introduced in both the House and the Senate, the <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/5845" target="_blank">Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act</a>. If passed this bill — or others like it on the local, state or national levels — could help move the world beyond single-use plastics and make that needed systemic change a reality.</p><p>The bill hasn't moved forward since it was introduced this past February, but the world is still on a deadline. A recent study published in the journal <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/07/22/science.aba9475" target="_blank"><em>Science</em></a> looked at rising levels of plastic production and said "coordinated global action is urgently needed to reduce plastic consumption, increase rates of reuse, waste collection and recycling, expand safe disposal systems and accelerate innovation in the plastic value chain."</p><p>Requiring producers to stop making nonrecyclable products designed to be thrown out is the first step toward achieving that goal. Only then will Kamikatsu and other towns, cities and countries around the world finally be able to eliminate plastic pollution and reach 100% zero waste.</p><p><em>The opinions expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of </em>The Revelator<em>, the Center for Biological Diversity or their employees.</em></p><p><a href="https://therevelator.org/author/oliviasullivan/" target="_blank">Olivia Sullivan</a> <em><em>is a zero waste associate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) working on a campaign to move the United States beyond plastic.</em></em></p><p><em><em><span></span>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://therevelator.org/cities-zero-waste/" target="_blank">The Revelator</a>. </em></em></p>
By Emily Deanne
Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.
Conserve Heating and Cooling<p><a href="https://www.energystar.gov/sites/default/files/tools/DataTrends_Dormitory_20150129.pdf" target="_blank">Air-conditioning</a> packs the biggest punch for dorm power usage, and if your room has individual temperature control, you can set it a few degrees higher to help cut back on how much energy the cooling system uses. Never leave a window open when an air conditioner (or heater) is running, and on hot, sunny days, keeping the blinds or curtains closed will block many of the sun's warming rays. In the winter, this will help keep the cold out, too. Year round, report broken windows, cracks in doorways, or any damaged thermostat controls to the university maintenance department. </p>
Light Efficiently<p><br>Switch off your overhead light, desk lamp, and any other lights every time you leave the dorm. To take your environmentalism a step further, if the bulbs provided aren't LEDs, <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-shop-energy-efficient-light-bulbs" target="_blank">consider swapping some in</a>. LEDs are 85 percent more efficient than old-fashioned incandescents and last much, much longer. If you decide to decorate with that dorm room staple, a string of holiday lights, make sure those are LEDs too. (Find tips on how to shop for energy-efficient bulbs <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-shop-energy-efficient-light-bulbs" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p>
Unplug Everything<p>The average dorm room consumes 30.2 percent of its electrical energy while you and your roomies aren't there, according to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378778814010299" target="_blank">one study</a>. That's because appliances <a href="https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/energy-vampires-are-attacking-your-home-here-s-how-stop-them" target="_blank">continue to draw power from electrical outlets even when turned off or idle</a>. A power strip or surge protector helps avoid this: You can plug all your appliances and devices into it, then easily stop them from drawing power with one switch.</p>
Don’t Make Your Screens Work Too Hard<p>If you have a television, look for an energy-saving feature called Automatic Brightness Control. It automatically adjusts the picture brightness level to the amount of light in the room. Game consoles can be huge energy drainers if used to stream videos or if constantly left on. Instead, stream with apps already on your TV or with a streaming device (like Roku or Apple TV), which require <a href="https://www.energystar.gov/products/configuring_todays_game_consoles_use_less_energy_0" target="_blank">one-fifteenth the energy</a>. Keep the auto-power-down feature enabled so your game console doesn't consume power when you aren't using it.</p><p>Desk computers and laptops are college necessities, and as with your gaming console, you can typically program your computer to go into a low-power standby mode when you're taking a break. Look for an energy-saving or eco-mode.</p><p>Shopping for a new computer? <a href="https://www.energystar.gov/products/office_equipment/computers" target="_blank">Check out this website</a> to find one that is certified by Energy Star to be energy efficient. (Any printer or mini-fridge you buy should be similarly certified.)</p>
Reduce Water Use<p>If you have a dishwasher in your room or suite, run it only with a full load; the same goes for doing laundry. Wash clothes in cold water and consider using a drying rack instead of an electric clothes dryer, which <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/easy-ways-save-energy-home" target="_blank">often uses as much energy as a new refrigerator, dishwasher, and clothes washer combined</a>.</p><p>If you live in an apartment-style dorm, more bonus points to you if you add a faucet aerator to your sinks. Aerators can reduce water flow <a href="https://www.epa.gov/watersense/bathroom-faucets" target="_blank">to 1.5 gallons per minute or less</a> from the standard flow of 2.2 gallons per minute. They are inexpensive and easy to screw onto the nozzle of your faucet, and they <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/stories/energy-efficient-home-makeover" target="_blank">save energy by reducing your hot water use.</a></p>
Save the Food<p><a href="https://www.nrdc.org/resources/wasted-how-america-losing-40-percent-its-food-farm-fork-landfill" target="_blank">An NRDC study</a> found that about 40 percent of food is wasted in the U.S., which leads to a lot of emissions from food rotting in landfills. (One such gas is methane, a greenhouse gas that is up to <a href="https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/natural-gas-industry-has-methane-problem" target="_blank">80 times as effective at trapping heat as carbon dioxide)</a>. Do your part to help keep food scraps out of the landfill. Don't pile a tray with more food than you can possibly eat at the dining hall and keep a set of reusable containers on hand, in case you find yourself with extra slices from your late-night pizza delivery. With leftovers you can't store, it's best to toss them into a compost bin if there's one on-site or nearby; some cities host farmers markets where you can drop off composted food for free. You could even start a composting club or, if your roommate agrees, make your <a href="https://nrdc.tumblr.com/post/118984184239/how-to-build-a-worm-bin" target="_blank">own composting worm bin</a>.</p>
Create a Movement<p>With communal spaces and shared amenities, it can be hard to regulate every part of your energy use. Talking with your resident advisor (RA) about ways to increase dorm energy efficiency is a great way to make meaningful change. You could also join—or even start—an environmental club or energy efficiency council on your campus. When you join together with other student activists standing up against climate change, your impact on greening college life will go well beyond those dorm room walls.</p>
There's nothing like firing up the grill, playing some lawn games and enjoying the long days of summer with some of your best friends or closest family. But, let's face it; burning charcoal, sipping out of Solo cups and noshing on disposable plates isn't the most eco-friendly way to enjoy summer. In fact, here's a mind blowing set of stats from the Department of Energy, July 4th cookouts release 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, burn the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest, and use enough charcoal, lighter fuel and gas to power 20,000 households for one year.
1. Green Your Gear<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYyODE3OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTAzOTMyN30.qRWmQSiZAPEELt6sYTAK-H2CxlPatj-XivEZsX2pYvQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="14c42" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fb04b0b1a365285059eb1967b9aa48dc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Pexels<p>Ditch the charcoal grill to reduce your carbon footprint. Propane, natural gas and electric grills all burn cleaner than charcoal. Remember, propane and natural gas are not renewable energy sources. So, if you really want to up your eco-grilling game, opt for a <a href="https://www.oneearthdesigns.com/" target="_blank">solar powered grill</a>. The technology has advanced so far that your grill is ready five times faster than charcoal.</p><p>If solar isn't happening for you this summer, <a href="https://greenerideal.com/food/0405-summer-is-coming-how-to-have-an-eco-friendly-bbq/" target="_blank">Greener Ideal</a> suggests a <a href="https://www.bbqguys.com/grill-dome/infinity-series-large-kamado-grill-black" target="_blank">dome grill</a> as an elegant and durable option. It traps and recirculates heat so effectively it will drastically reduce how much fuel is needed to cook your food.</p><p>If your motto is charcoal or nothing, shoot for a <a href="https://biggreenegg.com/product/100-natural-lump-charcoal/" target="_blank">sustainably sourced natural briquette</a> without chemicals that are made from local plants instead of wood from tropical forests. And, use a <a href="https://www.virtualweberbullet.com/using-chimney-starter.html" target="_blank">starter chimney</a> to eliminate the need for chemical-heavy lighter fluid.</p>
2. Ditch the Disposables<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYyODIwMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDgyMjIyMX0.TYajLeUePsS1MoMd8gfsarfoTUn7mkMsC4DHBnRU1MU/img.jpg?width=980" id="ecb98" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bac8eaffcbe0364c7cc3054820a67a34" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
PxHere<p>Make sure you've <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/sustainably-sourced-products-2617388522.html">got the right reusable</a> grilling tools like this <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Extremely-Practical-Grill-Set-Waterproof/dp/B06XZCMVJH/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1523795403&sr=8-5&keywords=bbq+grill+set&linkCode=sl1&tag=greeidea0b-20&linkId=d9583d33fc64d890c30105a57b85f620" target="_blank">eco-friendly kit</a> that <a href="https://greenerideal.com/food/0405-summer-is-coming-how-to-have-an-eco-friendly-bbq/" target="_blank">Greener Ideal</a> suggests. It's got all your essentials — including a multipurpose flipper, basting brush, knife and hot mitt. Plus, a nifty carrying case means you're less likely to lose any parts.</p><p>Before setting up those Hefty bags to hold all those plastic plates and forks headed to a landfill, consider reusable plates, cups and cutlery. If you're thinking of using paper plates, don't. It's a waste of water. A single paper plate takes eight gallons of water to make. That's a lot of water when you consider how many plates you'll run through. By contrast, a dishwasher uses six to 10 gallons of water to clean a full load, <a href="https://joe.org/joe/2003february/rb3.php" target="_blank">research shows</a>. </p><p>Yet, if disposable is necessary, go for a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Pure-Palm-All-Natural-Eco-Friendly-Compostable/dp/B073WKSL33/ref=asc_df_B073WKSL33/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=241948599983&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=6571221719747402981&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1022219&hvtargid=pla-420328568874&psc=1" target="_blank">green alternative</a> to paper and plastic. Plates made from bamboo, palm or <a href="https://greenpaperproducts.com/biodegradable-compostable-fiber-plates-p005n.aspx?var=100ik=1760&gclid=CjwKCAjw0tHoBRBhEiwAvP1GFUWW3XhLpFtR7zo6ad7V-AoIc8c1jlqpivC1knW8lubTJfC7IChbCxoCHs4QAvD_BwE" target="_blank">plant fibers</a> are fully compostable. It's easy to go green with drinking straws. Try reusable <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Stainless-Steel-Friendly-Straws/dp/B07MTPCN3J/ref=asc_df_B07MTPCN3J/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=344058097101&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1539416287603245502&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1022219&hvtargid=pla-644890852222&psc=1&tag=&ref=&adgrpid=68456165999&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=344058097101&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=1539416287603245502&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1022219&hvtargid=pla-644890852222" target="_blank">metal</a> and <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Ecological-Alternative-multi-usage-Bambaw/dp/B079LCSBBN/ref=asc_df_B079LCSBBN/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=242032081623&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4474977336390236256&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1022219&hvtargid=pla-454587319629&psc=1" target="_blank">bamboo</a> straws, or disposable straws made from <a href="https://www.haystraws.com/products/hay-straws-100-pack?variant=12335821881378&campaign=1643218284&content=315503607763&keyword=&gclid=CjwKCAjw0tHoBRBhEiwAvP1GFeG7f1m71OVQMmOdOMCPR-Je6n1lvODywy2vIZFI9IgGbVgv-Y1syRoCdRIQAvD_BwE" target="_blank">hay</a> or <a href="https://www.loliware.com/" target="_blank">seaweed</a>. And <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Stainless-Barbecue-Skewers-Ring-Tip-Handle/dp/B000FQBJWW" target="_blank">reusable kebab sticks</a> are an elegant way to serve up all those local, grilled veggies. </p>
3. Think Local<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYyODIzNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTIzNDk0MH0.Znje15xwJdV2b_6Dwmn7Ya4qayX-XDTKdcL4Lwb70dQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="789b5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bb99a9b69b3b152c7c03a488d08f8b6d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Pexels<p>The bulk of any barbecue's greenhouse gas emissions is in food choices. The <a href="https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-4-july-august/green-life/5-ways-green-your-4th-july" target="_blank">Sierra Club</a> suggests shrinking your BBQs carbon footprint by buying local fruits, veggies and meat. Your local farmers market may even have a homemade potato chip stand. Buying locally grown foods cuts down on the energy required to store, transport and package food across long distances.</p><p>Buying at your farmers market will support your local economy and help build a relationship with the person who grew your food. Plus, as <a href="https://www.goodshop.com/blog/2016/05/27/green-your-bbq-10-tips-for-an-eco-friendly-cookout/" target="_blank">GoodShop</a> points out, during summer, local fruits and veggies are usually at their peak, so your BBQ will have that much more flavor. </p><p>Have fun serving up a sample of local wines and craft beers. </p>
4. More Veggies. Sustainably Sourced Meat<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTYyODE0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NTU2OTQwOH0.8efwCxWEkNA1Qbbw9n9Dgt-aFqSJpJsFpU1VtaxK1yY/img.jpg?width=980" id="3689f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18ea251899b1e0a3319202abfe3e8303" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
A veggie burger.
Max Pixel<p>While burgers and dogs usually take center-stage at a summer barbecue, an eco-friendly picnic should restructure that paradigm. Every pound of beef you eliminate from your barbecue makes a big difference in your carbon footprint. British chefs told the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/may/26/how-to-have-ethical-barbecue" target="_blank">Guardian</a> to reduce beef, pork and chicken and going for sustainable seafood like Arctic char, tilapia and squid. And, if red meat is necessary, go for lamb, which is almost always raised on grass pastures.</p><p>And, there are no shortages of meat replacements these days. <a href="https://www.treehugger.com/htgg/how-to-go-green-barbecues.html" target="_blank">Treehugger</a> suggests using portobello mushrooms or chickpea burgers. The <a href="https://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/2015-3-may-june/green-life/4th-july-throw-vegan-barbecue-even-meat-eaters-will-love" target="_blank">Sierra Club</a> has a recipe for a sweet potato black bean burger. And <a href="https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/the-beyond-burger/" target="_blank">Beyond Meat</a> burgers are available at most major grocery stores. </p>
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Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.
By Kayla Robbins
Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.
Reusable Straws<p>If you're someone who loves to sip sweet tea through a straw or slurp a breakfast smoothie during your commute, reusable straws are a great alternative for the disposal plastic variety that have been <a href="https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/plastic-straws-ocean-trash-environment/" target="_blank">catching so much flack lately</a>.</p><p>With more and more restaurants phasing out their plastic straws in response to customer backlash, having your own set to carry around is a good move if you don't want to give up that satisfying slurrrrp.</p><p>Reusable straws are becoming more and more mainstream and available in a variety of styles, colors, and materials. I love my stainless steel set, but there are also softer silicone versions for kids, glass straws that are like functional works of art in your cup, and even bamboo straws from <a href="https://donegood.ckmtrk.com/?a=2&c=5048&p=r&s1=influencer&s2=ecowatch&s3=ecowatch&s4=" target="_blank">bambu</a>!</p><p>Most sets come with a cute little brush to make it easy to clean the inside thoroughly. For use on the go, a quick rinse in the bathroom sink usually works just fine.</p>
Beeswax Wraps<p>Have you guys heard of these?</p><p>They're basically squares of cotton covered in a mixture of beeswax and resin. These simple ingredients combine to make a really awesome replacement for plastic wrap in your kitchen. You can use these wraps for covering bowls, wrapping up cheese, fruit, or that other half of your avocado. They can really do it all.</p><p>You can keep using and reusing them, rinsing with cool water in between uses. If they start to get a bit bare in places, you can even pop them in a low-temperature oven for a few minutes to redistribute the wax. Good as new!</p><p>They're way cuter than plastic wrap since they come in a variety of colors and prints. And once they come to the end of their useful life, they're fully biodegradable, and you can just pop them in your compost bin.</p><p><a href="https://donegood2.ckmtrk.com/?a=2&c=7153&p=r&s1=influencer&s2=ecowatch&s3=ecowatch&s4=" target="_blank">Earth Love</a> has some cute ones to get you started!</p>
Cloth Napkins<p>Put aside the paper napkins and paper towels. Cloth napkins are softer, prettier, and more eco-friendly than their paper counterparts. And they really require no more care than simply throwing them in with your next load of laundry.</p><p>Brands like <a href="http://shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=888130&u=1337650&m=66802&urllink=&afftrack=" target="_blank">Ten Thousand Villages</a>, <a href="https://donegood2.ckmtrk.com/?a=2&c=4662&p=r&s1=influencer&s2=ecowatch&s3=ecowatch&s4=" target="_blank">Mayamam Weavers</a>, and <a href="https://donegood.ckmtrk.com/?a=2&c=196&p=r&s1=influencer&s2=ecowatch&s3=ecowatch&s4=" target="_blank">Fair + Simple</a> have tons of great options to choose from.</p><p>Buying a quality set of cloth napkins is an investment up front, but will save you money in the long run. Plus, you'll never have to scramble to make your table look presentable when you find out you'll be hosting some unexpected dinner guests!</p>
Tea Strainers<p>Now, you may be thinking, "<a href="https://www.compostthis.co.uk/tea" target="_blank">aren't tea bags biodegradable</a>?" and for the most part, they are. However, some tea bags can have little pieces of plastic holding them together that are obviously not great additions to your compost pile.</p><p>Also, if you buy loose leaf tea in bulk, you can avoid a lot of the excess packaging that comes with tea bags. I've seen some before that were individually wrapped and sealed in a plastic bag that of course went inside a cardboard box that was itself wrapped in a thin layer of plastic. It's ridiculous.</p><p>Loose leaf tea typically comes in ONE bag, or even better, a reusable tin.</p><p>It really doesn't take any longer to brew, and once you get the hang of it, it can become quite a pleasant morning ritual. </p><p>You will need a little bit of equipment, though, and that's where the tea strainer comes in.</p><p>If you're making more than one cup, it usually makes sense to brew it in a teapot by putting the tea and the water right in together. To prevent leaves getting into your cup, just top your mug with a tea strainer before you pour the brewed tea. <a href="https://donegood.ckmtrk.com/?a=2&c=5070&p=r&s1=influencer&s2=ecowatch&s3=ecowatch&s4=" target="_blank">Mountain Mel's</a> stocks a cute stainless steel strainer with a cutout moon and star pattern.</p><p>If you prefer to make it by the cup, the mug infuser from Mountain Mel's might be a better choice. Whichever method you choose, don't forget to compost your leftover leaves!</p>
By Coda Christopherson (11) and Lea Eider (15)
Growing up in a plastic-free home, I was sheltered from the plastic waste crisis. I (Coda) went to a very progressive school that had vegan lunch items, farm animals and ran on solar power. My mom produces zero-waste events and my dad is a sailor, so we're very passionate about the ocean. When I was nine years old, we moved back to Manhattan Beach, California and I started 3rd grade in a public school. This was the first time I really understood that plastic-free living is not the norm; single-use plastics were everywhere, especially in the cafeteria. Once I recognized this problem, I knew I had to make a difference.
Jeff Gritchen / Orange County Register<p>I knew that in order to succeed in eliminating plastic straws at schools I would need to educate and enlist my friends and they would need to educate and enlist their friends — just like how social media works. After talking with my friends, I met with my principal, Nancy Doyle, at Grand View Elementary School. I participated in a water assembly (my school is really cool!) to raise awareness and joined the Manhattan Beach Sustainability Youth Council. I created social media channels and began asking people to take the Strawless School Pledge to eliminate plastic straws in schools. I emailed the director of nutrition for my school district and she email me back, approving my request to eliminate plastic straws. It's not that hard to make a change in your community! Now, I'm planning how to eliminate plastics in other school districts in California.</p><p>Last year, I attended the 2018 <a href="http://oceanheroes.blue/" target="_blank">Ocean Heroes Bootcamp</a>, a global youth summit co-founded by Lonely Whale, Captain Planet Foundation and Point Break Foundation. The bootcamp equips participants with tools to develop campaigns to fight plastic pollution in their communities.</p><p>Ocean Heroes Bootcamp has been a great resource and I've learned many important things, especially the power of mentorship and the importance of communication. You need both to succeed and the past six months are proof that I could absolutely not run this campaign by myself. I am so grateful for the mentorship, leadership and support that I've received from Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, my school and my community. Something else I've learned from my experience, is the power of collaboration.</p><p>I hope to expand my campaign to other areas of California and the West Coast, impacting as many schools and people as possible. I think it's smart to work with others because you can create a bigger impact and reach a larger audience — plus, it's fun to work with others!</p>
Lea Eider.<p>Ocean Hero Lea is also working to eliminate single-use plastics in California. I (Lea) am scared for the future of the planet. I don't want to see the oceans ruined in my generation or my children's generation — we can only fix plastic pollution if everyone is conscious of the problem and working together to fix it.</p><p>I began targeting local businesses in Arcata, California by sending a poll to local restaurants. I asked the employees of each restaurant if they dispensed single-use plastic straws and if they gave out straws by request. After the word spread, the mayor of Arcata reached out and we arranged a meeting with her and another member of the Arcata City Council. After that, I spoke to the city council at public comment, asking them to ban single-use plastic straws. At the time, the city was forming a Zero Waste Task Force and felt that any future ordinances pertaining to straws and other plastics should be proposed by the Task Force. I applied and got appointed to Arcata's Zero Waste Task Force, and I'll definitely be bringing up the issues of single-use plastics in California. At the end of 2019, we'll be suggesting legislation to the city council and it is my hope that all restaurants in the city will eliminate plastic straws. Unfortunately, it is isn't happening as quickly as I hoped — changing legislation is a lot harder than I'd imagined!</p><p>While that process is taking place, I'm working on a curriculum to educate elementary students about reducing their plastic waste. I want to promote reduction and reuse, so a big focus will be on the flaws of the system. As cliche as it sounds, my generation is going to inherit the world, and we should know how to take care of it. I didn't fully realize the impact of single-use plastics, like plastic water bottles until I attended <a href="http://oceanheroes.blue/" target="_blank">Ocean Heroes Bootcamp</a>. I immediately convinced my parents to get me a reusable water bottle and it was an easy transition that can have a huge impact on our planet. I want to help kids in schools make the same change I did, and if I talk to them while they're young, maybe I can teach them healthy habits that they can continue throughout their whole lives.</p><p>I wouldn't have been able to start my campaign if I hadn't gone to the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp. With their support and guidance, I learned how to put together a pitch, which guided me when talking to the Arcata City Council, and I was connected with resources and experts that offered help with my campaign.</p><p>Collaboration is a skill that I want to further develop. I know that a group can accomplish more than a single person, but I'm used to working alone. I'd like to hear other Ocean Heroes' ideas and thoughts. If we share our effective strategies for eliminating plastic waste, we can help each other with our campaigns, even by simply supporting other campaigns through social media.</p><p>It's important to have kids act as voices of our generation — we're going to inherit the world, and we want a say in the world we're going to get. I (Coda) think youth activism is important because kids are the future leaders of the world. Kids are more passionate, imaginative and optimistic than adults, so why can't change come from us?</p><p><a href="http://oceanheroes.blue/" target="_blank">Ocean Heroes Bootcamp</a> 2019 is quickly approaching. I (Coda) am hoping to learn more leadership and communication skills, as well as opportunities for collaboration. Ocean Heroes Bootcamp 2018 was the first time I ever spoke publicly! I had no idea that I was capable of doing that but the experience gave me the confidence to step up as a leader and create my own campaign. I never want to stop learning, so this next bootcamp cannot come soon enough. I (Lea) hope to learn more ways to utilize social media as a tool for my campaign to increase awareness. I also want to learn how to work with others to make the greatest impact in California. For example, I'd love to expand my campaign but I live in a pretty rural and isolated area so this can be difficult. If I had someone else to help expand it and spread the word, I could accomplish more outside of my community.</p><p>The 2019 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp is open for registration <a href="http://oceanheroes.blue/" target="_blank">here</a>. The three-day event is free to attend, including room and board, for accepted youth ages 11-18 and their chaperones.</p>
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& 9 Tips for Using What You Have
By Jazmine Velasquez
My family's defining motto is "Siempre usa como lo que tienes." ("Always use what you have.") Mom and grandma have used the expression so many times, I hear their voices every time I want to get a $15 poke bowl after class but have leftovers in the fridge at home. I hear them when I have the urge to buy new clothes that I don't need or get a nice notebook when I already have too many. This impulse becomes even stronger when I cook, because for my family, food is love and not to be wasted.
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- Is the Future of Grocery Shopping B.Y.O. Container? - EcoWatch ›
- zero waste ›
By Jeff Turrentine
If you think this is going to be yet another column admonishing you for not doing enough to curb the amount of single-use plastic in our waste stream, you can relax. You don't need a lecture at this point.
By Meredith Rosenberg
Disposable items have become so ingrained in our daily habits that we may not realize all of the small, everyday actions that are adding to the amount of disposable waste that ends up in oceans and landfills. Here are five lifestyle changes you can make today to ditch the disposables and reduce your environmental impact.
By Meredith Rosenberg
In early October, the United Nations released a climate change report forewarning of global catastrophes (severe flooding, wildfires, droughts) that could begin by 2040 unless drastic changes are made to reduce greenhouse gases. It might seem like a daunting task, but here are five lifestyle changes you can make right now to start reducing your carbon footprint. If you really want to help the planet, follow the next-level suggestions to make the biggest impact.
If you wear bras, chances are you haven't thought too much about their environmental impact. But bras can be made from a variety of unsustainable materials, from water-intensive cotton, to spandex, to petroleum-based polyurethane foam for padding. So once they're tossed, these synthetic fabrics will sit in landfills and take forever to disappear.
It's no wonder Australian lingerie designer Stephanie Devine launched The Very Good Bra, the world's first zero-waste bra.