Swimming against the current

In my business I have to look closely for the environmentally sustainable options. My suppliers work at portraying themselves as having the green options. Over the years I have suppliers telling me that their product is ‘earth-friendly’ because it can be recycled.

I had a vinyl binder company tell me their binder were recyclable because at the end of its life a person can break it apart and recycle the cardboard, metal rings and the vinyl. Really? Where do you recycle vinyl?

A private label bottled water factory says they are environmentally sustainable because you can recycle the empty bottles. Of course they don’t mention that those empty bottles are actually a major cause of our oceans looking like a landfill or that only 23% of plastic is ever recycled.

Well, we believe what we want to believe and what usually doesn’t interrupt our lifestyle.

I see it as my job to wade through the claims and call out the facts. Recyclable does not mean ‘earth-friendly’, which bring us to Upstream/Downstream.

Think of the way products pass through your hands. After all, your hands are just one, often tiny, part of the items journey. If we back up in time during production we find this journey: shipping to you or the store you bought it from, shipping from the manufacturer to the distributor, manufacturing process, refining of the raw material, extraction of the natural resources (i.e. cotton, petroleum, etc), maybe all the work and resources (water, pesticides, etc.) that went into producing the cotton (which has its own upstream story).

Does your head hurt yet?

Well there’s also the downstream side. Where does it end up? Does it get composted, recycled, or tossed in a landfill or maybe ultimately floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the ocean.

There is a lot to think about. Know this… every step of the way there is a cost.