BEAUTYCALYPSE

The Future Is Green – Or Spent

The latest UBA report is not just describing the critical issues, it’s also brimming with opportunities for savvy businesses and great advice for consumers. BEAUTYCALYPSE picks the highlights.

The UBA Report

The 1974-founded UBA (from German “Umweltbundesamt”, Federal Environmental Agency) is Germany’s main environmental protection agency, assessing and evaluating environmental risks, investigating environmental threats, conducting research with their broad network of environmental pros – biologists, chemists, lawyers, economists, engineers – and developing solution guidelines and packages of measures for a cleaner and better world. The UBA’s findings are shared with the general public, with federal bodies and international organisations.

Every year, the UBA publish their annual report, a free brochure called “Schwerpunkte” (focus points) that presents major environmental topics’ findings and agendas of the year. If you can read German, do get your free copy on the UBA publications page.

Apart from declaring marine pollution one of the main research and work topics, the UBA list four “focus points” of 2016 – and here are a few relevant highlights I picked from those:

Circular Economy 

The UBA state that recycling measures are not sufficient in Germany and the EU and suggest a catalogue of measures accordingly. The agency criticises the legally non-binding nature of the United Nations’ SDG regarding the waste avoidance goals that pushed the topic over to the consumers’ end of the table rather than implementing legal measures, mandatory guidelines for the industry.

While I’m all for putting the topic right back onto the industry’s agenda, I think we all have taken notice that clever minimalist, low-waste or no-waste households are trending on social media, with the audience being properly fascinated by this alternative, freeing, light lifestyle defying the rules in a fun, brilliant way. For example, check out the YouTube channels of Jenny Mustard or More Melody.

Personally, I loved the UBA report suggestion of making companies guarantee a minimum service life – and of enabling independent repair services – to knock out problems like planned obsolescence and to support the recycle-repair-cycle on a larger scale. Will we see this come to life? There are companies like iFixit that provide help already, and to a great success. 

Fast Fashion

As a long-time reader of this blog, you are likely to be painfully aware of the true cost of fast fashion: both the environmental and the social.

What I learned from the report is that only 10% of all garments purchased in Germany are also made in Germany. This is a somewhat better score than that of the U.S. (according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association, 97% of all clothes and 98% of all shoes sold in the United States today are imported; Source) but not ideal either.

Brands that operate regionally and transparently are sure to gain momentum.
In this light: check out my favourite Berlin-based vegan, ethical womenswear brand’s Lillika Eden menswear crowdfounding campaign.

The UBA highlight the problems with synthetic fibres in garments – the environmentally harsh processing of fossil oil into fibre, the new threat of microplastics released washing fleece fabrics – as well as the PFCs used for functional wear, and the phthalate-releasing PVC found in man-made leather, coated water-resistant fabrics or PVC prints.

☠️ Side note:
PFCs are highly toxic, cancerogenic, fertility-damaging compounds that you’ll find as dirt-, water- and fat-repellent coatings in outdoor garments, dirt-repellent home textiles, disposable coffee cups and pizza boxes… and non-stick pans. Avoid at all cost.
👍🏼 For more relevant articles on toxins, neurotoxins, brain health, as well as on stuff to avoid, head to the TOXIC WASTELAND section.

To me, this is some great opportunity for companies that can provide modern, functional, tox-free outdoor and sports garments or for universities to develop technological innovation for production, for upcycling and recycling, even for extended life cycles of the garments.

Consumers are another hugely important force here. Each couple of cheap tees that you end up wearing once (or never) is an environmental burden that could have been easily avoided. Each piece of toxic garment you don’t buy presses the manufacturers into seeking more sustainable practices. And hey, there are lots of opportunities for them to go green in order to stay relevant.

 Industry And Popular Lifestyle Choices:
The Actual Cost

The UBA speak against environmentally harmful subsidies. To highlight the real, the environmental, the social costs of produced goods the UBA suggests calculating €80 per ton CO2 emissions as an example – extinction, water pollution, eco system damage and nitrogen oxide are not calculated. Can you imagine how expensive a conventional cheap t-shirt or a rib eye steak would suddenly become?

My favourite part in this chapter was the demand for reforms and more transparency in the financial system. Investing in environmental damage is still possible, still profitable – and this status quo should become impossible to maintain. A great example of a vital issue that can’t be resolved simply by “voting with your buck”. 

Sustainable Consumption:
Less Is More

No big news here, but let me recap our major CO2 offenders: flights and car trips, housing needs and heating, animal source foods. The bigger-better-faster more mentality is killing you in your attempt to get rich and the planet as it’s resources are being consumed past praying for. The status symbols cost more than what you cash over ­– a larger car, a bigger house, a longer and more exotic holiday trip all have a huge destructive impact on the world.

Again, my favourite part here was the big picture: it’s not enough for us, the consumers, to consume less. By quoting the results of a 2014 environmental consciousness survey, the UBA lists such desired actions to be taken as, among others, enabling and establishing shorter working hours (so consumers can find more time to spend on, say, repairing and recycling stuff or growing their own vegetables), community-focussed living with shared resources, strengthening of urban infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.

So what about YOU, my dear reader: do you see opportunities for your company? For your personal development? Tell me in the comments below!

P.S. Although you could use a WordPress or Facebook or Twitter account to leave a comment, you don’t need any. Comments appear after pre-moderation 😉

10 replies »

  1. the future is green…and so was the past. With the whole lack of human rights thing I wouldn’t want to go back (!) but the common sense approach to resources that we’ve lost in the past 60 years or so. With no rose tinted spectacles, i know that money talks and I suppose if companies can see there is profit and money to be made doing the right thing that will change things, nevermind the demise of the planet! Me personally do better always room for improvement.

    • I know what you mean, but I’m afraid we have lost our sustainable approach to resources way earlier, with the advent of the Industrial Age. We thought we could master and conquer Nature, turn the rivers backwards, we have disconnected, disembodied what was whole and are now gasping at polluted waters, air, burnt rainforests… because we have wrecked a System while thinking that we are just playing with its isolated parts.

    • Indeed.
      There are several resources online to proactively check our CO2 or even slavery footprints, but if it was mandatory information on each product… you know, like sugar and fat labels on food, or like the horror show on cigarettes.

      • The downside, of course, is information fatigue. I bought something small the other day (can’t remember what) but it came with a small novel of information! Needless to say, I didn’t read much of it.

  2. I think everyone and every company can improve their behavior and I do not mean writing at the bottom of every email that it should not be printed. However I always asked myself who is printing emails. Anyway, I find it much easier in the city to do everything possible than in the villages where all my families live. You have to take a car, no chance with a train or bus for example. In regards of recycling I feel a big lack of communication of all companies who are responsible for it. Not everyone is aware of the options.

    • Agreed. There’s a lot to do still.

      Also many people simply do not care at all, and there is NOTHING we can do about that.