It’s week one of 52 Weeks for Earth, the 52-week challenge to gradually reduce your impact on the planet. And for the first week we’re starting easy! With the simple challenge to reduce your waste by learning to refuse free things you don’t need. Sounds simple, right? Let’s dive in.
It’s been said that nothing comes free in this life, and I think that’s true of corporate freebies, like promotional pens, and other little knick-knacks companies give out.
To the company producing these items the price the consumer pays is having that brand name planted into their consciousness. But more importantly when you accept this item you never even needed, you become responsible for what happens to it. And when you think of the full lifecycle of an item, that responsibility doesn’t make that item feel so free anymore..
These free items are produced as cheaply as possible, usually made out of plastic with a very short functioning lifespan. Once broken or the gimmickry wears off, the item is usually discarded; banished to a junk drawer to serve no purpose, or thrown in the garbage to end up in landfill, or often, the ocean. These plastic items, taken as flippantly as they are discarded, can actually take about 100 years to decompose.
Each time you’re offered a freebie, think about the fact that it’ll outlive you on this earth, politely refuse the item and if you like, tell them why.
It may seem futile while these items continue to be created en mass, but your choice can make a difference; if a company finds themselves unable to give it away for free, hopefully they’ll take that as hint to stop producing them.
While I’ve used promotional freebies as an example here, there are many other items which we should apply this idea to. Hotel toiletries are another example; you’re not likely to use the whole quantity of a small shampoo bottle, the remainder and plastic container will go straight to landfill. If you think you will need shampoo during your travels, invest in some small glass travel containers and fill with your preferred shampoo, leaving the hotel’s disposable freebies untouched.
Let’s stop using things merely because they come ‘free’; no thing is free from impacting the planet.
What else will you choose to refuse?
Bonus advice: if you’re responsible for the production of promotional products for your business or company and are sure the company cannot go without, I’d encourage you to think creatively about what people need, the materials it’s made out of, and the full lifecycle of that item.
Items like metal drinking bottles, and well-constructed non-synthetic fabric bags will not only be of continual use to the consumer (longer exposure to your brand name!), but can also reduce their consumption of the disposable alternatives it replaces!
Or, a creative idea could be a printed promotional card with seeds in the paper so the consumer can then plant the item and watch it grow. Include a tearable tab with the plant care information and your logo to place in the soil, to continue your brand exposure. You can also rest easy knowing a compostable item like this won’t outlive you, whether it’s planted or discarded.