We often think of sustainable living as a constant combination of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ and while that’s valuable to some extent, when it comes to plastic use, we need to focus on cutting it off at the source. If your bath is overflowing, you don’t grab a bucket to scoop the water out, you switch off the tap first.
That’s where the sustainable product cycle and our wheat straws come in.
What Is The Sustainable Product Cycle?
The sustainable product cycle reimagines the traditional stages of a product’s lifecycle to be more sustainable in the long run. It focuses on extending the lifecycle, and making use of as many by-products as possible.
There are 3 phases of every product’s lifecycle:
- Beginning of Life (BOL) stage
- Middle of Life (MOL) stage
- End of Life (EOL) stage
The sustainable product cycle considers longevity and sustainability at every stage. The goal of the sustainable product cycle is to create a circular product life, so that the product at the end of its usable life can easily be upcycled, reused, or remanufactured, instead of simply being thrown away and taking up space in the water ways or in a landfill and causing harm to the environment.
The Importance of the Beginning of Life Stage
The BOL stage is the design and development stage of a product’s life. It’s at this stage where manufacturers decide on the materials and methods they’ll use to create a product. Choosing sustainable materials and practices at this stage is what makes for a sustainable, ethical product, and it sets the cycle in motion. Every choice made at the BOL stage impacts the product later in it’s life. If reusing and/or sustainability is at the centre of the decisions made here, reusing will be easier when the time comes, and sustainability will be a natural quality of the product.
The majority of CO2 emissions from many day-to-day products comes from the manufacturing process, while emissions from the product’s use throughout its lifetime is responsible for very little of its total carbon footprint. When you realise this, you realise that a truly sustainable product is made sustainable in the BOL stage of its lifecycle.
Using wheat straws as an example, the BOL stage is making the decision to use wheat stems as a plastic-free straw alternative. The stems are the ideal sustainable material because they’re biodegradable, and require minimal processing, ultimately making for fewer emissions and a low carbon footprint. Wheat straws are also more durable than other non-plastic straw alternatives. The choice of using wheat as the material takes the user experience into consideration, and solves a problem that most plastic-free straws present – getting soggy before completing what they’re designed to do.
In short, the BOL stage when it comes to wheat straws, considers the purpose of the product, user experience, and existing agricultural by-products that can be used with minimal additional environmental impact.
Recyclable vs Renewable Resources
There’s a lot of confusion between recyclable and renewable resources and which is better when it comes to building a greener future. The truth is there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and each has its place in creating a greener, more sustainable future.
Our thinking is, if you can prevent more single-use plastic being needlessly produced, why not?
Recyclable resources are resources like plastic and aluminium that are already in circulation, and ideally recycled post-consumer. The problem with recyclable resources is most of the responsibility of recycling is placed on the consumer. It becomes their responsibility to ensure they dispose of the material responsibly. Another problem is that many plastic recyclable materials are not infinitely recyclable, meaning they can only be recycled once or twice before they’re no good and need to be tossed away.
Renewable resources are resources that will be regenerated no matter how much we use them. Unlike plastic or fuel, renewable resources are replaced faster than we can consume them.
Looking at wheat straws, we see that they’re made from a renewable resource – the stems of otherwise discarded post-harvest wheat remains. Wheat will be regrown annually for the foreseeable future, as it’s an agricultural product most of the world needs and consumes regularly. Using a by-product of wheat farming is using a renewable resource, which as we’ve discussed uses a sustainable, low-impact manufacture process.
Sustainable living is a blend of reducing consumption, reusing products, and recycling where possible, but it’s also about thoughtful product design and longevity. Opting for sustainable materials and production methods at the Beginning of Life stage of a product’s lifecycle sets sustainability in motion for the rest of its useful life, and that’s why we love the humble wheat straw. It takes otherwise unused agricultural waste and uses it in a circular way, boasting durability and low emissions like no other plastic-free straw alternative, while removing the need for limited recycling. It represents what a sustainable product should be.