A sustainable Mindset is Knowledge and Awareness

What if I told you humans take mental shortcuts (heuristics) everyday? I don’t mean just choosing a less busy street to drive on or using ctrl C on the keyboard. When I say shortcuts, I mean every time we go to the shops to buy food, laundry detergent, clothes, and many more choices we make during our busy lives. Shortcuts are not only within our capacities but within our very essence. We use them daily and we need them (Sprout 2021). If we did not have this ability to take shortcuts, we would never be able to come to a decision on anything. Unfortunately, companies and their marketing teams also know this and do an abundance of research to nudge us towards purchasing products they want us to buy. For example, you may pick a detergent because it’s in green packaging, so your mind links that to an environmental benefit choice when it could be the complete opposite. We need to remember that marketers are very good at their jobs and usually have a lot of information on how to lure us in.

So, you are probably thinking, what on earth has this got to do with sustainability…. Well, everything of course! You see, sustainability is more than just a catchphrase or a list of sustainable goals, it is a mindset (UNPRME 2022). If you have a sustainable mindset, then most purchases you make are usually considered as making the right choice for the environment. But making decisions based on catchy words or colors is not enough. Color has a strong psychological impact on decisions (Faisal Zaidi 2022; Rita Kuvykaite et al. 2009; Dan Luo et al. 2019) and it`s a marketer’s job to know this and apply it in order to sell more.

It’s not just colors either that marketers are targeting. They are also now finding ways to use organic credibility for advertising their products. Unfortunately, consumers like you and me are overexposed to claims made and symbols suggesting sustainable practices are undertaken. They are posted all over-packaged food  (Lanero et al. 2020). Regrettably, this does not only impact our in-shopping purchases but online purchases too. Online Shopping sites are also tapping into our mental shortcuts. In fact, to such a degree they are even using data mining methods and algorithms to better predict consumer purchases based on internet store visits (Parkhimenka et al. 2017).

It’s terrible to think that companies take advantage of us, using psychological methods to influence our purchase behavior, I for one do not like it one bit. With so many choices to make each day, having to make even more decisions at the local food store when deciding on weekly groceries can be tiring. Luckily now you are aware of the cheeky little marketing games food companies are playing and with this insightful information, we can take action.  Even if it`s small steps, where we make informative decisions a few products at a time, it would support our sustainable mindsets and beat the marketers at their own game. If there are products in amazing packages and suspicious organic symbols and claims, it takes a quick minute to pull out your handy smartphone and do a search. In addition, a sustainable mindset is also a willingness to continue to learn about all areas of sustainability. Therefore, continue the good fight as knowledge allows us to make informative decisions and can only make us wiser.

 And remember, awareness is key, if we are not aware, then we are likely not well informed.


Dan Luo; Luwen Yu; Stephen Westland; Nik Mahon (2019): The influence of colour and image on consumer purchase intentions of convenience food. Available online at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Stephen-Westland/publication/332304769_The_influence_of_colour_and_image_on_consumer_purchase_intentions_of_convenience_food/links/5e39f4e9299bf1cdb90e4093/The-influence-of-colour-and-image-on-consumer-purchase-intentions-of-convenience-food.pdf, checked on 6/6/2022.

Faisal Zaidi (2022): Color Psychology of Consumer Decision Making | LinkedIn. Available online at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141006095417-101549284-color-psychology-of-consumer-decision-making/, updated on 6/6/2022, checked on 6/6/2022.

Lanero, Ana; Vázquez, José-Luis; Sahelices-Pinto, César (2020): Heuristic Thinking and Credibility of Organic Advertising Claims: The Role of Knowledge and Motivations. In Sustainability 12 (21), p. 8776. DOI: 10.3390/su12218776.

Parkhimenka, Uladzimir; Tatur, Mikhail; Zhvakina, Anna (2017): Heuristic approach to online purchase prediction based on internet store visitors classification using data mining methods. In International Conference on Information and Digital Technologies (Ed.): The International Conference on Information and Digital Technologies 2017. 5-7 July 2017, Žilina, Slovakia. 2017 International Conference on Information and Digital Technologies (IDT). Zilina, Slovakia, 7/5/2017 – 7/7/2017. International Conference on Information and Digital Technologies; IDT. [Piscataway, NJ]: IEEE, pp. 304–307.

Rita Kuvykaite; Aiste Dovaliene; Laura Navickiene (2009): IMPACT OF PACKAGE ELEMENTS ON CONSUMER’S PURCHASE DECISION. In ecoman (14), pp. 441–447. Available online at https://www.ecoman.ktu.lt/index.php/Ekv/article/view/9405.

Singun, Amando Pimentel, JR. (2018): Heuristics as Mental Shortcuts in Evaluating Interactive Systems. In Int. J. Eng. Ped. 8 (4), p. 143. DOI: 10.3991/ijep.v8i4.8054.

Sprout (2021): Understanding the mental shortcuts that dictate buying behaviour – Sprout. Available online at https://sproutstrategy.com.au/understanding-the-mental-shortcuts-that-dictate-buying-behaviour/, updated on 7/14/2021, checked on 5/21/2022.

UNPRME (2022). Available online at https://www.unprme.org/prme-working-group-on-sustainability-mindset, updated on 6/6/2022, checked on 6/6/2022.


When I was in elementary school, I visited a farm on a fairly regular basis with my class as my school had a partnership with the farm. I had the opportunity to ride horses, make bread, apple juice, chase chickens and feed cows, even though I was terrified of them and absolutely hated the smell of the barn. Little did anyone in my class, including myself, realize that by feeding the cows we were indirectly contributing to the so-called greenhouse effect.

Did you know that livestock’s burps and farts release methane, which causes significant damage to the environment by contributing to 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions? (FAO, 2013)

When I use the term “livestock”, it encompasses cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese, basically animals that are raised to either produce edible products or for economic activity (FAO, 2013).

Greenhouse gasses emitted by economic area (Steve, 2015)


Methane is a pollutant gas released by human activities such as by the energy and transportation sector, livestock and waste (Ravishankara, et al., 2021). Methane causes 30% of the temperature increase, also known as climate change (IEA, 2022). Over a two-decade period, methane appears to be heating the atmosphere 80 times more severely than carbon dioxide (UNEP, 2021).

A large part of emissions originates from the production of beef, accounting for 41% of the agriculture sector and cow’s milk, representing 20% of the industry’s emissions. Pigs are responsible for 9% of emissions, while poultry (meat and eggs) is the source of 8% of total sector’s output (FAO, 2013).

When digesting their food, cows generate methane. The volume of methane generated by livestock varies according to the quantity of animals, their digestive systems, and their food intake. Ruminants are the main source of methane emissions from livestock because they produce the greatest amount of methane per unit of feed consumed (Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Agriculture and Food, 2022). About 95% of the methane emitted by cows is discharged in the form of burps, while the remaining 5% is generated by flatulence (Torgovnick May, 2018).

Generation of methane in the foregut of a cow (NZAGRC, 2019)


The most effective solution to remedy this issue is to reduce methane emissions. One approach that researchers have discovered lies in the seaweed “Asparagopsis taxiformis”. The solution lies in adding a quantity of this specific seaweed to the feed of cows. This alga is able to reduce methane released by cows’ belching and intestinal gas to a level that is nearly inexistant, namely 1%. In addition, this alternative does not impact the meat and milk quality or productivity and health of the animals. The cattle are satiated with a lighter amount, thus cutting their feed consumption by 14%. This alternative also presents cost benefits for farmers as it is cheaper to use in the long term. This makes the agriculture and especially cattle raising more ecologically and financially sustainable (Roque, et al., 2021).

The current implications of methane on humans are pretty consequent, and thus switching to the alternative solution and cutting 45% methane emissions, representing 180 tonnes per year, would prevent a temperature rise of 0.3 C° by 2040. Furthermore, it would save 255,000 people from early death, avoid 775,000 hospital visits caused by asthma, prevent the loss of 73 billion work hours from exposure to intense temperatures and avoid the annual destruction of 26 million tons of harvests worldwide (Ravishankara, et al., 2021). Efforts to mitigate methane also support several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as SDG 2 “Zero Hunger”, SDG 3 “Good Health and Well-being” as well as SDG 13 “Climate Action” (Ravishankara, et al., 2021).

Red seaweed – Asparagopsis taxiformis (Azzopardi, 2019)


Even though this solution is a good alternative, it does not solve the overproduction issue that humans cause. For instance, something I find horrifying is that farmers inseminate their cows to satisfy the demand for milk and meat. Cows should not be forced to give birth if they do not conceive naturally. Instead, wouldn’t it be simpler and more ethical to just reduce our meat consumption rather than trying to always find alternatives to solve the problems we are creating as humans, just for our own comfort, even though overconsuming meat does actually impact us negatively as it endangers our health (Westhoek, et al., 2015)?

Greenpeace European Unit (2020) disclosed that Europeans consume much more meat than needed and should cut their consumption by 70% until 2030 to ensure sustainability. This involves that individuals would consume the equivalent of 460 gm of meat, representing approximately 3 burgers a week, knowing that the current European average stands at 1.58 kg per week. The recommended level of meat consumption has been calculated wisely and would not put our health at risk.


I believe that by combining these two solutions, we could contribute to our present and future well-being. As in many other areas, it will be very complicated, if not impossible, to achieve total sustainability. However, in order to create a better world and, more importantly, to be part of it, every single individual on earth will be required to make efforts in terms of consumerism and each of us will be obliged to sacrifice our own comfort.


Azzopardi, B. (2019, January 29). Asparagopsis taxiformis (Rotalge). Retrieved from Atlantis Diving: https://www.atlantisgozo.com/de/asparagopsis-taxiformis-red-algae/

Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s Agriculture and Food. (2022, February 1). Carbon farming: reducing methane emissions from cattle using feed additives. Retrieved from Government of Western Australia: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/climate-change/carbon-farming-reducing-methane-emissions-cattle-using-feed-additives#:~:text=The%20amount%20of%20methane%20emitted,per%20unit%20of%20feed%20consumed.

FAO. (2013). Tackling Climate Change through Livestock. A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Rome: FAO. Retrieved from https://www.fao.org/3/i3437e/i3437e.pdf

Greenpeace European Unit. (2020, March 13). EU climate diet: 71% less meat by 2030. Retrieved from Greenpeace: https://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/issues/nature-food/2664/eu-climate-diet-71-less-meat-by-2030/#:~:text=Brussels%20%E2%80%93%20Meat%20consumption%20in%20the,to%20new%20analysis%20by%20Greenpeace.

IEA. (2022, February 23). Global Methane Tracker 2022. Retrieved from IEA: https://www.iea.org/reports/global-methane-tracker-2022

NZAGRC. (2019). The science of methane. Retrieved from New Zealand agricultural greenhouse gas research centre: https://www.nzagrc.org.nz/domestic/methane-research-programme/the-science-of-methane/

Ravishankara, A. R.;Kuylenstierna, J.C.I.; Michalopoulou, E. ; HöglundIsaksson, L.; Zhang, Y.; Seltzer, K.; Ru, M.; Castelino, R.; Faluvegi, G.; Naik, V.; Horowitz, L.; He, J.; Lamarque, J. F.; Sudo, K.; Collins, W. J.; Malley, C.; Harmsen, M.; Stark, K.; Junkin, J.; Li, G.; Glick, A. & Borgford-Parnell, N. (2021, May 6). Global Methane Assessment: Benefits and Costs of Mitigating Methane Emissions. Retrieved from UNEP: https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/35913/GMA.pdf

Roque, B. M., Marielena, V., Kinley, R. D., De Nys, R., Duarte, T. L., Yang, X., & Ermias, K. (2021, March 17). Red seaweed (Asparagopsis taxiformis) supplementation reduces enteric methane by over 80 percent in beef steers. Retrieved from PLOS ONE: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247820&type=printable

Steve, G. (2015, October 9). Can we make cow burps climate-friendly? Retrieved from European Commission: https://ec.europa.eu/research-and-innovation/en/horizon-magazine/can-we-make-cow-burps-climate-friendly

Torgovnick May, K. (2018, September 27). IDEAS.TED. Retrieved from Methane isn’t just cow farts; it’s also cow burps (and other weird facts you didn’t know about this potent greenhouse gas): https://ideas.ted.com/methane-isnt-just-cow-farts-its-also-cow-burps-and-other-weird-facts-you-didnt-know-about-this-potent-greenhouse-gas/

UNEP. (2021, August 20). Methane emissions are driving climate change. Here’s how to reduce them. Retrieved from UNEP: https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/story/methane-emissions-are-driving-climate-change-heres-how-reduce-them

Westhoek, H., Lesschen, J.P., Leip, A., Rood, T., Wagner, S., De Marco, A., Murphy-Bokern, D., Pallière, C., Howard, C.M., Oenema, O. & Sutton, M.A. (2015). Nitrogen on the Table: The influence of food choices on nitrogen emissions and the European environment. (C. H. Sutton, Ed.) Retrieved from INMS: https://www.inms.international/sites/inms.international/files/Nitrogen_on_the_Table_Report_WEB.pdf

Let’s talk about contact lenses and their impact on the environment


Plastic waste is a key issue. A current estimate assumes that around 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic waste enter the oceans every year. However, only a small part swims on the surface, the rest is drawn into deeper waters or onto the sea floor. Many animal species are affected by plastic waste and even eat it and therefore the plastic enters the natural food chain (WWF, 2020). When using contact lenses, there is a lot of waste, which is not biodegradable because they are made of plastic. The use of contact lenses thus contributes to the single-use plastic problem. But how does this happen?


Contact lenses have been used for decades to correct vision. More than 150 million people use contact lenses today (Moreddu et al., 2019). According to a Statista survey , around 4.2 % of the Swiss population wore weekly or bi-weekly lenses in 2021 (Statista, 2022). Most modern contact lenses are made of silicone hydrogel. In addition, there are also older models which are manufactured as pure hydrogel contact lenses. Contact lenses improve the lives of many people (Wilhelmi, 2022). However, the issue of the plastic waste produced by contact lenses is often forgotten. The use of contact lens products by end consumers comprises 0.5 % of the total environmental waste (Morgan et al., 2003). The materials used to make contact lenses are different from other plastic waste. Most plastic waste from the contact lenses themselves and their packaging end up in the ocean or in landfill. Plastic can take up to 500 years to fully degrade in landfills or in the ocean (Optical Express, 2019). Optical Express surveyed over 3’000 contact lens users across the UK in 2019. The survey showed that 95 % of those surveyed discard their contact lenses in the trash or simply flush them down the toilet. Only 3% of people recycle their lenses (Optical Express, 2019). This is a huge problem. According to researchers, the bonds of the plastic polymers of contact lenses change in sewage treatment plants under the influence of microbes. However, the contact lenses are not degraded in this process. The contact lenses lose their structure and break down into smaller plastic particles, which lead to microplastics. Microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life (NOAA, 2021). Microplastics pollute the oceans and are eaten by marine animals and thus enter the food chain.

Contact lenses (Dougherty Laservision, 2022)

What can be done?

In principle, all contact lens waste can be recycled. Nowadays, a lot of materials science research is being done to better recycle plastic waste. Today’s recycling process is both time-consuming and expensive, as materials must be sorted first. Recycled plastic is often a poor-quality polymer that cannot be used for many materials today. New advances are being made towards chemically recyclable materials, which requires less energy.

Which Plastics Are Recyclable? (Contact Lens Spectrum, 2019)

The correct disposal of contact lenses and their packaging can be changed by the consumer and retailer. Consumers should never flush contact lenses down the toilet, otherwise the structure of the plastic will decompose in the sewage treatment plant and end up as microplastic. According to Optical Express 2 out of every 3 patients are unaware of the impact contact lenses have on the environment (Optical Express, 2019). Contact lenses should always be disposed in the trash can. Most packaging is made of cardboard and plastic, which can be recycled. Extended wear contact lenses, as opposed to daily, are better for the environment as they result in less plastic waste. Even better is choosing to wear glasses or eye laser surgery.


Moreddu R., Vigolo D., Yetisen Ali K., 2019. “Contact Lens Technology: From Fundamentals to Applications”. (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

Morgan Sarah L., Morgan Philip B., Efron N., 2003. “Environmental impact of three replacement modalities of soft contact lens wear”. (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

WWF, 2020. “Plastikmüll im Meer – die wichtigsten Antworten”. Online: https://www.wwf.de/themen-projekte/plastik/unsere-ozeane-versinken-im-plastikmuell/plastikmuell-im-meer-die-wichtigsten-antworten#:~:text=Das%20entspricht%20einer%20Lastwagenladung%20pro,etwa%2080%20Millionen%20Tonnen%20angesammelt (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

Statista, Stewart C., 2022. “Share of population aged 15-64 old who wear contact lenses in Switzerland from 2021, by type of lens”. Online: https://www.statista.com/statistics/431220/penetration-of-individuals-who-wear-contact-lens-by-type-of-lens-in-switzerland/ (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

Optical Express, 2019. “97% of contact lens users are damaging the environment”. Online: https://www.opticalexpress.co.uk/magazine/article/97-of-contact-lens-users-are-damaging-the-environment#:~:text=97%25%20of%20contact%20lens%20users%20are%20damaging%20the%20environment&text=Vast%20amounts%20of%20plastic%20are,ending%20up%20in%20the%20oceans. (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

NOAA, 2021. “What are microplastics?” Online: https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

Dougherty Laservision, 2022. “Contact lenses harming the environment”. Online: https://www.doughertylaservision.com/vision-blog/contact-lenses-harming-environment/ (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

Wilhelmi A., 2022. “Environmental Impacts of Contact Lens Waste”. (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

Contact Lens Spectrum, Yeung K., Davis R., 2019. “The environmental impact of contact lens waste”. Online: https://www.clspectrum.com/issues/2019/august-2019/the-environmental-impact-of-contact-lens-waste (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

Country Living, Avis-Riordan K., Cornish N., 2019. “Acuvue launches new eco-friendly way to dispose of your contact lenses”. Online: https://www.countryliving.com/uk/wildlife/countryside/a22797174/eco-friendly-way-dispose-contact-lenses/#:~:text=Now%2C%20Johnson%20%26%20Johnson%20Vision%20is,and%20foil%20packaging%20after%20use. (Accessed 3 June, 2022)

Saving the Swiss Glaciers


In the last twenty years, the glaciers of the Alps have lost more than one sixth of their volume. These are the findings of a study conducted in June 2020. For the first time, it was possible to examine the entire Alpine region and not just individual glaciers and regions(Vom Sterben der Gletscher | WWF Schweiz, o. J.). In total, the glaciers of the Alps lost 22 cubic kilometers of ice between 2000 and 2014. This amounts to an ice cover decline of more than half a meter over the entire area of Switzerland (Vom Sterben der Gletscher | WWF Schweiz, o. J.).

The Swiss National Centre for Climate Services (NCCS) writes that the glacier scenarios show that a large percentage of the ice fields in the Alps will have disappeared by the end of the century. With climate change legislation, around 37% of the 2017 glacier volume will remain, but only around 5% without climate change legislation.

The summer runoff of the glaciers will be greatly reduced(NCCS, o. J.) and it is determined that heat surges accelerate the speed of the melt very strongly in addition to the steady decline(Thibert et al., 2018).


The melting of glaciers has a whole host of local and global consequences. Only a couple of those consequences are listed below(Smid, 2014):

  • The meltwater forms huge lakes, water flows down to the valley and there are more frequent floods.
  • The melted glaciers expose rock faces and debris areas. This leads to dangerous rockfalls.
  • The drinking water supply is in danger. Glaciers are important water reservoirs.
  • Sea levels are rising. The United Nations climate panel predicts a rise in global sea levels of up to one meter for this century. Of this, 20 centimeters alone will be due to glacial melt.
  • Wildlife which has adapted to the frosty environment is threatened with the loss of their habitat.

Possible Counter Actions

Many solutions are being discussed in Switzerland and some have already been implemented. One idea is to artificially snow the glaciers and thus build a protective layer of snow. Critics say that this is not sustainable in terms of energy, as the area to be covered is huge. (SRF, 2019)

Another idea is to reduce the carbon particles on the glaciers. Burning diesel and fossil fuels create carbon particles that darken the glacier. The darker surface cannot reflect the sun as well and so the glacier heats up more, leading to faster melting(SRF, 2019).

One measure that is already being implemented is to cover the glaciers. On the Rhone glacier, the ice has been covered with white fleece for years to protect it from the sun. But this measure is only a drop in the ocean: every year more blankets are needed, and by now they already cover an area as large as several football fields(SRF, 2019).

It has even been found that there is a possibility of building a wall around Antarctica. This can keep warm ocean currents out and protect the floating ice shelves from melting(Wolovick & Moore, 2018).

These are all very innovative ideas. And it seems we are dependent on them. Because it looks like the climate targets that have been set will not be met and the measures that are being taken on an international level will not be implemented quickly and efficiently enough.

Personal conclusion

As someone who grew up near the Alps, for me, the consequences of global warming are best seen in the glaciers. It is shocking to see meters of ice disappearing year after year. Sometimes I feel helpless, and I am glad that there are families like the Carlens, who fight actively for our glaciers and raise awareness(SRF, 2019). Initiatives and research that lead to the delay of melting or even the rebuilding of glaciers must be supported at the political and scientific levels.


NCCS, N. C. for C. S. (o. J.). Snow and glaciers. Abgerufen 6. Juni 2022, von https://www.nccs.admin.ch/nccs/en/home/sektoren/wasserwirtschaft/auswirkungen-auf-den-wasserhaushalt/schneeundgletscher.html

Smid, K. (2014, Juli 4). Gletscherschmelze | Greenpeace. https://www.greenpeace.de/klimaschutz/klimakrise/gletscherschmelze

SRF. (2019, Juli 1). Kampf gegen Eisschmelze—So wollen Forscher die Gletscher retten. Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF). https://www.srf.ch/news/international/kampf-gegen-eisschmelze-so-wollen-forscher-die-gletscher-retten

Thibert, E., Dkengne Sielenou, P., Vionnet, V., Eckert, N., & Vincent, C. (2018). Causes of Glacier Melt Extremes in the Alps Since 1949. Geophysical Research Letters, 45(2), 817–825. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL076333

Vom Sterben der Gletscher | WWF Schweiz. (o. J.). Abgerufen 6. Juni 2022, von https://www.wwf.ch/de/stories/vom-sterben-der-gletscher

Wolovick, M. J., & Moore, J. C. (2018). Stopping the flood: Could we use targeted geoengineering to mitigate sea level rise? The Cryosphere, 12(9), 2955–2967. https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-12-2955-2018

Shein: How to do “Ultra Fast Trashion”


Shein is the rising online fashion company from China which introduced ultra-fast fashion to the world. 2021 it became the largest fast-fashion retailer in the U.S. through the digital marketing strategy, which includes fashion and beauty influencer on Instagram and TikTok. The company now has even more app downloads in the U.S. than Amazon. To rise to such heights, the company takes the worst from the fashion industry like polluting the world through cheap polyester clothing, stealing designs from others and ignoring labor laws. Truly, a company that transforms our world into a huge garbage dump and kills us with their “Ultra Fast Trashion”.

Destroying the world

For Shein to produce their polyester clothing, they need tons of liters of freshwater which after processing of their synthetic fibers is returned into the ecosystem or the use of gray energy to power those processes. They need chemical pesticides and fertilizers for cultivation and as soon as those clothes are worn, they will continuously release a huge amount of microplastic to the environment. And all that because it is cheap.

Design Haul

The fashion industry has a general problem when it comes to design copyrights. Like other fashion companies, Shein steals the work of small designers. The reason is ultra-fast fashion, which needs thousands of new designs every day. In some cases, up to 40 designs are stolen from the same designers who present images of their designs on Social Media to expand reach and as if this was not enough already, they also steal the photos for their online shop. To top it off, they made a competition where the winner with the best design receives prize money and has a chance to present their own collection on the website. According to Shein, they want to give the recognition those designers deserve.

Exploitation of the employees and risking their lives

More than 17 companies that produce clothing and jewelry for Shein are located in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, which has a population of several million people. Most of their workers several years of experience in the textile sector and originally came from smaller Chinese provinces. The production facilities are covered with garment bags, tables filled with sewing machines and the packaged clothes. The clothe bags often block the way to the outside, most windows are barred and at the same time there are no other emergency exits, which not only violates their specially designed code of conduct but also the Chinese fire protection regulations.

On average, the employees in the production facilities work around 75 hours per month and only have one day off. These working conditions are illegal. According to Chinese labor law, a working week may not exceed 40 hours, overtime work may not exceed 36 hours per month and every worker has one day off per week. These workers are paid per piece they made, which means their salaries are higher, the more they produce. Shein also violates employment contract law, according to which every worker should receive a signed employment contract. However, most workers work without a legal employment contract.


We see once more, how far the fashion industry would go, to make profit. Sadly, Shein is not the only fashion company, which is doing questionable things, since this a structural problem of the industry. Shein just takes all the bad things on a new level.


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Rigos, A., & Dr. Brodde, K. (2017). Gefahr aus dem Kleiderschrank. Greenpeace. Abgerufen am 01.06.2022 von https://www.greenpeace.de/publikationen/i03971-20170718-greenpeace-flyer-mikrofaser.pdf

Rodgers, D. (2021). What the haul! Shein says its reality TV contest is ‘philanthropic’. Abgerufen am 03.06.2022 von Dazed: https://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/53872/1/shein-reality-tv-contest-exploitation-fast-fashion-khloe-kardashian

Shein. (2022). SHEIN Supplier Code of Conduct. Abgerufen am 02.06.2022 von Shein: https://us.shein.com/Supplier-Code-of-Conduct-a-1096.html abgerufen

SimiliarWeb. (2022). Top Website-Ranking: Die meistbesuchten Webseiten. Abgerufen am 01.06.2022 von SimiliarWeb: https://www.similarweb.com/de/top-websites/category/lifestyle/fashion-and-apparel/

Simplicissimus. (2022). Shein Exposed: Der schlimmste Fashion-Konzern der Welt. Abgerufen am 20.05.2022 von Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Go4Npf1hYU&t=1s

Waite, T. (2021). Knitwear designer Bailey Prado on having her ‘whole life’ copied by Shein. Abgerufen am 03.06.2022 von Dazed: https://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/53779/1/independent-designer-bailey-prado-talks-whole-life-copied-shein-fast-fashion

Walk-Morris, T. (2021). Shein surpasses H&M, Zara in US fast fashion sales. Abgerufen am 01.06.2022 von Retail Dive: https://www.retaildive.com/news/shein-surpasses-hm-zara-in-us-fast-fashion-sales/603160/

Young , S. (2022). Shein: Fast Fashion Retailer accused of ’stealing’ independent brand’s design. Abgerufen am 02.06.2020 von Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/emma-warren-shein-stolen-design-bee-hoodie-instagram-a9683551.html

New Trend: Buying Ultra Bad Fashion

The newest Social Media trend since the pandemic is TikTok. Watching a TikToker showing all her Shein “Hauls”. In the next minute she is ripping all the plastic bags open and the next second she poses with her new favorite outfits. But only showing the outfits won’t get her many views or likes. This will be achieved when she says: “You won’t believe me how cheap these cute little tops are – It’s insane!”

The consumers on TikTok don’t know much about Fast-Fashion, let alone about ultra-fast fashion and its impact on the environment. 

Fast-Fashion vs. Ultra-Fast Fashion

Ultra-Fast Fashion takes every bad attribute of fast fashion and speeds it up. In short, the faster production cycles and trends lead to negative impacts on workers and the environment. With the impact of ultra-fast fashion and their relatively low-price strategy, the disposable culture is now the norm. The younger generation buys in huge quantities and views their garnet as worn out only after a few washes.

The Environmental Impact

Water Usage

About 93 billion cubic meters of water is used in the garment industry which represents about 4% of all freshwater extraction globally. Not only does this amount might double by 2030, but it also contributes to water shortage in these production regions. 90% of these clothes are made with cotton or polyester. It is widely known, that cotton requires a large amount of water and pesticides to produce single garments – approximately about 2500 liters of water. Alongside the production, about 17 to 20% of the industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and the fabric finishing treatment. These chemicals are going back to the rivers and oceans contaminating them with toxins and heavy metals, not only infecting the animals but also the human food chain. 

Textile Waste

Approximately about 92 million tonnes of textile waste are created worldwide every year. And we are expecting that by 2030 about 134 million tonnes of textile might be discarded, even though 95% of these textiles could be reused and recycled.  Just as said before, the disposable culture is now the norm.  But what happens with our tossed aside garments? These are sent into landfills.  In 2018 around 17 million tonnes of garments ended up in landfills. This amount takes up to 200 years to decompose. Even up to this day, 84% of clothes end up in landfills.  

Landfills in Africa (Netzfrauen, 2022)
Carbon emissions

The fashion industry holds about 10% of the global carbon emission, which ranks in the second position right after oil. On average, the total carbon emission of the garment’s life, so from manufacturing to transportation and ultimately ending up in a landfill, is approximately 1.2 billion tonnes. With the current trends, the greenhouse gas emission in this industry will increase by more than 50% or higher by 2030. 

But what can we do?

At first, the packaging of the newly bought clothing needs to be properly recycled and decomposed. Instead of using the washing machines which pollute the ocean with microfabrics, it is better to handwash these fabrics. When it’s time to throw out the pieces it is better to try these new approaches. If it’s possible, restyling the old clothing or reselling them is an economical better solution. When buying a new piece choosing the right fabric is essential, even though it might be more expensive. But in the end, it’s best if we don’t buy from ultra-fast-fashion brands. 

How to spot a fast fashion respectively ultra-fast fashion brand?

Here are some common key factors to recognize these brands:

  • Thousand different styles, that touch the newest trends and change every day
  • Short turnaround time between catwalk/celebrity media and their online shop
  • Offshore manufacture, with a poorly visible supply chain 
  • Cheap and low-quality fabrics like polyester


Clarke, R. (08 2021). Fast Fashion’s Carbon Footprint. Von The Carbon Literacy Trust: https://carbonliteracy.com/fast-fashions-carbon-footprint/ abgerufen

Common Objective. (23. 11 2021). The Issues: Water. Von Common Objective: http://www.commonobjective.co/article/the-issues-water abgerufen

Kant, R. (14. 01 2012). Textile dyeing industry an environmental hazard. Von Natural Science: https://www.scirp.org/journal/CTA.aspx?paperID=17027 abgerufen

Rauturier, S. (01. 04 2022). What Is Fast Fashion and Why Is It So Bad? Von good on you: https://goodonyou.eco/what-is-fast-fashion/ abgerufen

Shadel, J. (25. 02 2022). What is Ultra Fast Fashion? Investigating Why It’s Ultra Bad. Von good on you: https://goodonyou.eco/ultra-fast-fashion/ abgerufen

Smith, D. (15. 02 2021). Fast Fashion’s Environmental Impact: The True Price Of Trendiness. Von good on you: https://goodonyou.eco/fast-fashions-environmental-impact/ abgerufen

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. (24. 09 2020). Report maps manufacturing pollution in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Von United Nations Conference on Trade and Development: https://unctad.org/news/report-maps-manufacturing-pollution-in-sub-saharan-africa-and-south-asia abgerufen

The date of death of the glaciers

Winter wonderland. Snow and glaciers as far as the eye can see. A fantastic mountain scenery with a white veil of frozen water. This is how we imagine the mountain world in winter. But if you take a closer look, you will notice that the glaciers are no longer as big and wide as they were just a few years ago. Due to climate change, glaciers are melting at record rates and retreating further and further. Do we really still live in a winter wonderland or will it soon be just a winter dreamland? 

“The glaciers are lost!”

Wilfried Haeberli

The Swiss glacier researcher Wilfried Haeberli even expresses himself in such a way that the glaciers are probably lost (Wagner, 2019). Since industrialization around 1850, glaciers have shrunk by about a third of their area and mass (Greenpeace, 2012). But is hop and malt really lost and we will only be able to marvel at the glaciers in photos in a few years? Scientists have been trying to answer this question for some time. But why are our glaciers melting every day and how can we help?

Glacier retreat of the Triftgletscher (Switzerland) within one year
Source: RAOnline EDU: Gletscher und Klimawandel – Triftgletscher (Schweiz) – Gefahren – Gletschersee

One of the reasons why our glaciers are melting every day is global warming. If temperatures on earth rise by a few points, glaciers around the world melt. Likewise, warm summers prevent glaciers from regenerating and increasing in size. Scientists have found that not only cool and snowy winters are needed to maintain glaciers. It also requires cool, high-precipitation summers. But what does that mean for humans and animals if there are no more glaciers? (Wagner, 2019)

On the one hand, glaciers are great natural water sources for humans, animals and plants. Three quarters of the existing freshwater reserves consist of ice and snow in the polar regions and glacier regions. When glaciers melt, streams form, releasing water. This water waters the surrounding meadows and fields, providing animals and people with fresh and, most importantly, clean drinking water. In addition to providing water, glaciers provide a habitat for a variety of biodiversity. Nutritious soil forms at the glacier margin, which promotes plant growth. This plant growth forms new habitat for small animals. If the glaciers cease to exist in a few years, an important source of water and habitat for humans and animals will be lost. Another aspect of glaciers is safety. If the glaciers continue to melt, it will be dangerous for people who are near the glaciers. The glaciers hold rocks and boulders tightly together and form a net around the rocks. If the glaciers continue to melt, this net will disappear and boulders and rocks could start rolling. This would cause enormous masses of rock to move into the populated valleys and cause damage at best (Wagner, 2019).

There are around 5’000 glaciers in the Swiss Alps. Scientists suspect that this number will halve in the next few years. This would mean that enormous water reserves can be built up during the glacier melt. However, once the glaciers are gone, a water shortage will result. In addition to vital water supplies and habitats for small animals, the reduction of glaciers would also affect winter sports. Entire ski areas could disappear altogether. If we look at the aspect of coastal areas, new problems form here. As glaciers melt, sea levels rise, threatening coastal areas with flooding (GreenPeace, 2019). The researchers of the NGO Climate Central have made calculations based on satellite images and artificial intelligence, which show which areas could get problems due to the rise in sea level. Among the areas are Venice, Maldives, Bahamas, Jakarta, the Netherlands, Mumbai, large parts of Bangladesh, Bangkok, Vietnam and many more. Thus, it is evident that not only the mountainous areas but also the coastal areas are threatened by glacier melt and thus the melting of glaciers is a global problem. (Manser, 2019)

But what can we do? How can we prevent our winter wonderland with its glaciers from disappearing? A report from RP Online reported that climate change can only be stopped by change on a global, political and personal level. Every country and every person must reduce their own carbon footprint. Solutions for climate neutral everyday life have to be created and renewable energy has to be used. There are many measures that can be implemented. Following are four points listed, which each person can implement and thus contribute to climate protection (RP Online, n d.):

  • Use public transport instead of cars Avoid long-distance travel by plane and ship
  • Eating healthy and climate-friendly food and not supporting factory farming (14.5% of total CO2 emissions are caused by processing animals into food)
  • Avoiding waste and sustainable consumption of products
  • Renovation of the home (saves heating costs and energy)

There are countless measures that can be implemented. For example, the ski resort of LAAX in the Grisons launched a campaign to help maintain their glacier. In the middle of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tectonic Arena Sardona above LAAX lies the Voralbglacier. Until 20 years ago, the glacier was used entirely as a ski resort. Nowadays, this is only possible to a limited extent due to the massive glacier melt. Therefore LAAX has developed a Last Day Pass. By purchasing a Last Day Pass, guests can ski in LAAX and contribute to climate protection. Each ticket guarantees to save 1’000 kilograms of CO2, thereby increasing the lifetime of the pre-algae glacier by 10 minutes. Also a part of the proceeds will be used for planting trees. The guests can therefore make a direct contribution to climate protection. On the homepage of LAAX you can see how many days it will take until the Voralbglacier is completely gone. Until today (as of June 3, 2022) already 4 days, 5 hours and 10 minutes could be gained and thus the Last Day of the Voralbglacier is postponed to April 7, 2056 (LAAX, 2022).

The last day of the Voralbgletscher
Source: LAAX – Last Day Pass (thelastdaypass.com)

As we see, the glaciers will no longer exist in a few years unless we change something. We cannot continue to just watch. We have to act. Every single person on this planet pollutes the environment every day and thus contributes to global warming. If we don’t change something today, tomorrow the world will no longer exist as we know it. If everyone could reduce their footprint, we would not only save planet Earth, we would also help ensure that our species continues to exist.


Wagner, A, 2019. “Gletscherschmelze” Planet Wissen. Available at:
Klimawandel: Gletscherschmelze – Gletscher – Klima – Natur – Planet Wissen (planet-wissen.de) . [Accessed 3 June, 2022].

Greenpeace, 2012. “Berge ohne Eis: Die Gletscher schmelzen” Greenpeace. Available at: Berge ohne Eis: Die Gletscher schmelzen | Greenpeace . [Accessed 3 June, 2022].

Manser, C, 2019. “Anstieg des Meeresspiegels – 15 Städte und Länder, die ein ernsthaftes Problem haben” Watson. Available at: Anstieg des Meeresspiegels – 15 Städte und Länder, die ein ernsthaftes Problem haben (watson.ch) . [Accessed 3 June, 2022].

RP Online, n d. “Klimawandel” RP Online. Available at: Klimawandel: Aktuelle News und Infos zur globalen Erwärmung und den Auswirkungen für Deutschland (rp-online.de) . [Accessed 3 June, 2022].

LAAX, 2022. “The Last Day Pass” LAAX. Available at: LAAX – Last Day Pass (thelastdaypass.com) . [Accessed 3 June, 2022].

Impacts of the ultra-fast fashion industry and tips on how to change our behavior

Ultra-fast fashion brand SHEIN (Utopia)

The ultra-fast fashion industry is the newest business model of the multi-billion dollar fashion industry. In order to achieve their goals of providing low cost, low quality, and trend-based clothing at unbelievable speed to the customer, those firms use unethical and exploitative methods. In 2019 the global consumption of clothing was at 62 million tons and is estimated to reach 102 million tons within the next 10 years (worldbank).
Because people do not want to run around living their lives naked clothes are essential. Unfortunately, the trend goes in the opposite direction, and people are buying more clothes than ever and wearing them even less. According to Sophie Benson, many young People do not like to wear more than once, sometimes even just for a photo. A reason for this is social media, where content is created, photos taken and posted and if an outfit is seen twice it is considered old (Sophie Benson, Refinery29). Social media is not the sole reason for this behavior as Professor Carolyn Mair writes in her book, The Psychology of Fashion: “As humans have developed and their basic needs are met, they experience greater motivation for belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. Fashion and fashion-related products can satisfy these needs… Comments and evaluations from others provide self-knowledge and can influence self-concept, self-identity, and self-esteem.”
In order to save money on this expensive spending habit, consumers use ultra-fast fashion brands like SHEIN, Fashion Nova, CIDER, and PrettyLittleThing. It can be said that the basic difference between fast and ultra-fast fashion is everything bad in the fashion industry sped up. Specifically, the trends, production, and in the end the throwing away are some of those elements. Most of these clothes are made of harmful polyester out of virgin plastic, which means microplastic is going to pollute the environment for years to come. Those brands are problematic for almost all SDGs, as they can be considered offenders to the progress made.

As part of the solution, the consumers are essential. It starts with every single person, but that is not as easy as it sounds. The brands named above should be avoided at all costs. A Guideline I learned in my training as a dressmaker is: Fashion trends are for unoriginal people. If you follow these trends, you tell the world silently that you have no idea what it is about. If you take a look around the city you start to see a pattern and suddenly all of the people look the same, as they wear similar clothes, hairstyles, and accessories. If you want to be a true fashion icon, you do not need fashion trends. Wear clothes that you feel comfortable in, with cuts that flatter your body type, colors and patterns for your skin tone, and styles that actually fit you and your personality and are not a trend. If you follow these guidelines, you are always going to look fabulous and never cheap.

Tips to Reduce your Footprint:
1. Buy less (obviously, but it needs to be said…)
2. Buy fair and as sustainable as possible (check: gooddonyou.eco, brand ratings)
3. Buy better Quality (6 Tips to recognize if garments are well made)
4. Repair, recycle or resell clothes before throwing them away
5. Buy second hand, swap, and rent clothes
6. Optimize your washing habits (7 Tips to optimize our laundry habits)

6 Tips to recognize if garments are well made (Sustain your Style)

7 Tips to optimize our laundry habits (Sustain your Style)


Benita Wintermantel, Utopia, 01.06.2022, Shein: Die dunkelste Seite der Modewelt – und wie man Teenager vor Fast-Fashion schützt, online: https://utopia.de/ratgeber/shein-fast-fashion-kritik/(03.06.2022)

Benson Sophie, 18.08.2021, Refinery29, One & Done: Why do people ditch their clothes after just one wear? Online: https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/instagram-outfits-wear-once (03.06.2022)

Mair Caroline, 15.03.2018, Taylor & Francis Ldt., The Psychology of Fashion (03.06.2022)

Shadel JD, 25.02.2022, Good on you, online: https://goodonyou.eco/ultra-fast-fashion/ (03.06.2022)

Sustain Your Style, How can we reduce our Fashion Environmental Impact?,2022, Online: https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/reducing-our-impact

Worldbank, 23.09.2019, Worldbank organization, How much do our wardrobes cost to the environement? Online: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2019/09/23/costo-moda-medio-ambiente#:~:text=Every%20year%20the%20fashion%20industry,needs%20of%20five%20million%20people.&text=The%20fashion%20industry%20is%20responsible,flights%20and%20maritime%20shipping%20combined(03.06.2022)

Let’s talk about littering on playgrounds

Littering is a social problem that exists worldwide. In some countries it is more prevalent, in others less so. There are three types of litterers (IG Saubere Umwelt, 2021):

  • Non-Litterer
    • Does not want to be caught littering
    • Does it out of conviction
  • Occasional Litterer
    • Does not follow rules
    • Does what his colleagues do
    • Does not think about it
    • Find everywhere a «hidden» place to dispose the waste
    • Does not have time to dispose of the waste
  • Heavy Litterer
    • Likes to do it
    • Sees no reason to not litter
    • Does it on purpose so that cleaning staff clean up

During my time as a community service worker in a day-care centre, I became aware of how dirty a playground can be. This problem is addressed in detail in this blog. The background to the problem is made clear, as are the possible solutions.

Global Challenge

The sustainable development goals are global environmental goals, designed to make our planet a better place for people, animals and living organisms. The focus in this blog will be on the goals Nr. 15 «Life on Land» and Nr. 3 «Health and Well-Being». For example, up to 7’000 harmful substances can be found in a cigarette butt and other waste found on the playground (Samson, 2021). As this is a playground, there is a high risk of young children putting this rubbish in their mouths and thus endangering their lives. In long term his problem causes damage to the environment, as for example a plastic water bottle takes about 450 years to biodegrade (Allpeoplecanplay, 2022). And on the other side the playground is going to be avoided by the people.

This picture of a toddler sitting in a playground full of broken glass and litter is heartbreaking
Source: derbytelegraph, 2018

Consumer behaviour

According to the IGSU there three types of litterers. A study by the KAB has shown that age is the decisive factor, not gender. People under 30 years litter more often than people older than 30 years (KAB, 2021). Another reason is that people get infected by the environment and fellow people. If the place is clean, less littering is done. Nevertheless, if it is already dirty, people are more likely to litter on the ground. (Potomac Conservancy, 2021).

The consumption behaviour of people who litter affect various areas.

Impact on people: Littering is disruptive, reduces the quality of life and the public’s sense of safety in public spaces and deteriorates the image of a city or community. Littering can also have a direct negative impact on people’s health, for example when children cut themselves on littered items, burn themselves, or put contaminated litter in their mouths (IG Saubere Umwelt, 2021).

Ecological impacts: Waste items have negative consequences for the environment. On the one hand littering contaminates soil, plants and water bodies. On the other hand, littered materials cannot be returned to material cycles and thus cannot be recycled. Instead, new resources must be extracted with all the associated environmental impacts (IG Saubere Umwelt, 2021).

Economic impact: Littering costs a lot of money. The cleaning costs for littering in Switzerland are approximately up to CHF 200 million annually: 75% occurs in the public space of cities and municipalities and 25% in public transport. In addition, high costs are incurred for prevention measures and awareness campaigns (Berger und Sommerhalder, 2021).

Possible Solutions

Austin Stanfel

Austin Stanfel’s (2022) audio described the problem in detail and offered solutions. It was mainly about putting multiple trash cans in the park so that trash is recycled properly. In particular water bottles. I support the solution proposed by Austin Stenfal. In my opinion, there needs to be multiple touch points where consumers are confronted with this problem. Posters are effective. Especially if the posters arouse emotions. People always act according to their emotions and if these emotions can be manipulated, this problem can be avoided. The emotion triggering posters should be distributed all over the park. However, people are unpredictable, so larger play areas should be cleaned daily. Further solution variants are in the hands of the production companies.


As a smoker myself, I am affected by this problem. Cigarette butts are very often found in playgrounds and cause great harm to the environment and fellow human beings. Young people are not aware of this situation because they do not have children themselves. Therefore, it is of high relevance that young people are addressed with this problem and that the competent authority of the playground responds to it, for the benefit of the children.


Allpeoplecanplay., 2022. Keeping Your Playground and Park Clean. Online: https://www.allpeoplecanplay.com/blog/park-playground-waste-management/ (last accessed 02.06.2022)

Berger, T., Sommerhalder M., 2011. Littering Kostet. Fraktionsspezifische Reinigungskosten durch Littering in der Schweiz. Bundesamt für Umwelt, P. 42–46. Online: https://www.igsu.ch/files/bafu_litteringkosten_2011.pdf (last accessed 02.06.2022)

Bisknell, E., 2018. This picture of a toddler sitting in a playground full of broken glass and litter is heartbreaking. Online: https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/local-news/picture-toddler-sitting-playground-full-2102015
(last accessed 02.06.2022)

IG Saubere Umwelt, 2021. Ursachen von Littering. Online: https://www.igsu.ch/de/littering/ursachen-von-littering/ (last accessed 02.06.22)

IG Saubere Umwelt, 2021. Folge von Littering. Online: https://www.igsu.ch/de/littering/folgen-vonlit-tering/#:%7E:text=Die%20Auswirkungen%20von%20Littering%20sind%20vielf%C3%A4ltig.&text=Auswirkungen%20auf%20Menschen%3A%20Littering%20st%C3%B6rt,Image%20einer%20Stadt%20oder%20Gemeinde. (last accessed 02.06.22)

Keep America Beautiful (KAB), 2021. Littering Behavior, Yumpu. Online: https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/read/34458506/littering-behavior-keep-america-beautiful (last accessed 02.06.22)

Potomac Conservancy, 2021. The Real Reason People Litter and How You Can Help. Online: https://potomac.org/blog/2020/2/1/why-people-litter (last accessed 02.06.22)

Stanfel, A., 2022. Keeping Your Playground and Park Clean. Online: https://www.creativesystems.com/keeping-your-playground-and-park-clean/ (last accessed 02.06.2022)

Samson, O., 2021. Warum Zigaretten so schädlich für die Umwelt sind, WWF Blog. Online: https://blog.wwf.de/rauchen-umwelt-zigarettenkippen (last accessed 02.06.22)

WARNING! This post may contain blood.

By: Sara Boderos

Our society has evolved substantially the last few decades, yet menstruation remains a taboo subject; something that we rather not talk about and usually keep in the dark. Perhaps, this is also the reason behind why we barely discuss the environmental impact of menstrual products. 

Although a menstrual pad or tampon might seem like a small and inconsequential thing, it can have a substantial effect both on an individual’s health but also on the environment. Calculated on an average lifetime menstruation, an individual with a period uses approximately 9,000 to 10,000 tampons in their life. In result, an average individual with a period throws away up to 136 kilograms of menstrual products in their life (Matthews, 2021).  Since the majority of menstrual products are packaged in plastic wrapping, they produce more than 200,000 metric tons of waste every year and can take approximately 500 to 800 years to biodegrade (Rodriquez, 2021). But that is not the only issue related to menstrual products.

For instance, in North America, approximately 20 billion menstrual products are sent to landfills annually. Landfills are one of the top origins of methane emissions which, according to United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), are more critical that we originally thought. IPCC has pointed out that it is not enough to merely cut down on carbon dioxide emissions in order to avoid a climate catastrophe, since methane emissions (another type of heat trapping greenhouse gas) has to be reduced as well (Matthews, 2021).  In addition, if these materials are burned, the disinfected, chlorinated and bleached pulp ingredients can end up in our food-cycle. This does not only harm the environment, but also natural species (Tu et.al. 2021).

Moreover, the production of menstrual products also does harm to the environment. Through the life cycle assessment of tampons that was carried out by the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden to discover their ecological footprint, it was found that the largest impact originated from the production of plastic tampon applicators and the plastic piece on the back of menstrual pads. These plastic pieces are made out of a type of thermoplastic called low-density polythene (LDPE). The production of these type of plastic components on tampons and pads involves substantial amount of fossil fuels, and a years’ worth of menstrual products has a carbon footprint of approximately 5.3 kg CO2 equivalents (Matthews, 2021).  

Additonally, menstrual products also harm our ocean and wildlife. On average, litter pickers find around 6 pieces of waste every 100 meters originating from menstrual products, which is equivalent to around 2 million items when outlined against the UK coastline (Natracare, 2022). These products end up on the beaches through people flushing tampons and applicators in the toilet. Even if it’s not a good option for the products to end up in the landfill instead, it is better than the product ending up in the ocean. Due to the chemicals and plastics, the products can severely injure the wildlife and accumulate in the ecosystem which in the future can increase our exposure to phthalates, dioxins etc. (Matthews, 2021). 

Source retrieved from Natracare (2022)

So what can you do?

To stop using menstrual products is not an option and I believe that everyone with a period can agree on that, but there are things you could do. 

First things first; stop flushing down your menstrual products in the toilet! Maybe not everyone is in the need of that reminder, but as the image above proves, there are still people that needs to take a lesson in garbage disposal. 

Continuing, there are a lot of alternatives to single-use products on the market. First, a reusable pad made out of fabric can be an alternative. However, its impact is strongly dependent on how you wash it: which type of wash machine, chosen temperature, wash load and type of detergent. If the reusable pad, on the other hand, is washed in a water and energy efficient manner, it does have a lower environmental impact than single-use products (Life Cycle Initiative, 2021). 

Source retrieved from Unicef (2018)

If the reusable pad is not your cup of tea, the reusable menstrual cup is an even greater alternative. Since a menstrual cup is approximated to have a life span of 10 years, it has less than 1% of the impact that a single-use product has. Even if the sterilization of the products is included in the calculation (such as boiling it or washing it with soap) it still has a significantly lower impact than the single-use alternatives (Life Cycle Initiative, 2021). 

Source retrieved from Galan (2019)

Not convinced yet?

As pointed out above, reusable options have a much less impact on the environment, but to make you even more motivated to switch to reusable alternatives, I also want to mention the health factor.

As one might guess, the chemicals incorporated in conventional tampon are not exactly healthy for our bodies either. According to Satish (2021) the material in menstrual products can contain around 0.1 and 1 part trillion dioxin, which is not only harmful for the environment, but also for our bodies. Even if the levels of dioxins in the products are regulated, it has yet to be proven if it is harmless for our health. In addition, even a small amount of dioxin can be extremely toxic for humans. For instance, The World Health Organisation has stated that “Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer” (WHO, 2016, cited in Satish, 2021, para. 3).

If you are yet to be convinced, I will also provide you with some financial facts. Depending on the length, regularity and amount, the average person who menstruates uses approximately 12 tampons and 4-5 pads each month. This results in an annual expense of $150. By using a reusable menstrual cup or reusable pad instead, you can save up to $6000 in a lifetime (CSUN Sustainability, n.d.), and perhaps buy yourself something nice instead.

In conclusion, even a small inconsequential thing like a tampon, can in the long run make a substantial impact on our environment. Luckily, there are great alternatives on the market that not only makes less of an impact on the environment but also on your health and wallet. As the quote says, one cannot do everything, but everyone can do something. 

Personal Reflection

When I started to think about topics to write about, I didn’t even consider the environmental impact of menstrual products; I just happened to find it when browsing through the internet. At first, I just considered it to be funny to write about something that is considered taboo, but it ended with a serious eye-opener. Menstrual protection is an absolute necessity, which perhaps is why I haven’t considered its environmental impact. After this blogpost, my mindset has definitely changed and next time I go shopping for menstrual protection, I will certainly consider the consequences.


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