Earth Day 2019: Here's to better biodiversity – and better business - Sustana Fiber

Earth Day 2019: Here’s to better biodiversity – and better business

The world has changed significantly since the first Earth Day, just shy of 50 years ago. Everything from cars to clothes to how we communicate has shifted dramatically.

4 min read Jay Hunsberger

The world has changed significantly since the first Earth Day, just shy of 50 years ago. Everything from cars to clothes to how we communicate has shifted dramatically. One thing, however, remains: protecting our environment should be top of mind for all of us.

Earth Day is an important day at Sustana Fiber. Preserving our environment is core to what we do. Each year, April 22 presents an opportunity to celebrate this passion with others around the world. 

The Earth Day 2019 theme, Protect Our Species, is a reminder that every business can play a role in helping our planet thrive and support our global community by thinking about their supply chain differently.

We recognize that we’re part of a global community. It’s why we used key objectives from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to shape our own 2019 Sustainability Strategy. As part of this guiding strategy, we’re also prioritizing the circular economy – a way of turning recovered materials into useful new products. 

And in fact, embracing the circular economy – presents one of the greatest opportunities to protect our biodiversity. 

Protecting biodiversity, starting with forests

For us, it starts with the forests that are home to many of our planet’s precious plants, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Forests are also vital for lessening climate change, because they soak up carbon dioxide (CO2) that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere. 

To minimize our impact on forests, we source most of our fiber from “urban forests” – this is a key pillar in our 2019 Sustainability Strategy. In other words, we use recycled paper – from magazines, newspapers, promotional materials, packaging, boxes, and office documents – to create new products. 

Not only does this dramatically reduce the number of trees cut down for new paper – which in turn, can have a negative impact on biodiversity – but it also curbs carbon emissions that come from deforestation. Research suggests that paper manufacturing from virgin materials requires more energy overall, compared to recycling. Our own Life Cycle Assessment research supports this, demonstrating that our EnviroLife™ fiber – compliant with FDA standards for food grade packaging – requires less fresh water to produce and contributes less CO2 to the air.

Photo by Xipu Li on Unsplash

The environment is right

In a closed loop system, for example, a customer uses a paper cup, puts it in a recycling bin and it’s collected and sorted. Then, Sustana Fiber recycles it into clean fiber that becomes new paperboard for new paper cups and other products. And the loop keeps on going.

Many households are already embracing recycling, which is a positive step, but the potential for recycling to have an even greater impact comes when businesses wholeheartedly embrace it as well. By investing in recycling efforts, brands can have a positive impact on our earth’s biodiversity. 

The timing has never been better for businesses to make recycling a bigger part of their strategy. Paper is already one of the most recycled materials in the world. Plus, the industry’s goal is to boost it even further, to reach 70 percent recovery by 2030. 

When we look internationally, we can see that there will be more opportunities to embrace recycling further. For example, China’s decision to restrict recycling waste presents a major opportunity for businesses and governments worldwide to look for better solutions for the materials we throw away. 

We’re already witnessing this happen in North America, with major manufacturers investing in innovative waste management solutions to turn recycled materials into new goods.

The business opportunity

Along with protecting the earth’s biodiversity, there is also a strong economic argument for the circular economy. One report from Accenture, for example, suggests that the circular economy could generate $4.5 trillion of economic growth by 2030 – and as much as $25 trillion by 2050. 

It makes sense. Why use products or materials just once when you can repurpose them and continue their use for longer?

Businesses of all kinds can – and should – embrace the circular economy. Foodservice companies have incredible potential to make a mark by using recycled materials. Food containers and packaging make up a huge portion of landfills today. Paper and paperboard packaging alone – such as cartons from milk and juice, cereal boxes and more – accounts for 23 percent of landfill content in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency. 

For example, brands that are household names, like McDonald’s, set goals for recycling and sustainable packaging that embrace the circular economy – because it works. In its case, McDonald’s raised the bar for using more sustainable packaging as a response to consumer demand, citing that its customers feel packaging is a major environmental issue.

Of course, making these improvements to your supply chain is best when the impact is measurable. The efforts we make at Sustana Fiber for mitigating climate change, saving water and safeguarding biodiversity are significant – and we know because we make it quantifiable, through our Life Cycle Assessment and Sustainability Strategy.

Between influential corporate leaders and governments around the world, it’s clear that the circular economy and the power of recycling are gaining traction. Let this Earth Day be the day your business starts the conversation around your paper and packaging supply chain and how embracing the circular economy can protect our precious species for years to come.