For anyone who’s spent even a flicker of time delving into the topics of sustainability and the green economy, the name Simran Sethi is likely to appear on a short list of go-to experts from the United States. Though petite in stature, this green media powerhouse is considered an environmental lifestyle and business guru. It’s a moniker well earned. Sethi co-created, hosted and oversaw all video and audio content for TreeHugger.com and moderated the panel on climate change at the first Clinton Global Initiative University to name but a few accomplishments.
More impressive, however, is her practical, straight forward approach to delivering a useful message that’s completely genuine. At a speaking engagement in the Midwest a few years ago she deftly covered a wide range of topics including the value of the three Es (ethics, economics, and environment) and the concept that when we throw things away … away is actually a place. But it was the prop on her podium that drew the most interest. Throughout her presentation Sethi repeatedly referenced the merits of the reusable beverage container on the stage floor as an alternative to the justly maligned water bottle on the dais.
As she spoke about the wastefulness of plastic bottles, joking that folks have become exceedingly thirsty in this 21st century, she also mentioned the problems associated with recycling plastic in general. Aluminum can be infinitely recycled and retain its integrity; plastic, however, degrades with every new configuration. In fact, when plastic is eventually sent to landfill, it breaks down into smaller and smaller particles that never fully degrade. These fragments eventually find their way back into the food supply.
Of particular concern is the non-recyclable hard polycarbonate. More recognisable by its recycle number (#7) than its name, polycarbonate can leach biphenyl A, a potential hormone disrupter, into liquids. A recent government panel has expressed concern that the ingredient causes neural and behavioral problems in children.
Audience members could be seen surreptitiously checking the bottles and plastic travel mugs they’d brought in to the lecture for the unlucky digit. As the number of well-meaning companies replacing polystyrene cups in corporate break rooms with more reusable plastic containers continues to grow, it’s important they take one more step to ensure the health of employees as well as the planet and opt for products made with safer materials such as plastic #4 (LDPE), ceramic, or glass.