Does Individual Sustainability Really Make A Difference?

Corporations exponentially create more pollution than individual waste. So, where does individual sustainability fit in?

If there is one thing that’s been relevant to our collective popular culture, it’s been the world of sustainable practice. While we’ve been able to normalise a lot of waste in return for convenience, the last decade has allowed us to respond differently. Today, there are so many new examples of how we can do so much more with so much less. 

Even though sustainability has become popular discourse, the question of impact has been debated. What real impact really occurs if you reduce your plastic use, save water at home, and stick to reusable products? Do your sustainable habits really matter, when the major amounts of waste and water consumption come from big corporations anyway? 

When we look at it from that perspective, it might seem that toting around our metal straws is totally insignificant when we compare it to the 14 million tonnes of plastic that end up in our oceans every single year. An example more relevant to the JuJu community front might shock you - we witness around 12.3 billion sanitary napkins, that’s 113,000 tonnes of waste, appear in India’s landfills alone, every year. It might seem like our attempts to use reusable pads hardly makes a dent in the reality of the world, especially when you consider most menstruators from financially underprivileged communities don’t have access to reliable, cheaper alternatives beyond the sanitary napkin.

So, what’s the bottom line? We think individual sustainability matters. In fact it matters a lot, and we’re not basing this on pure idealistic notions either. 

Reusing is more powerful than it seems

When it comes to living more sustainably, the spotlight seems to focus mostly on recycling, but there is a reason why reuse is on the top of the waste management pyramid. Reusing things makes an impact on multiple levels. For instance, it delays purchasing and disposing costs, and avoids the creation of using resources on brand new products. What’s more exciting is that over time, it allows for evolution and innovation to create better local solutions for waste management. One of the coolest innovations to address the plastic waste problem is a pioneering company MacRebur that uses single-use plastic waste to make plastic roadways all over the world. We’re also loving this Hamburg-Bangalore collaboration Bio-lutions that uses agricultural residual to create alternatives for packaging which can completely change the game and cut the need for styrofoam and plastic in  pad delivery packages. 

We hold ourselves more accountable and help spread awareness

If there were any truth in the idea that our small changes didn't really make a difference, then so many new amazing product innovations would not be.

the heart of numerous start-ups; our public awareness would never have bloomed across so many issues critical to human wellbeing. The reason we’re even writing about this is that sustainability is in fact on everyone’s mind and we can do the best we can. One small tweak to your lifestyle or piece of new knowledge can be a seed to garden your entire community with and thrive. Greta Thunberg, who started her activism at just 12 years old, said, “you are never too small to make a difference,” and it’s advice we should take strongly given her ability to have spread awareness at a global level at such a young age. She’s been able to challenge and ask for more accountability from world leaders and in doing so, inspired others to make smaller changes in their own communities. 

Our collective imagination evolves

Learning new sustainable tricks and buying reusable products (especially products that replace ‘use and throw’ items ) allow our brains to work differently. We are figuring out different hacks, cleaning and refurbishing tips everyday. This process creates spaces for us to study how some materials can last us for so long with just a little care.  As we start to explore what sustainability means to us, a natural wave of changes happen within our towns and cities. For example, the community garden located at The University of New Castle, Australia, grow fruit, vegetables and herbs that feature two water tanks, a compost bin, a solar pump and six raised beds. They have regular events and invite students and faculty to learn, garden, and create spaces to keep sustainability an actual part of their lives. 

Another exquisitely important thing to remember? Most change takes time. What seems radical today will be common and benign in a few years. The menstrual cup was invented back in 1937 when actress Leona Chalmers was the first woman to patent and bring to market a menstrual cup. It was exceedingly taboo then, and many smaller companies tried (with different degrees of minor success) over the next few decades. In fact, it was still a very taboo thing to sell even twenty years ago and only in the last ten did it become more common to freely discuss menstrual comfort. Good things take time and we must be patient with ourselves and the world as we move to create change together.

 What do you think about the power of individual sustainability? Have you made any changes you’d like to share with us? We’d love to hear in the comments!