Eco-gestures or false good ideas?

Eco-gestures" are practised by more and more people. But what starts with a good feeling is not necessarily good. Fact or fiction?

The environment is becoming a major concern for more and more people. In order to get involved at its own level, many citizens are looking for tips and tricks, also called “Eco-gestures”, to join actions to words. However, between the multiplication of tips and tricks and the lack of information on ecology, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the false good ideas. Here is a non-exhaustive guide to sort out the true from the false, the useful from the futile?

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Saint Bernard de Clairvaux

1- Les sacs en plastiques biodégradables

The traditional plastic bag which tends to disappear from our shops, has a carbon footprint of about 10g of CO2 per year. The arrival of biodegradable plastic bags in supermarkets and other smaller shops has reduced the carbon footprint of our shopping.
But, are these bags really biodegradable? That is to say bags that once unusable become, according to the definition of biodegradable given by the Larousse: “waste that a bacterial action, natural or induced, decomposes quickly enough and makes disappear from the environment by converting them into simple molecules usable by plants”?

white plastic bag on white table

Researchers from the Marine Litter Research Unit have published a rather disturbing study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. The finding is simple: three years after being left in nature, bags made of bioplastics are intact. The only small consolation comes from compostable plastic bags, which disappear completely after three months. This is still an improvement compared to conventional bags that take 5 centuries to disappear. But the term biodegradable is here, in a way, an abuse of language. How to contribute to Eco-gestures? Opting for the tote bag? Not so simple either…

2- The Tote Bag

Made of fabric, the tote bag has been in fashion for several years. The ban on single-use plastic bags in France since 2017; has added an ecological dimension to this trend. However, according to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, for the tote bag to be an “eco-friendly accessory”, its owner must use it 149 times!
To have a positive impact, the tote bag must be reused as much as possible. So don’t succumb to fast-fashion, which some brands are trying to stop. The danger lies in the fact that the bag has become a marketing object; distributed in all fairs and other events.

3 – Don’t overdo the DIY, the example of laundry

The eco-gestures often advocate the D.I.Y (Do It Yourself). We are talking about homemade liquid detergent which damages the pipes and requires a larger quantity than a classic detergent. Instead, it is more ecological to use washing powder, as explained in the video above.

4- Thinking organic cures everything

The question is not to question the health benefits of organic compared to other conventional products, but its environmental impact. Indeed, from an ecological point of view, the model student of supermarket shelves is the short circuit. In addition to helping local producers, the purchase of these products is the most CO2 efficient. Because of the lower use of pesticides, organic products remain an ecological alternative but an organic kiwi from Argentina will pollute more than a classic French kiwi. As for organic and local products, we don’t have the words… they are our little darlings!

5 – Eco-gestures: Avoiding the photocopier at all costs, and keeping your emails in place

There is a cognitive bias here that can make us think that an e-mail is virtual and does not pollute whereas a printed paper is material and its pollution is somehow palpable. Wrong again! This practice is part of the counterproductive eco-gestures. An email emits on average 10g of CO2 per year. The main reason for this carbon footprint is the storage of emails which implies an increased activity of data centers. In La Face Cachée du Numérique in 2011, ADEME proposed several recommendations to become a responsible Internet user. Among its advice, the agency recommends, from a certain time of consultation, printing rather than storing or transferring the mail.

3 minutes and 24 seconds. This is the time from which it becomes more ecological to print the e-mail rather than to keep it in the mailbox. Beyond 12 minutes and 12 seconds, keeping the mail is more polluting than printing it in color. And for all your old mails, that you keep without really knowing why, don’t hesitate to test our free application that will take care of the cleaning for you!

So what do we do? Do we give up?

Of course, one should not despair and tell oneself that all these efforts are in vain. However, one should not abandon one’s critical mind and trust blindly labels and qualifiers that are meant to be reassuring. Thus, even if the term recyclable is affixed to a product, we must not forget that only 20% of recyclable materials are recycled in France. This rate is too low considering the polluting resources mobilized to recycle. It is recommended to limit our production of packaging directly at the source. By favoring bulk purchases, deposits and other sustainable solutions.

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