SCIENCE

No One’s Coming to Save Us

Sustainability’s gotta be more than just a buzzword.

Amanda Jones

04.29.21

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I have a quote by Robert Swan stuck to my office wall: The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” And Mr. Swan knows. He was the first person to walk to both the North and the South Pole. With his own eyes, he’s seen the devastation humanity has wreaked, in the form of melting ice. 

Most of us are guilty of believing this. How many times have I thought things like, “I’m sure someone in government is making the right decision,” or, “I really have no option but to drink from this plastic bottle.” Wrong on both counts. 

What will it take for us to wake up and fully accept that it’s up to each one of us to save the planet, even if it means changing the minutiae of our daily lives? It means spending more time and money to choose the right products from companies that actually care. If we don’t all do that, nothing will change.

The average plastic bag is used for just 12 minutes but takes 500 years to degrade.

It’s Earth Day, and we’ll all get a staggering number of commercially fueled emails. And we’ll all vehemently acknowledge that yes, we should take better care of Mother Earth. And then we’ll go back to buying our cannabis in plastic pouches and our lettuce in plastic tubs that’ll be on the planet for half a millennia just so that our produce makes the 15-minute journey home fresh. Or we’ll politely pick up our dog’s poop in a plastic bag and if we’re good people, we’ll carry it for the whole hike and then toss it in the garbage, where it will remain for 500 years. (If we’re an asshole, we’ll fling the bag in a bush.) 

Here’s a sobering fact: The average plastic bag is used for just 12 minutes but takes 500 years to degrade. Actually, it never breaks down completely, but instead photo-degrades, turning into microplastics that continue to pollute the environment and our bodies

And so it goes, as Vonnegut used to say. 

When Jen and I founded Kikoko, we wrote down some rules. One of them was that we wouldn’t add any more crap to the world. Also, we wouldn’t put anything into anyone else’s body that we wouldn’t put into our own. And then we discovered that it’s deplorably difficult and expensive to abide by these rules. 

You’d think our government would give tax breaks to companies for using sustainable packaging and pesticide-free ingredients. After all, we’re leaving less of a mess to clean up. But it doesn’t. 

It’s gobsmackingly more expensive to use eco-packaging and organic ingredients. For each plastic-free, recyclable tin we use at Kikoko instead of a plastic pouch, we pay 20 to 50 percent more. The compostable packaging for our Kikoko Honeyshots costs twice what it would if we used plastic. If you get Kikoko delivered to your house, it comes in a box and crinkle paper made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC) paper, meaning that their materials are harvested from sustainably managed forests, and are much more expensive than plastic packing materials. 

Our team scours the world for organic ingredients, and they cost us about 40 percent more than if they were laden with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Not only that, the law in California won’t let us put the word “organic” anywhere on our packaging. So we’re doing the right thing and can’t tell anyone. How can that be right? 

We already know that the solution, whatever the alternative to plastic and toxins will end up being, will have to be cheaper or it won’t win. There are alternatives out there, we just need them to be affordable . If I were a billionaire (looking at you, Jeff Bezos), I’d spend my money on replacing plastic, or at least on subsidizing plastic alternatives until they became widely adopted, to drive their price down.

Need more convincing? Watch David Attenborough’s Netflix documentary, A Life On Our Planet. His brilliant “witness statement,” filmed at the age of 93, hit home for me because I was a travel writer before becoming a “potrepreneur.” I spent decades wandering the globe, humbled by the staggering beauty of our world. But over the years, I started to see the reefs die and litter pile up on beaches. I saw plastic bags blowing in fields like crops, lakes drying up, indigenous people eschewing their traditional dress for offcast fast fashion. I also witnessed resorts commandeering the best of our coastlines and houses creeping up on pristine mountainsides. 

Yes, more people have computers and electricity and healthcare and houses, and those are absolutely basic human rights that no one should deny. But we have spread our rampant consumerism and it’s time to set a better example because, well, there ain’t no Planet B.

Sure ,Elon Musk has plans to move people off Earth to live on Mars. Hats off to you, dude. But honestly, who wants to live on a planet that doesn’t have oxygen or water or mammalian life? Call me crazy, but that sounds vastly inferior to the lovely home we’ve already got. 

This Earth Day, let’s all commit to changing a few things.  Here are some worthwhile Earth Day resolutions that won’t create much pain at all. If you do them, I’ll do them. 

  1. Recycle your Kikoko tins (metal is infinitely recyclable) and put your HoneyShots in your green bin.
  2. Don’t bag your veggies at the grocery store. Just wash them when you get home. Even those green bags at Whole Foods aren’t as easy to dispose of as you may think. They’re made of recycled plastic, and plastic can only be recycled two or three times. 
  3. Use compostable poop bags for your pets. At home, scoop and put in the toilet. Dog poop is flushable, nasty as that sounds, and that’s actually the greenest way to dispose of it.
  4. Refuse plastic straws in your drinks and kindly encourage bartenders to ask whether you actually want a straw before sticking it in your drink. If you really want one (why?), bring your own.
  5. When you order takeout, ask them not to put plastic utensils in the bag. And encourage restaurants to go with paper bags and plant starch takeaway cutlery. 
  6. Buy bamboo paper towels. They work just as well, and you’ll feel better knowing you’re not party to tree slaughter. 
  7. Consider donating to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and reference their ratings of beauty products and food brands ranked by their toxicity (you’ll be shocked, trust me). EWG also lobbies the government to ban the use of carcinogenic pesticides and other nasty food additives and environmental toxins. A brilliant organization worthy of your support. 
  8. Don’t buy clothing with synthetic fabrics and consider buying secondhand clothing. The fashion industry is one of the planet’s worst polluters (not to mention their deplorable labor practices). It’s cool to shop secondhand. If you have a GW Boutique near you, check it out. It’s Goodwill gone upmarket, and somewhere you can buy an Italian cashmere sweater for $30. 
  9. Get the easy-on-your-eyes picture book How to Go Plastic Free by Caroline Jones. It’s eye-opening with tangible steps. 

And here comes the consumer message that our marketing department tells me I’m obliged to include. Buy more Kikoko Cannabis Products! Because of the need for childproof packaging, the cannabis industry is one of the worst plastic packaging offenders. At Kikoko, though, we use sustainable packaging and organic, toxin-free ingredients. It is with great pride that I can say we’re one of the world’s first eco-cannabis companies. And it ain’t easy. 

Get out there and enjoy Earth. Pinkies up!