NotCo: Call for Micro-sustainability
Written by: Ruby Orim
Edited by: Fleur Allé
"The issue with the current “green wave” within micro-sustainability is that it is presented as a trend"
The everyday choices we make that may seem small but affect the planet in a grandiose way are defined as micro-sustainability. Examples of efficient micro-sustainability practices would be recycling, turning off the tap whilst you brush your teeth, and taking short showers. It also includes changes to your diet. If you are a pescatarian or a vegetarian, you are helping sustain the planet far more than a meat lover. In theory, micro-sustainability is an easy thing for humans to get right. It doesn’t take much out of us, just a few conscious choices, so why then are we still not getting it right? In a world that is becoming increasingly aware of the effects of climate change, sustainability has become synonymous with innovation. Indeed, this shift in sentiment has prompted a visible difference in human lifestyles. This change can be seen in food and beverage industries where vegan options vary now more than ever, the motor industry where Tesla’s relevance has skyrocketed over the last couple of years, and even the hotel industry, where hotels such as the 1 Hotel in New York encapsulate the pragmatism as well as the sensationalism of sustainability. Seeing the effects climate change is already having on our planet, this shift is welcome with open arms. However, in a world filled with unlimited sustainable alternatives, humans still cling to the old and unsustainable.
The issue with the current “green wave” within micro-sustainability is that it is presented as a trend. It is an add-on, a selling point. It lives amongst the normal. Paper straws are offered alongside plastic straws and you are asked to choose. Although this feels like progress, it isn’t good enough. If our world is going to be able to tackle the issue of climate change, sustainability cannot be an add-on, it needs to be the new normal.
The problem then stands to be that our current normal has been the norm for far too long. When asking people to change their diets, their lifestyles, the way they navigate through the world, one must consider how this affects entire communities and cultures. Take milk for example. Although fabulous alternatives to cow’s milk have gained popularity in the western world over recent years, in some cultures, dairy is a dietary staple. Not only does it render a nutritional benefit to many communities, but it is also a centrepiece for many cultures and traditions. Like many other foods, it brings people together and stands as a form of familiarity and identification. How then can we replace milk with alternatives with these alternatives that although are just as great, are not the norm? A company called NotCo is currently tackling this exact issue. Not Co’s mission is to use innovation to eliminate the use of animal products without forfeiting the tastes and recipes that communities all around the world have grown to love. Their philosophy emphasizes the fact that humans have formed habits and preferences that may not be sustainable but are representational of our values as well as convenient and accessible in our everyday lives. And through the use of an algorithm that sifts through endless plant profiles to create a product that replicates the taste and performance of milk, NotCo is paving the way for this new normal, one that takes into account how far what we have already built as a species and might find it hard to let go of. Their “Not Milk” milk product uses 74% less of the energy required to produce milk, 92% less of the water required to produce milk, whilst emitting 74% less Co2, all whilst tasting and performing just like dairy milk (The animal out of the equation, 2020).
The philosophy behind Not co’s product is important. Whilst we must look towards maximizing sustainability in every single system we introduce; we must consider the implications and difficulties that emerge when gearing the world towards a new path. It is not enough to expect global congruence concerning the issue of sustainability. Time for that is too limited. Instead, we must innovate the new whilst maintaining the feel of the old and dearly beloved.
Their philosophy remains our primary focus when talking about how to make sustainability the new normal both on a micro and macro level. This problem of perceived unfamiliarity, as well as inefficiency within sustainable alternatives, occurs beyond micro-sustainability.In 2021, solar power and wind grids supply up to 95% of the energy consumed in California during the afternoon (Roth, 2021). However, these renewable sources struggle to supply energy at peak demand times, during the evening. In instances where solar and wind sources could not meet demand, gas plants were brought in as alternatives or energy was imported from outside the state. These slight inefficiencies cause questioning on the reliability of renewable energies as a power source, even though it is simply an issue of technological inefficiency. Another instance in which sustainability could not match up with the trend of demand that humans have formed over time. This too could be fixed with innovation and alternative thinking.
The shortcomings of California’s solar and wind systems are mainly issues with the chain of supply. The problem stands to be that our alternative sources cannot supply our demands at the point of the day which we need it most. How do we solve this issue with innovation? Micro-energy harvesting is an example of a solution to this supply issue. Micro-energy harvesting is defined as the process of harvesting energy through minute extraction from smaller mediums (Di Paolo Emilio & Anirban, 2021). An example of one of these mediums could be a phone with solar panels integrated into it. Energy generated through these smaller mediums could then be redirected to larger storage units or used to power our smaller-everyday needs.
The technology and innovation behind creating alternative sustainable solutions that will pave the way for a greener and happier planet without impeding on human convenience, habit, and familiarity is far from exemplary. However, with innovative companies that continue to bring forth solutions for how the new can exceed the old yet maintain its best parts, we can bridge the gap between sustainability and our expectation of normality. The result? A new normal.
Di Paolo Emilio, M., & Anirban, R. (2021, March 24). Macro environmental effect of micro energy harvesting. Power Electronics News. Retrieved from https://www.powerelectronicsnews.com/macro-environmental-effect-of-micro-energy-harvesting/
Roth, S. (2021, April 29). California just hit 95% renewable energy. Will other states come along for the ride? Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/environment/newsletter/2021-04-29/solar-power-water-canals-california-climate-change-boiling-point
The animal out of the equation. (2020). NotCo. Retrieved from https://notco.com/ca-en/sustainability