What is being eco-responsible ?
A short guide for everyone
An eco-responsible person or entity strives to respect nature and the environment as much as possible. Don’t think that you have to go back in time and live isolated from civilization and society to be eco-responsible. You can change some habits to limit your carbon footprint. And you are not alone in this process!
Eco-responsibility : the different actors involved
As a citizen, you are part of the influential actors on the environment and sustainable development but you are not the only one. Eco-responsibility concerns many actors in society, from the State to companies, associations and producers.
The public actors of ecoresponsibility
The French State
The intervention of the State is essential to try to preserve the environment. The measures taken by the government can have a direct positive or negative impact on biodiversity and the environment.
The State can take binding measures to protect the environment, such as the obligation to establish a social and environmental report for companies listed on the stock exchange (carbon footprint and mandatory social report for companies with more than 300 employees).
It has also put in place emission standards for polluting gases and a financial penalty in case of non-compliance with these standards, but also :
- Process standards to reduce air pollution (e.g., mandatory particle filters on diesel cars)
- Product standards with maximum levels of certain components,
- The banning of certain products (banning of disposable cutlery since January 1, 2021).
In addition to binding measures, the government can also put in place incentives to encourage change towards more environmentally responsible consumption. This is the case of the tax incentive with the bonus/malus for the purchase of a vehicle, the tax credit for the renovation of a house and/or for the use of renewable energy.
The first sorting center was only opened in 1992 and children born in the 1990s have themselves encouraged their parents to start sorting. The new generations are the adults of tomorrow, that is why it is important to transmit eco-responsible gestures to the children from the youngest age.
If the family home plays an important role in these considerations, the school is also an essential actor for the transmission of ecological values. Every eco-responsible action taken sets an example and shapes the thoughts of tomorrow.
For example, it is impossible not to introduce selective sorting in schools from primary school onwards. But school actors also have the role of raising awareness among children about food waste in the canteen, water conservation or the consumption of local and seasonal products. Since November 1, 2019, schools from kindergarten to high school must also offer at least one vegetarian meal per week (based on plant proteins that may also include eggs or dairy products). Another step towards eco-responsibility and awareness for everyone!
Private actors of eco-responsibility
Producers of fruits, vegetables and cereals, but also breeders are also actors of ecoresponsibility. They can choose to adopt more eco-responsible actions for their production or their breeding:
- By choosing organic agriculture: no use of synthetic chemicals, no GMOs, limited use of inputs.
- By opting for sustainable agriculture: it is less restrictive than the AB label (and not paying). Sustainable agriculture applies to agricultural production that takes into account the protection of the environment, health and animal welfare. The basic principle is to optimize the economic result while controlling the quantities of inputs used.
Of course, for farmers to play the game, the State must support them. Farmers converting to organic farming benefit from a tax credit and other measures such as conversion aid and maintenance aid, the amount of which varies according to the nature of the crop.
The company is an ecological actor that weighs heavily in the eco-responsible balance. Yet the priority of companies is first to create wealth and employment (for 55% of business leaders surveyed by Opinion Way in 2018), well before caring about the environment (only 3% of leaders).
Yet private organizations are often singled out for their contribution to air pollution among other things and their lack of respect for the environment. Even if the 2019 PACTE law has highlighted the urgency of strengthening CSR, sustainable finance and the social and solidarity economy, the legislation remains below the related environmental issues.
Yet a company has many ways to preserve the environment:
- Check the good insulation of its premises
- Disseminate eco-gestures at work: turn off lights and appliances on standby, reduce food waste in the canteen and during coffee breaks, sort waste, limit printing and emailing…
- Set up a compost for organic waste
- Offer telecommuting a few days a week for employees
- Pay for part of the public transport subscription of its employees, encourage the use of bicycles by giving financial advantages, encourage carpooling and car sharing
- Not financing polluting industries…
Some companies are more singled out than others. This is generally the case for banks, known for financing polluting industries, but also for supermarkets and the textile industry. However, both can evolve to limit their environmental impact by choosing which industries to finance, by limiting food waste (tax-free donation to associations), by adapting to consumer demands (bulk for example) by investing in closed refrigerators to limit energy consumption…
An eco-responsible company is possible. However, it is necessary that the biggest organizations really commit themselves to the planet and do not surf on the sustainable development trend by doing greenwashing…
Some companies are fundamentally eco-responsible, such as start-ups proposing new menstrual concepts (cups, ruler panties, ruler towels) or those offering solid cosmetics, toothbrushes with interchangeable heads or bulk products with reuse of packaging (Le Drive Tout Nu near Toulouse for example). In another register, the We Love Green festival was created by a communication agency in order to make the entertainment more ecological and to give visibility to the associations engaged on the environmental problems.
Associations have the advantage of being non-profit. They can thus encourage many citizens and even companies to change their practices. They participate in raising awareness on ecology and sustainable development.
The Surfrider foundation for example organizes every year events to collect waste on the beaches but also exhibitions and screenings in order to make everyone aware of the good management of waste so that it does not end up in the oceans.
You also have a role to play at your level to limit your ecological footprint. Small gestures and changes in habits have an impact on a daily basis to protect the environment (How can each of us contribute to fight against pollution?) and especially to encourage large companies and the State to be more concerned about the problem in order to take the appropriate decisions.
To make it easier, companies have developed tools such as Yuka which allows you to scan the food you want to buy in order to see its nutriscore or INCI Beauty, on the same principle but to evaluate the composition of cosmetic products.
Of course, the main objective of these applications is to consume healthy products for your health. However, cosmetics and food that are healthy for you are by extension better for the environment (less polluting components, less chemicals or endocrine disruptors). Let’s see in the next part how to be really eco-responsible on a daily basis, by changing some habits.
Being eco-responsible on a daily basis
You have understood that everyone has a role to play in eco-responsibility. You can’t rely only on companies and the State to make the right decisions to preserve the environment. Your action, however small it may seem, has a direct impact: first because you are not alone in this approach, and second because you participate in the paradigm shift of companies to meet the needs of new consumers.
Insulation and heating
If you are a homeowner, everything starts with insulation to avoid energy loss and overconsumption (attic, walls, windows). You will protect the environment and your wallet at the same time! Remember that you can benefit from a tax credit for the renovation of your home and the use of renewable energy (solar panels, geothermal energy…).
Choose an environmentally friendly heating system and lower the temperature in your home. According to EDF, each additional degree above 20° increases your energy bill by 7%. The recommended temperature in the living rooms is 19° and 16° in the bedrooms.
The textile industry is the second most polluting after oil (we have written an article entirely dedicated to this subject). The desire to change clothes regularly, the purchase of poor quality products and the non-recovery of textile waste are for many.
Here, the same principle as for electronic devices: less purchase (of quality and second-hand clothes) and more maintenance.
Wash your clothes less often (jeans can be worn a good ten times before being put in the machine) and at only 30 or 40°. Protect them against stains and water to keep them longer. Say goodbye to the tumble dryer, which damages textiles and consumes a lot of energy.
Drink tap water ! Water in France is of very high quality, it is one of the most controlled foods. There is no need to buy plastic water bottles that will clutter up your recycling garbage can and produce more waste (even if they are recycled).
To save water, install flow regulators on your faucets and shower palms. Traditionally, the flow rate of a faucet is about 10 liters of water per minute and that of a shower about 12 liters per minute. Flow regulators can save up to 60% of water without loss of comfort. You can also buy eco-plates to install in your flush tank to save 3 to 4 liters per flush (i.e. 40 to 50% savings).
Sorting and composting
Sort your waste and make compost. If you live in an apartment, check with your municipality to see if there are collective composters. If so, you just have to get a biobucket from your municipality or an association and bring your organic waste in the collective composter once it is full.
If you live in a house, you can install a composter about 20 meters away from your house to avoid odors. Don’t hesitate to take a little training to take good care of it and obtain a nice natural fertilizer that you can use for your garden.
Making compost will allow you to reduce your household waste by about 30%.
Other things to do at home
Do you drink coffee? You can replace your espresso machine with a piston coffee maker (no energy consumed) or a coffee bean machine (to be bought in bulk from a craftsman). And if you don’t want to change your coffee maker, you can also invest in reusable stainless steel capsules. Simply fill the capsule with ground coffee and collect it after each cup to reuse it over and over again! In all, disposable coffee capsules represent 2,000 tons of waste per year and they are very little recycled…
Another eco gesture to adopt: bring back your medicines to the pharmacy so that they can be destroyed without risk for the environment. Do not throw them in the toilet. They would reach the rivers and would be “consumed” by the fish (hormones, antibiotics…).
Environmentally friendly travel
Outside the home, you also have a role to play in preserving the environment. Transportation accounts for the largest share of our average carbon footprint, with 2.9 tons of CO2 emitted per person each year (according to ADEME). To get around, it’s best to choose a soft mode of transportation, without a motor. Walking or cycling are the most ecological alternatives.
If you have the choice between public transport and your car, choose the bus, the metro or the tramway. It is the second most environmentally friendly choice.
And if you must use your car, try to carpool as much as possible and group your trips to avoid taking your car several times a day.
Maintain your car regularly by checking tire pressure once a month (under- or over-inflation increases your fuel consumption), changing your oil every 10,000 kilometers, changing your oil filter at every oil change and having your vehicle checked at the garage once a year.
When you go on vacation, choose public transportation such as bus or train (14g of CO2 per kilometer and passenger) rather than airplane (285 g of CO2 per kilometer and passenger). Choose a closer destination to limit your ecological impact!
Being eco-responsible also means paying attention to the choice of activities. Choose activities that consume little CO2, such as walking in the countryside, visiting a city on foot or by public transport, visiting a museum, canoeing, rafting… rather than activities such as go-karting, water skiing, amusement parks…
Eco-responsibility also concerns biodiversity. Avoid circuses, zoos, water parks with animal shows, bullfights, attractions with felines or elephants… The proposed law against animal abuse could put an end to certain practices such as wild animals in traveling circuses and cetaceans in dolphinariums by 2024.
Greening the office
If there is one place where everyone spends time, it is the office! Adopting an eco-responsible behavior in the company is therefore strongly advised. This requires several simple gestures to put in place :
- Bring your cup or mug and your coffee spoon to work in order to avoid disposable cups and spoons
- Prepare your lunch box if you do not have a company restaurant
- If you eat at the company restaurant, only take what you are going to eat in order to limit food waste
- Avoid printing as much as possible
- Limit sending emails, especially with attachments (use the phone or an internal communication platform instead if you have this option)
- Turn off lights when leaving a room and appliances at the end of the day
- Limit heating and air conditioning
- If you have the option, telecommute one or two days a week.