Green is good: Inspiring ways to recycle

In time for Earth Day on the 22nd April, we’re looking at ways to reuse, re-purpose and reinvent. Here are the organizations leading the green wave.

Published 08 April 2020
Green is good: Inspiring ways to recycle

Sweat the small stuff

Investment research firm Corporate Knights has released its list of Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations. To do it, data scientists sift through financial and ecological data on 7,500 organisations in the $1 billion-plus revenue club. [1]

Leading the way with ‘clean revenue’ from sustainable products is bioscience company Chr. Hansen. More than 80% of its money comes from natural solutions that preserve food, protect crops and remove the need for animal antibiotics. [2]

Its ‘good bacteria’, for example, help stop food waste by making fresh products last longer. In Europe alone, these magic microbes reduce around 440,000 tonnes of yogurt waste. [3]

Buy or cook too much food? You can share excess food with people in your neighbourhood with apps such as OLIO.

Fashion faux pas

In second place on Corporate Knights’ list is Kering SA, which owns fashion houses Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen. By sourcing more than 40% of its products from certified sustainable sources, Kering is acknowledging the huge toll fashion takes on the environment. [4]

New lines, synthetic fibres and the strain on crops like cotton all pollute the environment. So much so that experts say fashion consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined. [5]

Thankfully, more brands are waking up to the damage. High street favourite Zara has promised to sell only sustainable clothes by 2025 – using organic, sustainable or recycled materials. In 2019, the retailer announced you can bring in unwanted Zara clothes to its stores to recycle – and take home new purchases in paper carriers swapped for plastic bags.

Follower of fashion? Consider a capsule wardrobe – a collection of basic but high-quality clothes you can mix, match and update with seasonal accessories. It’s simple, stress free and kinder on the environment.

Plastic fantastic

Our oceans are so polluted that scientists predict there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. [6] That’s why many clothing brands are giving plastics a second life as trainers, jackets and swimsuits.

One brand riding the refurb wave is Patagonia. It recently revamped its long-sleeved Tshirt into a ‘Responsibili-Tee’ made from 4.8 plastic bottles. [7] Refreshingly, Patagonia is transparent about the products that aren’t so eco-friendly . And that includes clothing made from synthetic materials – and repurposed plastic.

The microplastics found in synthetic textiles such as nylon, acrylic or polyester break down when we wash them. Just one washload of polyester clothes releases 700,000 microplastic fibres into the environment. They harm vegetation, animals and, eventually, us, as they sneak up the food chain.

That’s why Patagonia labels all clothing made from synthetic materials with information on how to care for them and help reduce microfibre shedding.

Looked at the label? As well as choosing clothes made from sustainable materials, you can place synthetic garments such as running tops and yoga pants in a filter bag. These bags help reduce the flow of microfibres into your drain.

Smart packaging

You can’t recycle the thin, crinkly plastic found on ready meals or the brittle plastic of takeaway containers. In response, Stasher has invented a range of reusable storage bags you can take to the shops and store fresh food when you get it home. It makes packs from non-toxic silicone you can wash in the dishwasher and zap in the microwave. [8]

TerraCycle is another company that makes a business out of reusables. It collects and recycles the problem plastics most authorities won’t touch – including coffee capsules, pens and plastic gloves. And it recently released a service called Loop, which lets you buy your favourite products online or in some stores (including food, beauty and cleaning products) in special packaging, which it collects, washes and re-uses.

Unsure what to bin? See which plastics you can and can’t recycle in the Sustainability Guide.

Homes of the future

One of the problem plastics we can’t recycle is straws. In 2018, furniture giant Ikea displayed its 'Last Straw' at the Design Museum, London. (It now uses recyclable paper straws.)

But it’s not all publicity stunts. To date, Ikea has spent $1 billion on wind farms, solar panels and sourcing wood from more sustainable locations. The company's on-track to use 100% renewable energy. [9]

And Ikea is helping customers become eco-friendlier with:

  • Induction cooktops 50% faster and more energy efficient than ceramic or radiant heat hobs.
  • Lightweight and space-saving drying racks that reduce electricity bills and wear-and-tear from tumble drying.
  • Energy-saving blinds which insulate and help reduce heating costs by up to 20%.

Cushions are covered, too. Ikea has pledged to use only up- and re-cyclable materials in its textiles by 2020. [10]

A smart meter helps you track your energy use and find ways to reduce consumption. Discover more ways to go greener at home.

Arguing the case for a more sustainable workplace? Corporate Knight’s research found that sustainable companies:

  • Live longer. The average age of companies on the list is 87 years compared with the MSCI All Country World Index (ACW I) average of 63.
  • Have happier investors. Between 2005 and 2018, top 100 companies made a net investment return of 127% compared with 118% from ACW I firms.
  • Have better pay equality. The top 100 have a lower CEO-to-average-worker pay ratio than average (76:1 vs 140:1). So, profits are spread more equally across the organisation.

Looking for even more top tips? You can find lots of useful resources in our Mind Tools toolkit. Find out more, here.

[1] ‘2019 Global 100 results’ (2019). Available at: (accessed 18 September 2019).
[2] Karsten Strauss, ‘The Most Sustainable Companies In 2019’ (2019). Available at (accessed 18 September 2019).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Holly Johnson, ‘Green leaders: The world’s most sustainable companies in 2019’ (2019). Available at: (accessed 18 September 2019).
[5] Ian Tucker, ‘The five: ways that fashion threatens the planet’ (2019). Available at: (accessed 18 September 2019).
[6] Ellen MacArthur, ‘More plastic than fish in the sea by 2050’ (2016). Available at: (accessed 18 September 2019).
[7] Emma Henderson, ‘10 best brands turning recycled plastic bottles into clothes’ (2019). Available at: (accessed 18 September 2019).
[8] Whitney Jefferson, ‘25 Eco-Friendly Brands You Can Feel Good About Spending Your Money W ith’ (2019). Available at: (accessed 18 September 2019).
[9] Kim Speier, ‘6 Eco-friendly Brands That W ill Inspire You to Go Green’ (2016). Available at: (accessed 18 September 2019).
[10] Ellen Scott, ‘Ikea will only use recycled polyester in textile products by 2020’ (2019). Available at: (accessed 18 September 2019).
[11] Karsten Strauss, ‘The Most Sustainable Companies In 2019’, (2019). Available at (accessed 18 September 2019).

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