What is carbon footprint? What can we do to help combat our carbon footprint in our everyday lives? Any tips or advice on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle? Tune in to hear what Stephanie Krubsack, Sustainability & Wellness Creative, Zero Waste Consultant, podcast host, and world traveler had to say.
00:00:21 Sara Januszewski
Hello and welcome everyone to the Flexible Packaging Round Table. Today we are speaking with Stephanie Krubsack, Sustainability and Wellness Creative, Zero Waste consultant, podcast host and World Traveler. And I am your host, Sara Januszewski. Thank you for being here Stephanie. Are you ready to hop into the questions?
00:00:44 Stephanie Krubsack
Yeah, thanks so much for having me. It’s fun to be on the other side of a podcast. Usually I’m asking the question. Thanks for having me.
00:00:51 Sara Januszewski
Of course. And to start here, can you tell our viewers and listeners more about yourself and the work you do focused around the environment, sustainability, and wellness?
00:01:03 Stephanie Krubsack
Yeah, definitely. So, I primarily help companies with their messaging for their sustainability initiatives, wellness initiatives, maybe their product or service. That would include branding, website design and layout, e-mail marketing, lot of articles, lot of writing on different sustainability initiatives, and social media. So basically, any touch point you’d have to share information with your stakeholders is what I work on. And then the second part of my business is also podcasting. Sharing these great initiatives on wellness and sustainability and then a new magazine called Person & Planet. Also, I should mention the podcast is the same name.
00:01:46 Sara Januszewski
Can you define or explain what a carbon footprint is?
00:01:52 Stephanie Krubsack
So, the term means that it’s basically anything that you do or purchase that creates carbon emissions. So that could include anything from, you know, your energy usage at home, whether you’re using gas or electric, that you can document add up what you consume in a month, in a year and then your travel, so maybe you take public transport, maybe your own energy with your bicycle, your two wheels or your car. Also, your flight. Flights have a significant impact on emission that creates quite a large amount and then things we may not always think about on a daily basis, what do you buy? How does it get you? That could include your food. So, for food, for example, that would include the transportation to get from the store to you and then say you’re buying body care products or clothing. What does the manufacturing process look like? So what emissions are created from running machines to create the fabric, to sew together that shirt that you buy? So yes, it’s all of that combined together. What you’re consuming and what activities you do is your carbon footprint and generally that’s calculated per year, what you’re creating.
00:03:09 Sara Januszewski
Got it. What can we do to help combat our carbon footprint in our everyday lives? And building off that, how can flexible packaging help combat that as well?
00:03:20 Stephanie Krubsack
Yes, that’s a great question. So, I would say there’s so many great tips out there of, you know, use reusable bags or things like that but a more general way I would say is to shift your mindset. Once you start thinking beyond yourself and your daily activities, your bubble, how do you get from one day to the next if you look beyond that, about the ripple effect of your actions and really looking at what are you doing, what are you buying, and just thinking of, the long-term effects of the environment, your community, all of that to really consider how can you support businesses, services, products that are trying to do a bit better and are conscious of what emissions they’re creating. Maybe they’re offsetting it through charity, they’re giving back to an organization that’s trying to find ways to reduce emissions, things like that. So just a general overview of how can I restructure how I think and I guess I could talk a bit about how that started for me when I started to get more into sustainability, I think for a lot of people nature is a good start.
00:04:28 Stephanie Krubsack
So, let’s say you grew up playing outside and you love hiking, you love exploring that is really I think maybe a starting point for a lot of people and they’re seeing different reasons for really thinking and changing their mindset that way, but I know for myself I started to do small challenges and looking at ok, what can I do? Maybe that’s something small that might have an impact over time, like for example it could be how you get from one place to the next. So, let’s say you live in a city, for example, Milwaukee, where we met, where I was living for a bit. I was able to go, I did a challenge, how long could I go without using my car? And I was lucky enough to live downtown, I went two weeks without driving my car because I could walk to the post office, I could walk to the grocery store, I could walk to coffee, things like that. Just looking at what am I doing today, what could I maybe do to slightly change that for the better? And I know in Wisconsin for example, that’s easier said than done. We don’t have a great public transportation option and not everyone lives in town. I know I’m missing my four wheels right now. I traded my car for a bike here in Germany, so it’s an adjustment, but there’s small things like that that you could look at. What am I doing today and how could I make small changes for tomorrow.
00:05:50 Sara Januszewski
Wonderful. Yeah, that’s great advice. As a world traveler, can you touch on the perception of flexible packaging in Europe and other international countries and how recycling differs from the United States?
00:06:05 Stephanie Krubsack
Yeah, so since I’ve lived in Europe several times now, it’s interesting to see what is done differently and I would say that for flexible packaging in Europe it’s quite huge and I was doing some research beforehand to get some numbers and there is some varying information but some recent articles that have come out have said that there’s about 80% of fast-moving consumer goods are in flexible packaging. That’s quite huge. That’s a lot so I would say there’s definitely more flexible packaging and more glass in Germany than let’s say aluminum cans. Of course there’s all of it, but one thing I notice is really nice for example if you’re buying dried beans like lentils for example, or chickpeas typically it would be in flexible packaging, you know, in a maybe sealed bag or a regular plastic bag, but here I have noticed a lot of programs where it comes in a glass jar instead and in the US there are states that have it’s called a bottle bowl. So basically, let’s say you buy a glass jar item or canned item, there would be a return fee on the bottom. I know Michigan does this nearby where they upcharge the items slightly, but then when you return the item you get that back. Here in Germany, they have that for the items and it’s really cool, I tried it a few days ago. You go to your nearby grocery store, they have this little machine, it looks like an ATM machine, and it has a little conveyor belt, and you stick the glass jars or items in there and it scans the barcode and then registers it.
00:07:42 Stephanie Krubsack
So typically, it’s like $0.25 euro per item. It will put that on a little slip of paper for you, print it out, and then when you go buy your food you get that money back from your bill, which is really great. I have seen more of an encouragement for that buy back program. And for example, I live nearby this really great organic farm and if you buy a glass bottled milk or oat milk. For myself, for example, you can bring that back and you would get that fee back. A lot of places are encouraging it, which is really good. Another big difference I should mention, landfills are quite huge in the US and again, it varies per city, the recycling program, what is done, what you put together. In Germany it’s interesting because there is a lot of, I should say a lot of the trash is hand sorted. For example, you put every plastic item into these light-yellow trash bags that they collect, and they hand sort them. And that could be like a yogurt container, or it could be a flexible packaging pouch for beans or something, and it’s all into one. And again, I found different statistics on how much is actually recycled, anywhere from between 30 and 60% of that flexible packaging is recycled, but the rest of it is, they call it waste-to-energy. So, they tend to burn a lot of their garbage and they use that as an energy source. It’s not generally going to landfills, so that I would say a big difference too. And again, I mean it is a varying statistic like what is worse than the other, but it’s resorted to energy, which is greater than just sitting in a landfill. So, I think there might be some positives to that, but yeah, it’s really interesting.
00:09:34 Sara Januszewski
To close things out here, can you leave us with any tips or advice on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle? You know, whether big or small, what are some things everyday people can do to live more sustainably?
00:09:49 Stephanie Krubsack
To add on from what I mentioned before about just a mindset shift about just thinking a little bit about your daily actions, things you’ve done every day, but I would say 2 main things would be how you invest your money. That’s probably one of the biggest impacts you can have by changing what you invest your money in. For example, if you’re investing in Bitcoin, a lot of us know that uses a ton of energy for mining, which is not all too efficient. So, are you investing in Bitcoin? Or you may be investing in a company that’s a little bit more socially responsible, they have fair wages, fair work practices, they offset their emissions. Where is your 401K money invested? There’s a lot of opportunities now that you can choose and select what funds your money is sitting in and promoting. So that’s something maybe just to kind of be conscious about looking into. And secondly, how you’re consuming energy. I mentioned a bit before about, you know, can you maybe make a challenge with yourself about maybe I’m going to take my bike to work instead of my car? I’m going to try to combine my errands, so maybe instead of running to the store two or three times this week, I’m going to combine them, and one day I will run all my errands to limit your emissions from your car. And then to try to take public transportation if you can, if it’s in your area.
00:11:11 Sara Januszewski
And is there anything else you’d like to add or shout out?
00:11:16 Stephanie Krubsack
Yeah, I would just like to mention so the new magazine Personal & Planet, if anyone wants to share their sustainability or wellness journey, product, service, I’d love to share that and always looking for great photography, sustainable art is really fascinating too, so I would love to share that in the issue. And if anyone is interested, it’s in digital and print on demand too.
00:11:42 Sara Januszewski
Awesome and to conclude things here, I just wanted to thank you, Stephanie, for joining us today. It was a pleasure having you on and great to reconnect with a friend.
00:11:50 Stephanie Krubsack
Yeah, definitely. Thanks for having me.