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Waste not want not: designing out waste

Sustainability is now a key consideration for all businesses; from those that operate in offices who undertake regular business travel, to those working with the environment such as construction or transport, to FMCG businesses providing international products directly to consumers.

Over the last few years, sustainability has begun to seep into the earlier stages of business decisions, rather than coming as an afterthought which for long-term environment geeks like me, it's a great positive change. By considering environmental and social impacts earlier in business decisions, it means that many of the negative outcomes can be mitigated. One of the greatest negative environmental impacts of any business is waste, and here is where the concept of "designing out waste" comes in. Designing out waste essentially means that when a project, idea or product is conceptualised, designers can design ways in which resource use can be optimised and waste can be avoided completely. 

Designing out waste is not as black and white as it sounds, for example a product can still go "to waste" but if it is biodegradable (within a reasonable amount of time) it can still qualify as having waste designed out as it does not leave a long-lasting effect on the planet when disposed of. Biodegradability is a very important product quality, as it determines the long-term sustainability of a product, this month I'm taking a look at Form's very own natural rubber yoga mats as an example of a truly sustainable product:

- Machine washable wizardry! If you've ever Googled (other search engines available) "can I wash my yoga mat?" you'll receive a bunch of articles on how to delicately bathe your yoga mat. I find this curious, because your mat takes on a lot of sweat, skin and maybe even a few hairs after a work out session, and quite frankly if I delicately bathed myself after a work out, I reckon I would still be pretty smelly. So, can bathing your mat actually get it clean? Well, it doesn't matter if you have a Form mat, as you can bung it straight in the washing machine on a cool wash and have it come out cleaner than you after a shower! This means that the longevity of the mat is significantly greater than a standard yoga mat as you're not going to need to dispose of it anywhere near as soon.

- Biodegradability benefit: The Form mats are made from natural rubber, which is a renewable resource tapped from around 2,000 different species of tree. As a plant-based material the biodegradability of rubber is speedy, taking around the same time as a fallen leaf to decompose. The mats are a little thicker than a leaf, so naturally the decomposing time is extended to perhaps around a few months, however this is significantly shorter than the several thousands of years plastic would take to biodegrade.

- Skin superiority: What? No PVC, no silicone, no glue and no latex? So, no breathing in or absorbs toxic chemicals or carcinogens while working out? That's right! These mats are made of 100% natural rubber which means when you work out, your body is going 100% natural. 

More generally, I'd recommend looking for products that are made with natural materials or have fast biodegradable properties as these are often far better for you as well as the environment. Given the prevalence of sustainability in business, if you have preferred brands, you can often find out more about their value and products online.

By Rebecca Dallimore

Rebecca is a self-confessed environmental nerd, experimental seamstress, photography fiend and burger junkie. With a background in environmental management and nearly 5 years working in international sustainability she has an abundance of knowledge in both personal and business sustainability initiatives.

Rebecca is also author of Sustainability Sunday  an addictive, inspirational, eco-living blog: 

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