In a world where technology is involved in almost all of our daily rituals, there are some people who argue for its exploitative ways—reasons as the depletion of our natural resources for car manufacturing, or the youth’s addiction to the internet. Though, just as nothing is ever completely black or white—that principle also applies to technology. From how I see it, technology, if properly sourced and thoughtfully guided, can benefit the environment and improve societal dysfunctions.
A good question to ask is, what are you using to read this blog now? Is it your smartphone? And if so, what’s the material of your smartphone case? Is it plastic, wood, marble, or… brick? Hopefully not the last part! But unfortunately, I’m more likely right if I guess plastic. And it’s hard to blame the consumer or product designer because plastic has always been cost-effective for its function and adaptability. But issues arise when everyone disposes their plastic smartphone case every year and moves on to the next plastic case. If we think there’s something or someone to sort out our trash, we’re definitely in the wrong. Instead, that trash, multiple it by 50 states, is shipped to the landfill and remains there. It’s a short-term solution, but hardly a sustainable one for our near future or for the generations that come after. What if we created products that didn’t have to enter the trash, let alone the landfills?
This is where Jeremy Lang brings this solution into life:
His thoughtfully innovative business, Pela, creates compostable smartphone cases that can conveniently break down into organic matter in your backyard (we’ll be more technical later). If you’re new to the concept of compost like I was a couple years ago, compost is soil made from decomposed matter that’s added to plants so they have more power to conquer the world! But in all honesty, compost is a wonderful phenomena where you can convert—your leftover food, old newspaper, or anything that you mentally trace back to a plant or tree—into soil that is dense with nutrients for other plants. It’s how nature conveniently recycles itself ;^)
To demonstrate, above is a photo of my iPhone 8 Pela case next to these beautiful orchids! The rose quartz color and its unique flax speckles have remained despite how many times I’ve used it as a dart on cockroaches near taco trucks. Disclaimer: Never come between me and my tacos.
Astoundingly, even though this case feels bendy and strong like plastic, it’s made from something entirely much more sustainable: bio-based polymers and flax!
What makes the Pela brand much more innovative than any other smartphone case brand is their consideration for the environment as well as the consumer’s needs. Rather, Lang merged the beauty of both worlds, technology and sustainability, into one smartphone case.
But what are biopolymers and flax straws—and how are they sustainable?
A lot of the times we throw around the word, “sustainable” when it comes to the environment, but what does it really entail? For something to be considered sustainable, the material has to be utilized without it irreversibly harming the world, and it is easily replenish-able. Biopolymers and flax fit all these criteria because not only are they easy to grow, they can break down into nutrients that benefit the earth soil.
For those not sure what biopolymers are, if you dissect the word, it means a structure consisted of many identical life-like units. The bio part of polymers come from, rather than petroleum and fossil fuel sources, abundant and healthier alternatives like starch, cellulose, and other types of plants.
Aren’t all of these progresses impressive? Now that we’ve figured out to use other materials to mimic the durable and bendy properties of plastic, how do we visually distinguish ourselves from other recyclable/biodegradable plastic? Flax!
The bits of flax straws add an eco-friendly touch to the case so waste management can distinguish it from the biodegradable and recyclable pile. And if you think compostable = biodegradable = recyclable, then you’re in for a sped-up learning curve with me ;^)
Jeremy Lang didn’t just want to create compostable smartphone cases without educating the consumers on how to properly dispose them. This is because composting doesn’t just happen anywhere. There are favorable circumstances and environments to be had! Primarily, the environment has to have soil, moisture, traveling air, and sunlight. Biodegradability is different in that the “biodegradable” plastic can break down, but there’s a possibility of it leaving behind toxins in the environment. Recyclables, what we see daily of, are typically soda cans, paper cardboard, and glass jars that are often manipulated by heat or force to turn into raw material for future use. This, however, requires more energy to accomplish and the process is often toxic to the people who work near this type of environment. On the contrary, compostables naturally disintegrate with the assistance of nature and its friends (i.e. microbes). As a result, creating and consuming compostable products are the best ways to return your favor to where your product came from: Nature :^)
And this is why Pela’s mission is such a big deal. Pela is changing the way we think prior to AND after investing our wallet into any product—be it plastic or not. Because if we aren’t mindful (when we humanly can be), we create waste that’s diverted to landfills, and often, that creates a false disconnect between our consumption and social responsibility.
Landfills have always been man-made. Same goes with trash, or any type of waste. Naturally, a plateau of land was never meant to store our trash. But as our society continues to grow without the practical knowledge of managing waste, our trash continues to layer on top of each other without proper decomposition, posing a health risk to your neighboring communities.
As a result of this landfill issue, lots of businesses are centralized on reducing waste by creating products that don’t last. And contrary to popular belief, there’s certainly an advantage to it! Speaking from a business perspective: when you create something that doesn’t last and disposes itself responsibly to the Earth, you fulfill the consumer’s need for variety (because they’re always consuming different products from you) and you never run out of sustainable material to work with because you’re putting in what you get back.
I think what Jeremy Lang and I would like to ask you and the world is: Plastic is enduring and long-lasting for the benefit of the user, right? But when it outlasts your great grandfather, what is it really doing out there in the landfill?