Over the years we have been trying to find a "best solutions" for what to use to bag our food items with. Many folks have suggested glass jars for the local to Vancouver market. While that may sound nice, I have struggled with it as we can see laid out below. Yes it is something that can be great as those jars can be used over and over again; however, with the looming scarcity of sand, and the energy to produce those glass jars, not to mention the breakage that happens rendering them dangerous to dispose of, the question arises time and time again for me of whether it really is the best solution.
Sand is the second most used resource in the world, it's right up there after WATER which is of course the first. Sand is unregulated and its use is ripping communities apart and devastating vulnerable habitats.
I was born, and grew up in Guyana, and other West Indian islands up to the age of 15, when we packed it in and moved to the frigid climate of Montreal. It was a shock to the system for sure. The beautiful, warm sand beaches of my childhood were replaced by snowbanks, and all water bodies, often dark and murky, seemed designed to shock my system and had me convinced that I would die.
Fast forward to my 30th year when I went to visit Guyana for a few months. I had the absolute privilege of being able to spend time with a small logistics company that delivered goods to the interior in a tiny plane. As we flew over sections of the Amazon rainforest, the pilot Malcolm would point to sections of bright white patches, "Look, see that? That's where the rainforest has been chopped down, then they have dug up the shallow root system, and now, they are digging up the sand, they are selling this whole country off to any and every country that wants it. Often just in exchange for some bribes." That sand could be sold off to islands in the West Indies to bolster and improve their pristine white beaches, or of course for construction in other countries.
That moment, seeing the swathes of white sand like a checkerboard through the jungle, now about 26 years ago, made me pause. Of course, sand is a commodity. And as we continue with our rapid growth, with the need for more building, more glass, more computer screens, the abundance of silicone products, not to mention those golf bunkers that some folks love to hang out in, more of everything, we are running out. For those of you saying - "What about all that sand in the deserts in Africa, the USA etc, not all sand is created equal and so it isn't all going to work. And so, "Houston, we have a problem."
Below are some quotes from some of the articles that really stand out:
""Torres is a postdoctoral researcher at Michigan State University and the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. She said that sand is considered to be a "common-pool" resource, meaning it is freely available and because of that, the industry is hard to monitor and regulate.""
Because sand plays an important role in the ecosystem, any reduction in sand supply can have huge impacts for both animals and humans — from coastal erosion to habitat destruction to the spread of invasive species.
"There are so many species that rely on the sand in dunes or in rivers. They are nesting habitats for turtles," said Torres. "At the same time, they are also providers of ecosystem services for people. They are critical for filtering groundwater, for protecting areas from flooding and also for food production."
Black market "sand mafias" have also popped up around the world to meet demand, illegally mining sand often in the dark of night, which may exploit communities and regions that are already vulnerable."
""She adds that it is also critical to reduce the amount of sand that we're using — either by making artificial sand using crushed rocks, by using our current buildings more intensively, or by recycling available materials after buildings are demolished.
"For example, extending the lifetime of buildings, or building for disassembly. So already thinking when the moment you are building something, on how you could in the future maximize the use of the components of that structure," she said.""
Nehal El-Hadi speaks here, "It is turning into an urgent environmental crisis on the coastal areas of West Africa, where in Sierra Leone alone, coastal erosion because of sand mining is at the rate of six metres per year. Activists there are trying to ban sand mining, but it's not happening because now, sand is an exportable commodity.
"The demand for sand has meant that its price has gone up because even though sand is plentiful and abundant in particular areas, it is also heavy. So moving it is expensive. And as places run out of sand in the market, demand increases, the price goes up and makes it more valuable.
"So what happens when there are attempts to regulate sand is that people just start moving to get it from somewhere else. Attempts to regulate sand have resulted in illegal acquisitions of sand, stealing it and smuggling it. There have been headlines over the past decade of sand mafia, sand thieves, sand pirates. It's a pretty serious conflict and the conflict is between people who steal sand and authorities. But in a lot of these places, the authorities are implicated in the theft of sand. So that's another thing that drives the price up; bribing officials to be able to steal sand, but also conflict between local gangs."
From a New Scientist article:
""Xiaoyang Zhong at Leiden University in the Netherlands and his colleagues have now calculated that global building sand demand will jump from 3.2 billion tonnes a year in 2020 to 4.6 billion tonnes by 2060, led by areas in Africa and Asia. The figure is based on a central scenario of future population rises and economic growth, and modelled using estimates of concrete and glass consumption, and the floor area needed in buildings.
But there is no reliable estimate for remaining sand reserves, so it is unclear if the world can sustain such a big increase. “Sand, and the sand crisis, has been overlooked, creating severe environmental and social consequences. If we don’t act now, we may not have enough sand to develop our cities,” says Zhong.""
There's tons of info out there on what our demand for sand is doing. What it all means for us at NUT•HUT is that we are still struggling to find the best solution for our packaging, both locally in Vancouver, and nationally for shipping. I'll have an article up in the next while about why paper bags are not necessarily the best solution either. Stay tuned, and also, let's stay hopeful.
For now reuse, again and again those bags that you receive your delicious items in. The one and two pound bags are great freezer bags that can be used to store other dry goods in as well as all that fruit that you (me?) painstakingly pits, hulls and cleans to use throughout the cold winter months to give me sweet summery memories.