Posted on January 21, 2020 at 2:22 am

Featured Health & Beauty Lifestyle

Banana Leaves: A Sustainable Alternative to Plastic?

This article was written by Aneesha Nayak, a 17-year-old writer and youth advocate from Tampa, Florida. As the Director for Girls for Science: Environmental, she spreads awareness through social media and writing on mobilizing youth to advocate for a cleaner and greener future. She aspires to study computer science in the future, using code to make a social impact. 

The start of the 2020 year welcomed some of the worst climate catastrophes: the Australian bushfires and Puerto Rican earthquakes. The climate emergency is one of the greatest disasters of our time. What can we do as children of Mother Earth to reduce the harmful impacts of climate change? Let’s explore a sustainable solution to one of the materials that humans consume the most.

The Problem

Plastic is a part of our society as seen by silverware, plates, napkins, straws, grocery bags, cups, the products that we use in our daily lives. Furthermore, human activity has resulted in over 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic being produced till this date. But this daily practice has a negative impact on our environment. Scientists have researched that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans due to the high-level plastic consumption. But we can take action on this issue by limiting our plastic use and pursuing other sustainable avenues. 

A Sustainable Solution

In countries such as the Philippines and India, people are already limiting their use of plastic by using banana leaves instead of plastic plates as it is biodegradable and effective. Banana leaves can grow up to 9 feet in tropical regions, which creates a smooth, durable, and flexible plate for food in its respective areas of cultivation. Due to the abundance of banana leaves in countries such as Thailand, banana leaves are used in lieu of traditional plastic packaging. Because of this adoption, consumers are encouraged to limit their country’s plastic population by carrying bags and shopping satchels made from these leaves. They create their own bags by wrapping produce in banana leaves and securing them with bamboo. This eco-friendly product is saving tons of trees and fuel consumption. Inspired by countries in Southeast Asia, more communities are making efforts to use banana leaves as a sustainable alternative to plastic. 

An Alternative to Aluminum Foil

In addition to plastic plates and packaging, banana leaves can be a replacement for other materials such as aluminum foil. For instance, aluminum foil is generally used in the process of steaming as it covers vegetables and prevents them from becoming watery, but it can release harmful chemicals in the meal and potentially lead to food poisoning. This problem does not occur with banana leaves as they are a natural material. They release a sweet flavor and nutrients into the meal that they cover. In fact, banana leaves contain a great amount of polyphenols which are natural antioxidants. Specifically, polyphenols protect our bodies from diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and accelerated aging.  It can not only provide great flavor to one’s food, but also provide great health benefits.

Ultimately, banana leaves are not only advantageous to the environment but also beneficial to our bodies. Through advocacy and awareness, we can spread this adoption to communities worldwide. Banana leaves may be simple, but by adopting them into our daily lives, we are making steps to a cleaner and more sustainable future.

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