I once got into a fight with the CEO of the company where I work over the question if the industry or the consumers are responsible for the current environmental destruction in this world. He said consumers like me (and I quote) are and I told him he was dead wrong; industry leaders like him are. (No, didn’t get fired, though some colleagues feared for my survival, and I’m pretty sure I’m on the black list.)
If I had to put a number on it I’d say the industry carries 75% of the responsibility and we only 25. At best, I’d accept a 50/50. Here’s why.
Heading home from work, super late and hungry, I might stop at a coffee shop or gas station for human fuel. Pretty fast, I will discover that there is 1. No tasty vegan food (and no, kale chips don’t count) and 2. Everything is wrapped in or packed in plastic. Not minimalistic style plastic either – huge boxes, double wrap. Should conscious consumers skip the snack because the industry only provides us with bad eco-choices?
There are countless situations like this, where consumers “have no choice” but to swallow the plastic wrap. Like, for example, when
- The grocery store automatically prints a BPA-coated receipt and hands it to you like you want it.
- The airline serves you and millions of other travelers factory farmed beef on a one-time-use plastic plate. (I’m pretty sure that what isn’t consumed on the flight is thrown out, so there’s no point in “zero wasting” this one, unless you emailed before and told them not to make a meal for you.)
- The municipality where you live decide not to invest in safe bike lanes, side walks and public transport so you can safely skip the car.
- The oil companies work full time to make legislation that prevents solar power and electrical vehicles from taking off.
- There are no organic strawberries at the store, but you promised to make strawberry cake so you have to buy conventional ones (in a plastic container).
Tell me CEO, how are these eco-disasters my responsibility?
A few years ago we didn’t know we wanted tablets. Apple invented the I-pad, and suddenly consumers decided they needed one. Industry took the lead, consumers blindly followed suddenly not even remembering how life was before there were I-pads.
If only the industry would be as inventive when it comes to environmentally sustainable practices as it is when it comes to launching new products, the world would look quite different (excluding you Elon Musk!). Consumers all over would automatically buy the eco-friendly choice that was presented to them.
Since I doubt that the industry will start acting all “eco” on their own (I just saw that Snapple now comes in a plastic bottle instead of glass! Snapple!!!) we, the conscious consumers, must again act and invest our enthusiasm and energy. This time into generating emails, tweets, posts and making calls. We must
- Urge our favorite brands to manufacture HERE.
- Tell our local grocer that we need more bulk bins.
- Convince clothing stores that receipts and printed coupons are so 1990.
- Ask our local eateries to ditch the straws and disposable kids’ cups.
- Go to the town hall meeting, demand better infrastructure.
Etcetera, etcetera. AND, of course, we must continue to vote with our dollars, by buying everything made right (here). Our 25% (or 50, whatever) does make a difference – I’ve blogged about us taking charge and changing the market, the industry (and the world) for three years.
It’s time for the industry to wake up, take responsibility and act.
We need to help them get started.
Who are you emailing today?