Like many people, moved by watching the television series Blue Planet and the affects of plastic on the ocean, I felt compelled to make some changes in my life. 2050 is not that far off. However, when we make environmentally friendly choices, are we always seeing the bigger picture?
I watched videos on how to live plastic free and I read blogs too, and I vowed to make changes. I refused straws in restaurants and bars, I made sure that I always had a bag with me when I went shopping and I bought a shampoo bar. I felt pleased with these changes, and it honestly became quite addictive early on. However, I started to realise with some things that whilst I was doing good in one way, the product could also be a hindrance in another way.
I’m not for one minute advocating that plastic is always the solution; or that by buying the environmentally friendly version, a person is not making a ‘better choice’; or that we should stop making small changes to contribute towards a more sustainable planet. However, a nagging thought, wonders whether we are not seeing the bigger picture.
For example, some products whilst they are biodegradable, they are shipped to the consumer’s doorstep. The war on plastics is won, but what about the carbon footprint of that delivery, and each delivery thereafter? Making the house completely plastic free, so does this mean throwing out the reusable tupperware for metal containers? The glass bottles and jars (yes, often the lids are made of plastic) have a heavier mass than their plastic competitors. Reusable sanitary products, including nappies, what must the effect of boil washes have on the environment?
Recently, I went to a well known worldwide chain of sandwich makers. In the store that I was in, I was automatically given a plastic bagged sandwich. Some of my eco-warrior friends would have taken a stand and never visited that eatery again. If we stop and think for a minute, it was a practical decision taken because I was hungry and it would have taken 20 minutes to go home and make lunch. Also, it’s a business yes, but it’s also a job for someone and if a business isn’t successful employees are let go. Furthermore, by taking a stand to not spend my money there, what impact would I have had? Two customers lost, when a million customers could have been reached.
Instead, would the solution not be that they could have given me a paper bag? The life of that plastic bag, from the minute it was in my hands, was literally the time it took to eat my sandwich. Then, like most customers there that day, I threw the bag in the bin. I had no further use for that plastic sandwich bag. Some would say that I didn’t need a bag at all, and I would agree on that occasion because I was eating at one of their tables, so I didn’t need a bag. However, the bag would have been useful if the sandwich were to be taken away. What would make the bigger impact?
There are many more examples and solutions that I could give, and I am sure many people could towards making products eco friendly, and often packaging would be the place to start. However, I as a consumer feel that the burden is often placed upon us, when the bigger impact would be from the corporations, making some often simple changes. If they made the first step in rethinking packaging, or carbon footprint would this not be a larger commitment to a more sustainable planet?