Nonfiction in response to Responsible Consumption and Production
Point of View
By Grace Muresan
On Wednesday, September 26, 2018, I went to a talk called “The Power of Stuff” by the executive director of Greenpeace, Annie Leonard. In her talk, she asked three key questions and explained what we could do to fix them. Where does our stuff come from and go? How does overconsumption lead to the depletion of natural resources and a larger carbon footprint? And, most importantly, why do we try to ignore it?
I was inspired by her talk, not only because of her passion to find the truth about our stuff’s origins, but also because a lot of people are unaware of what the process of creating daily household objects does to the planet and how they are contributing to global warming, trashing the planet, and climate change that many do not believe exists.
However, another important point is that there are many different points of views about the definition of Sustainable Consumption and Production.
To quote the United Nations, “Sustainable consumption and production is about promoting resources and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all. Its implementation helps to achieve overall development plans, reduce future economic, environmental and social costs, strengthen economic competitiveness and reduce poverty.”
However, although most consumers “feel empowered when it comes to the environment and are taking some action in their daily lives to reduce consumption and waste,” many people cannot act on their concerns due to availability, affordability, convenience, product performance, conflicting priorities, skepticism, and force of habit. For example, in my own neighborhood, we are asked to use biodegradable plastic bags for food scraps, but their performance as a plastic bag is mediocre. The biodegradable plastic bag was flimsy and easy to rip, and furthermore dissolved where it came in contact with wet objects. Another very relatable point is on affordability. Fast-food restaurants often have affordable prices and products that favor general taste palates, but they may not provide healthier affordable options.
In the eyes of producers, responsible consumption and production “has long been seen by companies as an effective way to reduce the environmental and social impacts of a product or service.” Innovation that makes products more sustainable may save money over time and appease consumers, but a more advanced design is not obvious to the consumer and therefore has to be explained through marketing and advertisements. The cost of marketing and advertisements may lead to higher prices, however, which is undesirable for consumers, especially regular or low-income consumers who would notice the price change instead of the product upgrade.
Altogether, though, households, companies, factories, and other generally self-funded self-run groups have more option than government or tax money funded organizations such as schools. As an example, at my school, if you buy cafeteria food, you must pick out a fruit and buy it with your lunch. This is meant to improve children’s’ health, but the food is rarely eaten at all.
One day, I lost my retainer and had reason to assume that it had somehow gotten in the trash. Due to this unfortunate incident, I ended up looking through the trash can for it. I did find my retainer eventually, but the lesson of taking better care of your personal items was less important than what I ended up discovering.
In a single trash can out of at least 6 or 7 full ones in the cafeteria, after 6th grade lunch only, I found about 3 unopened, edible sandwiches, 2 unopened packets of baby carrots, more than 10 half-eaten pieces of fruit, a few muffins with the crusty part picked off, several intact but stained napkins, 5 or 6 half drunken cratons of milk that douses everything else in it, and many other repulsive and still usable objects before they were tossed without a second thought. Obviously, throwing things away like that doesn’t near the standards of being a responsible consumer. On top of requiring fruit and vegetables for lunch, my school also never has disposable plastic water bottles; they instead encourage us to take reusable water bottles from home and provide plentiful water fountains.
I have further noticed that most of my friends who bring lunch from home are sometimes more aware and throw away less than people who buy cafeteria food. It may be because they saw the effort being put into the food that they eat, and possibly even that they made the food themselves. Very few of my friends, fortunately, have the nerve to waste food recklessly, but I have seen some people throw away whole lunches.
Many young people take for granted the food that they eat every day and disposable household items, but this cannot be the case as current students are future leaders.
Because of my participation in the ASB (Associated Student Body) council of my school, I will try to encourage sustainability throughout the school in students and staff members alike through the Eco-Challenge, starting from me. But of course, my proposal is pending approval.