A dynamic concept for a sustainable post-Covid world
Updated: Feb 28
When you walk into your local supermarket or grocery store what do you see?
Have you ever considered how many containers are on the shelves at the supermarket on any given day?
It has become normal in the last few decades for us to be sold not just a product, but also it's packaging. According the the United States Environmental Protection Agency almost one third of all waste (in 2017) was containers and packaging.
"Containers and packaging make up a major portion of municipal solid waste (MSW), amounting to 80.1 million tons of generation in 2017 (29.9 percent of total generation)."
Think about all of the containers you throw away in your daily life; soap, toothpaste, shampoo, condiments, laundry detergent, meats, milk, even certain brands of produce, cracker boxes with plastic liners... I could literally keep listing things all day.
As the environment grows more fierce and our youth continues to stand up and call action to the preservation of the world we must live in, it's time to become new consumers. As consumers, we constantly are stuck in a "Humpty Dumpty" complex where the more we buy, the more comfortable our present existence becomes, but the consequence is a looming overpopulation of trash and plastic causing devastation to current living organisms.
Not long ago, I saw a photographic series by Antoine Repessé that went viral because of the impact of the power of the imagery. The artist saved four years worth of waste to construct images of typical daily life buried in the waste those habits created by corporations to drive your consumption of their products.
After seeing those images, they were burned in my head. A relentless internal dialogue formulated in my thoughts about what kind of solutions existed for this rapidly escalating issue, and it made me realize that I had a so much more power in this than I thought I did.
I started molding my shopping habits around my new consciousness of the over abundance of containers and packaging and I started making conscious decisions to minimize the waste that I was causing. I made sure to have a stash of re-usable grocery bags in my vehicle and I forced myself to always go out and get them if I forgot to bring them in the car. I brought clean containers for produce and bulk foods. I started to remember to bring my own to-go containers for leftovers when eating out. I bought reusable straws and a reusable spork and made sure to carry them with me. I bought myself two nice travel mugs and made sure to add one to my leave-the-house checklist and always had beverages I ordered made in them or otherwise chose water if beverages in plastic containers were all that were offered.
There were so many habits I didn't even notice I had that ware adding to the waste problem. Now, I'm not perfect (I'm just human), and there will always be things that will require individual packaging but I was taking out so much less recycling than I had been prior to changing all these habits.
The current state of the world is showing us very firmly that rapid unexpected changes in our "normal" ways of life will prove to become the new "normal" itself. That being the case, if I had any capital or investment capabilities, I would be actively working with brilliant minds to brainstorm innovative business models that cut out individual packaging completely while concentrating on reusing the vessels that are used to move my products.
My vision has specialty shops with measured dispensers for products sold. Think something like a Bath & Body Works, but instead of rows of plastic bottles there are walls with dispensers. You're expected to have your own container, but there are recyclable glass jars for sale if you need a new one...
There are so many different layers to this which is why I'm writing it into a blog to share with you instead of waiting for some likely non-existent day when I have enough resources personally to capitalize on the idea. The reality is that someone needs to consider building a way out of container and packaging overflow and normality. This is not a new idea. Remember the days of the milk man? You left the old bottle and he delivered the new full one.
It is frankly WAY past the time to make this happen. We need to force unnecessary and harmful packaging and container waste to be just as much a part of the past as the dinosaurs. Capitalism and corporations respond (yes, slowly, but they do respond) to the behaviors of their consumers.
I challenge you to take a pledge today, on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day to create new daily habits as life slowly moves along. Do what you can (around public health restrictions of course) to make little changes every day to minimize your waste. If it's not in a glass bottle, don't buy it. If you use straws, carry your own. Never buy bottled water, use filters instead. Substitute paper or cardboard as often as possible for things you'd typically use plastic for; milk carton instead of jug, etc. If you work in manufacturing, consider throwing around innovative ideas for development of bio hazard free production strategies. I challenge you to be a consumer advocate and learn about what you can do to help.
All the little things that we do matter. We are all a connected web of entangled and complex creations and problems. I fully believe in the human ability to problem solve. Our entire history is full of problems we've solved.
While our officials are busy fighting this virus, we need to actively stand up for the environment we rely on through each and every decision we make as a consumer. If enough of us correct our behavior, we can change the behavior of the corporations and guarantee our future generations a life in an environment that isn't actively poisoning them along with all the other living things that rely on it.
Visit the Earth Day 2020 website for more information on different avenues of how to take action and "Fight today for a better tomorrow"
Thank you for reading and I hope you have a bright and healthy future