Rant: American consumer culture and responsibility
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 - 15:44
In regards to being environmentally friendly and conscious, the responsibility seems to be put heavily on the consumer, the average Joe, the individual. We are told to research everything we buy, carry along our own bags, recycle, buy stuff with less packaging, buy cruelty free products. But what about the companies that are making the environmentally unfriendly products? What accountability do they have? Maybe the average consumer would rather devote his or her time, money and energy to being with family, working and enjoying life.
When we have to sacrifice convenience and price to buy eco-friendly products, how do we even know it is making a difference? So I buy a toothbrush made of recycled materials, or I bring a cloth bag to the grocery store, or I carry a water bottle instead of buying bottled water, and I buy my fruit from a local market. Yet I still see bottled water selling out, plastic bags galore, 500 different types of unrecycled toothbrushes and fruit that has been shipped across the world in a gas-guzzling, exhaust-breathing freight truck. Don't I have a right to be frustrated? What has the store done?
This is why I think that corporations should take on more responsibility. Aldi supermarkets (which originated in Germany) do not have plastic bags, shoppers are required to bring their own. This actually saves money, which is one reason why their products are so inexpensive. I have heard about a city in Australia that banned bottled water. How about some legislation that puts some pressure and responsibility on corporations? We couldn't buy earth-damaging products if they were not available.
I link this to the American consumerism and the mentality of more for less. It is a compulsion to try and get the best deal, getting the most for your money. Some may scoff at me and call me lazy, looking down on those consumers who are slaves to the best deals and don't seem to care if their food is grown by local farmers on a sustainable property with minimal packaging and shipping. But let's be realistic! Some people have never even heard about or considered these issues. It is not their fault. The truth is that the people shopping at farmers markets and health food stores are predominantly highly educated and wealthy. This ties into the obesity problem in the poor sector society. It is not fair to look down on people who do not have the knowledge or money to be "responsible" consumers.
This is why I think legislation should mandate that companies become environmentally friendly, healthy and cruelty free. No company should be allowed to market anything that is dangerous to human health, harms any living creature, uses exploited labor, wastes resources, creates non-biodegradable waste or simply harms the environment, people and animals in any way. Sound radical? Why should it? To me this simply sounds like morality! I am advocating a shift in the consumer mind set, culture, and business practices nationwide. Ok, yes, it is radical, but if we just keep working at it I believe it is a viable reality. It used to be considered radical that blacks would ever be anything but slaves; now there is a black president. It seemed radical that women would ever get the right to vote; now they are running for president and occupying high offices!
So what can we do? The first step is to believe. Believe that a change can happen. Believe in what is right. The next step is to spread this belief to your family, friends, neighbors...anyone! Then pressure the government to enact the necessary changes. Take action and protest, raise money and awareness, create unified groups. I admit I have not taken all the steps, but with some help, I hope I can. Here's some ideas that aren't too hard to carry out:
Write letters to public officials, this website tells how: http://rtc.ruralinstitute.umt.edu/advocacy/letters.htm
Sign some petitions, here is a website with a ton: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/browse-petitions
Join and research some organizations, here is an alphabetical list: http://usparks.about.com/cs/environmentalorgs/a/conservationac.htm
Research current environmental issues, here is a site with information: http://www.globalstewards.org/issues.htm
It is up to us, concerned citizens with motivation, energy and resources, to do our best to improve the world. I hope maybe this rant can spark some inspiration!
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