Sustainability: More with less
We live in a supersized world where retail therapy is an accepted pastime. Two recent experiences caused me to ponder our perspective.
Watching a television commercial depicting a woman trying to cram more clothes into an overstuffed bureau, I tried guessing what the ad was about.
The commercial might have been a public service announcement for Goodwill or The Salvation Army or an ad for a local resale store, instead it was advertising a furniture store. The obvious solution to having more clothes than will fit in your chest of drawers is to buy a bigger one.
Earlier this month I was enlightened by a local performance troupe. One Tribe embraces the concept of unity from the Black Eyed Peas song of the same name. Kim Smith and Dave Fields co-created One Tribe, which frequently combines an educational message with its fiery performances.
“The Life of A Plastic Bag” was an illuminating multi-media event that included fire dancers and a video projected on the large brick wall between Roasted Espresso and Subs and Planet Earth & the 4 Directions Gallery.
Originally scheduled for Earth Day festivities at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, “The Life of A Plastic Bag” was rained out. So far the show is not scheduled for a specific date but Smith would like One Tribe to perform it during the botanical garden’s summer concert series.
What really resonated with me was the beginning of the video featuring Capt. Charles Moore, who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. He stated, “We had to be taught to renounce the powerful conservation ethic we had developed during the Great Depression and World War II. After the war we needed to direct our enormous production capacity toward the creation of products for peacetime.” This gave rise to “Throwaway Living” touted in a 1955 issue of Life Magazine.
You can watch the video at http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/capt_charles_moore_on_the_seas_of_plastic.html.
The recession provides the perfect opportunity to pause and reevaluate our attitude toward stuff. We can ask ourselves, “Is this something I need?” You’ll be amazed at how often the answer is “No.”
At what point did we start to confuse what we want with what we need? Perhaps it is time to make a paradigm shift and examine the life cycle of products.
A cradle-to-grave perspective can help us understand the true cost of all the stuff we find so captivating. From this angle, the real cost of a product takes into account environmental effects, in addition to monetary costs, of every step in the item’s life. This encompasses each phase from material extraction and processing, transportation, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance to disposal.
Maybe it’s time for us to take a stand and say, “Enough is enough, more is too much!”