Published on: January 29, 2020
We had an Eye-Opener the other day about what happens when consumers' desire for convenience (like same-day delivery) runs headlong into their interest in sustainability initiatives (which would not include same-day delivery).
MNB reader Charles Davis wrote:
Regarding your Friday "Eye Opener" and your quote, "Shoppers are calling the shots. And unless we start putting our money where our mouth is, we’ll all be dealing with more boxes, more delivery trucks, and the long-term environmental effects of our decisions today.
"Ultimately, the Eye Opener from the story is this: "Consumers - indeed, citizens - are pretty much able to rationalize anything.
"Which is true. And ultimately a little depressing."
I completely agree and it makes me sad as well. It made me think of the famous Pogo quote, "We have met the enemy and he is us". Unfortunately, fundamentally humans are the problem. Fortunately, we are also the solution. Which gives me some hope to go with my sadness.
From MNB reader Molly Renaud:
Great eye-opener today. To add to our depression did you hear about the Doomsday Clock being set 100 seconds until midnight?
But as a consumer, I am here to say I am trying to put my money where my mouth is when it comes to sustainability. I’m focused on source reduction. I’ve stopped wish-cycling and I am trying to buy less. Things I’m focusing on this year – reducing my addiction to fast fashion (good bye stitch fix but yes, I am still rationalizing one more in six months). I’m trying to get my husband to stop using paper towels or at least buying recycled ones. He uses Prime but I do not. I’m starting to make my own cleaning and beauty care products. I have time to think about this—let’s be clear. A lot of people don’t. But once you start looking at your own habits you start asking how the entire system works. Maybe just maybe manufacturers/producers should be making things or putting things in things that can actually be recycled? Or maybe packaging should be made from recycled content so we create markets for this stuff and aren’t using virgin resources? What makes something recyclable isn’t because it has a symbol on it—there needs to be an infrastructure to handle it and a market for it. Maybe if we get better at recycling it will off-set our addiction to free shipping. As I am sure source reduction is not for everyone.
Keep your eye on Maine and California as it relates to Extended Producer Responsibility for Printed Paper and Packaging (PPP).
California failed to pass EPR for PPP last year, but the Senate in CA just pushed through some EPR elements for their struggling bottle bill this past week and will most likely take on PPP again.
Maine may be the first state to pass an EPR law for PPP based on what the legislature advanced this week.
The trade association of producers forming a sustainability coalition last week that you wrote about—hopefully, as you stated, they are looking at ways they can improve recycling in America/lessen the impact of their packaging but they are probably looking to fight or get out ahead of EPR for Printed Paper and Packaging (PPP).
I am gradually changing my consumption habits but given climate change I should be moving faster. We all should. Brands may want to ease gradually into product stewardship, but they could be forced suddenly if states start passing EPR laws.
Time will tell… if the clock stays ticking, that is!
From another reader:
I think it is really interesting to think about how the younger generation will begin to think about the convenience of fast shipping. I listen to a podcast with my children from NPR called "Wow in the World" that puts an entertaining lens on today's scientific discoveries and realities. Your article brought to mind an episode we listed do a while ago where Mindy, the main character, orders a whole much of stuff she doesn't need because it was a good deal and Guy Raz helps her understand the environmental impact of her purchases. Not only were my children entertained, but it gave me pause. I started to ask myself some critical questions, namely, "Do I need this?" and "What is an alternative solution to this need that is more sustainable?" I have since scaled back on my Amazon purchases and only place orders now once I have a number of different items in my cart that can hopefully ship together. It is worth a listen if you have the time.
MNB reader Rich Heiland wrote:
I cannot recall anything I ever ordered from Amazon or anyone else where next day delivery was life or death. I can live without it without batting an eye. I also can live without a lot of the “packaging inside of packaging inside of packaging” that seems to accompany a lot of orders.
The reality of sacrificing for sustainability is that if each one of saw a five percent drop in “lifestyle” to contribute we all still would have lifestyles the envy of a lot of the planet.