With great power comes great responsibility

So, I made bread. And it was–get this–delicious. Here is the recipe for honey whole wheat bread that I used.

However, I am not going to solve the problem of plastic waste by baking a couple of loaves of bread each week. Which brings me to the core of today’s posts. A friend of mine brought up the question of where the chief responsibility for plastic reduction lies: does it lie with the producer or the consumer?

I think that the power of consumer choices is often discounted. What I mean is that the choices that we make every time we purchase something do, collectively, have an impact on what is produced. If people are not buying what a company is producing, the company will not survive. If consumers are choosing to buy products that have less of an environmental impact, then companies will produce more of these products.

The only catch here is that one individual consumer is not able to have a really measurable impact by herself. Shifting my own habits is important to me, but my individual actions are only part of a much larger picture. As I mentioned in my very first post, part of my goal here is to educate others and increase others’ awareness of these issues. I would welcome any suggestions about how to get the word out further about the importance of reducing our plastic usage.

One of the lessons I have learned as part of this project is to slow down and consider the entire life-span of products that I buy. Where are they coming from? How much energy did it take to manufacture this sponge or that face-wash? And once I am done with each product, where will it go? If it ends up in a landfill, will it break down at all? Into what components? Will anything be harmed by this object leaving my hands and entering the waste-stream?*

Companies need to begin shifting the materials they use in consumer items and packaging. But they need our help, too. As consumers, we wield the power of our pocketbooks. Companies produce products that sell.

*A word of caution: it can be depressing and overwhelming to spend too much time worrying about, and judging oneself harshly for, throwing things out. DO NOT beat yourself up. We live in a world where disposable products are everywhere. It is not worth your time to lose sleep over every piece of non-recyclable plastic.

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