In the grocery store. . . I remember that I need to buy plates for an upcoming picnic. I get to the shelf with paper plates and notice several brands . . . and many colors of plastic plates as well. I stand for a few minutes, staring at the options. Is paper or plastic better? I don’t know. Do the same rules apply to plates as to bags? Paper or plastic? Hmmmmmmmmm.
Each day, consumers are faced with decisions about what to purchase, and there is just not enough information. . or sometimes, there is too much information. Paper or plastic?
When all else fails, pocket-book decision making frequently wins out. We buy the cheaper one. This pocket-book decision making has been and will always be a factor in our day to day lives. Is it a good way? Is there a different way? And what do we choose when we know one option is more environmentally sound but the other is cheaper? Why does our conscience toil?
Pocket-book decision making will always play a role in our lives. It does not matter how eco-conscious we want to be, if it costs more, there will be times when we will rationalize not being green. It is our human nature – first to take care of our basic, immediate needs; then to think outside our basic, immediate needs. Some of these decisions are inevitable. But what other factors can help us make choices?
Consider the following example, so eloquently stated, that reveals some true costs associated with our decisions: “It’s pretty amazing that our society has reached a place where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship it to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it, and bring it home, is considered to be less effort than what it takes to just wash the spoon when you’re done with it.” (http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/1kBB8F/shredsomething.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/spoons//r:t) And we did not even mention the costs of disposal – transportation, plastic leeching into the ground, etc. etc.
How does this example effect pocket-book decision making? It simply offers reuse decision making as an alternative. If one is faced with two products, and you do not know which is better or more environmentally friendly, one can ask the re-use question: Which is made of reused materials? Or which can be reused?
Next up, laundry detergent. Was this bottle made from reused material? How can I reuse it when the detergent is gone? Hmmmmmmmmm.
Ian Moise is founder and CEO of ReUseConnection, a global website promoting the re-use of material goods by allowing people in different countries to share and discuss how they reuse various items. He currently resides in Washington DC but has lived in, traveled to, or worked in over 40 countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America. He works with his father, Samuel Moise, a software developer who lives in Meadow Vista, California.
* For an interesting research study on the paper or plastic question, visit http://www.greencitiescalifornia.org/mea