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Even More “Hows” of Sustainability
By Helen de la Maza   View more articles by this author
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August 24

I was in a grocery store yesterday that packages almost all of its produce. By “package” I don’t mean that the broccoli stalks are rubber banded together, I mean that the broccoli stalks are completely wrapped in a thin plastic. The broccoli was organic, but that positive characteristic was overshadowed by the plastic wrapping that will end up in the landfill.  I refused to buy it. Sustainability is as much about doing as it is about refusing.  In fact, the more consumers refuse to buy wasteful or unhealthy products, the louder our voice becomes in our supply and demand economy.

What other things can we refuse? We can refuse to buy over-packaged products ­— those that are boxed or bagged and each item is also individually wrapped inside the larger box or bag. We can refuse to use a plastic bag for our apples, carrots, lettuce, and other produce. Ok, so the checker may need to wipe down his/her grocery mover after s/he checks your groceries, but it’s better than all those plastic bags ending up in the landfill. We can refuse to buy multiple small containers of the same product and instead buy it in bulk. We can refuse to buy virgin paper for our office or school, refuse to buy disposable razor blades, and refuse to buy tissues (hankie, anyone?).

We can refuse to engage in wasteful activities such as: playing water balloon toss, jet skiing (burning gas for entertainment’s sake?), wrapping gifts with virgin paper and bows, using a plastic straw to drink, buying a pumpkin on Halloween, purchasing a once-live-now-dead Christmas tree, printing unnecessary emails or documents, and washing our car every weekend. There are alternatives that are more sustainable for each of these activities. And what a beautiful lesson to teach the young members of our families why we’ve wrapped their gifts in newspaper or reusable bags, and why we have a reusable jack-o-lantern on our front porch.

On a larger scale, you can refuse to: buy an inefficient car, work for an organization/company that doesn’t have sustainable work practices, buy products made by companies with destructive environmental practices, bank or purchase mutual funds from a company that invests your money in things you don’t believe in. Again, all of these can be replaced by sustainable alternatives. The more people that make and stickK to these choices, the more companies will realize that their long-term fiscal sustainability is related to their environmental sustainability.

Just as, or even more, important when you take action to refuse, vocalize why you are doing it. At the “We-Suffocate-Our-Produce-In-Plastic-Store” I’ve told numerous workers that I don’t buy the produce there because it’s packaged. I told the bank teller as I canceled my account that I was moving my money to a credit union because the money is invested in the local community. I told a financial advisor that I wouldn’t buy the recommended mutual funds because they were not socially responsible. I thank an office store that offers 100% post-consumer recycled notebooks for selling this sustainable product. Maybe these folks think, “Here’s that crazy lady again,” but more likely than not, my words plant the seed of sustainability in their minds.

Until next time, I refuse to leave the light on for you.

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Comment by Cat123
24 Jun 2012 07:39 AM
Good for you! I live in France and I have done a few of the things you listed - not all, so I am thankful for the extra ideas.

I have also asked my company how my retirement fund was invested, as I do not support unethical corporations.
I believe we should all do this, and put pressure on our retirement funds managers to support what we believe in.
There is huge money at work there, our money, which is being used right now in favor of short term gain rather than long term growth of the company, its employees and the planet.

Any idea you may have on how to do so more effectively would be great.

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