Consumption Society Makes Reducing Waste Inconvenient, Unmanageable


Lucy Lyon brings her reusable cup to school everyday to avoid single-use cups and bottles. (photo by Claire Hiegel)

As appalling statistics about consumption and waste in the U.S. continue to flood the news, more and more people are searching for ways to reduce waste in their homes, offices, and schools. Ditching disposable items in favor of reusable ones, such as grocery bags, water bottles, and lunch bags, is one just one example of a modification to daily life that reduces waste. Using environmentally friendly products made of paper or glass (instead of plastic) is another popular way to combat waste and consumption excess. However, the reality is that plastic and single-use items are ingrained in our consumer society to such a degree that reducing waste significantly becomes a time and energy consuming project that requires constant attention and dedication. This issue is enough to cause most people to disregard such efforts, as they seem to have no personal or immediately tangible result.

“I care about the environment, but there’s not enough people that care to make the change,” sophomore Megan Gibbs said. “It would be nice if we had cleaner air and a nicer environment, but I don’t think that’s really going to happen.”

This duty of environmental protection belongs to all of us here and now, however the ones who may experience the effects the most may not even be born yet.

“We’re going to be long gone when we really start to feel the impact of not taking care of the environment,” sophomore Eli Sanders said. “So there’s really no point.”

Yet, many still feel that environmental efforts are worth the time and energy.

“I think people need to be more environmentally conscious,” senior Lucy Lyon said.

Switching to reusable water bottles and grocery bags are well-known ways to make consumption habits more environmentally friendly, but many people are unaware of similar easy ways to develop such an environmentally conscious lifestyle, such as canceling junk mail, buying items in bulk, and giving old clothes to charity or to a friend instead of throwing them out.  Many of these ideas will save money as well as waste.

“Stores should have us buy more in bulk and less prepackaged things. That way, people could bring their own containers and reuse them,” Lucy said.

While many people have taken to trendy, environmentally-friendly activities, others still feel that they have little reason to take part in such tasks. One reason for this lack of interest may lie in large corporations’ failure to focus on these issues.  Big businesses like Walmart, Kroger, and Target rely primarily on plastic materials for grocery bags and packaging, taking no regard for the way in which they facilitate and prolong the use of immensely wasteful materials in local communities.

“Some stores give a small discount if you bring your own bag,” Lucy said. “I think that would definitely be an incentive if stores would give some money back for doing that. If people know they will be saving money in the long run, they will be more likely to do it because they can see they are benefiting from it.”