Thursday, 25 June 2009


The amount of waste we generate is phenomenal.
In Cradle to Cradle, McDonough argues that we're not dealing with the real problem: industry. I wonder...
What is the problem, is it industrials creating needs and supplying cheap goods or is it the general public's lack of understanding about the implications of purchasing all these goods?
I personally prefer the second option. Realistically, I don't see how you can change industry. Companies trying to do the right thing can't compete with the ones that don't because their costs for trying to do the right thing are almost always going to be higher. People flog to the cheapest. Everyone has a limited income, needs to fulfill and it just makes more sense to buy cheap than to buy dear. In that respect, economists got it right: individuals are utility maximizers and they seek to maximize the utility of the dosh they have.
But what gives me hope is that people also have brains, they have the ability to think about what they do and they're not just impulsive creatures. With each purchase comes a choice and people's lack of awareness of that choice is a problem. Consumption is a minldess process but it doesn't need to be. Eco consumption is thoughtful process. If we can get enough of the general public to shift their purchasing decisions from mindless to mindful then we don't need to persuade industry to change. They'll just have to because industry's only there to serve the marketplace. Where people go to buy, industry will have to follow to sell.

So I'm not sure I agree with McDonough about the real waste problem being industry. Yes the waste is created upstream by them by a factor of 70 to 1 or 32 to 1 depending on who you listen to but it's downstream that the real potential lies with the people who call the shots on what they decide to buy and what they refuse to buy.

People can vote... with their wallets.

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