J500 Media and the Environment

Why reusable shopping bags are no panacea. by bryand09
February 6, 2009, 3:08 pm
Filed under: Fashion + Beauty, Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

The problem with trends — like yoyos in fifth grade — is that after six weeks or so people tend to move on, forget about what they use to be excited with, and tune in (or with the with the digital switch, link up) to their televisions to find the next big thing.

Uploaded on February 13, 2008 by vrooooominc

Uploaded to Flickr.com on February 13, 2008 by vrooooominc

We face a serious problem if environmentalism (or locavorism or any environmentally conservative philosophy) is only in for a couple of weeks, because, like yoyos, we might soon find ourselves spinning helplessly at the end of our strings.

There are so many groups and organizations that try to get in on fads and capitalize on their snowballing popularity. The more that latch on, the more diluted the original movement becomes. In terms of the environment, this is less dilution and more pollution.

Why pollution? Big box retailers and major grocery chains have seen the snowball growing and have caught on. They sell reusable bags so that their customers can keep shopping with them while feeling good about “saving” a tree or some fossil fuels. The Wall Street Journal wrote a great piece about the dark side of reusable bags that you can read here. Don’t miss their slideshow here either.

Most trends are settled around a material item that you need to have in order to be trendy, like a cell phone or a pair of jeans or a reusable shopping bag. When you make the environment trendy, however, you stumble upon a major irony. What material item could help save the planet?

The answer: no item, no matter how cool, can. The best way to save the planet is to reduce how much individuals consume, not market to them another “thing” that they probably don’t need (or statistically will use).

Bryan Dykman


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You make such a good point about how people are trying to market the “green” idea and in doing so, going against a big part of being environmentally friendly: less consumption. However, in a consumer-based society such as ours, how do we sell an idea without selling a product?

Comment by janiec52

I really enjoyed the Wall Street Journal article! The problem with material trends is simply that, the material! We need an education trend that teaches people to use what they already have!

Comment by christinaw09

HEAR HEAR. In response to Janie’s comment, I think that we have stumbled upon our job as journalists. We need to spark awareness in people and make them realize that they can do more than just use reusable bags. People can make bottom up changes in the system by changing small things about their daily lives. However, they can also push for top down legislation that will actually regulate companies and their practices.

Comment by brennad87

“In a consumer-based society such as ours, how do we sell an idea without selling a product?”

That is exactly it; we need to switch away from a consumer based society and soon! Look at the economy right now: we look like an uneducated consumer, taking on more debt with these bailouts and trying to spend our way to finical prosperity. Maybe when this house of cards falls, we will realize that less consumption is the answer, not more. That will solve largely both our environmental and economic problems.

Bryan Dykman

Comment by bryand09

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