Having to ask someone to do something that would otherwise seem at its root the right thing to do is perceiving that the person you are asking believes, for one reason or another, that it’s the wrong thing to do. Why should companies adopt environmentally friendly packaging? To me, the answer is quite simple: because it will help prolong and protect the beautiful planet we live on and the millions of living things (other than humans) that call it home. It just seems like the right thing to do; so then why are we even having to ask this question? Why are there still companies that have yet to adopt environmentally friendly packaging? For some reason they don’t think it’s the right thing to do, and a quick glimpse at history reveals that it is really just one reason: money. A company is created to make money and make as much as it possibly can. It’s purely what business is, so asking a company to do something that could potentially lessen the amount of profit it brings in, goes against the very nature of what it was created to do. Thus, the question is born, why? Why should a company spend money on adopting environmentally friendly packaging? Well, I have three reasons, and they might just convince you that adopting environmentally friendly packaging is the right thing for everyone.
Reason one: we as humans rule over this planet and thus are responsible for, and must deal with the consequences of, whatever we make of it. Homosapiens are the most intellectually superior species in existence on planet Earth (yes dolphins are smart but they aren’t developing vaccines or flying to the moon are they?). We have the entire spectrum of life, from mushrooms to oak trees to bacteria to elephants, at our mercy. We can easily wipe out all of it; cut down entire forests for lumber, kill off African Elephants for Ivory, and destroy countless ecosystems in the process, but where would that leave us? Look at it as Earth being a company with humans as its CEO, and it leaves us with a shortage of resources, angry employees, and teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Or, we could choose to give employee benefits, ensure maximum efficiency and profit, and stay in business for the long run. You don’t need a businessman to identify the better option here. We must acknowledge our responsibility on this earth and make decisions that won’t leave us wanting to point fingers elsewhere over issues for which only we can be blamed. When given the power to choose, we must choose right, and to adopt environmentally friendly packaging is to show that we see value in the millions of other species living on this planet and want to protect and care for them so that we may harness their value and ensure it lasts for the long run.
Reason two: intellectually superior though we may be, we are dependent upon the resources our planet provides. Without water to drink, plants and animals to eat, or a suitable climate for them and us to live in, we would be screwed. You may be wondering what packaging has to do with our water sources, food supply, and climate. My answer: everything. The production of packaging materials requires energy that is most commonly sourced from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. The conversion of these materials into energy releases greenhouse gases into the air that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere and warm global temperatures by 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. That may seem insignificant but many plant and animal species we depend on for food have a very narrow range of tolerance, and a temperature increase as small as two degrees can be the difference between a thriving species and an extinct one. Furthermore, the rapid and rushed disposal of packaging materials contributes to the pile up of garbage both on land and in the seas. In what has become known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, there floats 1.6 million square kilometers of trash in the waters separating California and Hawaii. Let me repeat that, 1.6 MILLION kilometers; you could fill two spaces the size of Texas with that trash and still have some leftover. The plastic materials found throughout can then be consumed by animals and contribute to their death on the false pretense of satiety, or slowly decompose and release toxins into the water to be absorbed by animals that reside in it. I have only scratched the surface and it’s clear that one-use packaging materials severely impact resources that our survival as humans is dependent upon. The goal of environmentally friendly packaging is to reduce the environmental footprint left by the lifecycle of these products. Going green now could significantly lengthen the amount of time our species has left on Earth.
Reason three: people are starting to care. The movement toward sustainability and environmentally friendly living is growing across the globe. History shows that when people come together over a cause, change happens. Just five years ago you could walk the aisles of a grocery store and not see a single item labeled “GMO-free” or “no high fructose corn syrup”; today you can’t walk down a single aisle without seeing it. There is power in people and considering there’s more hard evidence regarding the negative impact of product packaging than either GMOs or high fructose corn syrup, I’d say it’s in the companies’ best interests to make the switch sooner rather than later. A number of companies have already made an effort to reduce the environmental impact of their product packaging and receive only positive publicity and increased consumer interest as a result. So, if it truly comes down to pure profit, environmentally friendly packaging holds the most promise.
For the planet’s sake, for mankind’s sake, and for the sake of making money, companies need to adopt environmentally friendly packaging. No matter what side you look at it from, it’s just the right thing to do.
Essay by: Averi Childress
University of Georgia