The idea of “Going Green” has in the recent past both been applauded and contested. Because of the hurdles around the cost-efficiency of eco-friendly packaging, many have dismissed the idea of big companies switching over to packaging materials that will not harm the environment. The concept is seen by many as an ideal, but unachievable reality. When the general public first started to be aware of the damage plastic and other synthetic non-compostables were doing on the environment, those who were hopeful for change did everything they could to make sure their footprint was not contributing to the death of our home, but as the condition only worsens, the general attitude has started to shift. Although every person’s help counts in this battle against waste, the scale on which the individual harms the environment in comparison to companies and corporations has started to feel hopeless.
According to plastictides.org, the average human contributes nine thousand pounds of plastic to landfills each year. This may seem like a big number, but more than half of the world’s net plastic waste is from just twenty companies. ExxonMobil alone has contributed nearly six million tons of single use plastic to the ever growing accumulation of waste. As the world becomes more and more aware of how the impact of the individual pales in comparison to that of the big companies and corporations, morale has started to drop and people have started to give up. That hopelessness for the future of our planet resonates with me as well. I had the opportunity last summer to crew a small sailboat on a six month voyage from the Atlantic coast of the U.S. to the Pacific coast, and the amount of plastic we passed through every day was eye-opening. On some days, there would be just a small current and the occasional spork would drift by, but many times we passed through a swirling current of trash as far as the eye could see. The trash ranged from small little bits of plastic shrapnel to lawn chairs and car parts, but the vast majority of plastic was packaging related. There were shopping bags, tarps, trash bags, bubble wrap, and plastic wrap, twisting and turning under the surface of the water like writhing eels; surrounded by curious fish who just wanted food.
At this point, the amount of trash in the ocean is near impossible to remove, and the damage has already been done. Although things could be worse, one hundred years from now at the rate we are going things will be much worse, and it will only get harder to slow it down. Despite the higher cost, companies should switch to environmentally friendly packaging now while there is still hope. Furthermore, not only will the companies reduce their footprint, but the rate of commercial plastic waste will go down and with it, the world’s sense of helplessness. When people see that their waste footprint has a statistical significance as a result of the commercial rate declining, they will feel more in control and will do their part as well, knowing that it makes a positive difference. When companies switch to eco-friendly packaging, they not only help the environment, they give the world hope that encourages the public to help the environment alongside them.
Essay by: Callie Gates
Chugiak High School/Family Partnership Charter School