Observing the dialectic of “green”, and wondering how polluted it is by the same corporations that don't want to change (or just want to green-wash), one of the most dangerous trends is customer-shaming. The tendency, that is, to blame the consumer for what the corporation does (and makes money).
Let me give you an example: plastic bottles in the sea. If you look at the ongoing dialectic, you discover very few who blame Evian (an example of a company that markets billions and billions of plastic bottles), while everyone is betting on the civilization of the user, or on the inefficiency of disposal.
This apparently makes sense (and it is to the extent that the pig in the situation throws bottles into the sea, or dumps the garbage on the beach), but there is a problem. A very small problem that no one takes into consideration: if there were no plastic bottle, the problem would not arise.
To better understand this concept, let's see what the ideal world would look like in this view:
- Evian of the situation produces and markets billions of plastic bottles, the cheapest, and makes a profit.
- The consumer undertakes to dispose of the bottle AT HIS OWN EXPENSE and / or of his own time and personal commitment, WITHOUT making this disposal cost anything to Evian.
- When the bottles pile up, the state builds and maintains a waste management system, without costing Evian anything.
I don't know if you have noticed, but in this vision Evian keeps all the profits, the state and the consumer take all the effort and costs. Don't you find it suspicious?
I can make it even more obvious: instead of Evian, let's take Coca Cola as the victim. Coca Cola produces billions and billions of bottles of drinkable liquids of various flavors, which it then stores, sells, and which produce waste. Some bottles are glass, others plastic. And then, as usual, the consumer is ashamed if the plastic bottles end up in the sea, or if the glass ones are not disposed of well (of course, NOT at the expense of Coca Cola).
But if we think about what is inside a bottle, we get two things:
And if we observe that the water comes out of the tap, we discover that all I need is the "flavor". Good.
I can buy the "flavor" on amazon. These are packs of 48 doses, each of two liters. That means 96 Kg of Coca Cola in a small box that weighs 300 grams. If I had to stock 96 one-liter bottles, for each of the three flavors, I would have a stack of crates in the garden.
This is the point. There is an alternative.
Knowing that there is an alternative to the bottle / can of Coca Cola, you can REALLY say that it is the consumer's fault if the bottles end up in the sea, if trucks and trains move to send them to supermarkets, if they are used (and refrigerated in some hot countries) warehouses and all?
It would be the consumer's fault if the alternative existed and Coca Cola also sold the sachet. But it does not exist, and obviously "Frutti Cola" will not use the same patented Coca Cola recipe. Since Coca Cola sells its sachet (there are no oompa-loompas to make coke by hand) only diluted with the same water that comes out of the tap, the thesis is unsustainable: there is a fault of Coca Cola.
Obviously, however, this thing only catches the eye when the alternative is proposed. And when it turns out that THE PRODUCT might be different, THEN it clearly shows that yes, leaving the can on the street is wrong, BUT someone should grab Coke by the collar and ask why the can still does.
In short, the pollution from bottles of the seas is a problem BOTH for the user who slams the bottle away, or for those who had to dispose of it and does so by throwing it into the sea, AND FOR THOSE WHO PRODUCE IT. But little is said about these.
And this leaps to the eye when it comes to "personal carbon footprint". I mean, I use gas to heat the house, BUT IT IS NOT THAT I HAVE MANY ALTERNATIVES. Who decided to create immense infrastructures to bring gas into my home? And why if you don't live in very special places, finding, say, pellet stoves and the pellet itself is so difficult?
This is the point: it is said that I have a "PERSONAL carbon footprint", but when I go to see it, it should be called the "BUSINESS carbon footprint". I didn't choose the gas: any other source would be fine for me: I have heated my house, for YEARS, using heat pumps with an Ω of 3.5. But they are very difficult to find and in Italy there is a limit of 3KW, so I had to beg for 6KW, to pay a lot. Here in Germany I have 16KW, but finding heat pumps is very difficult.
So, is the carbon footprint of my house a “personal” carbon footprint, or a “business” footprint? Some examples:
- many of the things we store in the refrigerator would keep better and longer if dried. Without consuming energy.
- the clothes we use would not have to be disposed of if the Fashion Business had not introduced a planned obsolescence, called “fashion of this year”.
- soaps, shampoos and various bubble baths would not end up so much in the sewers if they were diluted in water by 50% compared to today's doses, doses that are unnecessarily concentrated.
and I could go on, but the concept is simple:
Companies produce the product that suits them, regardless of the impacts. Then, using their marketing & advertisement departments, they convince the masses that the consequences of their actions are borne by the consumer or the government, blaming them with terms like "personal carbon footprint", "personal environment impact" and others.
And this is evident when we look at the world of fashion. If ANY other company made you a product that is obsolete next year JUST BECAUSE IT'S A DIFFERENT YEAR, as they do with “Autumn / Winter 2021 Collection”, surely the regulator would accuse them of planned obsolescence. But somehow the fashion industry has managed to convince you that if Samsung makes a product that lasts two years it's a monster, if Armani makes a product that lasts six months then it's cool.
And if your wardrobe ends up in the bin every year, THEN it's YOUR “planet footprint”, not THEIR planet footprint.
And no, I am not referring to "consumerism". I can also change something every year, PROVIDED IT IS CLEAR THAT THE DISPOSAL IS FOR THE MANUFACTURER.
I would have no problem if the fashion industry took back the clothes after a year to recycle the fabrics. Just as I would have no problem if Samsung took back the phone after two years, giving me a deposit for the materials.
Instead Samsung and Gucci tell me that it's MY FAULT if these products (which they have made obsolete and do NOT resume at the end of the cycle), and if this stuff ends up in landfills, the bastard is me.
Let's do a linguistic exercise. So far you have all heard of "consumerism", and you have associated it with consumer behavior, also associating all the harmful effects with the consumer himself.
Strangely, no one has pointed out that the consumer in buying is losing out, since he spends money. On the contrary, the manufacturer makes money. The consumer would live very well if his car lasted two million kilometers, while the manufacturer would live very badly. Apparently, therefore,
what we call "consumerism" should be called "producism". It is not the idea of consuming as much as possible, but the idea of PRODUCING as much as possible that dominates the concept.
And this is because consuming for the consumer is a COST, while for the producer it is a REVENUE. For what reason to attribute the phenomenon to those who lose, rather than to those who gain?
The trouble is, if we say that bottles in the ocean are a product of consumerism, we are blaming consumer behavior. And therefore it is the consumer who must be careful about the fate of his plastic bottles after having emptied them.
If, on the other hand, we say that the bottles in the ocean are a product of "producism", we are implicitly shifting the blame to the behavior of the bottle producer. And here we shift the responsibility towards the MANUFACTURER; who should be careful about the fate of the plastic bottles it produces.
This simple exercise clearly shows how widespread the “personal footprint” narrative is: it is actually a “company footprint”, if not a “business footprint”, and no consumer should feel guilty.
But none of us, or almost, PRODUCES waste.
Let's take another example to clarify the question "families produce tons of waste". Let's take this:
The blister pack around the steak you will throw away, and they will say that your family PRODUCES that waste. But did you want the steak or the blister? Uhm.
Imagine that in supermarkets you can take out the meat, put it in your tupperware, keep the label and leave the blister at the supermarket. At that point your family no longer "PRODUCES" that waste. And it will be useless to talk about "waste PRODUCED by family".
But at that point, apparently, the refusal "PRODUCES" it the supermarket.
So let's say that even the supermarket is pissed off feeling guilty about “PRODUCING” waste, and does the same thing: take the meat out of the blister packs and sell it in bulk, with a calibrated scale. (it's an example, ok?). And then you send all the blisters back to the distributor.
At that point the supermarket will no longer "PRODUCE" waste, and the "waste for supermarket" statistics will no longer make sense.
Apparently now the refusal "PRODUCES" the distributor. And so we will talk about waste by distributor.
But now the vending machine is cracking balls too, and takes the steaks out of the blister. And send the blister back to the manufacturer.
Suddenly the WHOLE CHAIN is free from the accusation of "PRODUCING" the waste. And to say it all, even if the meat producer sent loose meat around WITHOUT any blister pack, not even the meat company would be accused of "PRODUCING" waste (if we exclude the bone).
So? And then to produce the waste, that is the plastic blister, is THE FACTORY THAT PRODUCES PLASTIC BLISTERS.
And if they end up in the ocean, it is THEM that you have to go to.
Producism rather than consumerism.
Having said that, then are we free of responsibility? In itself, no: it is clear that if I have a plastic bottle I have to dispose of it well.
But instead of wasting time pissing off my neighbor if he doesn't do the same thing, I SHOULD waste time pissing myself off because someone MADE the plastic bottle.
But we don't, because they convinced us that if the bottle ends up in the ocean it's because WE didn't care about its fate, instead of clarifying that if it ends up in the ocean, FIRST OF ALL, it's because THE BOTTLE MANUFACTURER didn't care about his fate.