Our Disposable Society

All this talk about the environment. Landfills filling up, global warming, going green…it’s the underlying theme of society these days. It’s not a bad thing that everyone is talking about it…in fact, it’s vitally important. As Canada’s most famous environmentalist, Dr. David Suzuki says:

“We’re in a giant car heading towards a brick wall and everyone’s arguing over where they’re going to sit.”

Here’s the thing that really ticks me off. As we are bombarded with messages about all of the horrible things we are doing to the environment, big companies continue to make products that are harmful. Here’s just a brief list of stupid inventions that I think are just plain wasteful:

Microwave Steaming Bags. Think about it. Do you really need a plastic bag to steam your food in the microwave? How did you do it before the microwave steaming bag was invented? What’s that? In a container? In a pot on the stove? In fact, studies have shown that veggies steamed in the microwave lose up to 97% of valuable nutrients like antioxidants, so there’s not really much point in nuking your veg in the first place. Throw that broccoli into a salad instead. You’ll be healthier and so will the environment.

Disposable Toilet Scrubbers. So, I can go to IKEA and buy a toilet brush for $1.50. Or I can go to the grocery store and buy a pack of throw-away toilet scrubbers for $5.99. The toilet brush works just as well, and I can use it over and over. If it gets dirty, I can soak it in a bit of bleach and voila! It’s like new. The toss-away toilet scrubbers are just about the silliest invention I’ve seen. Just slap it on, scrub away then toss it. The commercials even say “Then just throw it away!” What kind of attitudes are we developing when we allow advertisers to tell us just to toss away anything we don’t need? Again, we got along just fine for years using an old fashioned toilet brush. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Plastic bags full of ads that get stuck on my doorknob. This is about the most ridiculous invention ever. I’m not sure about where you live, but where I live, there’s this company whose sole purpose is to fill up these plastic bags with a bunch of glossy, un-recyclable papers advertising various, mostly useless products I can buy in my neighbourhood. They hang the bags on the doorknobs of everyone’s house. It happens about once every 6 weeks or so. Let’s say they distrubute one to even 50% of the households in my city. That’s about 250,000 houses. 250,000 useless plastic bags full of useless, non-recylable paper, about 8 times a year. That’s 2 million plastic bags over the course of a year, most of which end up being tossed in the garbage without even being looked at. Sad, isn’t it.

Why do companies keep creating these products? Because we keep buying them. If we are truly going to start making positive changes, we need to stop being such a disposable society, and we need to start taking a stand against these kinds of senseless, wasteful products. Here are a few proactive things you can do right now to start along this path:

  1. Stop buying this crap.
  2. Write to the companies making these products and tell them you are going to stop using any of their products until they stop producing harmful things.
  3. Write to your government representative and tell them you want tougher regulations put in place with regards to how people distribute and advertise these kinds of products.
  4. Stop buying this crap.
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  • August 25, 2008 at 8:17 am

    I fully agree with you but the wee little optimist in me sees signs that we are finally getting the message. ‘Green’ products are much more readily available and people are (slowly, admittedly) realizing that *GASP* actions do have consequences.

    I hope that, in the next few years, we are going to see companies like those that make disposable toilet brushes marginalized.

    We were bred for decades to believe that convenience trumped all else. Slowly buy surely, the message is getting out and we’re changing our habits. I hope.

    Do the ad bag people abide by “No Flyers” signs, by the way?

  • August 25, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson

  • August 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    Beware of government recycling programs who’s purpose, among other things, is to make people “feel better” about being green.

    My peeve is the City of Ottawa.

    It is true that your blue box is for plastic, metal and glass, but among the list of items they don’t take are “All plastic bags”. (that comes right off the City of Ottawa website) Why don’t they take plastic bags such as those ones you get from the grocery store? Because they’re too expensive to recycle. But … taxpayers can feel great about themselves as they bring them home by the dozens and throw them in the Blue Box, only to have someone take them out and throw them in the garbage.

  • August 25, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks for putting this information out there. The reason that companies continue to make this garbage (and that’s what it is because that’s where it ends up) is because people continue to buy it. As long as their is money to be made, companies will continue to do what they are doing.

    Its the WalMart philosophy of buying cheap, buying more and replacing often that has gotten us into this, and until more people like you and I get the word out, nothing will change.

    Alter the Eco and keep up the good fight,




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