Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pollution

No photo this week. Too graphic. Better off the site. What I'm linking to are Chris Jordan's photos at Midway island, of dead birds with plastic in their bellies, taken in October 2009. http://chrisjordan.com/current_set2.php?id=11 Sad.

Nobody likes pollution, but everyone contributes to it. It's easy to blame the big industrial polluters, but the real culprits are the consumers who let it happen.

Take plastic, for example. The volumes of plastic that have ended up in the great pacific garbage patch stagger the imagination. The bellies of baby albatross are stuffed with bottle caps and other plastic garbage that their mothers mistake for food. Then they die.

It's not totally your fault. The system allows companies to profit while externalizing the costs of the pollution.

Solving pollution is going to involve changing the systems of production and consumption. The age of the throwaway society is over.

What most companies don't realize, is that solving their pollution problem can improve their bottom line. Pollution is wasted production. Companies need to pay for those inputs, and waste products can't be sold.

For the regular citizen, don't call yourself a consumer. The obvious fix is to use less stuff. We all consume more than we actually need.

For businesses, design the waste out of the system.

William McDonough and Michael Braungart give a thorough account of the approach necessary to eliminate pollution in their book Cradle To Cradle.

The book proposes a radical rethink of the whole design process. It involves keeping biological and technical materials separate in products. Let the biological materials biodegrade, and reuse the technical materials in cycles that allow them to be endlessly reused. At their end of their useful lives products can be easily cycled into new, equivalent products.

In nature, waste equals food. Nothing is wasted. We need to design products so that we don't have a steady accumulation of waste. There is no longer any 'away' for us to throw things.

As citizens, you can vote with your dollars. Companies that are redesigning their offerings to be easier on the planet are worthy of your support. Educate yourself about the issues, and be mindful of greenwashing.

Find ways to use less. It will save you money, and you won't be contributing so much to the pollution problem.

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