Reducing Waste Throughout Your Day

Many of us have set routines to navigate through our days, whether we recognize them or not. However, few realize the amount of waste created throughout those routines. In the shower, no one really stops to think about what we do with the plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles when they’re empty or how much water is wasted waiting for the shower to get warm. What about the single-use k-cups for a Keurig coffee maker or the plastic water bottle taken to class or work? What about the amount of food thrown away after dinner? The point is that, there are many ways to reduce waste through the daily routines that we have.

               These little decisions in everyday life are not the driving force of this accumulation of waste. In reality, this accumulation is a product of a capitalist economic structure that requires this level of waste production from those participating in it, just so they can survive. One of the major issues within capitalism is the drive to expand, or globalization. This forces companies to have their products made in other countries where the labor and production process is cheaper. This results in exploitation of labor and depletion of resources in that country. Also, due to the number of miles these products have to travel, there is also energy waste created in travel. The cheaper labor fosters the “throw away culture” that the United Stated currently has and makes it more affordable, in some cases, to buy a new product than to fix a current one. Also, this depletion of resources in the countries that US companies outsource to forces them to rely on the production businesses to essentially run their economies. This gives the powerful countries a lot of economic control over the weaker countries who are losing resources. Most of the countries where this production is a key to their economic prosperity are underdeveloped and, with their economic authority given to other countries, will most likely never become fully developed or will take a very large amount of time to be able to be fully developed.

               Even though the products of a capitalist economy and perpetuation of that structure contribute to the amount of waste produced, there are steps that people can take in their every day lives that can reduce waste produced by the individual. Buying coffee from a coffee shop in the morning is a typical practice for most Americans, however this creates an enormous amount of waste around the world. Starbucks uses over four billion paper cups each year and most end up in landfills due to the combination of paper and plastic. Starbucks released a statement on the ability to recycle their plastic and paper cups:

“Recycling seems like a simple, straightforward initiative but it’s actually quite challenging. Our customers’ ability to recycle our cups, whether at home, at work, in public spaces or in our stores, is dependent upon multiple factors, including local government policies and access to recycling markets such as paper mills and plastic processors.

Some communities readily recycle our paper and plastic cups, but with operations in 75 countries, Starbucks faces a patchwork of recycling infrastructure and market conditions. Additionally, in many of our stores landlords control the waste collection and decide whether or not they want to provide recycling. These challenges require recycling programs be customized to each store and market and may limit our ability to offer recycling in some stores.”

Coffee companies are addressing the inability to recycle their cups, but one could eliminate that waste by taking a reusable cup to a coffee shop. In Starbucks now, they sell reusable cups specific for their brand. Although Starbucks is only one example, I believe replacing single use cups with re-usable ones, and using that strategy for other food or single-use items, can be applied in many other facets of life.

 

 

In the work place and school, a lot of paper waste is created. Buying recycled paper products and keeping recycle bins in convenient places around the office or school are techniques that could reduce this waste. Also buying energy efficient technology would curb energy waste. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a “tool created to help institutional purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare, and select desktop computers, notebooks, and monitors based on their environmental attributes”. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, EPEAT certified products “must meet environmental performance criteria that address: materials selection, design for product longevity, reuse and recycling, energy conservation, end-of-life management and corporate performance”.

For college students, this can be an even bigger challenge due to the lack of access to stores and transportation. However, there are a multitude of ways to reduce waste in a college setting. From packaging-free shampoo bars and sustainable dental floss, to bringing your own cups to parties instead of using plastic cups, “Trash is For Tossers” provides many guides, tips, and tricks to reducing waste in one’s life.

Unfortunately, the lifestyle that reduces waste is not the most accessible one. The “zero waste” lifestyle is a privileged lifestyle. Not every person has accessibility to the resources that help this life choice or the money to be able to attain those resources like reusable produce bags or washable straws. Also, some don’t have the privilege of an education that teaches them about this lifestyle or the hazards of waste produces by other lifestyles.

Working toward reducing waste is a noble effort and an honorable goal. However, it is still a difficult process to adopt due to the wasteful culture we live in. There are many ways to reduce waste in multiple life settings, but it is important to remember that one does not have to, and is usually not able to, switch these habits completely in a short amount of time. Attempting to reduce and being conscious of waste production is important and is becoming necessary to sustain our planet but be patient with the process. Everyone wants a chance to save the world, and through waste reduction efforts, you can get that opportunity. Remember, every day, that you can take steps to save the world.

Globalization: Good or Bad? It’s Up to You!

Globalization is the spread of business on an international scale. There are different arguments as to when globalization can be dated back to, some say globalization can be traced on a smaller scale all the way back to the B.C.E time period, while others say that certain turning points in the world’s economy such as the industrial revolution or colonization was the true beginning of globalization. Globalization can be seen as a “double edged sword”, meaning, it has both positive and negative consequences. Perspective is a huge component on someone’s outlook on globalization. Looking at globalization through multiple perspectives allows us to better understand the effects it has on us and the world around us. All in all, globalization is both good and bad for society. It works in ways that bring us together while always pulling us apart.

Globalization works to bring the world together because it spreads certain entities such as cultures and technological advances. The world forms bonds through these advances. For example, globalization has led to the mass spread of technology. People in developed nations now view things like cellphones and computers as necessities. Could we go without them? Sure. Do we want to? No. The spread of cellphones and other technologies has led to a rise in social media use and the connection to the world via the internet. The internet is now the main form of communication for most people. The news is available at the tap of a button and other forms of informative technology, such as social media, connects people to other people across the world in a matter of seconds. Another way the world becomes closer through globalization is through the spread of culture. The spread of culture allows people to take part in another nations culture, through things like food, clothing, and traditions. This spread of culture would not be possible without globalization.

While globalization can be viewed positively, it can also be viewed negatively. At the same time that globalization can be seen bringing the world together, it can also be seen dividing us. One of the strongest dividing forces of globalization is the impact it has on wage gaps and worldwide income inequality. Globalization has been proven to make the wealthy wealthier while not benefiting the middle class. This uneven benefit from globalization has led the wage gap to increase worldwide. An article, written by the U.S. News, cites reports from the Pew Research Center. The Pew Research Center states in their report that, “Our finding that recent globalization trends have increased U.S. inequality by disproportionately raising top incomes represents an important step forward,” (US News). The income of the top 1% has been seen to continuously rise while the income of the lower 99% continues to stay at a near constant rate. Below is a graph that shows the distribution of the household income in the past few decades. As you can see, although globalization has been on the rise for the past few decades, the lower 99% of household incomes have not seen much benefit, if any from the spread of globalization.

Distribution of Household Income

The inequality seen in wages is similar to the inequality seen in developing countries and underdeveloped countries. As the developing countries continue to benefit from free trade and globalization, the underdeveloped countries continue to struggle. Neil Godbout, a writer for the Times Colonist, writes that, “The majority of the world’s masses have not benefited from open markets and free trade, unless the definition of benefit is creating a small ultra-rich global class holding an increasing amount of the world’s wealth and forcing billions of people in developing countries to abandon their fields and rural lives for mega-city shantytowns.” (Times Colonist). Below are a compilation of graphs that show the global income of 1800, 1975, 2015. These graphs show how globalization has led to the rise of some continents’ increase in daily consumption per capita, which is a direct result of globalization.

Global Income Graphic

As you can see from the shifts in the graphs, major developed countries such as North America and European nations, can be seen dominated the right side of the graphs in 1975 and 2015. Also pictured in the graph are nations in Africa and Asia/Pacifica that have been left behind, for the most part, towards the lower half of the graph during in 1975 and 2015. This skew in the graphs shows the inequality of developing countries and shows how globalization, which has largely increased in recent decades, has hugely impacted developmental inequality in nations around the world.

In class we watched a documentary that discussed Walmart’s globalization and the positive and negative impacts it had on the world, and more specifically, the impacts it had on the working-class citizens of the United States. The metaphor of the double-edged sword was a huge proponent of this documentary because the dateline documentary did a great job of getting multiple perspectives and opinions. The documentary showed how the globalization of Walmart positively and negatively affected the people of the United States. The positive effect was seen in reduced retail prices for the consumers, while the negative effect was low wages and loss of jobs.

A person’s perspective on Globalization depends on their position in society. Are they a CEO of a major retail chain or are they your average middle class store worker? If you are an average middle class citizen, you may like globalization because it lowers the retail prices of the products you buy. However, if you work in the retail business you might hate globalization because the cheaper the product, the easier it is for the company you work for to lower your wage because you can “afford to live” on cheaper wages because products are cheaper. So, globalization, is it good or bad? My answer: it’s all about perspective.