Wasteful lifestyle and our environment

Begin rant

Riffing off on the recent reports of merchants starting charging for plastic bags in China and gas price increase all over the world: These days, 9 out of 10 times, I tell the cashier that I don’t need a bag while shopping here in the US. Plastic and paper bags are free here (the common question of “Paper or Plastic” when you check out). I do ask for one when I need it, nothing wrong with that. A close and reliable source has informed me that the Swedes have been charging for plastic bags for a while. Good for them, I say.

IMHO, the general population in the US are living an EXTREMELY wasteful lifestyle: the gas-guzzling SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicle, Hummer, anyone?); the aluminum and plastic cans and bottles; papers and junk mail; stupid and over-the-top product packaging; fast food packaging, disposable plates, chopsticks, forks, and knives; gadgets, laptops, and phones that use different power adapters; batteries; computer waste, the list goes on and on. It baffles me to no end why we behave in such a bone-headed way. In the last year or so, I’ve worked at a client in a western Chicago suburb, a training center in New York City, a financial firm in downtown Chicago. Of all the places, and I’ve looked for them, not a single one has paper/plastic/aluminum recycling receptacles.

There are efforts to curb that waste, but we need to do much more, such as: encouraging the purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles via tax credit or other incentives, remove the subsidy to oil companies and tax their record-breaking revenue for energy research and development, define sensible regulations for less wasteful yet still tasteful packaging, encourage and make it easy to recycle, etc..

So there you have it, my solution to solve environmental issues in the US. When I have time, I will propose solutions to totally resolve China’s pollution problem! In the meantime, go listen to what Chris Waugh has to say on this important subject.

End rant

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5 responses to “Wasteful lifestyle and our environment”

  1. I still remember living out in town in Iwakuni, Japan. There was so much collected for recycling. And this was back from 1983-86. We moved on base and *poof* there was none. There is some recycling at my home here in SC, but nothing like Japan. It is in many ways a shame. One thing I have seen start to pick up steam, though, is the re-usable bags. So maybe there’s a bit of hope on the horizon?

  2. Haidong,

    California tends to lead the way for the United States. In San Francisco we have banned plastic bags at supermarkets, and I see more people bringing bags to the store. We briefly had a mandate for electric vehicles. Hybrids get some carpool lane access . . . still a far way to go. The wastefulness drives me crazy and the consumerism often reminds me of a more modest childhood where Mom endlessly taught us the word “no.”

    But everything in perspective, right? I’m here at the airport waiting to fly to Boston for a week. I have no idea how that quantifies in plastic bags!

    Another thing in California, I think this year we have a ballot initiative to fund the early phase to start building a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco. And I hear the Silicon Valley is founding startups for new solar and nano-technologies. We already have a new electric sports car . . . there are places where you can see our hopes for the future, and while there are plenty of silly Internet startups we are beginning to apply our talents, passions, and venture funding towards building a more sustainable civilization.

    Hopefully we are not too late, but either way we have the work of building the future cut out for us . . .


  3. Way to go, Japan and California! I like reusable bags Brian.

    I’ve only been to Silicon Valley twice, and came back impressed with the people, innovation, and weather there. If only it is not so expensive 😉

    I am with you Danny regarding everything in perspective. And speaking of flying, I thought I heard Virgin Atlantic tested power a plane with bio-fuel (coconut oil?). Not too sure of the corn-to-ethanol method myself, though.

    I was really impressed by recycling in Sweden. I remember sending recycled material together in a collection station with my father-in-law in Sweden. He also had a compost container in the backyard where leftover food was dumped and turned into organic fertilizer. He is an engineer in a power plant where it uses low emission birch trees, instead of coal, as fuel. At the same time, a quick search on recycling in Sweden turned out some grumbling voice of its strictness, but still, I am impressed.

  4. And the sad thing is China is now copying this extremely wasteful lifestyle of America, instead of learning from the sustainable lifestyle of Japan.

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