Opinion: The burden of “going green” shouldn’t be placed on the consumer

With estimations looming for when Earth will have irreversible consequences from climate change, as well as continuous threats to endangered breeds of species and our ecosystems, people have called out against using plastic waste to save the environment. 

More metal straws are being used and more people are being criticized for using plastic straws with their favorite beverages. Although the waste of plastic does build up overtime, we don’t need to shun a single person for a using a straw. The problem is bigger than that.

The belief that this enormous, existential problem, a problem that could be on a par with the apocalypse, could have been fixed if all of us tweaked our consumptive habits is not only unthinkable; it’s dangerous. It turns environmentalism into an individual choice defined as sin or virtue, convicting those who don’t or can’t uphold these beliefs. 

We still have a role to play in tackling plastic pollution, whether we are cleaning beaches, using sustainable products or going out of our way to recycle. But the reality of the situation is this: consumers shouldn’t bearing the burden of the environmental crisis when it actually depends on corporations so much more than what we as individuals do. 

We are expected to change our entire lives to save the world. We have to stop flying, stop using cars, go vegan and live a zero-waste lifestyle, but that’s something that is easier said than done. These things that affect the climate have been embedded in our lives. 

We use plastic everyday, even the keys on the computer keyboard I’m using is plastic. So, while we’re busy testing each other’s morality, we let the government and industries — the creators of said devastation — off the hook completely. 

This overemphasis on individual action shames people for their everyday activities, things we can barely avoid doing because of the fossil fuel-dependent system we were born into. In fact, fossil fuels supply more than 75 percent of the U.S. energy system, but according to The Environment Literacy Council, not only fossil fuels are running out, but it makes a huge impact on the environment as well. 

In their article, they said the combustion process releases a variety of emissions and particulates and gases, including ash, sulfur, nitrogen and carbon, which can be harmful to the environment, are released into the atmosphere. They can combine with water vapor in the air to form acidic compounds that create acid rain, and burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that scientists believe is a key factor in climate change. 

Adding to that, in an article published in EcoWatch, a total of 70 clean-ups determined that Nestlé, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola were the worst corporate plastic polluters in 2018, in that order. 

But that is not saying we need to point fingers at companies who use plastic for their products. Many companies have resorted to a more appealing solution to appease the people, and many do their part to help reduce plastic waste.

For example, the Coca- Cola company has set ambitious goals to develop more sustainable plastic and reuse systems, as well as launched a World Without Waste campaign to collect the equivalent of bottles or cans that sold. But blaming people is never the solution we need. 

To solve this problem, we all need to accept that our entire existence is to blame for this problem. We made these industries and companies, so we need to find better solutions to ultimately solve this problem on a bigger scale. The concept of environmentalism can no longer be seen as a burden for us to bear.