The modern world is one of hasty economic growth and constant consumerism. Given this fast-paced consumerism, and persistence of delivery, exchange, and transportation of products, there is always a need for efficient packaging methods and materials. To the average corporation or business, this efficient packaging material is one that is reliable, cheap, and gets the job done. However, this infallible packaging material is failing and rapidly filling our Earth.
Plastic is currently being produced at 300 tons a year according to Plastic Oceans. This colossal amount also supplies the 8 million tons that fill up our oceans. The war waging between inexpensive and sustainable continues to test the ethical conviction of mass production industries. But with this, it is important to note that environmental sustainability in packaging can start small; that is, with small businesses who feed into the economy on a collectively grand scale.
A study done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that Connecticut small businesses generated approximately 15, 578 tons of high grade white office paper and 72,000 of old corrugated cardboard per year. This amount of waste might come as a shock, however when reflecting upon the important role of small businesses to our economy, these numbers begin to become comprehensible. A Statista study found that 91% of consumers shop at a local business at least once a week. But why are these numbers so important? These numbers truly highlight not only the carbon footprint of the business, but also the consumer.
In the grand scheme of things, details like the cup used for your iced latte or the straw used in your green smoothie from the small start-up down the street don’t seem to be a big deal. However, these seemingly minor details make up the thousands of tons of waste that consume our landfills. So what can you do right now?
The first step begins with merely supporting your local green businesses. These businesses work hard to locally source their ingredients, invest in sustainable packaging, and minimize waste. These things are not easy and they’re most definitely not cheap. But when it comes to supporting the earth, these businesses have their priorities straight.
These eco-friendly businesses fall anywhere in the Chicago metroplex, including Back of the Yards, home to some of the most passionate and determined business owners, and they rely on the support and awareness of the local consumers. Therefore, a key role of an ethical consumer is to invest in small businesses that cater to the customer and the environment. Instead of blindly choosing a coffee shop, try searching for one in your area who sells their products in compostable and ethically sourced packaging. Sustainable small businesses thrive on a knowledgeable customer base with a heart for the rather pricey but priceless cause.
Given this knowledge, it remains more important now than ever to keep ourselves in check. And the more we educate ourselves, the more we realize that our impact begins right in our own community. Allow your life motto to become “think global, begin local.”
Blog Post by Ylise Minor, Plant Chicago Circular Packaging Project Intern – Summer 2020
Cover photo by Leah Kuhn.