Ignorance *was* Bliss
Brian’s an Austin native with a passion for intelligent city design and sustainability. When he’s not busy helping in.gredients get off the launchpad, he loves cycling, drawing maps, and great conversations!
I walked into my co-working space yesterday with a sack lunch – that is, a reusable bag filled with a ceramic plate, a cutting board, a fork and knife, and three glass containers full of leftovers. I didn’t bring my espresso machine. If it fit in the bag, though, I would have…
Some insist there’s a level of social appropriateness I may not be reaching by carting half my kitchen into a small workspace every day. The important thing, I contend, is that I’m not wasting anything – no paper bags, no packets of black pepper, no foil, no plastic cutlery, no nothing. All it took was a little change in thinking.
When the Brothers Lane and I began planning in.gredients over a year ago, we knew we’d be challenging norms and proposing changes in behavior even we’ve had to spend time adjusting to. For example, in the past year my wife and I have switched to hankies and cleaning rags in our house – eliminating tissues and paper towels in order to cut down on household waste. For the first few weeks, it wasn’t easy! I remember having guests over to the house and thinking “wait… we’ll have to give special instructions about where to put used hankies,” and later spilling something (I always do) in the kitchen and instinctively looking for the paper towels.
In terms of packaging waste, up until recently we’ve had the “ignorance is(was) bliss” experience. After becoming aware of the facts about how much packaging is wasted in the US – and how much of it’s actually unnecessary for product quality and safety – we could no longer walk into a store without thinking “there’s packaging… everywhere… just imagine the… oh my…” We’ve discovered the simple brilliance of reusing containers at the store – and how much needless consumption it saves. Sure, packaging that’s not necessary for product integrity can be convenient for customers for the purpose of portability and portion size, and can also serve rightfully as marketing space for the manufacturer – but at what (and whose) cost?
This was our eventual epiphany: a majority of the waste we generate makes our lives really, really convenient. Putting individual bags of chips that may or may not be recyclable in kids’ lunch boxes makes getting out the door in the morning a whole lot easier. And grabbing a paper towel, wiping, and tossing makes cleaning a breeze! But we realized that as great as these things are, we were making our lives easier at the expense of the environment. And when we thought further, that expense was actually billed to us in two ways: (1) in taxes, since the more waste we generate, the more our local government has to tax its citizens for waste management services, and (2) as a negative health impact, since we can’t get away with storing mass waste on the earth without it impacting the air we breathe, the soil our food grows in, or the water that sustains life.
In short, we realized we can’t just think about us. We’ve got to think about the collective health and prosperity of our community. The studies done on consumer waste are overwhelmingly clear: as a society, we have a waste problem, and it’s got to stop. I’m excited in.gredients can take this on as a business and not only make it easier for folks like us to avoid excess waste and make changes to our lifestyles… but to show other businesses that minimizing waste as a retailer is completely possible, and educate the public on how easy it can be to live sustainably.
That’s in.gredients to me.