Part II: Being a Responsible Consumer / by Stephen Riella

BUY, BUY, BUY! As consumers that thought of purchasing the next biggest thing is ingrained in our minds at an early age. We accumulate stuff for the sake of having it. However, as a consumer can we, collectively, make any changes that might keep our environment any cleaner? 

Here is a sobering fact, last year Americans used 50 billion plastic water bottles. Other than the obvious issue there is another startling fact, only 23% of those bottles were recycled. So what happened to all the others?

Most water bottles end up in trash cans or simply tossed out wherever they are emptied. Now aside from the very obvious fact that pollution is costly for many reasons, these bottles alone cost far too much money. Bottled water, per gallon, is more expensive than a gallon of gas. There are so many ways to alter your daily pattern of water consumption. Bring a cup with a lid on it, by a reusable bottle or use a glass water bottle. Any of those options are far better than continuing to purchase plastic water bottles.

Bags. Yikes! Where did all these plastic bags come from? When I was young we got paper bags from our local grocery store. We used the same bags as book covers or trash bags. These days it's almost impossible to get a paper bag from a store. Have no fear, there is a very simple solution to stop this insane, wasteful and environmentally damaging problem: just buy a reusable shopping bag. They are not expensive and they are environmentally friendly. 

Let's put some simple things into perspective. Globally we use more than one million new plastic bags every minute. Just in plastic bags alone, it takes more than 2.2 billion gallons of oil per year to create them, according to a Boston College study. The most common item we remove from parks on cleanups, are water bottles and plastic bags. Last fun fact on plastics, every single piece of plastic ever made still exists. Still think you need that bottle of Dasani?

Do you know who you buy from? Decades ago, consumers had a pretty good idea. Your family went to orchards to pick fruits, they had one local grocery store and you probably had a butcher in town. Now? Well the city I live in has over a dozen National chain grocery stores. Does anyone know where that food comes from? What practices are being used to farm the fruits and vegetables that you are eating? Is the chicken you buy raised in a healthy environment? 

I have no answers to any of these questions when I buy from a store. So is there anything that can be done to figure out any of these things? Yes, we can grow some of our own vegetables. We can also background check the businesses that we buy from. It's important that our food is raised and delivered to us in a clean and sustainable way. It's better for the quality of food that we get. It is also better for the environment that we don't support companies that don't meet our own personal standards for cleanliness and environmental footprint.