Ethical consumerism isn’t feasible at a consumer level

Kody Cowell, Assistant Opinion Editor

We need to talk about consumerism and the ways we’re slowly being taught to be responsible at the consumer level.

You know, things like veganism or waste-free living. “Ask for your drink without a straw,” and “don’t buy leather,” or even, “only buy things that don’t come in non-recyclable packaging.”

It’s the little things that make a difference, right?
Sure, but why aren’t we looking at the bigger picture? Why are we blaming the consumer, and not the corporations that produce our consumables like that in the first place?

I do want to add a disclaimer here: I greatly respect people who want to live more conscientiously towards the impact they have on the world around them. I am not discouraging such practices. But what I want to remind you of is that we need to keep some perspective on this sort of consumer-level activism.

A 2013 statistic on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website says the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash per day. That’s an ugly number. It’s not sustainable.

If you think you can feasibly reduce that number for yourself (and your friends, your family…), then fantastic! But focusing on what you can do takes the weight off the shoulders of the true source of the problem.

You, as the consumer, are not responsible for this change in our consumer lifestyle.

That falls on the big corporations, companies like PepsiCo and Nestle’, who sell their goods wrapped in 4.4-lbs-per-person of cardboard, plastic and paper packaging. We don’t produce the waste, they do. It just gets handed down to us.

This system is not sustainable. We cannot keep producing waste at this rate.

The level of waste and pollution that massive consumer companies produce is insane compared to what any American household could produce. They are the ones that could affect the greatest change.

Shifting the blame from manufacturer to consumer works against us. Major companies save a lot of money if they don’t have to worry about sustainability or waste-management. Blaming ourselves for the results of their irresponsibility lets them continue unchallenged.

Shift the blame back to them. Do what you can, but remember that you are not the problem.