To achieve maximum sustainability, whose contribution do you think matters the most: businesses, consumers, or our national and state governments? Rather than playing the blame game with any of these parties, I believe that this question should be approached more proactively. Problem identification is just the first step in any equation; it is the solution that ties the loose ends together. As a company that seeks to eliminate the idea of waste, TerraCycle is very much invested in developing and implementing solutions to remedy our environmental woes–but is one company enough?
TerraCycle’s collection and solution programs operate on a B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) basis to keep waste out of landfills and incinerators. This means that our efforts are based on a substantial amount of cooperation with our clientele; think of it as an interdependent network of environmental sustainability.
This network relies primarily on two components: eco-consciousness and initiative. Although contemporary society is becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, there are still those who will default to traditional (and often hazardous) methods of waste disposal. Privatized waste management systems work through incentive, not directive–in other words, environmental responsibility exists as a choice (and not as a rule) at the B2B and B2C level.
Even this limitation, however, is being solved for–at least in part. RGGI (Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative), for example, offers a mutually advantageous arrangement for reducing GHG emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants. By implementing a mandatory, market-based-cap-and-trade system, RGGI is both economically and environmentally beneficial to its participants. Yet RGGI only covers GHG emissions from a limited amount of sources in nine states, and, although another step in the right direction, is by no means a standalone solution to sustainable waste management.
At the consumer level, individuals can choose to participate with programs such as TerraCycle Brigades to simultaneously collect waste and earn money. With products such as VELObill, an energy-tracking utility bill application developed by zerofootprint, consumers can make eco-friendly choices and save money. Even reducing, re-using, and recycling on an individual basis makes an impact, yet these processes still rely on eco-consciousness and initiative.
So, who is at the forefront of sustainability?
All of us are–or rather, all of us should be there, working together for a better (not to mention sustainable) future. Sustainability is a collective effort that brings us closer not only to our environment, but to one another as well. When companies incorporate recycled plastics into their products, when their consumers limit their purchases and carry them in reusable bags, when the government rewards both the public and private sectors for such eco-conscious decisions, then we see sustainability in action.
There are plenty of other ways to practice and encourage environmental sustainability, and on multiple levels–please feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below!