At GreenSmart we developed a perspective some time ago that we thought was and still is the most achievable way to make progress toward reducing the resources required to make bags (anything actually, but, GreenSmart makes bags). We considered areas where eco-progress over a number of years was identifiable, like the chlorofluorocarbon issue and the Antarctic Ozone Hole or the incredible air quality improvements found in California as two examples among many in which we consistently found that the environmental improvements over time were the result of millions of individual consumer actions.
Whether those actions are regulated or not, the fact is, individual consumers were the contributors to the eco-progress, through the products they purchased, used or consumed. They bought “aerosols” without CFCs and they bought cars with catalytic converters, among many other seeming small product manufacturing changes. By industry changing its approach to making products that consumers purchase, a reversal of long term environmental degradation was not only possible, but measurable and fast, measured in years, not decades or lifetimes.
These observations of individual cause creating macro effect, lead me to a term for this activity; “displacement theory”. In a nutshell, every time a product with an eco-improved construction or fabrication process is sold in the marketplace, the conventionally made alternative is not sold. In a scorekeeping sense, since the eco-conscious product creates a plus one for the planet. Until such time as a consumer would discard the eco-conscious product in favor of the conventional product, the plus one remains.
We find “displacement theory” to be a very exciting and motivating concept. Each time a GreenSmart bag is sold, planet earth comes out ahead; resource consumption is reduced, former plastic bottles are put to new use and workers are treated respectfully.
The concept is not perfect? Nothing is perfect. But, GreenSmart is very open about its pursuit of eco-progress, not eco-perfect. If consumers are going to buy a product anyway – shouldn’t we all work to ensure that they are getting the option to buy the most eco-conscious product possible? We may work for many, many years to try to change the behavior of consumers and still get nowhere. In the meantime, those consumers will have purchased hundreds of items that could have been more eco-conscious which could have improved the planet all along. GreenSmart wants to endorse, in fact create that progress.
GreenSmart as much as any business, needs to be adaptable as better processes and practices come along. GreenSmart will also need to pay attention to the consumer’s behavior, in case their tastes change. But, that the norm for all businesses – adjust to improvement it can find and pay attention to the market? I would say it is.
As our bottle count approaches 1 million bottles removed from the landfill stream, we take great pride in offering the greener alternative. Eco-conscious vs. conventional (thank you Judi Shils of Teens Turning Green for the contrast terms). Let’s hope the second million bottles comes more quickly than the first million bottles as our Displacement theory continues to make strides.