One thing I’ve repetitively found since I’ve started this project and have been sharing my findings with my friends is that many people believe that they can’t make a difference. It made me wonder a lot about how much difference one person can make and if all individual attempts are going to be futile until large corporations find it fiscally beneficial to become environmentally friendly.
Well, a few weeks ago I was at work and was talking to a friend who was nay saying the power of individual choice. I work in a restaurant that is currently using Styrofoam containers to give people their to go food in. By the end of the day it adds up how much is used, and as my friend and I were chatting I thought about the Styrofoam and thought I would say something to the owners to see if we could use something a little more environmentally friendly.
When I asked the owner he said that he was already looking into something else only he was having a hard time getting it from our food distributor. He said that they didn’t offer many environmentally friendly options, but they were planning on soon because of the requests they’ve been getting. I asked him what made him decide to switch and he told me that there were a couple of customers over the past few months that asked if there were something besides the Styrofoam to take their leftovers in. He said that it was the right thing to do for the environment, and also he didn’t want to lose any business because of it. Though it may cost a few more cents to get better containers, the money would be easily compensated by the fact that they wouldn’t lose any customers.
I was really happy to see hear this and I’m glad my friend did too because it showed that just a couple of people can make a change in the practices of a business. Then, after a few businesses start putting pressure on suppliers, the practices of suppliers change. This then presents options to businesses that may not have even considered using less pollutant, recyclable materials.
The few people that mentioned something to one restaurant may not have known that they helped to start such a ripple, but they did and I think that it is a great example of how consumers as individuals in a capitalistic society can affect the practices of larger companies and corporations and help to make noticeable changes in the world.
A few days later my friend told me that she went out and bought reusable grocery bags, inspired no doubt by the few people who simply asked about an alternative to Styrofoam.
-Michael R. Johnson, Cornell University Student