Being eco-friendly means thinking locally

As I approached the purse section of the quintessentially teenage store, I was pleased to see that a few organic cotton tote bags with decals of phrases about being green were included in the collection. I picked up a bag to admire, and that’s when I saw it – a tag bearing the words “Made in China.”

Allow me to begin by saying that I am big fan of the so-called “green revolution,” and I commend anyone who makes an effort to live in a more environmentally conscious manner. I even applaud companies whose merchandise is made in an eco-friendly spirit.
However, the purses that I saw in that store struck me not as eco-friendly in spirit, but as a cheap ploy to capitalize on the increasingly green awareness of the teenage population. In fact, I will go as far as saying that they contradicted the true spirit of the movement.
First of all, the foundation of the green movement is based upon a regard for the well-being of all of humanity. “Going green” is a very unselfish, globally-minded thing to do; it shows an understanding of the impact that a person’s actions can have upon the lives of others. As I see it, producing goods in China for the sake of exploiting cheap labor to save some money is actually quite selfish of these manufacturers.
It might seem bold to assume that Chinese workers are, in fact, being exploited in the production of these bags, but American companies would really have no reason to ship goods halfway across the world unless they were somehow saving money. Plus, it is no secret that Chinese manufacturers are not exactly champions of human rights.
This exportation of manufacturing is also detrimental to the environment. Shipping goods from China to the United States requires the use of gasoline, meaning that valuable energy is wasted as atmospheric pollution increases.
So what exactly do I propose that corporations looking to take part in the green movement do? To begin, they can use recycled materials for as many products as possible. For example, the makers of the Made-in-China purses can save the organic cotton for clothing and make the purses out of used cloth and paper.
Companies can also make it a long-term goal to lessen their dependence on foreign labor. Although this requires a partial reversal of the complicated economic system created by globalization, it is certainly an aim worth pursuing. After all, Americans are in need of jobs now more than ever.
Basically, corporations must recognize that the best way to benefit from the green movement is to become more environmentally conscious themselves. This simply cannot be done by taking shortcuts to maximize profits.
As green consumers, we must hold companies to high standards, settling for nothing less than what we know is really good for the world at large. We should use as our mantra that popular quote with ambiguous origins – “Think globally, act locally.”

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3 Responses to Being eco-friendly means thinking locally

  1. Dylan says:

    Great article. Your depth of knowledge on this subject is impressive (and superior to many of your peers.) However, I would like to point out on error that you made (not to be a jerk). You’re correct that dependence on foreign labor is a complicated economic issue, but it is very important to remember two things. One of these things is that a firm will not do anything that does not profit them. Often recycling is not cost – effective. However, this area can be gray, especially if a corporation is exposed as very environmental irresponsible. The most important thing to know is that what you propose about American workers needing more jobs is known as economic protectionism. Basically if an America stops importing things made by Chinese corporations, then China will stop importing American goods, thus those working in that exporting industry will lose their jobs. Otherwise your article is spot on!

  2. Lexie Grove says:

    You’re definitely correct that companies are driven by their desire to profit, and I do not mean to suggest that this is inherently wrong. After all, people go into business to make money. Still, this does not give them a free pass to implement whatever policy necessary to achieve that end. And should they choose to ignore any sense of morality, the least that they could do is refrain from abusing the principles of an otherwise completely respectable movement to dupe consumers.
    As far as the issue of Chinese goods, I mentioned the potential for increased jobs for Americans primarily to show that spending some extra money to be truly green (by not exploiting cheap foreign labor and wasting gasoline) is not without its benefits. I didn’t mean to advocate economic protectionism across the board.
    Since you brought it up, though, I will say that I am by no means an economic protectionist because I realize that that is not an option in, pardon the cliche, “our globalized world.” In certain situations (and I don’t put the production of tote bags in this category), we should import goods, but we should do so on a fair basis – the whole fair trade bit. Even putting aside ethical concerns, you know as well as I do that China is on the path to surpassing us economically. Maybe it sounds dramatic to say that relying upon China so heavily is writing our own death sentence, but if the shoe fits..

  3. Ariel says:

    I think what’s even more ironic about the fact that the bag was made in China is that China has some of the worst pollution in the world. When I went there, a “beautiful day” doesn’t mean blue skies; you can’t even see the sun, there’s so much smog. And it turned a friend’s eyes yellow. It was disgusting. I’m pretty sure they’re working on improving their conditions, but they have a long way to go…

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