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Shift Happens!

By Larraine Roulston:

Individuals and society at large are under the influence of advertising. Last week, when visiting Toronto, I noticed several Starbuck’s and Tim Horton’s posters while riding public transit and walking on city streets. Posters displayed beverages in familiar disposable cups, often with straws and plastic bubble tops.

Reuse was once normal behavior. Over the past 40 years, the fast food industry has discouraged the use of reusable cups, plates and cutlery by  replacing these visual images with single-use items. To win the war against waste, we need eco-advertising. Unfortunately, it is still ‘Missing in Action!’

Although all media rely on advertising revenue, they should take a hard stand and notify fast food industries, and every corporation as well, that they will no longer accept ads that display waste in any form. As companies require that their products remain in the public’s mind, it is my contention that they will comply. If ads in all public spaces, publications, as well as visual media, refrained from showing disposable items, it would help change attitudes.

One inspirational example comes from Air Canada – being the first airline to my knowledge, to offer smoke-free flights from Toronto to Montreal. Travellers, especially businessmen, complained vehemently; however, Air Canada did not relent. This first step, along with eliminating cigarette advertising, laid a strong foundation for our smoke free environments that we benefit from today.

Trade publications have a great opportunity to test this concept. Tourist magazines, for instance, can illustrate sit-down restaurant customers drinking from ceramic mugs. Those sight seeing would carry thermoses. Hotel lobbies and airports could indicate a picture of a water filling station.

Regarding our reliance with plastics, governments, scientists, corporations and environmental grassroots groups are seeking ways to decrease their enormous contribution to our waste stream. There are many solutions to all the negative issues surrounding plastics. Those being investigated and  implemented include:

  • Making producers environmentally responsible.
  • Investigating ways to improve their recyclability.
  • Seeking creative ways to repurpose.
  • Strengthening markets for recycled plastics.
  • Increasing 3Rs public education. This includes the recent launch of Canada’s Plastic Action Centre – a unique information resource designed to empower action.
  • Imposing deposit systems.
  • Banning all single-use plastics.

The environmental group Grist announced its recent newsletter entitled, ‘Shift Happens’. This publication is one that offers solutions. Action to create change comes in all forms. Not everyone is comfortable marching in protests or writing letters to politicians, but we all can make individual choices and use our power of purchase.

Today, scientists estimate that there is a 12-year window to re-prioritize our habits to solve the climate crisis. With youth beating the environmental drum louder than ever, history is being made. The companies that place their logos on reusable cups in their ads will be part of the solution that helps reduce litter, lessens ocean pollution, and decreases contamination within the recycling industry.

To help reduce plastics at the source, ask companies to advertise just the product – not the waste. Shift Happens!

Related Links:

Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure stories on composting and pollinating. To view, visit: www.castlecompost.com 

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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