Paper or Plastic?

Paper or plastic? A common question that is asked in grocery stores. If I forgot my reusable bags, I would ask for paper because, in my mind, the paper was better for the environment. However, after watching Leyla’s TedTalk, I realized that paper is not the way to go. Plastic is. Growing up, I was always told that plastic is terrible for the environment and avoids it in the ways we can. They would show us the floating trash island in the ocean and pictures of sea turtles mistaking the plastic bag for a jellyfish. So it was safe to say that I was conditioned to avoid plastic to save the sea turtles growing up. After watching Leyla’s talk, I was shocked to see the valid points of why choosing a heavy paper bag is worse than plastic. Paper is heavy and will cause more damage on and off the land than plastic does. There she challenged us to make the switch and focus on bettering our environment. 

After watching, I realized that there might be a lot that I am missing when it comes to helping the environment. I spent some time on the RILA (Retail Industry Leader Association) website and combed through the many portals of what I can do to better the environment. After clicking on the website, the first thing I saw was a tab for sustainability. Once I clicked on the tab, I was brought to another page that gave a complete overview of sustainability and its importance in retail. It also gave quick links to other articles that detailed the effects of sustainability in retail—exploring these tabs has informed me how to be sustainable and how the rest of the industries have started their journeys to be more sustainable. 

Sustainability has been a wicked problem for a while now. Many companies are trying to make the change, but there are still outstanding problems affected by this wicked problem. Poverty is one of the controversial topics for an outstanding problem developed from the wicked sustainable problem. On one side, some believe that poverty is responsible for degradation, and on the other side, it is believed that environmental degradation is not responsible for poverty. At first glance, I believed that poverty is not responsible for the environmental decline. However, after reading the article, both sides made valid points. I can see why this leg of the sustainable problem is such a controversial one. It is hard to decipher which weighs more. It is impossible to decide which problem is “more” significant. People in poverty do not have the time to focus on sustainable problems when providing for their families. However, many industries do not even offer people in poverty a sustainable problem. It is relatively easy to see how this problem can go in circles and have a tough time solving it. 

In the end, we all must make a conscious effort to live a more sustainable life. If you forget to bring your reusable bags, don’t take the paper bags as a substitute. Poverty is a big problem, regardless if it comes from environmental degradation or not. We must make efforts to fix all the problems. Visit RILA if you want to get more involved in making the world a better place, or visit the website if you still have questions that need answering.

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