Push for green products distracts from real problem: corporations

Students should recycle, but helping the environment requires much more. | Trevor Nolley/ The Cougar

Students should recycle, but helping the environment requires much more. | Trevor Nolley/ The Cougar

Not too long ago, videos of turtles with straws stuck up their noses went viral, understandably upsetting people. With this new hatred of plastic straws, companies have taken notice and churned out advertisements for their metal straws and other green products. 

Instead of following these companies by hating on plastic straws, students can volunteer with environmental groups or even donate. 

The advertisements from these companies include things like calling plastic users useless and implying that straws are as bad as cigarettes. Even when it’s not negative, green product marketing relies on the idea that you are responsible for saving the planet, saying things like “Save the Environment One (biodegradable phone) Case at a Time.”

Basically, if you don’t buy their product, you are responsible for dying sea turtles. This idea of individual responsibility for the environment is very problematic but unfortunately effective, as shown by the media’s reaction. 

There are numerous articles listing plastic straw alternatives, emphasizing an individual’s impact and how easy it is to quit straws. If it’s so easy, people who use straws are supposedly making the conscious decision to hurt the environment. This shaming of plastic straw users has serious consequences.

For many disabled people, they need plastic straws to drink or else they could die. Plastic alternatives may not work for someone due to their disability, and yet disabled people are harassed for using something they need to survive. 

These companies have created a culture where we believe it is up to the individual to save the environment. This culture condemns people who use plastic, even if it’s for their own survival, and it must end. Not only is it ableist and immoral, it distracts from the real problem: corporations. 

The majority of carbon emissions destroying the environment are the result of fossil fuel companies, who worked to cover up the evidence of climate change to make profits. As for plastic, most companies sell products in plastic that the consumers end up throwing away. 

Big companies like Coca-Cola have billions of dollars, resources and the knowledge that their plastic is bad for the environment, yet they still sell plastic and profit from it. Why are disabled straw users harassed but not the corporations causing the problem?

Green marketing has made us believe it’s up to us, which isn’t true. Companies emitting greenhouse gases and creating plastic impact the environment much more than someone using a bamboo straw. Yet environmentalists yell at plastic users instead of taking direct action to make corporations sustainable. 

It may seem impossible since corporations hold so much power, but there are still things we as individuals can do to hold them accountable. You can contact your representatives and tell them to stand against wasteful corporations.

For direct action, donate to or volunteer for Environment Texas, which works to protect our Texas climate, or Greenpeace, which pressures governments and corporations into helping the planet. In fact, just last week, Greenpeace activists shut down an oil shipping channel in Baytown

Now, you can still use metal straws. If you can be more eco-friendly, do it by all means, but don’t shame anyone because they used plastic. Instead, we must join together and demand that corporations stop killing our planet and start fighting for it.

Anna Baker is a communication student and can be reached at [email protected]

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