New York Daily Photo Analytics

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Consumption

A friend called this morning to let me know that today is Blog Action Day where participating bloggers do a posting on an environmental issue. This is good timing, since I have wanted to do something on the clutter of newsboxes in the city. These boxes are typically extremely unattractive (with disparate sizes and colors) and poorly maintained - filthy, stickered, broken, with some even being used as trash receptacles. I intended to show two sets of boxes - a hideous strip and the much more attractive approach as seen here on Park Avenue (here is an article indicating this may be a trend). I intended to call the posting "Solution", which it is at some level. But I am rethinking my position. It may be a solution if there is no reduction of production and distribution of this type of literature, but perhaps we need to reevaluate the need for materials like this to be printed at all. The three Rs of waste management, reduce, reuse, recycle form a hierarchical pyramid with the most favored option at the top - reduction, and recycling at the bottom. Some studies have already shown that recycling is a net energy loss. Unfortunately the three Rs are applied selectively - consumption is built into the fabric of American culture with shopping and malls as recreation. Reduction is not seriously looked at by most citizens. No one really wants to make sacrifices on the consumption side. Activists like Reverend Billy with his stop shopping message (click here) and organizations like Burningman are lone voices, frequently seen as fringe elements of society. With the Internet, electronic media and portable devices such as the iPhone, laptops and ereaders, we are at an optimal place in time to really reduce printed materials and move towards the elusive paperless office, predicted as far back as 1975 (in an article in Business Week). Unfortunately, technology has given us the ability to create more paper documents and the amount has been growing. I am more of a stick than a carrot person, so I believe there will need to be penalties, sanctions and legislation for us to break our consumptive habits and effective change to begin. I understand that a society needs an economic engine and that commerce is a necessary component, but we need to achieve some balance with appropriate consumption before we are buried in trash ...

4 comments:

claudine said...

En France et à Paris, plus précisément, nous n'avons pas ce genre de présentoirs pour les journaux et pour les publicités. Les journaux sont vendus dans des boutiques ou des kiosques. Les journaux publicitaires sont distribués à la sortie des stations de métro ou dans la rue.
Le distributeur de journaux que je vois sur votre photographie semble s'intégrer dans la rue.
(J'espère que vous comprenez le français. Pour moi, il est plus facile d'écrire en français qu'en anglais !)

Lucy said...

It's true also that a lot of the information printed in this type of media is repetitive -- you get the same listings and stories in all of them. I think a variety of opinions is of course a necessary thing, we don't want to sink into monopoly, but I think it would be good if the people putting out the free papers thought it through a bit more and figured out a way for their wares to be more ecologically gentle, on the city and on us in general...

• Eliane • said...

One of the things that completely shocked me when I moved here is the amount of waste when you do your shopping: everything gets double-bagged, you get 10 napkins and a plastic bag with your sandwich. There is no incentive whatsoever for people to start paying attention and getting into the habit of recycling bags. In Belgium, when you bring your shopping back to the store, it gets scanned and gets you a small discount. It is made of a thicker plastic, looks good and is replaced after it has done its time. The small discount encourages you to bring the bag back while you pay for a new one. That was seven years ago and still works this way. Although most of the time, my parents would use the self scanning and not use a single bag - you can buy a collapsable case that fits on your cart, fill it in with your purchases, self check out and put the case in your trunck. This is the kind of solutions we need here.

Brian said...

eliane - exactly what I am saying. There has to be some sort of incentives for people here to change their behavior. But I see no efforts in this way. Only doom and gloom forecasts about global warming with need for sweeping changes on a grand scale.