In July of last year, the Gulf of Mexico burst into flames as a result of an oil spill underwater. Since then, there has been plenty of news regarding companies like McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and more ending the sale of personal plastic straws.
The switch to paper straws instead of plastic is usually done in reference to the deteriorating environment and seen as a necessary sacrifice that needs to be made to prolong life on Earth. But with natural disasters like forest fires becoming far more common, it’s hard to see how the reason is plastic straws.
Even if individuals want to combat climate change and make personal choices and sacrifices that benefit the environment, there is a chance they will fall victim to greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a company lies about how eco-friendly a product is to make it sell better than it normally would.
There are plenty of examples of this, like Volkswagen fitting some cars with a device that detected when an emissions check was taking place and caused the car to temporarily emit less carbon dioxide. Another example is Starbucks switching to strawless lids and claiming that this choice benefits the environment because of less waste. In actuality, the new lids on their cups included more plastic than it did previously.
Climate scientists have found that the largest cause of climate change is not gas-powered cars, individual littering or even personal plastics, but the burning of fossil fuels. The biggest source of those fossil fuels is not cars or trucks, but power plants that burn coal and other fossil fuels.
An argument has been made that companies may be at fault for producing fossil fuels to burn, but the public is also to blame for continuing to support those companies. However, more often than not, the more environmentally-friendly options for consumers cost far more than other options, leaving lower-income people to purchase cheaper options at the cost of their own environment.
If the general public is to blame for the use of fossil fuels by companies, then how is the success of Tesla explained? Tesla only produces electric cars, but is still very frequently considered to be one of the most successful car companies to date. There is also the point that Toyota was the most profitable car company in 2020. This is because they received a huge increase in the number of electric cars sold. Individuals are trying to purchase the environmentally-friendly option, but with so many companies doing so much more that is not environmentally-friendly, doing so feels almost insignificant.
The power industry in the U.S.is 80 percent owned by private companies, but the other 20 percent is all government. We’ve discussed how companies are trying to pass the blame of climate change onto individuals, but the government is doing so as well.
During his most recent campaign for president, Joe Biden said he wanted to ban plastic straws. There’s a chance that was just an empty promise to garner political support, but regardless, it was still something that a prominent political figure stated to the public.
By no means does this mean that individuals should begin littering and stop taking any action on climate change; every bit does help. But we are fed up with corporations and even the government acting as if the solution to climate change is the average person making changes and sacrifices in their lives. Although that can help, the best solution is companies cutting back or changing how they do business entirely, like the B Corp. changes themselves.