This shocking image was captured by photographer Caroline Power between the islands of Roatan and Cayos Cochinos, off the coast of Honduras.

We’re familiar with the advertising campaigns: buy a Coke, save a polar bear.

One problem with environmental issues is, when you tell consumers their recycling doesn’t really save the environment, it generates a great deal of apathy. However, directing that energy towards big business like Coca-Cola and Conagra via social media platforms is something consumers generally enjoy doing anyway so it may be useful to direct that energy toward a positive campaign.

Letting businesses know that we want sustainable packaging and we are more likely to choose their product over the high polluting brand equivalent is a way to force change. It also pushes businesses to examine their options- why not canned water? Why not aluminum based packaging? When consumers start pushing back, big business may take notice.

However, a colossal problem needs an equally massive response. This is where organizations like the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) are paramount. Consumer pressure can have some results but nothing gets results faster than a lawsuit- even if the NRDC loses.

Scientists like Linda Greer, the Senior Scientist of the NRDC Health Program, study the direct impact that the contaminating nature of big business have on developing countries, such as China and India. She also studies the impact that clean solutions have on all stakeholders such as consumer, business, price, and individuals who live in areas that are clogged with plastic pollution. What she found was that when businesses act responsibly, all parties can benefit.

Sound too good to be true?

“NRDC Clean by Design program has demonstrated over and over again… there are many simple opportunities to cut energy and water use and reduce pollution while saving money at the same time,” explained Greer. “Companies can thus profit in both the near- and long-term.”

She describes an example from Bangladesh where families living near the factories were negatively impacted by the dumping of waste from clothing dyes. When the factory received a visit from the NRDC, the company and the council devised a plan to generate less trash and dump chemicals in a more responsible way. The result? Similar profit margins, less impact on local citizens, and a healthier environment.

 

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