Who Is Responsible for a Better World? Government, Corporations or Us?

landfill.jpg

Here is a continuation of a conversation I am having with a friend, Melissa, in the CSR department of a major US consumer product good company.
The question that we have been grappling is one of responsibility. While the finger can be pointed at everyone, who really is in charge? Government, Corporations or us? Please join our dialogue as the point of this post is not to theorize about the answer, but to start the discussion. Here’s what Melissa had to say:

I can’t help but notice how we overwhelmingly blame corporations or government for our growing environmental problems while forgetting our responsibility as consumers. Sure, corporations produce a lot of stuff we don’t need in unsustainable ways, but we buy it! Yes, government could up the ante on environmental regulation, preservation and funding; but if we don’t tell legislators what we want and hold them accountable, we can’t expect much.
Accepting responsibility isn’t a sacrifice, but freedom and empowerment – the realization that we have a choice and aren’t helpless pawns.

To buy or not to buy” isn’t really the (only) question. While we buy a lot of unnecessary stuff and don’t always choose sustainable options, there are things we need and to preach complete austerity in a recession is heartless treason to some.
Rather, we need to shop smarter when we do need something, now, more than ever. We need to make every dollar an investment in the world we want to see, to look past short term gains in favor of lasting solutions. In doing this, we can build a more sustainable economy and environment, as well as social equity.
To make our dollars go as far as possible, we need to be creative. Hybrid cars, solar panels and organic food, for example, are out of reach for many financially. By forming a car share, buying co-ops and the like we can make them more affordable. On a more practical level, we can take a cue from companies like TerraCycle and repurpose what we currently discard.
At the same time, we need to tell corporations and government what course we want them to take and make sure they hold their share of responsibility.
How are you embracing personal responsibility and engaging corporations and government? What ideas and resources do you have for others?”

Tom Szaky is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle, Inc. a company that makes eco-revolutionary products entirely from garbage! TerraCycle, since its humble beginnings in a Princeton University dorm room, is committed to being a triple bottom line company. Tom at the ancient age of 19 learned about composting with worms. The concept of using tiny little worms to turn food waste into a powerful, organic fertilizer fascinated Tom, who was appalled by the amount of food discarded by his campus's cafeteria. Tom started TerraCycle with no investors from a friend's garage by building a Worm Gin where he could house millions of worms in a small area. He all but bankrupted himself and maxed out all his credit cards to build the machine. With the help of friends he would shovel pounds of rotten, maggot-infested food from the Princeton cafeterias. Without any money left over, Tom could not afford to buy bottles to package his fertilizer. That's when the sustainability gods smiled on Tom, who was up one night wandering the streets Princeton in search of an answer to his packaging dilemma. It just happened to be recycling night and Tom realized that millions of homes were putting billions of free bottles out on the curb once a week! That serendipitous moment set everything to follow into motion. Slowly he began to finance his infantile start up by winning business plan contests. Finally he hit the pay dirt! He won the million dollar grand prize at the Carrot Capital Business plan contest. However, the financiers of the contest wanted to move TerraCycle away from used bottles and away from it's environmental focus. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, Tom turned down the money. In the six years since then TerraCycle has grown to a multi-million dollar company that doubles in size every year. Still we are committed to our triple bottom line beginnings. Still making our products from other's people waste. Still based in an Urban Enterprise Zone in Trenton, NJ. Still a second chance employer. Find out how and why, here at triplepundit.com