I recently had the chance to view one of the documentaries in consideration for Global Voices. A film that questions our daily use of plastics, the larger goal of the film, and others like it, is to bring to mind our environmental choices. With the environmental awareness screening this year at the festival, several films will highlight the impact of consumer environmental decisions and the way in which our choices affect our own lives.
I cannot help but realize how “trendy” certain environmental decisions have become. The rise of “Eco-Chic” may have begun with the sale of designer Anya Hindmarch’s canvas shopping bag, which reads, “I am not a plastic bag” in large, dark letters. When the bag went on sale (for around $15) in 2007, it instantly sold out, and became a must-have. The bag eventually fetched about $400 on EBay and has spawned many imitations. I have to say that in principle, the idea is quite exciting. It is difficult to go to the supermarket without seeing the many canvas and reusable bags being brought to the cashier – possibly this trend has brought true awareness of plastic bags and the harm and waste they cause. Nevertheless, I cannot help but scoff at Hindmarch’s design as its popularity has brought attention to the showiness of eco-friendly style. Some canvas bag-carriers are being eco-friendly for all the wrong reasons.
The film I saw, however, reminded me that some industries remain untouched by this eco-craze. It has it come to the attention of music buyers that downloading is more eco-friendly than purchasing in a store? Many complain about the “death of the newspaper” even though reading online periodicals may be a more environmentally conscious decision than buying a paper. Of course, reusable baby diapers are a great deal more work than purchasing Pampers, but refilling printer ink cartridges is no longer more work than purchasing new ones. Thinking about the use of plastic in my daily life has caused me to examine the eco-impact of my most basic routines. Is wearing eyeglasses more environmentally responsible than using disposable contact lenses? Which is more environmentally savvy, using an electric razor or a disposable one? Each decision we make has an impact. Of course, thinking about the environmental responsibility of each little action can be overwhelming, but a film like this brings the importance of those decisions into focus.
As many of you know, preparations are underway for COP15 (The 15th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held this December in Copenhagen). Though many see more crucial and unsettling environmental problems to include greenhouse gas emissions and carbon neutrality, personal environmental responsibility is an important part of the agenda. The United Nations Environmental Programme’s Melbourne Principles for Sustainable Cities reminds environmental activism to “empower people and foster participation.” — these types of films serve an important role in achieving this goal.
I hope that eco-friendly becomes more popular, not as a fashion statement, but as a state of mind. Any film that can impact its viewers on such a basic level is worth seeing. Possibly more than any other global crisis, you can feel a personal sense of reward for your own participation in the fight against waste, even if your canvas bag does cost $400.