Well, we live in a society where it is very easy to disconnect from our own impact. What I am talking about is how we only feel responsible for our stuff while it is in our possession and not before or after.
For example, we see a dress we like online, we order it and it gets shipped to us, we chuck the packaging in the bin, we wear it (hopefully) and when we are over it, we throw the dress in the bin, too.
While I know that it is not the fault of the individual that we live like that, I believe that it is the responsibility of the individual and that the most impact of change can stem from the individual level.
Now with the example of the dress, the impact of buying the dress includes the environmental impact of materials it was made from, the lives of workers who helped make it, the impact of packaging production, the fossil fuels shipping across the globe, the tags ending up in landfill, the microplastics ending up in waterways when washing and the Co2 ending up in the atmosphere when it breaks down in landfill.
Another example of the impact our stuff has is kitchen waste. We live in a culture of throwing away. Only now, are people starting to realize that there is no such place as away. China has stopped taking Australia's recycling due to the contamination level (in other words us not rinsing and recycling properly). Say we are cleaning out the fridge. There is a very different impact between throwing it all in the landfill bin and separating it all into compost, soft plastics, reusable jars, recycling, and landfill.
Now, I know that we are not in control of the way the world functions, and when I say we should be responsible, I need you to know what I mean by that. The word 'responsibility' is about the ability to respond. The world is a certain way and we have the ability to respond to that.
We operate at a consumer level. In simple terms, what this means is that we pay for stuff and consume it. Imagine if you can shift your thinking from operating as a consumer to an impact investor. If being an impact investor sounds like some sort of wealthy ethical philanthropist, then let's clarify what an impact investor is.
Everything we pay for has an impact, even if it is $5. So everyone paying for anything is investing in some sort of impact. We have the responsibility to minimize the negative impact or even create a positive impact. This responsibility extends to what we do with our stuff once we own it including how we get rid of it when we are done.
Take the dress example, obviously, when we don't want it anymore it should then make it to the hands of someone who does want it. But if it is turned and can't be worn, there is an organization called "apparel" that you pay $25 and can put up to 10kg of textiles in a boxed to be picked up and recycled. Many people (including myself at first) struggle with the idea of paying to remove out the waste for recycling but the point I am getting at here is that we need to be responsible for our own stuff. If we don't who will?
Because we know the biggest polluters on the planet are big companies, it can be easy to say that they are the ones that should be responsible for fixing our environmental problems. While I do believe the people that are truly destroying the earth should take some accountability and make a change, we need to be the change we want to see in the world.
All I am suggesting is that we become responsible for our own stuff. Be able to respond to what is in your possession and do your best to deal with it the best way you know how to.
We can all separate our waste better, finding out the best ways to deal with different types of stuff. We can all try and rehome items that are still useable and give them another chance at life. We can all try and find out the information available to us about where our stuff comes from and if there are better sources available.
An individual can only make so much impact by being responsible for their own stuff, but guess what? There are more than 7 billion individuals on the planet. And when a handful of individuals start creating a more positive impact, that will trickle to the people around them and create ripple effects across the globe.
Imagine a world where nothing goes to waste. Where we are not extracting from the plant but regenerating it. We would have systems set up in place (as a result of popular demand from people like you) to separate all materials for recycling and we will all do it because there is no longer a mindset of 'throwing it away'. We would begin to start producing things in more sustainable ways when we collectively begin to realize the impact of our stuff.