Sometimes I get the feeling that solutions to some sustainability related problems are solving the outcome of the problem rather than the issue that caused the problem. An example of this was presented in class. Restaurants give boxes to customers that they can take their leftover food home and finish the food at home, instead of throwing it away in the restaurant. On the one hand, it is good that the excess food is not wasted. On the other hand it is shifting the problem out of the restaurant doors and does not encourage making smaller portions that would result in no waste at all, which would solve the actual problem of over production.
Someone in class asked what the reality is and what is relevant, and I think the reality is in looking for the big picture and a holistic approach. The ABC theory about the behaviour of a consumer claims that when external factors are favourable people tend to follow their beliefs and values more. Then, when such an action requires huge efforts the attitudinal factors are less strong. Thus only people who have very strong values and beliefs are willing to walk that extra mile to make a sustainable purchase. The contextual factors such as infrastructure, laws, convenience and social norms constitute the system in which we live our everyday lives. Looking at the big picture from a systems-thinking point of view, it is actually the system as a whole that is guiding our purchase decisions to a large extend into an unsustainable direction. The system allows unlimited consumption, has resources available for production and offers tools that make production and consumption available. It is fostering the technological lock-ins and work-and-spend cycles. It makes us maintain our current habits and routines.
I believe in the power of the individual and his or her everyday-life-decisions but the system around us also has to change in order for a bigger change to happen, in which it becomes easier to change the current habits. The challenge is to find the leverage point from which the bigger change will start. It can be for instance figures and numbers, information flow and the lack of information, more sustainable goals for the system or a change in the mindset and paradigms. In the end, our planet is too beautiful to waste!