Voices in Sustainable Enterprise: A New Generation of Innovators
Ecology Prime is pleased to share the exceptional work and unique perspective of five bright minds from the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, Sustainable Enterprise course, of Fall 2021. Individually, the points of view shared by these independent thinkers, are timely and unique. Collectively, these voices beckon to a broader generational shift that has been underway, and which is becoming more inclusive, diverse, and focused on a shared pursuit of a more sustainable future.
Mark Coleman, adjunct instructor of Sustainable Enterprise and an award-winning author of three books on sustainability, introduced a class of 29 students to Sustainable Enterprise. The course’s content, purpose, and learning objectives are focused on providing the tools, methods, and understanding of how systemic changes influence business and entrepreneurs and consequentially, how business and entrepreneurs address the needs of society and create new paradigms through sustainable value. The course is part of a broader curriculum which prepares students to engage in transdisciplinary collaboration to develop sustainable solutions to complex organizational challenges. The essays and video presented here over the next weeks were submitted as the Sustainable Enterprise course’s final projects.
The most wonderful time of the year? I think not.
By Natalie Tauro
Christmas is the most consumerist time of the year.
The holiday period in the United States from Thanksgiving to New Years is one of most destructive waste wise. During this time, companies and consumers are in hard wired overdrive. Coupons give the illusion that you are getting a good deal on an item. So you buy more. Ads targeted to you make you feel like you need that item, or it would be a good fit for someone in your life. Christmas trees are solely grown to get chopped down, artificial trees are bought in the thousands. Plastic and Styrofoam plates, cups, and silverware are used an exorbitant amount. Having a Christmas or New Year’s party? No problem! Buy the plastic silverware set, where guests will use it once, and throw it away.
According to Stanford, Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week (Stanford, n.d.).
If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high (Stanford, n.d.).
And that’s just cards and wrapping paper. My grandfather has been an excellent example for me. Since I can remember, he has always used newspaper to wrap gifts instead of buying wrapping paper. My family used to make fun of him for it. Now, I applaud him.
For gifts, $16 billion is wasted on unwanted gifts each year, with 7% of consumers willingly buying presents that they do not even know the receiving person wants, according to the New York Post (Wolfson, 2017). To make matters worse, even when people do return those items, that does not mean they are re-sold. According to Forbes, 5 billion pounds of returned retail will end up in landfills (Heller, 2017).
In order to become sustainable, Americans absolutely need to consume less. Large corporations need to cut down on advertising and convincing consumers they “need” items, when in fact, most of them do not. We have been brainwashed in our society that we have to buy people items to show our love and gratitude. Buying people experiences is a solution to this issue. Buying tickets for a trip, movie, game, or concert replaces any material items, and allows the gift receiver to create long-lasting memories. Gift certificates to restaurants gives them a free meal, with bonus points if it is to their favorite place. Thrift stores are treasure troves for secondhand items, which should become more normal to gift. Why buy a new coffee mug when there are 50 available at the Goodwill, that will perform the same function? Now is the time to start implementing these ideas into our holiday lifestyle. No progress will happen if Americans keep consuming at the unhealthy and unsustainable rates we are now.
I am Natalie Tauro, a dual major in Political Science and Environment, Sustainability, and Policy graduating in December 2021. I am interested in sustainability, climate change, and eco-minimalism.
My Instagram is _nattauro_.