Annie Leonard, director of The Story of Stuff, says reusable water bottles and canvas shopping bags are not enough.
Each of us has two different roles we play in society, almost like two muscles: a consumer muscle and a citizen muscle. Our consumer muscle is spoken to and validated constantly. We’re called upon to use it every day and, as a result, we’re really good at it. It’s overdeveloped so much that being a consumer is our primary role in society so much that the words “consumer” and “person” are used interchangeably. At the same time, our citizen muscle has atrophied. So when we’re faced with problems as gigantic as disruption of the global climate, we stick with the familiar consumer muscle. We buy green products, switch our lightbulbs, reject bottled water, carry a reusable bag to the store. Now, don’t get me wrong – those are all very good things to do. But those are not about making transformative change like we need right now. To do this, we need to step out of our consumer role and into our citizen role and work together, through our democratic structures, to achieve big bold change. Perfecting our day to day eco-choices can be a step in the right direction, or it can be a distraction if we’re deluded into thinking that we’ve done our part since we shopped at Whole Foods. That’s why the subtitle of our last movie is “Why citizens, not shoppers, hold the key to a better world.” We need to start excersizing our citizen muscles again.