Just One Word: Plastics

Recently there have been a couple of tweets about plastic use that got my attention

@PlasticLess Now look at me – I’m the man that your man could smell like if he didn’t use plastic bottles of bodywash

@ PlasticLess WRT Comic-Con – Take home memories, NOT memorabilia. Reduce demand for crap like this http://bit.ly/9Xjndd

The sheer smugness of these posts make me want to cram an PET bottle down flipper’s blow hole out of spite. Is @Plasticless really concerned about plastic use, or is he just trying stroke the egos of his converts? So the Comic-con exclusive toys are all going to end up in a landfill. Really? Not the thousands upon thousands of single-use plastic water bottles consumed at every convention in the country? The tweets employ a technique I’ve seen used before by far right Christian organizations and animal rights groups. They start by taking something that’s popular and well-liked and dumping all over it and anyone who likes said something. Then, like magic, those smelly unenlightened plebes will see the error of their ways and embrace Jesus/fruitarianism/the use of the word person-hole. This never happens.

The book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath talks a lot about this. Attacking elements of a group identity like the rare toys found at Comic-con is the last thing you want to do when you are trying to affect change. However, if you use group identity to your advantage, it can be a powerful ally.

Instead of decrying the plastic found in the toys, how about we encourage cosplayers to incorporate canteens or hip flasks into their costumes? Like any other fans, cosplayers are perfectionists who will do anything to make their ensemble look more authentic. It wouldn’t just work for characters who drink either. A metal water bottle that’s been worked into a prop or carefully hidden in a racy costume is the kind of makeshift construction challenge that all cosplayers crave. Thousands of  Pictures would hit the internet featuring people’s favorite characters eschewing a bottle of evian for their own snazzy container, ensuring the spread of the idea.

Reducing plastic use is not just a matter of nagging people until they stop. It’s a serious and complex problem that will require a refactoring of thousands of industrial and commercial processes. The change will need ingenuity way beyond the ability to snark. If we work with people and focus on ideas, we will be up to the challenge.