I’m no environmentalist, but consider a thought process I developed the other day while reading for my advertising class. I was studying for ADV475 “Advertising and Society,” when I discovered an interesting point in my text. The section I was reading dealt with the history of the advertising industry and was discussing the emergence of branding.
What struck me as interesting is that it wasn’t until the late 20th century that manufacturers began to put brand names on various consumer products like soap, oats, and etc.. This opened up huge opportunities because it allowed advertisers to build brand awareness, loyalty, and eventually equity. This opportunity to put brand names anywhere and everywhere is witnessed tenfold in today’s society. I started to wonder then: what if brands were never put on product packaging? It almost seems today that brands and manufacturers use as much packaging as possible just so they can have excess material with their name on it. Why can’t companies only put their brand name on in-store displays? In the very least, brands should use the minimal amount of packaging and only put their name on it once. If someone really cares about which kind of soap they use, then they will most likely consider this at the time of purchase. The only thing that should really matter to brands then is that their potential consumers know exactly which brand they are selecting at the time of purchase: in the store!
Since this internship focuses on being eco-friendly, I thought this concept was relevant. This leads me to my next point: the development of our consumerist society and branding mentality has gotten so out of control that is pretty much the norm to buy bottled water. What should be a commodity, water that actually already comes from a tap pretty clean, is branded and marketed under hundreds if not thousands of different brand names. If you were to try to sell someone from the 50’s a bottle of water what do you think they would say? I bet they would think you are crazy. An argument my Grandpa has is “Why would you want to buy in in a bottle? You already pay bills to make it come out of a tap?”
Even worse than the consumerism and branding of bottled water is the environmental impacts that bottled water has as a social norm. According to The Container Recycling Institute “Plastic water bottles produced for U.S. consumption take 1.5 million barrels of oil per year, according to a 2007 resolution passed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. That much energy could power 250,000 homes or fuel 100,000 cars for a year, according to the resolution.” The sheer oil that is used to create and transport millions of plastic bottles is insane, not to mention most of these bottles are not being recycled. The Container Recycling Institute also states “Around 636 thousand tons of PET plastic beverage bottles were recycled nationwide in 2006, but more than three times as much PET was wasted: 2 million tons. Something isn’t right here.
I think we need to make a change. If our society is so good at branding maybe we should focus on PUR water filters and Brita for our sources of filtered water. Who knows, their filtered water could be cleaner anyway.