Are Bans Sustainable for Everyone?

By Shannon Mora

A plastic bag floating down the city street has become New York’s version of a tumbleweed in an old western film. They are everywhere and symbolize the promise of an eminent duel—sustainability initiatives versus small businesses.

Legislative Burden

In 2008 former Mayor Bloomberg attempted to address the increasing plastic bag pollution with a 6 cent tax on all bags used in grocery and corner stores. The motive was to encourage the use of reusable, cloth carriers as a substitute to one-use plastic bags. However, the tax failed then and again in 2016 under the criticism that it would cause “undue financial burden to the poor”. One bodega owner expressed his fear of losing customers as a result of such a tax. In response, he said, “They ask us for plastic bags for free as it is. When we say no, they curse us out. They demand a bag for a 25-cent bag of chips.”

The problem with using plastic bags has only worsened since then. They pollute our streets, waterways, release toxic chemicals once they break down, and end up either in landfills or oceans. Understanding this crisis, Governor Cuomo has supported a far stricter approach that is expected to be in effect this year- A complete ban on plastic bags from being provided at supermarkets, delis, and bodegas. Unfortunately, while this ban is effective in decreasing the New Yorker’s contribution to plastic pollution, it does not solve the initial issue of contributing undue burden to business owners nor does it address their fear of losing business.

Alternative: Market Mechanisms

Perhaps the conclusion is that strong arming business owners into rules they are unable to comply with or will suffer from, is likely not the appropriate answer to our climate problem. Instead, we need to be able to provide financially feasible and flexible opportunities for businesses to participate in climate action. This is the very reason Carbon Credit Capital (“CCC”) is in business.

In order to impact market behavior effectively, either the government may take legislative action or market mechanisms may naturally create solutions. This can be described as the processes by which the players in a free market determine supply and demand.

To explore this demand, CCC has compiled the data from 9 case studies to show how consumers truly feel about low-carbon products. These case studies were performed over the course of eight years, 2009-2017, and had overwhelming results that showed the vast majority (55%-88%) of consumers prefer low-carbon products. Furthermore, this consumer preference was shown to increase overtime and even be a more critical consideration than cost and brand reputation. Due to this evidence and the proof in our work, we firmly believe that as consumer awareness of low-carbon substitutes rise, the percentage of environmentally conscious market share will follow.

These studies prove there is an existing demand for low-carbon and low impact products. It is now up to business owners to supply to this group of consumers. Thus, securing this market share could be a way to alleviate the financial burden and fear posed by a tax or a ban.

How Can We Help You Become Low-Carbon?

The answer is simple and actually affordable: perform life-cycle assessments (LCA) for your product’s carbon footprint! An LCA is a comprehensive evaluation of your supply chain that provides valuable insights for emission hotspots and opportunities for innovation, allowing you to accurately target your impact. Thus, streamlining your time and effort most efficiently. Most importantly, the data outcomes from these assessments allow you to communicate directly to your consumer. You are able to transparently convey that you are taking responsibility for your product, setting appropriate goals to minimize this impact, and offsetting all emissions in the meantime.

Our mission is to provide a means for businesses of any size to take responsibility of their product impact and to empower all consumers to easily participate in climate action. We achieve this through performing affordable LCA’s and running a program that allows business owners to educate their consumers.

Next Step

If you have questions about LCA’s, how much they will cost for your business, how we conduct our evaluations, or how offsetting works, please email us for a free consultation! We are happy to discuss your options.