|Elephant ears in the fryer|
The sign got me thinking. Certainly, the zoo's activities embody sustainability: education about the precious diversity of life; breeding and sometimes even releasing endangered species; and contributing to the economic well-being of the Portland metropolitan area. But the concession stands and gift stores sell a lot of junk food that isn't good for us and souvenirs that we don't really need, like plastic toys, stuffed animals and T-shirts.
But everyone likes souvenirs, and they contribute to the economic viability of the zoo. So, are they a good thing? It seems that unnecessary consumption is an essential fundraising tool for even the worthiest of causes. Consider the charity auctions and galas that consume significant resources just to get people to come and donate. Why not just donate everything directly to the charity? But I imagine that just asking people to write a check doesn't work as well.
A few days after our trip to the zoo, I read an article in the Oregonian about the Genesis Biopod, a new "green burial" kit for the disposal of cremains in bodies of water. An entrepreneur has created a $750 kit centered around an open clay receptacle designed to serve as an aquatic habitat after holding a water-soluble bag of ashes. Advantages of this product include preventing the wind from dispersing ashes where they are not wanted, and the opportunity to record GPS coordinates as a virtual headstone at sea. Certainly, it is better for the environment than a conventional metal casket and embalming, but wouldn't a $5 water-soluble clay urn with a snug lid be even more sustainable?
So here is my question to you: Can we consume sustainably and support sustainable causes without wasteful incentives?