Don’t Throw Anything Away

I came across an intriguing full-page advertisement from Shell (Royal Dutch Shell, a major oil company) in Scientific American. Advertisements don’t often make me stop and think, but this one did. It carried the large message

Don’t throw anything away. There is no away.

And at the bottom, it mentions a couple environmental initiatives.

Now in general, I am skeptical of oil companies’ motivations. And I make no claim about Shell’s environmental friendliness or lack thereof—certainly oil companies will have reasons to at least make a show of being environmentally conscious. Though I do think it’s a good thing that oil companies admit that environmentalism is important and discuss what they’re doing to further this goal.

Anyway, back to the slogan. Or motto, if you will. It’s quite a profound little pair of statements. It highlights one of the flaws in the way we tend to think in our everyday lives—we throw things away, and then they’re gone. And by extension, our cars and such produce gases that are expelled through the tailpipe, and then they’re gone.

But of course there are too many humans and we produce too much for our impact to be negligible. We must remain aware of our impact on the environment, even while doing daily activities, and euphemisms like “throwing something away” don’t help. Better to say and to think “throw it in the garbage” (or “recycle it” or even “don’t get it in the first place”, if possible).