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).


4 thoughts on “Don’t Throw Anything Away

  1. I don’t support ANY major corporation in any meaningful way, and I certainly don’t like the idea of having an oil corporation advertisement on my wall, but I did clip this ad out of my New Scientist magazine, carefully clipping the Shell spiel off the bottom, and tacked it to the wall – it’s a beautifully apt statement for our current global state of affairs. I agree with you: everyone has to stop thinking up ‘innovative’ dumping sites (underground, under the sea, in the Australian desert, the Moon) – it’s all the same Universe!

  2. Right! Regardless of their motives in writing the statement, it’s a great one, and hopefully will help draw attention to environmental problems.

  3. I found this ad charming, until I discovered it was released by Shell Oil. The fact that they would have that audacity to even consider releasing such a campaign after all the irreparable damage they have done to the environment and to the lives of people unlucky enough to be living wherever Shell decides to set up camp – it’s appalling. Do they think we are completely stupid? That we would actually believe this campaign? Coming from a company that has completely raped so many Third World countries of their resources and done permanent damage to the environment – oil spills, acid rain, gas flares, the killing of native species, the military cooperation resulting in hundreds of deaths, the Ogoni 8 – I find it unbelievable.

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