Monday’s Straits Times featured an article on eco-coffins (access restricted… here’s a free abridged version). It reported on a new trend to use caskets made from chipboard or even paper rather than the traditional timber coffins. Given that Singapore goes through 16,000 coffins a year, that sounds like a great way to save some trees.
What struck me as odd was that the lack of demand for these recycled products is attributed to their relatively high cost. According to the Union Casket managing director, “imported green coffins are just too expensive.” Imported?! Wouldn’t it make more sense to build such caskets from locally available recycled materials? It seems, that these eco-coffins are seen as some sort of specialty product, another niche in our consumerist culture. It doesn’t seem to cross anyone’s mind that shipping a casket halfway around the globe to be burnt here makes it distinctly eco-unfriendly whatever material it is made of.
That reminded me of a website I came accross a while ago that does a great job at pointing out some of the perverse consequences of our consumerist society: The Story of Stuff. It’s a very nice example of effective communication of a complex issue. You’ll have to invest a bit of time in watching the animation, but it’s worth it. Maybe appropriately, the presentation is quite US-centric, but there are plenty of lessons in there for all of us.