Rosabeth Moss Kanter writes a wonderful piece calling on all of us to, “unlock the hidden value of something that would otherwise be wasted.” A wonderful concept. There is an element of protecting the environment, and an element of creating productivity gains. Yet the concept I appreciate most is using our brains to create opportunity. The downside of conspicuous consumption was the expectation that people could buy what was needed.
Many aspects of human growth and development simply cannot be bought, but they are attainable by the exercise of innovating (creating the unexpected)—happiness, self-esteem, and confidence are three that come to mind. During my college years, I often heard the notion, necessity is the mother of invention. I’m not sure I think this notion is complete. Sure necessity, may encourage trial, but in reality invention is driven by a vision of improvement, which may or may not be a need.
Reducing waste is such a goal. No necessity. Simply an adopted vision of resourcefulness and efficiency. Contrarily, reducing waste reduces real economic growth as a population which innovates to reduce waste uses less. Ironically, then, reducing waste reduces real demand. And for those who have bought into there must be growth at all costs, reducing waste is a pollutant, not the other way around.
Second half of my life, I’m reducing waste. My wife, she thinks I’m nuts–rejecting progress and all. But I see the folly of chasing growth for growth’s sake–less happiness, less self-esteem, and less confidence. I’d rather have it the other way around.