Ah, aerosol cans. An early memory of Right Guard was of my father boldly announcing he needed a “trucker’s shower” and then giving himself a spritz of Right Guard from an aerosol can under each arm.
But he was a trucker and this was the early ’70’s and we lived on a non-working farm. We were surrounded by smells bigger than us. But then someone noticed the changing ozone and this is what became of that aerosol can of Right Guard:
In the 1970’s scientists made a link between aerosol cans and depletion of the earth’s ozone layer. By the time I graduated from college in the 1980’s, aerosol cans filled with chlorofluorocarbon propellants had been (mostly) eliminated. We had found other propellant to compel deodorant to stick under our arms.
And these are links to information I tripped into from internet rabbit holes filled with ozone depletion:
tl;dr? The Ozone Depletion site walks through the discovery of the ozone layer, what it is — a layer of “planetary sunscreen,” and the discovery that the ozone layer was being depleted. Depleted by the “actions of mankind.”
tl;dr? Scientific American weighs in on whether the chemicals used as a propellant for hygiene products now are any safer than the chlorofluorocarbons used in the ’70’s. New propellants emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that contribute to smog in the down-here-in-the-layer-we-breathe layer.
Why were we able to detach from our beloved aerosols in support of the ozone then, but are now so attached to our greenhouse gas production?
And then a Viva aha! Consider the age old question – which came first – the chicken or the egg?
1987: The Montreal Protocol
In the ’70s and ’80s “trucker’s showers” spray cans gave way to deodorant sticks, roll-ons, and non-aerosol sprays. At a local, personal level, we affected change, however much, however minimal, by changing our consumption. We heard that aerosols could be bad for the ozone, stopped buying aerosol deodorant, and manufacturers changed their product application. Egg, then chicken.
Or?! Did deodorant manufacturers, smelling the winds of change, take action to comply with the Montreal Protocol without us even realizing our behavior and consumption were evolving? Chicken, and then egg?
Chickens and eggs, eggs and chickens. Aerosols at the consumer level have been virtually eliminated as a result of the Montreal Protocol, (1987). “Kofi Annan on the ‘most successful’ Montreal Protocol”, Tom Duck’s Blog.³
2016: The Paris Agreement
By way of contrast to the Montreal Protocol (MP), the Paris Agreement (PA) aims to limit greenhouse gas production. Compliance happens somewhere else, it’s a supply problem. This agreement is a full-blown fight between governments, businesses, scientists, and on and on and the chicken comes first. By the time we get to the egg, i.e. the consumer, the demand, I am left feeling there is not much I can do to affect change complementary to the Paris Agreement.
Where do I start? Where would I start?
Well, as consumers we know that small behavior changes (micro) by a large population (macro) results in
sustainable change. The examples of micro-behavior changes gone macro are limitless, but let’s pick on bottled water:
- Remember when paying for bottled water seemed silly?
- And then remember then it became the best thing — a soda alternative-and how-did-we-ever-live-without-this convenience-type of thing?
- And now, when we reach for a water bottle, we are reminded that there are billions of pieces of plastic in the Arctic? And our water bottle doesn’t look so shiny anymore …
- But! It looks like changes to delivery in support of portability, sustainability, and carbon-footprint reduction for bottled water will be boxed drinking water and a surgence˜ of drinking fountains outfitted to refill more long-lasting portable sippy cups, yes?
And all this assumes a stable water supply, but that’s another discussion.
An observation on the years between MP and PA:
Between the aerosols of the 1970s and now, I submit that a subtext introduced by the Reagan Administration’s focus on trickle-down economics had a trickle-down affect on social responsibility. By shifting focus to business and industry to solve problems — a shift to supply — there was an erosion of the importance micro- or individual-actions can make in affecting macro- or large-scale change. We don’t believe our little egg changes make a difference because the solution lies elsewhere, with big entities, big government, with the chickens, with the supply. Not with us. The eggs, the demand.
But trickle down economics doesn’t work. Neither does trickle-down environmental care.
However small the footprint of my armpits, foregoing aerosols for non-aerosol deodorants was in the best interests of the planet and the ozone layer. And chicken or egg, supply or demand, that product – deodorant – changed and the change remains.
Small micro-personal actions in concert with macro-consumer activism and conscientious development and tech will result in durable and lasting breakthroughs that benefit the environment. Benefit the planet. We will all be better gardeners.
And as always, we remain the skeptic gardener.
(For reference: ways to reduce carbon footprint.)
¹The web-pages of Ozone Depletion>Ozone Facts were dated.
²The web pages of the Scientific American were not dated. Some of their articles are. Some are not. This leaves us to wonder as regards to dated information.
³(I want to) read more on Tom Duck’s Blog.
˜Surgence, a Viva definition: a rising into prominence of life, activity, prominence the first time around. If there is a resurgence, should not there be a surgence first?