Since our founding, PLAN’s mission has been to support students on college and university campuses in furthering the zero waste movement. We accomplish this via developing a vast and diverse network and by offering our events, programs, and resources nationally. One resource that we offer to the movement is our Discounts Store – a directory of discounts we have set up with over 3 dozen partner companies. We do want to recognize that this may seem to conflict with our fundamentally anti-consumerist zero waste theory and value system, which begs the question of why we established partnership discounts in the first place?
This blog post explains why we’ve chosen to partner with certain companies and how we make decisions under an inherently broken system– a.k.a Global Neoliberal Capitalism, Imperialism, and White Supremacy. While we know that discounts on zero waste products aren’t a perfect solution to these systems, check out the 7 reasons below that PLAN has these discounts. Comment if you want to ask questions or continue the conversation further.
If you can’t buy used, buy these:
One of the key tools of capitalist economies is the culture of consumerism that encourages people to buy things they don’t need. While we cannot destroy it overnight, in order to combat consumerist culture on the campus level, PLAN utilizes our famous Swag Hierarchy on the right. This graphic specifically depicts PLAN’s recommendation when sourcing “swag” or giveaways for campus events. However, the philosophy can be applied to many contexts. Buy used first, but if you can’t buy used, here are your next best options.
We vet our partners:
We don’t partner with just anyone. In fact, we are developing an Ethical Partnerships Policy that will detail exactly what types of partners PLAN collaborates with. We refuse to collaborate with companies that are part of the extraction industry, who have violated or have been accused of violating environmental regulations related to dumping toxins or other pollutants, who have been known to mistreat workers, who are culturally appropriative or known greenwashers, or who actively support landfill and/or incineration practices. We research companies (from their supply chain to their Board of Directors) and ask strategic questions about the products these companies offer and their overall mission statements. Companies featured in our Discount Directory are ones that we trust! We showcase companies that you can buy from confidently, and possibly even work for in the future! The policy is a living document and companies can be terminated from a partnership at any point, which has happened.
Zero waste products are expensive:
One of the most prominent critiques of the zero waste movement is that the mainstream movement has large financial barriers to entry. Sustainable products are often expensive. This is because it’s more expensive to create eco-friendly and ethically-sourced products at every step of the production, so companies typically opt out of applying these principles. PLAN recognizes that students often have limited financial means, so our product and bulk discounts make cool zero-waste gear slightly cheaper for both individuals and groups on campus. It’s not a perfect system, but we don’t want any student to feel excluded from the movement on the grounds of financial limitations.
If you are a recent grad or not a student, don’t fret! We are expanding access to our discounts beyond member campuses. We know that entering the “adulting” world is scary, so to further support you we wanted to expand and offer our codes to monthly donors who give $5 or more. That’s right- you can get tons of awesome discounts for the price of one oat milk latte a month!
Build your Zero Waste Toolkit:
The products featured in our Discount Directory are meant to be tools to help you build your zero waste toolkit (both personal and for groups). Although one individual changing their lifestyle choices to be more zero waste might not take down big corporations or push governments to enact zero waste policy, systems change has to start somewhere. PLAN believes it starts with students, on campuses across the nation, who are organizing for a better future! Therefore, we want to equip YOU with the tools, gadgets, products, and services that will help you achieve success on your campus. For instance, PLAN members enjoy 25% off on World Centric purchases- a discount that was particularly useful when I was planning several Black History Month zero waste events on my campus as a student.
Keep in mind, we have had the opportunity to test a lot of the products featured in our Discount Directory. We have seen them in action: at campsites, conferences, in dorms, etc. We know that these products work. PLAN is not interested in selling you on typical “green” products; these are simply the ones we like the best. To introduce you to some of our faves, we are going to feature a product each month that one of our staff members swears by – a tool that helps us move towards that Circular Economy ideal. These posts will be highlighted on our Instagram (@postlandfill) as stories, and the discounts will be available at any time (even after the month it’s featured). During each month, there may also be some zero-waste giveaways, so stay tuned.
Find your point of intervention:
PLAN’s core theory of change is the Points of Intervention Theory. Points of intervention, as defined by Beautiful Trouble, are “specific places in a system where a targeted action can effectively interrupt the functioning of a system and open the way to change”. At every point of the traditional Linear Consumption model (Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, and Disposal), there are activists working to intervene and combat the status quo, with the goal of creating a Circular Economy. Many of our partners are committed to redesigning products and packaging in order to make them more eco-friendly, meaning that their companies are intervening at the point of production. This is one of the many solutions we need in place to challenge the Linear Consumption Economy.
At PLAN, we remind students that although no one can do everything for the planet, we need everyone doing something (no matter how small). Opting for reusable, long-lasting products, such as products from our trusted partners, is one small way you can intervene in the system at large.
Discounts support PLAN:
Some partners have offered PLAN a rebate for sales made using PLAN-exclusive discounts. These partners donate a small percentage of sales back to us, which we use to better serve our students through our Movement Building Fund. The Movement Building Fund allows us to expand our reach to incorporate all students, regardless of their financial situation, so that they can still utilize our resources and Member Hub. We see rebates as a win-win-win situation: students are more likely to be able to afford products they’re seeking out, companies’ sales increase, and PLAN gets support to continue our work with students and campuses.
Shine the spotlight on cool resources:
We are nerds who love innovative solutions to the waste crisis! Some of our partners are making very unique products and we use the Directory as a way to showcase those cool resources to students. For example, our partner Ecovative makes fully-compostable construction materials and packaging out of mushroom fibers. By exposing students to a Directory of awesome zero-waste companies, we aim to show you interesting research inspiration, possible employment options for after graduation (often, our partners communicate to PLAN when they are hiring, and we share this with our student network), and general zero waste rad-ness.
At PLAN, we consider our movement to be about challenging the Linear Consumption Economy. We all know we live on a planet with finite resources, and we are currently consuming resources at a pace that would require 1.7 planets to sustain our habits. The negative impacts of consumption – climate change, air and ground pollution, worker exploitation, leaking landfills and toxic incinerators built in low-income communities, and many more – are all by-products of a system that thrives on ever-growing practices of resource extraction, production, use, and disposal. Our fundamental challenge is: How do we move our economy from a Linear Economy (one that uses and disposes of resources in a linear pattern) to a Circular Economy (one that recycles and reuses resources in a circular pattern), decreasing the need for extraction of new resources and the process of disposable consumption?
Part of PLAN’s strategy to move towards circularity includes discounts on zero-waste products to build our network’s zero-waste toolkit for life and activism. We hope that this list of 7 reasons helps you understand why we think it’s beneficial to partner with for-profit companies on discounts. Be sure to check out the PLAN store for a full list of our discounts, and stay tuned each month on Instagram for our monthly highlights.