Progress depends largely on changing our perspective

Packaging is something that many people have come to accept as a necessary evil. This, however, is a view that has been proved wrong.

Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre cofounded Ecovative Design in 2007 after discovering that mushroom roots and inedible by-products of farming, such as corn husks and rice hulls, could create a material similar to Styrofoam that could be molded into virtually any shape. The material is fairly easy to create and cost-effective, making it a great alternative to all that packaging that can remain in landfills for hundreds of years.

Reading about this green packaging, I couldn’t help but wonder what other things simply seem irreplaceable, but are really anything but? From the way we transport ourselves and our possessions, to what we wear, to what we use to eat and package our food, so many things have become such an integral part of modern society that even though they are known to be wasteful and hurtful to our environment, society as a whole simply accepts them. It’s as if we have given up before even trying, which is sad, but also easily changed.

Instead of inventing more, it is time to invent better, starting with things as simple as what we use to keep items from breaking while sending them to various places across town, the country or the world.

It is easy to dismiss a problem as too big, or too confusing or insoluble for a number of other reasons, but, more often than not, this is simply untrue. Time and again, all a problem needs is a change in perspective and a willingness to look past preconceived notions of what is and is not possible.

Remembering this is more important than ever, and I believe there are plenty of people willing to do so. Which brings up another issue that has been a point of controversy lately: education. More specifically, paying for higher education.

Last year, college students in the United States borrowed $117 billion in federal student loans and tuition. Fees show no sign of decreasing, in fact they are steadily increasing. Additionally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has reported that debt from student loans has surpassed credit card debt at more than $1 trillion.

We know that higher education is important, especially when it comes to making the new innovations the world needs today. Without the support of Rensselear University, Bayer and McIntyre never could have had the resources they needed to found Ecovative Design and their fungus packaging. The mass amount of student debt, however, shows that there is a big problem as far as higher education in the U.S. is concerned.

Despite how hopeless the situation might seem, I am confident there is a solution out there. All we need is a new perspective.

It often feels like the world is just one big ball of problems – they infiltrate the news and weigh us down. Global warming, debt, war, the list could go on for days. I would be lying if I said that I think there is an easy solution to each and every problem out there. But I do think that just accepting a problematic situation because that is the way it has been done before is never the way to go. On the contrary, going at a problem with an open mind and the willingness to see things from a new perspective is always the way to go.

This strategy might not solve the biggest problems facing our world today in a matter of minutes, but it can definitely help us make small steps. Just one small step is better than no progress at all.

Katie Salka is a feature editor at El Diablo, the Durango High School student newspaper. Her parents are Chuck and Jill Salka of Durango.