A Package Must Sell What It Protects: Sustainability as Bonus or Boondoggle
In College Writing, I was required to complete research on an environmental topic of my choice and present the information in the form of an editorial. Because environmental issues aren’t usually something I think about, I had a difficult time choosing topics. After some brainstorming, my professor and I decided I should go to my dad, who is a packaging engineer and works with supply chain management for Colgate Palmolive, and question the environmental concerns associated with packaging. This project required the use of several skills including research, not just found in books or online but from a personal interview, and journalistic writing, both of which were fairly new to me.
This piece signified the official transition from the mundane research-paper writing required of me in high school to learning how to write for a purpose. The change required me to make more deliberate decisions in my writing that I was not used to but recognized the importance of.
Prior to this assignment, I only ever presented research in written form through extensive papers. However, the strict word limitations on this piece required me to eliminate all unnecessary information and make sure each word used served a purpose. My unfamiliarity with concise writing and natural tendency to ramble made cutting back on my word usage a challenge, but the benefits were undeniable. My argument seemed much clearer without the clutter of unnecessary words.
Working on this assignment also introduced me to methods of inquiry I wasn’t used to applying for academic assignments. To develop a more complete and interesting discussion on the company’s perspective on packaging, I interviewed the vice president of packaging and sustainability and then integrated her responses with information gathered from the more conventional research gathered from online articles.
When composing the piece, I applied a critical tone to support my analysis of the company and its motives. I eased into my critique by first presenting research already conducted on sustainability, then adding in elements of my own research by weaving in material from my interview with Pierce, and then finally introducing my criticisms and the additional research supporting my inquiry about the company's motives. It is unlikely that I fully understood this at the time, considering my knowledge of rhetoric was minimal, but following this process of developing my argument served to support my ethos.
When I finished this piece, I thought it was the best thing I’d ever written. At the time, it probably was. As I read it now, though, it sounds disjointed. My attempt at a critical tone sounds forced; it sounds like I was trying too hard. I fought using second-person pronouns, awkwardly inserting "one" in places where I tempted, and probably would have more successfully, used "you." Considering the piece was written three years ago, I realize I was probably just struggling to find my voice. I used first person later in the piece, why didn't I think using second person was acceptable? I was clearly also struggling to learn how to craft a piece, especially in consideration of the medium of publication. The big blocks of texts are somewhat unsightly. The breaks would have likely been appropriate if the piece were presented as a research paper, but the columns elongate the paragraphs and make further division necessary. This is obvious to me now, but, three years ago, the consideration of the visual appeal of documents must not have been a concern. This makes me realize how much I have developed as a writer since freshman year, which gives me a rewarding feeling of progress and improvement.
I remember this assignment being the first to make me feel like I was writing for a purpose. Taking the assignment outside of the typical research paper format had that affect. No, my editorial was not submitted to a newspaper, but it could have been. That realization gave me a sense of gratification I’d never felt writing a research paper. After writing this piece, I decided I wanted to be a PWR major. I knew the experience I’d gain in the field would suit my needs and interests and serve me best in the future.