More than ever, people are embracing the ecological, sustainable movement. Young people especially are concerned about the planet’s future and do their best to reduce their environmental footprint. The nomination of Greta Thunberg as Person of the Year by TIME is an embodiment of youths’ passion for the environment. Thanks in part to social media. two particular movements have gained noticeable traction over the past years: minimalism and zero-waste. Instagrammers, YouTubers… Countless is the number of social media influencers who identify as minimalists or zero-waste activists. While social media play a crucial role in propelling sustainable movements, it can also take a negative turn.
With the popularity of sustainable influencers, people are inspired to adopt the same lifestyle. In the process, it is easy to fall into the trap of replicating (or attempt at least) an unattainable standard or aesthetic popularized by influencers. To illustrate, certain items are directly associated with the sustainable movement: array of identical mason jars, white-ish cotton produce bags, bamboo utensils, metal or glass straws. The overwhelming exposure to these iconic items can create an urge to acquire them just for validation—which goes against the movement’s philosophy of minimizing waste or reducing consumption.
Purchasing new items to fulfill a certain aesthetic does not benefit the environment in any way. As explained in this article, a glass cup, for instance, needs to be used an average of 393 times before it is considered more sustainable than a single-use foam cup. This means that replacing your perfectly functional mug with a new, instagrammable one is unsustainable. The same argument is valid for most reusable items.
If you’re considering an eco-conscious lifestyle—which you should 😉 —, be more mindful of your decisions. Ponder your options. Rather than purchasing a brand new set of perfectly matching mason jars, consider those you already possess: a peanut butter or marinara sauce jar. Packing your metal utensils with your lunch box is as sustainable (if not more) than buying a set of To Go Ware®️ bamboo utensils. Utilizing the free reusable bottle you got at the career fair is totally fine. Skipping straws all together is a better choice than purchasing a metal one for the sake of “zero-waste” aesthetic.
Written by Kelly Jean, Class of 2021