Art By Leah Bae
Though contributing to fast fashion isn’t ideal for promoting eco-friendly consumerism, shaming others for being unable to shop entirely sustainably is an elitist perspective and ignorant to the financial freedom that goes into buying exclusively sustainable products.
Just behind oil industry pollution, the fast fashion industry is the second-largest polluting commerce source in the world, according to the United Nations. This astounding statistic is the driving reason behind the increase in demand and popularity for sustainability. However, this new rise in pushing for environmentally friendly products comes at a staggering cost.
With growing advocacy, particularly among younger generations who are concerned about climate change, it often comes alongside a simultaneous ridiculing of those who don’t shop entirely environmentally conscious.
Having the luxury of being able to shop sustainably is a privilege in itself that many advocates fail to realize.
Typically among college students who are financially dependent on their parents, it becomes far easier to shop sustainably when day-to-day expenses are paid for by another person.
Seldom do college students possess the jobs that warrant the financial freedom of living a 100% environmentally conscious lifestyle.
For the 37% of college students who are financially independent from their parents — according to the Association of American Colleges & Universities — paying for expenses like rent, tuition, gas, car insurance and a plethora of bills doesn’t allow for much financial breathing room. Paying $75 for a simple shirt just because it is sustainably made is not an option the majority of people, especially students, have.
It’s difficult to find comfort in helping the environment by paying for an expensive product or article of clothing when that same price tag could potentially cover multiple months of living expenses like utilities.
Yes, fast fashion is one of the leading sources of detriments to the environment, but avoiding fast fashion brands is not the sole way to promote sustainability. Reducing carbon footprints on a daily basis, especially for college students who can’t afford to live an entirely sustainable life, can be as easy as replacing certain foods and drinks with more eco-friendly options.
For example, being more conscious of milk choices is a small substitution with large benefits. Cow’s milk requires 628 liters of water to produce one liter of milk, whereas only 28 liters of water are needed to return one liter of soy milk — according to a 2018 study from Statista. Moreover, despite the popular shift to almond milk from cow’s milk, many neglect to realize 371 liters of water are necessary to produce a single liter of almond milk in comparison to a mere 28 liters per liter of another milk alternative like oat milk, according to the same study.
As far as fashion is concerned, thrifting is a great way to live a more eco-friendly and budget friendly lifestyle. There can be negative connotations surrounding thrift stores and buying things secondhand, and sustainable brands want the average consumer to feed into those misconceptions and believe their overly-priced products are the only way to live sustainably.
Those devoted to a fully environmentally conscious lifestyle should instead advocate for everyone to make smaller changes rather than pushing an elitist way of living down the throats of those who don’t have the luxury and privilege to do so.
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