Sustainability culture is toxic

Brianna Carmack, Print Editor-and-Chief

If there’s anything good to say about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected society, it’s that people are now more perceptive of their surroundings. In America, the focus on the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQIA+ rights and environmental activism has encouraged people to conduct their own research on political socialization. 

This is especially evident through Generation Z, considering the likeliness that their beliefs and values are firm isn’t necessarily high. Social media will allow users to spread details on those beliefs and values, allowing criticism to come from an opposing figure. In a matter of seconds, one Instagram post can alter the interpretation that someone has of someone else.

Environmental awareness and the sustainability movement is a prime example of this.

The first few months after the pandemic hit, profound changes opened up people’s eyes to a greener environment. Because everyone was staying home, there were improvements in air quality and carbon emissions dropped slightly. This was kind of a wake-up call to some people. People took to social media to spew out their new ideologies on environmentalism. This includes sharing information on veganism, fast fashion and ways to be more zero-waste. 

At first, I was glad that there was more focus on environmental activism. However, as months went on, I realized that behind the facade and aesthetic of eco-friendliness, there is toxicity ingrained in the movement; seen more prevalently through social media. 

Now that people are more knowledgeable about what is eco-friendly versus what is not, there isn’t fear of correcting someone else on their day to day habits in an attempt to make them more eco-friendly. In most cases, the criticism is valid and said respectfully, but in some, the criticism is usually said out of disgust and anger. 

Living a sustainable life comes with a lot of privilege. It is often very expensive and requires a lot of research in order to differentiate what is sustainable and what is not. 

Even location can play a huge role when it comes to living sustainably. In some countries, people live in food deserts, meaning that they have less accessibility to nutritious foods, so veganism isn’t really an option. Some people live in more rural towns where markets that sell whole foods are practically nonexistent. 

Living the lifestyle of someone who is sustainable might include shopping for clothes from eco-friendly brands. However those companies usually sell expensive clothing that doesn’t necessarily cater to all sizes. Thrifting is an option, but it becomes a lot more limiting when there isn’t clothing that fits someone’s size. Finding furniture that is categorized as eco-friendly is also crazy expensive. 

It seems like a lot of the time the aesthetic and the easiness of living eco-friendly is what draws people. To me, it’s way more complicated than that. Location, finances and research on the topic requires quite a bit of privilege in order to ensure that someone is “perfectly” sustainable. Criticizing someone because they don’t have that option is ignorant and completely unfair.