The truth is that the choice to live a more eco-conscious lifestyle and stand up for the environment costs nothing—changing your mindset will change your habits.
Capitalism is trying to trick you into thinking sustainability is expensive. Don’t fall for it: Bamboo yoga mats, organic green smoothies sipped through metal straws and $200 hemp-woven trousers are not a requirement for an eco-conscious lifestyle.
The mainstream sustainability movement is a romanticized, white-washed and classist fiction that has nothing to do with the real thing. Consequently, real sustainability is pushed further and further out of sight. This green-washed facade is not actually sustainability but another mode of exclusion based on race, class, gender, ability and status. In other words, it’s bull.
Real sustainable living is made up of a series of daily choices and actions. It’s a state of mind rather than a state of momentary living. This leaves room for individuality in what choices are possible and available for every person. There are very few versions of a perfect sustainable lifestyle while existing in society today. That is why small choices everyday are what matter.
Remember the golden rule: Buy less and buy consciously.
When it comes to grocery store purchases, there is always a more sustainable choice you may be missing. Buy in bulk to avoid excess packaging, DIY your own household cleaning products instead of buying chemical-based ones and consider decreasing or eliminating fish consumption, a commercial practice wreaking havoc on our oceans and their inhabitants.
It’s well known that fast fashion is horrible for the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 84% of excess clothing was thrown away by consumers and companies. But on the other hand, ethical clothing brands, such as Reformation, are often too exorbitant for many to consider purchasing. The solution? Avoid buying new clothes by repairing the ones you have or replacing them with secondhand items. As an alternative, attending clothing swaps, flea markets and other secondhand events can be a more accessible means to sustainability than even thrift shops.
Sustainability is empathy
Living eco-consciously means standing up against climate injustices that marginalized communities suffer from. Sustainability is a synonym for environmental activism. Calling out environmental racism, such as factory farm toxic runoff destroying low-income neighborhoods, and the recent dismissed case of Alabama authorities dumping toxic waste into a landfill located in the largely African American populated Uniontown, is just as much a part of sustainability as replacing your plastic container with glass.
Calling your state legislator to demand more sustainable policies is free. Educating yourself and others, to the best of your ability, on the topic of sustainability, climate change and environmental justice is more than possible for many. Those who have privilege need to be using that privilege to lift up other individuals in the environmental movement.
There is no shortcut to sustainability because the United States, as well as the rest of the developed western world is not set up to be sustainable. There will always be aspects of sustainable living that will be inaccessible to some people. It requires a certain amount of monetary funds, physical ability and education to make sustainable changes in your life. If you have privilege that will allow you to make these choices, you have a responsibility to do so.
I am at PSU pursuing an art history major and am minoring in Gender, Sexuality and Queer Studies and Design Management. I took on the role of opinion editor in summer 2018. When I started writing for the opinion section last year as a contributor, I was looking to learn about journalism and media; I can say I definitely have. As an editor, I focus on creating environments in which writers and readers can connect and engage in productive conversations exploring new points of view.