Sustainability and eco-friendliness should not be gatekept behind a price tag

Photo by: Noah Buscher on Unsplash

Many may wonder how they can do their part in solving climate change.

Realizing that individual accountability is essential to curb the effects of climate changeand actually taking matters into one’s hands is often rocky, especially considering the general public has been made to believe that sustainability is inherently luxurious and out of reach.

With the rise of companies who offset sustainable practices with increased pricing, as in the case of clothing retailer Reformation, consumers who cannot afford to consume ethically and sustainably-made items feel disenfranchised from taking part in becoming more eco-conscious, leading to disengagement in the movement as a whole.

Regardless of the messaging produced by this new wave of “eco-friendly capitalism,” what cannot be disregarded is that eco-friendliness should be inherently accommodating to all budgets. The best way to ensure people individually take concern of climate change is by ensuring they do what they can with what they have– nothing more and nothing less. Truly, the notion that exclusively acquiring ethically-produced goods entails more sustainable living is an oxymoron; consuming less (when feasible) is the key to inclusive sustainability.

Furthermore, the conversation regarding the cost of sustainable living often involves food security and affordability. Many advocates for solving the climate crisis point to the fact that the production of meat accounts for up to 60 per cent of the global greenhouse gasses polluting the Earth’s atmosphere, or twice as much as the global production of plant-based food. With that in mind, many feel a fully plant-based diet, such as veganism, must be the only path to fulfilling one’s responsibility to the planet, but it is naive to believe that everyone will be able to sustain a plant-based life. 

In Canada, the price of lettuce has risen over 35 per cent in the last year, along with a 17 per cent price increase for vegetables as a whole. It is clear that those wishing to nourish their bodies with vegetables and grains alone may only be those that can afford to do so. Many also often disregard the cost of nutritional supplements and vitamins needed to sustain a vegan lifestyle, further pushing the idea that sustainable living equals affluent buying power. 

If exclusively purchasing high-quality, sustainable goods and strict veganism are not the main pillars of eco-friendly living, then what is? Arguably, anything actively beneficial to the planet that is in tandem with your budget, health goals and abilities.

For instance, instead of indulging in shopping sprees for sustainably-made clothes marketed to you as a more sustainable alternative than your current wardrobe, you may as well invest your time into repairing old clothes, trading with friends and family or thrifting. Not only are these options more affordable, but they are likely more eco-friendly, as you won’t create demand for sustainable brands to make more inventory, and thus will save resources and possibly help avoid clothes from ending in landfills after they are no longer desirable.

Likewise, if veganism or any other “sustainable” lifestyle change does not fully suit your health or budget, the most eco-friendly things you could do are to reduce the consumption of food categories known for being major pollutants, to reduce the number of leftovers thrown away in your household or composting.

As long as climate change advocacy is gate kept behind notions of “right” and “wrong” and behind costly expectations for the average person, it will remain in the theoretical rather than the functional– thus further pushing society away from tangible change to prevent the catastrophic consequences of climate change by 2030.

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