Capitalism takes advantage of us at our most vulnerable time: high school.
Already in a period of change and self-discovery, we are subject to a continuous cycle of purchasing fast fashion, new beauty products, micro-trends, ephemeral room decor, and other unnecessary items, at heightened degrees. It’s difficult to avoid when trends are created mostly for and by people our age, but it is time for us to start making mindful purchases.
Our generation is largely discontented by the negative impact and harmful decisions made by the generations before us. We are fighting to take back control and save our planet, but we remain victim to consumerist habits that lead to plastic and clothing waste, as well as harmful spending choices. While we do not have the largest impact on the oil companies, big corporations, conventional factory farms, and government officials who determine the fate of our environment, we can take control of what is in our scope of discipline as high school students: where and how we spend our money, and what we buy.
Sustainable clothing, makeup, and other types of brands are becoming more popular, but they continue to be expensive and inaccessible to many. Sustainable materials that are plant-based and ethically sourced have higher production costs than non-sustainable materials like single-use plastics, which contribute to pollution. Though supporting and shopping through sustainable brands is good, there are already so many things in circulation. Buying second-hand is better, and choosing to buy less, is best.
A combination of thrifting, vintage shopping, wearing hand-me-downs, mending/upcycling, and shopping sustainable brands are all good options toward sustainable living. These are all things that have been around for ages. Not only are they the more sustainable option, but it is also often cheaper to shop these ways! One misconception about thrifting is that we are taking away clothes from those who cannot afford to shop otherwise, but we must debunk that myth. There are so many clothes in circulation right now and a majority of them go into landfills. It becomes a problem when people thrift and then resell those items at a higher cost, making them yet again, inaccessible. Go thrifting and buy less, not only does it help with reducing the amount of waste in landfills, but also, lessens the impact those items created in production.
When making changes in my life to live more sustainably and consciously, I often fear judgment from those living “more sustainable” lives than me. I feel like my hands are tied and there’s too much pressure to reach a certain standard, but all that matters is that we take steps to do what we can to make positive changes in our lives. Sustainability is marketed in a way that makes it seem completely unattainable and inaccessible, but truthfully, sustainable changes are often more accessible than the alternative. Removing this expectation of being 100% sustainable alleviates the feeling that if you can’t be good enough, you shouldn’t try. If it isn’t possible to be 100% green, that doesn’t need to be your goal — start one step at a time. That first step can be with our shopping and reducing consumption of unnecessary items. The impact individuals have is small, but as a collective, these changes can make significant impacts.
Instead of focusing on what we can’t do, let’s all make small changes toward living a more sustainable lifestyle. In addition to these changes, when possible, we must place pressure on big oil companies, corporations, and banks to redirect their funds and choices, push government officials to make a legislative change, vote for politicians who support environmental justice, expose billionaires and their unethical practices, boycott fast fashion brands that utilize sweatshops, buy local, organic, and ethically sourced food, and be a conscious citizen to the best of our abilities. We must understand that it is not our responsibility to do all of the work, but we cannot ignore it either.