We’re both on Instagram and follow a handful of outdoor and fashion brands. A thing we’ve noticed recently, as we scroll through sponsored posts, is the increasing number of companies who market their brand as “environmentally-friendly,” in support of sustainable living. Brands like these integrate positive environmental, social, and economic impact in their business operations and invite consumers to choose better alternatives. It’s great, but this sudden realization made us wonder, has the green movement become a trend? If so, is it here to stay?
On the one hand, trends aren’t necessarily bad; the green trend can bring awareness to important environmental issues such as climate change. But on the other, the green trend can increase greenwashing which is a problem when a brand claims to be “environmentally-friendly” but are really not. With social media being an important part of marketing, influencers may play a part in greenwashing too. A trend we see often are influencers who create relevant, trendy content about “going green” and then go silent about the topic after the post. We’re aware that influencers don’t share every aspect of their lives (they shouldn’t have to), but if there are no intentions of continued progress or reconsidering sponsors who aren’t eco-friendly, it makes us cautious of the message they may be giving to their viewers. A sustainable lifestyle is a mindset and a shift in the way one chooses to live, not a marketing strategy to use to gain more viewers or consumers.
But why does it matter what the intentions of brands and influencers are if their impact is positive? It’s wonderful that the environment is gaining the awareness it needs (it’s greatly needed), but greenwashing can create room for false information and advertising. Yes, feelings of frustrations surface when we see brands and influencers profit off the green movement. No, it’s not fair of us to write off progress so quickly (intentional or not) because progress is not something that can easily be recognized in face value – so we take a step back to evaluate why we feel a certain way. But it’s not wrong to be skeptical of the content we see online – content that could be valuable in helping all of us make better choices.
So what can we do? Continue to educate ourselves; call, email, or contact such brands to ask questions on their sustainable efforts and be more self-aware of where we offer our support in terms of money and views. On a personal level, if the content we see online doesn’t align with our values, we can inspire others through our own individual actions. We practice sustainability as a way to care for the planet and its resources; we’re firm believers that small changes can make big impacts. And so, we want to share some ways we try to embrace sustainable living:
- Shop less, swap more. If we have an item that is in good condition but we no longer need it, we’ll give it away to someone who will find it useful. The rest can be donated to a local charity or thrift store.
- This year, we’ve made it a goal to reduce our carbon footprint by walking, cycling, taking public transportation, or carpooling more.
- We think about how we can reuse the things we already own before buying newer, nicer-looking or more updated items if they do not need to be replaced just yet. Lots of items can be multipurpose, too, if we try hard enough.
- To reduce our waste, we bring reusable utensils, containers, and water bottles with us when we dine out or grab a cup of coffee to go.
- We’ll buy in bulk at the grocery store when possible to reduce plastic waste.
- To save money, we look into the purchase of used clothes, books, and outdoor gear (depending on the gear). It’s a great way to give items a second chance before they will be recycled or thrown away.
- We try to be mindful and take better care of our things so that they last longer (maybe even forever?).
- If they do break, we might learn how to fix broken items or mend torn clothes from a YouTube video or blog post online.
We try to be mindful, but a day in our life will never be perfectly “green” and we would never strive for that. There are things that do help – like being fortunate enough to live in cities that allow us the ability to embrace sustainable living and education. We’re aware of the privilege and are extremely grateful, but we know it’s not the same for everyone. The responsibility to “save the planet” should not be the sole responsibility of the individual – larger corporations have more resources to make a responsible impact. But if your lifestyle allows it, we encourage you to do what you can, when you can. Sustainable living doesn’t mean you have to integrate big changes to your lifestyle overnight. A sustainable life is different for everyone; for us, it’s more successful and meaningful when the right intentions are there.
Jennifer and Vivian