Selling the zero waste lifestyle…is buying ‘sustainability’, sustainable?

As more and more of us become concerned with the state of the planet it is natural that we will look at our own lives, how we live and the differences we can make to be ‘better’. Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and even blogs can offer us the picture perfect image of the ‘sustainable’ life, bathed in sunshine and scattered with every conceivable item we will need to add to our lives to feel better and do better in the world. Of course, there are many useful tips and aspirational stories behind some of these posts, but as soon as something becomes aspirational, or desirable, it becomes sellable. And here lies the rub.

Can we really buy our way into a more ‘sustainable’ way of living?

For the record, I have a deep rooted annoyance at the word ‘sustainability’. Whilst in general conversation it means all things ‘green / eco’ which I am onboard with, in its truest sense, it means that something can literally be sustained – continued – carried on. However, whilst we certainly do want to carry on living on this planet, we just cannot ‘sustain’ our current way of living and working. As much as we like to think so, our current business as usual model is not sustainable – it’s what got us into this mess – so needs fundamental changes. A big shift we will need to make is in consumption. We need to consume less stuff.

But this can feel at odds to our social media feeds which are now littered with brands, old and new, offering us the best and latest product to suit our ‘sustainable’ lifestyles. These items are beautiful, well designed, well styled and sell that aspirational goodness that we are craving. We all want to do good things and be better right? Maybe that reusable water bottle will make me better and more responsible…

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

The fact is, we probably already have a reusable bottle. Sure, it may not be as sexy and shiny as the one we saw on TikTok, but it holds water. Do we really need something else? Being satisfied with what we have and Refusing to buy something new until we really need it flies against the way we have (mostly) all been living. Of course, when we do need something new, we should support those creating genuinely great goods, but until then, we should not try and buy our way into sustainability and zero waste. Buying more just because it may be a little bit ‘better’, or suit that Instagram aesthetic is rather oxymoronic. And we need to remember that brands are there to sell sell sell. The only thing many want is to part you with your cash. If that means pulling at your green strings, they will try it.

So the next time you see that beautiful post selling sustainability, think – ‘do I need this, or have I already got enough?’. Maybe the most sustainable life is just a life of ‘enough’…

carry on the discussion...

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