When it comes to the environment, the new trend of eco-consumerism seems to be gaining more and more popularity. Eco-consumerism, or green consumerism, is basically a shift in the behaviors of consumers. People are starting to be more conscious of the effects their shopping has on the environment. This means they’re more likely to care about the materials in the product or the packaging of the store.
Eco-consumerism manifests itself in people opting for paper bags or tote bags in place of plastic bags. They prefer to eat in restaurants which source their ingredients locally and ethically. Fast fashion brands are being boycotted. And the most common act you’ll see: switching out plastic or paper straws for metal straws.
Aside from metal straws possibly creating more harm with the nickel mining it requires, there are 2 bigger reasons that eco-consumerism makes saving the environment less likely.
The first is the problem of complacency. Doing small actions such as these tend to assuage the guilt we have regarding climate change. Being able to say we’re doing something for the environment makes us feel better about ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, these are good efforts which deserve the proper amount of recognition — but they can also be over-estimated efforts.
So people fall victim to the fallacy that we’re doing enough. There’s less drive to do more or to look for better solutions. It also devolves into an individualistic advocacy. You focus more on your individual actions than about the actions that can be done as a community or a singular movement.
This eventually leads to the second problem, of there being less push to demand accountability from others: ‘bigger’ actors like corporations and the government. Playing too much into eco-consumerism means forgetting who holds most of the fault. You either internalize the guilt of climate change or you become complacent enough to let the ones most culpable off the hook.
Intentionally or not, eco-consumerism shines a spotlight on what you as an individual can do to better the environment. What gets lost in the process is the reality that the majority of the world’s environmental damage is derived from large-scale actors. Toxic dumping, ineffectively enforced environmental policies, unsustainable production practices, and using natural resources as collateral — these are the kinds of things we forget to punish states and corporations for.
We get so caught up in the small changes we are able to do for the environment, the bigger battle slips away from us. There is less of an urgency to create traction against corporations, to call for governments to enact environmental standards.
To be clear, these two things can exist together. We just have to be mindful of making them both a reality. Personal improvements like segregating the trash can be done alongside asking corporations to stop using plastic in their packaging. But it can only be done once we acknowledge a common but differentiated responsibility.
Yes, we are all responsible for the state the world is in today. But we are not all equally responsible. Some are more at fault than others, and that ought to be represented in the reparations done for the environment. The conclusion is simple: do your own part for the world, but don’t forget to hold the proper actors accountable.
What’s your stance on this?