Is Sustainable Living Only An Option For Wealthy White People?

DISCLAIMER: This post is about life outside of the pandemic. Things are very different now and I myself have had to take up habits I normally wouldn’t because of what’s going on. Do the best you can now and maybe use this time to think of more ways to be creative and beneficial to the planet!

I saw a post on Instagram the other day that grabbed my attention and inspired this blog post. The post was discussing how the commercialization of ethical/sustainability living has made it so that low income POC cannot participate in that lifestyle. I’ve heard this argument before from various friends and colleagues. I remember talking to a colleague once who said “ I would love to try and go zero waste, but you have to be rich to do that.”

I didn’t agree with everything written in the post, but I thought there were some very valid points brought up. For many people (myself included) buying a $200 sweater from an ethical fashion brand or a $50 reusable water bottle is completely out of the question. But does this mean that people who make less money can’t afford to do the planet some good? I think not and here’s why:

I agree with the idea that “living green” has become commercialized and somewhat of a fashion statement and that really bugs me. With the rise of this movement, there has now become an image of living sustainably that is out of reach for a lot of people. What do I mean by that? Take your favorite “green” YouTubers for example, they probably live in beautiful minimalistic apartments and have tons of mason jars, expensive ethical clothing, etc. We see these images and we think that this is all of what sustainability it. While these are great ways to be sustainable, they are not the only way.

Sustainability has always been equal to creativity in my book. It’s about getting creative with the things you already have and making smarter purchases. We can all do that! For instance, when you buy a jar of pasta sauce and you’re done with it, you probably (hopefully) just recycle it and forget about, right? But what if you saved that jar and used it to store rice or dried beans? How much would that cost you? Absolutely nothing and yet, you’d be doing so much good for the planet. 

When I was in college, I was not making a lot of money at all, but I still made an effort to make conscious decisions that were good for Earth. Let me share with you some examples: I had a giant piece of plain white cotton fabric from a project I shot two years ago. With the extra fabric I made myself reusable produce/bulk bags. I think the fabric cost me about $30 in total and I still have a ton left over even after making the bags. It didn’t cost me any extra money to make them and I was able to give that fabric a second life while also learning how to use a sewing machine.

Most of my rags at home are old towels that I’ve cut up. The next time you go to grab a paper towel to wipe up a mess, ask yourself if an old t-shirt or towel could do the same thing. In most cases, it probably can. And you know how much it costs to cut up a t-shirt? Not a damn thing. In fact, it will save you money because you don’t have to keep buying paper towels and other disposable paper products. 

I wanted a Hydroflask for a long time before I could actually afford one. I personally didn’t want to buy a plastic reusable bottle, so you know what I did? I bought a bottle of Gerolsteiner, took off the sticker and kept washing and refilling the bottle until my manager accidentally broke it a few months later. I don’t remember how much the bottle cost, but let’s estimate on the high end and say that a bottle of Gerolsteiner costs $3. For a $3 bottle of water, I had a reusable water bottle that lasted me for four months. That’s less than a dollar a month for that bottle. If you bought a bottle of water a day for a $1 for that same amount of time it would end up costing you $120. Which solution is more affordable for a broke college student in the long run?

These are just some of the ways that I’ve lived a life with less waste over the last few years and I hope it shows you that there is no one way to do this right. It’s more important that we all make the effort regardless of whether or not it’s “right” way. 

The last point I want to make is that for POC, living this way is in our blood. Think about it. Indigenous people from all over the world were all about living in harmony with the earth and protecting it. All of our societies were all very “green”. We planted our own food and harvested it. We took only what we needed and never more and we made sure to use all of it. Even in regard to hunting animals, we honored and prayed over them after killing them. We used their hides for coats and blankets, their bones for tools, their intestines for water bags, meat for eating. None of the animal was wasted. We were zero-waste long before there was a need to be that way. 

Don’t let the commercialization of the “green movement” blind you from the real problem, which is that our Earth is severely hurting. As citizens of this planet, we all have role to play in it’s healing. 

I will say this though, I can only speak from my perspective. I am a young single woman and I’m aware that I have some privileges that others don’t. I realize that not everyone can live exactly the way I do, and I don’t expect that. But that doesn’t mean that we all don’t have options. Find what works best for you and do that. No matter what your income is you can make a difference. Do not let anyone take away your voice for any reason. You were put on this earth to speak your mind and be great. So do that!

Much love to you all and as always,

Stay Fabulous


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