Embracing a Sustainable Lifestyle in a Culture of Overconsumption. Photo by Giammarco Testa.

Updated 06:16 pm EDT, May 20, 2024

Published 06:09 pm EDT, May 20, 2024

Photo Credits

Wardrobe Stylist: Giammarco Testa
Stylist: Valentina Morara
Make-up Artist: Assiya Zelmat
Model: Maria Luisa Barbieri
Wardrobe: Archivio IAVA

Embracing a Sustainable Lifestyle in a Culture of Overconsumption

By Almudena Gonzalez

The impact of our choices and practical ways to make a positive change towards a sustainable lifestyle in a culture of overconsumption.

By Almudena Gonzalez

Updated 06:16 pm EDT, May 20, 2024

Published 06:09 pm EDT, May 20, 2024

Photo Credits

Wardrobe Stylist: Giammarco Testa
Stylist: Valentina Morara
Make-up Artist: Assiya Zelmat
Model: Maria Luisa Barbieri
Wardrobe: Archivio IAVA

When the topic of sustainability gets brought up, many turn a blind eye. Dinner tables go silent, bashful comments on hauls of overconsumption get filtered, and it is easier to ignore these conversations because, “Well, it won’t affect us, right? We’ll be six feet in the grave by the time all of this consumption catches up to us.”. The truth is, living sustainably in itself is not a sustainable way of living for many. In a time of overconsuming everything, from media to material goods many find it nearly impossible to stick to sustainable practices.

Embracing a Sustainable Lifestyle in a Culture of Overconsumption. Photo by Giammarco Testa.

We choose the easy way out. Someone else will do better for us, right? All those vegans and chronic recyclers will carry us on their backs. That one woman who always brings reusable bags to Whole Foods will find a way to save the next generation. It has become an easy way to think for many to avoid accountability. We can blame big companies for not doing better, but the truth is those companies will never face the repercussions of their actions. People will always continue to consume, and it is up to us, as individuals, to fix their mess. The question becomes, how can one live a life of sustainability while still allowing themselves to enjoy the fruits of consumption?

Overconsumption and Ignorance

Over the years, overconsumption has become more prevalent in our society. Apps like TikTok provide us with views into what others have that we don’t. They then create their own online shops to get us to buy stuff that we think we need and pay others to do E-commerce for them. We find ourselves feasting on content at alarming rates, always hungry for more. Ready to indulge in the next micro trend that’ll cycle itself out in a few weeks to months.

Embracing a Sustainable Lifestyle in a Culture of Overconsumption. Photo by Giammarco Testa.

Overconsumption comes from a lack of knowledge. How many consumers truly care to inform themselves about where a product they purchase comes from? What is it made of, and most importantly, where does it end up? Many only care about appearances nowadays and don’t take a moment to think about the damage they are causing to future generations. We are greedy creatures by default and have somehow deemed it acceptable.

The problem with sustainability is that people actively living that kind of lifestyle feel superior to those who don’t. A level of pretentiousness builds among those who feel they have made better choices. Living sustainably would be a much easier feat if those who chose to live that way 100% of the time still gave credit to those who only gave 50%.

Unsustainable Comparisons

Making those who still dabble in overconsumption feel inferior. A great comparison of pride is how one must feel after working hard to lose weight in a healthy way. They become excited to share their photos and tips but don’t stop to think about how those who haven’t reached their goal weight might feel. Choosing to live sustainably is a hard task for the average consumer to stick to. Especially those who seek comfort and status in material possessions.

Embracing a Sustainable Lifestyle in a Culture of Overconsumption. Photo by Giammarco Testa.

In the same way, cutting calories and dieting are only temporary fixes compared to dedicating yourself to making better choices most, if not all, of the time. Choosing to completely eliminate waste is not a sustainable way to start living and learning about sustainability. There will always be someone more sustainable than you, in the same way that losing weight is discouraging when someone is always somehow smaller than you.

Comparison becomes the thief of joy. Choosing sustainability does not mean you have to live a life of misery. One does not have to fully commit to living a zero-waste life to still do their part. Many see a lack of possessions as a loss, making a zero-waste lifestyle impossible for them, which is okay. It is just as honorable to change a lifestyle that leads to making better choices for yourself and the planet.

Reduce, don't Eliminate

One must choose not to necessarily eliminate waste but to reduce it. Downsizing your possessions while still allowing yourself to buy the things you deem necessary for your health and happiness. The truth is, waste is everywhere. It is a reaction to our fundamental needs. We waste water when we shower and paper when we write or use the bathroom. There is no escaping it. Without products that create waste and need to be repurchased, our economy would collapse. We have stopped drawing the lines at essentials and now feel the need to own 400 different products after watching someone else have more.

Embracing a Sustainable Lifestyle in a Culture of Overconsumption. Photo by Giammarco Testa.

Our economy thrives off of overconsumption, which is why we see a lack of conversations about sustainability, especially from those at the top. Brands want us to overconsume and market some new gimmick we “must have” every time we look at a screen or walk through the mall. It does not benefit them to talk about the greenwashing they do. Brands market clothing as being made with recycled material. Meanwhile, they don’t actually have to prove that it is to be able to sell it. We can sit here and blame the people at the top, as they are responsible for being the source of around 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but we can only change our habits and hope it will be enough in the end.

Sustainable Changes

To begin living more sustainably, we must start with small changes that lower our overall waste levels. Carrying reusable bags and water bottles is a great start for the average consumer. The average American consumer creates about five pounds of waste per day. Imagine how much that is when you consider the population of our planet. We can choose electric or hybrid vehicles over gas cars. Solar has become more affordable to the average household and ends up saving money for those who choose it.

Embracing a Sustainable Lifestyle in a Culture of Overconsumption. Photo by Giammarco Testa.

There are endless ways one can improve their carbon footprint on our planet. Everybody has choices. As human beings, we are all faced with the task of decision-making. It is on us to choose what we want to give and take from this planet. We can educate ourselves and gain consciousness of what we’re really buying. Living a lifestyle of essentialism is the ultimate goal; it does not have to happen overnight.

Accountability

Essentialism is the art of weeding out the things in your life that aren’t essential. An easy start is to focus on what is being discarded rather than what is being consumed. How can one reuse the items they already have to avoid buying new ones? Making smart decisions as a consumer is detrimental to becoming more sustainable. Looking for green products that come in compostable or recyclable packaging that can be refilled is a switch anyone can make. It is essential to focus on producing less waste rather than not consuming anything at all.

Embracing a Sustainable Lifestyle in a Culture of Overconsumption. Photo by Giammarco Testa.

There are a million ways one can become a better person to our planet. All it takes is taking the time to research what you can do within your own means. Even if it’s a small change as ridiculous as taking an Uber Green or showering with cold water when you can (it’s good for your health). Making space for these conversations among peers instead of being okay with avoidance like those before us. There is always room for improvement; the first step is always accountability.

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