A new dilemma has emerged in the fight for sustainability. As some people cannot afford to be sustainable, does reprimanding people for continuing to use unsustainable brands make you elitist?
I think there are many layers to uncover to fully understand this issue, the first one being what sustainability is. Through the scope of social media, the word “sustainability” has been twisted and turned until it has lost most of its meaning. It is more than often used indiscriminately in most discussions. Here’s a definition from McGill University that I think portrays perfectly what sustainability is in an ecological context: “Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Countless sustainability activists, myself included, want to abolish fast fashion, because of the horrible labour conditions of people working in the industry and the impact it has on the environment. However, could that ever be possible at this point? Some people can only afford to wear fast fashion, and while thrifting is a good alternative, it is not accessible to all since some people may have issues with sizing and the rising prices due to demand.
This idea that anyone can be sustainable should be abolished. It can be difficult to switch to more durable alternatives, because they tend to be more expensive. Becoming sustainable is a sacrifice, but it should be a sacrifice we are willing to make for the good of future generations.
The bottom line is sustainability is not elitist per se, but assuming anyone can afford to be is. Let us stop pointing fingers at the population and start putting the blame where it really belongs: on compagnies that continue to turn a blind eye to the effect they have on the environment, just to make more profit, because temporary satisfaction is worth centuries of suffering according to them.
By Meriem Terzi