Why is it that we do not speak of the impacts of our materialistic choices in our culture? Why do we throw around money towards fashion fads and the next best item but will not spend a few extra dollars to make a purchase better for the environment? As someone new to the idea of sustainability, I have become increasingly worried about the decision-making of our society. If we want to live our lives to the fullest, we must recognize the direct impact our spending habits and choices have on our chances of seeing the lives of future generations. Learning about sustainability has given me hope, but the lifestyle of our current society is quickly putting out my fire.
As a consumer in the twenty-first century, I found sustainability to be somewhat of a foreign concept. We as a society have created a world in which many things are spoken, and few words are meant. I feel this to be true when I think about our actions in regards to creating a better future for the children of tomorrow. Now being within the design field, I have had the opportunity to be educated on the practices of sustainable choices in future designs in addition to recognizing the impact of material choices today. Not everyone is this fortunate. I emphasize the idea of education merely because I had nowhere near an idea of the effects of consumerism within society on our future. Most young adults will continue increasing the effects of fast fashion shown today without a second thought. This ignorance towards choices is what scares me as I am someone who hopes to one day have children and grandchildren. Should my generation continue to buy short-lasting material goods at large capacity, we can kiss the idea of living long-term goodbye.
This frantic worry I have aside, I am thankful to now recognize the effects of my own choices. In my time learning of mindful practices such as buying what is needed and not simply wanted, choosing sustainable brands with good business ethic practices, reusing what can be and disposing of material goods appropriately, and simply being aware of the choices I make to be of great benefit. While I may not speak behind podiums of the effects of pollution, my choice to live differently will affect the lifestyle of those close to me and in turn, they will affect others and create a cycle of change within our seemingly hopeless society. Our consumeristic society is a wicked problem I see with no end now that I am educated, and yet somehow I feel there are small actions that compiled will create a slightly brighter future for the next generation. While I have learned to recognize the wickedness of some problems, in that there is no one perfect solution, I have also learned how to identify potential solutions and recognize the importance of identifying the cruel mishaps our society has made.
While I may be unable to change what has already been done, through recognizing the wicked problem of consumerism in the United States, I see ideas for preventing further damage. Identifying a key problem gives the freedom to move forward to specific solutions. In an ideal world, one could simply ban overconsumption of goods in short periods of time, but thinking of realistic solutions gives more hope than thinking theoretically. When I think of specific changes that can be made within my generation’s spending habits I immediately think of low attention spans and high demands. My cohort lives on tik tok, the app that limits our attention spans so intensely watching anything longer than a few seconds can become taxing, and is influenced by mainstream celebrities left and right. We look so intently for direction that we violently switch opinions left and right and look to destroy anyone disagreeing with our opinions. These contributors to our viewpoints and media absorption lead to spending habits that are inconsistent and fast-paced, in addition to being based on impression management. We look to impress others and stay ahead of the game, thinking only of today and what material item will give me the best reputation tomorrow. These habits, maintained through media consumption, are disgusting and if not stopped will drive our planet into the ground. How much longer can we support the fast fashion empire and look for approval in others before within ourselves? We must make changes and make them today rather than tomorrow.
Changing one person’s opinion is one thing, but changing a generation’s is an entirely different battle. How can this be done in an age of influence? Influencers. By speaking the truth to those who have the power to reach the minds of our largest consumers, a significant culture change can be made quicker than my small changes impact my friends. If mainstream influencers are educated on the impact their quick mindless choices make, they can bring to mind mindfulness for themselves and their following. Additionally, light can be brought to the unsustainable practices of large corporations, and knowing my generation’s thought process and desire for justice, these practices could be halted faster than one might think possible. The young adults of today have the power to restore or destroy our future. While this may look to be a bold statement to some, I would challenge those who disagree to think of all the change we have already brought.
In my journey to better understand the meaning and importance of sustainability within daily choices and design, I have seen both the effects of what has been done and the urgency with which we need to move forward as a society. While I look to generate more sustainable practices in my daily life to jumpstart change on a small scale, I have hope that should a person of large scale importance will recognize the importance of these practices and share with the world why we need to change. Sustainability is important, I simply hope my generation gives this new idea a chance.