There’s irony in modern-day environmentalism

Image by: Herbert Wang

There’s a cruel irony in the fact that our efforts to reduce plastic waste often conclude in the production of more waste as we mindlessly consume “eco-friendly” alternatives.

I’m constantly shocked at the mass acceleration of consumerism that has erupted through social media. Jeff Bezos claimed, at its worst, consumerism is getting people to buy things that don’t improve their lives. This rings true in the water bottle micro-trends we see on a day-to-day basis.

Approximately 1.3 billion plastic bottles are used each day globally. Buying a reusable water bottle seems like a simple solution to this problem—they’re transportable, convenient, and aim to limit plastic consumption, which is undoubtedly a good thing.

Embracing reusable water bottles emerged as a commendable eco-conscious consumer trend during the mid-2000s, particularly among university students. Yet in today’s digital age, reusable water bottles are morphing into trendy status symbols.

The main issue with these trends rests in their fleeting nature; by the time you cave and make the purchase, the item loses its relevance, overshadowed by the arrival of the next “groundbreaking” product.

The quest for a long-lasting water bottle isn’t the issue at hand. I’ve fallen prey to their appeal too, opting for a Yeti for myself and gifting a Stanley to a friend.

The irony is palpable when we replace single-use plastic with expensive bottles, only to discard them when a newer item comes along, perpetuating a cycle of waste in the name of sustainability.

It’s a delicate dance of supply and demand, where the attraction of the latest trends creates a surge in consumer interest, driving up demand like wildfire. As soon as the market floods with eager buyers—often instigated by social media—supply struggles to keep pace, leaving consumers scrambling to secure their coveted item before it’s whisked away into obscurity by the relentless tide of innovation.

I stand by the desire to own one or two reliable bottles for multipurpose needs, but when the purchases spiral into excessive consumerism, it fosters toxic consumption habits.

I’ve witnessed friends throw away perfectly functional water bottles simply because they weren’t what was popular online. This reveals the extent to which our values are shaped by online trends rather than general use for the products we need.

There’s no argument against sustainability being a good thing. Currently, 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces of plastic are floating in our ocean, and plastic water bottles are considerable contributors to this issue.

While more plastic bottles continue to flood the market, amassing numerous reusable bottles undermines the essence of eco-consciousness—particularly when past trendy bottles are thrown away or meet a premature end, collecting dust in kitchen cabinets.

Less equals more. It’s the wealthier way forward, in every sense.

Skylar is a third-year political studies student and one of The Journal’s Feature Editors.


consumerism, micro-trends, Sustainability, water bottles

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