How can students combat the temptations of fast consumerism?
I previously wrote a post with some options on reducing plastic consumption in Groningen. However, in order for people, especially students, to even consider these options and decide which is the wisest to act on them, another battle must be fought: convenience at the cost of overwhelming the Earth. In our student city, late nights out lead to littered streets, ever-changing trends lead to fast fashion, and many take-away businesses leading to mountains of single-use plastic. You may think this is the same in every student city, but a large percentage of Groningen’s population are students, relative to locals and permanent residents. Groningen is rather small in comparison to Amsterdam, The Hague, Leiden, Delft, Rotterdam, or Eindhoven (just to name a few). I have visited a number of these listed cities, and students there seem to be more environmentally conscious. So, what can Groningen students do?
Our city is small, with most of the “life” occurring in the Ring – the city centre – so everyone will flock here for convenience and tourism. But what you find in the city centre are many, many shops. Cafés and restaurants, yes, but just as much fast food places too. Where do you think students are going to go? Students, on a budget, who follow the modern fashion trends of what we see on our screens, and after spending there, get hungry and need quick food that won’t break the bank further. Or maybe they spend it going out at night and enjoying themselves. There is no judgement in living this way because you may feel, as a student, you don’t have a choice, but the cheap choices you do make are overwhelming our planet in the long run.
No one’s saying you have to give up everything you own and live naked in a barrel. It is true that the billionaire corporations and ignorant politicians are also to be held accountable. The Extinction Rebellion and Students for Climate bring the fight to them. But corporations and politicians are also meant to cater to the people. We are the people. You can choose what role you want to play in the fight to prevent a total Ecocide, but it will ultimately lead to a cultural shift in our own lifestyles. There are small steps you can take that if everyone does, will make a huge difference in how we treat our planet. The essential message is this: don’t put your home on the line for the sake of cheapness and convenience.
Most people already shop second-hand, and luckily current fashion trends are leaning back towards vintage clothing and 90s fashions, so there’s already enough motivation to buy used yet unique pieces at Mamamini or the ReShare store. Primark and C&A may be cheap, but you also know the quality is typically enough to last you for a month. It also might be cheaper to repair worn down clothing or shoes instead of buying a completely new pair or item. If you absolutely have to buy new, then buy from places that support sustainable fashion – Weekday or G-star Raw for example. Also, look for organic cotton or recycled materials. Prices are higher here, but it’s an investment and you’d only need to buy new once.
Try eating out more! Really make the time to enjoy the atmosphere of a restaurant. If some places only offer takeaway meals, then seriously consider bringing your own container to pick up your order in instead of having them place it in a single-use, hard to recycle plastic container. As someone who also works for a takeaway business, the plastic we use is usually grade 5 or higher. In fact, most take away containers are from this grade because Grade 5 & 6 plastic (polypropylene and polystyrene) have a high melting point and thus, are suitable for takeaway meals. But the higher the grade is on the plastic type, the harder it is to recycle. If you want more information, look up “Resin identification codes,” on Google.
This is a huge grey area for students because a majority cannot afford the eco or bioproducts in the supermarket. Nor do many of them actually want to change the food they eat. Again, no one’s saying you have to go vegetarian or vegan. I understand that not everyone in the world can do that because of where they live and differences in access to resources, as well as the difference in food culture. Nevertheless, we live in a country where we can afford to go meat-free or plant-based. We just choose not to because it “tastes bad” or “it’s not cheap.” Yet many students fail to realise that not buying meat saves you so much money (and plastic packaging). I went vegetarian for environmental reasons and stayed so for the low prices. However, once again, if everybody can reduce their meat and cow milk consumption, this would also make a huge impact. To begin with milk is the easiest. Don’t buy cow milk. Buy plant-based milk, every supermarket provides you with so many options. Increasing demand for cow’s milk will mean breeding more cows, which take up huge amounts of water that could’ve been used to grow crops. The ratio of gallons of water used for a gallon of milk is 2000:1 (according to Natural News).
Just try. Don’t ignore all the warning signs and helpful tips. Try to be ecologically mindful. There’s a reason this movement is spreading, aren’t you the least bit curious why?