The Intersectionality Between Environmental Conscientiousness and Socioeconomic Status

Anvi Kasargod, Sports Editor/Reporter

There is no denying that the noticeable effects of climate change in the form of natural disasters have sparked a recent push for environmental action. Whether it be recycling, using metal straws, going vegan or purchasing clothing made from sustainable materials, enthusiasm for environmental conscientiousness has been more prominent. 

Although encouraging others to implement positive lifestyle changes may often feel like environmental advocacy, it is also important to establish a clear distinction between advocacy and shaming. While the benefits of implementing certain lifestyle changes are often highlighted, the financial restrictions that these changes entail tend to be ignored. 

The push for environmentally conscious clothing has grown recently, with several companies, such as H&M, Levi’s, Patagonia, Reformation and Ecovibe, launching new lines of apparel made from sustainable materials. However, the price ranges of such apparel soar above those of more affordable brands that do not carry the promise of environmental conscientiousness. For example, a plain white v-neck t-shirt from the clothing company Alternative Apparel, that claims to use 100 percent organic and recycled materials, costs $38. Meanwhile, a plain, white v-neck t-shirt from Target costs only $8. 

While Alternative Apparel’s use of sustainable materials in manufacturing their clothing is commendable, it is also important to acknowledge that their price ranges are not affordable for a large percentage of the American population. Clothing from more affordable companies such as Target, however, may be. 

Therefore, while encouraging others to invest in environmental sustainability, it is also important to remember that consumer spending is different among individuals from different socioeconomic groups. Not everyone can afford to purchase certain types of clothing, and should not be shamed for being unable to do so. 

 Similarly with food, vegan diets are gaining popularity in efforts to stop the meat industrial complex. While there is nothing wrong with encouraging others to implement diet changes, once again, the financial implications behind switching to diets centered around foods such as fruits and vegetables must be considered before shaming those who choose to maintain their current diets. 

Low-income families are often faced with few options when it comes to healthy and environmentally conscious-dining, and often resort to consuming fast food since it is the most economical option. On average, the cost of a fast food meal ranges from $5 to $7; whereas fresh produce costs $4 to $5 per pound, and even more if organic. When the same amount of money for one pound of a fruit or vegetable can buy an entire meal, it is no surprise that low-income families resort to fast foods. Meals from fast food joints such as McDonald’s or Burger King are largely meat based, making it difficult to adhere to vegan diets. 

Once again, the intersectionality between environmental conscientiousness and socioeconomic status must not be neglected, and individuals must acknowledge the privilege that comes with being able to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle. 

Rather than shaming those who are financially unable to implement lifestyle changes, alternative methods of being environmentally conscious should be presented, such as cheaper, sustainable clothing brands, or transportation methods such as carpooling.

People should be enlightened with things that they can do to contribute to the movement, not with things that they must do. Shaming rather than encouraging is a step backwards on the path to true change.