Sustainability Column: Shifting the Culture of Consumption

Delaney Pals

I would argue that most people on this campus believe in climate change and understand the importance of the United States and other countries taking initiatives to limit emissions, like signing the Paris Agreement. However, there seems to be a giant gap between acknowledgement of the issue and turning that into individual action, especially on this campus, and I think this is fueled by the consumption epidemic.

Reducing consumption is one of the most important things an individual can do to limit their emissions and lead more sustainable lives. However, from picking up coffee at Saxby’s, to buying outfits for themed parties from the Dollar Store, to ordering things from Amazon, Colgate students tend to consume a lot on a daily basis. There are definitely some forms of consumption that we cannot help but consume as students, like textbooks; however, we need to change the way that Colgate students view consuming as a whole.

Maybe instead of buying a new shirt or outfit for each themed party, have a collection of things that you and your friends all share to make costumes. Instead of buying coffee everyday in a non-recyclable coffee cup, you can bring your reusable mug. Instead of ordering things from Amazon, you can buy them locally. The key here is changing the way that the campus as a whole views consumption. If using paper coffee cups and non-reusable plastic water bottles was as socially unacceptable as smoking cigarettes is now a days, much less people would do it.

There needs to be a shift in the ideology of how people view consumption. At the large scale, a big component of this could be changing the way that the fashion industry is run. People buy clothes that are in fashion, even if the style is ever-fleeting and will only last a season. This results in stores like Forever 21 and Primark making very cheap versions of clothing. This is economical for the consumer in the short run, but these cheap clothing items last about five to ten wears before they fall apart. People need to start buying long-lasting clothes that will stand the test of time, instead of this “disposable fashion” that is all too common, especially on college campuses.

Changing consumption habits is hard, especially when many companies create goods that have a limited lifetime to ensure people will consume more in the future. But, being a conscious consumer and buying products that have a long lifetime, as well as decreasing your use of non-reusable items, is a good first step to changing your habits.