Environmentalism is for everyone––yes, even you


Graphic by Madeline Conway

Chau Nguyen

Since becoming fashionable in the 21st century, environmental sustainability has acquired a new definition. Even though its popularity is by and large a good thing, it is unfortunate that we might be misinterpreting it, and Wilson is not in the exception.

Modern environmentalism is now characterized not by restricting the purchase of eco-harmful items, but by buying environmentally-conscious products that cost more. As a result, eco-friendliness has become a worldwide trend, simply because being able to afford it might establish one’s status symbol. If we follow this new definition, protecting the environment would be uniquely accessible to those with ample means. Access to pricey eco-friendly products makes protecting the environment easier for the wealthy.

 But the actual impact of eco-shopping is debated. As I was scrolling through Instagram one day, I came across hundreds of posts of people showing off their new eco-friendly products. What they didn’t realize was that all of those items were wrapped in plastic and delivered with high-emitting, fuel-inefficient vehicles. 

Protecting the environment doesn’t have to be consumerism-based. It’s not pricey to pick up trash after school or to refrain from bringing food on-campus. It’s not expensive to join the Recycling or Greenhouse Club. We have a chance to be more effective as a whole in reducing damage to the environment.

The apathetic environmental attitude of many Wilson students is, in a sense, elitist: the environment isn’t my problem, let the developing world worry about it. Wilson students are already complaining about the new rules prohibiting outside food; the nuisance of buying paper upsets teachers of all classes. In the future, not using plastic forks and spoons in the cafeteria might sound like a good idea, but the mere thought of cleaning reusable utensils every day may prove overwhelming. The warming atmosphere, acidifying oceans, disappearing forests—these problems are global, and only when everyone comes together can they be effectively addressed.

The government needs to adopt this mindset as well. Instead of heavy gas taxes that place burdens on the financially unstable, we need to increase public transportation, find financially viable fuel alternatives, and require efficiency in new developments. Instead of labeling or certifying eco-products, which only increases the segregation between the rich and poor, we need to set a higher environmental standard for all products that hit the market. The goal is not to limit the protection of the environment to the upper-class of society, but to make sure that everyone has a chance to contribute to the collective battle against environmental degradation.

Despite the short-term feel-good effect of taking part in the massive consumer trend of environment-conscious items, the fight for the environment relies on letting everyone participate: we win it only if we do it together. •