When I think about the state of today’s consumerism, viral videos of shoppers running across Target to snag Stanley’s Valentine-edition cup come to mind.

I’m not anti-Stanley. They’re cute, you know, for a water bottle. But I found myself agreeing with one video commenter: If water bottles are reusable, why do people need a collection of them?

Our social media feeds are flooded with influencers showing off the latest “must haves.” Often, items are marketed to make us feel like our lives would be better with this product in it. And it’s working. Pew research shows 41% of adults they surveyed under the age of 30 purchased something after seeing an influencer post about it.

Trends are fleeting, yet we don’t consider the environmental cost of chasing them.

Often the prevailing advice to reduce our carbon footprints is limited to our diet—specifically meat. Yet, if every American followed a vegan diet, it would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 2.6%.

This advice also ignores the crucial role meat plays in supporting your body’s immunity, energy, brain health, muscles and various regulatory systems. Real meat, dairy and eggs are also essential for healthy development in children.

Plus, meat never goes out of style.

Meanwhile, fashion trends are a revolving door that reportedly can have a larger impact on global carbon emissions than international flights. While online creators continue to shame Millennials in updating their style (yes, I feel targeted), polls have shown one-third of 18- to 24-year olds have impulse bought trendy clothes only to not like them.

Similarly, a survey of 18,000 people in 20 countries revealed 82% of American respondents had items in their closet they’ve never worn.

There’s no shame in wearing clothes you’ve had for years if they make you feel comfortable and confident. You’re not outdated—you’re eco-friendly. Otherwise, try to opt for pieces you plan to wear multiple times or consider thrifting.

When it comes to home décor—another area with trends that come and go—I am loving “styled thrift” videos that create warm, eclectic vibes. This is a great option, especially with changing seasons. A 2023 survey showed 37% of respondents planned to spend more than $150 on Christmas décor alone. So, purchasing secondhand saves on carbon and cash.

And speaking of housewares, it’s OK if your strawberries and milk remain in the same container you bought them in. You do not have to buy aesthetically pleasing containers, no matter how satisfying re-stock videos are. And given many of these videos begin with an empty space, I wonder how much food is thrown out in the desire for the perfectly organized fridge.  

Some research shows the average U.S. household wastes 32% of the food they acquire, and if food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of carbon. So instead of eliminating a healthy option like animal protein, try eliminating food waste through better planning and mindfulness to truly make an impact. This same philosophy goes for any purchase.

If you feel the pull to add something to your online cart after seeing it on TikTok—wait. See if the impulse passes after a day or so. Cups will come and cups will go. But today we can take steps to avoid overconsumption of non-essential items to secure a better future.

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