The Classist Mythology of “Eco-Friendly” Consumerism

As a business owner who strives to promote an ethical and sustainable business model, I want to address the new, fashionable trend of sustainable consumerism. Often, eco-friendly bloggers and activists try to promote a “sustainable lifestyle”, by telling their fans and followers to simply “vote with their dollar”. These public figures declare that by simply changing the way they shop, individuals can solve the vast problem of climate change and environmental destruction. By doing so, they imply that consumers are the ones responsible for climate change. In fact, 71% of the world owns only 3% of the global wealth*, and inequality is only growing as business regulations are cut and social services are cut, taxes for the wealthy are reduced, and wages remain stagnant and terribly low.

I promote my business as being eco-friendly because I want social, economic, and environmental responsibility to become a standard for every business. It is my belief that every business should operate on ethical principles. That every profitable business and corporation should pay their workers a living wage, that our global economy should create fair trade networks over free trade networks, and that the people who are doing the labor should have a role in the decision-making process. In essence, I believe in a moral, democratic economic and political system.

I decided to self-design an Economic Justice major at my college to explore an ethical philosophy—that all humans deserve to lead dignified, healthy lives. Economic justice is a way of thinking holistically about our economic system, and encourages the development of fair institutions. I believe that we should strive to transform our global culture by normalizing economic justice principles and pushing the field of mainstream economics to take an ethically-oriented approach.

The bottom line is, we can’t address climate change with a classist, exclusionary movement. Most folks can’t afford to buy organic, fair trade, or eco-friendly. Depending on where you live and your nutritional needs, it’s not always possible to go vegan or vegetarian. Let’s end the myth of the “ethical consumer”, stop shaming people who aren’t responsible for the environmental destruction in the first place, and focus on achieving justice through cultural, economic, and political change.

Photo courtesy of Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash.
Photo courtesy of Tim Gouw on Unsplash.
Photo courtesy of roya ann miller on Unsplash.