Last week, my form class were shown a video about the effects of consumerism on our planet(1). Although over-exaggerated at times, its message was clear; we cannot live sustainably whilst consuming the planet’s resources at the current rate. But what power do we, as young people, have over big companies and their use of the world’s finite resources? Quite a lot, actually. With 47% of teenagers owning a smartphone in comparison to 27% of adults (2), young people are a key target market for big companies such as Apple and Samsung. If we change our spending habits in favour of sustainability, new products will have to reflect the demand for sustainable use of the planet’s resources. Don’t get me wrong, these big companies aren’t the big bad polluters of the earth; but they could be doing more to protect our planet. So, how can we demonstrate our economic power to change the ideas of big brands?
If we stress the importance of sustainability to big companies, eventually they will adapt to suit the demand of the market; a gradual process which has already started to take on. However, to really grab the big companies’ attention and speed this process along, we must withhold our money from the worst offenders. But don’t worry; this doesn’t mean we’ll have to make our own t shirts or abandon our mobiles. The first thing we can do is simply make the most of what we already have. Apple re-vamps their products on an annual basis, and people flock to buy the latest gadget. And yet, more often than not, the only changes are a bigger screen, sleeker design and a bit more power under the hood. Meanwhile, last year’s ‘obsolete’ goods are thrown out in perfect working condition. Perceived obsolescence applies to clothes and furniture as well as technology. I am not condoning the boycott of new products altogether; just give it a moment’s thought before you shell out on the latest Iphone n+1.
The ‘mend and make-do’ mentality of the 20th century seem also seem to have faded into the past. Instead of throwing out that ripped pair of jeans, pick up a needle and mend them. This applies to technology as well; albeit after a few phone calls and some panicked Googling, I’ve repaired my PS3 three times, saving myself vast amounts of money. Not only is it cost-efficient, but mending can be fun, give you a unique style, and always leaves you with a rewarding sense of independence. Even simpler than making repairs is preserving your stuff so it doesn’t need repairing in the first place. A protective case can make all the difference to your phones endurance, and treating your things with care will ensure a long life of satisfying use.
Ultimately, after all that mending and preservation, we will have to spend money on new clothes and technology, but even this can be done in a sustainable manner. Buying technology second hand gives that item a greater lifespan and keeps landfill down, as well reducing costs for yourself. Clothes from charity stores are also a great way to find unique outfits at low prices, while doing a bit of good for the environment. Even if we cannot change the consumerist society we live in, these small lifestyle changes all add up; whether it is to our bank balance, our moral values, or the magnificent planet we live on, we can make a change for the better.