Easing our eco-guilt through consumption

This week, I stumbled across "Virtue and Vanity at Reformation" by Jia Tolentino, an article that examines the culture and hype surrounding the clothing store Reformation. While the store itself is one that is new to me, the concept and branding is not. Reformation centers itself around the idea that their clothing is both sustainable and fashionable--that one can adhere to consumerist culture and the latest trends all while feeling morally justified. Many of the clothing items come with a reminder that they're made using renewable fiber or that you're saving hundreds of gallons of water by just purchasing one item. Everything in the store comes with a high sticker price, which Reformation somehow convinces its clientele is a responsible choice, instead of an elitist one.

Tolentino's article reminded me of a broader trend I've noticed in consumerism lately with shops and brands utilizing Eco-friendly advertising to lure in consumers. It's not a product the stores are really offering, but rather, a guilt-free conscience one can experience without critical examination of their role in the relationship between consumption and climate change. We want to have our cake and eat it too; shouldn't saving the environment be as simple as purchasing a winter coat from Patagonia?

While these brands may offer a better alternative to other current or previous options, they fail to remind us what we really should be hearing more of: that we need to consume much, much less. Simply recycling and donating is not enough. In fact, nearly 2/3 of goods at thrift shops are thrown out, not donated. Recycling is going through its own crisis, with recent reports confirming just how little we recycle is actually reused.

All of these recent reports make me wonder what a store like Reformation is really offering us. Perhaps we should commend a brand that prioritizes the use of sustainable fibers, and boasts of their ecological superiority. But then again, Reformation's success is predicated on the ability to attract and sustain consumers, and turn out merchandise in any ever-quickening pace. Perhaps it's up to us to realize that we must be more discerning in our evaluation of what is Eco-friendly; and we can't rely on consumerism to save us from climate change.


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