The Hidden Danger of Micro Trends

UofT Students’ Thoughts on Overconsumption

by Alissa Chooljian, Staff Writer

Source: WordPress, Flickr, Les Chatfield

With the new age of mass media, there is always a new product that is being advertised  to the public as the be-all and end-all of all items. From TikTok and Instagram all the way to Youtube, it seems like there is constantly something new trending: Stanley Water Cups, Mini Uggs, Marc Jacobs tote bags, and other trivial material items.

The University of Toronto campus is not exempt from this norm of consumerism. To get some insight into how UofT students perceive this surge in overconsumption, I decided to interview three students regarding their thoughts on this.

For Jessica, overconsumption is very visible on campus as “everywhere you go […], you’ll see the same trendy items: new iPad Pros and Marc Jacobs tote bags being the most popular items on campus at the moment.” She argues that “we need to stop and reflect on whether or not we need these items” so we can reduce the mass amounts of waste that are produced as a result of this destructive societal habit. Jessica also shed light on the peer pressure that often accompanies these consumerist habits, feeling that “a lot of people are being pressured to just fit in with everyone and have hence lost their individuality.” Of course, there are people who buy into trends without being victimized by peer-pressure, but it is important to acknowledge how peer-pressure, or the fear of not ‘fitting in,’ propels young people to participate in the consumer society.

Similar to Jessica, Alique believes that there is definitely an element of peer pressure involved. However, she goes on to argue that overconsumption is not necessarily the issue amongst students but the companies driving them. She states that while “people want to buy the newest items so they can feel more up to date and trendy,” we should be focusing more on the fast-fashion brands and “holding them accountable for the mass amounts of waste they produce,” along with the way in which “they propel overconsumption to the public.” Due to the lower quality materials used by fast-fashion brands, clothes generally last half as long as they used compared to twenty years ago–a finding that is sadly not as jarring as it should be. By encouraging consumers to follow fast-fashion trends, these companies end up manufacturing more and more clothes that end up speeding through to a landfill.

It is without doubt that poor quality materials negatively affect the longevity of clothes, but so do our consumerist desires. Although there is no magic solution to overcome this issue, there are ways we can transform our consumerist desires into positive things, like donating. By donating, unwanted clothes can be given a second chance to be worn or repurposed for other creative uses by someone else.

By cutting back spending on temporary fast-fashion items and fad trends, we can make a positive change on the environment and save a few extra dollars too. A simple way to combat overconsumption—potentially induced by peer pressure—is through appreciating what we already have. We don’t have to fit into the mold handed to us by society or the market. This mentality can help us better navigate our needs and wants and make wiser purchase decisions in the future, all the while contributing to sustainability.

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