The word has been popularized among America's youth increasingly more throughout the past year.
People are buying metal straws and reusable cups in masses. Veganism is becoming normalized. Youtubers are garnering millions of views on videos about zero-waste and eco-friendly lifestyle tips.
These small efforts are a conscious attempt to delay and reverse the effects of climate change, and while these acts can certainly limit an accumulation of an individual's waste in the environment, there is one thing no one seems to be talking about:
The environmental movement is typically most prevalent in areas known for wealth, not because lower-income people do not care, but because the environmental movement is expensive.
Electric cars, solar panels, sustainable clothing lines, and even milk alternatives are incredibly higher priced than their Co2-emitting counterparts. These high prices seclude young and low-income Americans who wish to create a more sustainable future, but cannot afford to spend the extra money to participate in zero-waste living.
If environmentalists want to make their movement more widespread, they cannot continue to lecture millions of Americans about how the way they are living is wrong. We need to create a bigger push to make eco-friendly alternatives cheaper and more accessible to lower-income households.
The inherent problem with this, however, is creating a demand. Consumers demanding eco-friendly products over destructive ones will force large carbon-footprint companies to change their ways, and astoundingly, this is already starting to happen in small increments.
Starbucks is replacing their straws with recycleable lids. Tide just created a laundry detergent made with only biodegradable ingredients. H&M began a garment collecting program to recycle clothing and combat the harmful effects of the modern fashion industry. All of these things happened because the consumers demanded it. If there is a way for companies to profit off of something, they will adapt to gain more sales, and Americans should use this to their advantage to create the change they want to see.
So what can we do?
In addition to taking steps to reduce our own waste, we need to pressure companies to commit to zero-waste business practices.
Buy thrifted items rather than large, harmful clothing brands; Apps like Curtsy and ThredUP are making second-hand shopping available in the palm of your hand. Support local businesses in lieu of corporations like Amazon and Walmart known to waste mass amounts of products and resources. Do what you can to invest in zero-waste businesses and research through investment sites like Swell.
At the end of the day, your dollar has voting power, and you have a responsibility as an American citizen to understand what you are investing in each time you make a purchase. As consumers, it's time we demand change.