A Bright Sustainable Future with Aspirational: A Fallacy?

It is neither about pure cynicism nor apathy, when it comes to the discussion of an ideal, sustainable future. The inevitable environmental changes and negative effects fostered the popularity of buzz words such as “green solutions”, “sustainability”, “ocean plastics”, and so on. Yet, environmental scientists and others at the forefront lobbying for changes, failed to provide a detailed timeline aiming to trigger reflections in the public’s minds. In the future (where we are unable to update you as to when and how it will occur) the market will be miraculously populated with green products and its alternatives. By then, we can claim ourselves as a sustainable member living in a sustainable society. Environmental enthusiasts seem to be purposely signing a dishonoured cheque, where the reality remains inconsistent with the desires and actions.

Claiming that aspirational shoppers are the major target for a green future, Jennifer Elks painted an overly optimistic photo in regards to the direction of sustainability. The shoppers are empowered and unconventional. They seek for cool and sleek designs and functionality. They are peer influencers and are vulnerable to world-of-mouth promotions. They seem to be an advocate, holding normative mindsets and judgment, with limited incentive to turn that into actions. They are young, with an average age of 39, and populated by Millennials and GenX, who are major contributors to fad and fashion. Demographic wise, the aspirational contains you, me, and others, who are currently studying or about to graduate from university as well as those who entered the society as “freshman”. Can a change actually be brought upon and driven by this young group? Are they truly environmentally-minded and considerate as they have claimed? How loyal are they to the brands? How long-lasting are their loyalty? Are their reasons strong enough to serve as backbone towards their decision? How can a green future be achieved? What is a green future?

As these questions get boarder and boarder, with increasing level of difficulty to be addressed, it may be worthwhile to take a step back, and decide what exactly the desired end result is. Is transforming the society into a green future truly unanimous, across generations, industries and ethnicity? If yes, why are we not there yet; and if no, why is it populated on online and offline media? If this is truly a question at global scale, how can it be broken down so it could be dealt more effectively and efficiently? Or more generally, does the result fully justify the opportunity costs of investment?

We want a green future to benefit the generations that long live after us, to enjoy the same biodiversity and climate as we have born into, lived through, and returned to sleep. Elks commented that we should rely on the future generations, who are maturing and are able to make a difference. There is nothing wrong to dream big, however, it is important to draw a line between setting responsible, practical goals and day dreaming about a premature utopia.



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  1. I do believe that youngest generations (millennials and Gen x) can bring up the change, specially if they belong to a circle where there are older people involved (i.e. workspace, or family members: parents, grandparents). Older people are starting to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information out there and all the technological advances. They ask younger people for advice (for example, my dad asked me for some help last week on how to create a new email account and my mom asked me to help her out setting up her FB page for her business). Young generations are being recognized as the most open-minded and adaptable ones, and also as the ones that can easily look up valuable information in a matter of seconds. Older people look up to us when they want to know more about new innovations and trends, and sustainability is definitively one of them. I believe that young generations can start bringing up this change by simply bringing their eco-friendly stuff to the office, or by having specific dietary choices. Young generations will make the change by preaching with their example because it’s easier for them to adapt to these changes than it is for older people who are overwhelmed sometimes by all the new things and get confused when trying to look up for information about it on the internet.

    • I agree that most of the changes are made by younger generations, because the older generations may not have the technology, the time, the energy to make their desired changes. I do agree with the part that sustainability is important; nevertheless, it is not “the” pressing issue that most companies or most people have in mind. The article we read appears to be a bit too optimistic, and sustainability, in my view, appears to be a bonus perk that is often considered after profitability. This view is changing, but the transformation process appears to be prolonged and full of uncertainties. This is what makes futures ambiguously interesting.

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