Personal Essay: Sustainability and Instagram

A consumerist, capitalist agenda has pushed a fast and furious, persistent production-to-consumption pipeline without thought or care of the environment and its inhabitants. In the race to revenues, fashion, toiletry, and cosmetic industries have left destruction in their wake and have created addicts of consumers who buy, break, and toss without knowledge or care of a harmful supply-chain used to produce the products and the landfills they fill with indestructible synthetics fabrics and plastic waste. 

Around a year ago, I watched the film The True Cost on Netflix. I was enlightened by the documentary which uncovered and exposed the tragic environmental and humanitarian consequences of fast fashion in countries such as Malaysia and Bangladesh. The anger I felt pulsing through my blood at myself for contributing to such a selfish industry, which provides its workers with less than a living wage in unsafe and abusive work environments and produces toxic and excessive textile waste by the millions in the U.S. each year, pushed me to create goals and make substantial changes to my consumption. 

Trailer for The True Cost

I have pledged by the age 25 (four years from now; five years when I began the pledge) to have my closet consist of 80 percent thrifted and second-hand clothing, and the 20 percent accounts for clothing I acquired before my pledge and items like shoes and underwear that I would not buy second hand. After a year of this change, I would estimate around 35 to 40 percent of my closet is second-hand, bought at thrift stores and consignment stores in my hometown of San Diego. I have also committed myself to taking better care of my clothing and shopping with intentionality when I do buy new items, ensuring they are quality pieces that will last through style trends and laundry washes. 

As for how my social media presence has changed since I have become eco-conscious, I have shared many of the products I love that are eco-friendly and hints for how to be more sustainable on Emory’s campus on my Instagram stories. I also made my slow fashion pledge on Instagram, sharing information about why I decided to make the pledge. I love sharing how a change in lifestyle can affect the environment. I’ve even had several friends ask me how they can change their shopping habits after reading through my multiple posts on fast fashion. 

Not only has slow fashion become a part of my life, but I have also been an avid reader of environmental news, learning more about the deforestation for palm oil plantations in South East Asia and the plastic endemic that has irreparably damaged our ecosystems. Changes I have made in my life include switching to the bar form of toiletries, such as bar conditioner, shampoo, face wash, and body soap, which use less water than bottled products, lack palm oil if sourced ethically, last longer than bottled products, and reduce plastic waste. 

I am also already following many accounts of businesses of sustainable products, such as shoes, clothing, beauty, everyday household items, etc. Even my explore page has become saturated with sustainability posts. Because I follow these accounts and am constantly inundated with their posts about their products, I have bought the products. Leaf Shave, which sells razors where the blades are interchangeable and no plastic waste is produced, Pela Case, which created iPhone cases that are compostable, and Ethique, which provides bar forms of bath products, were accounts I found either through my explore page or on influencers’ Instagrams and subsequently bought the products. When I had to buy a new phone because mine broke, I saw Pela Case in the Verizon store and knew of its sustainable design because of its online platform. For my birthday, I asked for the Leaf Shave razor because of its testimonials and videos on Instagram that touted its ease of use and sustainable design.

As someone who has already attempted to influence my followers on Instagram, I believe it would be intriguing for this project to create an actual platform for my passion of sustainability and mimic other green influencers on Instagram. Although I will attempt to build up a following, my goal is more so to gain an understanding of the connections between social media and eco-consciousness. I want to also see what really goes into building up an influencer page, as I have always just used Instagram as a platform for personal photos and to connect with friends. Because many Instagram green influencers also have blogs connected to their Instagrams, I will also be connecting a blog to my Instagram, so that posts can reference a longer article that I will write. Instagram influencers I will be using as inspiration for the project include:

Though I know my individual changes in the face of the massive tsunami of industry cannot change the course of history, many individuals calling for change and changing their habits can affect industry, as it has been proven with H&M’s pledge to switch to 100% sustainable cotton. Also, consumers want for sustainable products can lead to the creation of new, sustainably-orientated businesses who may market on the platform of Instagram.

As a college student, I hope that in creating this platform , I can inspire other college students to make changes, as I have not yet seen a green college influencer on social media (someone please correct me if I am wrong). I strongly believe a platform for tips on how to be a sustainable college student will be valuable, as sustainability can actually lead to spending less. I am excited to embark on this journey with the creative project and delve deeper into the research about green consciousness on Instagram.

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Final Project Proposal

For my semester project, I will be analyzing sustainability and marketing on Instagram, delving into influencers who are supporting an eco-conscience lifestyle to brands who market green causes. Essentially, I want to delve into the business aspect of green living, how green products are marketed on Instagram, how green influencers support these products, and how these influencers build a green-living focused following. I would also like to analyze what good these collaborations of green influencers and businesses are doing; essentially, how is sustainability marketing within Instagram affecting consumerism and supporting green causes? 

As a college student who has been passionate about green causes and has tried to live life sustainably, I believe a creative project that will fit this project well would to become an “influencer” myself. For my creative project, I will make an Instagram account and blog my own sustainability efforts and attempt to gain a following. I will include product reviews/advertisements and sustainability tips, and I will brand myself as a green-living college student. I will use specific influencer accounts as inspiration but ensure to add my own personal touches, ideas, and personal experiences.

Extra Credit #1: AJFF, “Go For Zucker” Movie Review

Teeming with sarcasm, dark comedy, and religious tension, Go For Zucker, directed by Dani Levy, keeps its audience engaged even with the dark undertones that preface the film: the disclosure that the narrator is someone supposedly deceased. The film deals with depression, poverty, gambling, sexuality, death, and family feuds with little tact but in a witty way which does not cower from honesty nor belittle these issues, exaggerating the ridiculous ways in which people handle obstacles and discomforts in life. 

At times the film seems quite silly as the father, Jakob, attempts to win money in a pool tournament, escaping his mother’s Shiva by convincing his family that he is having heart attacks. The seriousness of his stress and fears shows through in a later scene in which he admits to his trickery and desperation. His brother, Samual, reacts with kindness and understanding. 

Though many of the relationships between the father, Jakob, and his family members begin in a hilarious manner, such as when his wife, Marlene, in a laughable rage at the start of the film kicks him out, these contentious relationships change and are addressed with more seriousness as Jakob struggles to settle his debts and please Rabbi Ginsberg, who will determine if he deserves his inheritance. The wife after learning of her husbands distresses begins to route for him, and the daughter begins to respect him as she watches him skillfully play pool. The film is a comedy as much as it is an honest reflection on family troubles, as it balances both laughter and solemnity. 

Website Reflection

I made a SquareSpace blog website last year; however, I found the WordPress program to be much more manageable and simpler. My goals are to build up the website so as to make it stronger and usable for the future. Considering I had to pay for SquareSpace, I may want to switch over my personal blog and portfolio to this platform. For this website, I wanted the theme to be very minimalist, as that best fits modern design trends. I hope as I continue to work on this site that I can add more personal touches, such as an in depth “about” page, a more expansive menu, and photography. When creating this website, I was largely inspired by my other website and aimed for basic aesthetics. I would like to keep the website simple and clean throughout the process of growing it. From the start, I had frustrations with trying to figure out how to get certain items and pages to exist on a specific menu. I believe once I get more used to WordPress, I will be able to develop the website more.