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Sunday, May 19, 2024

The problem with eco-friendly trends


Environmental fads are only good while they last

You might have seen what appears to be overly enthusiastic clean-up crews — individuals running with hefty bags scouring the streets for trash. Most likely, you have witnessed plogging, a running trend from Sweden that combines jogging and litter pick-up. The activity gets its name from a mashup between jogging and “ploca up,” which means “pick up” in Swedish.

If you Google search “plogging,” you will find that this new fitness trend has gone viral. With so much attention given to the eco-friendly activity, plogging seems great for the environment, right? But the problem with environmental trends like plogging is that they eventually go out of style.

Trends help people test out lifestyle changes, but they can quickly be swapped out for the next craze. Fads like the tiny house movement come and go. What looked great on social media — that cutesy, refurbished shipping container — works out not-so-great in real life. Now, people want bigger, not smaller, houses. And bigger houses, unless they are solar-powered and energy-efficient, tend to be worse for the environment.

On the other hand, some trends, like locavorism — a movement in which people only eat local food — and recycled packaging, have helped drive the food market. That’s why companies like McDonald’s, which has pledged to switch to recyclable packing by 2025, are choosing greener business models.

“Our customers have told us that packaging waste is the top environmental issue they would like us to address,” said Francesca DeBiase, the sustainability officer for McDonald’s.

Research has shown that Millennials care about sustainability, and companies are trying to adopt eco-friendly practices to gain their business. Sustainable brands are immensely popular. (If I had a nickel for every Patagonia fleece I saw on campus, I could buy a new Patagonia fleece.) Sustainable brands like Patagonia, which has actually been around since the 1970s, use recycled and organic materials that are better for the environment. Patagonia encourages buying used gear through its Worn Wear program, too.

The zero-waste movement, another rising trend, has recently gained national attention as bulk stores have become more commonplace. Companies like New York-based Package Free sell sustainable items, such as reusable produce bags and stainless-steel straws, that help people reduce waste.

A bamboo toothbrush “helps to eliminate one of the most prevalent forms of ocean plastic pollution, plus it looks insanely chic in your bathroom,” says the Package Free website.       

Bamboo toothbrushes will not only help you save the world. They will make you look super cool while doing it.

All this is to say that we have the potential to make real changes out of our current fascinations. We just have to stick with trends until they take hold.

“The most important thing is to understand the power of buying,” said Bea Johnson, the author who started the zero-waste living trend. “Every time you buy, that’s a vote. You have the power to support a practice that is either sustainable or not.”

We are the difference between a passing fad and real change.

So grab your plog sack and hit the streets — before the trend passes and you’re left looking like a total rube.



Written by: Jess Driver — jmdriver@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


  1. Respectfully disagree that eco fads are only good while the fad is “in style” or popular. Each eco act adds to a thought process. There are so many things we can do to strive for zero waste living and every step counts. While plogging may not be your activity next month, after picking up trash the thought resonates as you decide if you want to bring your own reusable mug to the coffee house. Bravo for every “eco-fad” you take on, AND for every effort in between. Your choice does not have to “go viral” to matter.
    Good article!


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