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Going "Green": An Upper Class Reality, A Lower Class Nightmare

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

By Bren Bartol

*Trigger Warning: Eating

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“Go Vegan!” “Just buy organic!” “Eat more vegetables!”

While these are all well intentioned sentiments, ‘going green’ is not as easy as the influencers with the cute avocado toast and green smoothies try to convince you.

Depending on your socio-economic background, ‘going green’ may not be a realistic expectation. Not to say you shouldn’t try to do your part, but it is not as attainable to everyone as you may think. Let’s break down some of the most common “It’s so easy!” going green strategies.

Buy Organic

Buying organic, while appealing, isn’t what most middle class households can afford. Organic vegetables and fruits are far more expensive than their non-organic counterparts. When you are living paycheck to paycheck, or simply on an income where the cheapest option is the only one, expensive vegetables and fruits are not attainable.

Use Environmentally Friendly Products

When it comes to products, like cleaning products, that are environmentally friendly, there is no guarantee of sustainability. Products that are advertised as “eco-friendly,” are commonly green-washed. It’s a consumer grab under false pretenses, targeting the new fad of going green. Genuinely eco-friendly products are often more expensive and smaller in size, thus less accessible.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Compared to other goods in a supermarket, the price to product rate is higher in regards to fruits and vegetables. In addition, packaged food and fast food can be made and sold in larger quantities for a very cheap price. Furthermore, processed food products last for a longer time than perishable items such as fruits and vegetables. People in the lower class are more concerned with getting enough calories to stay alive and supporting their families than exactly what is on the table. It’s not uncommon for these communities to have higher rates of health problems such as heart disease or malnutrition, which can be seen in many instances and studies of eating disorders (in this context, restricting ED's.

Waste Services

While most communities have some sort of recycling service, not everyone has curbside pickup. This becomes a huge deterrent for recycling, especially when people have to go to a center or collection bin, and even more so if the collection bin does not have a monetary reward. There are also many places that don’t have yard waste services along with the lack of curbside pickup. Depending on living arrangements, people can get a home composter, but they are often expensive and when outside, can attract pests and rodents, which can lead to additional problems. Many find that they don’t have any private outdoor space, leaving them with no options to be more sustainable with waste disposal. Finally, hazardous wastes/waste—like batteries— is not taken by any services. Some places, like Seattle, WA, have groups that organize drives every so often so people can safely recycle things like batteries, cleaning products, and resins, but many places don’t, adding to the trash in our landfills.

Electric and Hybrid Cars

Cars are known for having a large carbon footprint, and while individually it’s not as large as inflation portrays, the sheer amount of cars on the road is immense. And here’s the major problem with cars: they are expensive. Even used cars are an investment, and used cars are not known for being hybrids or electric. Another problem with electric cars, besides their obscene prices, is that they are not standard yet. Charging ports can be difficult to find, and they aren’t as readily available as gas stations.

Some may argue to just take transportation, but public transportation is lacking. They can be underfunded, hard to get to, or inaccessible. Some bus fleets are simply too small, which can lead to delays and furthers the need for cars. In addition, few cities have monorails, subways, or light rails. Some places are working on it, but not fast enough.


For a home garden, you need enough private space for things like flower beds and planters, which is not a reality for many. It also depends on where you live and the climate you live in. Certain plants and crops just don’t grow in certain climates, hence the carbon footprint from the transportation of foods across the world, like quinoa from Peru traveling to New York City. Community gardens are often easier to maintain and take the stress of individuals, but again, they face the struggle of space.

So what is the point of all of this? Is all hope lost? Absolutely not. Policies and practices can be put in place by our politicians - and not just federal officials. Email, call and contact your representatives in your town, your city, your state, your country. Contact them at every level! National change is hard, there is no doubt about it. But local change is the starting point to policies that make climate conscious choices attainable for people at all socioeconomic levels.

Written by Writer Bren Bartol

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