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Article: #sustainability – Is sustainability just a social media trend?

Hand greift nach oben in Äste eines Baumes

#sustainability – Is sustainability just a social media trend?

Living a sustainable (or more sustainable) life is becoming increasingly important for many people. At least that's what it seems like. Images and posts with the hashtags #sustainability #nachhaltigleben and #zerowaste can be found millions of times on social media. Articles on the topics are increasing and the demand for environmentally friendly products is increasing. But is sustainability actually just a trend? Or is there really more to it for the users of these hashtags?

How trendy is sustainability?

The topic of sustainability is everywhere: on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube, on TV and on the Internet. Thousands of articles and blog entries are written on the topic, and there seems to be new content every day. Everyone is suddenly living sustainably, zero waste seems to be the “only true thing” and anyone who hasn’t tested a meat substitute product once in 2020 is not at all up to date - at least that’s the impression you get when you browse the internet scrolls.

How did sustainability suddenly become so trendy? Or perhaps it's better to ask yourself: Is it true that sustainability is a trending topic?

If you look at the Google Trend results for search terms such as “sustainability”, “sustainable living” and “sustainability” for the regions Germany, USA and worldwide in the period between 2004 and today, it quickly becomes clear: sustainability is not such a new trend . The diagrams reveal that search interest in the words mentioned above has been almost as high in recent years as it is today. There are always significant fluctuations over the entire period (2004-today). In fact, since mid-2018, there has been an increase in the popularity of these search terms, both regionally and internationally.

In summary: Yes, interest in the topic of sustainability has increased, but not as suddenly and erratically as one might have expected.

If you add other search terms that concern the environment and climate, there has been a significant increase in search interest over the past two years. Without wanting to jump to conclusions, one could assume that the “interest” in the climate that has flared up in recent years has led to increased research into sustainability.

Well, this apparent connection is hardly surprising. Forest fires, tsunamis, ever hotter summers, Fridays For Future, debates about single-use plastic, greenhouse gases, climate agreements, paper bags, the ban on plastic straws, Netflix documentaries, Beyond Meat Burgers, Veganuary, Greta Thunberg and conspiracy theories - these are just a few examples Events, news, trends or memes that have gone around the world in recent years. All of these examples are related to the topics of the environment, climate and sustainability.

If sustainability is just a trend, it can't really be that important, right?

We all know the saying: “Trends come and go”. In a world that feels like it is moving ever faster, something is “in” one day and is “out” again a week later. There's a new challenge, dance or meme every day on TikTok. Content is flying through the internet... So why should you deal intensively with things that no one will be talking about in a short time? With topics that no one will remember in a year?

This may apply to certain terms and topics. The problem is that this attitude cannot be transferred to the issues of climate and sustainability. Because there are some things we have to face now. The consequences of the lifestyle and the throwaway society of the last decades are now becoming apparent. Parts of our future and that of our descendants depend on how we behave today and what we change today. Therefore, sustainability – even if it seems like a trend to us at the moment – ​​is anything but unimportant.

What's good about trends on social media?

The beauty of trends that spread through social media is that they reach a lot of people in a short period of time. Platforms like Instagram, YouTube and TikTok also reach people who might otherwise never engage with the topic in question. So you get the feeling that the young generation, “Gen Z”, is very enlightened and is more politically active than previous generations. Of course, as in the population as a whole, how intensively and fundamentally the topics are dealt with varies. It is also clear that false reports are also spread.

Nevertheless, the growing awareness about the topics of sustainability, environmental protection and climate change cannot be denied. And not just among the youngest generation, but across the entire border. Of course, as with all topics, there are advocates of the opposite side and people who downplay the importance and topicality of these topics. Nevertheless, all age groups seem to be more awake and attentive to the need for environmental protection or a more sustainable lifestyle.

Now let's see how individuals really perceive these topics. There are certainly people who proclaim a #zerowastelifestyle on the internet, but don't actually implement the content and principles in “real life”. Who advertise bamboo toothbrushes, reusable make-up pads and sustainable fashion, but don't actually use any of these products in their everyday lives. Some people just want to follow along and benefit from these “trends”...

Every click counts

I think it's understandable to find this stupid and to be upset about people like that (or misinformation being spread). Nevertheless, the bottom line is that these people contribute to the popularity of the topics mentioned. And that's a good thing, isn't it?

Because: The more frequently posts are posted, shared, liked and commented on, the more people are addressed. The more people are made aware of the topics of sustainability and environmental protection, the more often something about the content sticks with them, and the more people become potential advocates of a sustainable lifestyle.

Some would describe sustainability as a trend, others as a generational issue and still others as a change in general lifestyle. But no matter what exactly it is: the attention that this topic is receiving can be seen as positive. And that's the main thing, right? :)

If you would like to find out more about the topics of sustainability, mindfulness, family & pregnancy or healthy eating, take a look here .

Sustainability as a trend: person sits in a ball above the water

Photo by Taylor Simpson on Unsplash

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