Bringhurst: Choose Patience Over Prime


(Photo by Luis Quintero | Courtesy Pexels)

By Maggie Bringhurst, Opinion Writer


In today’s fast-paced world, we often forget the virtue of patience. We expect overnight shipping, fast food, binge-watchable TV and ripe produce in the middle of winter. The average attention span of a millennial is 12 seconds, and Generation Z’s averages 8 seconds.

Changes in the way we consume media and purchase products have adapted our society to expect instant results. Increased waste and carbon emissions are also consequences of this cultural shift. Our gravitation toward instant gratification poses a threat to efforts to curb climate change. Practicing self-control and critical thinking when making decisions will help us all shop more sustainably.

41% of Generation Z consumers are impulse buyers — a percentage higher than any other generation. 40% of internet users report abandoning a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Our generation severely lacks patience. This isn’t surprising, considering how most things are instantly attainable today. Online shopping, overnight shipping and the ability to find a quick answer to any question acclimate us to instant results.

When we can’t immediately get what we want, we experience anxiety. Because we aren’t accustomed to having to wait, we find it harder to practice self-control. Growing demand for online-shopping delivery will result in 36% more delivery vehicles in inner cities by 2030, leading to a rise in emissions, according to The World Economic Forum. Amazon emitted 44.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2018, demonstrating the reality of this claim.

But Amazon isn’t the only company to blame. The fast fashion industry also promotes instant gratification. Companies like Shein and Uniqlo market current trends at a low price, and consumers love it. Shein made close to $10 billion in 2020, making it the company’s eighth consecutive year of revenue growth over 100 percent.

But this growth in the fast fashion industry is not sustainable. According to The Waste and Resources Action Programme, approximately $187 million worth of clothing ends up in landfills each year. A five-dollar crop top will likely end up in a landfill within 6 months of purchase, given how quickly trends come and go. This would be less of a problem if the clothes were biodegradable, but that wouldn’t be cost-effective for manufacturers. Most clothes from Shein are made from synthetic fabrics, a textile that contributes to 35% of microplastics in the ocean, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Synthetic fabrics are not biodegradable, and they rely on fossil fuel extraction for manufacturing.

The fast-food industry also contributes to a wasteful society. Widespread factory farming produces 37% of all global methane emissions. One-third of the U.S. population eats fast food every day.

To combat the harmful effects of our impulsivity, we should consider alternatives and gauge the necessity of our purchases more. For instance, visit a local thrift shop instead of using Amazon Prime for your shopping fix. Before you order on DoorDash, check out your local farmer’s market, or invite a friend over to eat a home-cooked meal. We could reduce energy consumption by around 50% by adopting traditional farming and incorporating healthier diets, such as eating seasonally, which also decreases carbon emissions.

Society’s newfound commercial accessibility hasn’t entirely turned us into mindless, compulsive shopaholics. Creativity and high expectations can stem from impulsivity. Our generation can use its psychological differences to make a positive difference. Lack of self-control “provide[s] the basis for spontaneity, flexibility, expressions of interpersonal warmth, openness to experience, and creative recognition,” according to psychologist Jack Block.

We should utilize these skills to build back the environment rather than destroy it. The solution to consuming sustainably comes down to changing the way we make decisions. As Block said, “What counts is the capacity to choose whether and when to persevere, to control oneself, to follow the rules rather than the simple tendency to do these things in every situation.”


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