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14 Nov

Has the job of saving the planet fallen to women?

71% of woman have committed themselves to a more sustainable lifestyle compared to only 59% of men.

The Summer of 2019 has been one of souring temperatures and climate disasters. Iceland commemorated the first ‘death’ of one of its glaciers, Okjokull, an increase in fires ravaged the Amazon rainforest and The Great Barrier Reef has deteriorated to a critical point. Alas, it could be said that this summer people finally started listening to our planets cries for help. Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist, crossed the Atlantic ocean in a zero-carbon yacht to deliver her passionate message, urging for climate action, to giant crowds in New York.

However, on a more personal level, many of us have started swapping our daily essentials for sustainable alternatives: bamboo toothbrushes, shampoo bars, reusable flasks and eco-friendly sanitary products (like Ohne’s tampons). Everywhere we go now, whether it be to our local supermarket to find something for dinner or reading the latest issue of Vogue, we are reminded that there are more sustainable choices for us to make. More sustainable decisions allow us to combat climate change and reduce our waste.

It even seems that Instagram has caught on to our new eco-warrior ways as it frequently advertises the latest sustainable products in between us liking our friends new holiday snaps or ogling the latest trends from fashion week. Finally, it appears that we’re all doing what we can to help our planet!

Yet a small seed of doubt seemed to creep into my, maybe sceptical, mind. It seemed to me like a large majority of these eco-friendly products and behaviours were being aimed solely at women. And after having spoken to a male friend, who is vegan and environmentally conscious, he could not recall a time where he had encountered any eco-friendly product aimed at him or his male friends.

Thinking more about this inequality it dawned on me that the most prominent figures in the #ZeroWaste movement were also women. Check out Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer for example. Prominent vegan cooks like Deliciously Ella, Chloe Coscarelli, Elavegan are mostly women. Even internationally the face of climate action is Greta Thunberg, the young Swedish school girl.

Of course, I am incredibly proud that women are taking such a forward approach to making Earth a better place but we would get there a lot faster if more men took an active role too.

Putting these observations to one side, actual research has found that 71% of woman have committed themselves to a more sustainable lifestyle compared to only 59% of men. That’s quite a gap. It was also found that 65% of women were more inclined to spread the message of sustainability amongst their friends and family, while only 56% of men would do the same.

Not only did this research reveal a difference in attitudes, but it also confirmed an imbalance in actions too. The study showed that 77% of women are more committed to regular recycling whereas only 67% of men are. This research conducted by Mintel demonstrated inequality between the sexes in a variety of sustainable lifestyle behaviours. And yes, men were falling short in all areas reviewed. But why?

Well, it could be linked to gender norms.

In a recent study conducted by University College London, it found that in 93% of the couples they surveyed it was women who were left to manage domestic duties. Thus meaning that the ethical choices of a household were decided by women. So, in a world where woman are still pressured into aiming for perfection in all aspects of their life, does this mean that ethical living has become just another marker for the ideal woman?

But surely saving the planet would be an issue both genders would equally want to be apart of? Seeing as we all live here together and there’s no planet B.

Fortunately, Penn State University might have found the reason. Unfortunately, it is absolutely ridiculous. The university revealed that a lot of men resist eco-friendly behaviours over fears that they might appear gay. Yes, you read that right. Apparently there are pro-environmental behaviours that can threaten a man’s heterosexual identity. These behaviours include recycling and using reusable shopping bags.

It really does seem quite comical that a combination of toxic masculinity and strict gender roles are the reason some men avoid involvement in environmentally friendly behaviours. It’s 2019 people! Wanting to save the planet is a human issue, quite frankly a necessity and it certainly does not make you less of a man or less desirable for doing so.

In order to create a greener future, we need to create an equal one as well. This means having a more compassionate, accepting society. By adopting a sustainable lifestyle now it means we can protect our planet for generations to come and that seems like a pretty great thing to do.

Ellen Prizeman

I have just graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in Fashion Marketing. I am particularly interested in sustainability, green design and veganism- anything to make the world a better place. Frequently described as 'a bit of a hippie.'

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