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Why Our Trends Are Holding Us Back From Going Green

By Sabina Bellisario-Giglio

News Editor

Via Getty Images

The popularity of short-form content has facilitated the process of promoting content, spreading news, and creating trends. It’s no surprise that in our capitalist society, companies have begun greenwashing to benefit from our efforts to save our planet. However, some products are created in hopes of actually having a lasting impact, such as weaning the public off single-use plastic bags with the rise of tote bags or reducing our use of plastic bottles by replacing them with reusable drinkware. But are our efforts to make positive environmental impacts overshadowed by our lust for aesthetics? The recent mass consumption of the infamous Stanley Cup may prove that our desire for consumerism trumps our true goal of environmental sustainability. 

While many videos have gone viral in recent weeks as packs of consumers tackle and shove to buy the latest release of Stanley’s, there’s one video in particular that sparked media coverage of the internet’s new obsession. A video uploaded to TikTok by user @danimarielettering showed the moment the creator, Danielle, returned to her car after it had caught on fire, only to find her Stanley Cup in the cupholder, still intact, with ice still inside it. The video has garnered over 9 million likes and caught the attention of media outlets such as Business Insider, USA Today and The New York Post. Thanks to the viral video and Stanley’s savvy social media team, it wasn’t long before these reusable cups went from store shelves into the hands of consumers.

History tends to find strange ways to repeat itself  evidently, the Stanley Cup is not the first of its kind. Before the rise of these famous thirst quenchers came the Hydro Flask, marking its viral moment in history in association with the VSCO girl aesthetic. Hydro Flask reported in its 2020 fourth quarter fiscal report that its net sales revenue increased to $442.4 million. It seems Stanley is following in their footsteps, amassing a whopping $750 million in annual sales according to CNBC Make It. While the spikes in revenue could be the product of more consumers wanting to go green, it would seem this is yet another problem we face while tackling environmental sustainability: overconsumption.

Stanley continues to utilize the marketing strategy of false scarcity in order to generate more revenue. Their launches of “limited edition” tumblers, selling for around $40 to $50 attract resellers to buy these products, placing them for 2 or 3 times their original value online. Many videos surface online of customers hoarding these reusable cups at stores like Target, which resulted in employees placing limits on how many a customer can buy. Maurie Cohen, a professor of sustainability studies at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, expressed his concerns with how consumption habits actively inhibit our efforts to help the planet with The 19th. “Now, like often, is the case, somebody recognizes that [the reusable water bottle] represents a market opportunity and we are off to the races. Rather than having one durable reusable bottle now you have to have six,” he said. Unfortunately, these habits will continue to foster through trends, as Global WebIndex reported that 54% of social browsers that actively engage with social media use these platforms to research products. In the age of influencers, short, easy-to-browse content, it’s no surprise that those with purchasing power have made such an impact. 

However, the product's materials are also raising questions about how sustainable these reusable bottles truly are. The New York Times published an article in 2009 stating how “producing [a] 300-gram stainless steel bottle requires seven times as much fossil fuel [and] releases 14 times more greenhouse gases than making a 32-gram plastic bottle.” Stanley’s marketing of durability and longevity has largely come from their use of stainless steel materials for their bottles, however, according to their website, they commit to “making at least 50% of our stainless steel products from recycled materials by 2025.” The company also recently went under scrutiny after users found traces of lead on their tumblers using at-home testing kits. Stanley didn’t deny the claims but assured that refunds would be issued if the seal at the base cap were to somehow be removed, exposing the contents of the bottle with lead. 

Stanley uses consumerist ideas in order to fuel their must-have marketing, with trendy videos telling you what you need to buy, or selling you the same cup with a different design on it under the guise of promoting a sustainable alternative to your drinking habits. Ultimately, we’re influenced by companies every day in order to buy, or not buy, certain products, and greenwashing is a new strategy to trick environmentally conscious buyers into feeding into the practices they actively try to avoid. However, Stanley’s issue raises an important question readers should ask themselves: If we’re a society built on consumption and capitalist ideals, are we even capable of practicing sustainability, or are we simply just buying into the next trend until our planet is beyond saving? 



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