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The Minnesota Daily

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Opinion: Society has made us cheap

Instead of appreciating good quality, we appreciate low costs.
Image by Ava Weinreis
College students do not typically shop sustainably when fast fashion is quick and easy.

I used to think people in society had forgotten the art of creation, but now I realize no one can afford to appreciate things made with care and thoughtfulness.

People buy clothes on a need-it-now basis. Food is quickly produced and distributed to compensate for the hastily emptied shelves in grocery stores. Houses are built efficiently, quickly filling up grass lots in the suburbs. 

In a world where we work to live and salaries barely cover recreation, how something is created does not cross our minds. We want what is cheap, easy and gets us through the day. 

Personally, the grocery store stresses me out. There are so many options and price points, I just grab whatever is cheapest. I do not look for phrases like “locally grown,” “grass-fed” or “farm-to-plate.” 

Ethan Denny-Broker, the chef de cuisine at Owamni Restaurant, promoted a menu that only uses locally grown and sourced foods that ancestral Native Americans used. They utilize the slow food process and do not use any dairy, citrus, pepper, chicken, beef or pork. 

Slow food is produced and prepared with local ingredients and culinary traditions. It is not only healthier, but it protects local culture and is more sustainable, according to Broker. 

However, purchasing local produce is not cost-effective, especially when college students have a budget. There are not enough people who have money to acknowledge the importance of fresh, local foods. 

“They’re looking for what’s quickest and readily available at stores,” Broker said. “There’s a mixture of people from the new generation that care, but I just don’t think enough people do.” 

Furthermore, when purchasing clothes, college students tend to buy what is cheapest and has the fastest shipping. According to Forbes, 72% of college students shopped fast fashion in 2022. 

I am guilty of this. On multiple occasions, I bought last-minute Halloween costumes on Amazon. Aside from that, I try to thrift all of my clothes. It is a cheaper and simpler alternative to fast fashion. 

Molly Alexander, the director of brand operations at No Standing NYC, a fashion brand based in New York City, recommends buying one nice piece of clothing every once in a while. She is very intentional with her purchases and waits for items she absolutely loves, but not everyone can afford to do that.  

“Caring is more expensive, and fast fashion just appeals to people who root their identity in being told what to wear or how to be styled,” Alexander said. 

Fast fashion utilizes cheap, synthetic materials, according to the Public Interest Research Group. It does not last and you have to make continuous purchases. People do not take the time to purchase clothing with longevity. 

“People just can’t afford the quality of a sustainable product,” Alexander added. “If it’s anything synthetic, it’s not remotely good for the Earth, and nine times out of 10, it’s not good for you.” 

College students should shop sustainably and slowly, but that is not always realistic, according to Alexander.

Despite that, it is definitely worth the try. 

“Any solution is better than supporting fast fashion,” Alexander said. 

The architecture of buildings has undergone many changes. Since the Industrial Revolution, buildings were built for utility and to handle the influx of people, compared to architectural styles like Renaissance, Baroque or Rococo. This emphasis on speed and budget has strongly influenced modern architecture. 

Some people, like myself, perceive modern buildings as dull and too sleek. However, architecture today is shifting focus toward sustainability and embracing a relationship with nature, according to Aidyn Strang, a third-year architecture student at the University of Minnesota. 

While Strang thinks new suburban neighborhoods are boring and absorb land, she mainly views modern architecture as something positive. 

“We’re focusing on making green roofs, having more biophilic design aspects and building something that isn’t going to affect the site that it’s on,” Strang said. 

According to The New York Times, many architects worldwide are implementing more renewable organic materials, such as wood, hemp and bamboo. Greenery on the outside of buildings is also used to absorb carbon dioxide and regulate humidity. 

Strang said people take modern architecture, spaces she believes are built to inspire people and formulate communities, for granted. The same amount of thought goes into making a building today and a 17th-century Baroque, according to Strang. 

“I walk into buildings that are new, and I would say I’m equally amazed as when I walk into an old Cathedral in Europe,” Strang added. 

There are plenty of buildings designed with community and sustainability in mind, Strang said. Many people forget to appreciate the thoughtfulness behind anything that is created for society. 

Speed and efficiency affect us down to our bones, and cost-effectiveness can prevent us from making the right choices, whether it is the right foods or fabrics for our skin. We all move so quickly through our lives and we view food, clothing and architecture apathetically. 

In a marketplace, we are presented with good and bad options. We should have the conscience to discern what is made with care and what is not and learn to appreciate the ones made with care.

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