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Kim Kardashian and Green Privilege

by Chloe Gordon on 09/20/2022 | 4 Minute Read

As consumers, we do our best to be sustainable. We refuse plastic straws when paper ones aren't an option, we festoon our kitchens with compost bins, we always bring our water bottle or coffee tumbler whenever we leave the house, and we spend a few extra dollars on sustainable tampon brands because we know our actions add up over time and can inspire others to do the same.

And even though we make changes and sacrifices in our lives, it's not hard to be reminded that, often, celebrities strut through our world with a sense of privilege regarding sustainability and the impacts they have on the environment. 

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I, along with every other fortunate human with internet access, know about the Kardashian clan and their every move, investment, and meme. The family is known for its entrepreneurship abilities, outside of the reality star fame, thanks to PR genius Kris Jenner's innate knack for understanding the entertainment and branding world's wants and needs. However, Kim Kardashian recently spoke with Interview Magazine, and her answers shed light on how her recent entrepreneurship undertaking, SKKN BY KIM, might be more about making money than its previously exhibited sustainability measures.

"I believe in climate change, and I believe that anything can help. But I also believe in being realistic, and I think sometimes there's so much to worry about on this planet, and it can be really scary to live your life with anxiety," said Kim Kardashian, "I have super climate change–involved friends, and I love learning from them. I do what I can, but you have to pick and choose what really works for you in your life." 

A generous reading of that statement would tell you that bringing sustainable practices into your life can present a challenge, and you should try to do what you can do within reason.

But Kim Kardashian also isn't your typical consumer, and this is how she flaunts her green privilege.

This laissez-faire indifference to the environment while simultaneously pushing a new sustainable skincare line SKKN (one that offers consumers refillable products with eco-friendly materials with the complete collection costing a hefty $575), feels thoughtless and insensitive.

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Her brand of eco-consciousness seems merely convenient, particularly when it comes to hocking a beauty product to folks who would like their beauty products to be just a touch more “responsible.” Because it’s a sustainable brand coming from an influential celebrity who is anything but sustainable, someone who flies on private jets, has racked up water limit violationsat their multimillion-dollar estate, and has even been accused of underpaying her employees

Besides Kim Kardashian, who is widely privileged in many ways beyond the green variety, other famous cohorts are just as guilty. Take Elon Musk, for example. The billionaire's sales pitch for Tesla is to sell consumers on the idea of clean energy, electric vehicles, and harnessing solar power. Despite this sustainable selling point, Musk is as guilty as a Kardashian for flaunting his green privilege. 

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Jack Sweeny's Twitter account, CelebJets, reports VIP jet activity, including the flight time, how much fuel was used, the cost of energy, and the weight of CO2 emissions. Elon Musk has been tracked on quick flights, sometimes as short as nine minutes. Recently, Musk was spotted flying in his private jet from Austin, Texas, to Brownsville, Texas, which released four tons of CO2 emissions. This release of CO2 emissions, compared to an average person's usage (according to the EPA's greenhouse calculator.), is equal to the energy it would take to charge 380,525 smartphones. 

But Kim and Elon aren't the only ones. You could talk to Kim’s sister Kourtney who rankled folks for promoting a sustainable line from fast fashion brand Boohoo. And, sorry, Swifties, but Taylor also has a private jet problem.

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British charity Oxfam released a study that discovered that the wealthiest 10 percent of people produce half of the planet's individual-consumption-based fossil fuel emissions, in contrast to the poorest 50 percent — about 3.5 billion people — who contribute just ten percent. "Europe is on fire, meanwhile, Kylie Jenner is taking 15-minute trips in her private jet. I could recycle everything, buy all my clothes second hand, compost and grow my own food for the rest of my life, and it wouldn't even begin to offset the footprint from one of her flights," said author Cara Lisette.

And that’s the rub. The average-income Earth dweller can do everything they can to make a difference—whether it’s driving an electric car, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, or refraining from purchasing single-use plastics—but the imbalance coming from the world's elites and celebrities makes it difficult for our actions to feel meaningful or that they even have an impact. 

Of course, we're all human, billionaire or not. To be perfectly carbon neutral and waste-free is challenging; we get it. But picking and choosing what works in your life feels incongruous and insincere, whether you're pushing expensive—albeit sustainable—skincare while simultaneously watering your rose bushes with the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool's worth of water every day or chartering a jet to avoid an inconvenient traffic jam. If your CO2 footprint comes close to rivaling that of an island nation, then it might be time for a course correct.

But, if Kim Kardashian can pick and choose when she's going to be sustainable, then I can pick and choose which celebrity and influencer words I'm going to pay attention to.