Urban Trends in Amsterdam: Embracing the Guilt Economy

Dressed in vintage pieces from thrift shops, consuming eco-friendly, oat-milk lattes, and sweating in style in fancy pilates or rocycle studios. If you live in Amsterdam (or probably any other big city), you probably recognise this lifestyle that many urban femmelennials enjoy. I find this observation fascinating, as it illustrates an interesting interplay between the urban lifestyle and the increasing societal consciousness. Urban millennials often hold a critical lens up to their lifestyle, while still comfortably navigating through a world of comfort, efficiency, and a surplus of options. This observation makes me curious about the essence of urban trends. Are we really acting out of consciousness or are we driven by a so called guilt economy?


In a world marked by increasing environmental awareness and societal responsibility, individuals find themselves caught between the desire for modern consumption and the weight of ethical considerations. In our efforts towards making conscious choices, we constantly seek for alternatives to compensate for the guilt that comes from being part of a system that is putting so much pressure on our planet. In the last decade, many businesses have arisen that tap into this feeling of guilt. Below I will share some trends that bring to mind a guilt-driven economy.


The embrace of plant-based milk largely stems from a collective desire to make mindful, sustainable choices that resonate with modern values. Yet, as we celebrate this shift, it’s important to pause and wonder: Could our embracement of plant-based milk unintentionally lead to other issues? The global demand for certain plant-based ingredients might lead to unsustainable agricultural practices or over-exploitation of resources in certain areas. The surge in demand for almond milk, for instance, has raised concerns about water usage in regions where almonds are cultivated. So do we really take better care of our planet by shifting to plant-based alternatives, or are we only replacing one problem with another?


Many individuals have enthusiastically adopted thrift shopping as a means to reduce waste and extend the lifespan of clothing items. Moreover, the rise of online platforms like Vinted has simplified the process, making it convenient for us to pass on pre-loved pieces and discover hidden treasures from others. While our intention behind recycling clothes is good, we must delve deeper into its true environmental impact. Thrift shops undoubtedly contribute to a more circular fashion economy. However, the large volume of discarded textiles and the growing reliance on inexpensive clothing raise concerns about the transportation, energy, and resources required to manage the influx of recycled clothes also warrant careful consideration. Are we simply exchanging one set of problems for another, all in the pursuit of easing our guilt regarding our shopping habits?


Much like thrift shopping or sustainable diets, I recognise the increasing popularity of meditation as an urban response to our dilemmas. While not immediately evident, the rise of meditation in big cities may share a connection with the guilt economy. As individuals navigate the pressures of modern urban life, they find themselves in a certain cycle of urban lifestyle and consumption – all the while being reminded of the potential environmental, social, and personal consequences of their choices. Meditation, in this context, becomes a medicine for the soul, a way to alleviate the weight of these concerns and find peace in a turbulent world.


To be clear, I participate in all the above-described trends, so it’s not about pointing fingers or casting judgment. So why am I sharing this? Perhaps to enlighten my own sense of guilt when embracing urban trends. And maybe also to contribute a little bit to more awareness on the consequences of the alternatives that we delve into with good intentions. Because as urban millennials, we are at the forefront of change, shaping the landscape of our cities and our future. So, let’s journey together through the labyrinth of urban trends, exploring the shades and nuances of our conscious choices for a more sustainable urban lifestyle.

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