Last year for my birthday I celebrated by collecting every piece of trash I produced during the month of June and put it in a fancy 16oz pasta sauce jar (sans the sauce). This year, I upped the stakes and I traded in my 16oz jar for a 4oz jar that used to hold local honey. I also decided that I would give up meat for the month of June (and most likely forever) and I would give up alcohol for the month. I chose to go vegetarian for environmental and health reasons but the alcohol choice was a more personal one that I will address in a different post.
I was a week in to my zero waste month and wasn’t feeling as excited or energized as I had when I did it in 2018. Then I got a call from my friend Madeline.
Madeline and I met in 2017. I had just moved back to the DC area and was interviewing to work at an environmental non-profit. I was a little confused when I walked into the office wearing a blazer and fancy jewelry I have never worn again to this day, to find four casually dressed 20-somethings sitting on the floor like they owned the place. What I thought was going to be an office job turned out to be a canvassing gig. The interview went well and the next day I got a call from the Director. I was so excited when they invited me back to shadow one of their most experienced canvassers. That’s when I met Madeline.
Madeline is a smiler. She maintains direct eye contact throughout any and all conversations. She presents herself as agreeable in even the most contentious debates. These are important traits for any person but if you’ve never canvassed before, let me tell you- these are extremely important traits while knocking on doors. I, however, tend to come across as argumentative and prideful. That next week of shadowing Madeline changed my life forever.
Canvassing isn’t for everyone. The number of doors slammed in your face is only rivaled by the number of mosquito bites covering your legs and arms. But Madeline showed me that it takes one person, one door, one contact to make the entire day worth it. I remember those people fondly to this day; I even keep in touch with a few of the super stars that I met, holding a clipboard on their front stoop in the rain. Some of them are even my neighbors now.
I can credit Madeline for my transition into zero waste. She taught me that one person, one act, no matter how small can send ripples of change into the universe. And she believed in me and my capacity to engage people in the conversation. We may not be canvassing anymore (full-time, that is) but the value of sharing, educating and engaging with our community is greater than ever.
So back to that phone call I got a week into my zero waste month 2019- After a couple questions about menstrual cups and bidets, Madeline let me know that she’s decided to collect her waste for the month of June too. And just like that, I didn’t feel alone or lethargic. I felt invigorated, like my tribe just doubled in size (because it did)!
Thank you Madeline! You can catch her journey with zero waste on the blog this month and hopefully many more to come 😊
My spell check is telling me that “greenwashing” is not a word. So naturally I went online and double-checked that, it is, in fact referred to as “greenwashing”, one word. What I just did is a fancy thing millennials like to call “fact checking”. This will be your best asset in your fight to determine which brands to trust and which brands to drop.
Greenwashing or “green sheen” refers to the act of portraying an organization’s product or services as environmentally friendly only for the sake of marketing. There are two main types of greenwashing:
Environmental Imagery: elaborate designs, excessive printing, and overtly “green” labeling is highly unlikely if the company is actually environmentally responsible.
Misleading Labels: a label simply reading “Certified” or “100% Organic” or “Eco-Friendly” without any supporting information is most likely not a green company. These classifications don’t mean anything if they’re not supported. Some labels may look like a third-party endorsement but in reality… the third party doesn’t even exist. Look for supporting information, google the company, or simply choose products you know.
Hidden Trade-Offs: a good example of this is in the fashion industry. Some companies use “natural” or “recycled” materials which is great, but the trade off is how they obtained those materials. A company looking to be truly transparent will identify as socially and ethically responsible.
Irrelevant Claims: you may have seen labels that boast “free from ‘insert already banned chemical here’!!” A socially and environmentally responsible company will boast what they do do… not what they don’t. Another example of this is when a company highlights a very minute green initiative without acknowledging all of the other harmful behavior or consequences associated with it.
Lesser of Two Evils: example: organic cigarettes. The company’s claim is true but a greater risk or environmental impact prevails.
2. Kauai Coffee Pods- single serve compostable k-cup alternatives!
3. SeaWorld- killer whale shows
These are just a few of the many many companies that exercise greenwashing in their marketing. Heck, it’s much easier to watch a sacred ocean beast jump for mackerel when we’re told that this is somehow “helping” the species. Organizations like the National Advertising Division and the Federal Trade Commission are doing their part to crack down on companies that are cashing in on the environmental wave. But I beg you, that is not enough. It’s up to consumers to educate themselves and vote with their dollar. Keep those warning signs in mind and choose to be an informed consumer!!
According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. LEED provides a framework that project teams can apply to create healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. A LEED certified building can be newly constructed or renovated. To date there are approximately 65 convention centers and over 200 hotels in the U.S that have attained some level of LEED certification, and the list is growing.
What buildings can be LEED certified?
All spaces and buildings can be LEED certified. Some projects that can be LEED certified include but are not limited to:
There are 4 LEED certification categories:
Buildings can earn points across several categories including:
It matters because it shows that a property or facility has made a serious commitment to the health of their patrons and of the environment. That is not to say that other buildings that are not LEED certified don’t meet the requirements. Many building owners have yet to make the investment to get LEED certified. A LEED certification makes your job of picking a venue easier because the USGBC has already done all the hard work for you!
One year ago today I started writing about bamboo toothbrushes. No one really asked me to and I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to go down that very specific rabbit hole-but I’m sure glad I did.
It’s been one year and I’ve covered topics like…
I’ve learned that zero waste is less about product purchasing habits and much much more about human behavior. I’ve learned that simply being willing to have the conversation is half of the battle. But above all, I’ve learned that individual actions and individual voices are the foundation on which movements are built.
To the three people who have followed me since day one, thank you from the bottom of my heart for sticking with me as I figure this whole blogging thing out.
To my friends and family who listened to my ramblings and adopted sustainable practices for themselves, thank you for believing in me and for letting me share your stories and experiences.
And to everyone who has chosen to follow me since May 9, 2018- THANK YOU!!! Whenever I have a tough day where I’d rather get Chikfila than put in the effort to pack my own lunch- you all remind me that it’s worth it.
Here’s to many more years of sharing our voices!!!
You’ve probably been hearing the term “fast fashion” buzzing around your social media and news outlets lately but what is it and why is it harmful?
One of my favorite blogs, The Good Trade, states that “Fast fashion utilizes trend replication, rapid production, and low quality materials in order to bring inexpensive styles to the public.” These tenants of fast fashion are equally harmful to both the environment and the people involved in its production. Check out what The Good Trade has to say about the industry here!
I live in the DC area and have spent the better part of the last year exploring all the thrift, consignment and secondhand stores the District has to offer! I’ll try to focus on just a few stores today that are totally worth the trip in (or out!) of the city!
This consignment store is one of my favorites in DC. First of all, its in an amazing location nestled on 14th street and surrounded by other interesting shops and bars. The store may be small but oh is it mighty! They have a great selection of bags and shoes, as well as a great mix of retro tees, upcycled garments, and rare vintage finds. If I’m looking to add a little spunk to my wardrobe this is the first place I would go!
Current Boutique has locations in DC, Arlington and Alexandria. I live in Old Town and have been consistently consigning with CB for over a year. Their staff is friendly, helpful and extremely well dressed (duh). They have a wonderful mix of high-end items and everyday work clothes. I would say that the prices range anywhere from $10-$200 depending on what you’re looking for. I have found jeans, dresses, work shirts, and even ball gowns just at their Alexandria location. Current Boutique has also ramped up their online presence and many of their items can be seen on their website!
Georgetown is one of the best places to go shopping in the DC area… if you have the money! I… do not have the money. But I stumbled across this consignment store a few months ago and have made my way back multiple times since! First thing to note: they have an amazing greeting dog at the front counter so make sure to stop by and say hi before you start paroozing. This is a great place to go if you want designer brands that have been well-cared for but without the designer price tag. You can find all sorts of brand name items (especially jewelry!) but at a fraction of the price.
Maryland is flooded with awesome secondhand stores. If you’re fro Maryland or venturing that way- check out Community Forklift, they don’t sell clothes (hence why they aren’t included in this list) but I can guarantee you won’t regret it! Okay, back to clothes! Remix Recycling Co. is located in Bethesda, MD and was previously named Mustard Seed. This store is a little smaller than some of the others but it makes the list for it’s insanely reasonable pricing. If you want to consign with them then you’ll have to call and make an appointment first!
Located in Mount Pleasant (North of Adams Morgan) this shop boasts great prices and a wide variety of styles. If you find yourself at the National Zoo this summer then you should definitely make time to swing by this unique store. They frequently have unbeatable sales and the staff is very friendly. This is a great place to go if you need a new work outfit or if you want to re-vamp your staples.
Anna Sanders is behind this wonderful event that took place in DC April 6th. The Crawl combines food, drinks and what they call “dope vibes” but what I call “dope finds”! Yes, you are right- April 6th has already passed us- BUT- Anna hopes to host more events in the future so be sure to follow them on Facebook & Instagram, stay up to date with the newest trends and hottest deals on the DC thrift scene.
Now hold up! This is an inclusive blog that encourages people to take small steps in an effort to live more sustainably, what’s with the Onion-esque article title?
Hear me out- have you ever been so focused on your end goal that you forgot what steps were necessary to get there? Have you ever been so overwhelmed by a huge project that even starting it seemed futile? One thing I am constantly repeating to the kids I coach, my friends and my intimate partner is “never sacrifice your path for your goal”. The path you walk is just as righteous as the end goal.
Climate change is the buzzword of my generation. More and more companies are altering their infrastructure and operating systems to accommodate a more environmentally conscious consumer. This is fantastic and should be encouraged! More than anything else, this shows that big businesses are listening!! But I want you to be more than a environmentally conscious consumer.
I want you to be a mindful consumer.
No, better yet, I want you to be mindful first, and consume second.
So here are my 5 steps to being more mindful, because at the end of the day it’s not the planet we’re working so hard to save, it’s humanity. The earth doesn’t need us, we need the earth.
Bring mindfulness into your daily routine. Turn your brain on when you’re brushing your teeth, washing your hair, mowing the grass, making your bed, etc. I can’t meditate to save my life- I’ve tried. Turning my brain off is just not an option for me. If you can do that then more power to you! If you can’t, then bringing mindfulness into your daily routine could be extremely helpful for you. Some of my best ideas have come to me while brushing my teeth and wondering why and how this routine has stuck around for so long and what we did before toothbrushes and toothpaste. One day I was taking a shower and as I watched the water go down the drain it occurred to me that I could put a bin under my shower head and try to rescue some of that unused run-off. I decided to use that water to water my plants. So, by being mindful in the shower, I not only rescued unused water, but I started a pattern of watering my plants more regularly and sustainably! Which brings me to my next point-
Get creative- then create! Being present and thinking critically spurs heightened awareness and consciousness. When we stop focusing on the end goal and instead set our sights on the process, we are more free to explore our creative subconscious. So pick your favorite creative activity, whether that’s baking, painting, gardening, singing in the shower, writing poetry, or D&D- jump into it! I found peace and creativity in my garden. Mind you, I do not have a green thumb by any means, I just enjoy it! Recently it feels like my roommates and I have been breaking a bunch of mugs and plates (not sure what’s going on there but…) and I couldn’t bring myself to just throw them away. Last Tuesday when I decided to re-pot all of my indoor plants in celebration of spring, I used the broken bits of ceramic to act as a layer of rocks at the bottom of each of the pots. Save $$, save the planet, save face.
Indulge your creative brain, let your guard down and create! As you get into the flow of things you’ll notice that your thoughts begin to quiet as your mind engages fully with the task at hand.
Breathe. Just breathe. Calming your breath is the key to calming your mind. This is the foundation of all mindfulness. So you can’t meditate? That’s fine, I bet you breathe every. single. day. Take a minute as you read this on your phone or in your office and breathe with me.
Did you do it? I noticed that my posture improved and I sat in a more balanced position. I also noticed that my jaw had been clenched the whole time I’ve been writing this!
Put your phone down and go outside. Do you start your day scrolling through your newsfeed or checking your email? Do you end your day by scrolling through your newsfeed or checking your email? I’m no tech-saint and am willing to admit that I have definitely done this before. Some of you may have a demanding job where this is just not an option, but for me, it was. We have all been at a table when we noticed that every single person sitting down was on their phone. It doesn’t feel good and to be frank, it’s sad. Make a pact with yourself to leave the phone in your room while you’re at the dinner table. My roommate makes a point to leave her phone when she takes her dog out for a walk (feel free to bring it with you for safety, just don’t use it!). If you’re walking to the metro, put your phone down and keep your head up, make eye contact with people. Be present and connect with the people who share your morning commute. The most mindful people I know have healthy boundaries with their tech devices and you can do it too!
Feel yourself, and I mean reallllyyyyy feel you. Life is tough and to quote literally everyone ever: the struggle is real. I’m going to get honest with you guys because if you’re this far into this article then you must be one awesome person. My brother died when he was 13. And you wanna know what? It’s been 20 years and I am still not okay. I don’t think I will ever be “okay” but I work every day to find happiness. Happiness to me is practicing mindful gratitude for the moments themselves. I learned that something happens when you experience death at such a young age- you start to live relatively. Every moment of sadness, anger or pain is compared to the moment you lost everything. I noticed this in high school. Things that were earth-shattering to my friends just didn’t seem to strike the same chord with me. That’s because I was constantly comparing my emotions to the relativity of the greatest trauma of my life. That, my friends, is not a mindful existence. Life isn’t a competition and each moment should not be held to the same standards as the moment before. So the next time you feel disconnected or are overwhelmed by happiness or have an internal conflict or feel stagnant or can’t contain your excitement- please take a breath, put your phone down, go outside and feel it all. Roll around in it. Because you are alive and these feelings mean you’re living.
2.Costing the Earth
This podcast by BBC Radio 4 is about human’s effect on the environment and how the environment reacts. The hosts go to great lengths to question accepted truths and challenge our current ways of thinking. The episodes follow activist groups and scientists as they challenge world leaders and policy makers. If you’re looking for accurate and in-depth reporting of the progress being made to protect our planet, then this podcast is for you!
where to watch: Apple Podcasts – Spotify – Stitcher
Embrace your style without sacrificing your values. This podcast engages designers, consumers, secondhand fashionistas and crafty upcycle gurus all in one space. If you’re looking to buy more ethically and responsibly then this pod is for you. Say goodbye to “fast fashion” and get ready for the new age of conscious consumerism.
where to watch: Apple Podcasts – Spotify – Stitcher
4.Spirit of 608
Entrepreneurs, creatives, and activists unite! This podcast tells the stories of real women who found success in sustainable and ethical businesses. Some of these women scaled their companies from the ground up, and others helped their companies turn a surprising profit as they transitioned to more sustainable business practices. If you’ve ever felt like your ideas didn’t fit into the current PR model, this podcast is for you!
where to listen: Apple Podcasts – Spotify – Stitcher
Host, Vox’s Dylan Matthews explores provocative and innovative ideas with the potential to radically improve the world. The 20 minute episodes focus on issues ranging from practical prison reformations to effectively removing the black-footed ferret from the endangered species list. Matthews takes complex issues and lays them out before his audience in a way that is accessible and seemingly attainable.
where to listen: Apple Podcasts – Google Podcasts – Spotify – Stitcher
Living on Earth: In partnership with NPR, Living on Earth provides up to date news and information on the world’s changing environment, ecology, and human health.
Sustainababble: A weekly podcast about the environment, for and by the confused. Hosts Ol and Dave sift through the most egregious eco-guff out there to get a little bit closer to enlightenment. They may fail but the comedic reprieve is much appreciated!
Sustainable World Radio: News and commentary covering ecology, Permaculture, organic gardening, sustainability, natural building, regenerative farming and ethnobotany. They interview experts from around the globe; teachers, designers, environmentalists and earth activists who learn from and work with Nature.
So you want to shop more sustainably, good for you! I’m going to make this brief because contrary to popular belief- shopping in bulk is simple and exceptionally easy to integrate into your lifestyle.
Check it out:
1. Write your shopping list down. Identify items that can be purchased in the bulk food aisle of your store. If you aren’t sure, call them and check.
2. Locate tupperware, reusable containers, cloth bags for produce/nuts/rice, etc. Make sure you have the proper number of containers for the number of bulk items on your list. Also ensure that all the lids fit and the tupperware is clean!!! One of the biggest complaints or roadblocks for most people when it comes to bulk shopping is sanitation, so please help us show how clean bulk shopping can be!
Tip: Opt for plastic reusable containers- they aren’t as heavy as glass and are less likely to break in transit. You can always transfer items to more attractive containers when you get back home.
3. Bring your containers to customer service, ask them if they can weigh them for you or if there is another place in the store that can help you. Even weigh your cloth bags- these things can add up!
4. Once your containers are weighed, you can head to the bulk food aisle and start filling them up. I typically do my dry items first and my liquid items second because they are more difficult.
5. Most places will have you write the item# on a small sticker that you put on your container, in which case you will bring your items to the checkout line when you’re done shopping and they will weigh your bulk items. Other stores may be farther along and allow you to weigh your item right there in the aisle.
6. Transfer items from their plastic containers to their shelf storage container. Doing this frees up your plastic container to be used again to shop in bulk if needed.
7. Clean your plastic bulk containers and get them ready for the next shopping trip!
Tip: You can use a permanent marker or a permanent label to keep the weight on your container for future use!
Our impact on the environment boils down to one thing: human behavior.
I try my best to buy from socially and environmentally responsible vendors. I go out of my way to support companies that empower women and minorities. I even continue to support companies whose business model aligns with my moral code, even if I’m not crazy about the actual product they’re producing.
So when I find a product I love, or think I will love, I can’t help but hear a pleading voice in my head saying “no need to double check their website or get in touch with a rep from the company, I’m sure they’re sustainable, the packaging is brown… there’s an ambiguous leaf on the label!” I want to believe that voice so badly, but somehow “the packaging is brown” just isn’t that convincing of an argument. So I check. I google. I read reviews. I even cross-check environmental watchdog websites if I’m feeling desperate. And 9 times out of 10, I’m forced to reconcile defeat. This happens so often actually, that I find myself accepting that these brands, companies, or items will never find their way into my home.
This happened to me the other day with a company called Prose. They provide custom hair care products based off of your lifestyle, hair type, geographic location, etc. I was in love. My hair can get CRAY so when I stumbled across this company, that little pleading voice in my head started yelling (rude)- “IT’S 2019, THIS IS A NEW COMPANY! OF COURSE THEIR PRODUCTS ARE SOURCED SUSTAINABLY AND THEY ARE TAKING NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS WHEN IT COMES TO PACKAGING! IT’S. 2019.”
So I listened to the voice and I took the online quiz- oh how detailed and inquisitive the questions were! The end result was a beautiful mixture of apple cider vinegar, maca root, and jujube bark. That’s “luscious locks” for those of you who don’t speak hippie.
Then to the next page, where I was forced to face my fears head first. Plastic. I’ve spent enough time shopping online for products, that I know the difference between glass and plastic packaging based on how the light reflects off of the container (just kidding, that would be a super lame power to have). I was unwilling to accept defeat so I left my quiz results up in the browser and pulled up the contact information for a customer representative. This is what ensued:
I’d like to say I went back to work after I sent this but in reality… I took the quiz again. I decided this time, I would opt for the silicone-free option. By the time my results were calculated, Anna- the rep from Prose- wrote me back:
Anna was right, so right. Glass bottles don’t belong in the shower and they are hella expensive to ship- this made me wish I had included the idea of aluminum packaging, but alas. I was happy to learn that the plastic bottles they use are made from 100% recyclable materials and BPA-free. However, I don’t think Anna understood the kind of subscription service I was talking about but the information was appreciated nonetheless.
After this exchange I resigned myself to baking soda and apple cider vinegar for the time being. My hair seems pretty pleased since I jumped off the shampoo train and gave it a much needed break from harsh detergents. You’re welcome, hair.
But in that second to last paragraph of Anna’s email, I had hope. I held onto those words like the freaking Holy Grail: “…and I’ve shared your idea with my team.” 8 simple words. Do I know if she actually shared my idea with her team? No, I have no idea. But those 8 simple words have changed the way I engage with the world around me.
I wrote this post because I want people to recognize the power and influence that comes with active and respectful communication. I did not berate Anna or Prose for not providing a service that I desperately wanted. I shared an idea, a way of being and thinking with her and subsequently her team. I reached out and shared a passion of mine while recognizing that not every company can afford to make these changes in distribution.
I also wrote this post for me- as a reminder of the role I play in consumerism. Even if I can’t jump in and physically change the way a company operates, I can always and should always express myself. Far too often we use our voices to try to convince others of our validity. We use our social media as platforms to shame others into our perceived “correct way of being”. This is a reminder that you are enough. How you feel and what you think is enough. This is a reminder to use your social media and your voice as it was intended: to share yourself with the world.