Being An Imperfect Environmentalist

Over the past year, I’ve gotten into sustainability and protecting the Earth. I light up every time I hear the word ‘sustainable’ or ‘sustainability’. From the research I’ve done, I have realized that a lot of the world’s problems are connected to the environment and our inability to slow down. The concept of living more consciously and intently, is uplifting, because not only do I think that paying more attention to how we treat the Earth will help the environment, but maybe even save humanity all together. This past year I took a class in college on systemic thinking. One of the resources I read for that class was about the year 3000 and what we as humans want the world to be like that far into the future. All of the authors agreed that they wanted an ‘imperfect but lovable world’. It could just be the young idealist in me, but I believe that the concept of sustainability can help us get to that point.

Even though becoming more sustainable as a person and inspiring others to do the same is uplifting, it also terrifies me. Every single time I read a disturbing article about climate change, I realize that it’s not necessarily just a foray into becoming a better human/contributing towards a better world. It’s a matter of life or death.

It’s not just preparing for natural disasters that might come a thousand years from now if we’re not careful; it’s about apocalyptic disasters set to happen in this century. It’s not just about choosing an organic bamboo t-shirt over an ethically made, cotton American shirt sprayed with pesticides. It’s about the female and child garment workers working over 12 hours a day in egregious working conditions; breathing in toxic chemicals while being paid slave labor wages just to survive. By the way, these chemicals find their way into the water supply as well. It’s about how  2/3 of the great barrier reef has been bleached. It’s about how minorities in poor communities will be disproportionately effected by climate change. It’s about how the Arctic during the summer-time will be ice free by the year 2040. I will be 43 years old. That sounds like a long-time from now, but in the grand scheme of things, really isn’t. The next war could be over water supply. Fact is, climate change is going to make the world into a pandemonium and 30% of people believe that climate change is not human caused, but rather due to natural changes. While this is still the minority and not the majority, cultural influences are powerful and as a result, they vote in people who deny climate change. The majority of Republicans in congress deny climate change because of big-oil special interests. Even amongst the slim number of Republicans in congress who do believe that climate change is caused by humans, they don’t believe that it’s a huge threat. For instance, Governor John Kasich who is seen to be moderate believes that, “Now it doesn’t mean because you pursue a policy of being sensitive to the environment, because we don’t know how much humans actually contribute.” It’s depressing when you look around you and want to snatch all the plastic bottles out of people’s hands and replace them with reusable ones; showing them how much easier and cost-efficient it is. It’s depressing when the college you go to promotes sustainability, but their compost bin isn’t even inside the dining halls. They also overheat the dorms and classrooms to the point where you’re sweating profusely and feeling nauseous. You want to yell at the administration and tell them how much money they’d save if they turned the thermostat down and told people to wear sweaters instead. It’s depressing when you see people do silly things that are toxic to the environment and if they made one small change, it could make a huge difference. But I also know that I have to have compassion and know that people care. They just aren’t educated enough and/or don’t have the time to think about it due to the ludicrously busy lifestyles we’re forced to live today.

However, I also think that environmental perfectionism can steer some people away from living more sustainably as they feel that they can’t live up to what they perceive to be an impossible standard. Including myself. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely admire and support the zero waste movement, minimalism, capsule wardrobes, only buying ethical and sustainable products, compassionate vegans, living off the grid, etc. If you do any of these things, props to you! I believe that the world can and should learn from these movements; but doing all of these things 100% of the time isn’t attainable for everybody.

I often will beat myself up for not being ‘sustainable enough’.  Even though I know about the horrors of the fashion industry, I still buy clothing from mainstream retailers when I need pants in a petite size, a bra that fits my large breasts, work clothes that fit my budget, or simply just because it’s more convenient. I try to buy more ethical and sustainable products, but I can’t help that they all come packaged in plastic. I’m just not in a place in my life where I can ‘DIY’. I still take 20 minute hot showers because I like it. I still use the dryer to dry my clothes. I’m nowhere close to zero waste or even low-waste yet. I can’t go vegan due to having a plethora of food allergies and other health conditions.

As you can see, some of the things I listed above I can definitely improve on and some of it is outside of my control. But I can’t help but compare myself to bloggers, youtubers, and Instagramers who I know are doing better than me. Sometimes I’m able to rationalize my way through and tell myself that I’m in a learning stage, that it’s important to have a peace of mind. Even if I could, I don’t think I would be completely 100% anything because having an obsessive mind-set where I scrutinize all of my actions isn’t healthy for me. However, whenever I see a new article talking about how we’re destined for the worst within our lifetimes, I feel like all the actions I’m taking are minuscule compared to the depth of the problem. If I use another plastic bag all the fish in the ocean will die. I need to start a capsule wardrobe now! 32 pieces in my wardrobe per season max! Curse you food allergies! Because of you, I can’t go vegan and I’m killing the planet. Yeah that piece of plastic might be recyclable, but only 9% of plastics get recycled, so therefore I must go zero waste NOWWW!!! You get the picture.

I can only do so much as one person. The key to saving the planet and becoming more sustainable is educating people on actions they can take, not specific lifestyles or labels. Small actions add up. Imagine if everybody drank from a reusable water bottle, started thrifting more, used public transportation or car-pooled whenever possible, refused plastic straws, or went meatless on Mondays. Think of the impact all of this would have! It is my opinion that the simple, daily changes of many can have the same effect as the larger actions of a dedicated few. If you can’t or don’t want to do everything in an eco-friendly/sustainable way, don’t give up the ship! Every little action helps!  Nobody should shame you if you aren’t doing things in their way or up to their personal standards. I’m not and will never be the perfect environmentalist. Instead, I strive to become more mindful and aware of the actions I take each day, while also educating myself as much as I can. Living a more sustainable lifestyle is a journey, not an instantaneous endpoint. Don’t beat yourself up for being an imperfect environmentalist. If you’re reading this blog post, you care, and that is what matters the most.

How are you an imperfect environmentalist? Let me know in the comment section down below!

Alex

How To Avoid The Fast Fashion Industry On A College Student Budget

Recently, a well-established women’s clothing store, The Limited, has closed their in-store businesses after 54 years. Why? Because consumers are showing a preference for cheap, fast fashion retailers that can keep up with yearly trends. The Limited was known for making multi-purpose, business casual clothing that never went out of style. This used to be a successful business model, but now a days, consumers prefer to purchase an abundance of clothing at cheap prices and then dispose it, once the trend is deemed unfashionable. While being able to purchase 3 dresses for $30 at Forever 21 might sound like a deal you can’t pass up, the consequences are detrimental for factory workers and unsustainable for the environment.

Factory workers are paid on average 3 dollars a day and given few legal protections. Many of these workers are exploited and forced to work 12+ hours a day. A sector of these factories don’t even given their workers a day off. One would like to think that this is a rarity or an exaggerated statement, but it’s a reality. Only 2% of suppliers pay their workers a living wage and the workers, often female, can barely support their families.  In addition to the fast fashion industry being toxic and dehumanizing for workers, there is currently 11 million tons of textile waste in landfills. This textile waste takes over 200+ years to biodegrade.

While I can’t control the fact that Donald Trump wants to get rid of the EPA, I can control what I choose to buy. I understand that buying from more ethical, sustainable companies is more expensive and difficult when you’re on a tight budget. As a college student, I can’t be the perfect sustainable/ethical fashionista 100% of the time, but I do believe that my awareness of the issue helps.  Here are some things I do to avoid the fast fashion industry when I can on a college student budget, that you can do too!

      1.) Shop at thrift, consignment, or vintage stores: Thrifting is one of the number one things we can do to be sustainable when it comes to clothing. Reusing clothing instead of throwing it into the landfill, is so important, as it extends the life-cycle of an object. It can be hard to sift through the racks, as some of them are filled with grandma sweaters that grandmas wouldn’t even want to wear. However,  you can also find some true gems at thrift/consignment shops. The prices are also extremely compatible with a college student budget, often surpassing discount fast fashion retailers. While the majority of the clothing in these thrift/consignment stores were probably made from conventional clothing stores, you are not supporting their fast fashion practices. Instead, these funds go to the store owners or charitable causes.

Vintage stores are also a wonderful place to shop! Not only are they fun to look at, but back in the day, clothing was made to last for multiple decades.  Even though vintage stores cost a bit more money than thrift/consignment stores, I find everything there to be of high quality . The shop owners, also, often know the story behind the item. For instance, I got this red hat at a vintage store in Providence, Rhode Island.

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The shop owner told me that this beaut’ was made in the 70’s and apparently had never been worn before. It is incredible to me that this stunning item would’ve spent its whole life-cycle never being worn. In today’s fast fashion industry, something like this would’ve been tossed in the landfill, but vintage stores give these items a second chance at life. I, 40 years later, am able to give this hat a story. An upside of wearing vintage clothing, you get a plethora of compliments as what you’re wearing is so unique. Whenever I wear this hat, I get, on average, about 3-5 compliments in a day.

     2.) Etsy: I pancake flipping love Etsy and browsing their website. For those of you who don’t know, Etsy is a website where independent businesses can sell their products, similar to eBay. I can literally spend hours looking at all of the eclectic, unique products on their website. I can’t say that I’ve shopped a lot on Etsy, but what I have gotten from their sellers has been superb. I  once, got an abalone ring that only cost $33 that was handmade by a woman in Florida. It is my favorite ring and I wear it all the time.

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If you’re curious, the hand-chain I got is from Ten Thousand Villages, a fair-trade boutique store.

Best of all, it isn’t some cheap piece of jewelry made of questionable materials and no one’s human rights got violated making it. Since they are made by independent sellers, many of the products can be customized, which you can’t get at your local Forever 21. .If you want something unique and hand-made, but reasonably priced, shop on Etsy!

     3.) The Sales Section of Sustainable/Ethical Fashion Websites: There are so many great sustainable/ethical fashion brands out there, but the prices are usually not friendly for the college student wallet. Look at the sales section of these websites and you’ll see lots of reasonably priced, beautiful clothing. For instance, I’ve had my eyes on this beautiful, eggplant, stripe skirt from Synergy Organic Clothing  for only $37 and this gorgeous bamboo aubergine colored tank top from Thought Clothing  for only $12.21 US Dollars. Also, if you can’t afford to shop for main pieces on Sustainable/Ethical Fashion Websites, buy items that tend to be less expensive like socks, scarves, hats, or underwear. For instance, you can get these adorable thigh high bamboo socks from Thought Clothing  for only $9.76 US Dollar or this beyond cute, hand-made panda hat from People Tree  for only $18.24. While you are still probably going to pay more for sustainable/ethical clothing on sale, what you will be getting will be of much higher quality and last you for years, while helping the Earth/your fellow citizens.

     4.) Buy Less: It is of my opinion, that it is better to buy less and instead, buy versatile items that won’t fall apart by the time the trend is over (items are usually designed to only be worn 7x). If you think about, the $100 dollars that you spend at Forever 21 for disposable clothing, that you’ll hate later on, you can also spend on a hand-made wool coat that will last you a lifetime. I am very picky in what I buy, and even if I do shop at a conventional store at the mall, I have to **love** and be head over heels for the item before I buy it. This year alone, I can count on one hand how many things I’ve purchased (albeit, I do have a wardrobe that I’ve built up over the years that is mostly from conventional retailers). Through selective shopping, most of what I’ve gotten has been under $100 dollars. A part of becoming more sustainable is adopting an attitude where if the object doesn’t add any lasting value to your life, you shouldn’t get it. It is easy to forget that stuff is just stuff. That is why I think it is so important to feel a positive connection to the stories behind these objects. I, personally, feel a lot more connected to a scarf from a company who supports women by paying them a living wage, while also giving them other benefits (education, healthcare, etc.), than a scarf that was made in a sweatshop by an abused worker. That is why I’d rather shop less, but more sustainably, rather than having a new outfit to wear everyday.

I get that it is isn’t always possible to shop sustainably/ethically 100% of the time, especially if you’re a college student or are struggling to make ends meet. It is hard when you want to do the right thing, but don’t always have the funds to do so.  In my opinion, though, it is most important to be aware of the problems with the clothes we wear, and to help if you can. Even if only 20% of your wardrobe is sustainable and ethical, that is certainly something. Every little bit helps and matters, and it is vital to keep that in mind.

I’m curious, what do you guys do to shop sustainably/ethically in an affordable way? Let me know in the comments down below!

Interesting Articles/Sources: 

The Limited is closing all of its 250 stores

The True Cost of Fast Fashion

Analysis: Fast fashion comes at a steep price for the environment

 

Best,

Alexandra 

 

 

My Green Resolutions

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I thought that I was as green as they come. I eat wicked healthy (mostly organic), use almost all green beauty products, always make sure that I recycle, never litter, and as ludicrous as this might sound, I believed in the cause, so therefore that’s enough right? If you believe that global warming is not some made up cause that worthless amounts of dollars are being poured into, that should be enough right? If you want the world to move away from fossil fuels and utilize green energy, that makes you a green guru, shouldn’t it? If you are a supporter and wish hard enough, others, such as the government and automobile companies will start making more green strides, right?  Wrong. Wanting does not = Action. While it is my greatest hope that we steer into a more positive, green direction as a country, I realized that I can no longer just sit around and wait for it to happen, while I be a green minimalist. I’m currently taking a green design and technology course this semester and it has made me realize that I can be doing a lot better. Here are some of the resolutions, some of which I’ve already been working, that I came up with to be a better, greener person.

1.) Unplug appliances when using them: I have a habit of never turning off electronics that I’m not using. Back when I used my family’s  desktop computer, I knew that I should have been turning it off when nobody was using it, but instead, I was too lazy to turn it off and then waiting some time for everything to reload and start it back up. Looking back, it was absolutley supremely silly to not do something that would have probably of taken 10 minutes out of my day to deal with. As of right now, I have a laptop computer and have decided that instead of leaving it in the charger all the time, I would simply shut it down when I’m not using it to save energy. I also have changed my laptop’s setting to be in eco mode for when I am charging it. Same thing goes with my cell phone. I always leave my cell phone in the charger or lying around somewhere when not using it. However, like my laptop, I am being more conscious about shutting it down because the less you use the charger, the less energy you’re using.

2.) Be more conscious of clothing purchases: My green design and technology course taught me that one of the biggest zappers of energy is the making and purchasing of products. The mass consumption of this country is absolute insanity and what is probably the worst part is that almost none of it is made in the United States anymore. This makes the carbon footprint on each product crazy high and a lot of the countries where these clothes are made have poor environmental regulations. I will say, I’m don’t really buy a lot of products unless I really want/need it, but I could use more discretion when it comes to purchasing clothes. Often times, I will buy clothes that I like, but not love, because it fits decently, is at a low price, or sadly on impulse, because it looks cool in the moment. Therefore, I notice that a good amount of my clothes doesn’t really get fair usage and that high carbon footprint got me very little in return. As a result, I have decided to create a pseudo capsule wardrobe. Fashion is very important to me because I feel that it is a form of self-expression that gives me confidence, so I’m not going to stop being fashionable. Realistically, I’m not about to donate everything and only buy solid colored tee shirts (my green design and technology teacher actually does this; doesn’t wear anything besides solid colored tee shirts…and pants obviously, haha!) After seeing Cloudy Apples (one of my favorite youtubers) capsule wardrobe video, I have noticed that I could use some more basics in my wardrobe. I have a habit of clinging to the shiny/sparkly/hippie/printy aisles of clothing stores, so I guess you can say this video came at a good time :). When I go out to the clothing store the next time, I’m going to continue my hunt for awesome, well made basics and other essentials that are missing in my closet (rain boots, ear muffs, a new pair of fall boots so I don’t wear out the ones I wear religiously lol, I don’t know why but I always have this problem with shoes), However, I am still going to be on the lookout for unique fashions, but only purchase them if I have that “love it, gotta have it!” feeling and know that I will wear it over and over again. I also plan on trying to use more accessories with my basics, such as scarves, hats, and jewelry. Question for my readers; would the carbon footprint be lower on scarves, hats, and gloves because there is less fabric that is used, therefore there is less processing? I would love to know :).

In terms of where I purchase the clothing, I’d like to shop more at consignment stores and/or look around Goodwill or Savers (Savers briefly because they try to push you out of the store by only letting you take in a maximum of 6 pieces of clothing into the dressing room and then you have to get in the back of line. They also move clothes if they overhear that you want to buy something and then walk away to look around but plan to come back for it. It’s madness, haha). Getting used clothing isn’t something that I do often, but I should, because reusing is essential for helping our environment. I also want to stop more on etsy because a lot of their sellers are based in the USA, which will make for a much smaller carbon footprint then getting something from let’s say China. Also, since they are small business owners, they are much more likely to utilize sound environmental practices and not use workshop labor. What’s not to love?

3.) Convince My Family To Be Locavores: While I eat a very healthy diet (organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, free of other stuff, etc.), most of what we buy is produce that has the potential to come from far away. I never really thought of this as a problem until I realized that once again, the carbon footprint of the packaging and purchasing of the food is way too high. Buying local helps with this carbon footprint. We are especially lucky to live in an area of New England where there are lots of farms around us, so I’d say that it is much easier for us than most to get high quality farm fresh produce. Right now, I have to get my family on board with this idea and get all of us to go to farmers markets more often than we do, but when I’m out on my own at college next year, I’m going to try and see if there are local farms/farmers markets around and purchase as much as I can locally. Apparently, the town of one of the colleges that I’m going to be applying to has one of the best farmers markets in the country, so I’ll be sure to take advantage if I go there :).

Also, it is important to point out in this blog post that the processing of meat takes up a good piece of energy in this country and perhaps the world. Due to health issues and the various dietary restrictions that I have, going vegetarian/vegan would not make the most sense nor be the best for my body. However, I do still want to help with this problem and have decided that in addition to getting more vegetables/fruit from farms, I want to convince my family that we should aspire to purchase more meat that we do consume locally, as the carbon footprint won’t be as large due to there being significantly less processing and shipping.

4.) Shorter Showers: Now this one will be a toughie. I ❤ ❤ ❤ long hot showers. In a way, it is kind of cathartic for my soul, ha-ha. But taking 20-25 minute showers multiple times a week is way too much time! I don’t think I’m ever going to get down to taking 5 minute showers, but I’d say that trying to reduce (the most vital of the three R’s) my showers to 12-15 minutes would be a good start. However, I will reward myself by giving myself one long shower a week :). It’s all about balance people!

5.) Less Trash: I have a habit of taking more food than I can handle and then throwing it away in the trash can. This excess waste creates methane in landfills, which is toxic in large amounts to the environment. When it is dinner time, I will start out by taking just a little bit and then getting up and taking more if I want it. Also, if I do have leftovers, I will see if anyone else wants it or if I can, put it back on the plate/bowl/whatever you put food on, haha.

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These are my green resolutions for now and I’m sure that they’ll increase as time goes on. However, I want to start out small as a little bit goes a long way. No, I cannot just give up all technology, live in the woods somewhere with candlelight, and walk around naked, but I can do much better than what I’ve be doing. I’m looking forward to seeing my progress and to  helping this planet be greener for the next generation.

Do you guys have any suggestions to add on to my green resolution list? What are some of your green resolutions?

xoxo
Alex

Lovely Links:

http://www.becomingminimalist.com/buying-stuff-wont-make-you-happy/ (9 Reasons Why Buying Stuff Won’t Make You Happy Article)

http://storyofstuff.org/movies/black-friday-video/ (Tis The Season To Get Trampled Video)

P.S. All of the photos in the blog post are mine. If you would like to use them, please ask and then give me credit. Thank you :D.

Hello!

Hiya! Thanks for checking out my blog :). My name is Alexandra, but pretty much everyone calls me Alex. You can call me whatever you want though; in fact, I would like more people to call me Alexandra because I think that it’s such a pretty name, I’m a brand spanking new adult (18 yrs old) from New England who is passionate about all things health, wellness, and the environment. I plan on writing how to maintain a healthy lifestyle (gluten-free/dairy-free food, green beauty, activities that I’m currently trying to incorporate more into my life, such as yoga and meditation, that are amazing for your mind/body etc.) and being more eco-conscious. However, I also plan on writing about various random topics on whatever interests me at the time, such as anthropology, Himalayan salt lamps, and outer space (wowerz those are wicked random things that are not at all related to each other lol), and fun stuff, such as television shows, books, home decor, art, and humorous anecdotes from my life. I’m also super duper into photography. I especially love digital imaging and creating alternative realities.  I plan on incorporating a lot of my photos into this internet space of mine and maybe even sharing some tid-bits! Again, thanks for checking out my blog and hopefully you’ll find whatever you learn from here interesting and helpful. I can’t wait to get to know you guys more and learn from y’all as well.

AlexMeeee