We have just about gone through the first month of 2021 and wow was it yet another wild month! I think as we go through a prolonged hardship such as this pandemic there is no wrong way to move your sustainability journey forward! I have been taking small and manageable steps so that I am not overwhelmed or feel as if I have failed the “save the world” task.
For example, I have recently switched to toothpaste tabs from my homemade toothpaste. This is my first time trying them. The first few days it was a weird adjustment to the texture and concept of biting down on something that feels equivalent to a breath mint. I do enjoy the simplicity of just popping them in my mouth -- and the foaming feels like proper toothpaste. I bought the toothpaste tabs from the company Bite. I had heard of them for a long time so I tried them first. I am a fan and will continue to use them. I might try other companies in the future just to compare. When I received the package from Bite it came in an appropriately-sized cardboard box with minimal extra papers for protection and explanations. As someone who cares a lot about reducing packaging and unnecessary plastic, I appreciate the time and effort they put towards how they ship their products. From a visual standpoint, their design was cute, fun and made the experience that much more pleasurable.
In more momentous news about shifts, the Trump era has now shifted to the Biden era. Already we have seen immediate changes. I by no means think Biden will be the total solution or hero to the climate crisis; I just want to mention the stark difference, starting with that he believes it is real and needs to be addressed. For starters he has signed an order to rejoin the Paris Agreement. This gives me some hope for the future of our planet and country as we need to make drastic changes immediately. We can already see the effects of our impact and in order to have a future we need to leave the use of oil, plastics, and over consumption something of the past. Of course this is an incredible shift that needs to be made. We can all do our part to create the future that we want to see by voting, making the changes that you can as an individual, and supporting companies who are making being green and ethical a priority. One thing that we can do without spending any more is to sign petitions that we believe in and to spread the knowledge that we do know.
You can find petitions to sign on Change.org
If you ever feel like you do not have any power, January just proved you wrong between the storming of the capitol by domestic terrorists to what happened with the GameStop stocks. There is power in community, there is power numbers, we the people can create change together. Of course positive change and impact are the goals.
Something I want to highlight during this financially difficult time are “buy nothing” pages on Facebook. If you search your location with the words “buy nothing” you can
(most likely) find a page where people who are local to you are giving away items that they no longer need but are still valuable. If you can’t find one for your area you can create one! I love this idea because so many usable items head to the landfill when others could be using them. Another similar page on Instagram (unfortunately only NY specific) is @stoopingnyc where they post mostly furniture that people have left out on the curb for free. I have found perfectly good furniture on the side of the road before, including an excellent shelf that I found and use in my closet.
These communal pages help keep things out of the landfill while we help those in our community. What’s not to love?
No matter where you are on your journey or how small you next step is, we create a chain reaction and make an impact. Everyone who voted for Biden made an impact. Every swap or plastic free item you buy makes an impact by telling companies that there is less of a demand for plastic. Every item that is rehomed keeps it out of the landfill. Our small steps make for a great impact, so keep doing what you can because it matters.
We finally made it to the first day of 2021! I can hardly believe it, it just feels like a timeless dream. Last year was chock full of hardships for both the individuals of our planet as well as for the planet itself. We started off with the devastating bush fires in Australia, where they lost 46 million acres. California also had its worst fire season to date. San Francisco glowed red due to how much smoke filled the skies. On the opposite side of the dryness, we had 30 named storms, which also is an all-time record, and 13 hurricanes. Puerto Rico was hit with several large earthquakes. There was also major flooding in Vietnam and Cambodia as well as super Typhoons in the Philippines and Vietnam. Not to mention, most of these disasters occured while we were going through the COVID-19 global pandemic.
I want to take a moment to appreciate the privilege that I have to be able to have survived 2020. Thanks to all of the healthcare and frontline workers who have helped the rest of us get through the year, and to continue to fight the pandemic.
On this blog I talk about how I make moves towards my sustainability journey, but today I want to remind both myself and you that being perfect is not more important than doing what is best for your health and well being. I didn’t make as many strides towards lowering my impact on the planet during 2020 but I did my best to keep myself and my family safe from the virus. I am happy for the few things that I was able to do because it isn’t about making all the changes at once but making changes that last.
Happy New Year and stay safe!
I am so excited for the upcoming fall season since it includes Halloween. As a kid Halloween was always my favorite holiday, and funnily enough it was not because of the candy. I just loved how spooky it was, between the ghosts and witches. I loved watching “Are You Afraid of the Dark” and reading “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”. When I was a kid I would wear the same witch costume every year for several years. I had a black, partially lacy dress and a black pointy hat that was made of spider filled lace. Somewhere along the way I lost my love for the holiday. Maybe it is because we wouldn’t decorate as much, or there weren't any exciting events to go to. People just made it an excuse to party. Also I find that the holiday became extremely consumerist, needing to buy a brand new costume and new plastic decorations, everything was cheap, single use and would definitely break by the end of the night. The quality of these items were so poor that people didn’t even care if something got lost or ripped.
As someone who is always trying to be sustainable and make conscious decisions, I want to celebrate Halloween as such. Granted, being sustainable is a privilege that not everyone has. So for those who have the time, finances, and will; here are some tips that I think would be a nice way to boost the greenness of this spooky holiday.
The simplest one is, use what you have. That goes for everything. Decorate your home with what decorations you have from years past. You don’t need new decorations to celebrate, plus what’s better than free? Not a whole lot. For your costumes, see what clothes you already have, borrow from someone else in your household to complete the perfect costume! You can even wear the same one you had on last year, or a few years ago! Trust me, people won’t care if you are repeating an outfit, they are all focused on what their own costume is. Last year I dressed up as Bill Nye the Science Guy and wore some clothes that I owned, and borrowed a few final touches from my grandfather. The costume wasn’t any less of an accurate representation just because I didn’t buy the items new and as a set, people still loved it! Plus most costumes that are bought from the typical Halloween store are cheaply made, expensive and will hardly make it through the evening.
Renting costumes at Halloween Costumes https://www.halloweencostumes.com/rental-costumes.html?utm_source=925509&utm_medium=affiliate&network=ShareASale&banner_id=708289&sscid=91k4_n6aiv
If you have a bit more determination and time you can thrift a costume, I find that many thrift stores have costumes during this time, which will also keep these items from going into the landfill and it will be less expensive. Just please keep in mind that many people use thrift stores as a necessity and this is their only option for clothes, including costumes so the more people buy from them the higher the prices will go which will directly affect the people who need this resource. There are some online second hand shops, such as Depop, Swap.com, and ThredUp, so you can try that! You can also look into Ebay to find secondhand items. While you are looking around in the second hand shops, you can also find decorations, or something that you can upcycle into something spooky!
Speaking of decorations, you can buy pumpkins and gourds at your local farmers market (which will both support local farms and cut down on transportation emissions). Nothing like a classic pumpkin carving, plus once the season is over you can compost these decorations which will help the planet and create little waste. While you are at it, you can roast your pumpkin seeds for a fun snack! Also depending on the aesthetic of your decorations you can get some fresh flowers and dry them to hang around your home.
Since we are in the middle of a pandemic, I won’t be talking about solutions for trick or treating, in my opinion we should not risk the health and safety of the children for some treats (or tricks).
But for our own celebration, instead of individually wrapped candy you can find candy in most bulk sections, if not you can find chocolate in foil or paper which both (usually) are recyclable. You can also make your own treats, which is a fun activity plus you will know exactly what is in and you can find sustainably sourced ingredients. Just don’t ask your neighbor for a cup of salt. They may think you are a witch.
For all my PSL folks, here is how to make your own mix!
homemade pumpkin spice mix
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Since sweater weather is approaching here is a sustainable and hand-spun yarn company for all you knitters, crocheters, and fiber artists! Siren Spun is naturally dyed, sustainably sourced and uses minimal packaging (also a friend of mine).
As someone who is living in America, life is quite overwhelming. We are still in the middle of a pandemic, fighting for racial justice, and of course the climate crisis hasn’t gone away. But I recognize my privilege as a healthy, white person who is not an essential worker. I have been focusing my energy on both making art and fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement and less on my regular climate crisis fight.
Here are some black owned sustainable companies
As for my art practice I have been creating art on cardboard to both repurpose the material and to tip my hat at how protest signs are usually on cardboard. You can see these pieces on my website. As we talk about how to be more sustainable we can’t forget that the climate crisis affects BIPOC communities disproportionately to other communities.Before zero waste and sustainable tactics became a trendy and cool thing to do, they were being practiced by BIPOC communities. Being plant-based isn’t a new concept, reusing what you have isn’t a new concept, using natural materials isn’t a new concept.
Here are some articles that explain how environmental justice and social justice go hand in hand.
Right now it’s hard to think about anything more than staying at home and being surrounded by COVID-19. At this moment in time it feels almost impossible to work towards being zero waste.
I live with my grandparents who are susceptible to the virus and I have no desire to find out what would happen if they did contract the virus. In order to ensure our safety we have been confined to our pretty spacious, but two bedroom New York City apartment. For the first few weeks I was the only one going outside to buy groceries. Where I could control the amount of plastic and single-use items. But since the virus has gotten much scarier and severe we have relied on grocery delivery services. The numbers of cases keep rising and it feels so does the threat of being infected with the virus. I now have no control over the packing, or plastic bag usage, and it truly pains my earth-conscious heart to see things double bagged in plastic bags, or a single potato in a plastic produce bag.
In this unprecedented time, I recognize our health is most important and so I focus on what I can control. My unavoidable increase in single-use plastic products doesn’t change what sustainable swaps that I continue to do. For example, I
Nothing is perfect right now. We need to focus on self care and health. We have all been affected by this in different ways, so taking care of ourselves, is the most important to get us and others through it. The planet is healing itself as we isolate ourselves, and for us to further help our one and only planet we must be healthy and heal ourselves.
Even when everything is looking gloomy as we tune in on the news, there is some positive news relating to our planet, in a sort of, reset state. People in Punjab are able to see the Himalayas for the first time in nearly thirty years! Also india as jobs came to a halt, “In Delhi, where air is normally choking, levels of both PM2.5 and the harmful gas nitrogen dioxide fell more that 70 percent.” (National Geographic) “In China, carbon emissions were down an estimated 18 percent between early February and mid-March due to falls in coal consumption and industrial output”’ (National Geographic) Overall, our toxic emissions have lowered since there are fewer cars on the road, fewer factories are up and running, fewer planes are flying. We are all in a standstill moment, which gives good old Mother Nature a nice breather.
If you have the resources, making your own hand sanitizer and masks will help the health of both yourself and others. I suggest using the actual Aloe Vera plant to be completely plastic free and you can compost the skin. I got mine in my local grocery store!
Hand sanitizer is:
⅔ rubbing alcohol
⅓ aloe Vera gel
For mine I add tea tree essential oils for the antibacterial properties and lavender essential oils for a nice smell (plus it is relaxing).
We never truly know what small thing becomes significant later on, for me that was going to environmental club in the fifth grade, which I guess you could say is where my zero waste and sustainability journey began. From then on I was hooked on learning how we could positively impact our one and only planet. I have always been interested in nature and animals, even as a kid I would always watch Animal Planet and read books about animals like sharks, spiders, or snakes from the library. One of my prominent memories was doing one of my science projects in elementary school was about windmills, I went to visit them in order to learn more about how they work. To be honest I don’t remember much else about that project but the memory of visiting them is forever ingrained in my brain. We always recycled and composted at my childhoods home, even though I didn’t always understand the impact we were having, I just knew it as something we did.
I did always have this image of making art to show the world how we can change ourselves and eventually the world to help as whole, I could see how we as humans have built homes and a city into nature, living in the suburbs solidified that as we were surrounded by hills and valleys. Even when I saw a bug or weed trying to live and survive by emerging on the sidewalk or on other daily man made objects that are around us, I knew that we share our space with them. When I was a Sophomore at SVA, I made this sculpture piece with hand painted wood, glass jars, and air plants to represent how we have built in the middle of nature. Then in the first semester of my Junior year at SVA, to talk about the polluting plastic in the ocean, I created a sort of freestyle installation of watercolor painted fish and coral and I hung found plastic fish toys around it. It was to embody how our fish are pretty much made of plastic due to how much they accidentally eat and evidently die from.
The true turning point of my journey into focusing completely on how we negatively impact the planet was during the second semester of my Junior year when I did a study abroad in Rome, that was when I came across Bea Johnson and discovered the zero waste community. From then on my whole world opened up, I started watching other YouTube videos about the lifestyle, such as Lauren Singer who became famous because she lives in New York and was able to reduce her waste so much that it as a whole fit into a single mason jar. I also found Gittemary Johansson who lives in Denmark and has explained how and why you should reduce your waste, and how making some smarter purchasing choices can directly impact both the planet as well as those who make the products and those who live near the production sites. Once I found these incredible people doing more that I could ever imagine was possible, I made it my life goal to be able to do the same. This open door of possibility got my desire to learn more about sustainability, our impact on the planet, and how we can make a difference on a fast track of absorbing as much information as I could. From then on out I watched as many documentaries as I could, such as “No Impact Man”, “A Plastic Ocean”, “Cowspiracy”, “Chasing Coral”, “Before The Flood” and I rewatched “An Inconvenient Truth”. Once I got back to the states and had the tools accessible to me I started making small switches to reusable items to reduce my waste, it started with a bamboo toothbrush and tote bags to the grocery store. I knew this was exactly what my focus needs to be on.
My final year at SVA had arrived and all I knew was that my statement needs to be about what we can do to help the planet and how we have also created the destruction of our only home. Both semesters were installations that you could walk through and feel immersed in, be one with the artwork. “Biodegradable Self” was completely made out of materials that if put in nature, would completely break down. I made a body cast of myself and used it as a mold to recreate myself multiple times over out of burlap, twine, and flowers. It’s to show that even as one person, we still have an impact. “Plastic Ocean” was a kelp forest completely made out of found plastic water bottles and plastic sheets that were painted on. I had blue lights over it to solidify the vibe of the ocean. When you walk through it you are just completely surrounded by plastic kelp and hit with the realization about how we have polluted our oceans with single-use plastics as well as the impact of micro-plastics have on our marine life.
After graduation you just feel like you are being dropped into the world with a “Good Luck” card. I focused on what I could do and change for myself to move forward on my journey. I got deeper into changing my lifelong plastic habits and mindless consumerism. I went to the farmers market more often, found bulk stores near me and bringing my own jars and produce bags, I got more into natural and homemade products by making my own toothpaste, body scrubs, and body butter. If there was an item I could switch to a more sustainable one I did, I got a safety razor instead of the plastic razors, I got a diva cup instead of tampons, I switched to bars of soap instead of body wash. I continued to compost and recycle but the reason behind it is because I realized and learned that things never truly “go away” when you throw them in the trash, we only have so much space on this planet and wasting it on space for something that could be recycled or composed or repurposed didn’t make sense. I made it my mission to always have either a repurposed jar or a reusable cup or thermos when I go out gallery hopping or to get coffee, I wanted to practice the lifestyle the best way I could. My journey hasn’t always been glamorous or perfect, sometimes I forget to bring my reusables or I give in to a packaged snack craving.
One of my favorite zero waste memories of mine was being at the farmers market composting section, dumping out my weeks worth of compost and I notice a photographer and a guy taking photos of a bracelet, I immediately recognize it as the “Braceletote” from a podcast episode on “Kiss That World” that I had recently started listening to. I started asking the photographer if it was indeed, the “Braceletote” and how I’ve heard about it on the podcast, but he had no idea and explained that he was just the photographer. The incredible thing was, the founder, Amer Jandali was the other guy and he was so surprised that I had heard about him and his product. It just goes to show that it’s important to compost.
The other advancement in my journey is that I briefly started a Zero Waste meetup group while living back home in California. We had weekly meetings and talked about any updates that have happened worldwide, and how we as individuals can make small changes to have a big gradual impact. I even set up a google docs page that whomever joined my group could add to and have access to the information that we have gathered. I was only able to have about a few months worth of meetings before I decided to move for a job, which fell through, but it did bring back to New York. Now on my sustainability journey I do my best to buy produce package free when I can, I bring my own togo container with me when I go out to eat, wash my hair with natural shampoo bars and conditioner bars, clean with natural supplies like distilled white vinegar that I get in a glass bottle when possible, I’ve been eating as a vegetarian for a little over a year to lower my CO2 emissions, take public transportation as much as I can (which is much easier in New York!), I even took Amtrak across the country from CA to NY instead of flying. I recycle properly, making sure that all the items are thoroughly washed and are indeed recyclable, I try to solely buy clothes that are secondhand and thrifted which ironically I started because I thought it was like a fun scavenger hunt, but now I understand more about the negative consequences of fast fashion and underpaid overworked sweatshop workers. I am nowhere where I want to be but this where I am at right now, and the more I learn, the more I will be able to reduce the negative impact I am having on our planet.