Minimalist Gift Ideas

So, your loved one has become a minimalist.

This may be concerning news to you, but I assure you that they are alright. No your friend hasn’t joined a cult and they don’t hate you just because you enjoy shopping. Your friend is just trying to improve their own life.

You want to be respectful to your pals new lifestyle, but it’s the holidays! How do you buy a gift for someone who doesn’t like stuff? Well I am here to help, this article isn’t a guide with specific gifts, but a guide to choosing something on your own that will help you be supportive of your loved one’s lifestyle and get them something for the holidays that they will truly value.

Without further ado let’s get into it.

Ask Them What They Want

The best way to buy a minimalist a gift is a pretty universal gifting strategy that works for almost anyone. Just ask them what they want, and actually buy based off the list they give you. I know some people feel that a gift is ruined if it isn’t a surprise, however your minimalist friend is likely to get rid off your gift if it isn’t something they actually want and if they don’t specifically say they’d prefer a surprise they probably want whatever they asked for. Given minimalists have put a lot of effort into paring down their belongings they aren’t apt to appreciate being given something they just don’t want and will have to declutter.

Get Them Foods

Foods are great gifts for minimalists. Why? Because your gift is edible it will be consumed and won’t contribute to clutter. I’d also advise goods that are at least a month shelf stable because we all tend to have a lot of food in the house around the holidays or be eating out a lot. Something that will stay good for a while like chocolates or alcohol gives your loved one the flexibility to enjoy your gift at their leisure and not worry about eating it before it expires. 

Gift an Experience

This is an idea that is increasingly popular not just among minimalists but the millennial generation as well. By experience I mean something like tickets to a show, massage or spa vouchers, movie theater or restaurant gift cards, or tickets to a game. Experiences, just like edible goods, don’t create any clutter and the values of minimalism encourage people to spend more time doing and less time getting things. You can help your loved one create a fun memory whilst also respecting their values.

Cash

I know there is a bit of a gifting taboo around cash, however there is an equal amount of jokes during the holidays about cash being all people really want. Especially if your friend is a minimalist I wouldn’t worry too much about them looking down on you for giving them cash. Minimalism is already unconventional and your loved one will likely appreciate your support of their new lifestyle and willingness to modify your gift giving habits for them.

Gift Cards

Just like with cash, people often say that giving gift cards is a cop out, but they are some of my absolute favorite gifts to receive. The beauty of a gift card is that there is no pressure to spend the money in a utilitarian way or to save it. Because you can only spend it in one place you are able to treat yourself at that location or retailer without feeling any twinges of guilt that you should be saving that money. Just like with cash, your friend will likely appreciate your support of their minimalist values and not be mad that you “copped out” of buying a gift for them.

Charitable Donation

On a similar vein to gift cards, if your minimalist friend is a very ardent supporter of a cause such as protecting the environment, women’s rights, or ending poverty consider donating to a charity on their behalf. This is a great option if your friend has told you that they truly don’t want anything this Christmas, a charitable donation not only shows support and respect to their minimalist lifestyle but to their passions as well. 

Offer to do Something for Them

Do their laundry, clean their car, meal prep their food for a week, pick up their kids from school, clean their bathroom, or do any other little chore for your loved one that can help make their life easier. Time is the most valuable resource we all have, and being willing to spend yours to making their life a bit easier is a really beautiful way to show you care. 

What No To Do

Thus far, we’ve focused on what you should do to successfully shop for a minimalist, I’d also like to provide a little guidance on what NOT to do.

Buy Something Generic

Ladies, we’ve all received generic Bath and Bodyworks gift sets and most of us have gifted them to others as well. The last thing you want to do when you buy a gift for someone who is a minimalist is buy something generic, minimalism involves being very choosy about what items you bring into your life and values vary too much from individual to individual to go the generic route. Look above for other ideas.

Buy Them a Physical Item if They Specifically Asked You Not To

Now this may be difficult if your family has a strong gift giving culture, however if your loved one has gone as far to actively request no physical gifts they are probably quite committed to the minimalist lifestyle. Don’t take it personally, because honestly your loved one’s choice isn’t about you. They don’t want to be rude they just want their lifestyle choices respected. If gift giving is your love language, consider the fact that it isn’t theirs and get them something non-physical.

These are my tips and ideas for how to buy gifts for a minimalist.

Of course this is general advice and not all of it will or can apply to every single minimalist, but all of this advice does align directly with the most common principles and interpretations of minimalism. If you still feel unsure, just have an open dialogue with your loved one about gifts.

This post is the first in a whole series I have planned about how to handle gifting as, or for, a minimalist or environmentally conscious person. Let me know in the comments below if you’d like me to cover anything specific on this topic or create a particular gift guide.

As always, thanks for reading and happy holidays!

Sustainability and Privilege: an Image Problem

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Is a sustainable lifestyle only the pursuit of the privileged?

Let’s talk about it.

First of all, let’s define what we’re talking about when we say a “sustainable lifestyle.” To me, a person living a sustainable lifestyle is anyone putting forth significant effort and thought to do good by the environment.

However, often times I see people online saying they can’t “afford” to be sustainable, usually in the comments of a post in which some sustainability creator is showing all the expensive zero waste swaps they own. That commenter is seeing a small aspect of that creator’s life and making broad assumptions about the sustainable living movement.

I’ve also had similar experiences in person, I’ll tell someone I’m vegetarian for environmental reasons and they’ll make an oddly aggressive comment saying “Well y’know sustainability is a privilege.” To which I usually respond with the fact that meat costs 5-6X more per pound than tofu and other vegetarian protein sources. The other person will then say something about veganism being expensive which is equally confusing to me because I’m not vegan and don’t promote that lifestyle. (No shade to vegans though, really just do what works for you.)

Yet, zero waste swap content and veganism really don’t represent a full picture what sustainable living is.

Let’s analyze what it means to live a sustainable life from the broader perspective of the five tenets of zero waste.

Refuse – Not accepting things you do not need.

Reduce – Not acquiring new items you do not have purpose for. 

Reuse – Turning items you already have into items you need, but do not have. Preference buying second hand.

Recycle – Recycle as much material as possible and preference items that come in recyclable packaging.

Rot – Compost

Nothing in these five tenets encourages you to go out and buy a bunch of new, fancy, expensive zero waste swaps or vegan yogurt substitutes. In fact it’s quite the opposite. When we view the tenets of zero waste away from social media and minimalist, polished aesthetics we are encouraged not to buy anything at all if we can help it. If we need something we’re encouraged to be resourceful and creative and use what we have or buy something second hand.

This difference between how sustainable living is portrayed in social media and what the core values of it really are frustrates me for two main reasons.

First, it discourages people from becoming a part of the movement. As a member of the American middle class, I’m financially privileged from a global perspective. Yet even I felt like there was no possible way for me to “afford” a sustainable lifestyle at first. This was the direct result of learning about how to be more sustainable from influencers online. However, there’s not really any other information source I’ve found that is as easy to get to and goes in as much depth as these influencers do as far as the minutiae of how to live more sustainably. So for better or worse these influencers are the face of the movement to a lot of folks.

Second, this idea that you need “a lot” of money to live a sustainable life gives people an excuse not to try. This may be an issue somewhat unique to the US, but there’s a lot of research that shows Americans are very unlikely to identify themselves as upper class and are reluctant to admit to financial privilege. Even people in the top tenth percentile of wealth are likely to consider themselves middle class, despite obviously being upper class.  Because over 90% of Americans don’t see themselves as upper-class, when sustainability gets the image of being only for the financially privileged over 90% of people just aren’t going to try.

And, as we’ve already discussed, the principles of sustainability aren’t about spending money. It’s about buying as little as possible and saving money.

Now, all this is not to say that there isn’t privilege involved in pursuing a sustainable lifestyle.

When we talk about saving money and cutting back on consumption there’s an inherent implication that there is some excess to cut back on. If you live in poverty and already cannot afford the things you need there’s no way to cut back. Additionally, if you are relying only on the foods you can get for free you don’t have the privilege of being choosey about your diet.

There are also issues that hinge not on socioeconomic privileges, but access more broadly. You may be wealthy but that doesn’t mean you have access to public transit or bulk bins. Maybe you do have access to bulk bins but have allergies and therefore cannot use them without cross contamination concerns. Maybe you’re a teen who lives at home with your parents and they just won’t accommodate the changes you’re interested in making. There is all variety of life situations such as illness, family structure, work, and geographic location that affect each individual’s ability to do, or not to do certain sustainable practices.

However, the conversation is often simplified down to just socioeconomic privilege and sort of implies that it is only the absolute wealthiest people who are privileged enough to live sustainably. Yet that just isn’t the case.

Making the feasibility of a sustainable lifestyle solely about financial privilege is pretty reductive. There are plenty of sustainable changes that can be made for free or for the same cost as their alternatives as well.

It’s also important to expand our ideal of what living a sustainable lifestyle really means. Yes, pursuing the perfect social media airbrushed picture of sustainability full of expensive swaps and farmer’s markets would be costly. But that isn’t all that sustainable living is and we can’t define sustainable living through unattainable zero waste perfection.

To me, it’s more about putting the effort in.

Don’t have access to bulk bins or public transit? Don’t worry, there are still other things you can do to lower your footprint and you don’t need to beat yourself up about things outside your control. And, if for whatever reason your situation really doesn’t allow you to make lifestyle changes you can always engage in activism which has equal and potentially greater value than individual changes.

Even just talking about climate change in everyday conversation is powerful. There’s a lot of misinformation about climate change here in the US where moneyed conservative interests have spent exorbitant amounts over the years to create confusion about it.

I just don’t want this skewed idea that you need tons of money to even try to be sustainable to discourage people. Even if you lack money, access, or time to take part in certain sustainable practices there is always value in doing whatever bit you can and talking about the issues.

So, is there privilege in leading a sustainable lifestyle? Yes, of course. But at least by the standards of a developed nation you by no means need to be rich to do so and there is so much more that goes into it than money alone.

The expensive version of sustainability we are so used to seeing online isn’t reality, it’s a narrow image that’s become the face of a movement that is so much more than that and we have got to expand our view of sustainable living to be more inclusive to all kinds of life situations and get new people on board.

This is a complex topic and I could write about it forever, I of course can’t cover every example and nuanced situation in my post but I’ve done my best to offer a balanced perspective. 

Now I would love to hear from you all in the comments. What are your thoughts on this topic? Is sustainable living only achievable for the wealthy? Do you think social media has distorted the true values of the movement? Let me know below!

Actually Eco-Friendly Journals You’ll Love Writing In

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While bullet journals are amazing tools for productivity and mindfulness, one of the best parts of having one is the totally superficial fun of getting to shop for new journals when you finish one!

Not only are you coming off the high of filling up the old book but you get to order a new one too.

For me, my bullet journal is an essential tool that is with me all day everyday. So it’s a purchase I like to spend a little time deciding on and honestly I just really love an excuse to spend a few hours browsing stationery online. (Yes I’m kind of a nerd, you caught me.)

I found my current journal at a T.J. Maxx and it is made with recycled leather and eco-friendly paper, I was considering repurchasing from the brand but I can’t find a trace of them online so I can only assume they went under. So now I’m looking for a new eco-friendly bullet journal.

However, when I googled “eco-friendly journals” the majority of products and listicles I saw were greenwashed products. Specifically a large amount of Italian made journals that had covers made with recycled leather, which while that is nice, simply having a recycled cover isn’t enough in my opinion to make a journal “eco-friendly.”

Journals are made from paper which is made from trees, which are those plants that literally suck the greenhouse gases causing global warming out of the air. In my opinion, if the paper in a journal isn’t Forest Stewardship Council certified, recycled, or the company doesn’t otherwise provide information on the sustainability of their paper the product is greenwashed. (If you’re not familiar, greenwashing refers to products that are marketed as eco-friendly but actually are not.)

So, I’ve decided to compile this list for you all of the journals and notebooks I’ve found that are truly eco-friendly and not just greenwashed.

Decomposition

Decomposition is a full line of notebooks made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials. They sell composition books, spiral notebooks, sketchbooks, and journals in a variety of sizes and they have designs available in blank, ruled, and dot grid paper. They’re most known for their beautiful cover designs that all have a very instagrammable and hipster vibe. Unfortunately, their journal line is limited compared to their notebooks and the journals don’t share the distinct decomposition design style. However, their journals are still a good choice and you could also choose any of their notebook offerings as a bullet journal as well.

Price: $5-$17

Paper Type: Recycled

Onyx and Green

Onyx and Green is a full service office supply wholesaler that creates products with recycled and sustainably sourced materials. Their journals are very unique because the paper isn’t made with trees at all but with stone! As a result, the paper is both water and tear resistant. The journals are available in ruled paper with 5 different cover designs. You can’t buy directly from Onyx and Green as a consumer but their journals are available on Amazon.

Price: $13-$15

Paper Type: Stone

Dingbats

Dingbats is a journal company who displays endangered species and ecosystems on the front of their bright and colorful covers. The products boast a variety of sustainability features including Forest Stewardship Council paper certification, biodegradable toxin-free covers, and being 100% vegan. Their Earth line features all the bells and whistles ideal for bullet journaling including numbered pages, dot grid style, two ribbon markers, back pocket, index pages, and key pages. Their Wildlife line offers more multipurpose journals available in specialty sizes and a full range of paper types including ruled, blank, dot grid, and square grid. 

Price: $20-$23

Paper Type: Forest Stewardship Council certified

Rocketbook

Rocketbook creates a line of fully reusable notebooks. You write on the pages like a regular notebook and then use their app to take photos of your notes and upload them to cloud storage. After your notes have been uploaded you can wipe off the notebook pages and reuse them indefinitely! The major downside however is that the product itself is not produced sustainably. I debated whether I wanted to include this on the list as truly sustainable, and decided to include it because if the book is reused for years and years and years as intended it would have less impact than conventional alternatives. I’d recommend this option for anyone who likes high tech gadgets and prefers to have digital access to notes.

Price: $32-$35

Paper Type: Reusable

TRUEGRASSES

TRUEGRASSES is a Taiwanese company selling a small collection of sustainable home and office products with the slogan “bring nature into culture.” Their journals feature sleek and simple design and are made with Forest Stewardship Council certified recycled paper. TRUEGRASSES is also a member of 1% for the Planet and is partnered with three other environmental NGOs in Taiwan. In the US, their products are available on Amazon and there are two journals with a square grid and one with blank pages available.

Price: $7-$13

Paper Type: Forest Stewardship Council certified recycled

These next three headings don’t contain specific product recommendations but are other methods you can use to find sustainable journals.

Etsy

If you aren’t familiar with it, Etsy is an online platform for small scale artists and craftspeople to sell their goods. It’s generally more sustainable to support small scale productions and a lot of craftspeople are environmentally conscious. This is the best option if you are looking for a custom notebook as the majority of Etsy sellers provide or will accommodate customization. Just type “eco-friendly journal” into the search bar and you will see a ton of unique, artsy journals made from recycled paper to choose from.

Locally Made

Another option is to search specifically for a notebook that is made locally. You can search by geographical area on Etsy or shop retailers that carry local goods in person. My hometown has a craft market in the mall and my college town has  co-op shop that sells goods from local artisans. You can also keep your eyes peeled at local festivals as I’ve seen local hand made journals at music fests, art fairs, flea markets, renaissance fairs, block parties, and harvest festivals. This method is of course not possible if no one happens to do notebooks in your area and tends to be quite expensive. However, it’s worth looking into if you have a big budget and enjoy supporting local businesses.

Second Hand

Last but not least, you can often find journals and notebooks at second hand shops, yard sales, and flea markets. This is a good option if you just aren’t picky and are very frugal. Usually these items will have minor cosmetic issues and might be missing a few pages but are still perfectly usable. I’m more sentimental about journals so I don’t tend to buy them this way but have found a ton of good notebooks for my classes this way. You could also ask around among friends and family if anyone has an unused or mostly unused journal laying around, as many people get enticed by cute journals in the store but never end up using them. You may also be able to find journals via freecycle, Facebook trading groups, or an app like Bunz. All of these methods allow you to use something that has already been purchased that might otherwise have gone to landfill.

Wrap-Up

I hope this list helped you find an actually sustainable journal you like and will enjoy using until you’ve filled up every page. Or perhaps just given you a better idea about how to go about shopping in an environmentally conscious way.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a wonderful day.

What did you think of this post? Do you write in a journal or bullet journal regularly? What sustainable journal/office supply companies do you buy from? Let me know in the comments below.

Minimalism: Getting Back on the Horse

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I’ve just hit my low point of the semester.

Why? I could blame it on external factors, but largely it’s just the existential dread that I’m always dealing with. The biggest factor affecting me is just the general stress and uncertainty of being a graduating college senior.

As a result, I’ve really fallen off the boat with my minimalism practice.

Not just when it comes to purchasing of material goods, but also the other non-material aspects of minimalism that are beneficial to mental health. 

In my life, I try to apply minimalism not just to the accumulation of material goods, but also to “throwing out” negative thoughts and behaviors. I also use minimalist principles to help myself have the willpower to avoid overspending on consumable goods like packaged candies and take out food as well.

However, in the last five or six weeks I’ve really let myself down and not been fully practicing minimalism as I have in the past. I’ve been overspending, overeating, spending too much time on screens, and being way too hard on myself.

So I’ll now share with you all some the process I’ve used to start feeling better and get back on track with my minimalism practice.

First and foremost I had to let go of all the guilt and self hatred I was harboring towards myself for what I was perceiving as unacceptable mistakes. I’m only human so I’m going to mess up, there’s really no need to feel bad about something that can’t be avoided. Guilt like all emotions serves a purpose, however in my opinion it goes too far and should be let go when guilt prevents you from moving forward and putting forth your best effort.

Next, I had to do what I call a “reset.” It’s something I do whenever I come off of any particularly difficult time, whether it be a very stressful week of school or a bought of depression or anxiety. The reset usually begins whenever I finish class for the day and starts with basic clean up, I clean up both my room and myself and do things like shave, put lotion on, vacuum, clean dishes, and do laundry. I find these types of activities very relaxing and cathartic, and it’s a nice way to feel like you’ve accomplished something when you’re brain is feeling too fried for much else. I’ll then work on doing only the work I absolutely need to have done for the next day so I don’t have it looming over me and creating more stress.

Next, I spend some time with my journal, I write stream of consciousness about how I’ve been feeling and what’s been going on and going wrong. I then determine three or less things I control that are the main “cause” of why I’m feeling down and come up with a plan to improve on each issue. I don’t always come up with three, but I put that limit on it so I don’t set myself up to fail by trying to make too many changes at once.

At this point I also spend some time acknowledging and accepting the fact that it will take time to get back into healthier habits, progress on changing your lifestyle is not linear. For example, just because I do well with healthy eating for two months and lose some weight doesn’t mean I will be able jump right back into that same level of healthy eating after gaining weight. It’s generally best to make lifestyle changes in a slow, steady way so that the changes are more likely to stick and this applies when you are trying to get back into the swing of things as well.

In this most recent reset I determined the main causes of my distress to be overthinking. My plan to address it is to beef up on mindfulness practices like journaling and yoga. When I notice myself overthinking a choice I want to be more intuitive about the process, I will make the choice I know is best for me, do that thing, and then move on to other thoughts or activities, effectively “decluttering” the tiresome process of belaboring every little choice I make during the day.

Then, I journaled about minimalism specifically. I used journal prompts about minimalism I did at the start of my journey because I wanted to compare how I was feeling then, when it was exciting and new about a year ago, to now, when I am feeling a bit more frustrated. This helped me to remind myself why I began my minimalism journey in the first place and looking back also helped me to see how much I’ve gained from minimalism already.

 Thinking more deeply about it also helped me see that minimalism functions in service to my environmental, financial, and mental well-being goals instead of being a goal in and of itself like it was when I was first starting out. Making this distinction changes little in how I plan to practice minimalism, but does explain why I haven’t felt as passionate and has helped me refocus my goals.

During the rest of my day on a reset evening I will do basically whatever activity I think will help give my brain a break and help me relax. I may watch a little Netflix or Youtube, but do avoid being on screens for more than an hour or so on these nights. I might read, catch up on calling friends and family, work on bullet journal layouts, go on a walk, meal prep, grocery shop, dance, or play ukulele.

Dedicating a whole evening to resetting my life and reflecting is what I have found to be the most effective way to get myself out of a funk. It always feels odd to put this time aside for myself because when I’ve been in a funk I’m often already behind on work and feel guilty for taking additional “break time.” But if I don’t take the time to clear my mind, my mental state gets worse and I fall even farther behind. Furthermore, just because I haven’t been working during a certain time doesn’t mean my  mind ever got a break, when you are too anxious or sad to work your brain isn’t getting a break and you will still need time to rest.

Since doing this reset I’ve felt much more at peace and have been able to reconnect with minimalism and cut back on my overspending, overeating, and screen time.

I hope sharing my story is helpful to others who are struggling to get minimalism, or any other lifestyle change to stick.

Especially with minimalism, the image portrayed online is often one of perfection and the imperfect moments and struggles are not given the attention they deserve. This tendency makes minimalism seem inaccessible and can turn people off to the idea or be discouraging to people who are new to the practice and can’t get to that perfect look they see online.

As mentioned before, lifestyle changes don’t progress linearly. What counts the most is not achieving the ideal seen on social media, but genuinely improving your life no matter how many times you fall off the horse and have to climb back on.

How have you handled “falling off the horse” from a lifestyle change? Share your stories and let me know in the comments below.

Non-White Environmentalists to Become Your New Idols

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Anyone ever notice that the face of sustainability in media is pretty damn white?

This is an issue that’s bothered me for a while now, but I just haven’t known what to do about it. How did the environmental movement get such a white public image? Especially when indigenous communities in the US have been fierce protectors of the environment long before the modern environmental movement.

Despite being bothered by this issue most of the people I follow online in relation to sustainability are white. I realized I needed to find some new environmentalist role models to follow and I imagined a lot of other people, particularly members of other racial minorities, might be feeling the same way.

So, to help myself and everyone else feeling the same way I’ve compiled this list of non-white American environmentalists. As a note, I’m focusing on Americans since that is where I am from and I don’t see it as my place to comment on representation in the movement in other countries.

Dominique Drakeford

Dominique Drakeford is a black environmental activist, influencer, and writer  in Brooklyn with a focus on fashion and beauty. MelaninASS, which stands for melanin and sustainable style, is her website that serves as a hub for all things related to sustainable fashion and black and indigenous people of color. The site features profiles of people of color who have started sustainable fashion brands as well as providing practical advice for consumers about beauty and wellness. Dominique also co-founded the Sustainable Brooklyn symposium series, a series of conferences held in Brooklyn that discusses sustainability and climate justice.

Follow Drakeford on Twitter and Instagram

Stephen Steele

Stephen Steele is a black fashion entrepreneur and the founder of Kind Socks, a company that makes socks that are not only sustainable and ethical but colorful, stylish, and fun. Fueled by a personal love of socks and passion for sustainability Steele was disappointed that he couldn’t find socks that were both sustainable and fashionable. Kind Socks are created with responsibly sourced organic cotton and manufactured in a safe working environment with fair wages.

Follow Steele and Kind Socks on Instagram

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is perhaps one of the biggest names in environmental activism in the US right now. She earned her seat in the House of Representatives in a historic race against Joe Crowley, who’d held his seat for 10 terms, the results of the race made national news and she became the youngest women in congress at age 29 and of the few Hispanic members. Since then she’s worked hard to protect this planet and created the highly influential Green New Deal, a plan that showed how the US could move towards a new sustainable society in under 10 years. The plan received massive media coverage and whether or not democratic presidential candidates support it has become a key issue for voters.

Follow Ocasio-Cortez on Instagram and Twitter

Jamie Margolin

Jamie Margolin is still in high school yet she has not let class get in the way of being a Latina activist bad ass! She is the founder and director of the Zero Hour youth climate movement, an organization that has organized several large, influential youth climate action campaigns. She has spoken at over 20 conferences this past year about climate change and has even testified before congress on the issue.

Follow Jamie on Twitter and Instagram

Elizabeth Yeampierre

Elizabeth Yeampierre is the current director of UPROSE, the oldest Latino community organization in Brooklyn that aims to create intergenerational, multicultural, community-led change for climate justice. She has so many impressive accomplishments I really just cannot list them all in this post, but here are just a few: spoke at the White House Forum on Environmental Justice, founded the NYC Climate Justice Youth Summit, has served as the Dean of Puerto Rican Students at Yale University, spoke at Pope Francis’s Climate Change Rally, and helped lead the 2015 People’s Climate March mobilization which had over 400,000 participants.

Follow Yeampierre on Twitter

Youheum Son

Youheum Son is an extreme minimalist, sustainability, and wellness content creator of Korean descent. Her youtube videos alone have pulled in over 8 million views and she also runs a blog ,creates digital workbooks, and works as a life coach. If you’re searching for inspiration to become more sustainable, minimalist, or improve your wellbeing Youheum’s content is a great place to start.

Follow Son on Youtube, Instagram, and her website

Miya Yoshitani

Miya Yoshitani is the executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network which works with Asian, immigrant, and refugee communities across the state of California. She started working in community organizing at a young age as Greenpeace canvasser in Chicago and hasn’t slowed down since. She attended the first National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit where she helped draft the original Principles of Environmental Justice which has laid the groundwork for the movement since.

Follow Yoshitani on Twitter

Klee Benally

Klee Benally is a Navajo media maker and activist who has been a key part in the founding of a number of organizations protecting the environment and indigenous peoples. Currently based in Flagstaff, Arizona he is the lead singer of a Navajo punk rock band Blackfire and is in charge of strategic planning and training for Indigenous Action Media. He has produced a number of short films and has helped establish several other activist organizations including Protect the Peaks, Haul No!, and Táala Hooghan Infoshop.

Follow Benally on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and his website

Dallas Goldtooth

Dallas Goldtooth is a Dakota activist and campaign coordinator for the Indigenous Environmental Network’s Keep it in the Ground initiative. He has been especially vocal regarding the Keystone XL pipeline and more generally putting an end to the use of fossil fuels. He is also a Dakota language and culture educator and facilitates workshops in non-violent direct action. Additionally he is the founder of an indigenous comedy group called the 1491’s and believes humor is a powerful way to address life’s problems.

Follow Goldtooth on Twitter and Instagram

Brett Isaac

Brett Isaac has a story that may surprise you, his Navajo community had been relying on revenue and financial support from a coal plant on their land for nearly three generations. When it was announced that the plant would be shutting down it was tough for the community to decide what to do, but Issaac helped lead the change to solar. He wanted his community to get involved in solar in part because it aligns much better with Navajo philosophy. The tribe has so far built two solar facilities and is working on a third. Brett has continued to help bring solar power to indigenous communities across the nation through his current work with Navajo Power.

Read more about Isaac’s work here.

Wrap-Up

I hope reading through this list was as inspiring to you all as it was for me to make it! I did my best to represent a variety of racial and ethnic identities in this post but of course I haven’t been able to represent everyone.

I’d also like to make it known that by writing this post I don’t mean to throw shade at white people at all, I have no issues with white people being in the movement. I want as many people to take up the cause as possible regardless of race. However, I also want to acknowledge and showcase the amazing work being done by under represented groups.

Who are your environmental idols? Would you be interested in lists featuring environmentalists of other under represented identities? (i.e. not race but sexuality, ability etc.) Let me know in the comments!

Sustainable Hair Care: Ethique Review

My full size Ethique shampoo and conditioner bars after 3 months of use.

About six months into my personal journey to become more eco-friendly I ran out of my conventional shampoo and conditioner that came in plastic bottles. And I’ll admit to not having been very excited about the prospect of having to find new plastic free hair products once I finished my old ones. 

When searching for a replacement my primary concerns were the sustainability of the product and the price point. As anyone who has tried to purchase sustainable beauty products knows they can be quite expensive. Everything I initially found was out of my price range but as I continued to search I found Ethique.

Ethique is an Australian brand making a splash in the sustainable beauty scene. They’ve recently launched in a UK retail chain, begun being carried on the Walmart website in the US, and are available through Amazon. They claim to be zero waste and are plastic free, palm oil free, cruelty free, and vegan. And with the credential of being a certified B corp it all seems pretty legit. Their social media campaign encourages consumers to #giveupthebottle in order to reduce the plastic waste from packaging personal care products and aims to be the full range brand that will make it easy for you to do so.

Overall Impressions

I was initially skeptical because each shampoo and conditioner bar they sell costs 16-18 USD, however I saw many reviews that corroborated the company claims that each bar was 8 months worth of product. I was also worried that solid products would be really hard to use or just not work as well. So I ordered the Ethique sampler box that has three shampoos and two conditioners in a miniature size to try out.

Once my box of sampler bars arrived there was a bit of a learning curve after I got them in the shower. First issue, I kept on dropping the bars, you really do need to pay a bit more attention to hold on to them that you might expect.

Another difficulty is that the bars sud up much less than conventional products, the shampoo creates only some suds and the conditioner bars none at all. It was a bit difficult to tell if you had actually spread the conditioner through the full length of your hair or not, and it took me about two weeks to get the hang of it.

Another factor is that you will need to find a way to store the bars so that they can dry out completely between uses, meaning inside your shower or on your bathroom sink will not be an optimal location. Personally, I cut some holes in the bottom of a used yogurt container and kept the bars on my dresser between uses. I still had the lid to the container as well so it doubled as a handy travel case, I used the same technique when I repurchased some bars in the full size with an old deli meat container.

How I store my shampoo and conditioner bars.

The only really issue I had with the bars is that they are not great for color treated hair, Ethique claims that all their products are totally color safe but they don’t hold a candle to traditional products that are specifically made for color treated hair. I had a fresh dye job with a color I’d used a lot before, and I had never seen that color fade as quickly before I used Ethique bars.

As far as longevity the bars really did last a long time, making their impact on my wallet less than I initially thought. I washed my hair at home with only the products in the sampler kit for nearly 3 months. Given that the samplers are one fifth the size of the standard size bars I estimate that the full size bars will last me about 11 months.

However, if you really are strapped for cash buying a full size shampoo and conditioner pair will run you about 40 USD up front, which may not be feasible for everyone. For me, I did have to budget the purchase for the full size bars and wait for a few weeks to be able to buy them. Whether or not these are expensive to you will really just depend on your income and how you budget your money.

Quality and Performance

I’ll take you through my opinions of each bar in the sampler box. For reference, my hair is fine but thick and voluminous, tends more to dryness than oiliness, and is naturally slightly wavy.

Frizz Wrangler Shampoo This bar really did cut down on the frizz in my hair, of the three shampoos it was definitely the best for my hair type and left my hair looking and feeling great. I purchased this shampoo in the full size.

Heali Kiwi Shampoo Another great shampoo, I liked the way it looked and felt in my hair but I did prefer the frizz wrangler.

Saint Clements Shampoo I generally stayed away from this bar because it is not meant for my hair type, I only used it once and nothing bad happened but take my opinion on this bar with a grain of salt.

The Guardian Conditioner The best conditioner I have used in my entire life. When you initially put it in your hair it lacks that immediately soft feeling from liquid conditioner. However, once your hair dries and especially after a few uses your hair will be softer and shinier than ever. Totally amazing! I purchased this bar in the full size.

Wonderbar Conditioner I did not like this conditioner, it just didn’t seem to actually condition my hair or make it feel soft like I hoped. Now this didn’t really surprise me because this bar is mostly coconut oil and I have tried coconut oil on my hair as conditioner in the past and found it didn’t work well for me.

In short, here are the pros and cons of the products overall.

Pros  

  • Sustainable product and company in many way
  • Products perform well and there is variety for different hair types
  • Available on Amazon
  • Sampler pack prevents you from having to invest a lot to find bars that work for your hair

Cons

  • Pricey upfront 
  • The learning curve
  • Hard to hold on to (could be a problem for those with certain medical conditions)
  • Bars are not as color safe as the company claims

Conclusion

At the end of the day I would 100% recommend trying Ethique’s shampoo and conditioner to anyone who is interested in trying greener hair care or who appreciates high quality product.

Have you tried Ethique products or other sustainable brands? What is your eco-friendly beauty routine like? Let me know in the comments below.

Mindfulness Tips You Can Actually Use

Photo by Arthur Brognoli on Pexels.com

Mindfulness has become quite the buzzword in recent years, perhaps even a bit overused and watered down. But I can assure you mindfulness is something worth learning about.

At the basic level, mindfulness is an easy concept. It’s about developing awareness of yourself in the present moment without judgement.

Now, if you’re like me and “being in the present moment” doesn’t come naturally to you, that phrase may be something you’ve written off as being useless and for people who naturally have more serotonin than you do. But, what it means is not obsessing over the past or worrying about the future, in psychological terms we call these obsessive thinking patterns ruminating.

Ruminating is one of the number one factors associated with anxiety and depression, the more you ruminate the worse your mental health will get. This was really hard for me to wrap my head around, I have always been someone who obsesses over the future and it never occurred to me that it was driving a lot of my anxiety.

This brings me into the next part of the definition of mindfulness, developing awareness. You need to know what is going on in your own head to be able to address it. For many years my awareness was incredibly low, I buried myself in work and thought that ignoring feelings would make them go away. Turns out, I was wrong again, in psychological terms we call that nasty habit of ignoring a feeling repression. The fun saying my professors have taught me about repression is that repression=depression.

The third part of mindfulness, “without judgement” is key. It won’t help to be aware of your present thoughts if you just end up hating yourself because you feel like your thoughts and feelings are wrong somehow. You need to develop a sense of self-acceptance, being too critical is unhelpful and can lead to feelings or worthlessness that drive depression.

So, mindfulness isn’t just a trend, the main components of mindfulness target factors that are huge drivers of anxiety and depression. And in fact there’s a mountain of research to backup mindfulness’s benefits, so much so that therapists have even developed a method of talk therapy that is focused on mindfulness.

Beyond that, aspects of mindfulness can be seen across the course of history in nearly every major religion. The Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish diasporas all feature meditative aspects that fall under the umbrella of mindfulness.

As I’ve alluded to, my journey with mindfulness hasn’t been straightforward, and it took me years after being introduced to the concept to really understand what it meant and how it could help me. The following are the mindfulness practices that have been the most impactful for me, if you are new to mindfulness I would suggest starting with just one practice that interests you and adding new habits slowly over time. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t quite get it at first or see benefits right off the bat, just keep an open mind and be patient with yourself. I hope that these tips can be as helpful to you as they have been to me.

Mood Tracking

If you tend to repress feelings or struggle to be aware of your emotions this practice will be especially impactful for you. Making it a habit to write down your mood at least once a day forces you take stock of how you’re doing when you might otherwise have ignored your feelings. You’ll also be able to establish mood patterns and notice how and when your moods fluctuate. For me, I’ve noticed that if I’m in a spacey mood several days in a row I’m likely to slide into a depressive episode. When I notice myself getting spaced out I can now take proactive steps to decrease the severity of the depressive episode or sometimes avoid it entirely. If you’re looking for an app to start tracking with I’d recommend Daylio, it’s what I use and it really shines because it is customizable and creates charts and graphs of your mood data.

Journaling

If you are ever overwhelmed by life, try writing down everything going on inside your head. It is a surprisingly helpful way to calm down and process the information. Journaling can feel overwhelming to start because there are about as many methods to journaling as there are people who do it. My journaling practice consists mostly of prompts from self help books and writing stream of consciousness when I’m getting overwhelmed or emotional. If you don’t know where to start, I’d recommend setting a goal to write stream of consciousness 2-3 times a week and explore from there. When I first tried journaling it really surprised me how much writing things down helped me put problems in perspective so that I could then move forward and tackle the issues head on. If you’re looking for journaling resources Pinterest is my go to.

Yoga

Yes, another buzz word and super trendy practice. But once again, there’s a reason yoga has been become increasingly popular worldwide. Most items on this list focus on developing emotional and mental awareness, but yoga also helps you develop physical awareness. These are all the benefits I’ve gotten from yoga: improved body image, heightened body awareness, decreased anxiety, basic meditation skills, and I’ve learned breathing exercises. Many people are intimidated by the idea of going to yoga classes or can’t afford it, however a huge number of yogis including myself practice primarily at home and are self taught. There is a wealth of free online resources for learning yoga and my personal favorites are the Down Dog Yoga app and the Fightmaster Yoga channel on Youtube, both have massive variety of practices in regard to types of poses, length, and difficulty. There is also a variety of resources for specialized groups such as plus-sized students and those coping with all types of medical conditions.

Read Self Help Books

The self help genre gets a bit of a bad rep in pop culture for being cheesy and is often portrayed as being only for the desperate. This bad rep kept me away from self help books until quite recently, what pushed me to try it was working with the fourth therapist in a row who I struggled to connect with. (There’s a ton of reasons for this but that’s a separate post, go to therapy if you are struggling with mental health issues!) However, I still wanted to work on  improving my mental health but I didn’t want to pour all the time and energy into something that wasn’t working very well for me. I am so glad I did, the knowledge I’ve found in self-help books has been incredibly helpful and I’ve actually made faster progress just reading on my own than seeing a therapist every two weeks. The key to getting the maximum value out of these books is to do all the journaling prompts and exercises in them, that reflection is where a lot of the value comes from. The first book I read which is still my favorite is Yoga Mind by Suzan Colón, it teaches you one yoga principle for mental wellness a day for thirty days.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a practice that aims to help you develop a better relationship with food and improve your ability to listen to your body and make food choices you can feel good about. I became interested in mindful eating as a way to stop stress eating and it has completely changed the way I think about food, hunger, and fullness. It has really helped me to curb cravings and feel more satisfied after meals, all just by changing my mindset. Mindful eating is a bit harder to explain that the other items on this list, but in short if you’d like to improve your relationship with food look into it. I’ve been using the Mindful Eating Workbook by Dr. Vinnci Tsui and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, mindfulness can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. These practices I’ve shared are just a few ways you can make mindfulness a part of your life but nearly anything can be a mindful practice when it is done with intentional awareness and in alignment with the principles I’ve described.

Are you interested in starting any of the practices on this list? How do you practice mindfulness already in your own life? Let me know in the comments!