16 Creative Ways to Upcycle Items in Your Home or Dorm Room

Hello!

This week’s post is going to be ideas for how you can reuse and upcycle items in your home. All these ideas are things that I’ve done whilst living in college dorm rooms.

Reuse is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental footprint, especially if that reuse allows you to divert waste from landfill. Personally, I’ve found that figuring out how to re-use items is as much about your crafting abilities as it is about your creativity and mindset. So I wanted to share my own most useful and most interesting examples of re-use because seeing what others have done online has been the most helpful thing for me when it comes to figuring out how to re-use.

These ideas are a good mix of easy and common zero waste swaps and wells as some more creative ideas.

Mini Bookshelf

You can stack milk crates on top of each other or side by side to create a miniature bookshelf for yourself. Milk crates are the perfect size to fit a vast majority of books and can often be found in thrift stores or are given away when a local factory or plant shuts down. If you want to spice up the look a little bit you can also spray paint your crates like I did for an extra pop of color.

Mini Crate Seats

This second one is another milk crate hack. I created two of these miniature stool seats by cutting some bath mats to size to use on top for padding and then adding some ribbon so you don’t have to see the rough cut edge. This craft was fun, easy, and cheap to make and they’ve been awesome to have in the residence hall. The great thing about them is that they’re little so they can be easily stowed away when not in use and are great to have a around for moving as well.

Bedside Table

Need a bedside table? Stack two milk crates on top of each other, hit them with the spray paint, and you’re all set! You can also put a cute plate on top to prevent smaller items from falling through the holes.

Plant Stand

Alright, this is the last milk crate hack I promise. (It’s not my fault they’re incredibly versatile.) This one is great if you have a short desk or dresser but a taller window so your plants need some more height to get maximal lighting. In general, especially for a college kid I 100% recommend finding some crates before you go off to school. They’re perfect because they can serve so many purposes which is great when you’re moving around a lot like most students.

Soap Dishes

When I started using solid beauty products I didn’t really want to spend the money of a nice sustainably made looking soap try so I just cut some holes in the bottom of this deli meat container (this is back before I went vegetarian). The lid is convenient because it makes it easy to carry my things to the communal bathroom down the hall and I can also rest the container on top of the lid to catch the water that comes out so my dresser doesn’t get wet.

Conditioner Bottle

I was having trouble using my conditioner bar in its solid form so I decided to melt it down and add water to it to make it more like a conventional conditioner. I’d initially thought of buying or thrifting a pump top glass bottle like I have for my dish soap but realized I could reuse the old Dr. Bronner’s bottle from the soap I’d just finished.

Yoga Mat Bag

This is one of my favorite DIY’s, it’s been so convenient and nice to have a proper bag for my yoga mat especially when I need to carry it in the rain. There are a ton of tutorials online about how to make jeans into a yoga mat bag and I also wrote a post about my personal experience doing so. This is a great way for you to save money and keep textiles out of the landfill.

Bulk Shopping Bags

The only thing better than buying bulk goods sustainably and package free is doing it upcycled bags you made yourself. There are a ton of bulk bags available for cheap on amazon but most have not been sustainably produced. Making some bags yourself is a great way to go the extra mile by diverting textile waste from landfill in addition to reducing your plastic waste.

Rags

This tip is such a quick and easy way to reduce waste. Instead of using paper towels and napkins you can cut up old t-shirts, towel, or any textile and simply wash them when you’re done using them.

Bulk Foods Storage

This is a classic and indispensable low waste tip. As you transition from packaged goods to buying bulk save jars from products like applesauce, salsa, or peanut butter. You’ll be able to store all types of food in them and even use them as cups.

Mouth Guard Case

Need a mouth guard for sports or late night grinding? Save yourself a little plastic and store it in a re-used food container. Be sure to cut out a few holes in the bottom to make sure your mouth guard dries out properly.

Compost Storage

I’ve seen a lot of folks online who buy special containers to store their compost in, but for me because I don’t do my own compost directly but rather bring it to a community compost location, therefore I have no need for a special container. Instead of buying something I use empty yogurt containers or a disposable plastic bag.

Flower Pots

Are you like many Americans who have somehow acquired more mugs than a person could ever use in a lifetime? Well, if you answered yes and you’re looking to start potting plants, mugs are a cute substitute for flower pots. The one caveat is they don’t have drainage holes, so you’ll need to be very careful about over watering.

Photo by fotografierende on Pexels.com

Organizational Trays

This is an idea that Marie Kondo has recently popularized that I’ve been doing nearly my whole life. Often times,  items that come in absolutely adorable packaging that is reusable. Shown below, I have old teavana tea box containers and cookie tins that I use to store office supplies and teas. I always keep a small collection of these boxes and often share them with friends and family who need organizational help.

Funnel

This is an idea I stole from a video on the Shelbizlee youtube channel. (I’d highly recommend her videos in you’re interested in zero-waste content.) You can cut the bottom off a plastic soda bottle and then you’ll have a funnel you can use for all kinds of purposes, I use mine the most when I’m making oat milk.

Toe Spacers

If you’ve got bunions or other foot problems like me you know that toe spacers are life savers. But personally I’ve found that the silicone ones never last more than a few months and there just aren’t any sustainable options. Solution, roll up some pieces of old t-shirt, throw a few stitches in to keep the spacer together, and you have upcycled and machine washable toe spacers. The other benefit to trying this is that you can customize your toe spacers to exactly what is most comfortable and beneficial for you.

That brings me to the end of my list!

I hope you’ve found this article helpful and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. What are the most creative or helpful ways to reuse or upcycle items that you’ve done or have heard of?

Green Gifts Guide

Happy holidays all!

Welcome to part two of my holiday gifts series.

Today I’ll be giving you a variety of resources and ideas for how you can buy more sustainable gifts this season. This post can help you if you yourself are trying to be more green and aren’t sure what to buy for other people or if you’re trying to buy gifts for someone who is environmentally conscious.

This post will be split into three parts. First up is marketplaces, these are online websites I’ve found that either only sell sustainable goods or have a lot of sustainable options. Second is the brands section, I will be sharing specific brands that I believe are sustainable and have good gifts.

Third is the alternatives section, which will feature alternative methods and styles of gift giving that are more sustainable than buying brand new, mass manufactured products. This section is important to me because I never want this blog to become only about giving brand recommendations for companies that produce new goods sustainably. I feel that this isn’t true to the tenets of sustainability and additionally isn’t accessible to most people price wise.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Marketplaces

Earth Hero

Earth Hero is sometimes referred to as the “eco-friendly amazon” of online shopping. Their goal is to carry at least one sustainably made option for every type of item you would need in your daily life and to take the guesswork out of figuring out if a product is greenwashed. They have a 5 step process to evaluate a product’s sustainability and only carry items that “pass”. Bonus, Earth Hero also has the guaranteed lowest prices for the goods they carry and they are having a site wide 20% holiday sale as well as planting five trees per order until Cyber Monday ends.

Etsy

Etsy is an online marketplace for small craftspeople and artisans to sell their goods. While Etsy the company has no particular sustainable mission, many of their sellers offer zero waste and eco-friendly products and their prices are generally lower than sustainable products from larger companies. Plus most sellers are small, women-owned businesses and most are having holiday sales right now.

Package Free

Package free is a zero waste online marketplace designed to carry anything you need to start and maintain a zero waste lifestyle with guaranteed plastic free shipping. The site was started by Lauren Singer, whose trash jar was one of the first to go viral and she has since been involved in a variety of media projects as well as opening a physical package free shop in New York City. The site carries everything from vibrators to candles to office supplies to items for babies. The selection is not as wide as on Earth Hero however they carry different brands so it’s still worth checking out.

Brands

Lush

Lush, need I say anything about them? Credited with inventing the bath bomb, this zero waste UK based company is known for their high quality, vegan, and cruelty free personal care products. Their lineup features body wash, shampoo, conditioners, lotions, cleansers, moisturizers, makeup (currently only in the UK), most recently fragrances, and more. Many of their products are in the “naked” line, meaning the product needs no packaging. Lush also has an in-store recycling program for all of their product packaging and reuses it for future products. I’ve been gifting their products for years and I can personally vouch that everyone has loved their products.

Sunski

Sunski is a company that creates lightweight, stylish, sunglasses from recycled plastics. Their frames come with a lifetime guarantee and they have a program to replace broken lenses and repair the glasses in order to extend their life as long as possible. The full price on their glasses tends to be high, anywhere from 58USD-89USD. However I’ve been watching their site for a few months and they run constant sales and always have options between 30USD-40USD as well.

4Ocean Bracelets

4Ocean will pull one pound of trash from our oceans for every bracelet sold. The cords and beads of the bracelets are made from 100% post consumer recycled materials, 4Ocean will even pay for you to ship your bracelet back to them when you’re done with it so it can be recycled. They release bracelets in new colors monthly that support slightly different causes such as jellyfish or the everglades. You can even sign up to volunteer at their clean ups so there’s no doubt that the operation is legit.

Kind Socks

Kind Socks prides themselves on creating socks that are fun, fashionable for every day, and ethical. Their founder Stephen Steele was inspired to start the brand after being frustrated that most sustainable socks were very plain and not fun at all. The socks are toxin free, made with certified organic cotton, and manufactured in safe factories with fair wages.The brand is based in Sweden and ships internationally.

Ten Tree

Ten Tree is an apparel brand whose name leads you quite intuitively to the business model, they plant ten trees for each item purchased. They even give you “tree codes” so you can find out exactly where the trees your purchase funded got planted. They have a full lineup of casual apparel and accessories including socks, hats, wallets, dresses, jackets, and of course the usual t-shirts, hoodies, and pants.

Stasher Bags

Stasher bags are an alternative to disposable plastic sandwich bags made from 100% silicone. I personally own a set that my mother found for me at goodwill, and I absolutely love them. Stasher has been blowing up lately and I’ve suddenly started seeing their bags everywhere, as a result they’ve been able to expand their line to include a variety of shapes and colors. The bags can withstand extreme temperatures  meaning they can be boiled and baked, the silicone zipper creates an airtight seal making the bags an excellent option for freezer storage as well. I recommend these as gifts partially because they are a bit expensive, so it’s something people may want but not be able to spend the money on for themselves.

Elate Cosmetics

Elate Cosmetics is a low waste, cruelty free, and ethical beauty brand. Their packaging is the most sustainable I’ve seen for make up and is made with renewable or recyclable resources. They also sell reusable magnetic palettes with refills sold in aluminum pans. They carry essentially every and any type of makeup you need, though their color range definitely will not be able to provide you with a full glam look.

Alternatives

Homemade Gifts

Another option is to make gifts at home! This can take it’s form in many ways, perhaps you create a piece of visual art, write or parody a song, make baked goods, write poetry, or give them coupons for different types of chores like cleaning the bathroom or doing meal prep. Sentimental crafted gifts like songs or poetry tend to really great for close family or significant others, chore coupons are great for friends, and baked goods are great for people you’re not sure what else to get! Even if your homemade gift isn’t made from totally sustainable materials it’s still likely to be more eco-friendly that the majority of mass produced goods.

Local Gifts

Shop local! Local goods are overall more eco-friendly because they did not need to be shipped from far away and therefore getting the item to you required less fossil fuels. Additionally, many artisans are environmentally conscious and have much more eco-friendly manufacturing processes than conventional companies. You can use Etsy to find locally made goods online but there’s also a variety of in person locations you’re likely to find locally made goods such as: any hippy dippy grocery store/bar/establishment, craft markets, flea markets, farmer’s markets, and literally any type of festival. I’ve gifted locally made coffees, keychains, soaps, candles, lotions, cards, and salsas with great success. Another bonus to locally made foods is that they are usually preservative free and therefore have better and fresher taste than conventional goods.

Second Hand Gifts

Second hand goods are another great way to decrease the carbon footprint of your gift shopping this season. This is especially good for tech and luxury fashion goods that have strong resale markets, this is also a great way to save money on these items or be able to buy a person something nicer than you would be able to if the item were new. Of course know your audience, some people will feel disrespected by a second hand gift so be careful. I personally have both given and received second hand gifts and it’s always gone well!

Wrap Up

I hope that these ideas and recommendations will be helpful to you this holiday shopping season. It can be difficult and overwhelming to figure out how to greenify your shopping habits so I aimed to provide straightforward options and easy to use advice.

As always, thanks for reading!

Sustainability and Privilege: an Image Problem

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

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!

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.

The Global Climate Strike in Athens, Ohio

Collage made with Canva

THE GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE IS HERE!!!

Hello! The day has finally come, people have come out all across the world at over 4,500 strikes globally and over 1,000  just in the US. Over 250,000 people have taken to the streets in New York City alone.

What exactly is this global climate strike anyways? How did it start?

It begins in 2018 with the one and only Greta Thunberg. Greta did not go to school from August 20th until September 9th in 2018 to protest climate change on the steps of the Swedish parliament. After this initial period of striking, she continued to strike every Friday.

At first, the lawmakers she had been seeing daily, then weekly, ignored her. But as other children began to join her in the Swedish capitol and the school strikes spread internationally she began to grab the attention of world leaders. She was invited to speak at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where she gave a speech with the famous words “Our house is on fire.”

Since then, she has been catapulted onto the global stage as THE leading climate change activist and face of the growing school strike movement #fridaysforthefuture.

So, today is the Global Climate Strike. Youth have been striking internationally for over a year, and today the rest of us are urged to join them.

All of this, is what led up to my stomach full of butterflies as I rode my bike to the Village Bakery in Athens for our local climate strike.

I was feeling oddly anxious. What if it’s massive and overwhelming? What if no one comes and it’s depressing? What if, somehow, someone knows about something unsustainable I’ve done and yells at me? What if I don’t know anyone?!

I know that none of those things are the point of the Climate Strike, and I felt a bit selfish for being so in my head. I did my best to shake off the anxiety and focus on thinking about the planet as I pulled my bike into the bustling parking lot out front of Village Bakery.

The Athens, OH climate strikers gathered outside Village Bakery.

I was relieved to see a moderate turnout. The parking lot was filled with booths from the prominent local environmental groups, bicycles, pot luck food, and of course, people. It took me a little while, but I eventually got into the social mood and began talking to acquaintances and new folks alike.

The main activities of the local strike are as follows:

  • “Flash Mob” Tree Planting
  • Potluck Brunch
  • T-Shirt-Making
  • Press Conference
  • Walk and roll march culminating at the courthouse

How was it you ask? Honestly, pretty amazing.

First major activity was tree planting. A local landscaping company (whose name I’ve forgotten or I would surely recognize them) was kind enough to donate trees and plants as well as instruct the strikers who volunteered to plant. Before we made the four block trip to Factory Street Dance Studio, the local charity whose lawn we planted on, a striker from the Athens Justice Choir taught us environmental songs.

One of many trees planted in the Factory Street Studio yard

As the last few strikers returned to the bakery from planting, the press conference was getting ready to start. I took the opportunity to get some free t-shirts made while I had time.

A local business was actually screen printing environmentalist sayings and logos onto used shirts donated by a local thrift store. I absolutely loved this, as I’ve wanted a shirt to show my support for the planet for a while but was definitely not going to buy anything new. The shirt on the left is actually a boxy t-shirt dress and I picked it up to wear as a nightgown, the one on the right is just a normal tee I plan to wear around that will hopefully help start some conversations.

The press conference only had one press outlet filming. But there were a handful of photographers and reporters from student publications reporting as well. Various sustainability leaders from the community stood up to give empowering speeches to the assembled crowd. To see and hear the stories of so many dedicated activists was truly inspiring.

Finally, to wrap up our day we had our “walk and roll” climate march. We were split into two groups traveling alternate routes to the local courthouse, one group on foot and one on wheels. I was, of course, on my bicycle and I must say we had the best time hooting and hollering as we rolled through the streets.

Me! Getting ready to ride my bike through town.

We made sure to take up all the lanes of traffic and bike at a comfortable, not too quick, pace. There was something so fun and exhilarating about taking over the streets in an environmentalist biker gang, the whole group was practically giddy by the time we finished.

Once both groups reconvened at the courthouse we circled up for some chants. Then, it was time for strikers to take the stage, anyone who had something to say was invited to climb up onto the bench in the center of crowd and say their piece.

Climate strikers crossing the street.

About two dozen strikers decided to speak up. Many expressed appreciation for their fellow protesters, some brought attention to environmental issues not discussed in the press conference, others expressed their anger and passion, the striker from the Athens Justice Choir led us in song again.

This was my favorite part. When we were all gathered at the center of town listening to the words of fellow strikers and seeing their passion, it was inspiring. I teared up a little and felt truly hopeful.

My tears of joy explained why I was so anxious in the morning. As much as I wanted to lend my voice to the strike, I was also relying on the strike to lift my spirits.

Most people I know aren’t active about or interested in becoming active about climate change. I, as many environmentalists do, get a lot of people who think what I’m doing isn’t worth it or outright silly. It is so easy to feel despondent and hopeless about climate change, but spending my morning with fellow strikers was so restorative and revitalizing.

Maybe our event was small. But dammit, we made our voices heard as loudly as possible.

The climate strike was amazing, but today is only the beginning. Today’s Friday strikes kick off a week of climate activism aimed to force the U.N. to finally take real action on climate change when they meet in New York City this Monday for the Climate Summit.

If you’re reading this, I urge you to go to an event in your city.

If there aren’t any, organize an event. Even if that event is just you and a few friends sitting outside the local courthouse with signs, look at all that just one Swedish teenager was able to inspire.

Did you attend your local climate strike or other activist events this week? Leave me a comment and tell me about the great work in you area!

Online Thrifting + Mini ThredUp Haul

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Online thrift shopping seems to have suddenly exploded and honestly I could not be happier about it.

I’ve personally always loved thrifting and have been doing it since I was a kid. Back then it was motivated by family financial troubles, and nowadays it’s motivated by environmental reasons.

However, my love affair with thrifting has been on  break since I came to college. My hometown is suburban, wealthy, and has a population of about 25,000 while also being surrounded by many other wealthy, suburban towns.

Then I came to my college town, small, rural, and in the poorest region of the state. Two thirds of the population is comprised of college students and the next biggest city is over an hour away. Suddenly, it became very difficult for me to thrift in town.

The stores have less variety, clothing is lower quality, and there is less size availability. 

Frustrated by all this I’ve been thrifting a lot less since starting school. However, in order to follow through on the sustainable commitment I made a year ago, thrifting and I will need to get back together. But the thrifting issues in my area still persist.

Luckily, online thrift stores have come to save me.

Over the past few months I’ve worn through a ton of items in my closet and therefore need a bit of a refresh. I was able to find plenty of cute tops in my local thrift shops but ABSOLUTELY NO GOOD PANTS.

So, to cover my butt, I decided to try ThredUp, an online second hand fashion retailer that sources clothing directly from consumers. Unlike some other second hand apps such as Let Go or Depop, ThredUp collects and preps all the clothing for sale in their own central facilities. Consumers send the clothing in to ThredUp’s resale centers and are compensated for their clothing via cash, store credit, or charitable donations.

I chose ThredUp largely because I’d already seen it promoted by sustainable influencers I trust and the ThredUp Choose Used campaign convinced me that the company wasn’t only greenwashing.

I spent an hour shopping and was able to find 4 items I was interested in.

The total price after promotional discounts, tax, and shipping was $58.17.

About a week later, everything arrived on schedule in some very adorable, and recyclable blue polka dot packaging.

Unfortunately all the pants I purchased are too large and unflattering as a result. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised by this, I have the same issue on every online retailer. Whenever I follow the size guidelines based on my measurements everything ends up being too big. Not sure if this is me measuring wrong or just some quirk of my anatomy, but I will be returning my pants for store credit.

The purse was really cute and practically brand new, just as the description promised. But I actually want a purse that’s larger so that I can more easily carry zero waste essentials like a coffee mug and empty Tupperware. Additionally, the straps of the purse are also the drawstring closure, which I found pretty annoying the one day I took the purse for a test drive so I will also be returning the purse.

Now let’s do pros and cons.

Pros

The variety on ThredUp is generally amazing. Tons of styles, good size availability for me (14-16 pants, L/XL tops), and a range of products from low end to luxury brands. ThredUp also curates their collection and only accepts clothing on trend and in good condition so you don’t have to spend time sorting like at a regular thrift store. Because the clothing is centrally managed all the photography is uniform, browsing is easier than on a site like Depop, this is a small detail but I appreciated it and it could be important for folks who are easily overwhelmed by busy websites.

Cons

ThredUp is definitely more expensive than traditional thrift shopping (thought still less than new). The major con for me is the return policy, which isn’t particularly generous. All returns have a $2 restocking fee per item and if you don’t want to pay the return shipping at $9 a box  you’ll have to accept store credit instead of cash.

Overall

Would I recommend online thrifting or ThredUp? Yeah, BUT I would still preference brick-and-mortar thrift stores, they are cheaper and sizing clothing in person is much easier. However, I think sites like ThredUp are a great resource if you lack access to thrift stores and/or prefer the curate shopping experience. I will likely buy from ThredUp again, even if only because I now have store credit.

What are your experiences with online thrifting? Any advice for why everything I buy online is too big? Let me know in the comments below.

What is Sustainability Lifestyle Activism?

Photo by Vincent M.A. Janssen on Pexels.com

Impending environmental doom.

It’s an issue a lot of us are concerned about, but apart from becoming a conservation biologist or otherwise dedicating your career to the environment what is the everyday average person supposed to do?

The answer, in my opinion, lies in lifestyle activism.

Now, there is a lot of misconception about what lifestyle activism actually means, in my research for this post I found very little consensus about what actions qualify as lifestyle activism or not. The most common theme? That the term was used in a negative way and seen as lesser than true “activism”.

The problem with this is that nearly every article I found critiquing lifestyle activism failed to compare it to anything other than “activism” in a general sense, simply presuming the reader might intuit what it is exactly that the writer believed true activism to be.

Overtime, I discovered the particular brand of activism many of these critics were comparing lifestyle activism to can be more specifically defined as civic change. Activism aimed at civic change involves addressing issues through political channels and pushing through governmental policy changes. This includes actions such as voting, lobbying, attending marches, or calling your senators. Lifestyle activism includes basically everything else from posting on social media, buying activism merch, reducing personal waste, and shopping at the farmer’s market. This brand of activism aims not to create civic changes but cultural changes and engender shifts in how we live our day to day lives.

However, as I mentioned before there is very little consensus on how lifestyle activism is actually defined. I have seen both attending marches and becoming an artist who focuses on social justice both negatively referred to as lifestyle activism.

However, I just find this hate of lifestyle activists a bit confusing. What is wrong with activism becoming a part of the broader American lifestyle? Isn’t that kind of the dream? Isn’t it wonderful that it doesn’t make you an outcast to have attended a climate strike or women’s march?

Particularly when it comes to sustainability, I feel that there is a unique and strong connection to lifestyle activism with the low waste, minimalist, and plant based eating movements all becoming trendy and gaining a lot of steam. Environmentalists are more or less expected to make lifestyle changes such as having reusable water bottles, coffee cups, and shopping bags in a way feminists or other activists aren’t expected to. I’ve never seen feminists encouraging each other to ditch fast fashion so as to not take advantage of vulnerable women the way I see environmentalists ditching fast fashion so as to not take advantage of our vulnerable planet.

Isn’t it admirable to not be able to just talk the talk but walk the walk as well? If you protest fast fashion outside city hall and encourage governmental policy for sustainable clothing production it’s going to look hypocritical if you’re always shopping at Forever 21.

At the end of the day I believe that all this hate on lifestyle activism is uncalled for and unhelpful. The amount of sustainable products and alternatives that have popped up for consumers, governments, and businesses alike in the last decade is staggering. These changes can only happen if there is a public interest in and desire for sustainability, lifestyle activism is the engine that drives these cultural changes.

Now, I say none of this to detract from modes of civic activism at all. Voting is important. Lobbying is important. Calling your senators is important. I just don’t see any reason that the importance of civic activism has to detract from the power and potential of lifestyle activism.

For there to be policy changes people have to care enough to fight for those changes, and the way to get more people interested is through cultural shifts that are driven by lifestyle activism. Civic change alone isn’t going to create interest in the hearts and minds of the people.

As much as sharing posts on social media is generally considered to be the most lazy form of activism, no one would ever argue that social media hasn’t been instrumental in spreading ideology and awareness about sustainability. Sure, one individual sharing a post doesn’t change the world. But to focus on that fact completely misses the point that millions of people are posting and sharing and that does create massive cultural changes.

Take for example the video of that turtle with a straw in their nose, sure no one individual is a hero for having shared that video. But you’d have to be blind to not have noticed the sudden changes taking place after that video went viral. Coffee shops have changed the shapes of their cups to ditch the straw, some restaurants have stopped giving them out altogether, and a ton of people have begun to carry their own reusable straws.

Even the most commonly cited form of lazy and false activism has created potent, fast, and tangible changes.

Even if most people who shared that turtle video aren’t engaged in any other forms of activism does that really mean they shouldn’t have shared that video? Would the environment be better off if these folks had not shared the post?

At the end of the day, this idea that lifestyle activism is bad and civic activism is good, is just a false and oversimplified dichotomy. Both are vital and important to achieving sustainability goals and saving our planet. So, why don’t we just stop wasting time hating on people who aren’t doing activism the way we are and just focus on working together.