one month of low-spend: a reflection

One month has come and gone. And so ends my low-spend challenge. It’s been a good period of reflection for me, a time to think about my consumer habits and ways to improve where and how I shop.

As I mentioned in my initial post, I chose to do a low-spend month, as opposed to a more ambitious no-spend variation, because the option made the most sense for my lifestyle and where I live. Without sufficient options for trading or growing my own food, a no-spend month would frankly be unrealistic. Instead, I framed the premise of this month around realistic expectations that would help me to stay motivated throughout the next 30 days and offer me a more sustainable target to aim for.

So, the real question—how’d I do? Overall in April, I actually spent significantly less on many of the things I was allowed to spend on (i.e. dining, entertainment, and travel). However, where I did end up spending more money than anticipated was in the clothing category.

There are many reasons why I had hoped to avoid buying any clothing during the challenge. First and foremost, I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of self-discipline. I’ve always had a weakness for clothing and although I’ve gotten better at being selective, my closet often reminds me of the private school I went to in upstate New York, where I can walk around and see a bunch of familiar faces but every so often, I’ll run into a piece I’ve completely forgotten existed. My second reason for avoiding clothing purchases was to lessen the amount of pressure I personally impose on the manufacturing industry. With nearly 85% of garmets ending up in landfills and incinerators annually, there’s more than enough clothing already produced and yet still so many people walking to their closets and exclaiming that they, “have nothing to wear.”

Although unnecessary, what I will say about my shopping this month is that I was very selective about where I made purchases. With few exceptions, all the products I bought came from ethical and socially sustainable brands. For example, I finally got the pair of Girlfriend Collective leggings I’d been pining over for months. On top of their ecological impacts—every product is made using recycled waterbottles—Girlfriend Collective also promotes positive body image and body diversity, which gives them additional brownie points in my book.

Another new item I bought in April was Causebox, a seasonal subscription box (you get four a year, each for about $55) of curated items from ethical and sustainable brands. This, I figured, would be a great way to learn about new change-makers, not to mention an easy way to ensure I had quality gifts on-hand for any upcoming birthdays and holidays.

Other things I bought this month include:

Item: HDMI Cable

Excuse: I thought I was going to get a TV, then decided I didn’t want the extra clutter. I figure it’ll come in handy at some point but in retrospect, I should have waited and found one used.

Item: Hydroflask

Justification/Excuse: There’s a cafe by my work where I go every so often for an almond milk latte. I don’t always anticipate wanting to stop in so I bought a hydroflask to keep at my office. Truly, it was a little excessive of me to not just carry the one I keep at home to and from the office. That said, I do appreciate knowing I won’t have to rely on one-use cups during any subsequent trips.  

Item: Dress for wedding (not mine)

Justification/Excuse: One of my pals is getting married this Fall. The wedding is religious so it was important my outfit air on the conservative side. She also had a color palette set that I needed to take into account as well. When I started looking, I searched Poshmark as well as ethically-made clothing sites to find the look I wanted. But in the end, the garments I found were either a.) out of my price range or b.) something I would never wear again. I run into these double-edged swords a lot actually. Buy the locally-grown sprouts from the farmers market that come in a plastic bag or get the non-local and non-organic one’s from the supermarket without plastic? Get a generic boxed soap or one made by a small business even though it comes wrapped in plastic? In these situations, I’ve found making the sustainable choice is best reached with thoughtful consideration of the social and environmental pros and cons of your purchase. In this particular case, I went to TJMaxx and found a $20 jumpsuit. I know it is not an ethically-made piece and I truly wish I could have found a better option. That said, I do still have the receipt and tags on just in case I find an alternative. And regardless, I do like the piece enough to wear it after the event is over, even though I likely wouldn’t have purchased it otherwise.

Items: Conditioner & Lip balm

Justification: Needed both. The conditioner is from Avalon Cosmetics, a cruelty-free cosmetic brand. The lip balm is Doctor Bronners. ‘Nough said.

Item: Chapter One backing on Kickstarter

Freakin’ justified: I realize that physical books use resources and many end up in the trash. It’s just for me, the experience of holding a book is irreplaceable and not something I’ll ever be willing to part with. Instead, I love my books to death, and when I’m done, I pass them off to friends, donate them to a book sale, or sell them to a bookshop.

Item: Knickey panties

Justification: As I get more into sustainable brands, I find myself trying to spread the word and give people the chance to experience the products for themselves. That’s why, for a friend’s recent birthday, I ordered some Knickey underwear. But—or should I say, “Butt”—because of the cost of shipping, I also purchased two pairs for myself. Did I need them? Not really, but now when I get to that scary point in the week when undies are in high demand and low supply, all will be fresh and well.

Item: Various thrifted pieces

Justification: Over the course of the month, I spent $15 on 5-6 thrifted items. They are unique pieces, most of which I’ve already worn, so I feel fairly guilt-free about the purchases.

After this low-spend experience, I see how important mental preparation is in creating discipline and learning to live with less want. So rather than feel guilty for this month’s downfalls, I’m trying to be patient with the process as a whole. After all, the switches I’m making are more than behavioral—they’re active lifestyle changes where I’m breaking unconscious habits and putting new, more intentional ones in their place. I remember just a year ago when the idea of not being able to go into a Zara seemed so discouraging—that is until I found out I could pay the same price for a garment made ethically and designed to last more than four washes. But even so, the transition has been and will continue to be slow, both mentally and financially. That’s why it’s essential for me to always refer back to the essence of the sustainability movement, remembering it has nothing to do with perfection. Rather sustainability at its core is about everyone doing what they can to make small changes that, in the long-term, will come to benefit us all collectively.  

22 ways to be more sustainable

Happy Earth Day everyone! In honor of the world’s most necessary holiday, here are 22 sustainable tips you can integrate into your life. If you can, I challenge you to do at least one of these things today. As always, remember sustainability is not about being perfect, it’s about doing what you can to reduce your footprint and live more thoughtfully.

  1. Pick up. Gather litter and dispose of it properly.
  2. Anticipate plastic. Ask servers to skip the straw, bring your own silverware, and pack your travel mug.
  3. Share. Host a clothing swap with your friends, use trading apps like BUNZ, and take public transit.
  4. Take only what you need. Buy less at the grocery store and order smaller portions to prevent food waste.
  5. Shop second hand. Not just clothes—books, household items, technology, and dishware, too.
  6. Choose Recyclables. If you have to use disposable packaging, choose highly recyclable materials like glass and aluminum.
  7. Compost. Make your own or sign up for a local collection service (Mine’s about $14 per month for a household of three).
  8. Learn more. Check out your local recycling collection service’s website for information about what is recyclable, what’s not, and how to sign up (if you aren’t already).
  9. Support Local. Buy local to support your community’s economy, save money on shipping, and reduce your carbon footprint.
  10. Green up your laundry. Use cold water to wash your clothes and hang dry inside or outdoors instead of using the dryer.
  11. BYOB. Bring your own bag. Put it in your purse, your car, or by the door so you don’t forget.
  12. Bring lunch. Avoid disposable packaging by bringing your lunch in reusable dishware.
  13. Vote with your $. Cut back or avoid spending money at unethical or fast fashion companies.
  14. Sew it. Learn how to sew and mend your clothes to extend their useful life.
  15. Meatless Monday. Eat less meat, become a vegetarian or vegan, and adopt a more plant-based diet.
  16. Say no to meal services. Individually-packaged everything? Plastic ice packs? Ah. Stop your subscription ASAP and learn how to meal prep.
  17. Wash less. Only wash your clothes when they truly need it to preserve their materials and reduce energy use.
  18. In the bag. Make or buy your own produce bags.
  19. Say no to Keurig. Stop using single-use Keurig cups. They’re terrible. End of story.
  20. Tis the season. Buy in-season produce.
  21. Clean up your clean-up routine. Wash your hair less. Its unnecessary to wash hair every day and even cutting back by one wash per week can save a lot of water.
  22. Get out there. Support your local nature preserves and parks. Donate to organizations making strides to protect our natural environment.

5 tips for sustainable repurposing

During this month of low-spend, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I have and how to make greater use of it. Although I didn’t necessarily think it then, I now realize how fortunate I was to grow up in a household where “elbow grease” was the prescribed solution for any burnt pan or sticky mess and where a piece of clothing hadn’t served its purpose in life until it had been worn, ripped, patched, worn again, and then used to wipe oil off my dad’s lawn mower. My parents and their parents before them had grown up poor. And being poor meant using everything you had and never wasting a thing. For them though, I can only imagine this decision was purely economic, driven by the need to stretch each dollar. But what they may not have realized is just how sustainable their waste not, want not lifestyle really was. So, as I transition to a low-impact lifestyle, I’m trying to channel some of my inner penny-pincher and striving to put every resource to its fullest use.

One of the simplest ways to get more life out of any household item is learning to DIY. You don’t have to be some crafter extraordinaire to DIY. You just need access to the internet and a little extra time on your hands. A simple and cheap example of this is multi-surface cleaner. Tired of all the chemicals and spending money on products whose companies I knew didn’t have my health or the environment in mind, I started making my own surface cleaner out of distilled water, white vinegar, lemon juice, and essential oils. For me, this was a natural and convenient switch. White vinegar costs under $4 per gallon and can be used for so many household cleaning needs, like dish soap and even removing salt stains from leather shoes. Plus, the solution itself is also very environmentally friendly, with all ingredients being chemical-free, 100% compostable, and available in recyclable packaging. And yes, to answer your question, it really does work.

Another easy DIY project is making your own makeup and nail polish wipes. On top of their non-recycle plastic packaging, makeup wipes themselves contain serious amounts of plastic. In fact, wipes are the cause of 93% of drain blockages in the UK alone and in 2018, there was a 400% (yes, 400%) increase in the occurence of makeup wipes washing up on beaches. For me, the saddest part of this situation is that makeup wipes are totally unnecessary—a ploy made up by companies to sell more product. Water, soap, and a washcloth do an equally good job removing makeup, not to mention cost you and the earth a lot less in the long-run. But if you do prefer the size and contouring of a wipe, consider making your own. All you’ll need are some old clothes—preferably something soft—and a sewing machine. Litterless has a great tutorial on this and while she seems to have purchased her material, keep in mind that using something you already have is always the more sustainable option.

While we’re on the topic, I should mention that sewing is a truly underrated skill. I cannot count the number of times sewing has saved my favorite shirt or underwear from ending up in the trash. What’s more, basic stitching is so easy to learn and once you know how, you become a mending machine. There are of course great video tutorials online and, if its an option, consider taking a local sewing or design course to really master the art.   

Next on the list is cooking. Americans are responsible for over 1.3 billion pounds of food waste per year. To put that in perspective, that’s 30-40% of the entire world’s food waste. Yeah, we wasteful AF. Just like sewing, learning how to cook can mean the difference between very ugly-looking, ripe bananas and delicious banana bread. Unless food has truly gone bad or is inedible, it’s important to try to make the most of it. Lemon rind, for example, can be used to make a basic cake, deluxe. Squishy cucumber can be added to a smoothie. And soft carrots can be seasoned and baked for a healthy and hardy meal. So before you throw something away, type, “What can you do with ________” into Google and see if there’s an alternative to the can. Or, if you really can’t stomach it, hop on an app like BUNZ to give your food to someone who can put it to good use.

Lastly, I want to mention that not all sustainable repurposing is DIY. One of my favorite and most affordable switches is repurposing glass jars. While I made the mistake of going out and buying new jars and containers when I first started transitioning, I quickly found that after a few months of peanut butter, olives, and pesto, I had more than enough containers for meal prepping, food storage, and carrying my lunches to work. Best of all, it didn’t cost me anything extra.

The moral of the story? Just like us, our stuff isn’t here to serve a single purpose. That’s why it’s so important we use our clothes, food, and household items to their furthest capacity, caring for them as best we can and knowing ways to repurpose them when they do eventually reach their limits.  

– A

4 tips to slow shopping

During this second week of my low-spend challenge, my goal was simple: Spend less. I figure the less I reach for my credit card, the better. But as simple as that strategy may be, its a lot harder in real life. Like earlier in the week, when Girlfriend Collective re-stocked their high-compression leggings. And when I finished my novel and immediately saw a new e-book on minimalist living. Not surprisingly, the list goes on. It would be so easy to justify those kinds of purchases—after all, I’d be supporting small businesses and ethical supply chains. But at the end of the day, I have like four pairs of leggings and books I’ve never even opened. So why should I accumulate anything more? That’s the thing about consumerism; whether it’s new or vintage, ethical or fast fashion, the most sustainable thing you can do is use what you already have.

For those of you who may be trying to reduce your footprint or simply want to spend less money, here are a few simple ways to get the most out of what you already have and keep your wallets shut.

Avoid or limit your use of consumer-centric apps:

Instagram is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a simple way for me to discover amazing brands and get connected to the larger sustainable community. On the other hand, its the same place I discovered Cause Box, Misfit Market, Girlfriend Collective, GLDN, and so many others. Don’t get me wrong, these are brands I love, but they’re also a big cash suck. Self-admittedly, in the past few months, I’ve spent unprecedented amounts on new brands. And while I’m very happy with my purchases, regardless of where I’m shopping, I’m still consuming—often times unnecessarily.

The same is true for apps like Poshmark, Depop, and Pinterest. Whether you can shop in-app or not, it’s very easy to get sucked in to beautiful images and stylish getups. And in the case of Poshmark and Depop, quantities are usually limited and, in many cases, so is your time to buy. All these factors come together and make it hard to resist consumer temptations.

If you are trying to spend less, I recommend deleting these apps from your phone or, at the very least, turning their data off so you can only use them on WIFI. This way, you don’t have the opportunity to scroll through when you’re bored. You know the saying—out of sight, out of mind.

Skip Tempting Locations:

I may go into CVS for medications but I’ll inevitably pass the beauty aisle. I don’t even need anything, it’s just that all that flashy packaging draws me in and I turn into some kind of beauty crow, circling the nail polishes until I either get one or force myself to leave. Depending on where you live and work, temptations can be easier or more difficult to avoid. Of course, there’s always the internet but its when you’re in that boutique or the supermarket that it becomes even more difficult to say, “no.”

During this low-spend month, I’m trying very hard to avoid drugstores, thrift shops, and any other places where my wallet might uncontrollably open. I make sure that every time I do need something, I put it on a list so I’m less likely to go rogue and leave with more than I bargained for. Is this a surefire way to bypass impulse buys? No, that requires some self-discipline. But this can help limit the number of times you come face-to-face that thing you want, but definitely don’t need.

Clean Up, Clean Out:

It is spring, after all. What better time to do a deep-dive of your closet, cupboards, and drawers. I recommend doing this section by section so it doesn’t become overwhelming. Empty the contents of your wardrobe and catch-all drawers. Then sift through, figure out what’s in there that you didn’t know you had. Is there anything you can recycle or donate? And what isn’t there that you do need? Sometimes, it can be hard to visualize everything you have; we’re all so busy that it’s easy to disconnect from what we’ve already purchased. But when you lay everything out, you get a true sense of what you’ve accumulated and are better able to make informed consumer decisions.

Take your time:

Okay, I admit it, I got Cause Box. Technically, it won’t arrive until next month so I’m not breaking my challenge, but regardless, I did spend on something I don’t need. The thing is, I know myself—I love to shop, and I always will. But as I become more woke to the consequences of my consumerism, I’m finding ways to balance my wants with the world’s needs. This means buying less but buying better, thinking about every purchase as an investment, rather than a transaction. WIth Cause Box, I figure, it supports good brands and it’s also an easy way to make sure I always have great gifts on hand for birthdays and holidays. Do I need it? No. But overall, the positives outweigh the negatives so in my mind, its an appropriate purchase.

In the past, I would never spend time considering the carbon footprint of my purchases or the conditions of the people behind the brand. Shopping was a purely primal experience. I want. I get. Now, I take my time when shopping. I avoid hurrying through the process because I know that’s when I make impulse purchases. If I want something but don’t need it, I’ll sometimes take a picture (maybe even hide it from other shoppers), leave the store, and come back later once I’ve had time to think it over. If a shirt is still on my mind a week later, I probably will buy it. But if I’ve forgotten about it, its likely something I’d end up not using.

I also try to be more aware of my emotions when I’m shopping. For example, when I’m really happy or really down, shopping is a terrible idea because I will try to supplement my emotional state with material items. Knowing that I’ll spend more helps me to find alternatives to shopping and in the end, reduce the chance of impulse buys.

For better or worse, consumerism is part of the human experience. But the more we can say, “Hey, wait a minute,” before buying something and really think about what we’re buying and why, the more likely we are to make smarter decisions for ourselves and the planet. As always, it’s not about being perfect, it’s just about trying.

-A

my low-spend month

My relationship with consumerism has changed drastically in the past year. Forever 21, for example, used to give me thrills. Family vacations, school trips, any chance I got, I’d spend roaming the clothes racks for hours and undoubtedly leave the store with a good-sized bright yellow, plastic bag. At the time, consumerism was skin deep, a mechanism I could use to keep up with classmates or the latest trend dubbed by fashion magazines. So you better believe that when I read those Forever 21 price tags, worker conditions, environmental damage, and wearability were far from my mind. All I saw was, “5.99”.

It wasn’t until college when I scrolled upon publications like The Good Trade and Youtubbers like Kristen Leo that I started to wake up to my less-than-conscious ways. These sources, god bless them, presented sustainability to me in a way that felt applicable, appealing, and, most important, feasible.

Ironically enough, during these same years, I was also starting my journey into advertising, an industry notorious for, as Andy from The Devil Wears Prada says, “sell(ing) people things, they don’t need”. From weight loss supplements to makeup to clothing, every day, my newsfeed, your newsfeeds, they’re all filled with brands trying to make themselves a mainstay of our lives. They encourage us to “upgrade”, “boost”, “cleanse” and so many more coded ways of telling each and every one of us that what we have—even who we are—isn’t good enough and that to reach our peaks, we need what they’re selling. It’s what makes us pick up that new makeup brand, even though our current makeup is perfectly fine. Or upgrade to a brand new phone when we’ve only had our current one for a few years. That’s the power of the shiny and new, how easily it makes us forget that new really only last a few hours or days before the latest hit becomes yesterday’s news.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my field. I think there are great opportunities to use advertising to connect people to companies and services that can do more good than harm. But in order to become a tool for change, consumers have to expect more from brands. I know that’s placing a lot of responsibility on our shoulders but unfortunately, most companies don’t do things out of the kindness of their hearts as much as they do out of concern for their wallets.

With each one of these realizations, I’m happy to say I have changed the way I spend. When it comes to clothes, I rarely buy new and if I do, I seek out local and sustainable brands. I’ve also skinnied down my skin and hair routine to save money and reduce the number of products I use. But even with those changes, I know there’s more I can do to think critically about how and where I’m spending my money. So this month, I’ve decided to do a low-spend challenge.

I got the idea from Sustainably Vegan. Although call it a “no-spend” challenge, in a capitalistic society, I think that name sets unreasonable expectations. You have to spend to survive—that’s just how it is and I don’t the cashiers at Stop and Shop would appreciate me trying to barter with them over some oat milk and bananas. So instead, I’m being realistic: I know I’m going to spend, there’s no way around it. But I can control what I spend on.

Here’s everything I’m avoiding purchasing during the month of April:

·       Clothes and shoes

·       Makeup and beauty

·       Accessories

·       Nick Nacks (notebooks, pens, etc.)

·       Furniture and other household accessories

·       Appliances / Technology

Here’s what I can buy (Notice this list includes items I can’t physically accumulate):

·       Gifts for other people

·       Travel-related expenses

·       Dining out

·       Concerts or experiences

For the next four weeks, I’ll be checking in to share updates and realizations about my low-spend month. It definitely won’t be without its challenges but I’m hoping that with a little space from my wallet, I’ll come out of the experience more grateful for what I have and more conscious of what I buy.

Wondering how my month went? Read this

a sustainable underwear guide

What’s a girl gotta do to get some decent underwear around here?

My search for the perfect pair of panties has been a never-ending one. From finding flattering styles and cuts to comfortable materials, its taken years to figure out what I actually liked and, even harder still, finding what I like at a reasonable price.

In the past year, I really started to notice how cheap and non-withstanding my current undies were. Waistbands became detached and fabrics seemed to just chip away after every wash.

Whatsmore, like many women, I’ve struggled with PH imbalances and other down-under difficulties for much of my life. As I started doing more research on how I could improve my overall vaginal health, I began to realize cheap designs weren’t the only issue with my underwear: Many companies’ materials and supply chain are rife with components that showed my health and wellbeing was being sacrificed for a quick profit.

At most commercial fast-fashion stores, you can walk in and find a pair of underwear for $5. You think What a deal! Well, yeah, it is a deal. But at a very major cost. Brands like H&M and Victoria’s Secret are guilty of supporting cheap and deregulated labor. Even after the catastrophic 2013 Rana Plaza collapse that killed 1,100 garment workers, H&M still has loose fire exit codes that put factory workers’ lives at risk.

And then there’s all that waste. The garment industry is the world’s second most polluting industry, responsible for 20% of the world’s water pollution. All those lacy digs and synthetic materials are a far cry from “eco-friendly”. And what many people don’t know, is that fast-fashion brands rely heavily on toxic chemicals to create their undergarments, including cyanide, which can cause cancer, and even heavy metals.

But now for some good news. After being called out, some fast-fashion companies have set long-term goals to change their unsustainable and unethical practices, including lowering their emissions and improving the quality of their materials. But I say, too little too late. After all, us ladies can’t wait until 2020 to find a great pair of knickers. So, in the meantime, here are some brands you can trust with your goods.

Organic Basics

Based in Copenhagen, Organic Basics is committed to using only class A and B fabrics, including ethically-grown organic Turkish cotton, and keep their environmental footprint low with European-based factories.  

Knickey

Yes, Knickey is so fine—but the company’s also out to create a product that helps the nearly 300 million women who suffer from vaginal health problems each year. Making breathable, organic cotton panties in a range of styles and sizes, Knickey makes you look just as good as your vag will feel.

TomboyX

Started by a dynamic female duo ready to shake up the intimates world, TomboyX sets out to make undergarments more accessible for individuals at all points of the size and gender spectrum, offering non-toxic underwear made for literally every-body.

Azura Bay

Need a little lace in your life? I get that. Azura Bay shows traditional lingerie brands how it is with delicate and sexy intimates, most made by female-owned brands. And if that’s not enough, every pair also gives back.  

how to reduce your waste in flight

There are few places I love more than Logan International Airport in Boston. From family visits to my first international solo trip, Logan and other airports have become a sort of escape room for me—a Platform 9 ¾ to my constantly itching travel bug.  

But like any traveler, I have gripes, the biggest being how hard airports and airlines make it to avoid plastic. Whether its a cruelly early flight time, limited room in a carry-on, or 10+ hours on a plane, flying poses a challenge to those of us trying to reduce our footprint. Fortunately, with a little planning and a few travel essentials, I’ve found simple ways to fly around the obstacles.

Reusable Water Bottles:

If there’s still any question: Yes, you can bring a water bottle on a plane, just make sure its empty before going through security. Sadly, many airlines still don’t offer recycling and that means any plastic or aluminum you use will likely be thrown out. Fortunately in 2019, bottle filling stations are all over airports. I’ve also found flight attendants are happy to give your bottle a refill while they’re handing out beverages, all you have to do is ask.

Canteens or Coffee Cups:

For me, travel doesn’t happen without a generous serving of caffeine. But if I used a disposable cup every time I dosed up, I’d throw out three to five cups per trip, and that’s not counting the coffee I’d drink once I arrived at my final destination. So instead, I carry a Joco travel mug that I clean after every use, dry, and store in my carry-on. If you’re a cold brew or smoothy feign, remember there are great tumblers available with reusable straws so you can continue to indulge, plastic-free. 

Cutlery  

Available at specialty grocery stores and online shops, like the Package Free Store, you can find sporks and other travel cutlery in a range of designs and materials. I love my bamboo model by U-Konserve. Although it doesn’t include a knife, the spork has been a real lifesaver for a 24/7 grazer, like myself. Plus, it’s never once been an issue going through security.      

Tupperware

Depending on how long I’m traveling, I’ll usually pack at least one tupperware container. If I’m gone less than a week, I prefer to bring a takeaway tub I have lying around the house so I can just recycle it when its empty. But for anything longer than a week, I take something more sturdy. Aside from being convenient, carrying a salad or pre-made meal also means I can steer clear of any unhealthy or questionable airline meals.

Tote bags

The modern-day bag lady, I don’t soar at any altitude without a tote. With great options, like Baggu, taking up less space than a wallet, there’s really no reason to not bring a bag along. Even if you don’t need it in-flight, I guarantee you’ll find a use for it when you land.

Bulk snacks

Cookies. Candy. Chips. On a daily basis, these snacks are hard to resist, and for whatever reason, they become ever harder to avoid at 50,000 feet above the ground. So before you step foot in the airport, swing by your neighborhood grocer to stock up on fruit, bulk nuts, and other package-free snackables to avoid plastic and, more important, hanger.

Happy flying,

A

sustainable valentine’s day gift guide

Love is in the air—last minute gifts and CVS cards, included. So in the spirit of the cupid’s arrow, here are some sustainable suggestions for your sweetheart(s). 

Feeling cheeky.

Lacy underwear are a Valentine’s Day go-to. But if you’re looking for some more long-standing real estate, give your girl a pair of undies she can really live in. Made from certified organic cotton, Knickey underwear let lady parts breathe and are naturally free of nasty pesticides you’d find in commercial panties. Available in thongs, bikinis, hipsters, and briefs, the best way to find a pair she’ll love is to just buy one of each.

Shop Knickey

Stay golden.

I remember the first jewelry a significant other gave me. Let’s just say, some forms of animal branding were more tasteful. The thing was silver with the first letter of his name on one side and the first letter of mine on the other. At the time, I wore it as a badge of honor—that is, until we broke up and it met its fateful demise in a donation bin at Goodwill. Wait, what was I writing about? Oh yeah, bad jewelry—avoid it at all times. Instead, opt for one of these made-to-order necklaces by GLDN. Each piece is created by one of these lovely ladies and 10% of all profits go to charity, including Care.com and the National Immigration Law Center. Now, that’s true love.


For your girl.

Long Y 

Cheeky Heart 

Marama 

For the girls.

Three Graces 

Poise 

Hand Gestures

Time well spent.

If you’re really into your boo, then no gift can ever replace their company. Depending on your budget and availability, this could be as simple as illegally streaming their favorite movie while enjoying some Maryjane and popcorn. Or, you could spring for generosity and do something like dog sledding or a weekend getaway. Regardless, this gift isn’t so much about extravagance as it is the thought that went into the idea in the first place.

Give them your word.

As a copywriter, a card is the best way for me to express as my feels and more importantly, gives me an excuse to go to my favorite store in Harvard Square, Black Ink, and scour the racks until I find a card with the personality I’m searching for. You could even take a trip to your local craft store to make your own card or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, consider DIYing the whole thing.

Let’s get physical. 

This one goes out to you and yours.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Bad day? Things are looking up.

You get it.

Have sex kids, safe sex.

No matter if it’s your first date, your fifth year together, or you just matched on Tinder, give you and your partner(s) the gift of regretless coitus. Created by Meika Hollender—who also happens to be the daughter of Jeffery Hollender, founder of Seventh Generation—Sustain is dedicated to demystifying and destigmatizing some of life’s most avoided topics: Sex and periods. Sustain condoms are FSC certified, created from sustainably sourced rubber, and triple tested for tear-free, care-free sex. And hey, while you’re at IT, why not grab some of their lube and massage oil, too. With all that in your arsenal, may as well skip dinner and just go straight for dessert.

Oh, and did I mention I have an OFFER CODE? Use POWELL10 at checkout for 10% off your first order.

Shop Sustain

Happy V day, lovebirds,

A.

quick and easy vegan energy bites

Anyone who knows me well knows there’s not much I like more than setting goals. Checklists. Weekly schedules. Sign me up for all of it. So you can bet when January 1, 2019,rolled around, I already had a laundry list of routines, habits, and activities I planned to implement into the new year.

Number one on the list? Reducing the amount of packaged food I purchase. Not an easy task, let me tell you. Walk down any supermarket isle and nearly everything—even fresh produce—is wrapped in plastic. And while I can usually get around this roadblock by buying dried fruit and nuts in bulk and seeking out stores where plastic is a little less prevalent, the one area I fall short in is snacks. Luna bars, peanut butter pretzels, trail mix—all of it is covered in packaging that can’t be recycled or reused. So what’s a girl to do?

To avoid both hangryness and plastic, I turned to the internet for some inspiration. The recipe that kept popping up was for homemade energy balls. Easily made using just a food processor and some common pantry items, these bite-sized granola bars are a healthy, customizable, and package-free way to make it through the 3PM slump. 

Here’s my recipe:

10 medjool dates

3 tbsp of chia seeds

1/3 cup of oats

1 tbsp of coconut oil (melted)

¼ cup dark chocolate chips

3 – 4 tbsp of nut butter

1 tbsp of honey or maple syrup (vegan)

1 tsp of vanilla extract (optional)

Start by removing the pits of the dates. If your dates are on the hard side, use boiling water to soften them.

Once softened, add the dates into a food processor along with the chia seeds, oats, nut butter, coconut oil, and honey or maple syrup. Blend until the mixture is smooth. You may need to stop the food processor occasionally to make sure everything is being evenly mixed.  

Once you’ve reached a thick but smooth consistency, add the chocolate chips and vanilla. Blend again until the chocolate is fully incorporated into the batter.

Use an ice cream scoop to make small balls from the mixture. Put the balls on a baking tray and stick them in the fridge for 30 minutes. Once they’ve hardened, store them in a cool, dry space.

Enjoy

-A

meet @dressedtosustain

If you were to walk down any given street in any given urban or suburban area, the chances are you could throw a rock and hit a Starbucks, H&M, and Bath & Body Works all in one shot. Thank god, right? After all, what would I do without my overpriced almond milk latte, the dress I’ll definitely only wear once, and that glittery bath gel I stock up on any chance I get?

All sarcasm aside, this is the reality of the 21st-century consumer experience—one I’m on the journey to distance myself from. I mean, we’ve all seen pictures of the Great Pacific garbage patch and I’m willing to bet you were one of the 33,485,492 people who watched that turtle get a straw pulled out of its nose. But beyond the environmental damage, there are other less visible costs at hand. For example, wealth in the US may be rising, but so are rates of depression and anxiety. And while I’m no psychologist, I’d be willing to bet that many people’s need to keep up with the Jones, so to speak, by having the latest iPhone, best job, and so on is at least a little bit to blame for our growing dissatisfaction.

So how do we counter this consumer rat race? My answer came in the form of conscious consumerism. The act of caring about where, how, and by who your products were made, staying away from brands who don’t share your values, and considering every purchase as an opportunity to financially support the companies who have dedicated themselves to social and environmental sustainability.

For me, sustainability was, and is, being a member of my family. There’s a picture hanging in our garage of my mom and dad, young and smiling in matching t-shirts at SolarFest—a true Vermont namesake—that stands as a constant reminder of where I come from. My dad, in particular, has made sustainability a non-negotiable part of our household, equipping our home with all kinds of energy-saving gadgets, solar panels, a garden, and even a make-shift shower timer when I was eight (I wish I were kidding, too). But because it was more or less forced on me, my reaction growing up wasn’t to dream of the day I’d own my own Prius or embrace a zero-waste lifestyle. No, instead I kind of went the other direction. To me, sustainability wasn’t even an afterthought. I didn’t think about the impact of the waste I created, where it all went, or what the long-term effects of my usage would be. To me, a disposal coffee cup was convenient, plastic cutlery was a no-brainer, and if you think I gave a second thought to buying anything from H&M or Forever 21, my friend, you are sorely mistaken.

What changed? Well, me. As I got older, I exposed myself to movies, like Food Inc., and spent more time considering the expansive and murky gap between me and the products I consumed. But none of this happened overnight. On the contrary, it’s taken me a very long time to get where I am and there’s still so much work to be done. Only recently did I make the choice to stay away from retailers like Zara and start bringing my own mesh produce bags to avoid using the plastic ones at grocery stores. But as I started taking these small steps, I came upon big realizationsLike, why do people put bananas in plastic bags? They literally have their own natural covering. And why are straws a given at most bars and restaurants when, for most people, they are by every stretch of the imagination completely unnecessary? And then came the very sobering reality: With the growth and development of the commercial market, the value of convenience has only continued to skyrocket. In fact, it’s so ingrained in us to reach for a plastic fork or jump at anything cheap or free that we don’t even stop to think, “Hey, wait a minute.” This isn’t by accident. The plastic market is predicted to be worth $654.38 billion dollars by 2020. And just like beauty, fashion, and other industries that have to work to create consumer demand and stay relevant, the easier and more prevalent these products become in our lives, the harder it becomes to remove the plastic spoon from our mouths.

 But I want to be clear—I say none of this to shame anyone. I myself used three single-use plastic cups a few nights ago while I was out at a bar. And god knows I’m still trying to tame the rabid consumer beast that surfaces whenever I step foot into a TJMaxx. No, instead, I want this blog to be a place where people come to take first-steps and make small, but important, realizations. I want to put helpful information in people’s hands and make the process of living a more sustainable lifestyle financially, practically, and aesthetically feasible. I hope that by eliminating some of the stigmas and barriers associated with sustainability, I can make the movement as a whole more accessible for more people. I want to make room for mistakes and varying definitions of what it means to be “green”. And most of all, I want to show readers how truly gratifying, and even fun, a sustainable lifestyle can be. God knows, there are so many incredible artists, companies, eateries, and people working to make sustainability just as common as convenience. And the work they do isn’t just good for the planet, its refreshing to see. It’s a new spin on a modern story whose ending we each play a critical role in. The question is, are you willing to take that first step?

– Alexis