I follow a lot of influencers. Big influencers. Side hustlers. And everyone in between. Some influencers I follow are exclusively focused on no-spend and diy-ing their products. But the majority are people who either collaborate with brands to promote their products in a mutually beneficial way or purchase brand’s products and use their platforms to review them.
So how can you promote brands in a sustainable way? Is it possible to promote new products & still exist in this community? Obviously, the answers to these questions are subjective. But in my opinion, the distinguishing factor comes down to thought and intention.
PROMOTE GOOD BRANDS
If a brand reaches out to you to collaborate, take the time to do research. Do they check all the boxes of an ethical brand? Are they receptive to questions you have? What other influencers have they worked with in the past? If you’re simply purchasing to review on social media, ask yourself, do you really need this product or item? Are you buying into a trend or supporting a brand that aligns with your values? The key to making sustainable decisions relies on being critical of your intentions as well as a brand’s.
TO TAG, OR NOT TO TAG
I do not tag Everlane. I do not tag Public Goods. I do not tag Package Free. If you don’t agree with a brand, even if you were gifted the product or purchased it second-hand, I repeat, DO NOT TAG THEM. Tagging a brand is social media’s form of endorsement. Once you tag an image, a brand can easily go and share that content with more people. So if you wouldn’t tell your best friend to purchase from a brand, keep it anonymous.
WHY BLEND IN?
I’ve seen so many Cocokind and Glossier posts that my vision is permanently tinted pastel pink and green. Sure, they’re both brands that I would purchase from, but I often question whether everyone buys them to achieve results—or followers? If you use an ugly but effective product (i.e. my bentonite clay mask), be loud and proud about it! Just because something doesn’t have the sexiest packaging or name doesn’t mean it’s not worth sharing. And if you’re thinking about posting a trendy product, distinguish your content through commenting on its results, quality, or another feature that makes that product truly superior.
Nobody’s perfect. If you partner with a brand or purchase a product that turns out to be scummy, tell your followers! Sharing your story can prevent more people from going out and following or purchasing from that brand. It also shows strong moral character and a kind of authenticity that can be hard to find amongst all the filters and hashtags.
SUPPORT FELLOW SUSTAINABLE INFLUENCERS
Making it on social media is hard. So it’s all the more important to be mindful about who you’re following. If you notice a “sustainable” influencer is promoting new products left and right, consider that they may not be the best investment of your likes. Search hashtags like #nothingnew or #wearwhatyouhave to find influencers using their power to lower followers’ consumption and reduce waste.
A friendly reminder that influencers are people too. Inevitably they will make some mistakes but it’s the follow-up of those incidences that can really show a person’s true character. As a follower, be aware of the messages influencers are sending and seek out accounts that are truly sustainable. By increasing the following and engagement of responsible influencers, you’ll be better able to learn about ethical brands as well as ways to conserve and reuse what you already have.
As a creative person, there’s nothing more frustrating than when the ideas just won’t flow. You sit there, brow furrowing, wheels aimlessly turning like a car stuck in a ditch, until suddenly, “UGGGGGGGG”, you putter out in defeat.
For some, creative blocks can last for hours. Others for days. And for the most unfortunate of us, years. Causes of these blocks can range from overworking, stress, unrealistically high expectations of one’s self, and the current place in one’s life. For example, I recently went through a period of about a week and a half when the ideas and motivation just were not running. I didn’t have any genuine interest in sitting down to write, edit, let alone take any worthwhile outfit pictures. With so much going on for each of us personally, especially right now, it can be hard to know where exactly a block is rooted. For me, it was location—I’ve been living in the same neighborhood for three years now, which is the longest my antsy ass has ever lived anywhere, other than my parents’ house. And in typical Alexis form, the sameness of my surroundings had put a damper on my creativity.
While the causes of creative blocks may vary wildly from one person to the next, the solutions follow a fairly similar pattern. Below you’ll find my favorite exit strategies for these challenging times. All of them promise to push and alter your headspace and coax your mind back to its most beautiful ideas.
Did you know just the sight of your phone can cause a breakdown in focus? It’s true! Being home in Vermont for the month, where the service and WiFi are equally as terrible, I notice it even more. Unlike in Boston, I can actually sit in my bedroom and read a full chapter without scrolling or surfing in-between pages. Who would have thought?
While phones can be great vehicles of inspiration, they can also be the gateways to our most distracted and distant selves. You could be on the cusp of brilliance and two seconds later, you’re on your phone, diving down a rabbit hole of ASMR makeup tutorials. By putting your phone in another room during brainstorms or writing periods, you put yourself in the best position to explore your mind and focus on the task at hand.
…a real book. Okay, Kindles are fine, too. But nothing where you could end up on Instagram. Just the format of a physical book I find draws me in and forces me to think differently from how I do in my highly digital life. Find a genre you most enjoy—no one ‘hates’ reading, just certain genres. My favorite place to read is outdoors in a park or other public areas. In these locations, there’s enough to keep my wandering mind interested, but too much going on for me to get sucked into any one conversation or person. If staying motivated is an issue for you, join a book club and let peer pressure hold you accountable. Or, rent an audiobook from your local library and digest it that way instead. Check out my summer reading list for inspiration to get you started.
EARLY BIRDS & NIGHT OWLS
Hands down, my mind is at its best in the very early morning and very late at night. The rest of the time in between that, I’m the human version of a comatose potato. When it comes to getting the creative juices flowing again, you have to set yourself up for success. This means carving out time to be productive and really get into what you’re trying to accomplish. Maybe that’s getting up an hour earlier than everyone else in your house to sit in the kitchen, coffee or tea in hand, and just blow through lists of ideas. Or, letting inspiration strike when it needs to—which might come at 2 am after an eventful night out. Point is, whenever your peak time, make space to let things happen.
Nope, this doesn’t mean aimlessly scrolling through Instagram. Or rolling out your yoga mat. Choose something like walking someplace familiar or organizing that catchall drawer of office supplies. If you’re like me, you equate boredom with laziness and will find this process very difficult. But the more you’re able to let your mind go rogue and find its own rhythm, the more likely it is to fall onto your next stroke of genius. I find boredom helps me to be less self-critical and accepting of even my most outlandish ideas. So, just let it happen! Love where your mind goes and be open to any and all directions.
GET OUT OF YOUR NORMAL
Reorganize your room. Start a new fitness challenge. Take a weekend getaway. Spend a Friday night alone for a change. Although our habits can be a source of productivity, they can also hold us back. In seeing and doing the same things on a daily basis, its no wonder your mind needs a siesta every now and again! By finding small ways to break up the ordinary, especially while in lockdown, you give your mind room to spark new ideas and routes of thinking.
Have your own advice for reigniting creativity? Leave them in the comments below.
COVID has dashed a lot of plans. It’s been a wedding crasher, family reunion ruiner, and vacation crusher. And while we can’t really change the circumstances at hand, this forced proximity does have a silver lining. With the option of traveling by plane a less viable option, now is a great time to explore cities & sites a little closer to home.
I’ll start this series as close as it possibly gets for me—Boston. My current home, it’s safe to say I know Boston pretty well. Although I wouldn’t claim it has the largest sustainable community, there are some great gems in a few different neighborhoods as well as closeby parks & nature reserves you can spend a whole day exploring. So, without further ado, here’s sustainable Boston.
Boston has some great little neighborhoods in it—North End, South End, Jamaica Plain. But if you ask me, it’s just north of the city where you can find a cute & comfy New England experience. As a to-be resident, I’m certainly partial but nonetheless recommend the Cambridge & Somerville areas. Both can be reached by buses as well as the red & orange lines of the city’s subway (the T), making it a convenient location if you’re not traveling by car. If you are, just make sure to book spots on Spot Hero ahead of time—Somerville & Cambridge are not known for their visitor-friendly parking options. I recommend staying two to three days/nights in order to see all parts of the city and some of the surrounding areas.
Need to stretch your legs? Take a virtual yoga class at And Yoga, run for free along the Esplanade, or take a spin on Blue Bikes. If you’re really feeling ambitious, Goat Yoga is an experience I 10/10 recommend!
After a few years of searching, I’ve found some small business gems. Cambridge Naturals, Cleenland, and Boston General Store offer everything under the sustainable sun. Loose leaf tea and CBD oil. Refillable household cleaners, floss, and toothpaste. Beeswax wrap and bar shampoo. Pick up something to bring home or an eco-friendly gift for friends & family.
As for cute boutiques, well, Boston is crawling with them! If plants are more your speed, check out Niche—an aesthetically pleasing shop filled with greenery & gardening supplies. Find a card to send home or sassy tote at Olives & Grace and some handmade goodies & snacks at Bow Market. Swing by The Urban Grape for a classy bottle of wine to drink romantically on the side of Charles (no partner required!). For you book worms, don’t miss Frugal Bookstore, Brookline Booksmith, and Harvard Book Store.
And no weekend getaway would be complete without at least one thrift store! If you’re able to get outside the city, Savers in Framingham is a gold mine for great jackets, housewares, and dresses. If you’re looking to stay closer by, Goodwill near BU is pretty well-stocked with good brands. There’s also Boomerangs in the South End, a great place for higher-end brands (all proceeds go to HIV/AIDs causes).
Where do I even start? I could eat my way through Boston, but for brevity’s sake, here are just a few spots you cannot miss. Health-food enthusiasts and vegans must try Life Alive Cafe (located near BU and in Central Square). For a little taste of everything local, try Boston Public Market and find your perfect wine pairing at Taste Wine Bar. For something international, Tasca has cheap and delicious tapas. Moroccan Hospitality is everything the names suggests and more. And Lucy Ethiopian Cafe is a delicious stop for comforting lunch and dinnertime eats.
Outdoor enthusiasts, Boston even has something for you. If the Public Gardens aren’t enough, get up early and wander out to Walden Pond for a dip and walk around Thoreau’s old stomping grounds. Break a sweat at Blue Hills Reservation or take some cute IG shots at Harvard Arboretum.
Have your own sustainable Boston hotspots? Want me to review the sustainable & local highlights of another New England city? Leave your two cents in the comments.
One of the first steps I took in my sustainability journey was patronizing my local library. I’m lucky enough to live in Boston, home of the iconic Boston Public Library. In addition to the central location, the library also has 23 satellite locations throughout Boston’s various neighborhoods. This accessibility made the transition from buying to renting absolutely seamless. I’d simply reserve my book online, walk five minutes down the street to pick it up, and drop it off two weeks later in the same location. That’s the beauty of a great library system—the simplicity & financial benefits make it easy to adopt.
But then COVID hit. Not only have I had the same book out for the past five months (I’m not able to make returns at my local branch), I also can only take out books from the central location—a 40 minute T ride away. As much as I love my library and know my longterm support is critical, right now the lack of regular entertainment and the added risk of actually getting to the library has driven me to seek alternatives.
In keeping with my sustainability goals, I didn’t want to just go running to the first Amazon banner or buy a completely new addition of every book on my wishlist. Thankfully, it turns out there are a lot of online used booksellers that don’t raise money for Jeff Bezos. Better yet, many also contribute to literacy charities or donate books to causes you can feel good supporting.
Alibris is my go-to for cheap used books. My favorite thing about this online marketplace is that it partners with smaller charity shops and booksellers to help them reach wider audiences. Knowing where the book is actually being shipped from helps me to be more environmentally conscious when choosing where I buy and gives me as the consumer a huge range of price options.
Better World Books is a great resource for buying used books that give back. Although their prices are not as competitive as Alibris, Better World Books is committed to providing grants for libraries, closing literacy gaps, and cutting back on the number of books that end up in landfills.
Good Books is an Atlanta-based book shop selling vintage & new books. The shop is Black-owned and founded by a mother-daughter team. Their selection celebrates Black authors and boasts titles you’d be hardpressed to find at generic commercial booksellers.
Bookshop makes it easy to shop by specific booksellers. The website offers small storefronts a digital platform, helping them reach broader audiences, but also enables you as the buyer to support bookstores in your area from the safety of your home. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a feature to narrow the selection down to only used books but you can narrow down the type of bookstore you’re looking for to “used”. If you’re hoping to support Brown & Black-owned businesses, check out Estelita’s Library and Bookish and Black, amongst other members.
Unfortunately, Audible is owned by Amazon. The good news? Other audiobook companies have popped up in the past few years—some pretty comparable to Audible’s mammoth selection.
One alternative I found is Audiobooks Now. After your 30-day trial, it’s $4.99 a month. This price gives you access to popular & relevant titles, like Where the Crawdads Sing and The Color of Law. But keep in mind you will have to pay for each audiobook individually; the monthly subscription just gets you a discount on each book.
The other option out there is Scribd. After your 30-day free trial, you’ll pay $9.99 a month for unlimited digital books and audiobooks. If you’re someone who likes to listen to books and prefers reading from a Kindle or tablet, this is a pretty economical option for you. Scribd has many popular names and makes it easy to discover new titles to add to your summer reading list.
Speaking of which, here is the list of books I’m sitting down with this summer:
‘Tis the season for Allston Christmas, double parking, and bets about whether or not your couch will fit up a very narrow stairwell. Yep, you guessed it, it’s moving day.
Even with a global pandemic going on, people are still on the go. Whether you’re moving across the world, the country, or—like me—just to a different neighborhood, the following tips will help you reduce some of the waste & clutter that can come with one of life’s most unavoidable transitions.
Alright my procrastinators, unless you enjoy panic, sweat, and heavy objects, its time to get your butt into gear! Especially if you’re upcoming move is going to require national or international travel, proactive planning can be the difference between a move with minimal hiccups and an in-motion disaster. Now is the time to think about what you really want to bring with you to your new place, how you are getting there, and what you’ll need to move efficiently and with minimal waste.
Reuse. Reuse. Reuse.
There is already enough cardboard out there—no need to create more! Instead of purchasing boxes, start saving any delivery packaging from online orders and ask your friends to do the same. If that’s still not enough, reach out to managers at local grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants to ask them to save out any leftover boxes. More than likely they’ll be happy for you to take them off their hands.
Find your stuff a second-home
What better opportunity to clean out and start fresh than a move? Just because you find that neon waffle maker your mom gave you offensive doesn’t mean someone else can’t appreciate it. Send out a mass text with photos or a list of things you’re getting rid of to every contact on your phone. Or, if you’ve got a decent social media following, maybe you sell items via your story and let your followers duke it out. Finally, you can also use resale apps like Merchari or Poshmark to sell your unused things for cold hard (virtual) cash, but just keep in mind this way may take longer.
Donate (almost) anything you don’t want
Nearly everything that doesn’t sell or get dibbed by a friend should be donated. But before you go, check your donation centers’ policies on items they accept and make sure they’re a good fit for your donations. Places like Savers, for example, will take things like used underwear (they won’t sell them, don’t worry) & socks and have great recycling programs in place. If you have questions about what a center accepts—ask. Otherwise, any unusable or unfit items you bring to donate will likely create challenges for donation center employees and potentially be trashed.
Check your local curb-side rules
In the current climate, there may be items you can’t get rid of, for example, mattresses. But don’t just put those sad springs out on the street. Look into any low-cost or free pickup service that can extend your item’s lifespan through donation or repurposing.
Unless you’re an ultra-minimalist (props!), you’re gonna need at least a minivan to move. For most people, this will mean renting a vehicle. When booking your moving van or truck, be sure to pick an option that’s just what you need. Go any bigger and it’s just like boiling a full kettle of tea when you only want a cup. It’s a waste of money, stress, gas, and space. If you don’t know how big a rented vehicle is, check Youtube. There are plenty of videos out there showing how many mattresses can fit in a Uhaul and more practical information to help you make the right choice.
Anything, just not plastic
If you go out and buy packing peanuts, my heart will break. Tissue paper, towels, clothing—there are so many things you can use to pad breakables that won’t cause waste or add to your load. Reuse any plastic wrapping you get from online orders or purchase a natural paper wrap, if needed.
Borrow, don’t buy
If you don’t have packing tape, scissors, tools, boxes, etc., I guarantee one of your friends does. Proactively reach out to contacts to see if they have items you need in order to make the move. Consider asking them to save any delivery packaging they receive or even if you can borrow their car for moving day. After all, that’s what friends are for.
Offset your flight
If you’re flying to your new home, consider offsetting the impact of your travel by using a site like My Climate or another carbon emissions calculator. After realizing your impact, you can offset by donating to an environmental organization or planting your own garden/trees.
Leave no carrot behind
Eat your food, people! Plan out groceries and meals leading up to your move to make sure you’ll have enough to eat without unintentionally being wasteful. Leave a few utensils and pots out so you have cookery available to you even in the days leading up to the move.
You’re ready to go! For everyone who is moving this summer and fall, I wish you all the best! Remember to eat protein the morning of the move, wear your mask always, and stay cool.
Before I jump into the article, I want to be sure to address the matter of affordability. After all, “affordable” is a very loaded term and it means vastly different things to different people.
Yes, truly sustainable products do cost more than their generic alternatives. And unfortunately, this does negatively impact their accessibility. The promising news is that as more people already able to afford these products make the switch, over time, costs will decrease. It’s for sure not an immediate solution, but it does offer some hope for greater access down the road.
Where I am at in life, it is financially feasible for me to make sustainability a priority. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some initial sticker shock as I started exploring these zero-waste swaps. Even if you’re able to make sustainable switches, letting go of comfortable and convenient habits is hard. So to help, here’s the logic I used to see these products not just as purchases, but as investments in a more sustainable future.
Higher quality ingredients – Chemical-free and biodegradable products are naturally derived and therefore better for your body and the earth
Longevity – Many sustainable products are concentrated or purer, requiring less volume per use
Livable wages & working conditions – More money is cycled back to the people who grow and produce these products, so they can achieve a higher quality of life
If you’ve been hoping to switch over to a more sustainable or plastic-free bathroom routine but haven’t known where to start, this guide will help you identify which products can work for your lifestyle and budget. For every product, I’ve broken down the costs and ease of switch to help make your sustainable transition a smooth one.
1. Zero Waste Lip Balm | Ease of switch: 9/10
Currently, I’m using a nice mint stick from Twinkle Apothecary, a woman-founded, small business based in Oklahoma. The large stick, if I recall correctly, was $12 and has lasted me more than a year.
The only challenge I encountered when switching to a plastic-free lip balm was adjusting to the more natural formula. As a devout Burts user, I found my lips more dry than usual at the start, but they’ve since adapted and feel very healthy.
If you’re willing to break from your plastic pal, stainless steel razors make for a great zero-waste swap. Unlike safety razors you find at drug stores or from popular brands like Billie, the steel versions feature two blades that can be replaced an infinite number of times.
I purchased my three-piece Albatross razor from Package Free a year ago, and although we had a pretty rocky start, we’re now very well acquainted. What do I mean by ‘rocky’? Well, bloody. I should preface this with the fact that I’ve never been a very adept shaver. Add to that applying way too much pressure to this new razor and you have yourself a perfect little storm.
During my initial shaves with the Albatross, I used the razor just like my cheap plastic ones. Big mistake. Because the body of the Albatross razor is heftier, applying any additional pressure pushes the blade directly into your skin. Ouch!
But before you write this method off completely—hold on. We’re not talking ER type cuts, just little nicks, easily fixed with a bandaid. A slow learner, it’s taken me almost a year to shave cut-free but now that I have a handle on it, I truly love this product and will NEVER go back. I use it on my legs, armpits, lil mustache, and uh yah, down yonder too. I only need to change the blade every 4-6 months and each replacement costs just cents.
Another benefit of this particular brand is Albatross’ free blade recycling program that lets you mail in used razors to be repurposed rather than trashed in landfill. But if you aren’t able to buy Albatross’ razor and use their recycling program, I advise you collect your old razors in a pill container or Altoids box, something hard and difficult to puncture. When the container is full, put the entire thing in the trash. Never in recycling and never uncovered; the tiny pieces can damage disposal machinery and pose risk to workers. Obviously, this version isn’t completely waste-free, but you are still eliminating new plastics from being produced and added to the environment.
Bar soaps are a cheap and easy way to cut back on plastic at the sink and in your shower. These zero-waste swaps are available in an incredible number of scents, packaging options, and sizes so most people won’t have trouble finding a good fit. If you can find and afford it, opt for a soap that is package-free, chemical-free, and biodegradable.
Something you might also want when making the switch to bar soap is a self-straining holder. These little babies can be helpful in preserving the life of your soap and preventing the bar from becoming soggy. I like this one from the Zero Waste Store, but you can also make your own using rubber bands and a jar top.
Dr. Bronners– $4.69 (I can often find this brand discounted at T.J.Maxx)
If you like breath mints, toothpaste tabs will be a synch. Unlike some of the homemade solutions I’ve tried, toothpaste tabs don’t cause me to dry heave over the bathroom sink. Which is great. While you definitely don’t get the same rush of freshness as you do with a chemical-heavy Crest or Colgate, the tabs still leave your teeth and mouth feeling clean. Oh, and my dentist approves, too!
I personally use Bites, although after doing this cost analysis, I’ll probably switch to Georganics. Regardless, both brands’ are cruelty-free and don’t contain sulfates or parabens. If you’re not a fan of traditional mint, Bites also has flavors like Berry Blast (good for kids) and Lavender Lemon.
As for cost, Bites charges about $.2 per tab while Georganics is half that. My Bites subscription is $30 for four month’s supply that automatically renews, so I never run out. Their refills come in compostable, plant-based plastic, making even that part of the process zero-waste. Georganics, on the other hand, is about $26 for the same amount of tabs and they do not offer a subscription option.
Truthfully, there’s not a huge difference in price or quality between either of these tabs. During this pandemic, Bites is more convenient because I can’t access a lot of local stores. However, after this period is over, buying Georganics makes more sense because it’s slightly cheaper, lets me support local business, and doesn’t require any added shipping.
I use ear swabs for makeup and, of course, a satisfying de-waxing. But daily use really adds up and these small items unfortunately often end up damaging waterways and oceans.
Fortunately, a very smart person invented a reusable & zero-waste swab. I own two different types; one for ears and one for makeup. Both are made out of a squishy, body-safe silicone and are easy to clean using just soap and water. They’re very comfortable and other than regular washing, don’t demand much of an adjustment.
I hate flossing. What normal person doesn’t? But every time I go to the dentist, she reminds me it’s the only way to keep my own teeth. So I floss.
I started using refillable floss a few months ago and am very happy with this zero-waste swap. Before, I did try a low-waste floss wrapped in paper, but found it’s design totally non-durable and by the end of the pack, I was having to cut the floss with scissors.
Refillable floss, however, is just like regular floss but without the plastic waste. The container is made from glass and metal. And while normal floss is typically nylon, a type of plastic, most zero-waste floss is made from compostable 100% silk. The only exception I’ve found is Georganics charcoal floss, which contains some plastic in the form of polyester. Regardless of the brand you choose, always read the materials of your floss prior to buying to make sure you’re getting a wholly biodegradable option.
As you may have guessed, refillable floss isn’t cheap. It averages about $7 upon initial purchase, plus $10 for two refills. I bought my current floss about four months ago, floss 3 times a week (don’t judge me), and still have a ways to go to finishing it. Out of all the products I’ve shared, refillable floss is arguably one of the most expensive and difficult to justify. But if you can afford it, you’ll be removing dangerously small and easy to swallow plastics from waterways and any animals in them.
Time is a fickle thing. If you’re like me, you probably complain a lot about not having enough of it. And yet, in the face of free time, we don’t always know what to do with the extra hours. It’s daunting, isn’t it? Free terrain. Space to roam. But cows manage. So why can’t we?
As somewhat of a skilled procrastinator, I thrive in the busy and chaotic. But now, standing here in week four of quarantine, I’m starting to reassess where and when I’m most productive.
While I definitely do work well under pressure, in my personal time, I often use other non-conflicting commitments as excuses. I’m too tired after work to do anything. There’s only an hour before I have to go meet someone. If I start that project now, I won’t be in the right headspace. Blah. Blah. Blah. It’s shocking how good I am at convincing myself there’s no time for the things I really enjoy.
Today though, those excuses only go so far. I’m no longer going out or commuting. I don’t really have plans and honestly, there’s only so many hours a day I can spend binging shows. So all those previously neglected activities, now I guess I have no choice but to give them my time.
To both combat and embrace the added hours I now have to myself, I’ve found these four areas critical to staying positive and productive. They not only pass the time but also assure I’ll leave quarantine happier and more myself than when I started.
Without the pressure of grades, learning can be a great way to develop new skills and interests. Maybe you’ve wanted to learn a new language or get a little more creative. Obviously, in-person classes aren’t an option right now. But for some of us, they weren’t anyway. I looked into Spanish classes a while back and the total cost was in the thousands for less than a year! But fortunately, sites like Skillshare and apps like Babbel make it possible for you to learn affordably from anywhere, all at your own pace.
Skillshare is an open platform where professionals in the field teach courses on graphic design, video editing, copywriting, and other creative topics. After your free trial, Skillshare is $99 a year for unlimited access, which means you can tune in and complete courses when you have the time. Really good at something? Skillshare makes it easy to become a contributor and upload your own courses to share with others.
As for new languages, Babbel, Duolingo, and other apps on average cost less than $10 a month. Because you test into these programs, they’re great for everyone—true beginners to advanced speakers. I personally use Babbel to keep up with my Spanish language and writing skills. I love that the app offers speaking, writing, and matching exercises and how each course builds on the next. It really is like being in school but A LOT less pricey.
Anyone else looking to get smarter about sustainability? Slow Factory is offering a three week, free crash course in sustainable literacy starting Friday, April 17th. Regardless of where you are in your own journey, this class offers valuable information from expert sources and can add some much-needed structure to your day.
If you’re willing and able to pay for them, the University for the Arts London (UAL) offers online short-courses spanning all areas of fashion sustainability. UAL is known internationally as one of the best fashion and arts colleges and is one of the only accredited institutions I’ve found that offers courses addressing the intersection between sustainability and the fashion industry. Their courses are taught by professors and are very much doable, even while working a full-time job.
Finally, Coursera—yet another great online learning resource—is also offering a free, 14 hour Sustainable Fashion course through the Copenhagen Business School. The three instructors teaching the course work within the fashion industry and boast some pretty impressive resumes. For your convenience, the class is entirely pre-recorded so you can start whenever you’d like. You also have the choice to take the course for $49, which will get you a certificate of completion for you to post on your LinkedIn—or give to mom to put on the fridge.
Like with any learning experience, success relies on your motivation. For example, I set aside 10-15 minutes almost every day to practice my Spanish on Babbel. It’s not a lot of time but because I do it consistently, I am noticing progress. If you’re a student already or working full-time, be reasonable with your time commitment. Don’t learn something just to get a certificate or check a box. Dedicate yourself to studying something you love and that you know will contribute to the skillset you want.
I’m not sure why, but sitting at my computer all day at home is almost more draining than it is in the office. On top of the absence of people and energy, most days leave me feeling kind of like a wilted plant in need of some serious creative juices.
I’ve found hands-on activities to be the most therapeutic for my drain. I actually have enjoyed cooking lately (?!) and there has been a surge in my embroidery activity. For some of my friends, puzzles have been a great use of their time. Others have started making their own cleaning products, sniff, and making me oh-so-proud.
And it’s not even necessarily about backing away from the computer, just using it differently. For someone, recording a shitty podcast to share with friends could be a great release. My designer friend uses her iPad to create some really cool art that she then sells on Etsy. The beauty of creativity is that it can be anything you want it to be—and, most important, you don’t even have to be good at it to enjoy the process.
I don’t count my steps on a daily basis but I don’t need to to know that my mobility is blob-like right now. Even so, during this time, I’m trying not to worry about how much I work out and instead, focusing on my intentional movement. Some days, I wake up ready to go and log a 10k easy. Other days, take yesterday for example, I’m slower and spend 40 minutes flowing with Adrienne. It doesn’t really matter what I do, it’s just doing it that changes my outlook on the day.
Leaving the house, walking your dog, riding your bike, reiki, pilates, stretching—it’s all intentional movement. I recommend logging this movement in the AM. Especially if you’re able to go outdoors, the mornings usually mean fewer people and it’s less likely that you’ll run into conflicts or constraints during those early hours.
So—mark it on your calendar, tell your roommate to wake you up. Do what you need to do to hold yourself accountable. You may grumble all the way outdoors or to your yoga mat but I promise that once you’re there, you won’t regret it.
Even introverts are social creatures. Yup, you heard it here first. Although I’m not struggling socially as much as my extrovert pals, there are some days when I swear I’ve spoken more to my cat more than human beings.
The world we live in is inherently social. We work in open office spaces and live our lives in constant communication. So of course it’s a shock to the system when our physical community is taken away and suddenly we have to learn—or maybe re-learn—how to connect.
As much as social media is helping ease the burden right now, I encourage you to do more than like your friends’ photos. Check in with people individually to see how they’re really doing, set up virtual happy hours or game nights, and send cards, if you can. These gestures, that we might normally ignore or take for granted, count for so much right now. It’s very easy to assume people are doing fine so long as they’re physically well, but with the added stress of job and financial insecurity, online courses, and shifting home environments, you’d be surprised just how many of your friends would really appreciate a touch-base.
Another fun thing I’ve noticed people doing is trying out different social media. Tik Tok is apparently a huge thing (AM I OLD?!) and I’ve been loving watching random celebrities force their families into group dances. If it’s not going to be disruptive, maybe you create a satirical Twitter or IG, join a dating app, or start a Youtube channel. It’s never too late and the time has never been better for these means of virtual connection.
But for as great as social media is, there is someone even the latest iPhone can’t help you get in touch with. When it comes to self-care, taking a short break from your phone and computer can be really helpful for decompressing. Either because of work obligations or boredom, my screen time has gone up significantly since the stay-at-home order began. I get panicky about missing a text from a co-worker or not being there if my parents need to call. And those are all valid concerns, but so is caring for your personal wellbeing.
Every day, I challenge you to set aside at least an hour where your phone is in a different room than you are. Go for a run and leave it at home. Eat dinner while your phone’s on Do Not Disturb in another room. Just get away from that crack devil, even if it’s just for a little while.
There’s no doubt about it, now is one of the strangest and most difficult periods of time many of us will ever encounter. That’s why finding simple pleasures within your day is so critical. Don’t think of these activities and routines as requirements or scold yourself for not doing all of them every day. Instead, just take a little bit of each area and find the groove that works best for you.
Typically, I don’t buy much online…well clothing. But other than that, I do most of my business IRL. Take that, millennial haters! And so far, my non-digital approach has served me well. I’m lucky to live in an area where it’s easy to find local grocery stores to support and with very few exceptions, I can purchase any household, cosmetic, or everyday essential within just a few miles of my house.
But right now, everything’s a little different. Amidst the pandemic, bulk sections at my usual grocery stores are empty. Healthy and cheap go-to’s like oatmeal are difficult, if not impossible, to find. This on top of having to stand in line for hours just to get into virtually any store. And suddenly, something that was so simple and enjoyable for me just a month ago, is now a stressful time commitment.
For the most part, I’m still trying to get my groceries around the neighborhood. I feel some obligation because of my good health (knock on wood) and access to a car to leave online stockpiles to those who really need them. Online orders also require additional gasoline and resources to ship and the more I can avoid adding to my footprint, the better.
But if you do need toilet paper or some things for your pantry, the good news is you can find affordable, lower-impact options online. The following brands offer more sustainable alternatives to the Amazon’s and other one-stop-shops of the world. And even after shelter-in-place orders relax, you might find them to be a great addition to your lifestyle.
In an attempt to mimic the “value, selection, [and] convenience” of her then current employer Amazon, founder of The Wally Shop, Tamara, split from the herd and started her own climate-conscious venture.
Selling a range of bulk goods—olive oil to chocolate chips—in returnable and reusable containers, The Wally Shop is blazing trails where few digital businesses have ever been before. The site offers different size jars, letting you buy just what you need, and tells you the ideal number of products you’d have to buy in order for the carbon footprint of shipping to be worthwhile. At checkout, buyers pay a jar deposit that they’ll get back once their containers are returned as well as a flat rate for back-and-forth shipping. When your jars are empty, just send them back and you’re ready to start the process over again. Super simple & sustainable.
A smaller and more niche version of Costco, Public Goods is a members-only, semi-sustainable online grocery store. Membership is $59 annually (or about $4 a month) but you can try their products for free through their two week trial.
In terms of quality, I think of Public Goods like a Trader Joes. Most of their products are unfortunately wrapped or packaged in plastic but, from what I can tell, the contents are more planet-friendly and/or healthy for your body. Their toilet paper, for example, is wrapped in plastic. But the paper itself is made from sugar cane and bamboo—bamboo being one of the more environmentally-friendly paper products out there. So it’s a trade-off. They also offer a lot of refillables which, if used properly, can reduce, but not eliminate, your plastic consumption.
Overall, Public Goods scores lower for sustainability but offers really great value and access. If you are trying to limit your plastic use, I’d recommend sticking to their designated ‘zero waste’ section, glass or canned goods, vitamins, and avoid their travel & smaller sized cosmetic products.
Need a fresh shampoo bar, biodegradable dog poop bag, or reusable food storage pouch? The Package Free Store has it all. While their prices definitely fall on the higher side, Package Free has an incredible selection of sustainable products that are helpful in and out of quarantine. Keep in mind that the higher cost of eco-friendly products typically accounts for their longer lifespan and body-safe ingredients. But if that’s not enough justification, you can always try finding products of interest on other sites for a better deal.
Package Free does offer a subscription program which will save you 10% on every order and prevent future oh-shit-I-ran-out-of-biodegradable-toilet-paper moments.
I owe my friend Mikayla for this one! (Hi, if you’re reading!) Like Package Free Shop, I trust the Zero Waste Store implicitly. They carry some of the best sustainable brands and offer a surprising number of smaller and more difficult to find names as well.
The Store offers shampoo and conditioner bars, candles, makeup, kitchen supplies, and more, all with minimal to no packaging. It’s also a woman-owned business and has a great blog if you’re looking for some reading material.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I heard Tinder’s not doing great with the whole social distancing thing. But that doesn’t mean the world has stopped having sex altogether. Like always, staying safe and comfortable is of the utmost importance. That’s where Sustain comes in.
Sustain, which in the past year was acquired by the subscription-based site, Grove Collaborative, was founded with the intention of destigmatizing intimate health. In addition to organic cotton tampons and pads, Sustain also makes fair trade latex condoms, water-based lube, and even a menstrual cup. Their products aren’t as affordable as K-Y or Trojan but they contain far less compromising materials. So they’re good for you, and better for the planet.
Once I run through the shampoo and conditioner bars I’ve been meaning to try, Plain Products will be my next stop. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been skeptical of how a solid bar of product will interact with my hair. But, at the same time, I’m tired of big plastic bottles and long, chemical-packed ingredients lists.
That’s why Plain is super cool. For $30—$27 with an ongoing subscription—you can get 16oz of liquid conditioner or shampoo. The product comes in metal bottles that you use and then send back to be refilled. No plastic. No waste. Plain has a range of body products, including lotions, body oils, face wash, and toner, all of which follow their low-impact system.
If you’re looking to cut back on plastic within your beauty routine and can swing the higher price, Plain is a really good option. As someone who washes their hair 2-3 times a week, I can go four to five months on 16oz of product. That’s just cents per wash!
I’ve been making the transition to a low-impact lifestyle for a little over a year now. I say “transition” because so much of this process is about me forming and settling into new habits, none of which happens overnight. It’s all a work in progress and no matter what, there always seems to be some room for improvement.
Taking into account the past year’s downfalls and successes, here are six ways I’m reevaluating my lifestyle & consumer decisions to make an even greater impact in 2020:
No more stockpiling
The daughter of a chronically overprepared woman, I was born into a world where there was always a reserve of household supplies. Lotion, toilet paper, the same shirts in black, white and red. There was never a shortage of anything—sometimes to a fault.
As I got older and began to pick up my own buying habits, I kept up with stockpiling. From white blouses to the perfect mascara, I was obsessed with having more than enough of everything. Unfortunately, this too often meant loading up on something I’d just end up donating or throwing out because it was no longer cool, necessary, or had passed its expiration date. Wasted money. Wasted space. Wasted resources.
I still love being prepared—I keep a lip balm in every one of my bags for christ’s sake. But this year, I’m trying not to cross the line into over-preparation…toilet paper being the only exception.
No fast fashion. No exceptions.
I’m normally really good at dodging unethical brands. But, admittedly, I did make a few exceptions while traveling abroad in 2019. Figuring in the reduced shipping distance (most of Spain’s Zara garments are made in Morocco and Turkey) and timeless design, I ended up bringing back a Zara belt, jacket, dress, and shearling coat on two separate occasions. Have I worn the items? Yes, absolutely. But, let’s be honest—I know better.
Although they’re not coming from China or another country notorious for poor working conditions, there’s no way those garments were made by healthy, well-compensated Turks or Moroccans. Zara uses the same production model across its factories and buying from any store is supporting unethical practices.
In trying to reevaluate why and where I shop in 2020, I’m cutting ties with all fast fashion brands and instead, exclusively buying from second-hand shops and ethical labels. The ‘no exceptions’ thing is going to be tough. But if I can’t say no to a piece of clothing, knowing all I do about its negative impacts and even though most of the time I can afford to find an alternative, well, let’s just say I’m not loving what that’s saying about me.
In tandem with my oath to not shop fast fashion, I’ll also be cutting back on how much I buy. My goal is to limit shopping to one or two indulgent/non-necessity (new or used) per month. This could be clothing, housewares, technology—anything I could really live without but want nonetheless. I’m hoping this change will help me to stick closely to my monthly shopping budget and consistently force me to take into account what I already own.
No more guilty gifting
When it comes to gifting, there’s enormous pressure to buy, buy, buy. I’ve had so many experiences, both on the gifting and receiving side, where quality has been sacrificed for quantity. For my birthday this year, one of my friends didn’t know what I needed or wanted. Instead of guessing, she got me a gift card to a zero-waste store. It was perfect. I got exactly what I wanted and didn’t have any extra stuff I didn’t need lying around after.
Whether it’s weddings, birthdays, or baby showers, I’m choosing to no longer give in to the social pressures and instead get people fewer, better quality items and/or experiences.
Bye, bye subscription boxes
Causebox, it’s been fun. I’ve loved trying all the new products and reading about the different brands. But after regifting up to half of each box, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth it. The thing about subscription boxes is that they let you try products you wouldn’t otherwise try…which probably means you didn’t need them in the first place. I love putting on a new lotion as much as the next girl, but by making my own beauty items or buying locally, I discover new brands without using or spending more than I really need to.
Instant message. Fast food. Our culture grooms us to expect everything now, right now. The problem is, the more we speed, the less time we have to really think about what we’re doing and, more importantly, why. Just last week, I found myself on a RayBan bender. I flew through Poshmark for hours, looking for THE PERFECT PAIR. In the past (reads: even a month ago), I would have closed the deal then and there just to satisfy the hungry consumer in my head. But I just couldn’t justify it. I have perfectly fine sunglasses. I could hate the way the style looked on me and not be able to send them back. Was I feeding into brandom? Bottom line—there were just too many cons and not nearly enough pros.
Instant gratification feels great in the moment. It’s a buzz…until it’s not. The limelight of new items seems to fade for me after just a few uses. So rather than jump at the first fish I see, this year, I’m making a concerted effort to stop. Think. Then buy. This new mindset allows time to try to find an item used or of even better quality before ever reaching for my credit card.
So at this point, everyone knows BYOB—that’s, Bring-Your-Own-Bag. But what other simple steps can you take at the grocery store to reduce plastic and unnecessary waste? Let’s take a look.
Anything but plastic
Aluminum cans, glass jars, paper—literally anything is better than plastic. Because of the current recycling crisis, an overwhelming amount of America’s recyclables are now piling up in warehouses or being sent directly to landfill. That means even if you recycle with good intentions, at least a portion of those items may sadly end up in the dump.
Now, I want to be clear—waste is waste. An aluminum can ending up in the garbage is just as bad as any other material. But what distinguishes plastic from other materials in landfills is what follows its disposal. Unlike plastic, aluminum and glass do not leach microplastics as they degrade, therefore posing less risk to our environmental wellbeing. Even better, these alternative materials are great for reuse and repurposing. A glass tomato sauce jar can easily become a to-go iced coffee mug and soda cans can double as retro flower vases.
Not-so-valuable value packs
Buying produce in plastic wrapped ‘value packs’ is an easy habit to justify. It’s usually cheaper than buying single fruits or vegetables, feeds far more people, and for those of us without easy access to transportation, it’s simpler to carry a large, plastic bag of potatoes than it is to try and wrangle ten individual ones.
But what many people don’t realize in buying this way is that bulk doesn’t always mean getting a better deal. For example, let’s say you buy a bag of 7 red peppers. Yum, right? Well, yeah, for the first week. But unless you’re obsessed with peppers, you and your household probably only eating one or two per week. The remaining peppers are in a rush against the clock. Knowing this, it’s not surprising that North America has the highest rate of food waste in the world, hitting anywhere between 30-40%.
Before buying value produce, it’s important to consider what you can realistically consume. Knowing that most fruits and veggies start to go bad after a week or so, try to plan out meals prior to hitting the grocery store. If you and your partner aren’t big salad people or on a mighty juice cleanse, buying an enormous box of baby kale probably isn’t the right option for you. In the end, you’d likely spend around $6-8 and only consume half that value, when you could have spent less than that on a fresh, unpackaged head of kale. It may take some time to get in the habit but a simple cost-benefit analysis can really help you figure out what your most sustainable food options are.
In most produce departments, there’s a small section dedicated to dried fruit and nuts. While part of me is like, yay, healthy snacks, the other part of me is like, no way that’s sustainable. First off, dried fruit and nuts are expensive. Unlike bulk options, where you pay by weight, prepackaged bags give companies a heavier hand in dictating costs. So maybe you think you’re getting a $10 trail mix pack, but what you may not realize is that you’re actually paying a premium. Companies find sneaky ways, like using cheaper nuts and candy, to supplement more expensive ingredients and make you think you’re paying for a better quality product than you are.
Fortunately, shops like Whole Foods and Wegmans offer a variety of bulk options, including organic and non-organic nuts and dried fruit. Bring your own produce bag and you can choose the exact amount you want to buy and pay. If you haven’t tried something before, bulk bins let you get a taste before purchasing to prevent wasted money and food.
Boycott the bad guys
On top of avoiding products made by big corporations (i.e. Unilever, P&G, etc.), you can also look out for problematic ingredients like:
Found in things like chocolate, peanut butter, and shampoo, palm oil use is widespread—and so are its consequences. Its demand has led to unsustainable growth practices that threaten biodiversity and endangered species. Thanks to the clearing of land used to grow palms, nearly “558 million metric tons of CO2,” have been released into the atmosphere.
One of the double-edged swords to come from the vegan/plant-based movements is the popularity of almond milk. While it’s healthy and doesn’t rely on heavily-polluting animal agriculture, it takes nearly “100 liters of water to produce 100 ml of almond milk“. And with the vast majority of almonds coming from dry and water-depleted California, almond milk is putting a lot of unnecessary strain on precious resources and environments.
Like palm oil, soybeans, used in insulation, a range of food products, and animal feed, require huge plantations in order to keep up with current demand. Much of the land being cleared for production has come at the cost of invaluable rainforests in Brazil and has overtaken land populated by native species.
Say no to singles
It’s very tempting to buy products in smaller packages—trust me, I work in advertising. Like many people, I’m a sucker for little jars of yogurt and those tiny bins of Vaseline. But when you can resist, do. There are times when buying just a single portion of something helps prevent food waste. But when it comes to buying a lot of individually wrapped items instead of one larger portion, you actually end up using more packaging and plastic per serving—not to mention overpaying along the way.