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

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