New Year Intentions

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photo by @lisachinny

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your holiday and are having a great start to the new year. If you haven’t noticed, naturally sus has an updated look. Ten months ago, I created this blog with the sole intention to share my passion about taking care of the environment as much as I humanly could. That is still my intention and it always will be. I’m excited for all the new content naturally sus will have to offer this year. Thank you to everyone who followed along since the beginning, read a post, took action, or even questioned their habits and lifestyle. If you’re new – hi hello welcome, take a look around, I hope you like it here.

2017 was a year of learning and trying new things (like getting bangs but realizing it was too high maintenance for my low maintenance lifestyle even though I enjoyed them.) But seriously, I think my biggest takeaway from last year was the impact of learning to live with less. I became a more conscious and smarter shopper. I seldom bought meaningless items with little value or purpose. I said no to single-use plastic and plastic bags whenever I could. I actively shopped at the farmer’s market and composted as much as I recycled. I volunteered in my community to encourage others to reduce their waste. Packaging, carbon footprints, and ethical labor took up a bigger space in my brain. Overall, all these changes to my everyday life made me happier. It felt good to live simpler, to live with less clutter, to say no (nicely,) to have an idea of where products come from and how they are made, and to share with others how much I care about all of this.

That being said, I’m not perfect and I’ll never be perfect. I’m simply trying my best and that’s what I’m encouraging others to do through this blog. I still have plastic bags to throw out garbage. I like to try new recipes and sometimes that requires ingredients in non‑recyclable packaging. I like to travel and I intend to travel more this year. I met up with a friend for coffee and forgot to bring my mug L. See – not perfect. But not being too hard on yourself is important too.

My goal for this year’s sustainable journey is to continue everything I did last year, but go even deeper and spread the word more. Whether it’s exploring and engaging with more sustainable communities on social media, doing more research on technical topics like solar energy and carbon credits, or reaching out to members of the local community and businesses to discuss improvements. There’s so much to learn, to understand, and to share.

What are your environmental and sustainable intentions for the new year?

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sus Holiday Gift Guide 2017

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photo by @mybyta

There’s nothing like the spam of promotional emails, ads, and social media posts for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday to remind us it is officially the holiday season. While we all like to think the holidays are about spending quality time with friends, family, and loved ones, it is now more emphasized on indulgence, excess, and consumerism. Giving gifts is a beautiful thing, but instead of adding thoughtless tchotchkes to your cart, why not give something sustainable – something that sends an important message about the environment.

Byta Tumbler – a stainless steel tumbler in a variety of beautiful colors. Billions, yes billions of coffee cups are sent to the landfills every year. Help reduce this by bringing your own cup or byta to the coffee shop. Proceeds from each byta also go to the Ocean Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Bkr Bottle – a glass water bottle with decorative and colored silicone sleeves in various sizes. Similar to coffee cups, billions of plastic bottles are also sent to the landfills every year. Carry a cute reusable water bottle that you can’t help show off 24/7 at places that can charge $2-4 for a water, like at your gym or fitness studio, movie theater, airport, park, fast-service restaurant, and the list goes on.

WinterStar-250ml

Apolis Market Bag – a reusable market bag made of natural jute fiber handcrafted in Bangladesh and finished in California. Apolis provides safe and ethical working conditions for mothers in Bangladesh through the sales of these bags. The bag can be used for trips to the farmer’s market, grocery store, flea markets, etc. I have one and I get compliments on it every time I take it out. I love that it’s roomy, sturdy, and timeless.

Baggu Bag – a reusable bag made of nylon that can be folded into a small pouch, so I never leave home without them (hello impromptu shopping trips.) They come in fun colors, designs, and sizes, and are also machine washable. Single use plastic bags often can’t be recycled with other hard plastics and take a lot of energy to manufacture. They can also unfortunately end up in our oceans and disrupt marine life.

Jade Yoga Mat – a yoga mat made from natural rubber tapped from rubber trees. Most yoga mats are made from PVC or other synthetic rubbers, which can’t be recycled or broken down easily in landfills. Jade plants a tree for every yoga mat sold.

Girlfriend Collective Apparel – yoga and workout apparel made ethically from recycled water bottles. They’re very transparent. Look good and feel (sustainably) good at the same time.

Donate to a cause – Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund, etc. There’s literally tons of organizations both locally and worldwide that offer gift donations or donations in the name of your gift receiver. Research and choose an organization at your discretion, especially since there’s been a lot of chatter about which organizations are more trustworthy than others.

Intro to: Zero-Waste

sus - intro to zero waste

Recently, I’ve been fascinated with the zero-waste lifestyle. I was introduced to it when I came across Trash is for Tossers and learned that all the trash she produced in two years fit into one mason jar. Then I went down a wormhole and found a whole community of zero-waste bloggers and supporters of this lifestyle. Although this is still a niche community, it was reassuring to see a significant amount of people who cared deeply about minimizing the amount of trash they produce.

Initially the term, “zero-waste,” was kind of intimidating to me. No waste whatsoever? That sounded like a lot of pressure, stress, and frankly impossible. But like most things under the umbrella of environmentalism, it’s better to do something than to do nothing, so I like to think of this as waste-reducing first. From what I gathered, this movement is more of a mental transition than a physical one because it’s derived from your relationship with material objects in general. It’s about living with less and living simply with only the essentials. The planet thanks you for contributing less waste to the landfills, but ultimately you’ll see major changes in your attitude about consumption, which will have a lasting effect for years to come. Once you understand your relationship with “stuff,” it’ll be easier for you to understand and participate in the zero-waste concept. Follow the preliminary tips below to get started on the transition.

1. Evaluate your trash and your spending habits.

Go through your pantry/fridge, closet, medicine cabinet, desk, and any area that stores a lot of stuff. Is it overstuffed or cluttered? Now take a look at your trash can(s). What is it mostly filled with? Do you often chuck out leftover food, beauty products, paper, packaging, etc.? Lastly, take a look at your credit card statement and notice what you mostly spend your money on. Then, start to connect the dots. If you’re mostly spending it on food/groceries, but you end up throwing a lot of it out, you’re wasting both money and food. There’s a correlation between money and waste, which is why many people of the zero-waste community believe you can actually save money through this lifestyle.

2. Reduce where you can.

Now, take a closer look at the type of things you buy frequently and the motivation behind your purchases. Do you order take-out a lot or buy single serve packages like snacks or juice? Maybe you’re a sucker for promotional sales and good deals. Whatever it may be, take note of it first and ask yourself, “why am I really buying this?” and “does this add value or have purpose to my life?” Then from there, you can start to reduce what you have (properly of course! Either by recycling, reusing, or donating whatever you can.) And start to change your habits by buying less and/or less frequently, and thinking about the product’s life cycle.

3. Start saying “no”

This is where the discipline sets in. Once you’ve cut down, start saying no to things that are wasteful. No to plastic bags, impulsive shopping, disposable or single-use items like coffee cups and straws. Unsubscribe from promotional emails (this helped me so much!) Even saying no to free things being passed out can help.

Now, I am nowhere near being completely zero-waste, but I have cut back a lot. My home only produces about 1-2 full bags (the “thank you for shopping” bag with the smiley face, not a trash bag) of garbage per week, as opposed to throwing out garbage every day. The people who are committed and supportive of the zero-waste movement are not lazy people. The actions they take are smart and deliberate, but that doesn’t mean it’s also difficult. Anyone can and should start taking steps to be less wasteful, so before diving into zero-waste, you can approach it as waste-reducing instead.

Join Me in the 2017 Eco Challenge!

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Photo by Tara Rice

I’m so excited to participate in the 2017 Eco Challenge and I want to encourage you all to participate too! The challenge runs from October 11 to October 25, 2017 and there are a bunch of different actions you can take in different categories including food, transportation, nature, energy, and many more. They say it takes about two weeks of consistent action to develop into a habit so this is a perfect time to start making a long lasting positive impact on the world!

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Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Visit Eco Challenge’s website.
  2. Sign up for a team or create your own. I signed up for the Story of Stuff team, which anyone can join. You should also check out their website or social media pages because they’ve got a lot of cool facts and stories about our waste.
  3. Browse through the challenges and choose up to three (or more on your own.)
  4. Tell your friends and family to join in as well!
  5. Share your experience after the challenge. So easy right?!

On the site, it shows the challenge level of each task and whether it’s a one time or daily challenge. You can also mark tasks that you already participate in, to earn more points for your profile (if that matters to you.)

The challenges I chose are all from the simplicity category. Although these challenges don’t necessarily have an immediate and direct effect on the environment, they are very helpful in developing an intentional way of living, which leads to more conscious decisions. When you’re more mindful about your consumption habits, you’re more likely to waste less. These challenges also give you better peace of mind so you can have a mentally sustainable lifestyle.

My three challenges are:

  1. Buy only what I need – I will not buy anything except items required for health and safety. I’m ready for this one, but only if Outdoor Voices doesn’t entice me with a good promotion. I’m also going to make sure I book all my travel plans before this two week challenge ;).
  2. Eat Mindfully – I will eat all of my meals without distractions, e.g., phone, computer, TV, or newspaper. What about podcasts? This is going to be hard for me because 1) I don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day so I try to take advantage of multitasking here and 2) eating dinner and watching TV at the same time is a guilty pleasure. But I think this is important to practice because it’s a great moment to give your brain a break. Hopefully I can use that time to fully enjoy my meal and just let my mind wander creatively.
  3. Limit social media – I will limit my social media use to once a day. The most challenging of all, which is crazy because only in this day and age would limiting social media be harder than only buying basic needs. I actually took a social media detox for a weekend and it was an eye opening experience on how much time I waste checking my phone and refreshing my Facebook feed. I’m hoping this challenge will be a good way to make the habit of limiting my social media usage stick because I’m not cut off from it completely.

Let me know which challenges you’ll be participating in! Good luck and just remember: your actions will make a difference no matter how small they might feel!

Fashion Brands That Care About The Environment

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I’ll admit that when I was in high school applying to fashion colleges, I didn’t connect the dots between the fashion industry and environmental sustainability. Like most people, my go-to stores for new clothes back in the day were fast-fashion spots like H&M, Forever 21, Zara, etc., without even understanding what fast-fashion truly meant. When I went on to study fashion in college, I learned so much about the life cycle of clothing and trends. From raw materials to the bitter end of markups and clearance, I realized most clothes either end up in your closet or in a landfill. More than 15 million tons every year, to be exact.

Sustainability can be applied in every stage of this life cycle whether it’s in materials and quality, labor and ethics, or recycling and waste. More consumers are demanding sustainable options and transparency about factory and labor conditions. Similar to the food industry, they want to know what went into producing their garments and accessories. As this demand grows, fashion brands have a responsibility to answer what role they want to play in sustainability.

Some brands are fully committed and want to be known as a completely sustainable brand. Some are transparent about labor conditions, but may still use new or imported materials. And some are just in limbo saying, “we’re working on it, we promise.”

If you need an intro to your new sus style, I’ve compiled a list of brands with various levels of sustainable efforts.

sus level – born to sus

These are brands that have sustainability in their mission statement. Most of them are Certified B Corporations, which means they’ve gone through the tough process and assessments of meeting social and environmental performance standards.

Reformation
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Category: Fun and trendy women’s apparel
Sustainable Practices: Certified B Corp., carbon footprint report for each garment, ethical and green labor conditions, in-store recycling program, recyclable and reusable packaging, local sourcing and recycled materials, responsible supply chain and production, employee community service

Patagonia
sus - fashion - patagonia mens
Category: Outdoor Women and Men’s clothing
Sustainable Practices: Certified B Corp., company Activism, ethical labor conditions, natural and recycled materials, responsible supply chain and production, in-store reuse and recycling program, employee community service

Eileen Fisher
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Category: Women’s apparel and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Certified B Corp., company Activism, ethical labor conditions, natural and recycled materials, responsible supply chain and production, in-store recycling, program employee community service

Threads 4 Thought
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Category: Women’s and Men’s apparel, Women’s active wear and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Certified B Corp., responsible supply chain and production, organic and recycled materials,

Stella McCartney 
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Category: Women’s and Men’s apparel, accessories, and shoes
Sustainable Practices: Animal-free, responsible supply chain and production, recyclable packaging, eco-friendly office and stores

sus level – design over everything

These are brands that value great design and with that comes a transparent supply model with ethical labor conditions.

Hanky Panky
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Category: Lingerie and sleepwear
Sustainable Practices: Made in USA, ethical labor conditions

Everlane
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Category: Women’s and Men’s basic/staple apparel, shoes, and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Transparent pricing, ethical labor conditions

Nisolo
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Category: Women’s and Men’s shoes and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Responsible supply chain and production, ethical labor conditions

sus level – working on it

These are brands that aren’t marketed as sustainable, but still believe in corporate social responsibility and have programs that give back to the community and environment.

Madewell
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Category: Women’s apparel, shoes, and accessories
Sustainable Practices: Improving responsible sourcing, supply chain, and production, denim recycling*, and beach cleanups
*You get $20 off your next pair of jeans when you bring in an old one to recycle

& Other Stories
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Category: Women’s apparel, shoes, and accessories
Sustainable Practices: In-store textile recycling*
*You get 10% off your next purchase when you bring in a bag of old textiles.

I’m going to try to end each post with a challenge for you lovely readers. This post’s challenge is to look through your closet and research the brands you normally wear. What are their sustainable practices? Do they have a socially responsible page on their website? Doing your research is a good way to start being more mindful about your shopping habits!