naturally sus finds – February 2018

Sus - Feb Finds Collage

Hey everyone! I’m so sorry I haven’t posted in a while…I was sick for two weeks and I was also working on a separate writing project that ate up a lot of my time. March will be a calmer month for me, so I’m hoping I can catch up then because I have a lot of things to share! I didn’t want to skimp out on my sus finds for February though, so here are a few of my favorites from the month:

  1. Instagram: @alison__wu – Alison Wu’s Instagram is just another dreamy space to get lost in. She is the queen of photogenic layered smoothies and healthy living. Every time I visit her feed or website, it just radiates positive and peaceful energy.
  2. Product: Jenga Ocean – This came out a while ago, but I only just heard about it earlier this month! Jenga’s collaboration with Bureo, a designer and manufacturer of skateboards made of recycled fishing nets, came together to create Jenga Ocean, the classic game made of the same material.
  3. Business: Avani Eco – B2B company based in Bali that creates sustainable food packaging and hospitality products. Think plastic utensils, plastic salad bowls and Styrofoam trays. They instead, use renewable resources to create disposable packaging that can be composted or biodegradable.
  4. News: Household Products Causing Air Pollution – An interesting and eye-opening article about how our common household products can affect our air quality, and thus, our health.

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?

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!

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!

6 Ways To Be An Eco-Friendly Traveler

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Summer may be coming to an end, but some of you may be looking at flight prices for your winter holiday travels in the meantime (I am!) It’s a fact that air traveling is one of the biggest pollutants to the environment, but for most people, it’s also unavoidable and makes them feel very ecoguilty.

So what’s the verdict? Is it better to travel by car/train/bus/ferry? When it comes to other modes of transport that also use fuel, it depends on the destination and miles traveled, so there isn’t one clear definitive answer. If you’re traveling short distances, opting for a car or public transportation is better. When flight is the only option, there are still ways to reduce your environmental impact and carbon footprint during your travel.

1. Reduce energy before you leave your trip
Turn off and unplug all your electronics and appliances before you leave. Energy still runs when something is off, but plugged. If you use power strips, simply flick the off switch to truly turn everything off. This is also a good habit to try if you’re normally a person who rushes out the door panicking about getting to the airport on time because it forces you to be prepared before you leave.

2. Bring a reusable water bottle
I will forever repeat this tip because it’s that important and that easy. Why pay for $5 water at the airport when you can just refill your bottle for free? A lot of airports have upgraded their water fountains and are now specifically designed to have a bottle underneath rather than tilting your bottle awkwardly only to have it filled halfway. Now you can say, “no thanks” to the flight attendant when he/she comes down the aisle with the beverage cart. If you do have to buy a bottle at some point, keep it and refill it so you don’t have to buy new ones every time you’re thirsty.

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3. Take public transportation to/from the airport
The last time I took a cab to the airport, I found out I cannot sit in NYC traffic with a stranger driving because I embarrassingly got car sick as a result. So after that, I’ve been taking the subway and air shuttle to the airport and I very much prefer it for many reasons other than the obvious one of cutting down carbon emissions. It forces me to pack lightly since I’m schlepping a suitcase on the streets and subway platforms (I’ve gotten used to the sound of wheels rolling against concrete.) In a lot of metro cities, public transportation from the airport to the city is very accessible and common. I’ve been to Paris, Stockholm, Montreal, and Chicago, where even locals prefer public transportation to and from the airport.

4. Take public transportation there
While we’re on the topic of public transportation, continue using it if it’s a norm in the city you’re visiting! I love exploring cities through public transportation. Not only is it less expensive and probably faster, it’s an easy way to get to know the city. If public transportation is not an option, rent a hybrid car. Plan your trips accordingly so you’re not wasting gas (and time!) getting lost or going back and forth between the same neighborhoods and sights.

5. Take a non-stop flight on an eco-friendly airline
A lot of fuel is dedicated to the take-off and landing, so taking a non-stop flight reduces carbon emissions immensely. Non-stop flights are also less stressful and that’s always a good thing when it comes to traveling, right? Bonus points for airlines that are dedicated in sustainability and do their best to reduce their footprint like recycling, carbon offsetting, alternative types of fuel, and investment in new aircrafts. Virgin America and Jetblue are up there in the ranks of most eco-friendly airlines in the U.S., while Air France and Lufthansa take the lead for international airlines.

6. Choose a green hotel or stay at an Airbnb
Hotels by nature are known for using a lot of energy – think all the rooms, washing linens after every use, single-use toiletries, and air conditioning running all the time. Each room can cost an average of $2,196 in energy. A lot of hotels have now implemented greener options including installing LED lights, only washing linens upon request, or offering activities that support the local community. Airbnbs are another good option because the energy used in a home is significantly less than a hotel building. Everything is cleaned after your stay, reducing water waste and many hosts offer green choices like recycling, travel mugs, and reusable totes.