Thank you to everyone who has subscribed for the first issue! I’m really excited to share all of these thoughts I have about sustainability and help you think about the topic in a (hopefully) different way.
I wanted to start off my first issue by talking about why I wanted to start this biweekly letter. I came to this interest in sustainability through the beauty industry, though in hindsight it’s been developing for much longer. I should mention that I have nothing that qualifies me as a sustainability expert and that is not what I’m pretending to be here - rather, I think it’s my perspective as a humanities-trained individual who prizes beauty and aesthetically pleasing things that makes me a unique person to talk about sustainability. People who deeply love things, like me, can have a hard time reconciling this love with their love for the planet because these two passions are fundamentally at odds with one another. My desire to live a life surrounded by beautiful objects is not easily compatible with the more ascetic lifestyle that many environmental devotees promote. But I am trying my best, as we all are, and hope you can find something thought-provoking in each issue.
Though it’s taken me some time to fully realize it, everything about my childhood was centered around the environment - I grew up in Colorado, spending my weekends and summers in the middle of nowhere in the mountains riding ponies, collecting bugs, and tagging along as my dad and grandfather fished. My mom became an herbalist, and we almost always ate organic food (balanced by some serious junk food when I was little).
I then went to boarding school near where Thoreau wrote about his beloved Walden Pond, but ironically I didn’t spend much time there thinking about the environment. I was actually pretty annoyed when our school banned plastic coffee-cup lids because I would burn my hand walking from the dining hall to class without them. And then I went to a college dominated by Greek life, where red Solo cups were a staple purchase. But throughout I was always driven by the idea of beauty and of learning about old and beautiful things that needed to be protected and preserved. I went to graduate school to study churches, learning that worship of the incredible structures was just as important as the worship of God himself. It is only recently that I connected my wish to protect historical structures with an interest in protecting the natural world as they’re both rooted in a love of experiencing the world.
Additionally, during graduate school, I started working at a beauty store in Manhattan where everything we sold was completely natural, not a synthetic substance in sight. I thought this was the future and that transitioning to these types of things would save us, save our health, our skin, our waterways. But I’m learning more and more that it’s a much more complex issue. And to boot, I see it’s pretty ironic to have all these great products housed in packaging that’s filling our seas fast enough that there will be 2050 be more plastic than fish in the ocean. I now work in product development at an organic beauty company, and I see every day how to think about the impact on the environment in a different way - I think about packaging, shipping and carbon emissions, supply chain organization, sourcing organic or biodynamic ingredients, and recycling used product containers. It’s this whole life cycle that makes an impact. Being a company that makes things can be highly problematic in 2019. And it’s this that I want to talk to y’all about for all of the things that are in your daily lives, from cleanser to clothing, bedding to booze.
All that said, I hope I’m a helpful person to guide you to a more sustainable path through life (and even if you don’t take any of my recommendations, I hope you’re intrigued to learn more about what you most care about). It’s easy to be a nihilist and think the world is going to shit anyway, but there are things we can do to make a difference. How we spend our money matters more than anything.
These are the things I’m aiming to give you as a gift for taking time out of your busy days to read this:
The easiest “wins” for the planet - we all know it’s popular to bring your own bags to the supermarket and avoid plastic water bottles, but there are other things that you can do that are even easier and make an even bigger impact. We will explore those and break them down together so you know what to do and why.
Every week I’ll pick a product or product category to dive into - I’m going to present the issues that are associated with each of these things. I want to debunk the issue that you have to spend a lot of money or even buy anything in order to be sustainable. I also want to question some of these supposedly sustainable options - what’s the impact of shipping that special reusable produce bag to your house? Are paper bags really better than plastic ones? How fast does bamboo really grow, and is it actually better than cotton since it grows so much further away? Is your nontoxic beauty purchase inherently better than the conventional one, even if it’s packaged in unrecyclable plastic? Those are the kinds of things I want to know, and I want to share what I find with you!
Great recommendations for learning more - books/blogs/magazines/reports/newspapers to read, movies to watch, people to talk to. I’m hoping to expand into some interviews with sustainability icons, but that’ll take some time. In the meantime, knowledge is power, so let’s arm ourselves!
Charities that are doing this kind of work that you can support - I promise I’m not just plugging to plug but to share the great wealth of information that these charities have about the state of the world. Some of them are doing great things that are easy to get involved with without giving money, so I encourage you to think about them (or tell me even better organizations that you like!) and consider giving your time or resources to them.
And, even though I’m trying to get you to think about consumption in a new light, I’m also going to show you some products that I’ve vetted and that I love that can make your life more sustainable. If you’re going to buy something, you might as well buy smart. (But still think about if you even need to buy something in the first place :)
I want to arm you with the knowledge to be a powerful consumer. I’m sure you all voted in the last election - I hope through this newsletter you learn how what you spend your money on (or what you don’t spend it on) counts as much as, if not more than, a vote - by spending your money sustainably, you’re voting for healthy ecosystems, plastic-free oceans, lowering CO2 emissions, and basic human rights every day.
Join me in being and doing good.
p.s. please email me with questions or comments - I love recommendations for things and I’d love to know what you are interested in too!