There were two big lessons I learned as a little girl about sustainability that stuck with me:
I remember visiting Stinson beach. I was probably about seven. I meticulously collected colorful shells and rocks. My mother wouldn’t let me bring them home. I was bummed. “Sure, if just you take a few shells and rocks from beach, it’s not a big deal,” she said, “but if everyone who came to visit the beach took home rocks and shells, eventually there wouldn’t be any left.” This lesson stuck with me, and reminds me about how very small actions may seem insignificant when I’m only thinking about them in the context of myself and my family, but multiplied times the 4 million people in Los Angeles, the 40 million in all of California, the 327 million folks in the U.S.A, or the 7.5 billion people on earth, my oh my does it add up.
The second lesson was one I learned while camping. We were talking about keeping the campsite clean, and picking up after ourselves, and one of the adults mentioned casually that humans are the only creatures on earth that create trash. Of course that sounds obvious now, but at the time it blew my mind. We think of ourselves as such complex, intelligent creatures, yet we are the only animals on earth that have not figured out how to live without waste.
Ok so before launching into my Five Things, I want to be VERY clear. There is SO MUCH I COULD DO BETTER. I am 110% part of the problem. I create and contribute to a stomach-turning amount of waste both in my business and in my personal/home life. I am completely complicit. I am, however working on being more mindful of how my actions, choices and passivity will have a lasting effect for generations to come. With that in mind, here are some things I do everyday to ease up on mama earth, and along with those things, how I’m also working to improve (both in my home life, and in my business):
5 Things I already do, and how I could do better
1. How I’m easing up: By walking/biking to work. I designed my life so that I don’t have to commute. We are a one-car family, which I realize is not a Nobel Peace Prize winning thing, but living in L.A., where distances are quite far and the public transportation is improving, but still has many gaps, I’ve actually found it to be pretty rare. I love being a one-car family (even though I was admittedly resistant to it when Jason first suggested it eight years ago). We save a lot of money, it’s better for the planet, and I get more exercise walking and biking around. I also get to know my neighbors and enjoy being outdoors on my walks and bike rides. Downsizing from two cars to one was really scary at first (I thought I’d be stranded all the time) but it’s actually proven to feel more liberating than restricting. How could I do better? I do A LOT of air travel. I’m on a plane about every two weeks. Sometimes it’s necessary, but often times, as much as it can be nice to have face-to-face meetings, it’s not always necessary. We can do video chats and get the idea. I’m working towards being more mindful of traveling for work only when it seems imperative to be there in person.
2. How I’m easing up: I treat myself to a fancy coffee every morning before work at my local coffee spot. It’s an expensive habit. I don’t know why I can’t seem to shake the habit — but it’s my little treat to myself each morning. One thing I have integrated into my routine is bringing my own travel mug with me so that I’m not using 300 plastic coffee lids every year that end up in the landfills or the oceans. I’ve also switched from almond milk to oat milk, because I’ve read that a single glass of almond milk requires 130 pints of water to make – more than a typical shower. Yikes!! Read more about it (and other vegan milk options and their environmental impact here). How could I do better? We order food in a lot, especially for lunches at work. I shutter at the amount of plastics used in food delivery service and I REALLY need to get better about packing my own lunches and cooking instead of ordering in so much.
3. How I’m easing up: We are a pescatarian family, and have been eating this way for over a decade. That means that while we do eat seafood, we don’t eat other types of meat. “…without meat and dairy consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by more than 75% – an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union and Australia combined – and still feed the world. Loss of wild areas to agriculture is the leading cause of the current mass extinction of wildlife.” (The Guardian) How could I do better? I still eat a fair amount of eggs and dairy, and while I’m careful about where I buy my cheese, eggs and fish, I could afford to ease up on dairy WAY more — not just for Mother Earth, but also for my own health.
4. How I’m easing up: We compost all of our food waste at home. When we’re cooking we keep a food container with a lid out on our counter and put any bits and pieces of fruits and veggies, egg shells, etc. that we’d normally throw out into the container. At the end of our meal, the container goes into the refrigerator. We keep it there until it fills up (usually about 3-4 days), and then we bring it to our yard where our compost is. I was worried, before getting the compost, that it would be smelly in our yard. I find it really surprising that IT DOES NOT SMELL!! It smells like fresh soil — the way that a forest floor smells in the morning — it’s actually a wonderful scent in my opinion! Also, Ida LOVED playing with the worms in the compost, and last week we had a fun surprise when we brought out our compost to find a potato vine growing out of it and there were 5 large potatoes that had grown INSIDE OUR COMPOST! We promptly picked them and ate them for breakfast with our eggs. Nom nom nom. Composting is fun, and then we get to use our homemade soil for our planties. Feels so good! How could I do better? We do a good amount of online ordering, and again — the packaging, and the transportation of the goods etc. etc. adds up. Our trash and recycling bins overflow with garbage and recycling despite our efforts. Again, being better organized to buy things all at once in-store when need be — bringing my own reusable bags, cooking more at home–this will all go a long way in helping to reduce our family’s waste.
5. How I’m easing up AND how I can do better: Outside of my home life, there are also things we try to do at Jungalow to make the business more sustainable. We’re super far from perfect, but we do try. Some of the examples of ways that we try to make our business more sustainable is by partnering with companies that focus on making things with natural materials and who are committed to sustainability. Since we license our designs and do not handle our own production, this isn’t always easy. Often times in business there are compromises to make. Maybe the fabric is organic, but the dyes are not. Maybe a rug is made from recycled poly, but it’s not recyclable. It’s very difficult and I have a lot of guilt around products that I bring into the world that aren’t sustainable — that having been said, I ALWAYS try. I ask lots of questions and search for and offer up more sustainable alternatives and options — and through doing this have been able to steer the ship towards sustainability even if there is still a very log way to go. We also donate often to non-profits that are working towards a more sustainable planet. Today we are donating 20% of profits from sales in our shop to Earthjustice.
I could go on for so many more paragraphs, but I applaud you if you even made it this far. It’s not enough to think about this stuff only on Earth Day. It’s about a daily practice and truly integrating it into my life. I am working it. My husband, Jason inspires me a lot in this arena as he is very mindful the earth, it’s one of the things that made me fall in love with him. As we do begin to take on some of our own production in different arenas I’m studying/ learning and committed to uncovering more sustainable practices and keeping Jungalow, and Mama Earth ever greener.