Conscious Living

A Climate Change Activist on Why Giving Up Isn’t an Option

This post originally appeared on Man Repeller and when I read it I knew I had to share. Sometimes the problems seem so big and people so uncaring and indifferent that I feel completely overwhelmed about the idea even bothering to do anything about climate change. This article really helped me see things in a different way. The woman interviewed in this article has been a climate change activist for decades and she’s not tired of fighting the good fight despite so many people not bothering or wanting to listen. Truly an inspiration.  

By Jackie Homan

An increasing number of young people are identifying as activists, but to call this a new trend would not only be naive, it would also be a missed opportunity. Older generations offer an important perspective on what it means to be politically and socially active. In an effort to soak up their knowledge, we’re speaking to activists who have been doing this work for decades. We’ve previously learned from 74-year-old Sally Roesch Wagner, 66-year-old Jackie Warren-Moore, 71-year-old Felicia Elizondo and 68-year-old Faith Spotted Eagle. Today, we speak with 67-year-old Nancy Cole.

Though she considers herself more of a “behind-the-scenes type of activist,” there’s no doubt Nancy Cole deserves to stand in the limelight. Cole has spent over 25 years working in outreach and activism with the Union of Concerned Scientists, where she focuses on climate and energy issues. She oversees the group’s campaigns, which hold corporations responsible for climate impact and unite scientists to incite policy change. She’s not afraid to publicly call out companies that are detrimental to the earth and demand better, and while she’s not a scientist herself, she supports them by translating their knowledge to the public.

Cole admits that her job can be frustrating in our current political landscape, with people in power trying to undermine the credibility of climate science despite the research being clear. Her number one piece of advice — essentially, “power through the hard times” — comes as no surprise then. If her decades of campaigning tirelessly for the future of the planet have taught her anything, it’s that none of us has the luxury to quit.

What first sparked your interest in activism?

One thing that was important to my mom and is now important to me is that we all leave the world a better place. I’ve always had a lot of interest in science, but in the ’60s, women were not encouraged in [science, technology, engineering and math]. I grew up on a farm in Illinois, and my small-town high school’s guidance counselor told me girls just didn’t do science. So I wound up being a teacher for my first job.

After I realized I wasn’t going to be a very good teacher, I went to work at the Legal Aid Society, where I was kind of like a paralegal. I really enjoyed that work, and I thought that social change happened through the law, so I decided to go to law school. But three years of law school taught me that that’s not how it works; I realized that social change really comes from activism, citizen engagement and people who care passionately about making things change. That’s where I wanted to be. Law school gave me important skills, really valuable friendships and the self-awareness that I wanted to work in grassroots organizing.

What was your first activist endeavor after law school?

Around 1980, I started at an organization called INFACT [now named Corporate Accountability], which stood for Infant Formula Action Coalition. INFACT ran the Nestlé boycott, which was a campaign to stop infant formula companies from peddling a product in developing countries that they knew could not possibly be used safely there. It was killing hundreds of thousands of babies every year. I thought that transnational corporations really got away with murder, and they weren’t being held accountable for what they were doing. We had a successful conclusion to that campaign — it resulted in the first International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes through the United Nations’ World Health Organization.

I became the executive director of INFACT, and our next campaign focused on companies that were making nuclear weapons. That was in the early to mid-’80s, when we were really worried about nuclear war. We thought we could try to reduce the influence of the big nuclear weapon makers, focusing on General Electric. I worked on that campaign for several years.

How did you transition from corporate accountability activism to climate activism?

I decided I wanted to be a parent and needed a different style of organizing, so I got a job at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) in 1992. It was perfect for me to work on issues at the intersection of science and policy because I could work with scientists and bring my skills as an organizer and activist to this arena. UCS helps [scientists] take this complicated stuff and communicate it to the public. One of the contributions we’ve made in the world is helping scientists find their voice and speak it powerfully.

What is the biggest challenge you face in climate activism?

I’ve been working on the climate issue for what seems like forever, and it is just beyond frustrating to see where we are today. If we, as a country, had taken steps just a few decades ago to reduce our carbon emissions, we might not be seeing storms like Hurricane Harvey. We would not be seeing sea level rise ravaging our cities. We would not be seeing climate migrants around the world. That’s one of the most challenging parts — figuring out how to keep going and how to keep being creative enough to find new strategies. We have to tap into what we think might move the public to care about climate and energy issues. In the face of the terrible political climate we’re in today, it’s really a challenge.

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#ProjectPan

When I came home from London for Christmas break last year, I realized just how many makeup and beauty products I had. When I moved to London, I could only take what I could fit into a suitcase or two, so I chose the cream of the crop and fit all of my makeup into a medium-sized toiletries bag. When I came home for the first time four months after living with just the products I had originally brought with me, I decided I  seriously needed to minimize my at-home stash.

Enter Project Pan.

Project Pan is a project created online by fellow beauty enthusiasts who found themselves with too much makeup. Traditionally with the project you choose ten (or however many you want to do) beauty items you own to use up in their entirety before you buy any other beauty products. I’ve tweaked this a bit to where I am not choosing a specific number of products (I essentially want to use up ALL of my makeup) and once I do finish something, I grab its replacement out of the drawer in my room instead of buying something new.

I have loved beauty and makeup products since I was little. Since discovering Youtube and beauty vloggers a few years ago, my collection had grown embarrassingly large. I don’t wear a lot of makeup – there was no way I could finish those products in this lifetime. After clearing out my collection, I decided to do something I think I had only done a handful of times since I started wearing makeup: I was going to finish a product before I bought a new one. In this consumer driven world (and thanks largely to the Youtube beauty community), we are encouraged to have way more products than we could ever need. The hype surrounding a new lipstick or mascara makes you want to try it yourself and add it to your own collection.

Now I challenge myself to completely use up a product before moving on to the next one. I have three backup bronzers patiently waiting their turn for when I finish up the one I’m currently using and I shouldn’t need to buy another lipstick for at least five years. I want to focus on minimizing most things in my life and this one I’ve been doing fairly well with. My goal to produce less waste will be helped through this challenge and my resolution to use less plastic will be helped as well as I will have time to thoroughly research the best glass-packaged products to replace the plastic housed ones I finish.

I still love makeup and watch beauty vloggers on the regular, but I can appreciate it differently now. I no longer feel the need to run to the nearest Sephora and buy that lipstick or eyeshadow just because someone’s using it in a tutorial that I like. It’s also strangely satisfying to use a product up in its entirety!

No Buy January

I am now more than halfway through my ‘No Buy January’ endeavour. ‘No Buy January’ is a pretty common thing across the web – it’s a challenge not to buy anything unnecessary for the entire month. A lot of people (myself included) use it to reset after the expensive months leading up to Christmas. It also helps you get some perspective to what you are spending your money on and why. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past twenty days:

  • I can be very good when it comes to buying things, but not so much when it comes to spending money on “experiences”: While I walked away from books, stayed away from clothing stores, and worked hard to use up my stores of toiletries instead of purchasing new items when they ran out, I still spent a fair bit of money on going to restaurants, cafes, and drinks with friends. I have definitely stayed in on more Fridays than not. I don’t make much at my part-time job and am trying to be choosy with what I do spend money on, but I could definitely do better. Of course, going out with friends and spending money on experiences is inherently better than spending money on things, but I would still like to save a bit more in that area. For example, if I know I’m going to a concert in Boston on a Saturday night, then I’ll stay in on Friday to balance out the spending.
  • Western culture revolves around shopping: During the weekends I am often at a loss at what to do that does not involve going to a store and buying something. So much of my adolescence was spent at the mall on weekends and during the summer that I am realizing that it’s a bit difficult not to pop out to the stores when I’m bored and need something to do. I love window shopping as much as the next person, but with this ‘No Buy January’ I also tried to refrain from participating in anything related to consumer culture. This is part of my goal to lead a more conscious lifestyle. Instead I am trying to blog, journal, read, and meet up with friends in restaurants or cafes.
  • Learning to not beat myself up over necessary purchases: Because I don’t make a lot of money at the moment, I’ve been finding this a bit difficult. I pride myself over being able to say ‘no’ to books and clothing but then punish myself for having to spend money on things I actually need. For example, I ran out of my all-time favorite moisturizer. I stood in the aisle of Whole Foods for probably 5 minutes debating whether to repurchase. This was silly because I NEEDED the moisturizer (it is currently the middle of winter in New England and I have perpetually dry skin so yes, moisturizer is a NEED). I also spent a lot of money on a pair of prescription sunglasses, another thing I needed since a late-entry New Years resolution of mine is to wear my glasses more. I need sunglasses to drive so I really did need to buy them. It didn’t stop me from feeling insanely guilty and like I’d failed the whole point of ‘No Buy January’, but in hindsight I am realizing that there’s no way to avoid purchases like these. I can avoid buying books because I have so many currently unread on my shelf and I can avoid clothes shopping because my closet is currently full with items that I love, but I can’t avoid some purchases no matter how hard I try and that’s okay.
  • Overall I’m learning that less is definitely more: This whole process is actually teaching me a lot about myself.  I don’t need things to define who I am. I am just as content (if not more so) sitting in a coffee shop with friends or a book than I am out shopping. I’m going to try and buy only what I absolutely need going forward. Sometimes I won’t need anything and sometimes I’ll need lots of things and that’s okay because every purchase I make will be a conscious one. I never want to clean out my closet or bathroom cabinet and throw away unworn shirts or unused products because I bought them in the moment without really thinking of their value.

I’m planning on continuing my ‘No Buy’ experiment into February. It’s the shortest month of the year so if you’re interested but don’t think you can do a whole 31 days then I recommend trying to give it a go next month. I also recommend downloading a money tracking app. At the start if the month I just searched for “money tracking” in the App Store and found Fudget, which is the most basic app on the planet, but it’s really helping me see exactly where my money is going and how small and unnecessary purchases can add up very quickly.

I recommend trying to instill a ‘No Buy’ even for a week to see how much stuff you can actually survive without. If you find yourself still wanting it at the end of the week/month/YEAR then by all means go for it!

Has anyone else ever done a ‘No Buy’ for a set period time? What did you like about it? What did you find the hardest? Let me know your thoughts!

3 Months Later

Yesterday marked three months since I left my most favorite place in the world: London.

Over three months since I’ve lived in what was possibly London’s tiniest studio flat. Three months since I have been able to walk out my front door and explore one of the greatest cities in the world. Three months since I’ve been able to go to some of my favorite coffee shops (Ginger & White, Monmouth, even the Starbucks are better there) and spend hours reading or chatting for hours with my fellow coffee addict friends. Three months since I’ve been able to walk through Kensington Gardens for hours at a time. Three months since I’ve drank G&Ts in a cozy pub while sharing endless laughs with some of the best people I’ve ever met. Three months since I had to leave the best job I’ve ever had. Three months since I’ve been able to walk to the top of Primrose Hill and marvel at how lucky I was to be there. Three months since I had to leave a place that had become a home and a routine that had become my life.

People ask me what it is about London that I like so much and I find it difficult to answer them. From the first time I visited for six days in March 2014 I have just felt comfortable there. Returning back seven months later with my mother for my 21st birthday and it was like coming back to a place I had been many times before.

Of course there were some things that I missed terribly from home – my family, my best friends, not having to have my bed be in my kitchen, but I never missed the actual place. It’s a very strange feeling to be homesick for somewhere that isn’t technically your home. Through all of my visits and times spent studying there, I’ve lived in London for a combined total of 2.5 years, which is not a lot of time considering I’m 25 (more than most ever get, but still not enough for me). It breaks my heart that it is next to impossible for me to ever live there permanently and to legally be a resident.

I will be heading back for a week in May for graduation and I am counting down the days until I am back in my favorite city. I plan to travel back at least once a year for the rest of my life. I will go at random times, even in the dead of winter if it means that I am able to afford to do so annually.

I am so so grateful for the magical 2.5 years that I was able to call London home, even if it was temporary. I miss it everyday.

Hello 2018!

Well 2017 is finally over. Here’s hoping 2018 will be loads better. I usually don’t do New Year’s Resolutions but I figured this year I would give it a go. I’m trying to keep them realistic and doable so I thought I’d share.

  1. Work on being vegan at home: I’m vegetarian and I rarely (if ever) drink cow’s milk. I do love cheese though. However, due to how bad animal agriculture is for the environment, I really want to work on lessening my impact. While I can have full control over the ingredients when I eat at home, going out to eat while vegan is pretty difficult. So I’m going to try my damndest to be vegan at home and vegetarian when I go out.
  2. Workout 3x per week: This one I would really like to stick to and there is no reason I should not be able to. I notice a big difference in my fitness levels since I moved home to sedentary America. My parents have a tiny home gym and I’ve recently fallen in love with the elliptical, so working out is going to cost me literally nothing. My new trick to motivate me is to pick a TV series that I am ONLY allowed to watch while I work out. I’m currently working my way through The West Wing, a series I haven’t watched since high school. The episodes are a respectable 45 minutes each and they always leave me itching to watch the next one.
  3. Have a monthly budget: This is something I really need to work on. I’m okay with limiting my purchases but I think setting a figure and seeing how much I spend on unnecessary things and saying “no” to going out and spending money will be a real eyeopener.
  4. Travel back to London: This one is a confirmed thing! Hurry up May! Have decided that I will be adding this to my resolutions every year from now.
  5. Buy majority of clothing second-hand: I want to lessen my environmental impact as much as possible. Plus I really like thrift shopping. It’s fun to never know what you are going to find or what deal you are going to get. I’ve recently discovered the Savers stores and now I can’t fathom spending more than $12 on any item of clothing.
  6. Journal/write more: This is something I strive towards every year. I so want to be a journal person. I’ve also bought a book of 300 writing prompts to help me as I usually don’t write because I feel like I have nothing to write about.
  7. Be asleep by 11PM: This one will be hard. It’s not so much about going to bed earlier, but becoming more of a morning person. I’m hoping a set bedtime will help.
  8. Read every night: I love to read and I do read a lot, but I would like to start reading more in bed. I usually read for a bit but then turn on the TV and watch until midnight. Hopefully this one helps me stick to #7!
  9. Blog 2x per week: I would really like to have this blog be a portfolio of my writing. Just purchased this domain name so hopefully I can get my money’s worth =]
  10. Keep making #zerowaste switchups: I recently wrote about this and I would like to keep improving and lessening the amount of plastic waste that I produce.
  11. Find a job that let’s me do some good: This will be probably my biggest resolution of 2018. I am determined not to work for a company unless it does some good for the world. I refuse to dedicate 40+ hours to something that I am not whole-heartedly passionate about. Interning at this summer really taught me that I am the most professionally fulfilled when I work on something related to environmentalism and that I can combine that with my skills in PR/communications.  I currently have a part-time job at a bookstore that I am happy to keep until the right thing comes along.

HAPPY 2018!

Some #ZeroWaste Switch-Ups

Since I’ve been home from London, I’ve had some free time on my hands (FYI it is NOT easy to find an office job during the holiday season!!). I’ve been reading a lot, books of course but also blogs. I love a good blog. Fashion and lifestyle are my favorite categories and soon I’ll do a post about the ones I’ve been following for a few years.

As you can probably tell – I consider myself to be a bit of an environmentalist and recently found two really great blogs that have inspired me to make some changes:

  • Model4GreenLiving.com – Model Renee Peters uses her platform as a model to reshape the way people think about the environment and their role in protecting it. She launched Model4GreenLiving to provide practical tips and everyday actions that encourage mindful, sustainable living.
  • TrashisforTossers.com – Lauren Singer blog documents her Zero Waste journey and shows that leading a Zero Waste lifestyle is simple, cost-effective, timely, fun, & entirely possible for everyone and anyone.

Both of these ladies show that there are so many ways to lessen your impact on the environment by making small changes that add up in a big way. Both blogs really focus on reducing the amount of plastic waste utilized in our everyday lives. Every single piece of plastic every produced is still around today and causing major problems. In fact, if you drink tap water (which most bottled water is made up of anyway), then you are drinking tiny plastic fibers every time you take a sip.

So I’ve decided to take some tips from both Renee and Lauren and focus on lessening the amount of plastic I use. Some of the biggest culprits of plastic waste are personal hygiene products – toothbrushes, deodorant, shampoo, razors, body wash etc. There is no need for any of these things to be made out of or stored in plastic, and we tend to go through these items the quickest.

Below is what I’m switching up in my bathroom in an effort to lessen my environmental impact!

  • Floss Dental floss creates a huge amount of waste. The packages are plastic and so is the actual floss itself. Dental Lace was born in Maine when a librarian named Jodi set out to create a stylish, eco-friendly refillable container. Ridding your bathroom cabinets of plastic and non-refillable dental floss, Dental Lace offers compostable packaging and a more sustainable container for your floss. It also happens to be some of the best floss I have ever used!
  • Toothbrush – Over 4.7 billion plastic toothbrushes that will never biodegrade are dumped in landfills and oceans every year worldwide. Brush with Bamboo is the world’s first plant-based toothbrush. Every component of their awesome product is plant-based: bristles, handle, wrapper, and box.
  • Body soap Why use a body wash that comes in plastic bottles when name brand bar soap in paper packaging is available in every single drugstore? For example, I bought this bar soap at Target. Of course I could have grabbed a Dove bar, but Alaffia works to help empower Togolese communities to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and rise out of poverty.
  • Deodorant – The switch to natural deodorant has been a long time coming. For years I knew the health risks of conventional deodorant but no matter how many I tried (and I tried a LOT), I could not get any natural deodorants to work for me. BUT THEN I DISCOVERED SCHMIDT’S. Hands down the best natural deodorant by far and you can find them at Whole Foods and Target! I am currently working my way through a conventional plasic packaging version of their Bergamot & Lime scent (my favorite, but I am also keen to try the Charcoal & Magnesium), but I’ve just purchased it in glass jar form. Cannot recommend enough.
  • Shampoo – This is new for me and I’ll admit I haven’t used this cool shampoo bar from Lush yet as I’m finishing up a bottle, but I’m really excited to give this a go! This is a true #zerowaste product as there is absolutely no packaging involved. I decided to buy an aluminum tin so I can bring it with me when I travel, but that’s a one-time purchase that I will be able to keep using forever. They have shampoo bars for every single hair need. I’m going to be trying New which  stimulates the scalp and gets the blood pumping to aid hair growth. According to Lush all you need to do to use is rub the bar between your hands to create a lather, or directly onto your hair hair. Massage into the hair and scalp then rinse clean. Easy!
  • Razor –  I had been wanting to make this switch for a while and last month I finally did it. I safely say that I am never going back to a conventional plastic razor ever again. Plastic razors are AWFUL. My skin hates to be shaved and the cheap plastic ones left little bumps all over my legs and underarms. The blades never last longer than a week and they are EXPENSIVE. Safety razors on the other hand are great! It’s a one-time investment for the actual stainless steel razor (I got this one on Amazon for $23) and a pack of double-edge razor blades can be purchased with each blade coming out to be less than $.10 cents each! The blades can last for 2-3 months with proper care so you are saving SO MUCH MONEY when you switch. The blades (and razor) come in cardboard, are wrapped individually in paper, and can be recycled when you need to switch it out.

 #ZeroWaste

5 Ways to Build a More Ethical Closet

 

My friend recently sent me this image (shoutout to Nicole!) and it really got me thinking about my own shopping habits. I think people think that in order to have an ethical wardrobe, you need to spend a lot of money. Luckily, this is rarely the case. In fact, shopping ethically can actually help you save money in the long haul. I really like the simplicity of this graphic so I decided to share and explain my experience going through each of these five steps.

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Eco-friendly Beauty Brand – RMS Beauty

Since doing some research about the toxins and scary chemicals found in makeup and beauty products, I have been looking for some alternatives. I had heard of RMS Beauty before – anyone who is interested in the makeup community has certainly heard of the brand’s cult product the “Living Luminizer“. This past summer I was on the hunt for a moisturizing concealer and decided to try out the “Un Cover-Up” from RMS. I liked it but didn’t really know how to work with it until I read that Emma Watson used it as foundation. I used it all over my face and fell IN LOVE. I have a real issue finding foundations that sit nicely on my very dry skin, but this sat on it like a DREAM. Like most of their products, this RMS concealer is most made up of coconut oil, which my skin really seems to love. I also recently learned that coconut oil does not hold bacteria, which is great because I do not usually like products that come in tiny pots that you need to dip your fingers in.

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14 Days as a Vegan

Two weeks ago I decided to try a vegan lifestyle. I have been a vegetarian for ten months and I do not drink dairy. BUT I eat eggs, butter, and cheese. I have wondered for a while if I would have the willpower to commit to not eating any animal products. I knew that I could probably give up eggs and there are plenty of butter substitutes, but CHEESE I knew would be the absolute hardest.

I am proud to say that I went a full 14 days without consuming any animal products. It was actually a lot easier (when I was at home) than I thought it would be. I didn’t miss cheese that much and most of my food staples (spinach, rice, chickpeas, garlic, pasta, etc.) were already completely plant-based anyway. I really recognized the difficulty of a vegan lifestyle while I was out though. For example, I went to Starbucks with two friends for some almond lattes and we ended up staying and chatting for almost three hours. Towards the end, I was properly hungry but soon realized that next to nothing on the Starbucks food menu was vegan. There were plenty of vegetarian options but they all had either cheese or eggs listed as ingredients. I know that it doesn’t sound like much of anything, but when your hands are shaky and you feel slightly faint (which sometimes happens to me if I go without eating for a while), it became a big deal. Little instances like that, things you do not plan for, are what make being vegan hard for me. Plus all I wanted was a croissant.

What I have taken away from the experience is this: I have MAJOR respect for people who live a vegan lifestyle 24/7. It is something that I think I would ultimately like to work towards, and with the acceptance and science promoting a plant-based lifestyle increasing, I think more brands and restaurants are going to make it easier for me to be able to. I also want to try being vegan at home and vegetarian while I am out. I eat at home probably 85% of the time, so this will really help me curb my environmental impact (my reason for going vegetarian and a big reason why I want to go vegan). But when I am out, I think I am going to let the standards slip a bit. Because sometimes you just need that ice-cream or bowl of raviolis and that is okay.