Black History Month: Environmental Racism in Chicago and Hazel M Johnson

It’s been a minute since I have even looked at my blog. I started school shortly after the last post and have been incredibly busy with school work, extra curriculars, and job hunting.

But this month is Black History Month and, while it is almost over, I knew that if I wrote anything this month, it would have to be surrounding this topic.

Before I dive into my main topic, I just want to point out a couple of quick things.

In Utah, parents were able to chose to opt out their children from the Black History Month curriculum. Since the story has now gone viral, the Utah school districts have rescinded that option. But this instance brings to light an incredible point. Racism begins at home. What you say behind closed doors, what you whisper, what you chose to ignore/opt out of, is all noticed and is passed on to your children.

Racism begins and spreads at home.

Anyways, let’s begin.

I wanted to spend this blog post talking about an issue that hits close to home: environmental racism in the city of Chicago. For the many of you who are not Chicago natives/residents, after reading this, do a quick google search of “environment racism *your area*” and see what pops up. I’m sure it will be incredibly interesting and eye opening.

The environmental racism in Chicago is pretty well known. Chicago is the third most segregated city in the country as of 2018 according to the Census Bureau. However, most Chicagoans don’t need a formal study to know that. We see it every day. The Northside of the city, where all of the money and resources are, is largely white and affluent. The Southside, where none of the money and resources are, is largely Black and disenfranchised. The Eastside, where the lake is, is, again, very affluent. The Westside is not.

So what even is environmental racism?

First let’s define the environment.

Environmental justice advocates define the environment as anywhere we work, live, and play. Instead of separating ourselves from nature, this definition invites it in. It makes it apart of our community. Because, in this definition, the environment is now central to us, it makes it easier to see how people are affected by it. This is by far my personal favorite definition of the environment.

So, now what is environmental racism?

Environmental racism is the disproportionate effect of environmental hazards on people of color.

(From GreenAction:) Environmental racism refers to the institutional rules, regulations, policies or government and/or corporate decisions that deliberately target certain communities for locally undesirable land uses and lax enforcement of zoning and environmental laws, resulting in communities being disproportionately exposed to toxic and hazardous waste based upon race. Environmental racism is caused by several factors, including intentional neglect, the alleged need for a receptacle for pollutants in urban areas, and a lack of institutional power and low land values of people of color. It is a well-documented fact that communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by polluting industries (and very specifically, hazardous waste facilities) and lax regulation of these industries.

Environmental justice, then, is the response to these inequities. There are 17 principles of environmental justice and I invite you to look at them.

How does this all play out in Chicago?

Very poorly.

In January of 2020, the city of Chicago did an air quality study. They found that all over the county, the air quality was not great, but the air quality in the South and West sides of the city was life threatening.

Here is a map of their findings.

Staggering to actually have it visualized, huh?

This map is not an unfamiliar one. Throughout the years, there have been many maps that look the same on a variety of topics. The story always ends up being the same. The Black and Latinx populations living in the South and West sides of the city of Chicago face greater health risks than White populations in other areas of the city.

Environmental injustice has been occurring in Chicago for an extremely long time.

There was one woman who recognized it before most others.

Hazel M. Johnson.

When her husband passed away, young and suddenly, from cancer, Johnson began questioning why there were so many in her area, and other public housing areas in Chicago, experiencing inordinate rates of cancer.

Johnson and her husband lived in Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project on the far south side of Chicago. Its residents are 97% Black.

After researching, Johnson discovered that the area had 50 landfills, hundreds of hazardous waste sites, and underground storage tanks that were leaking. She called the community “the toxic doughnut” as it was completely surrounded by pollution and hazardous materials.

In 1979, Johnson established People for Community Recovery in Chicago, which aimed to help the community understand hazardous waste, demand cleaner environments, test for lead, and strengthen their own personal connection to the environment. Johnson also helped to create the 17 principles of environmental justice, which I linked earlier.

Because Johnson’s background was not science based, the media and politicians often painted her as the “angry Black woman” trope, as they thought she was too uneducated to know what was going on in her own community. Despite all attempts to silence Johnson, she pushed onwards, continuing to organize her community members and advocate for environmental justice.

Hazel’s influence in Chicago, and in the environmental justice fields, is still felt today. However, as seen from that map at the beginning of this post, the South side of Chicago still faces incredibly high rates of pollution. Johnson’s organization People for Community Recovery in Chicago, now led by her daughter, continues to fight for the rights and protections of minority and low income communities from environmental hazards.

Hazel is the mother environmental justice. Throughout her life, she dedicated all of her energy and efforts to the people of Chicago. She paved the way for what environmental justice was able to evolve into. Johnson continues to have such an incredible influence on a community so close to my heart.

Domestic Terrorism

Okay.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on what happened this week.

As we all know, domestic terrorists attacked the US Capitol building.

As CNN, Bill Wier, and Cory Booker pointed out, the last time this happened was in 1812 when the British attacked the Capitol building. This time it was attacked by white Americans.

US CITIZENS ATTACKED THEIR OWN CAPITOL BUILDING.

But we know this. We saw this coming. If you didn’t, you were just simply not paying attention. Over and over again Presidential Candidate, President Elect, President, and now Former President Donald Trump has incited violence against people and groups.

Vox published a time line reporting all of the times, from 2015 until the Capitol attack, that Trump has incited violence against different groups of people. The article is an interesting read and I won’t go through every incident (spoiler alert: its a lot), but I thought I would hit the highlights.

People have been using him to justify their violent actions for YEARS.

Vox reports:

August 19, 2015: Two Boston brothers invoked Trump when they were arrested for urinating on a homeless man and beating him with a metal pipe. While in custody, one of the brothers told the police, “Trump was right. All of these illegals need to be deported.” The 58-year-old Mexican American they assaulted was a permanent US resident.

Of course this famous line:

January 23, 2016: At a campaign rally in Iowa, Trump, in describing the loyalty of his supporters, notoriously said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

This frightening sentiment:

Trump would reiterate his support for waterboarding, a banned interrogation method. “They said to me, ‘What do you think of waterboarding?’ I said I think it’s great, but we don’t go far enough. It’s true. We don’t go far enough. We don’t go far enough.” At a February 6 Republican debate in New Hampshire, Trump said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” if he were elected president.

His Muslim ban:

January 27, 2017: On the day the Trump administration instituted a ban against travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, a Muslim Delta employee wearing a hijab was physically and verbally attacked at JFK International Airport in New York. The perpetrator told the victim “[Expletive] Islam. [Expletive] ISIS. Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you,” according to ABC. On the campaign trail, Trump said he was open to the idea of closing mosques and creating a database of all Muslims in the US, consistently saying that Muslims were a “problem” and a “sickness.”

August 5, 2019: A 39-year-old Montana man was charged with felony assault for choking, slamming, and fracturing the skull of a 13-year-old boy who didn’t take his hat off for the national anthem. The man’s attorney told the local newspaper that Trump’s “rhetoric” led to the violent act. “His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished,” the lawyer said, referencing Trump’s harsh words against athletes like Colin Kaepernick who protested for social justice.

That is a TINY SAMPLE of times he has incited violence in the last six years.

(Oh! Happy New Year! Surprise! All of the problems of the previous year do not magically disappear when the year begins anew. Time is a construct ppl).

The Capitol Police say that they had no idea that this was going to happen.

HOW?

This has been planning for MONTHS. Did you see how many people showed up? This was a coordinated effort that had been planned for months in advance. People came in from Hawaii, Florida, all over the freaking country.

There are threats that this is going to happen again before the inauguration. I would not be surprised.

In an article by The Nation, they provide a different look at the riots this week: the relationship between the Thin Blue Line people and the police.

A quote from that article that I believe should be published worldwide is this:

“This is not America,” a woman said to a small group, her voice shaking. She was crying, hysterical. “They’re shooting at us. They’re supposed to shoot BLM, but they’re shooting the patriots.”

I think she said the quiet part out loud. Oops!

I just don’t even know how to respond to that.

Believing in basic human rights makes you the enemy apparently.

Before I jump into the BLM versus the domestic terrorists argument, lets continue to look at the reactions of these Trump Supporters to the police.

From The Nation’s article:

Never mind the Blue Lives Matter paraphernalia, anti-police sentiment was commonplace. “The state troopers where I live are assholes,” I’d heard someone complain earlier. “They’re totally fucking our state.”

“Pigs!” “Is this what we get for backing the Blue?!” “You just lost the only people in this country who stand behind you!” “You serve Satan!”

So it was never really about the police was it? It was just about your absolute hate of black people.

Got it.

Continuing down this disgusting rabbit hole, lets examine the argument saying the everyone involved in the BLM protests over the summer, myself included, should be arrested since the domestic terrorists who desecrated and TRESPASSED in the United States CAPITOL BUILDING are being arrested.

That is an awful argument. And let me tell you why.

Fighting to end the discrimination of Black people is literally not the same as a coup attempt to place a dictator in charge of our country. Yes there were protests this summer, and yes there was some carnage, but in all of the PEACEFUL protests, no one violated a government building.

AND YET, because we were marching for Black Lives, people were shot, and hurt, and abused by police officers.

When the Trump supporters broke windows and trespassed into the capitol building, cops took SELFIES with them:

They opened gates and let them in:

When they brought zip ties to take prisoners, participated in mail theft, trespassed in a federal building, desecrated a national office, stole, AND MORE, the police didn’t do ANYTHING like what they did this summer.

US Capitol rioters spotted with ZIP TIES in shock pics suggesting 'plan to  take hostages'
thesun.co.uk

Now I am TIRED of giving these people a platform like this, where we talk about them constantly for weeks on end and give them the publicity that they crave.

But we also HAVE to talk about this.

We have to realize why it is wrong and how it is deeply rooted in racism.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Donald Trump has been inciting violence for a very long time. This was only the natural progression.

He called them very special people after all.

It will happen again. This proves it.

Pay attention and call your representatives to kick him out of office so he does not get to enjoy any of the benefits of Presidency.

I am TIRED of the republicans going back and forth over him.

Supporting him one day and denying that support the next. I could do a whole other post about just that.

One beast at a time…

Tips & Tricks: Sustainable Gifts

Hello! It’s been a minute, huh?

I am finally done with the first semester of my junior year and am very much looking forward to taking a well deserved break. After being apart from family over thanksgiving, I was able to visit my mom and my brother for Christmas. The cat came with as she is moving back in with them now that my mom has moved. She was absolutely fantastic on the plane, which, let’s be honest, was a huge surprise.

Waffles in cat jail on the plane

It’s taken her a little bit to adjust to a new home, and she’s not fully there yet, but she’s doing pretty well. She loves the California sun and warm weather much more than the cloudy Chicago winter we left.

While staying inside, I have been taking time to wrap and decorate my eco-friendly gifts for my friends and family. I love wrapping presents and wanted to find a way to still make them look cute but be sustainable. Through listening to others in the sustainable community, along with my own ideas, I was able to do just that. So, I wanted to share the fun way I was able to make my gifts this year sustainable and cute.

Materials needed:

  • Citrus fruits of your choice
    • I ended up using two oranges as that gave me the perfect number of slices for all of my gifts. If you have a lot of gifts, use more, if not that much, use less.
    • You can use lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, any citrus you like
  • Recyclable brown paper or newspaper
  • Twine
  • Holly or Winterberries
    • If you use winterberries: keep them away from children and pets as they are toxic, but they look great!

(You can always do it differently by using scarfs or other ideas, but this is how I did it)

To dry the oranges:

  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking sheet or two (depending on your needs) with either parchment paper, a silicon baking sheet (which is the sustainable option!) or aluminum foil
  • Cut the fruit of choice into thin slices discarding any seeds
  • Put the slices on the baking sheet about a half inch apart
  • Back at 200 degrees, flipping every 30 minutes, for about 2 to 3 hours
    • Because they will be of varying sizes, take out the slices as they dry
  • (Optional: Sprinkle the oranges with sugar)

Cut the Winterberry or Holly into sizes of your choosing, then get ready to wrap.

Wrap your gifts in brown recycled paper or old newspaper and wrap with twine to give it some extra flare. Then decorate as you feel with the oranges and winterberry/holly.

They turn out really cute! And it is all sustainable! As they sit under the tree, I have received great feedback. People love how they look, and it’s so incredibly easy.

So! Now that you know how to wrap the gifts, what do you put in them?

I know, I know. Christmas is two days away and this is a little late, but everyone is always searching for last minute gift ideas. So here are some that I got for my family.

  • Wine
    • This is a great gift as you can find some great wine from sustainable vineyards. When purchasing, look to see if the vineyard is SIP certified.
    • You can also book a wine tasting at a local vineyard, which a great, low waste experience gift! However, in our current covid era, leaving the house isn’t advisable. So, instead you could buy different wines from the same or different vineyard and do a home wine tasting. Makes the experience come to the home and is a fun change from the usual routine. You can even make tasting sheets to rank the different wines you try!
  • Photos
    • Photos are a great sentimental low waste gift too, especially if you can get them printed on recycled paper.
    • I was able to make a little photo book for my family for the holidays (they already opened it, don’t worry) and they love it.
    • Photos are something that are not that expensive, can be a great sustainable option, have a lot of sentimental value, and are a great last minute gift idea
  • Experience gifts
    • I have talked about this before, and just mentioned it when I talk about wine tastings, but experience gifts are truly one of the most sustainable gifts you can give. They are low waste and just plain fun.
    • Gift cards to restaurants or the movies support local businesses in your area through covid and are a great sustainable idea
    • Tickets to a play or an amusement park which can be used once things open back up are great ideas
    • You can also give sustainable gear for people that spend time outside, like backpacks or sustainable cork yoga mats
  • Second Hand gifts
    • Regifting or gifting second hand items is something that we should normalize. Walk into any thrift or consignment store, or even scroll down eBay and you can find incredible stuff. Things do not always need to be new. Normalize getting things refurbished and second hand. Not only is it more sustainable, but it is often cheaper!
  • Buy a tree or carbon offsets!
    • I, again, have talked about this before, but carbon offsets are a great gift, and can easily be a last minute gift as it is done all online and you print or email the certificate. They supports companies and projects that are working to reduce carbon emissions. I bought one for my mom last Christmas, in fact, and funded the planting of trees, clean water initiatives, and several other projects
    • Gift a Tree! You can also plant a tree (or trees) in dedication to someone for Christmas. This is a great gift and that person is now tied to a sustainable project. This also a great last minute gift idea that is done all online! Treedom Trees is a great company that allows you to plant or dedicate trees. You get to pick your kind of tree, a farmer will plant it and photograph it, and you can follow its journey as it grows and follow the larger project it is apart of.
  • If you must shop, shop small, shop business of color.
    • It is so important to support small businesses and businesses owned by people of color every holiday season, but this holiday season especially. They typically do not operate on the same large scale basis that other corporations do, so it is a sustainable way to shop in its own right. Make sure your favorite business survive this pandemic. Don’t know what to get, buy a gift card. Everything helps.

This is just a short list of great last minute ideas and ideas for the future for the people you care about most in your lives.

I hope everyone has a great holiday season and it is spent with people you love, either in person or virtually.

Stay safe, stay home, stay wearing your mask. We’re not through this yet.

Happy Holidays

Nisolo Shoes: a Little Kinder to the Planet

It’s December! The final stretch of the crazy year of 2020, though I am not holding out hope for the beginning of 2021…

We’re now officially in the holiday season. I have a fake palm in my living room that is covered in lights. I decided that instead of buying a small fake tree, that I would just turn my palm into a tropical Christmas tree. I have small little ornaments and even a tiny tree skirt. Its pretty cute if I do say so, and it is a little better for the environment. I used things I already had, only buying when it was necessary.

Speaking of the holiday season, Thanksgiving looked a little different this year. Like I said, I spent this year away from my immediate family like a lot of people did. But I did get to spend it with my little covid bubble which helped make a sour situation very sweet.

We spent the afternoon chatting, drinking, eating, and enjoying each others company. I hadn’t been around anyone besides my cat for about a week and a half. It was fantastic to have conversations that were not answered with a meow or a tail flap. I also got to eat the most fantastic crab cakes.

Another highlight of the day was debuting my fantastic new Nisolo shoes.

Aren’t they stunning??

It is Emma D’Orsay Oxford in Brandy. I adore the side slits and nodes to French Fashion. While I would traditionally classify these as a dress shoe, back in my I-know-nothing-about-fashion-days (which I am just now growing out of), these are so incredibly versatile. Here I am wearing them with jeans, but I just as soon wear them with my plaid slacks, a skirt, or even a pair of shorts.

These shoes are beautifully made and incredibly high quality. They are a little tight fitting at first, but the shoe soon forms to your foot.

Photo Curtsey of Nisolo

When picking products to feature I try only to pick brands that produce sustainable products but do so in an ethical way.

Thats why I like Nisolo. Not only do they produce REALLY cute shoes, but they also pay their employees a living wage.

Nisolo publishes detailed information on everything they do: their factories, their wages, and their climate and social impact.

Nisolo has created 117 new sustainable jobs and their wages are 33% above fair trade wages. All of their employees are over the age of 18 and they have invest $3.5 million back into the Peruvian economy. Nisolo is also B-corporation certified. “B Corp certification is similar to fair trade, but determines environmental and social impact beyond product attributes or production processes. Rather, the assessment takes a deep look into a company’s leadership, governance, suppliers, employees, communities, etc. in order to determine (and ultimately score) the social and environmental impact an organization has on all of its stakeholders.”

Nisolo’s main factory is in Peru but they also partner with independent artisans. They make it a goal to empower women and pay them fair wages as well. They help their employees establish bank accounts and savings, and employees can also have a salary advance for big expenses to save themselves from the loan sharks.

Currently, the lowest wage in their Peruvian factory is $280 a month. That is for entry level positions. While it is low in consideration of our wages, it is actually much higher than the average wage in Peru for entry level positions.

I love the transparency in this company. Yes, there are improvements to be made. There are improvements everywhere, but the fact that they allow you to see the inner operations of their supply chain and show were they have made mistakes in the past is promising.

Nisolo also combats climate change by actively protecting trees from deforestation in the Amazon Basin.

These shoes are terrific. They do good for people, for the planet, and as a self confidence booster.

(Shoes received in partnership with brightly.eco scouts program)

Staying home… And other updates

I haven’t provided an update on here in a while, so I thought I would share what I have been up to. It has been spent mainly within the walls of my apartment, with girls night after girls night with my cat. However, every once in a while, I get to step outside, breath the fresh air, and see some friendly faces. I appreciate everyone in my little covid bubble that I get to see so very very much. They are the ones who have made this time enjoyable.

Pictures are better than words, so here’s a collection of them from the past month or so.

Halloween! This was a very low-key halloween. He was an astronaut and I was an alien.
Pumpkin carvings!
Even though we are 21, we have bought more sparkling grape juice than alcohol. Very on brand.
Celebrating the election and a 70 degree day in November.
They are absolutely in love with one another and I often feel like a third wheel.
One of the big joys of covid is that I get to hang out with this cute baby from time to time. She absolutely adores her Uncle Armin (However, I feel like that may be in part do the volume of snacks he always has at the ready.) But like have you seen anything cuter?
Neda actually let me hold her! This is a huge step for us. She used to only judgey stare at me from across the room, but now she actually knows who I am? One cool baby.
She is a city cat.
Chonk
I was able to do my first #sponsored post on instagram for Nisolo shoes! It was super cool and I should probably post about it on here, but y’know. Also I spent thanksgiving with Armin’s family and this is their front yard.
I got this GIANT, ankle length blanket sweatshirt dress for my birthday and now that it’s getting colder, I have been LIVING in it.
I had the lovely opportunity to see a dear friend of mine this weekend. We spent it zooming with our other friends and playing online games and it was a blast.

Going into the holiday season with covid is hard. It is super important to focus on the good moments and to pick out moments when you felt happy and good about yourself, even if that moment was as small as buying sparking grape juice at Marianos.

This week I am heading back to classes after being off for Thanksgiving and getting ready for finals. I know while I am stressed it is going to be essential that I remind myself of all the good times.

For everyone in school, kick butt this finals season, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Tips & Tricks: A Sustainable Holiday

Listen as you read

The holiday season. It is finally upon us… but it looks a little different this year. Many of us, myself included, are separated from our families. I, for instance, am in Chicago while my family is in much warmer parts of the country. This holiday season feels different than others. I think I’ve been looking forward to it much more than I usually do too.

The time from Thanksgiving to New Years is always filled with so much hope and love. I think we all need a little bit more of that this year. I have even broke my family tradition of only listening to Christmas music post Thanksgiving. I watched Dash & Lily today on Netflix, which omg cheesy but cute teenage romance (also the Jonas Brothers are in it?? and I love Joe so…) and am writing this while listening to Christmas music and sitting next to a candle (kind of like a fireplace right?) while it is completely dark at 5 pm.

Starting to feel like the holidays.

I think I may even try to decorate my small little house this week.

I, like so many others, are not with my family this holiday to protect them and myself and others from the horrors of Coronavirus. This holiday season should really be spent looking out for others and being selfless.

Being selfless also includes putting the planet’s interests above your own. (You knew this was coming right? I gotta input my sustainable knowledge at some point…) I have complied a little list about ways that you can be sustainable this year! Whether it be through Christmas cards, gift wrap, decorations, or holiday meals.

The holiday season is a time to give back to others, a time to show them how much the mean to you, a time to be kind to strangers. Be kind to the planet too.

(As per usual, I am not being paid for recommending any of these companies, products, or ideas. I am sharing them of my own volition and belief in a commitment to a sustainable future)

Sustainable Christmas Cards:

To start off this list, I thought I would share a really cool shop that I was recently introduced to: Paper Culture.

This organization is really cool. For every purchase you make, they plant a tree.

Curtesy of Paper Culture

They’ve planted over 1 MILLION trees. Insane. They have a done of cute designs for the holiday season and beyond. This a great alternative to other Christmas card companies as it actively works to mitigate climate change.

Reduce Food Waste

Food waste is such a large problem in the developed world. And it just sky rockets around holidays. People always make more than what they will eat and often times just toss it, instead of saving it as left overs or making less food.

To make sure you don’t just end up throwing away your left overs, freeze them! They will keep a lot longer and there’s a good chance you’ll come back to it. You can also make sure you eat what you have before getting new food or ordering in. Use what you have before you get more. You can also find new recipes to repurpose your left overs.

Compost the stuff you can’t eat! Composting is such a great way to reduce food waste and give back to the Earth. I got my mom a composter for the holidays last year, and while it wasn’t quite what we needed, she ended up composting in her garden bed. You don’t need your own compost box or garden though. You can store your food scraps in the freezer, and when you are ready to get rid of them, find a local compost collection site near you!

Eat Less Meat

I think we can all agree that Turkey definitely does not live up to the hype. So why eat it?

This year, try eating less meat. Make more vegetable dishes and sides. Eating less meat is such a huge thing that you can do for the environment and to reduce climate change on an individual level.

Travel Better or Not at All

This year might be easier than others to not travel across the country with Corona and all, but emissions from planes and cars around the holidays are so detrimental to the planet.

You really shouldn’t be traveling this year ( I mean Illinois just went under another statewide stay at home order), but if you must, try keeping these ideas in mind.

Travel less often. Instead of driving or fly across country for Christmas and Thanksgiving, pick one. Or stay home every other year. This would help a lot with carbon emissions.

Take a bus or a train instead of flying. This is much less convenient, but convenient rarely means good for the planet.

You can also buy carbon offsets. This supports companies and projects that are working to reduce carbon emissions. I bought one for my mom last Christmas in fact. I funded the planting of trees, clean water initiatives, and several other projects.

Stop the Black Friday Frenzy

Black Friday is a global nightmare. We buy stuff that destroys the planet just because it’s cheap. This year, try to avoid the pull of consumer culture. Buy from sustainable brands if you must, or thrift, or make your own gifts!

You could also chose to give experience gifts. These gifts are very cool and are a great gift for a year when we didn’t get to do anything. You can buy a voucher to many places that the recipient gets to redeem when it is safe to do so. You aren’t contributing to consumer culture and are giving a fun and personal gift. Experience gifts can be anything from wine tastings, to movie tickets, to a coupon for a dinner with you!

Sustainable Gift Wrap? Yes Please!

Wrapping is known to be horrific for the planet. So, what can we do?

Repurpose old newspapers or paper shopping bags. Use plain, brown, recyclable paper instead of the glossy stuff that can’t be recycled. Decorate with twine and pine and berries. Be natural this year. Sustainability is in.

Natural Decorations

In addition to natural wrappings, try natural decorations. If you need to buy new decorations, and can’t reuse what you have from previous years (which is always the best), try being more natural.

Get a real tree, something that can be composted and returned to the earth, instead of a fake tree made from petroleum. If you must have a fake tree, make sure it is one you can use forever.

Reducing waste is incredibly important. If you use natural decorations, like real garland or a wooden reindeer, or you make your own, try to find things that can be reused, if it can’t be composted. This is will not only reduce your holiday costs, but reduce your footprint this holiday season as well.

This list is far from exhaustive, but I hope it will push you in the right direction.

Enjoy this holiday, even if you aren’t with your loved ones. Make do with what you have. Find the joy in this situation. Light your candles, dance around to whatever music you like the most, and eat as many cookies as it takes.

I, for one, am going to go spin around to Step into Christmas by my love Sir Elton John.

Happy Holidays from me and mine to you and yours, wherever you all may be this year.

Election Reflection

71 million people. That is how many Americans voted for Trump. 71 million.

I keep seeing statistics that said, “Biden got the most votes ever!” While seeming to ignore that Trump got the second most votes?

Donald Trump got almost TEN MILLION MORE VOTES than he did in 2016. That is ridiculous.

Ten million more Americans decided to either turn a blind eye or formally accept that racism is acceptable. And what is worse, is that 55% of white women voted for Trump. That is more white women who voted for him than in 2016.

Source: The New York Times

What does that mean? It means I, as a white woman failed.

It means you (if you are a white person) failed.

Why?

We have failed to hold other white people, especially white women, accountable. This is my personal failure, and the failure of other liberal and progressive white women as well. You should feel this way too.

We as white people benefit from these racist, unjust systems. This is our fault, the blood has been split by us and its our duty to clean it up, no matter how we voted.

This is a self reflection call for us all. Did you have hard conversations with people who supported Trump, who support racists, who are racists themselves? Or did you ignore the problem for the sake of maintaining a friendship?

Source: @Chier.Dart

Racism is not something that you can just “disagree about” and remain friends. And a friendly reminder to any one who may claim that reverse racism exists, it. does. not.

People of color cannot be racist towards whites in a societal system that designed to SOLELY benefit white people. We, as white people, have NEVER experienced reverse racism, and we never will.

In a quote by @Futurafreedesign on instagram, “As soon as we begin to interrogate issues of racism, people get uncomfortable with it. If your default reaction to these discussions is to see white people as victims of reverse racism, educate yourself.”

A couple other things before I move on:

  1. Saying that you are “color blind” is not a good thing. That just means that race hasn’t been a factor in your life and you are ignoring the fact that it has been in someone else’s. Here, you are avoiding accountability for a world that does oppress people based on color.
  2. Saying that a black person is “threatening” translates to “black people scare me because they are different. Black men scare me because I instantly categorize them as criminals.” You are asserting that your whiteness is superior.
  3. White privileged means that the color of your skin has not made life difficult for you. You are actively benefiting from the racists systems in our world.
  4. You benefit by seeing your self represented on TV, you have better access to health care, you are not forced to learn about racism at a young age, you are never asked to speak as a representative of your racial group, you are a not a presidential debate question.
  5. The Karen memes aren’t sexists or racist
  6. When you, as a white person, say that violence isn’t the answer, you are ignoring the fact that marginalized groups are not often heard.

I have a little check list here for you to understand more about the privilege that you hold.

There is still PLENTY of work to be done under Joe Biden, and our momentum cannot slow. Joe Biden is not our saving grace. We must hold him accountable like we did Trump. We cannot stop showing up, we cannot stop having difficult conversations, we cannot stop the fight towards equality.

How do you have these difficult conversations? Well luckily, Jen Winston (@jenerous on Instagram who is a writer and speaker) created an info guide to discuss just that.

White people who consider ourselves liberal and progressive, we failed. Big time. The black voters and organizers, especially Stacy Abrams, carried our failure once again.

To end on a lighter note, I want to talk about the victories in this election.

  1. Joe Biden was elected president. While he is the lesser of two evils, I have great hope that progress will be made under his administration.
  2. All of the progressives running for office kept or gained their seat.
    1. Ilhan Omar, AOC, Cori Bush, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib
  3. Sarah McBride became the first openly transgender state senator
  4. Stephanie Byers was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, making her the first openly transgender official elected in the state and the first Native trans person elected to any state legislature
  5. Michele Rayner-Goolsby was elected as the first Black queer woman as a state legislator in Florida
  6. Mondaire Jones, a Black gay man, will represent New York’s 17th district in the House of Representatives
  7. Taylor Small was elected as Vermont’s first transgender state legislator
  8. Shervrin Jones was elected as Florida’s first openly LGBTQ+ state senator
  9. Kim Jackson is the first LGBTQ+ person elected to the Georgia State Senate
  10. Mauree Turner is the first non-binary state lawmaker in the United States
  11. Jabari Brisport is the first LGBTQ+ person of color elected to the New York State Senate
  12. Nevada became the first state in the nation to protect same-sex marriage in its constitution
  13. Cori Bush became the first Black woman elected to congress from Missouri
  14. $15/hr minimum wage passed in Florida
  15. Austin passed funding for a metro rail system
  16. New Jersey, Arizona, Montana, and South Dakota legalized recreational marijuana
  17. Mississippi legalized medical marijuana
  18. Oregon decriminalized all drug possession and passed campaign finance reform
  19. Virginia voted to end partisan gerrymandering
  20. Two Minnesota cities and Boulder, Colorado passed rank choice voting
  21. Texas and Georgia are swing states
  22. Mississippi elected to change their state flag

These are just a sampling of the wins from the 2020 Presidential election. I hope they motivate you to move forward with your activism, big or small, to positively impact the community around you. Hold your friends and neighbors accountable. Don’t shy away from heavy conversation.

White people, do your part.

Let’s work for each other.

Election Day

Election day. It’s here. I feel like this has been a day we have talked about constantly the past four years. And now, we’re living it. I early voted weeks ago, as did 100 million other Americans, so today is odd. I keep posting about “go vote!” “make sure your voice is heard!”, but I am not voting today. I am positive that I am outspoken enough on my social media platforms that anyone who has opposing views does not follow me anymore and everyone who will see it has already decided.

Posted this on my Instagram story from @brightly.eco

I think we often forget how we affect the rest of the world. As much as I like to talk about the fact that America is no longer the biggest player on the world stage (we aren’t, China is. And India is going to push us to third, hate to break it to ya), America still has an incredibly large global influence.

Remember the elections worldwide after the 2016 election? In case you don’t let me give you a refresher. Boris Johnson was elected. Y’know the goober who spearheaded Brexit? (Yes. I absolutely called Prime Minister Boris Johnson a goober, and I will do it again). In Brazil, President Bolsonaro was elected. ( I am currently out of creative, minor insults at the moment. May update when I have one). He is a champion of the conservative agenda and pretty much hates the environment. He has done absolute squat to help the Amazon survive. Plenty of other conservatives were elected to positions of power after Trump was, just google it.

So when we vote, we must remember that we are not only voting for ourselves but for the rest of the world AND the planet/environment.

Conservatism is outdated. It fails to keep up with the realities of our world, consistently denying what is right in front of its nose. It puts people at unnecessary risk, all for the sake of refusing to grow with the times, refusing to evolve, and refuting change.

This wave of conservatism has been DEADLY. 1.21 million people have died worldwide from Covid, 231,000 of those have been deaths within the United States. Poland passed a law outlawing abortions, ensuring back ally abortions will resume, endangering the lives of millions of women. Ohio, Georgia, Louisiana, and Missouri passed heartbeat bills (Iowa’s, Kentucky’s, and Mississippi’s were invalidated by the courts). With our new conservative court, and you all know my feelings on that, I fear that could happen in the United States as well.

So when we vote, we must remember that we are not only voting for ourselves but for the health of our friends, family, neighbors, and the rest of the world’s citizens.

These past four years have taught us a lot. Not just the obvious, that a celebrity Cheeto puff cannot be president. But, that we need to separate show business and politics. Just because it is called the world stage, doesn’t mean we need actors and show hosts parading around.

As much as everyone loves to talk about how they hate politicians, we need them. It is literally their job to understand government, to make connections with foreign governments, to handle the inter-workings of government.

We have also learned how desperately we need to rid ourselves of the electoral college. The founders of the United States created the electoral college because they thought that the regular citizen was too uneducated to understand government. So, it served as a fail-safe so that politicians could always end up choosing who would be the next president of the United States. We don’t need this now. Let the people choose the president by popular vote. Don’t make our votes mean less based on where we happen to live.

Our lives are at stake, our planet is at stake, our futures and our children’s futures are at stake. So I hope that you vote or have already voted. Unless you’re like me and your ballot got rejected :\. (I fought back against the decision, so it should end up being counted don’t worry).

But now you’ve voted, and you are riddled with election stress, don’t worry you are not alone. I’ve got some tips for de-stressing, and I thought I would share.

  1. Limit your social media time. Social media will be a mess today with people constantly talking about the election.
  2. Take a break from the news. If you live in a house like mine, the news is always on. Turn it off. Go for a walk, take a well-deserved break. We aren’t going to know the results for a while anyway.
  3. Drink water! Make sure you are staying hydrated, and you are taking care of yourself.
  4. Surround yourself with your loved ones. I know a lot of us are not near family right now (miss rona y’know), but call them, facetime them, zoom with them! Keep tabs on one another and make sure everyone is taking care of themselves.
  5. Go to the grocery store. Depending on where you live, there is a high possibility of unrest no matter which candidate wins. Make sure you have what you need so you can stay safe inside in case the outside isn’t.
  6. Keep hope that progress can still happen regardless of the results. Maintaining hope might be hard but necessary.
  7. Play with your pets. Your pet will always love this, and petting them will help regulate your stress levels.

Those are just some tips I found that I thought I would share. Meditating, journaling, and breathing exercises help as well.

This post has been absolutely all over the place, but I have a lot of thoughts and feelings.

I’ve seen this quote floating around Instagram and thought I would end with it:

Vote as if your skin is not white, your parents need medical care, your spouse is an immigrant, your land is on fire, your child is transgender, your house is flooded, your sister is a victim of gun violence, your brother is gay, and your water is unsafe. Privilege has no place in an election, but empathy does.

Tips & Tricks: A Sustainable Closet

I am back! And this week we are going to be talking about tips for a sustainable closet.

I took a week off, not that I was very regular about posting anyways, because midterms had me swamped. But I am back, and we are going to dive right into ways to be sustainable in your closet.

You should know, I am not an expert on this. I am writing this as someone who is currently working on this herself and is trying every day to be better than I was yesterday. These are things that I have done to change my daily habits or to incorporate sustainable alternatives into my life that I know that everyone can do as well. The things that I suggest are not, by all means, exhaustive. There are a ton of alternatives out there, you just have to do your research.

On the docket for today: outfit repeating, shopping secondhand, and where to buy things when you absolutely must buy new.

Outfit repeating: what is it and why should you do it?

Our fear of outfit repeating is mainly an American thing, and it is tied to our full embrace of capitalism. There has been a call in the sustainable community to normalize outfit repeating, wearing clothes that you own more than once. It is a direct retaliation against fast fashion, which encourages a new outfit for every occasion.

Outfit repeating is sustainable. You are using what you already have and not needlessly using water and releasing carbon emissions for the sake a new outfit that someone will only see you wear once.

There has been growing popularity in the trend of capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is picking and choosing your favorite versatile clothes, remixing them and wearing them different ways. That way, you shop less often, and when you do, it is intentional. You also are more aware of what is in your closet and you have pieces that work together in different ways.

But you shouldn’t go out and buy all new clothes for your capsule wardrobe. Work with that you have, thrift what you need. If you can’t find what you need secondhand, buy it from a sustainable and ethical company that is transparent about what they do. Don’t fall for green washing.

A capsule wardrobe typically has less than 40 pieces in it, but what you have is incredibly versatile. Something to seriously consider if you are interested in being more sustainable in your closet. But remember, start with what you already own! This is not an excuse to go out and buy more clothes.

So if you do need to buy something, where do you go?

Thrifting!

Shopping second hand is the most sustainable way to shop for new clothes. Even though something has been worn before, it is still new to you. Depop is a great way to sell clothes and buy things from each other. I found adorable skort from a seller on there and I wore it all summer.

Another great place to buy online is threadUP. ThreadUp, according to their website, is the world’s largest online consignment and thrift store. Over the summer they came out with their personalized boxes, and I had the opportunity to get one (this is not paid, I promise. Not that big a blog yet). I filled out a questionnaire about sizes and style preferences, uploaded my pinterest board of style ideas and BAM! Personalized style box sent right to my door. I did return somethings, but I kept a skirt, dress, tank top, and shirt. You only pay for what you keep.

Of course they also have their traditional online shopping platform, which has more clothes than you could ever imagine. They also have all of your favorite brands. Love Anthropologie and Madewell, but hate their lack of sustainability? Thrift them. It is a sustainable way to get the brands you love.

So what happens if you can’t find what you need at a local thrift store or online? Where do you go?

I have a few recommendations, but let me also introduce you to this super cool resource. For a quick assessment of all your favorite clothing brands, check out the Good On You Directory, which rates brands on labor, environment, and animal usage. It will give you sustainable alternatives to your favorite, but earth killing, brand.

So, when you absolutely need to buy a new piece, this is a great place to find a small, sustainable business that can get you that product. Something to keep in mind, a lot of those businesses are based out of the country. So check to see if they off set their travel emissions.

Now, my favorite brands!

Again, I am not being paid for any of this, nor will I get a kick back if you follow any of these links. I am simply sharing these brands because I genuinely believe in the mission and the products of these companies and know that they are doing good for the planet.

I personally live in my yoga pants and have had terrible luck with them ripping in the crotch and being constantly covered in pet hair (remember that long haired cat I live with, there are remnants of her on every possible surface). I don’t love the idea of buying yoga pants second hand, and am okay with buying them new because I know that I will wear them until I can’t any longer. Girlfriend Collective is active wear made ethically. They have yoga pants, sport bras, track suits, sweatsuits, shorts (both run and bike!), and more.

I have the Paloma Bra, in plum, and the compressive high rise legging in black. For my short legs, I chose the 23in legging, and they don’t gather at the bottom at all, which I love. Here are some pictures of my loved pieces, both holding up incredibly well after being worn rather frequently.

Paloma Bra in Plum
Bra and Compressive legging combo, ft. miss cat

Could I have cleaned my mirror before this? Absolutely. But, we get stuck with my messy mirror. Again, I only include this because of how much I stand behind their products.

So what makes Girlfriend collective sustainable? They take plastic bottles and turn that into fabric, and they make sure to off set all the carbon used to create their products. On each product, they tell you how much water and carbon is saved by the creation of this product. I invite you to read about their sustainability here. They will also recycle their old clothes. You can ship back your pieces of theirs once you have worn them all the way through and they will recycle the fabric. How cool?

The other brand I want to dig into today is, Will’s Vegan Store. I LOVE this brand. Completely love it. They sell everything from tops, to shoes, to bags, to accessories. I have three pairs of shoes from them and love everything I have. It fits perfectly, it is all vegan, and all ethically made. They use sustainable packaging as well.

I have the deep tread Chelsea boots, NY sneakers in white (which is very on brand for me), and point toe boots.

Point toe boots and NY Sneakers in White

Other brands of worthy mention: Ocelot Market, Boyish Jeans, ABLE, Allbirds and Patagonia

I have only tried Patagonia and Allbirds (my fave tennis shoes omg), but the others are highly reputable and have reviews from sources I trust.

At the end of this I must acknowledge that I know not everyone can afford to buy from these expensive, sustainable brands, and often times they do not carry every size. With the current thrifting trend and people buying clothing not their size, it takes options away from people who are that size and have issues finding their size, forcing them to buy from fast fashion companies. Thrift responsibly, just like how you will now, hopefully, shop. Thrift and shop with the planet and others in mind.

KD and ACB

Kappa Delta, an organization I am a member of, posted this on their Instagram story:

It was up for about an hour or so before they took it down.

Shortly after Kappa Delta took down the story post, they posted this:

The post was soon flooded with comments by Kappa Delta members who disagreed with the way Kappa Delta handled the situation.

Why is this an issue? Is it a problem that Kappa Delta acknowledged that Amy Coney Barret (ACB) is a Kappa Delta?

It is not a problem that Kappa Delta acknowledged it. The issue lies with how they handled it, what they said, and the fact they tried to cover it up as if nothing happened. They said in their original post that they remain “nonpartisan”; and in their follow up post, they said that women are supposed to empower each other. What a way to try to brush aside the comments that criticized them. Celebrate women. Do not hide behind false pretenses. 

We can recognize that a woman’s accomplishments are her own while also acknowledging that what she intends to do with those accomplishments hurts members of our organization. Kappa Delta is supposed to stand for female empowerment and to strive for what is honorable, beautiful, and highest. Supporting this woman who aims to tear down other women in the name of religion and her own personal beliefs is not honorable, despite whatever title she may hold.

Amy Coney Barrett does not empower other women. It is one thing to try to be a nonpartisan organization, but women’s rights should not be something that is ascribed to one political party or the other. Kappa Delta says it stands for the betterment of women, but it cannot even upload a permanent post about the truth. Supporting someone who is not for the betterment of women, while Kappa Delta claims to be, is ridiculously hypocritical.

Honestly, I expected better. 

I have my issues with sororities. In fact, I almost did not join one. But KD has given me new friends and fun college experiences. However, the way they went about this disgusts me and makes me wonder if I made the right choice. The fact that my name is tied to an organization that upholds a woman who threatens the rights and lives of its members does not sit well with me. 

How should Kappa Delta have handled this? Honestly, I do not know. If it were me, I wouldhave fully recognized ACB’s history with the organization but address the fact that she no longer represents what Kappa Delta stands for. Political parties do not have to be mentioned, but it needs to be said that Kappa Delta does not condone the ability of a woman to crush other Women.

Reproductive rights are not something to take lightly. They are an essential of a so-called empowered woman. In fact, they are so essential, it is an essential tenet of UN Women, an organization within the UN that is dedicated to the empowerment of women.

It has been a week since Kappa Delta posted anything on their Instagram.

The other night, this came up again, which is what got me thinking about it. There is a swag swap Facebook group for Kappa Delta, where you can buy clothing and merch from one another. Someone posted a message that asked if anyone was interested in buying shirts that said, “Kappa Deltas support Amy Coney Barrett.” I was pleasantly surprised at the number of Kappa Deltas who spoke up to say why supporting this woman was problematic. Others bit back, saying that we should support sisters no matter what and that not supporting ACB is not upholding Kappa Delta”s values. It was concerning the number of people who agreed with that, given what Kappa Delta is supposed to represent.

I did not know when I signed up to be a member of Kappa Delta, that I would have to blindly support people and not them accountable for their actions. Amy Coney Barrett is going to hurt womxn and people with uteruses. Those are people who are in our Kappa Delta family.

Why would you try and uphold this one woman who will harm you and everyone else in your organization? For me, I cannot comprehend it. She will strip us of essential rights, rights that I hold very dear to me. She seeks to steal the autonomy of my body. She seeks to undermine minority communities.

I cannot understand how a woman could rip basic human rights from another woman (and HERSELF).

This is not the first time Kappa Delta has had a member in the middle of political controversy.

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, is a Kappa Delta.

Most women who are a part of the organization have no idea, because Kappa Delta did not say anything about it. They withheld support from her because they claim to be nonpartisan.

Supporting women in the face of adversity is not political. Dr. Ford was upholding the Kappa Delta tenets by acting honorably; Kappa Delta ignored her. KD says it is supposed to empower women. Where was the empowerment with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford? Why does Amy Coney Barrett get the support that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford needed? Why now?

I need to hold the organizations I am a part of accountable for their actions, and you should too. By not saying anything further on Amy Coney Barrett, Kappa Delta has made a political statement with their silence. For an organization that prides itself on its commitment to women, it is failing.

I am embarrassed by this organization.

This is not what I thought Kappa Delta stood for. If they do not say anything soon, I guess I was mistaken.

If you are enraged by the hypocrisy that is the Kappa Delta organization, here’s a petition to sign:

http://chng.it/6T2mJpmvQf