Trees: Nature’s Cure-All

I recently went for a hike with a friend of mine in woods local to where I live. We like to get out and among the trees once and a while. We got lost, sort of, which was quite a feat since the woods are only about three square miles. The trails are fairly well maintained, though the map I was using on All Trails, was a little off. But regardless of our fumbling around the swampy woods, I was still in a fairly upbeat mood.

Trees, They’re Important

This is normally a situation that would lead to frustration. But the weather was pleasant, the company was good, and I was enjoying the outdoors. I’ve been doing some reading on how trees and forests affect our moods, and it may not only have been the company and quality of the weather that was altering my mood.

There have been many studies that suggest that spending time in and around forests and trees are excellent for our physical and mental wellbeing. The flora in our cities and neighborhoods is equally as important as well, for filtering the pollutants that are being emitted by the buildings and vehicles we use daily.

In the following, I’ll be going over some of the benefits that trees provide us with and why they are so important to maintaining a sustainable future for generations to come. Most of the information from this article was taken from four articles, which I will be posting links to at the end of this piece. So let’s start with our mental health and general mood.

Trees & Our Mental Health

There has been mounting research that suggests that walking in nature, specifically around trees, may improve our moods by lowering levels of anxiety, depression and overall stress. Trees have also been shown to reduce symptoms of ADHD in children as well. This is quite the feat for these gentle giants.

The reason for these benefit still isn’t entirely clear to scientists. But the results continue to point towards spending time in nature leads to overall healthier mental wellbeing. And it doesn’t take long for the effects to settle in. All the more reason to take a hike in some local woods or go to a local park to enjoy the greenery.

Physical Health

Being surrounded by trees also heightens our physical well being as well as emotional. The leaves from trees filter out pollution particles that affect our lungs and breathing. Mostly, they filter the particles that are emitted from vehicles emissions, or the burning of fossil fuels.

Breathing

This is especially important in cities. Not only is this where a fair amount of the concentration of vehicles are located, but also the trees best scrub the air that is within 100 feet of where they stand. Trees that scrub our air, work by way of the leaves, needles and the thousands of tiny pores on each. These pores take in the pollutants that would otherwise affect our lungs and breathing, holding them harmlessly in their body and leaves.

So the more trees that are located in neighborhoods where more vulnerable populations live, the greater the health benefits could be. Unfortunately, neighborhoods in a lower socioeconomic status are most devoid of the much needed greenery while being most tightly packed together. A catch 22 for sure.

Heart Health

Walking around trees has also shown to improve heart health. In this article by Greater Good, They talk about how walking in nature, specifically around trees as opposed to walking in cities, lowers cortisol levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lowers the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. According to the article, all of these are markers of greater cardiovascular health. And an overall healthier heart.

And All the Things

It isn’t clear as to why time spent around trees helps to improve health, but the data all points to spending time with trees makes a difference for the positive. There is also evidence that shows that being around trees also leads to better birth outcomes and a reduced risk of diabetes. The health benefits seem to be all encompassing. All the more reason to spend some more time in your favorite park or forest.

The health benefits of being in forests has made such an impact, that countries such as Japan and Korea have been championing forest bathing therapy. This practice is much as it sounds. The person will mindfully spend time in the forest, taking in the sensory experiences that the forest has to offer and receiving all the health benefits as well.

And if all of these benefits weren’t enough, taking in the company of trees also has been shown to improve immune system function as well as prolong life expectancy. And again, the reasons for this aren’t quite clear. There’s a theory that it may be related to aromatic compounds that trees release, but further research still needs to be done to provide an answer with some certainty.

Carbon Sequestering

It’s no surprise that trees help to sequester CO2, one of the major greenhouse gasses leading to the current climate crisis, but the rate at which they do is compelling. First, how they sequester carbon is worth understanding, so we understand why destroying trees, or even why only planting new trees without conserving the ones we have is dangerous.

Trees work to sequester carbon by taking it in from the atmosphere and using sunlight and water to turn it into wood. It’s here where the carbon is sequestered for the life of the tree. When the tree dies, is cut, burned or decomposes, the carbon is released back into the environment. This is why planting new trees isn’t the only solution to our Co2 problem.

It takes decades for a young tree to meet the carbon sequestering power of older trees. One tree mentioned in an article by WBUR 90.9 Boston, says that it has sequestered 22,049 pounds of CO2. That’s equivalent to 1,100 gallons of gasoline. This is something that modern science is still having issues reproducing and why preserving the trees we already have is so important.

Getting Involved & How to Help

So with all these health benefits that trees provide for us, the question remains, what can we be doing to help save the forests and trees that are so healing? There are plenty of organizations that are out there doing good work in this area. Volunteering time or donating money to these organizations are a few ways to help. Below I’ll be listing a few of the organizations. Hopefully you’ll find something that matches your lifestyle and personality.

The Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is an organization that advocates for not only our environment, but also social justice movements. One of their initiatives is to conserve 30% of public lands in the United states by 2030. Currently, only 12% of public lands are protected from being developed. By drilling for oil or monocultures like soy or wheat.

Conserving these lands will help to keep the old growth forests that have already done so much in sequestering tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Developing these lands would most definitely be a major blow to climate change for the worse.

And on a positive note, if these lands are protected, then there’s a chance that these public lands could be transformed into public parks. To be enjoyed by generations of people and woodland animals to come. Sequestering C02 and building new places to enjoy the outdoors seems like a win win. The Sierra Club has a lot of projects that they are working on. So if this one sparks your interest, head on over to their site and check out what they are working on.

The Nature Conservancy

This organization is dedicated to protecting our lands and waters from being developed as well. One of the ways they are doing this is by carbon markets. Essentially, carbon markets work by paying a landowner who may have had plans to clear cut a section of their land for a use that would be detrimental to the environment, to keep the trees on the land intact. This way, the land is protected against being developed and the carbon remains sequestered.

They are also engaged in helping to keep the biodiversity of our planet from collapsing by way of species extinction. By protecting the habitats that these species live in, they are working towards keeping the safety of them ensured. So saving the land and habitats of plants and animals will help to ensure their survival and hopefully they will thrive far into the future.

Rainforest Action Network

This organization also helps to conserve land but by focusing on the companies that are profiting off of the destruction of the environment. One of their initiatives is to call for a stop to burning the rainforests to grow food crops to be sold at market.

Farmers in the Amazonian Rainforest have been burning large parcels of land to produce foods for the Agricultural industry for a long time. The downside to this, asides from the carbon being released into the atmosphere, is that the land is not very fertile, and the destruction of the forest is taking away what has been called the lungs of the planet, from scrubbing the air we breathe. If companies like this aren’t stopped, the consequences could be dire.

It’s Not too Late

You can still get involved and help to do your part. These organizations have places on their sites where you can lend a hand. Maybe donating money is more your speed. Or maybe you want to march in the next protest that aligns with your worldview. Whatever your motivation or preferred method, make sure you get out there and make a difference. There’s a lot of work to be done. And there’s no better time like the present to help. The planet needs us. Be the change you want to see in the world. Peace, and thanks for reading : )

Greater Good Magazine

US News

WBUR

The Nature Conservancy

Healing Forest

Other reading to consider: Sustainable Clothing

Image Credits: “Forest” by CECAR – Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation R is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated: 11/6/22

Environmental Self-Audit: Assessing How Green Your Habits are

I’ve been posting a lot about emotional topics lately, so I thought that I’d make this one a little less heavy. I’ve been wanting to do a home audit to see how green my habits are. Something that’s been in that back of my mind for a while. So I thought I’d check out some methods, do some research and let you guys know what I came up with. Here’s what I’ve found.

First Thing’s First, This is Not an Energy Audit

The first thing I found was, there are not a lot of people in this field, doing this work. My first search yielded results mostly from Canada. And one company from Illinois. This makes me a little sad, knowing that there aren’t more people doing this type of work. With environmental concerns only getting more acute, it seems as though there should be a glut of these types of companies and services, doing this type of work.

Sadly, this isn’t the case. The sites I found mostly focused on the energy that is being used in the “house envelope”. This basically means any system that is working in your house, plumbing, electrical, HVAC systems to name a few, that are all working in conjunction with one another and in a closed space, i.e. the home. Like an envelope. So an audit basically adds up to an assessment of how efficiently these closed systems are working.

I’m not sure how well a self audit would work for assessing the workings of more technical systems in your home, such as HVAC for example, but for habits you keep in your day to day household upkeep and routines, you can easily see if things could use a change for the greener. So in the rest of this post I’ll be looking at some ways to make our life style, a little greener.

Green Habits

When it comes to thinking and acting a little greener in our homes, there are quite a few areas we can focus on. Anything from routines in the home to habits we maintain that we can shift to a more green version. Let’s take a look at some of the habits I’ve been keeping to help inspire you to keep your home and daily routine as green as possible : )

Composting

Composting is a great way to help keep food waste out of landfills or incinerators and keep the food cycle green. And don’t worry, even if you don’t have a garden, composting is still an option. Even if you’re living in a city, or a place without green space.

The first way, if you have the space and a garden, is to use a bin composting system. With this system, you can purchase a bin, or convert a container such as an old plastic garbage bin, into a composter. For this system to work there needs to be air circulation (punch holes in your bin), water and an absence of light. This is the ideal environment for bacteria growth that converts food waste into useable soil. You can also use a three bin system, where you place the beginnings of your compost in the first bin and move it to the second halfway, to promote quicker bacteria growth. Finally the third bin is for the finished compost. The green way to deal with plant-based food waste.

And if you don’t have land or use for compost, there are companies picking up people’s food waste to compost it for commercial uses. The company that’s local to my area is Black Earth Composting. They provide you with a small container and pick up your food waste in the same ways the town picks up your trash and recycling once a week. You can then get a voucher for compost from a local nursery, or donate it to one of the projects they are working with. Less waste, more delicious foods. Win, win.

Where’s the Meat?

Another way to produce less waste and be more green is, go vegan. Or maybe eat less meat if you’re not wanting to make the switch. This graph from “Climate Central” shows not only how many more resources are used by the production of livestock for consumption, but also the amount of greenhouse gasses that are produced in the process.

If you’re not ready to make the plunge into going completely meatless, think about eating less meat during the course of your week as a green alternative. Try adding a meatless Monday to your week. Every little bit helps. If you need some inspiration, head over to my Community page where you’ll find a link to “The Minimalist Baker’s” website. There, Dana has loads of tasty, mostly meat free recipes where you will surely find something suited to your taste. Start by typing in your favorite ingredient and see what comes up.

Be a Man by Challenging Tradition

In this article, “The Good Trade” explains the link between our traditional views of what it means to be a man and how they run counter to the ideas of what it means to be an activist for the planet. They explain how certain types of socially created norms can seem unrelated to the current climate crisis, but may share a connection. This is called intersectional environmentalism, and one of the examples is toxic masculinity.

It basically says, that caring for the environment is seen as feminine. And therefore rejected by those who value the tenets of toxic masculinity. Among these tenets are dominance and competitiveness. Caring for the environment and “environmental stewardship is nurturing and cooperative. It’s inherently at odds with internalized, problematic perceptions of masculinity and feminine” writes Zach Thomas of “The Good Trade”.

This makes a lot of sense to me, as a product of the 80’s. My young mind was molded to the shape of thinking that “real men” take what they want, use violence to get it, and anything that was seen as feminine in a man was considered “gay”. It took me a long time to come to terms with these harmful lessons. And it wasn’t all my caregivers fault. They were trapped in the same type of narrow thinking that had been perpetuated by society.

And though I recognize that it wasn’t their faults entirely, they could have come to terms with how they were teaching this type of violence and therefore perpetuating it. They could have formed their own ideas and opinions based on the information they were receiving. But it takes strength to break from social norms.

It takes a lot of willpower, to break the bindings to what we’ve been taught. The lessons that are harmful to ourselves, others and our environment. But it’s possible. Never give up hope, and be persistent in questioning if what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling, may have been shaped by those unhealthy lessons growing up.

Carry a Water Bottle

This one is especially pointed. I’m not sure where the need to keep bottled water on hand came from. This article from “The World Counts”, suggests that it comes from a fear of drinking contaminated tap water. I’m not sure where this fear first took root, but another concerning fact the article brings up is, “An estimate 1,500 plastic bottles end up as waste in landfills or thrown in the ocean every second”.

This blows my mind. And all the more reason to take action. If you drink water, or plan on doing so (which you def should, here’s an article about the benefits of staying hydrated), carry a water bottle. I don’t believe I’ve ever been in a place or situation, where I was in civilization, where it was unsafe to drink the tap water.

Ironically, there are chemicals that can leach into the water you’re drinking from disposable plastic bottles. If you’re looking for an alternative, I like Hydro Flask for their design and ability to keep their contents hot or cold for longer than conventional, plastic bottles. They’re also made from steel. So you’re bypassing most plastics while you’re filling up your bottle. Win, win. Or get one from your local thrift shop. You’ll be recycling and saving resources!

Take Public Transportation or Walk/Ride a Bike

With so many cars on the road, this one is a no brainer. I’m not suggesting that you sell your car. Only to take a closer look at your driving patterns. Where are you going and how often? What’s the nature of the trips you’re taking? Is there another way to get to where you need to be without hopping in the car? Do you work or go to school in an area that has a robust transit system? Maybe instead of taking your own vehicle, you could share a ride with thousands of others, and do your part to lower greenhouse gasses.

Not to mention that commutes can be ideal times to catch up on your favorite podcasts or reading. Writing if that’s something you’re in the habit of, or meditating. Something I did on my way into work when I worked in Cambridge.

Owning a car is a necessity for most people though. For example, if you have children you may need to drop them off at school in the mornings, or pick them up in the afternoon or bring them to various activities. Also, grocery shopping can be difficult if you don’t have a way to bring your groceries home. So you’ll need to rely on your car for certain things for sure.

Getting Around Without a Car

I don’t have a car, and still manage to get all the things done on my list. I walk to work or when I worked further away, I took public transit which was very reliable. When I go grocery shopping, I take public transit to the store, and take a Lyft home. Of course, I only need to take care of myself. If I had a family that relied on me, I would most likely find another way to provide for them. This is where a car would come in handy. What I’m suggesting is, that we think of different ways to get our needs met when it comes to transportation.

If you live close to a commuter rail station, or subway or bus stop, consider taking them to your workplace instead of driving. Or maybe carpooling with a co-worker who lives close to you. This will help you to save on gas, while using a service that is already running or share a ride with someone who is going your way. Reducing your carbon footprint even further. Do you live close enough to walk or ride a bike? Consider these carbon neutral ways of greening your commute time.

Donate Time or Resources

Are you an avid hiker? Do you use the beach frequently? These are great hobbies or activities to cultivate and ways to relax and destress. But there won’t be many places left for our enjoyment with the ways things are heading. What can we do about it? Find a place to volunteer or donate to, that are in line with your interests and hobbies.

If you enjoy going to the beach, why not join an organization that is cleaning the surf at your favorite oasis. Can’t find one? Start one. Organize your friends and family, maybe some coworkers as well. Throw a party on the beach you’re cleaning, but spend some time cleaning the beach first. Then you can all enjoy the the fruits of your labor while cooking out together.

The same idea can work for a particular park or reservation you enjoy hiking. In both cases, it may be best to get in touch with those who are in charge of the maintenance of the area you plan on cleaning. There may be efforts already taken in that direction.

If you’re short on time but have resources to donate, try finding an organization or charity that is in line with the type of activities and activism you enjoy. I’ve donated to 4Ocean, and the Appalachian Mountain Club in the past. If you’re looking for ideas on where to donate time or resources, this post from “The Good Trade” has a bunch of ideas on where to get started. Also, check your local community Facebook page. Or your city or town’s website. There could be something happening locally that you can get involved with. Taking some of the pressure off you to organize something new.

Get Involved

To sum up our current environmental situation, as an old co-worker of mine used to say, “it’s no easy”. And as another co-worker used to say, “that’s how it be sometimes.” I quote these people not to make light of the situation we’re in, but to bring a shared sense of struggle and hope. We’re not in this alone. It’s important to remember those who have helped pave the way and have already done good work. The people who have lifted our spirits when we felt totally overwhelmed by a situation, like the one we’re in now. Or those who have given us the wisdom to help get us through a project when we feel depleted, while there’s still more work to be done.

I’ll be looking into green, house assessments in the future and if you have any insights I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below. What are your green habits? But for right now, there is loads of work that needs to be done. Find something that sparks your interest and get involved in some way. Even if it’s something small to start. At least it’s a start. You’ll also feel better about being part of the solution. And connecting with like minded people along the way. Maybe making some new friends to boot. So get out there and lend a hand at making the world a little more green. You and the environment will be glad you did. Peace : ) & thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “A poem behind my green living room…!!! Un poème derrière mon salon vert…!!!” by Denis Collette…!!! is licensed under

      CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Sustainable Clothing: Is it Better to Buy Cotton, or Recycled Polyester?

I was looking for a new hooded sweatshirt a few days ago when I realized I only have two that aren’t exercise clothing. One being two sizes too large for me and the other I use almost every day. It’ll only be a matter of time before the one I wear everyday becomes threadbare. And The other is comically large on me. So I usually only wear it around the house. So in search of a new sweatshirt, I went to the website of a company I’ve bought from in the past, Mexicalli Blues, and was looking through their products in search of a new, sustainable sweatshirt.

Reading The Clothing Labels

I like the the companies clothing. The style as well as the simplicity of them. So the next step was to look at the materials label. The company prides itself on being sustainable so I figured I’d have nothing to worry about. But when I checked the labels, it said that they were made with recycled materials. I knew this meant polyester to some degree. This made me wonder what the ramifications are of using plastic in clothing. Even if it’s from recycled sources as the main material component.

My instinct is that using plastics to any degree, including clothing, perpetuates the cycle and need to rely on petrochemical materials. The idea of having more plastic floating around in one form or another is unsettling to me. I’m not saying that all plastics are inherently bad. I appreciate that plastics have been used to change many people’s lives for the better. But it seems to me that we first need to get our collective plastic consumption under control before we think about expanding its use into more aspects of our day to day lives.

Being More Mindful of Clothing Materials & the Environment

As far as my clothing goes, I’d like to lean towards more natural fibers. Fibers such as cotton and wool. I know that at least with cotton, the material will eventually decompose. And more than likely in my lifetime. And a quick Google search tells me that wool will decompose in six months under ideal conditions. But plastic however will stay around for some time, breaking down further into smaller pieces. This causes all sorts of environmental hazards.

Consequences for Our Oceans

Both small and large aquatic animals mistake plastics for food. Certain whales for instance, have been found with many pounds of plastic waste in their stomach. But one of the reasons that plastic clothing in particular is such an environmental threat is, that when washed the fabric degrades, releasing hundreds of thousands of microfibers into the aquatic environment. There they are consumed by marine life.

Fresh and saltwater animals alike consume them, as the waste makes its way into our waters and up the food chain. As Lisa Messinger from The Guardian put it in her article, “How your clothes are poisoning our oceans and food supply“, when a professor cut open a fish from the great lakes, they found thousands of microfibers weaving their way in and around the gastrointestinal tract of the freshwater dweller. No bueno.

This is concerning to say the least. According to Greenpeace, 30% of plastic pollution could be caused from microfibers. In this article by Green Peace, “what are microfibers and why are our clothes polluting the oceans?“, they explain that, “Europe and Central Asia alone dump the equivalent of 54 plastic bags worth of microplastics per person per week into the oceans.” More disheartening news. And the older the garment is, the more fibers it releases, according to a study paid for by Patagonia.

The more I continued to read about the effects of microfibers on the environment, the more I realized that there wasn’t really an option. If I want to live a more sustainable life style, I need to stop buying clothing made from synthetic materials.

Priorities, Standards & the Companies Embodying Them

With all this new information swimming around in my mind, I was left with my new plan, to buy more sustainable clothing. Though unfortunately I also was left without much direction. The brand I was originally looking to for my new sweatshirt had a bullet point under the specs that said it was made from, “bluesign approved materials“. This caught my eye and could possibly be some of the direction I was looking for. So I headed over to their website to see what they are about.

bluesign

From what I was able to gather, the Swiss Company is an independent resource. Their focus is on advocating for better working conditions for employees and a more sustainable way of producing goods during every aspect of their production. A noble cause indeed. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that a product is 100% sustainable. After all, the sweatshirt I was looking at that was bluesign approved was made with 60% recycled polyester.

That’s not to say that the company isn’t doing important work. Just because I’ve set my standard at wanting to purchase natural materials for clothing, doesn’t mean it’s the most important one by any means. Also, this made me think that maybe my standards are too lofty. bluesign also focuses on working with companies to reduce the amounts and toxicity of the chemicals the company uses. As well as focusing on the human element of the industry. Such as fair wages and safe working conditions for employees. All important aspects to investigate and consider when purchasing from a company.

Certified B Corp.

The next group of businesses I stumbled across in my search for sustainable clothing was Certified B Corporations. Another company focused on the ethical production of goods and their effects on workers rights, consumers rights and the environmental impact of the products companies produces.

This reminds me of a business I go to who solely employed homeless persons. I’ve often heard in the past that all the homeless really need to do is to get a job. Though I imagine it would be difficult for a number of reasons for a homeless person to complete an interview successfully, let alone maintain the tasks we take for granted in keeping a job! From finding clean clothes and a place to shower, to printing out a resume. Also, not having a stable mailing address or reliable transportation. The homeless person has a mountain of obstacles to overcome!

So from the perspective of protecting employee rights, I can understand and appreciate the work that is being done from B certified corporations. But as far as clothing and B Corps. goes, they have a blog, where in one post they explore a few companies in the fashion industry and how they are making a difference. One of the companies, Bombas, is mentioned as donating a pair of socks to homeless shelters for every pair sold. This is a stellar way to give back to the community. One of the most requested items at homeless shelters are socks. Win, win.

The one area that wasn’t clear however, was the research they did and the numbers they used to score each company. There was general information about what the practices they are evaluating were, but they did not go into detail on the information they used to evaluate the practices. Upon further reading, they explained that these evaluations were taken by the corporations themselves. Self-evaluations.

Does this mean that a company is giving itself an assessment of how they perform in each category? Or is there a disinterested third party that is evaluating the company and its results? I’d like to believe that these companies are honest and accountable for their actions, but with so much ambiguity it would be nice to know for sure who’s doing the evaluating.

B Lab

B Lab is another company that evaluates corporations on a spectrum of concerns. A Wikipedia article explains that B Lab is a company that gives out certifications to companies that meet a certain standard of “transparency, accountability, sustainability and performance”. But again, how B Lab comes up with the standards that they grade these companies with is not totally clear.

From what I understand of the B certification, it is something that a willing company takes as a self assessment. Evaluating their performance using B Lab’s standards and creates a plan around where they find weaknesses in their company. This is definitely better than not doing anything. And it’s comforting to know that there are corporations out there that are willing to take a look at their practices and to make a change for the better. I only wish that B Lab was more transparent with their evaluation methods.

Green Stars Project

There are few places that I could find that gave ethical reviews on companies in general. Reviews of clothing companies were few and far between. There was however one website that showed some promise. The Green Stars Project. This is a project that empowers people to write reviews of and rate different companies using a system based on criteria that covers topics from fair working wages to the environmental impact. It takes into consideration the company’s use of our resources, to the ethical treatment of animals, to how the company impacts the community. The list is only limited to the knowledge that individuals feel is important to their ethical standards.

The only downside to this is that it relies on individuals to write these reviews in the review section of a particular item. It’s decentralized. This is good because it’s coming directly from the consumer and their knowledge base. But from what I understand of the system, there is no way to search for products by their Green Star rating. So if I was looking for an ethically sourced piece of clothing, I would have to do the research to find the company and product. Then write a review or hope that there was one already written.

Better World Shopper

The Green Stars Project does however have a resources page where they list a few sites that do have lists of companies that have done some research on ethical businesses. One of the sites listed is Better World Shopper. Here you are able to search companies by category and grade. I found some clothing companies that are listed by grade and could easily tell which companies are more ethically focused than others.

Even with the grading system, if you are looking to replace synthetics with natural fibers as I am, you still need to read the labels. But it’s nice knowing that there are people out there doing the work and looking for ethically and socially responsible companies. Also that we have a place to at least start our search for better buying choices.

Fairtrade Certification

The Fairtrade certification means that the business is working to sustain the safe working conditions of the employee. Also that the company is protecting the environment. Also, helping to pay sustainable wages for workers as well as community development funding, according to their website. This is a huge step forward in helping to reduce not only the environmental impact of a company, but also the fair treatment of the employees and workers rights while building healthier communities.

Pact

There are some companies that do hit a lot of the marks as far as making sustainable clothing goes. One company, and the one I’m probably going to buy my sweatshirt from, is Pact. This company provides a wide variety of organic cotton and sustainable clothing. They are environmentally conscious of the production of their clothing by using sustainable materials as well as organic fabrics, while focusing on the well-being of their employees. They also work closely with the Fairtrade certified organization.

Positive Resources From the Community

And finally, in this article published by The Good Trade, they cover 35 different companies that have ethical and sustainable practices! This was an exciting find. To think that there are so many companies that are willing to put the effort into making sustainable products and work towards the betterment of workers and the environment. Knowing there are more options when looking for sustainable ways to fill your wardrobe, it feels like there is less of a burden knowing we are helping to lessen our impact in purchasing clothing.

Minding Your Budget & Longevity

I will add that some of these clothing lines can get pretty pricey. One of the clothing companies I mentioned above, Nudies Jean Co, has jeans that range from $185 to $400. That’s a lot of money for a pair of jeans no matter how you look at it. But according to The Food Diary, they last longer than other brands of jeans. Kezia said that her husband’s pair of jeans have lasted four years now and they are still going strong. The website also has a repair service. So if there’s been some damage done to your jeans, you can fix them up instead of throwing them away. So the lifespan of the garment is something to consider when looking at the price tag as well as the production methods.

Start a Sinking Fund

Something that has helped me along the way, with purchasing clothing on a budget, is to establish a sinking fund for new clothing purchases. I don’t buy clothing often. So when I need something it’s usually small, like a package of socks or underwear. But if you need to replace a winter coat, or a pair of boots, this can get expensive.

A sinking fund is a good way to have a certain amount of cash on hand in case you need to replace items in your wardrobe. If you’re not familiar with the term, a sinking fund is where you set up a savings for a specific item. In this case it would be clothing. And you contribute a set amount of money each week, pay period or month to the fund. This way you have what you need, when you need it. And you don’t have to scramble to find $300 dollars to purchase a new winter jacket that you may have lost on the slopes.

I contribute $25 dollars a pay period to mine and I’ve decided to cap my fund at $400. This way I won’t look at my fund one day and realize I’ve amassed thousands of dollars into something that doesn’t require that much money! This way I can replace the most expensive article of clothing in my wardrobe while still feeling confident that I can take care of my basics when I need them.

Establishing & Standing by My Values When Buying Clothing

So in the end, some companies that use microfibers that are polluting our oceans may still be leading the way in other areas of sustainability. It may come down to what your personal preferences are for buying and supporting sustainable clothing. For me it’s buying organic cotton or wool when I have a choice, and recycled fibers if it’s something that requires them. Something like a raincoat or winter boots.

Also, knowing that I’m supporting workers rights, and lessening the environmental impact my clothes are having is something that I can feel good about supporting. Knowing that I’m not just pushing off the problems of today onto the next generation helps me to rest a little easier. And with communities like The Green Star Project, it’s exciting to think that there could be an independent source and knowledge base coming together to create a more ethical way to purchase clothing.

It’s also nice knowing that companies such as B Certified Corporations, bluesign and Fairtrade are out there, putting the work in to help lead the way in helping companies produce their goods in a more sustainable way. While also letting consumers know which companies are doing the work. I’ll be linking some of these companies in my community page for those who are looking to make their wardrobe a little greener. And I’d love to hear about the companies you’ve found that are doing good work as well.

Priorities & Personal Standards

Some of the companies that I’ve come across in my search for ethical and sound businesses are very specific in what they offer. For example there are many companies that focus on socks and underwear solely. So when I came across this post by Whole Body Diary, on sustainable clothing lines, I was excited that there are more people out there searching for ethical ways to purchase a variety of clothing.

Whole Body Diary brings up a good point and one that I am struggling with. Many of the companies she lists on her blog are not 100% sustainable. This brings me back to my original question, is it better to buy cotton or recycled plastic? But as Kezia. from Whole Body Diary explains, not every company is going to hit every sustainable mark. Some may focus on organic cotton, like Nudies Jean company, while others help the larger community. Companies such as Bombas, who I’ve mentioned above.

The Take away? Our search for sustainable isn’t going to be a perfect one. But if we choose to search for companies that are trying to make a difference on some level, we’re supporting the larger whole of the mission. To buy from and support more sustainable businesses. This is where I leave you good reader, and as always, peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “Nature’s Coatrack” by m01229 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Updated: 9/14/2022

Whose Turn was it to take out the Garbage?

I live in a pretty small town. It’s a suburb of Boston. Fairly affluent and close to the water. I walk a lot of places because most of what I need is in walking distance. There’s a shopping center near my house with a Whole Foods that I often visit. It’s a nice walk. Mostly through neighborhoods and some green spaces, but I’m always surprised by how much garbage there is in the streets in these wealthy neighborhoods.

There’s a stretch of wooded area that’s about an eighth of a mile long that is packed with garbage about six to seven feet deep into the woods. It’s weird. I’m not sure how it’s gotten there or continues to collect. But my best guess is that it happens on windy trash pickup days, when the elements have the chance to spread some of the garbage around. Either way, the point is whose job is it to clean this mess up?

What Do We Do Now?

If my guess is correct, then it’s really no one’s fault that there is garbage on the streets and in our neighborhoods. But that doesn’t help to solve the issue of, how do we clean this mess up? It may seem fairly benign. But usually the communities that are hit hardest are the poorest.

I used to live in what some people would call “the ghetto”, but it wasn’t such a bad neighborhood. Sure the apartments were crowded, over packed with poorly tended to things and falling apart. And the kids where lighting firecrackers off in the middle of the night in the streets. But the people were usually pretty friendly. I used to chat with my downstairs neighbor often while I was coming in or going out. He was a smoker so I’d see him on the porch and we’d fall into conversations.

One time we spoke about the garbage in the streets at the bottom of the hill we lived on. I kept trying to bullster his spirits by telling him that it was just being washed by the rain from the top of the hill. But he just stared off into the distance and said, “this place is so dirty”. I felt bad and the hopelessness in his voice was palpable. So I ended the conversation. But you could tell it’s something that he’s thought about often and to no avail.

Start Where You Are

On the other side of the coin my dad walks the beach by our house. And when the weather is nice he’ll bring a bucket and some grabbers and pick up whatever trash is on the beach. Sometimes he’ll fill the bucket five to six times a trip. Not only that but he’s inspired other beach walkers to do the same. “Sometimes” he says, “there’s nothing to pick up at all.”

That’s great news to be sure but that kind of comradery shouldn’t only have to happen in the scenic places. What about the places like the stretch of woods I walk by? Out of sight out of mind? And the neighborhood I used to live in? These places need our attention as much as the scenic ones do. And I believe it should be the job of not just the neighborhood to clean them up but all able bodies in the surrounding area.

All of this sounds pretty idyllic. And I agree it’s hard to imagine some of the people in the neighborhood scouring the streets and woods for rotting pieces of garbage. One of the reasons I believe that the idea is such an unappealing task is because the people doing it now are usually in cuffs and orange jumpers. Paying society back for some grievance they’ve committed.

The only issue I take with this is that it’s our mess. Why aren’t we cleaning it up? We clean our houses, make our beds, fold laundry. We clean our yards and take out the garbage from our houses. Why does it have to stop there?

Other Perspectives

I visited Japan years ago and was amazed at how clean everything seemed. No litter on the streets and the flora and green spaces were manicured and well kept. It was refreshing. In an article on Japan Today titled “8 Reasons Japan is so Clean“, author Amy Chavez goes into detail about why Japan is so adept at keeping its streets and green spaces clean.

She mostly attributes it to social responsibility and cleaning up each person’s own spaces, including around their homes and places of work. But the sense of responsibility, follow through and dedication each person has to their own and others shared spaces is what’s so inspiring about this aspect of Japanese culture.

A friend of mine who lives in a neighboring city has started a group that does exactly what I’m writing about. In the spring and summer months she gathers a group of locals and they choose a section of the city to clean. They spend the afternoon cleaning. If we could replicate this across the country, we’d have beautiful green spaces and city streets. But we have to get involved.

This is something that is doable and it starts with us. Our determination and our ability to care about our shared collective spaces and the environment at large. So let’s all get involved in looking after and caring for our green spaces and city streets. We created this mess, it’s time for us to clean it up.

Image credits: “Trash” by computerwhiz417 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 

Updated: 2/3/22

Socio-Economic-No-Bueno

Canteen tent, Bedouin Camp in the Sahara
Example of a Yrt, “Canteen tent, Bedouin Camp in the Sahara” by jonl1973 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Looking for some Community, I got it in me that I needed to start throwing pottery. So I walked to a pottery studio that is about a mile and a half from where I live. The studio was beautiful. It was in an old brick factory of some sort, built at the turn of the nineteenth century. Four floors filled with artist’s studios and kinetic energies of all kinds. The vibes were indeed good.

Finding Creativity Where it Lives

While on my walk home I took a different route from the one that got me there. And where the studio itself was inspiring, brick laiden with pieces of ceramics in various stages of completeness crafted by the earthy hands of Carhartt robed artisans, it was the homes on my way back that struck a chord with my creativity. What was most striking to me was the driveway of an apartment building on the outskirts of a small urban city that borders where I live.

What was so interesting about this driveway was that it was adorned with tents. Like carports only used as a gathering space instead of, well carports. And with the yards and driveways so closely packed together, they almost carried an air of being gypsy like. Or possibly the ways that the nomadic cultures of Mongolia use yrts as moveable structures to follow the herds to greener pastures.

Either metaphor falls short of the surreal feeling of a temporary community popping up in and around the more permanent apartment buildings. In the sea of tiered concrete, apartments and single-family homes that they were cohabitating with it seemed strange indeed.

Growing Community

The possibility seemed so whimsical, but the idea really didn’t begin to unfold for me until on my walk home. Walking through a different section of town where I saw the more creative uses of gardening spaces in driveways. And the spaces between the sidewalk and the street where sometimes you will see a small strip of green space.

I thought, what if you could take these two ideas, the temporary feel and nature of the tents and mix that with the creative gardening and rich texture of the yrt?” I imagine you’d create community. Each tier would be a different level of connection, comfort and ease mixed with vibrancy. A place where friends, neighbors and Family could gather and cook out or play games. What’s stopping us from creating something so beautiful? Perceived socioeconomic class boundaries.

Wealth and Breaking Down Community

The main idea of success in America, the socio-economic standard, is usually wealth based. How much money, land, cars, stuff can we accumulate to make our lives more prestigious and comfortable? Enviable of our neighbors, friends and social circles. How are we being ranked in the eyes of those we want to be seen as being successful. This is an old story for sure. I’m not blowing any minds so far but it’s a yolk that seems to regenerate itself each generation.

The sixties for example. Free love wasn’t just some catch phrase to sell a product or to get people to do drugs. It was about actually giving love freely to one another. Instead of, to borrow a line from Bens Fold Five, being so “selfless cold and composed.” But the part of us that fears egalitarianism because we feel it devalues our self-worth the more we raise the worth of another, took those feelings of love and freedom, and turned it into a fashion trend. And that’s not a knock on fashion either.

Who We are is More Than What We Wear

Fashion is usually the entryway into self-discovery. Getting to know who we are as feeling beings. It only becomes a problem when somebody else wants to put their name on our underwear and claim us as a victim of their war. I’m looking at you Vicky. Full disclosure, I am wearing Lucky Brand underwear but I usually just buy whatever is on sale at Marshell’s.

So if wealth and status have been the markers of success in our society, then packing ourselves together to share a space that is warm and filled with a caring community of friends, family and neighbors, would sound crazy in the eyes of those who have achieved success or those aspirants to the “successful life”. More to the point I imagine if it became popular to create outdoor shared spaces of community, those same minded successful would create it, then put a fence around it and control whom could and could not come into their space. This creates homogeneity and reinforces the same sort of class warfare conditions that separates “us from them”. And destroying the key ingredient to creating a community of freely flowing ideas found by bringing together a diverse battery of individuals.

Tuning Out What Helps to Divide

When my father and step-mother watch T.V. they mute the commercials and read a book or talk about something that is relevant to their day or to what they’re watching. This may not be the answer to how we create more community but it’s a start for sure. Instead of being driven and influenced by what we see advertised or what we hear our friends and family talk about wanting, why not be driven by authentic connection and knowing what it is that opens that space of connection between us and those we love? For example, I know my father puts cinnamon in his coffee every morning before brewing. So for Christmas I’m looking for an especially tasty type of organic ceylon cinnamon. As a special treat for their morning coffee.

This is the type of connection mixed with action that creates community. Thoughtful and inquisitive but also with some follow through and to have “the ability to let that which does not matter, truly slide”-Tyler Durden. A.k.a. all the latest trends or anything that is preventing us from connecting to our authentic selves and getting to know each other in an authentic way.

So it is in this vein that I suggest we build and create a space of comfort and community. A space of enough, being together in nature in the rustic. But also the urban or suburban and create something beautiful that we can all use as a catalyst in getting to know one another in authentic and loving ways. Regardless of how someone may try to privities or patent it :]

No fights were started, nor credit card companies destroyed in the writing of this article. Nor does the author condone the use of violence toward achieving any end. Peace : ) and thanks for reading!

Updated: 2/3/22

%d bloggers like this: