Tag Archives: sustainability

Let’s-y Etsy: This season’s go-to place for handmade and sustainable gifts

Thanksgiving has passed, which means Christmas is coming up and everyone is scratching their heads wondering what ethical, sustainable gifts they’re going to gift this year, right?

Problem solved. Read on.

You probably all know about Etsy by now but I just realized I haven’t really ever talked about how great of an online resource this market place is – wherever you live – so I thought I better.

Etsy.com is basically amazon but instead of big-brand merchandise (made in China), it’s all homemade, unique, one-of-a-kind and/or vintage items! I always check Etsy when we need something and I am too lazy to shop around.

“Like what”, you say?

Well, there’s everything. Jewelry, rugs, clothes, kids toys, baby items, gifts, candles, lunch boxes, antique tableware – you name it.

Since August (first son) is almost three, I want to start introducing some holiday traditions this year. One of them being “Advent”. Also known as lighting a candle every Sunday, for four weeks leading up to Christmas and maybe eating a cinnamon roll and drinking some tea while watching the candle burn..? Come to think of it, I am not sure why we Swedes celebrate Advent, but we do, I like it and it gives the kids a countdown to Christmas :)

thumbnail_IMG_3403So, a couple of weeks ago I went looking for an Advent candle holder and found exactly what I wanted.

It is MADE IN SWEDEN y’all! But it shipped from North Carolina. I always make sure my Etsy finds are shipping from not too far away – there are items from all over the world.

Do you love it? I love it. Even tho the grocery store didn’t have the candles that fit so I had to improvise and get a fat one in order to have something to light. LOL. (Must fix before next Sunday.) August got to place the gnomes and the “snow” is coconut and candle shavings from the fat candle.

Because all Etsy shops are small, and run by real people – not robots – requesting things like second hand packaging materials is normally not an issue. Also, if you have questions, it’s highly likely the shop owner will get back with you swiftly and accurately.

Here are some other things I’ve found on Etsy.

  • Reusable veggie bags for my dad’s wife from Love for Earth.
  • Leafy-earrings a la Joanna Gaines. Only these are vegan(!) – made in cork instead of leather. Handmade by JalakLeatherworks and only 19 dollars!
  • More earrings: modeled by one friend, and made by another. Available at The Purple Toadstool. Did someone say “keep it local”?
  • I had bought a bunch of bibs for August (oldest son) from Sweedie Kids, but unfortunately now they only offer larger sizes, so when we needed some for baby, I went to Etsy and found Bibtastic by Elizabeth. Nothing fits as well as Sweedie Kids did – but these are cute!

Go check it out if you haven’t – maybe they’ve got exactly what you need this year too :)

More holiday gift ideas here and here and here.

Climate Action Program – Company wanted it – I wrote it

_MG_4308Today my boss and I introduced our office’s new Climate Action Program Policy. I wrote it in a jiffy, and promoted myself to Climate Action Program Manager immediately.

Yep. That’s me.

My focus when when writing this, hopefully successful program, has been to introduce eco- initiatives that take very little time, require very little effort, and cost as little as possible for the company. So, yes, we could have gone bolder, but my goal was to encourage sustainable behavior without anyone thinking it is “so much work”. Also, management had to approve it :)

Here’s what we’re doing:

  • Every flight taken for business will be carbon compensated, ton by ton, thru tree planting or other carbon offsetting programs.
  • Each person will get one work-from-home day per calendar month to reduce emissions from driving.
  • Prohibited to cater beef, lamb, farmed fish for company events. Cheese and pork strongly discouraged. (Showed a video on beef, link here)
  • All office coffee organic and fair trade. Milk: organic or plant-based.
  • Educate personnel on how they can avoid single-use-items. I held a presentation, and moved all single use items into one cupboard (on which I put a sticker that says “no excuse for one time use” LOL).
  • Recycling program for aluminum, electronics, batteries, print paper.
  • All paper products for office made from 100% recycled fibers.
  • Allow each employee to expense a reusable water bottle to be used when traveling and at the office.

Now, I will never understand how anyone can have such a strong emotional attachment to beef, that they feel targeted and uncomfortable when asked to not eat it on company dime. It’s mind blowing. One guy didn’t even come to the meeting because the lunch I had catered was healthy and vegetarian. *Brain exploding * So disrespectful.

Anyway. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable folks – change is coming!

The sustainable community is always talking about how “systematic change” matters more than individual actions, but let’s be honest: individual action and pressure create systematic change. I am sure the company where I work wouldn’t be asking each branch to take action on climate change hadn’t it been for activists like Greta Thunberg and employees asking upper management to do something. We all matter and I am super excited about finally being able to force some changes in behavior on my colleagues.

Have you suggested a Climate Action Program at your work-place yet? If not, what are you waiting for?!

Talk to me – let me help you write a simple program!

More on office eco-habits here.

The eco-friendly option doesn’t work! Now what?

Hello fellow earthlings.

Have you, like me, ever bought the most eco-friendly version of an item at the store and been super excited about your good choice, only to come home, try it, and realize that this.did.not.work.at.all.?

Let me give you an example. Soap nuts. These are plastic free, all natural nuts, used for laundry. They work ok, I guess. About as well as me hand-washing something in my sink with some regular soap. However, can they handle a sweaty t-shirt: hell no.*

Maybe I didn’t do my laundry “the right way”. Someone might say “Oh you have to first soak the clothes in baking soda and vinegar and then wash with the nuts”.

That’s all fine, but when I say I want an eco-friendly choice, what I mean is I want to go about my day in exactly the same way I was, adding no extra work in order to make a product work. If I have to, it isn’t working.

Am I crazy?

This goes for lots of cleaning products. We just switched back to big-brand-duo-something pods for our dishwasher after using an eco-friendly pod for years. I just got tired of our glassware never looking 100% clean.

When we were expecting our first kid, I also bought an ethically, locally made stroller that ended up having lots of issues. It drove horribly, was heavy, baby grew out of it super fast. It was expensive so I thought it was super well made. I was excited – only to soon be very not-excited to take baby for walks. Now we have a China-made one that works. AAGH. It’s not fun to admit these things, but they happen.

stroller

There are of course lots of items that work just as well as their chemical peers. Like lip balm – who’d ever buy something shady again when there are so many organic ones?

And there are eco-friendly things that work better than the not-so-sustainable option – like electric cars. EV’s are so much better (and not filling gas is essentially streaming vs going to the store to rent).

I would never want to encourage anyone to not go eco, but sometimes I think it leads to more waste. If you buy something that doesn’t work, you end up tossing it, or it sits in your cabinet only to create space-noise, which is not cool.

We make the most impact when we change BIG things; infrastructure, energy, food systems. So vote and get involved… and focus your efforts.

Now, I want to hear the honest truth: which eco-friendly choices have you made that made you miss the easier days of unawareness? You can leave an anonymous comment – just in case you run a green blog too ;)

*Notice how I wrote this review before we had kids (2016) and said it works for “normal loads”. LOL. All normal loads now have clothes with major stains. Thank u, next.

 

I am back! More eco than ever. Or not?

Hello world.

I just finished writing a Climate Action Policy for the company where I work. It came out great, this is my passion after all, and I completely forgot to eat lunch because I was having so much fun. That just made me realize, “slash” remember, that I LOVE WRITING.

Time to pick the blog back up. Despite being more tired than an old-folks-home. Despite being in the middle of sleep training our new 6-month-old. Despite being back at work killing it while pumping as much milk as I can squeeze in. (Ha ha, pun intended.)

Maybe some of you are wondering how this eco-mama (note: self-proclaimed) is doing planet-saving-wise with two kids and a full time job?

Well, not the best I’ve ever done, I’ll say that, but we are eating veggie-based, driving our EV, cloth diapering at home and wiping our constantly runny noses with reusable wipes.

All that probably, most likely, for sure does not, compensate for the carbon and resources used due to me giving birth to a new little human, but hell, I decided siblings are a good thing and I am super into my kids.

Planet-saving is full of hypocrisy anyway.

Doesn’t prevent me from doing my best.

So, let’s kick off fall with this new blog post, with a commitment to blog (write) again because it makes me feel happy and inspired. I did write a dozen drafts this summer, so I’ve got some new posts in the making…

I hope you all will hang around and read along :)

Ending with an info-graphic, for no other reason than I can… I did put this in the introduction to the policy I wrote today as well. It’s pretty relevant in climate-change-denying-Texas.

climat222

See you pronto.

Another year of blogging, more growth and 12 years to save our world

Hey y’all. Is it too late to wish everyone a happy new year?

2018. Wow. I am not sure if it was a great year, a good year or a bad year.

Personally, I think I had a very good year; what’s there to complain about with a beautiful family, stable job and privilege?

Blog wise, I guess I had quite a “bad” year. Not because I didn’t have visitors, but because I lost some of my inspiration to stay green, clean, shop local and to then write about it. Only 37 published posts!

ideas how to celebrate earth day

In terms of personal development, I had a big year. I had to lay someone off at work – not fun but a good learning experience. I had to redefine what sustainability means to me and define how much I can (and want to) actually participate in personal green efforts (like recycling and not shopping). I had to work through endless colds and sleepless nights with our toddler, leading to serious development of skills in the raising children department. I also had to survive the first few months of pregnancy with a toddler and a job that has been more demanding than ever – yes, we are adding to our carbon footprint and having another little one :)

But hey, let’s focus on the sustainability part. I wrote some posts about my efforts and failures last fall and I haven’t really bounced back since then. I am still kind of in that “ah, I’ll do what I have the energy to do” phase, yet I have to say I am super, duper stoked and EXCITED that media, politicians and regular people are finally talking about climate change!

Hello “Green New Deal”, school strikes for climate and every single car manufacturer getting ready to release their own line of electric car models. Yay to more coal plants closing and more wind and solar being built every day. Thank goodness for the scientists who told the world we only have 12 years to change course or head towards extremely severe weather conditions.

About the “12 years” the world has got left to shape up; I’ve been thinking a lot about my own journey and if I can be “fossil fuel free” in twelve years – or sooner.

So, I actually think I (plus family) can come very close to a green life, if infrastructure keeps moving in the right direction (which to me it seems like it does). I know I work better, faster and harder when I have a set deadline. It will take some effort, but here’s what I have come up with:

  • It requires us to stop flying. That means we need to move closer to family so we can travel by car (EV of course!) or train to see them. It also means we need to visit the places we dream about on this continent in the near future, so we don’t feel like we missed out. In the long run I think there will be hyper-loops, electric high-speed planes and other cool connections between Europe and the East Coast of USA but until then we’ll be putting effort into creating a more sustainable living and travel plan.
  • It requires us to only consume renewable energy. I am not concerned about this at all. We know we’ll need a bigger house with two growing boys eventually and at that point we will install solar panels and batteries to run off the grid 24/7.
  • It requires a low carbon food supply. I plan on maintaining a plant based diet and I do believe that within the next 3-5 years, there will be so much plant based (vegan) food in our stores, schools and restaurants that most animal products will begin to phase out. I believe that scientists and farmers will work together to improve practices and more organic food will be available.
  • It requires container ships (currently running on heavy oil products) to clean up their act. Even though I buy lots of local stuff, there are items – and I believe there’ll always be – we must get from certain far-away countries (assuming we continue this lifestyle with owning electronics and bamboo toothbrushes). I am not sure how this will play out. I am hoping to see some initiatives from the shipping industry but I am not sure they’ll work hard enough to get there in time. Thoughts?
  • It requires a society way less dependent on fossil-fuel-based plastics. Aiyoooo. Will they shape up? Will I be able to buy my fave potato salad in bulk? Will giants like LEGO and Disney move towards bio-based materials in time? Remains to be seen.
  • It requires policy, incentives, infrastructure and opportunities created by fair, decent, hard working governments. Will THEY wake up and do something? If there are more “AOC’s” in the global politics-pipeline, odds are we might start seeing things shift. I am hopeful.

Have you been having similar thoughts?

I think knowing I only have until 2030 has had a positive impact on my long term planning – setting goals way larger and way beyond just “pick the vegan lunch option today”. Maybe this new way of thinking is part of why I haven’t blogged much about my day to day green living style!?

Anyway, as always, thanks for being part of “Sustainable Anna” in 2018! I am not sure what 2019 holds but I will be here and I love hearing from you all.

Much love!

My sustainable (very fun) Christmas gift list!

Is it almost Christmas already? I can’t believe how fast we went from Easter brunch to jingle bells! Time flies.

I am super excited about the holiday season this year; we’re going home to cold and dark Scandinavia to celebrate with our family. For the first time in seven years we’ll wake up to snow (hopefully, or at least frost!) instead of palm trees. Yay. Yes, yes, I know we’re adding more carbon to this year’s footprint but it was what we felt we wanted to do with our 2-year-old and I’m sure it won’t become a habit to travel twice a year!

Anyway, I am excited about the season and I decided to share some sustainable, support-something-good gift ideas here on the blog! Gifts that fit everyone, no matter gender identification or age.

A handmade mug to hold that hot, winter drink

I got two beautiful mugs earlier this year from RBD pottery. At the time, their studio was based in Alaska but has since moved to Michigan (shorter shipping for most :)).

Commonly, made in USA mugs are just painted or printed here, not really made here. You’ll see made in China pottery showing off a local artists art work. What’s cool with RBD is that everything – the ceramic too – is handmade with love, making each mug 100% unique and local. PS. They’ve got planters too! $30-60

made in usa pottery mug handmade

Virtual Animal adoption

I love the kind act of “adopting” an endangered animal for Christmas as a gift for someone, especially for kids. They’ll get a card to learn more about the animal and a nice picture to keep. Very low consumption yet meaningful and for a great cause. $25

Glass drinking straw

For that person who always wants to zip their drink through a straw but appreciates our need to reduce plastic; I can’t think of a better gift than a reusable straw!

Mine was actually a gift from a colleague who got it in Seattle for me. The one I have is handcrafted in the Pacific Northwest, cute, sustainable and durable. It comes with a protective sleeve, so you can keep it in the car or in a bag, as well as with a tiny cleaning brush. $8-20

reusable glass straw made in usa

Bar soap

The vast majority of folks bathe or shower several times a week, so a nice smelling bar of soap will be appreciated by most!

You’d be surprised how easy it is to find locally made, no plastic wrap soaps at farmers markets, Whole Foods, online, general stores or anywhere they sell beauty/body products. Watch out for goat milk based soaps tho; there’s no need to add the carbon of raising goats just so we can get a good clean! Vegan, paraben-free soaps are a plenty. $10-15

Home-baked crisp bread

I just made a batch of my allergen friendly crisp bread last week and took with me as a hostess gift at a Thanksgiving party. It was super appreciated and everyone loved it (recipe here!). You don’t have to make this particular treat, of course, but stick something home-baked in tin jar and voila you’ve got a perfect gift! $10+time.

fullsizeoutput_4a0

Classic gift of socks

Am I a suuuper lame blogger if I put SOCKS on my Christmas list? Maybe. I apologize.

There are no better socks out there in the world than Smartwool hiking socks though. They’re knitted in USA (most styles at least), have absolutely superb quality and will keep everyone you love so warm all winter.

I love wearing mine even in the office (inside my sneakers or booties!) so I am not slightly cold all day (I have yet to hear from anyone who works in an office building that the temperature isn’t either too hot or too cold all the time. Side note, but hence the need for good socks). Of course for hiking they’re great too, and everyone takes walks. Right? Available lots of places but REI is a co-op I love to support so I get mine there. $20-29

Over the years I’ve posted a few Christmas lists on the blog so you’ll find more ideas here and here for how to totally rock it this year. What are some of yours? I’d love to hear what you’re giving your loved ones this year.

PS. I read that in Sweden, this years “it gift” is second hand clothes! That is pretty awesome I think; very sustainable indeed. I hope it’s true (?). Anything second hand makes for an eco-friendly gift of course :)

Wishing everyone much love and a great start to the last month of 2018!

It’s Fri-yay, so let’s have some good news on the blog :ocean cleanup!

Hey you guys.

Sorry for being so gloomy lately. Al though I must say it’s warranted! Lots of things going on in the world that are “not so great”. However, today I have some cool, good news I wanted to share.

You may have read about it already; there is literally a system in the Pacific Ocean – RIGHT NOW – cleaning up some of our plastic waste that is threatening sea life!

The Ocean Cleanup. The name says it all. It’s the largest clean up attempt in history, with its first stop in the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch“. By using this system, we can collect (and then recycle) about half of the plastic in the area every five years.

However, being somewhat nerdy, I was curious to know more about how the technology actually works, and I found this cool animated video. Have a watch :)

I love that someone is doing something to tackle this huge problem of ours. It’s inspiring and NEEDED.

On a personal level, the most important thing we as consumers can do to not contribute to further pollution in the ocean is, drum whirl please…

To stop eating fish.

Yes, that’s right! Almost 50% of all plastic in the patch is discarded fishing nets, with the majority of the rest being other fishing industry gear, including ropes, oyster spacers, eel traps, crates, and baskets. Plus, if we want to save marine life, why do we eat them?

Of course, don’t be a jerk and use disposable plastic unless you absolutely have to … but you know, think about what’s on your plate. The solution to our problem isn’t always the most obvious.

Happy Friday!

Time’s up: You can’t write an eco-friendly blog, without talking politics

I’ve been quiet lately here on the blog. I had planned to write a post about the  sustainable initiatives – or lack there of – that I saw in Scandinavia this summer, but it just hasn’t happened (yet).

I’ve been kind of low, lots going on in this world, and not been in the mood to write. But now I have to because I am upset!

Did you hear about the new climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN-convened coalition of climate scientists)? We basically have only 12 years to change the course we are heading in, in order to prevent catastrophic events due to the increase in temperature caused by human industries! It’s not catastrophic for the planet as such, it’s catastrophic for the life on this planet. That’s us. That’s our kids.

The report talks about the importance of only warming the earth 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) instead of the somewhat agreed to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F).

“We know there’s a threshold somewhere, probably in the vicinity of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, where we’re very likely committed to more than 30 feet of sea-level rise over centuries. It may be possible to preserve those large stores of ice at 2.7 degrees, scientists have found.”

“The new prognosis is stirring. A world that warms by 3.6 degrees—and not 2.7 degrees—will find that its problems metastasize out of scale with that seemingly small difference. In the hotter world, the number of people affected by water scarcity will double. Twice as many corn crops will perish in the tropics. The size of global fisheries will drop by 50 percent. And 99 percent of the world’s coral reefs will perish.”

So let’s just talk about this for a second. We’re in crisis mode here.

I don’t know where you are sitting right now, but where I am sitting (in my office) I am surrounded by people who don’t give a shit. In fact, they couldn’t care less. They watch Fox News and never read reports about climate change or environmental issues. These people are lucky enough to be on the richer side of the population, which means they count on always using privilege and savings to make sure they still drink fresh, delicious water. At the same time, they’ll always vote for politicians who want to build walls. Walls are great because once we’ve built them, they can keep all the future climate refugees out too! That way they can just starve on the other side of the wall – super handy. (Plus, the wall builders let them keep their guns! Yay.)

So what are we to do in these situations, when so MANY don’t care. So many can’t be bothered to even quit one beef burger per week.

I have tried to lead by example. Show them my tasty veggie lunches, said no to straws 45628774 times, told them about livestock and dairy. I have shared my blog and advertised other blogs. Still, almost five years later, I am still the “idealistic millennial who they better not get caught not recycling in front of”. Sigh.

I think I have come to the conclusion that the government, the people who make policy for countries, have to play a huge role in changing the course. Of course, we the people, can make positive changes – some of us have – but I’ve come to realize (after trying for so long to be optimistic) that it’s not enough because most people don’t care. Nope. We need policy, policy, policy.

There won’t be that perfect politician out there who can just fix it all, but there are good people running for office who want to seriously transition to a 100% renewable powered future.  Most of these good people are running as Democrats. Most of these good people focus on power generation, not so much on agriculture yet, but they’ll get there. Donald and his crew will NOT get there.

More than 1,600 new coal plants are due to come online worldwide in the next few decades, most under contract from Chinese companies. The Trump administration, meanwhile, has tried to create new subsidies for coal companies. It has also moved to weaken or repeal pollution regulations limiting airborne neurotoxins, as well those reducing greenhouse-gas emissions—rules that attracted the ire of coal companies.”

This, ladies and gents, means that every single eco-friendly blogger out there has the responsibility to talk politics.

They don’t have to shove it in someones face (like I do. Sorry not sorry) but they need to mention it. If someone has a blog that focuses on reducing global warming by making sustainable changes, that person can’t NOT talk about voting.

Personally, I don’t believe many MAGA supporters follow green living bloggers, but in the odd case of me being wrong, isn’t it a great thing if they read, on a blog they like, that politics and zero waste are linked together? Fox and Breitbart aren’t going to tell them… I am sure there are one or two eco-friendly followers  who don’t vote because the system is corrupt though, who could get an aha-moment and actually get to the polls, if a sustainable blogger explained how important this is, and mentioned some candidates to vote for to advance environmental policy.

If Taylor Swift can get political (thank heavens she did), eco-bloggers must.

Policy is key here.

Midterms are less than a month away, November 6th. In some states you can still register to vote. I hope, if you are a US-citizen, that you will vote, and that you will vote for a progressive democrat, or whoever the best choice is – for us all – where you live.

Quotes from this article

Am I being green – even when I’m lazy and unmotivated AF?

Hi all.

Just a couple of hours after my last blog post confession was published, a good friend of mine texted me and said “Yes!! I am sooo in the same spot! I’m so tired of being green and looking frumpy – the world is shit anyway.” See, both she and I have been limiting our shopping for years now (in order to reduce) and we are both just ready to look cute. And new. And relevant. And hot. (Yes!)

However, fashion was just one part of our conversation; the chore of rinsing yogurt cups so they can be recycled without contamination was another.

So, she says the world is shit. And she’s not wrong. Recent studies are predicting we’re heading towards as much as 9 degrees F rise in temperature (!!) and up to 200 ft of sea level rise. That’s kind of shit. The world in all feels very turbulent right now. Personally, I think my lack of motivation has been building up for a while [see this post on my unsustainable shoes] and then re-discovering this summer (on vacation) that the general population in Scandinavia (Denmark and Sweden) hardly take any personal responsibility when it comes to sustainable living, added to it. Here in the US we totally think they’re rocking it. More on the state of things in Le Europe in my next post – #teaser.

BUT there are a lot of good initiatives out there too. Progress in renewable energy systems (to name one area) and hope for change. As a climate optimist with a son who will inherit the earth, I need to believe in the greater good and keep myself motivated. (I should regularly share more good news on the blog actually, so other’s who may feel demotivated like me get a little boost too.)

Time for a list. A pep-talk. A readjustment of expectations. Not expectations from other people, but the ones I have for myself to be this eco-champion.

I am not trying to brag or seem better than anyone (I’m not in that mindset at all believe me!) in listing what I am actually doing; I am reminding myself that I do enough, despite being lazy and unmotivated AF right now.

unpopular

  1. I compost.  The occasional banana peel goes in the trash though. Composting is easy and I love the smell of healthy soil.
  2. I eat a plant-based diet and serve my family the same. The most eco-friendly diet as it stands. Happens to also benefit my health.
  3. My kid uses cloth diapers (many of them hand-me-downs) about 50% of the time.
  4. One of two cars we own is electric, and we drive very few miles for living in a large city like Houston.
  5. I use only reusable bags (and reusable produce bags) for all shopping.
  6. I recycle (all though most of that curb-side waste is probably land-filled).
  7. All my kid’s clothes (and most toys) are second (or third) hand thanks to my sister having a couple of kids before I did. Thanks sis!
  8. We use a 100% renewable energy provider.
  9. I buy (almost only) organic food.
  10. I donate monthly to environmental groups and Democrats up for election this year like fantastic Texan Beto O’Rourke.
  11. I blog and tweet about environmental issues. YAY! This might be one of the more important things because this is spreading the eco message.
  12. Our house uses bar soap, natural body products and I don’t use make-up.
  13. I re-use a lot of containers. My husband says I’m a pack rat… (I realize that is not very sexy in this blogger world full of minimalists.)
  14. I never consume water in plastic water bottles.
  15. I have a to-go cup with me every day and refuse straws. Sometimes they happen but mistakes are inevitable.
  16. I try to only shop ethical and local brands.

When I first started looking into living greener, I was only doing number 6, 10 and 5 (partly). So thinking of it that way, I really have made huge positive changes!

Which ones of these do you do?

Now. Here’s expectations I have decided to let go of, or rather things I allow myself to do during this phase (life time?) of being more of a regular person.

  1. Throw away dirty plastic containers. Let’s be honest, since China is no longer accepting our recyclables, most of it is going to be land-filled anyway. Why bother the recycling people with sorting it all? Potato salad tub – consider yourself tossed.
  2. Buy things online that we need as a family, not knowing exactly where they’re from. Sometimes we need a tool or a battery. Our kid needed a made in China booster seat. I’ll just get these type items online. Not sweat it.
  3. Buy clothes when I feel like it. Mind you, I don’t very often! I will allow myself to browse and buy something new when I feel it’s right. I’ll always check tags for China and polyester – that’s in my blood now – but I might get that cotton tee from Turkey (or whatever).
  4. Donate and throw away things our family doesn’t need that disturbs peace at home because we don’t have enough storage. No pressure to find uses for it all or donate to the”right cause”. If I need to toss, I will toss. Freedom!
  5. Post eco things when I feel like it on Instagram. But if I feel like sharing a picture of my toe that has nothing to do with being sustainable, I will.
  6. Any other things/actions as I see fit.

Doesn’t sound so bad… right?

Finally, should eco-bloggers lead by that “perfect example” (also known as “It’s so EASY and FUN and budget friendly to be zero-waste-vegan!!!) or do we need to have real conversations about effort and demotivation?

Much love and ramblings, my friends!

Defining Sustainability / Just because it’s eco-friendly doesn’t mean it’s sustainable (or does it?)

Sustainability. The buzzword of our time. We throw it around and look for it on companies’ websites and products. Sustainable fashion. Sustainable agriculture. Sustainable growth. Heck, I even call myself “sustainable”. But what does it actually mean? And what do I mean when I say it?

sustainable

First, let’s get the cat out of the bag; being sustainable means something different to every single one of us.

I think most of us agree that renewable energy (wind, solar) is “sustainable energy” because we won’t run out of its sources, it creates jobs and it doesn’t harm the environment long term. (In other words, checks all the boxes!) However, a very-soon-to-retire oilfield worker, supporting their family by working for a fossil fuel company, who knows nothing else, might not agree that the solar power boom is sustainable development – for him.

There are three parts to sustainability:

PEOPLE
ENVIRONMENT
ECONOMY

You’ve probably heard of the “Zero Waste movement” which mostly is about living with as low carbon footprint as possible and sending (almost) nothing to landfill. The people who live zero waste are amazing and put a lot of effort into maintaining their lifestyle. To them, prepping meals, cleaning supplies and beauty products from scratch with ingredients bought without packaging is the sustainable thing to do.

To me, buying ready-made, organic, local, small business [insert item here] is the sustainable choice. Sure, that creates packaging waste and I don’t know if the maker composted their scraps but with that purchase, I am supporting a business I’d like to see thrive and that action is sustainable to me.

I recently saw a post in the eco community that said, “We should all cook more at home because restaurants create a lot of waste”. Despite that being true, I am not comfortable with us not supporting local eateries for that reason. Just because something is “eco-friendly” doesn’t mean it’s sustainable.

All though we all think differently when it comes to making the best, most sustainable choice, a common definition could be that “Living sustainably is to live true to one’s values and to act in accordance with how one wishes the future should look like”.

If I want a future where crops are grown naturally and organically, I must buy organic food.

If I want the air to be clean and safe for all beings on earth, I need to lower my personal emissions and vote for politicians who align with me on this topic.

If I want to see my local community flourish, I must shop small and locally made products.

If I want factory farming to be banned, I must eat more plants (less animal products).

If I want more fish than plastic in the ocean, I have to stop eating them and reduce the plastic waste I create that may end up in their habitat.

There are more hopes and dreams I could mention (I have so many!), and I can’t master them all 100% but this is where I am coming from when I say, “I want to live sustainably”. Maybe, “Because I have the privilege, I want to live responsibly” defines it better. (“Responsible Anna” – what a boring blog title!!)

Last but not least, we must remember that because defining sustainability is subjective we also have different opportunities to act. Personally, I can afford to donate to organizations, shop locally made, lease a Tesla, while I feel I don’t have the time it takes  to live a zero waste life, which can be very time consuming. Someone else may have lots of time on their hands and less funds, opting to be sustainable by making their own clothes and growing their own food. Many might fall somewhere in-between. Some people have very little privilege with neither time nor money and for them sustainability is probably something completely different, like working hard to create a more prosperous future for their children, being a good person in their community or simply just getting by.

There is no “one size fits all”. There is no “right answer”. Luckily, by many of us taking a different approach to sustainability (or responsibility!), we can get A LOT done. Don’t you think?

Note: I wanted to write this post because I felt it was time to share some thoughts. A blogger I follow did a poll on Instagram asking people if they felt inspired or guilty seeing eco-friendliness posts (specifically zero waste) and a staggering 50% chose the “guilty box”, which sure is not the intention when someone is sharing “sustainable” tips and tricks. Renee, the mentioned blogger, followed up with a wonderful article about privilege, zero waste and her take on inspiring change outside the “green living bubble”. Link to read it in full HERE.

EARTH DAY – What the day is about and why we celebrate it!

I did a poll on Instagram to see how many people actually knew that Earth Day is coming up this weekend. Being surrounded by zero wasters and eco-friendly folks on social media all the time had led me to believe that everyone knew. Turns out 62% of earthlings who voted in my little poll didn’t! Wake up call, Anna!

That’s why I am writing a post about EARTH DAY today. It’s coming up this Sunday, April 22nd.

why we celebrate Earth day 2018

The reason we celebrate it on the same date every year is that the very first Earth Day happened on April 22nd! It was 1970 and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had not yet been founded. Activists and environmentalists had just started their fight for a cleaner world; biodiversity, cleaner air, less pollution and more government imposed regulations were on their agendas, as they demanded action thru peaceful protests and gatherings. Environmentalism was gaining momentum at this time in America and on the very first Earth Day, millions of people gathered in parks and streets to create awareness among individuals  and demand action from government to regulate polluting industries. Later that year, the President founded the EPA; laws for cleaner air, cleaner water and protecting endangered species were written and put into immediate effect. (#peoplepower)

So, what do people actually do on Earth day nowadays?

Well, it’s to up to each of us to decide!  Most cities arrange get-togethers or events in parks or similar spaces to bring attention to one or two specific environmental threats. Zero Waste and plastic pollution are buzzwords this year (thanks to in large the Blue Planet II series) and the official Earth Day Network  are focusing their efforts on just that; creating awareness about plastic pollution (single use!) and arranging clean ups. Other eco groups are gathering to plant trees, doing speeches or hosting educational events.

As for me, being very much a homebody, I’ll be at home with my boys. This environmentalist isn’t exactly the “joiner type” – we all don’t have to be right? If you’re not big on going somewhere to hang out with eco-warriors or attend a big event, try some of these ideas:

Donate to a cause. Chip in a few dollars to the Sierra Club, Stand for Trees or any other, trustworthy environmental organization you like.

Support a politician. The best thing we can do right now is to replace representatives in Government who don’t have ours or earth’s best interest in mind. Donate cash or dedicate some time promoting sustainable candidates up for local or national election this year.

Clean out your closet and meet up with friends to do a clothes swap! I just did this with one of my good friends and I love the shirts, vest and shoes I got – plus I feel so good about her resurrecting some of my clothes so I don’t have to sell or “donate” them (who knows where they’d end up).

Cook from scratch and enjoy a plant-based meal. Connecting with the food we eat by taking the time to cook it can be medicine for the soul and make us more thankful. It’s especially awesome if no earthling had to die for you to eat it. Try my vegan lentil moussaka, why don’t you!? I just had my recipe published on Mother Earth Living – get the recipe here.

Spend the day outside. Talk to your kids, friends, family members, whoever you are outside with, about threats to our lovely planet, its animals and us, due to climate change and pollution. Smell some flowers, do a cartwheel (yeah, right), pick up the trash you find. Just enjoy what we’ve all been given and rekindle that connection with earth!

ideas how to celebrate earth day

However you decide to spend the day I hope you have a wonderful, fulfilling Sunday! Also, next week is Fashion Revolution Week, so rest up for tackling the fashion industry, starting Monday, by asking all your favorite brands: Who made my clothes?

I’ll be posting my outfit of the day each day next week on Instagram to bring awareness to this cause @sustainableanna :)

Photo credits: Taken by me and my husband in Smokey Mountains area

It’s 2018, time to gear up and support a sustainable politician

It’s 2018. We have only 10 months to focus, engage, support and get active in order to flip Congress. Yes, I am putting it out there: I absolutely despise Trump and the GOP. (Don’t waste your time commenting that I am wrong about this, if that is your opinion. There is nothing you can say that’ll change my mind.)

You might not know this about me, but I am not even eligible to vote! I am a green card holder, not a citizen, but since I live in the USA and plan to stay here for the foreseeable future, I am super-duper engaged in the political “game” some people refer to as the democracy of the United States. Power-grandpa Bernie dragged me into it.

Now, my guy for 2018 is Beto O’Rourke.

Screen Shot 2017-12-30 at 11.12.18 AM

He is running against Ted scumbag Cruz and he is so awesome. Beto spent most of 2017 visiting townhalls around Texas to get to the bottom of what Texans need and think. He is not taking any money from Super PACs either. (His voice reminds me of Obama’s too! He has that presidential flare about him.)

I’m not going to write down all the policies and his stands on them, you can read up on Beto at BetoforTexas.com. (Isn’t seeing Ted squirm and get the boot enough reason to vote Beto though?!) Since I can’t vote, “all” I can do is write, tweet, talk and donate to Beto’s campaign.

The cool thing about donating is you can donate to any politician you’d like to see get a chair, no matter where you live in the country. I love Elizabeth Warren (MA) so I support her, and I gave to Senator Doug Jones’ campaign in Alabama last year. He WON. No one thought he would. (Thank you people of Alabama, especially Black communities, for voting and thanks everyone who donated to his campaign!) Beto could have the same thing happen in this “red” state.  Let’s flip Texas!

So what does this have to do with a Not Made in China Challenge and leading a green life? Great question. It has everything to do with it.

Republicans are just not interested in preserving our earth at all (which is ironic since they call themselves “conservatives”). Quite the opposite in fact; the EPA has lost 700 people, Trump wants to deregulate big oil, drill everywhere and loosen organic farming standards. If he “pulls out of” NAFTA he can do more harm than good to small American made businesses who rely on imported parts (a rework is needed, yes, but not a cancellation) and his expensive “Border Wall” will harm Texas in many ways. I am not even going to mention the so called Tax bill. Basically, the current government is working against everything I believe in. They are working against economic and environmental sustainability.

In next year’s midterm election, Democrats need only 24 seats to flip the House and two to take the Senate. TWO.

Political speech over! Go support your candidates!

PS. If you’re busy and don’t want to research candidates, you can contribute by supporting Our Revolution which is a democratic group rallying for progressives in all types of elections, from school boards to senate.

Anniversary post: Four years since I went “green” and changed my world (and maybe yours!)

Hi!

I’m Anna and I’m on a Not Made in China Challenge. Today happens to be my challenge anniversary! That’s right, four years ago today I pledged to stop over-consuming, stop supporting unethical fashion brands and to buy as much (%wise) made in USA items as possible.

This pledge started my journey towards green living. Before that, I thought recycling, bringing bags to the grocery store and supporting World Wildlife Foundation with a bit of cash each month was the definition of being “eco friendly”. Yes, we all start somewhere. (If you’re not even doing those things, take a minute and reflect.)

Every year since I started the challenge, I’ve taken different steps to lower my carbon footprint like starting a compost, switching cars, limiting my shopping, quitting beef, to name a few and this year is no different.

More specifically, in 2017 I have:

  • Gone plant based for real. Hardly any cheating, guys! My husband has joined in on it too – like 90% joined in. I am so proud and impressed by his actions.
  • Kept up with cloth diapering our bundle of cuteness and poop. (Update post coming soon!)
  • Joined the Sierra Club and Planet Parenthood as a monthly donor. So easy.
  • Shopped even less (for myself) than last year. How is that even possible?!
  • Seriously revamped my bathroom/beauty routine meaning fewer, only all natural products in mostly zero waste packaging. Daily make-up no more.

I’m proud of all my efforts but going plant based has been the best decision ever. It takes a lot of thought and motivation and I did cheat during the holidays because gingerbread and cheese. However, I recognize that going vegan is a work in progress just like the not made in China challenge was (and is), so I’m not too hard on myself. I’ll get there :)

So, have I failed my Not Made in China Challenge at all?

YES. Oh my god, yes.

Keeping a baby happy and healthy takes time and thought which leads to shortcuts. There’s been take out in styrofoam, some unnecessary driving around to keep baby asleep in the car, baby things I didn’t need (erhm, sorry not sorry) and also a few items MADE IN CHINA! [Insert panic emoji here.] Namely a high chair, a robot vacuum, backsplash tile, a rain cover for the car seat, a pack and go stroller and a new pod-free coffee maker (hallelujah Ninja!).

I know, I know. I’ve gotten more China items this year than I did for the past three combined!

I guess some years you “need” things and some years you don’t. Having a new baby I think automatically classifies 2017 as a year we did need stuff. (A coffee maker and a robot vacuum fall in that baby-category! They do! Both were Christmas gifts for ourselves.) I actually think we’ve done really well acquiring very, very few things of which most were made in USA, Fair Trade or second hand. Go us.

Best Nine 2017 Sustainableanna
Best nine on Instagram 2017. I absolutely love all these pictures!

2017. It’s been an interesting year. (Don’t get me started on Trump.) It’s been a busy year too for me; not just at home with baby but at work as well. I haven’t blogged as much as I wanted to (wrote 45 posts compared to 60 in 2016) but that’s ok. This green mama/manager/newly crowned vegan cook can’t do it all. (Hint, neither can you.)

I’m thankful for everyone reading, commenting, engaging, and sharing! Also, I am so happy and grateful that I get to inspire you and be a small part of your journey towards a greener life with less consumption, better choices, less meat and most importantly: increased awareness.

Stick around for 2018 why don’t you!? I promise to do my best to make you think, smile and learn.

Happy new year guys.

Here’s to another year on the challenge.

PS. Please, pretty please, share your small or big eco-successes you had in 2017 in the comments. That would make me and everyone reading super thrilled and pumped for the new year :)

Sustainable mama + Buy Buy Baby = ? (Finding “the green” at the baby mega store.)

I shop at Buy Buy Baby. There I said it.

For those of you who are blessed enough to not know this, Buy Buy Baby is like Toys R’ Us but with baby stuff. Before “motherhood” I hated baby super stores and avoided them at all cost. After all, they sell so many things I would never buy; made in China plastic crap, gift sets no one needs, huuuge furniture pieces for tiny nurseries.

Then, there was that day, two days before baby came when we realized we needed a car seat… and so we went to get one at Buy Buy Baby. Then came the day that we needed organic formula (because baby wasn’t gaining enough weight and I didn’t like the conventional brands at my local grocery store) so, again, off we went to Buy Buy Baby.

Now, I’ve been looking around the store a bit, and sadly, YES, most items are useless, want-to-haves, made in China shit. Don’t let anyone or this post fool you into letting your guard down! However, there are also a few sustainable items for baby, a few of which I’ve gotten (list below!).

So can a green mama make do, shopping only at Buy Buy Baby? Find out.

why wooden toys

Burt’s Bees 100% organic cotton clothing.

So far it’s the only brand I’ve seen that is made of only 100% organic cotton. (I don’t understand why any baby clothes would need poly fabric mixes?) I’ve gotten two pajamas and one comfy play set for August. Come to think of it, in addition to two Mamma Louise onesies, these are the only clothes we’ve bought him that wasn’t second hand!

Plan Toys wooden toys.

Even the most sustainable, minimalist mother will occasionally get gooey-eyed at items for her kid. (Yes, I’m talking about me.) I got a pushcart to practice walking and a xylophone from Plan Toys brand because they were on sale ($35 and $20) and sustainable. Made in Thailand of sustainably sourced wood, safe paint and packaged completely without plastic! There are a few other, “non packaged” wooden toy brands at the store like Manhattan Toy Company as well.

Organic Earth’s Best baby food.

When I am too busy (or lazy if you prefer to call it that) to make baby food for August I buy organic veggies for him from Earth’s Best brand. He happens to prefer the squash, which I often find on sale for 50c. Guess the other babies aren’t that into it! The food comes in glass jars with metal lids – so very reusable and recyclable. I use them for freezing baby food I did make and things like tomato paste, herb clippings and such.

Earth’s Best (and other organic) baby formula.

At four months we started supplementing and decided that our most favorite baby had to eat organic food! Buy Buy Baby has all the brands you need. Earth’s Best (again) comes in a tin can with #5 plastic lid – recyclable. Formula does create a lot of waste though, it disappears as butter in sunshine (Swedish expression)! In other words, baby empties a can fast. But what can you do? No compromises when it comes to baby’s happy, full belly. At least we don’t use the pre-made stuff in plastic containers :)

Britax Made in USA car seats.

Ok, a car seat will never be a plastic-free, super sustainable purchase so at least let us get one that was made in USA, right?! Go with a Britax. (Ignore all the unsustainable accessories though! You’ll make it without a made in China mirror in the back seat – I promise.)

BumGenius cloth diapers.

I have a love/hate relationship with BumGenius cloth diapers.

I love them because they work, the quality is superb and they’re assembled in USA. The liner material is super easy to wipe off, spray off or just ‘dump’ the poop off of (sorry TMI!).

What I hate about them is that each diaper is individually packed in a plastic pouch, no organic materials used and the inserts are actually made in China. So not super sustainable when you look at the whole package. But reusable is good.

I’ve gotten all mine second hand which makes them super green :)

Hospital grade silicone pacifiers from Philips Avent.

I’ve blogged about these pacis before; I got them because they were made in USA. Only later did I read in an all natural baby book that hospital grade silicone is the safest paci you can get for your baby!! YAY. Even better than natural rubber which can cause latex allergies.

So, yes, a green parent can get many functional things at the super store. But, no, he/she cannot make baby-life sustainable by only shopping there.

Why? Well, for an eco-friendly crib, mattress, shoes, books, plastic toys for bath time, bite/chew toys, bottles, tableware, bibs, pacifier clips, blankets, soft toys, wipes, stroller, high chair, wet bags, to name a few items, green parents need to go local, online or second hand! Plus it would be super expensive to dress a baby in only Burt’s Bees clothes from Buy Buy Baby!

Did you find something mega-eco at a mega store too? Would love to know what :)

30 SUPER SIMPLE eco-friendly ways to combat climate change (for the average Joe!)

Super storms Harvey and Irma have shook the nation. And with that, no one active on social media has been able to avoid articles about how climate change (in other words we) may have caused these storms.

Though we haven’t exactly caused them, the warmer water in the ocean – a result of man-made climate change – has made these storms stronger and bigger.

Some people pretend money is what is holding them back from living a greener life, however eco-bloggers have again and again proven that that is not a valid excuse. Others claim they  “don’t have the time to make an effort”. (I think what is really holding people back is they don’t want to make an effort, also known as laziness.)

A wise man once said it’s not about having time, it’s about taking time. And these resent storms may have changed people’s attitude a little, making this the time to start thinking about taking the time to kick start some new habits which prevent further climate change. We can’t take back the warming that’s already been done, but we can slow down. Hopefully setting our children up for a better starting point when they are ready to come up with awesome ways to carbon capture and make salt water into fresh water without using too much energy.

Now, without further ado,

Here are my 30 SUPER SIMPLE budget-friendly and time-friendly green habits!

1. Buy organic food when it’s sitting right in front of you at the grocery store.

2. Use reusable produce bags and check out bags (keep them in your car!).

3. Never bag produce that don’t need to be bagged – see this post for more tips.

4. REFUSE straws when you’re eating and drinking out – every time.

5. Buy recycled batteriestoilet paper, kitchen towels and trash bags.

6. Use bio-based, all natural washing liquid and dishwasher soap/detergent.

7. Switch your plastic bottled shower gel for bar soap.

8. Use cloth kitchen towels to clean messes as much as possible.

9. Switch ground beef for turkey or better yet pea protein for ALL ground beef recipes.

10. Switch beef burgers for delicious black bean burgers.

11. Order a proper amount of food at restaurants so you don’t need to-go boxes, yet don’t waste food.

12. Never get cheesecake to go.

13. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, do dishes or wash your face.

14. Don’t buy clothes you don’t need (especially made in China). You do NOT need a new dress for every occasion. No one will remember what you wore.

15. Don’t buy home decorations you don’t need (especially made in China) including Christmas and Halloween junk.

16. Shop toys and baby items second hand. Babies and young kids don’t know where their things come from.

17. Buy eggs from locally pasture-raised hens (packed in cardboard not Styrofoam).

18. Vote for politicians who care about the environment and support a future based on only renewable energy.

19. Support an environmental charity via a monthly auto-draft. Most organizations let you start as low as $5 per month if funds are tight. Set it up once, then forget :)

20. Stop buying soda, reduce the amount you buy or get a soda stream to make your own.

21. Follow my blog and instagram @sustainableanna for more tips :)

22. Stop buying bottled water at the store for your family to just “drink at home”.

23. Order chicken or veggies instead of steak at restaurants.

24. Bring a reusable water bottle and/or coffee mug from home with you every day!

25. Wash and reuse aluminum foil. No reason not to!

26. Switch your dairy yoghurt for coconut yoghurt.

27. Recycle!

28. Skip one phone upgrade, for example go from the I-phone 5 straight to the 7.

29. Avoid buying, wearing and washing polyester clothing  (or get a fiber-catcher.)

30. Switch your make-up remover and body lotion (plastic bottles) to coconut oil (glass).

There are more things you can do, like go vegan, go zero waste, buy an electric car, stop travelling, bike more, get solar panels, yada, yada, yada. But today I am not asking you to change anything major in your life for the eco-cause. My goal is not to scare you off. That’s why I love that this list is about simplicity.

Doing (some of) these super simple, minimal effort things, actually mean you care about plastic free oceans, clean air, climate change and preventing future EVEN BIGGER storms.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, time-consuming or hard! And you’ll feel great getting started :)

Harvey who?