Introducing Sustainability Journal

Greetings friends,

Like many, I’m having trouble finding the words to describe the world around us right now. Here in the US, we are still nowhere near the end of a pandemic that’s claimed more than 100,000 lives. National unemployment rate as of now hovers above~13%, compared to ~3% in February (though this current statistic – like the virus death toll – is likely underestimated). And following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, massive protests have sprung up all over the country against police brutality and centuries-old systemic racism that continue to ravage this country but especially Black Americans.

Social media is awash with little black squares, words of solidarity, and educational resources. But besides learning and listening, what else can I do that will make a tangible impact? I’ve been asking myself the same question so many of us find ourselves asking right now. 

Donating, voting, showing up, letter writing, supporting black and other POC-owned businesses, being intersectional in our work, reducing your own environmental footprint while activating the community around you – these are all things that I write about here (or on Instagram), but you might not have seen me do. Er, don’t ask, social media is weird; incessantly showcasing what you are doing had always felt too performative for me. But I’m changing that now, with this new series on the blog called Sustainability Journal. (And yes, I’ll admit that I 100% stole the idea from Polly Barks and her Sustainability Notes.)

I’ll be posting bi-weekly here, documenting what I’m reading, learning, thinking, but most importantly what I’m doing. Despite the risk of virtue signaling, I hope to use these regular posts to keep myself accountable and share ideas with others who are looking to go beyond the performative allyship and slacktivism so rampant online right now. I’ll still be writing about research and reflections here and there (because ya know – who am I without my hot takes and in-the-weeds research ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), but if I’m learning anything at all from these recent events – education alone is meaningless unless it’s used to inform and orient actions. 

Ok phew – long intro. So let’s get to it!

Personal update: I’m extremely fortunate to still have a stable job, and will be working from home until at least September. Massachusetts is starting to reopen slowly, and even though I wasn’t under any impression that I’d be back in the office any time soon, September…still feels pretty surreal. 

Aside from work, I’m spending a lot of time in my community garden plot these days. It’s my third year, and I was finally able to move to a sunnier plot. All the spring harvest is done, and we are full speed ahead into summer production! 

An individual action I’m focusing on at the moment: reducing my water use. As the weather warms up, I found my water footprint suddenly swelling – from more showers, to all the watering the plants need. I’ve started collecting rain water on my porch using a 5 gallon bucket (which couldn’t fit under the gutter without modifying it), and catching grey water in the shower using another bucket (for watering plants/flushing toilets.) It’s working out fine so far, but I dream of the day we have a more efficient rain collection system.

A community action I’ve taken: being an active participant in my local Buy Nothing group, helping folks with their immediate needs (e.g., getting groceries) whenever I can.

Where I’m sending my dollars: being at home all the time has freed up more funds, so I’m donating to more organizations than usual. Last week I’ve donated to the Massachusetts Bail Fund, Color of Change, Black Vision Collective, and a local black-owned bike shop that was vandalized during the protest.

Books I’m reading:

Polly Barks | More than a Plastic Bag: an Action Guide for Environmentalists for Every Level. Polly’s book was finally out, and I devoured the whole thing in one night (with a full list of to-do items after, of course). Please do yourself a favor and grab a copy now.

Elizabeth L Cline | The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good. A good book for those new to the idea of ethical fashion, as it’s got quite a lot of details about how to resell, environmental impacts of different fabrics, labor conditions of garment-producing countries, etc. (But if you are the type of person who doesn’t care to freshen up your wardrobe frequently and pretty much thrifts your whole wardrobe anyway, this might not be the right book for you.)

More content you should check out:

  • A Vox roundup of climate policies in the US
  • An op-ed arguing that as environmentalists, we must do a better job describing the future we are building towards, written by co-founder Jamie Henn. (My response to the op-ed is here.)
  • Why a vegan diet isn’t going to fix the sins of industrial animal agriculture. Great piece from Chris Newman @sylvanaquafarms.
  • A primer on why racial justice IS climate justice, via Grist.
  • 75 things you can do for racial justice (updated regularly).

How are you doing, friends? (I’d also love to hear what you think about this post series – what else do you want to hear from me about?)