ethical writers co

I Was a Climate Change Denier: Why I Changed My Mind

Climate Change and Christianity, Partnership with UNDP
Ice Caves like this one could be gone in 5-10 years due to global warming.
This article is part of a collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ethical Writers Coalition.

In the 12th grade, my Economics teacher, who also happened to be the women's track coach, decided to work on tallying track scores instead of filling us in on the wonders of microeconomics (You will not be surprised to hear that very few of us passed the AP Econ exam that year).

Like all overworked or borderline disinterested instructors, he popped in a movie for us to watch. But this wasn't your run-of-the-mill classroom film.

This was An Inconvenient Truth.


You may be thinking this was the aha moment for me. Unfortunately, you would be wrong. I distinctly remember laughing as the animated polar bear fell off her animated, melting glacier. "Absurd!" I thought, and not just because the anthropomorphized polar bear cartoon was frowning at me as she fell into the icy water. I was so smug in my knowledge that global warming was not happening - and bolstered by the other students at my southern, largely conservative school - that it was easy to overlook the science and find something to ridicule.


Let me give you some background.


I grew up in a Christian community that believed in Young Earth Creationism. In this model of the universe, God literally created the earth and all that is in it about 6,000 years ago, Noah's Ark miraculously held every variety of earth's creatures as it rose above the global flood, and - I kid you not - the Loch Ness Monster was proof positive that dinosaurs coexisted with humans. As a kid, I was fascinated by that last point, and I still have trouble letting go of such a whimsical idea! Doesn't everyone want to ride a dinosaur?

For one to hold the ideas of Young Earth Creationism as true, one must create a partition between some forms of "obvious" practical science, like gravity and the flu, from other forms of science, namely the ones that tell us something about the long game. We were wary of evolution, carbon dating, and climate change (read more about the tenets of Young Earth Creationism here). To us, they represented the ills of secularism, a world that searched in the wrong places for meaning when it could easily just open the Bible and read the "plain truth."

The problem with this, I know now, is that the "plain truth" of the Bible (this reading is called Biblical Literalism) isn't so plain once you've actually read it. When I majored in Religious Studies in college, I learned to apply literary and historical criticism to the Biblical texts. I parsed out genres; learned Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek; and compared the religious texts of neighboring civilizations.

Contrary to my parents' fears, I did not lose faith. But it changed dramatically. Over time, the humanity of writers' and Biblical characters became more apparent. And humans, as we all know, are inherently nuanced and often hypocritical. It became clear to me that the Bible, like all texts, required interpretation.

Eventually, I realized that science could be reconciled with religious belief. Climate scientists and evolutionary biologists weren't out to get me after all.

I was finally able to tear down the shoddily built wall between Christianity and Science, and it allowed me to appreciate both in new ways. 


It was a long road, but it was ultimately my Religious Studies program that allowed the world to expand for me, to embrace the work of scientists who work tirelessly toward a better world. Their end goal is not all that different from the broader message of my faith tradition: to be good stewards and to leave the world habitable for future generations.

This is what we know about climate change (also called Global Warming), according to the United Nations Development Programme:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity mainly include carbon dioxide and methane. They form a "shield", which blocks a certain amount of solar radiation and causes global warming. 
  • Human activity has caused the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to increase. 
  • Since 1990 global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50%. 
  • Fossil fuels – oil, coal and gas – that power our cars, heating/air conditioning, cooking and lights are the main cause for greenhouse gas emissions. Each day we spew 110 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. 
  • From 1880-2012 the planet's surface temperature has increased an average of 0.85 °C [1.5 °F]. 
  • Global warming itself is accelerating. During the past year, measurements taken across the globe during various periods have reported abnormally high temperatures. The year 2016 is the hottest on record, with average temperatures nudging towards 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. 
  • Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to rise and surpass 3°C (and more in some areas of the world) in the 21st century.

Climate change must matter to us because rapidly rising global temperatures wreak havoc on ecosystems and agricultural industries. Melting snow caps cause ocean levels to rise, eroding inhabited land (Miami is already preparing for the worst); erratic weather destroys people and communities; and rising temperatures will soon make growing food impossible in some regions of the world. Additionally, climate change disproportionately impacts the poorest countries, where temperatures tend to be higher and the landscape more difficult to til.

This is more than ecological destruction: this is profound injustice. 


Climate change must matter to me and you, to Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, and Secular Humanists alike, because it affects all of us. And if we are people who claim a moral stance, it's high time we consider what we can do to slow the effect of global warming before it's too late. 

The United Nations Development Programme has committed itself to fighting climate change at a global level. It supports countries in their efforts to transition to renewable energy, protect forested land, and prepare for the and future effects of climate change. 


But what can we do?


First and foremost, we can support policies and politicians who make climate change remediation a priority. We can encourage investment in renewable energy sources at the local, state, and household level. 

On a personal scale, we can commit to living low-waste lifestyles, recycling, using public transit when possible (and lobbying for better public transit options), using less water and utilities, and eating less meat

And we can be messengers of the cause in big and small ways to our circles of influence. 


If you come from a background like mine, I encourage you to find ways to engage with your faith community about science in a constructive and positive way. Help people realize that this fight needs all of us, and that there's no reason to fear science, or the intentions of climate scientists who are simply doing their jobs. 

Delaying the effects of climate change will be hard - it will be inconvenient - but I have no doubt that climate change, in an age of alternative facts, is a truth we must defend. Now that I am empowered with that knowledge, I refuse to turn back.

---------

For tools, news, and resources, visit the UNDP website.

Giving Tuesday: The Ethical Writers Co. Shares Charitable Giving Picks



When I was in early high school, I went away for a couple weeks with a Christian youth band and came back with a sponsor child through Compassion International. For $30 a month, I could pay for the basic needs of a little girl in the Dominican Republic. I practiced the Spanish I was learning in school by sending her post cards of manatees and other Florida natural wonders.

The only catch? I didn't have a job. My parents gave me $20 a month in allowance and my friend was supposed to make up the rest. She flaked out almost immediately and my parents didn't like that I was spending the money I was supposed to save on a kid in another country. I still feel guilty that I pulled my sponsorship.

The point of all this is 1. my parents really should have let me keep the sponsorship going and, 2. giving responsibly and consistently - in ways that hopefully don't end in teenagers pulling monetary support for children abroad - is important, gratifying, and something you can teach, and learn, young. Even though I love giving and receiving physical gifts, I think there's value in considering the charities and causes that help build the type of world we want to live in, especially during the Holidays, a time that's meant to be shared with others.

---------

Members of the Ethical Writers Co. were asked to share their favorite charities to challenge the idea that this Holiday season is only about getting.

Here are their unfiltered responses:


Alden | EcoCult

It’s hard to narrow it down from the dozens of worthy charities, but I’m asking for donations to the Environmental Defense Fund. It seems like the most appropriate for the situation, because the environment will need the EDF’s pragmatic, science-based approach in the next four years. They help craft bipartisan legislation, fund educational initiatives, and partner with corporations to make incremental changes that ripple across the business world to make a huge impact. They also have a score of 95 in Charity Navigator, which is excellent.

Of course, I should also add that I’ve had a recurring donation to Planned Parenthood for three years, and that is not going away. I believe giving families and women the tools to only have children when they are ready emotionally and financially is the key to raising the next generation of engaged, healthy, and responsible citizens. Planned Parenthood is under threat from VP elect Mike Pence. So do him a favor and make the donation in his name, with his office’s address, so he knows how you feel.

Stephanie | My Kind Closet

I’ll be asking for donations to Earthjustice, the nation’s largest nonprofit environmental law organization. Earthjustice works tirelessly in and out of the courtroom to fight for wildlife, clean energy, and healthy communities, representing all of their clients for free. In recent cases they’ve protected threatened coral reefs in Florida, defended the waters in West Kauai from pollution by agribusiness, are fighting to convince the E.P.A to ban neurotoxic pesticides that are harmful to people, and are representing the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their fight against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Earthjustice is the organization behind many landmark environmental victories and we’ll need them now, more than ever, given the incoming administration’s anti-environment and climate-change-denying stances. So much is at stake, but I feel confident knowing that an organization like Earthjustice exists and will continue to demand accountability for those who break the law, and ensure that our planet and all her inhabitants are protected.

In addition, I ask that friends and family become more active in the causes that are important to them. One way to do this is to call your government officials to demand they block Trump and his administration from hateful and divisive policies and to protect policies already in place regarding civil rights and the environment.  As we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving, I am specifically requesting that friends and family call officials in N. Dakota to demand that law enforcement stand down in their abusive treatment of peaceful protestors.

Nichole | Green or Die

The day after the election, I set up automatic monthly donations to three organizations who I feel need our help now more than ever. I have become a member of the Sierra Club, the grassroots organization that helped pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, because I trust they can (and will) get things done (with our help). Earth Justice is a non-profit that takes on legal cases to help protect the environment. Their slogan reads "Because Earth needs a good lawyer," and in today's political climate (pun intended) that could not ring more true. Thirdly, the Anti-Defamation League is one of the leading organizations fighting anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate crimes the U.S.A.

This holiday season I am asking for donations to any or all of these three organizations. They can use all the help they can get.

Catherine | Walking with Cake

I’m a native Texan and we’ve seen a lot of our basic rights threatened or disappear over the last few years. I love my state and support local and grassroots efforts here, in an effort to improve things where I live. Battleground Texas, Texas Democrats, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas are on my regular contribution list. I’m also an advocate of independent news and support my local public radio and television stations, as well as The Guardian. Finally, as the mother of two young children, I’m concerned for their future. Their local school is a wonderful resource in our town, and I give my time and money to support it. I encourage everyone to support your closest public school, whether you have children or not, because you’re directly investing in the future.

Holly | Leotie Lovely 

At this present moment in time, apart from us ripping each other to pieces through wars and disagreements, us little Earthlings have - for the most part - avoided talking about the biggest threat humanity has ever faced. Despite popular belief, that threat isn't Isis (you have more chance of being killed by an asteroid than a terrorist), it's a much bigger and badder bag of worms soon to be unleashed in all its fury due to the global warming process. Thus far, America's trumpet President-elect has called global warming a Chinese hoax and threatened to scrap the regulations put in place to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions - including the Clean Power Plan. He has also vowed to to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency entirely and repeal all federal spending on clean energy. Without the United States leading the world with fortitude and passion into alternative energy sources and reduced meat and dairy consumption, we're headed towards huge ramifications which can only be described as apocalyptically troubling. The rise in temperature we’re due to see if our habits aren’t reversed and policy is not put in place is set to put 30% of animals at risk of extinction, will cause oceans to acidify, wildfires will get bigger, droughts more severe, and drown entire countries due to sea level rise. Donald Trump has tapped a climate change denier as his environmental advisor and thus donating to projects which protect your health and that of the planet through their work is paramount in fighting the evils put in place for profit over people. Thus, I’m asking for donations to EPA/EWG, and THE DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION (which is Canadian but has a huge influence on research and education worldwide), and EARTHJUSTICE, all of whom research, educate and lobby for the greater good in law and policy.

Elizabeth | The Note Passer

The most pressing cause for me is supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are on the front lines protecting their land and everyone’s water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Watch this video to find out more about the situation in North Dakota. Similarly, these charities are helping the people of Syria right now. Next, I want to support all vulnerable displaced people through organizations like Refugees International and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Third, a climate denier in our highest office means we have to support environmental work directly. Everybody Solar creates a ripple effect of change; they promote solar infrastructure by gifting solar power to nonprofits which eliminates their electricity costs so they can maximize their total impact. Solar One helps New Yorkers move in the direction of energy efficiency and greater sustainability through school programs, green job training, building efficiency programs, and solar panel installations. Finally, I want to fund independent journalism through organizations like The Center for Public Integrity, Pro Publica, and the Global Press Institute, which employs local women journalists to produce ethical, accurate news coverage from the world’s least-covered places.

Chandra Fox | These Native Goods

I was a little late in the game so I had a chance to peek at many of the other wish lists before creating my own. Such great recommendations! I wholeheartedly believe that in our current political situation we need to support the organizations with causes that will face the biggest threat. Standing up for environmental issues, women’s health and human rights is incredibly important right now. The suggestions from my fellow EWC members are for awesome charities that do just that. I wanted to throw in a couple more options for protecting wildlife as well as our planet. Wildaid raises awareness about the consumption of wildlife products, fighting back against the illegal trade by strengthening enforcement and bringing these issues to light. Whether it is for sport (ahem president elects son) or for profit, the killing of endangered species needs to stop before it’s too late. Rainforest Action Network is helping to combat the increasingly devastating effects of the Palm-oil industry, among other causes. Modern day slavery, the displacement of indigenous peoples as well as wildlife, and catastrophic environmental damage are all results of this industry. With large western junk food brands being one of the biggest contributors to the destruction. Along the same lines of protecting the environment and her inhabitants, there is the North Dakota pipeline. Some of the other writers already talk about this heartbreaking issue but I wanted to add another donation idea for the cause. A photojournalist that I know is currently at Standing Rock, she is working with the water protectors to build up the camps and prepare for the freezing winter temperatures. She set up a GoFundMe for much needed supplies, please read the updates section of the fund for a full understanding of how your donations will be used to help the people.

Renee Peters | Model4GreenLiving

As an animal lover and environmentalist, I cannot think of a more pressing time to give back to charities fighting to preserve the natural world. According to the WWF’s 2016 Living Planet Report, “Populations of vertebrate animals—such as mammals, birds, and fish—have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. We’re seeing the largest drop in freshwater species too: on average, there’s been a whopping 81% decline in that time period.” The mass extinction occurring on Earth cannot be reversed with more climate change denial and corporate lobbying in the White House. Organizations standing up for nature need our help, now more than ever, if we are to keep its continued destruction at bay.

One organization that I have personally volunteered for, The Wild Bird Fund, is taking local action for wildlife right here in NYC. “The WBF rehabilitates over 3000 sick, injured or orphaned wildlife and releases them back to the wilds of New York City. NYC is a major stopover on the East Coast migratory flyway, and over 355 bird species live in the Big Apple or take refuge here during the spring and fall migrations.” Supporting the Wild Bird Fund not only heals injured birds, but positively affects the people who try to help them, and shows a desire to take responsibility for the impact that we have had on the environment of our precious wildlife. Check out this video for more information about them. On a global level, Conservation International is doing great work to protect our planet, and I also ask for support for them. “Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, they empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity.” Donations made to either of these organizations benefit our planet and ensure that its wildlife and ecosystems are cared for.

Mine

On a local level (Charlottesville, VA), I’ll be asking for donations for the Shelter for Help in Emergency. Through my work at a local charity shop, I’ve seen firsthand the great work they do providing survivors of domestic violence with emergency necessities like clothing and household goods, and I also know that they do an excellent job finding long term, safe housing for their clients quickly and efficiently. I’ll also be personally contributing to and asking for contributions for the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is well respected for their broad and impartial human rights work - they have a 94% score for efficacy on Charity Navigator - and given the current political and social climate, there’s no doubt in my mind that their work will continue to be vital to building a kinder and more just America.

EWC Zero Waste Challenge: All the Gory Details of My Repeated Failures

An Update On My Zero Waste Efforts
This stock photo really spoke to me because I had the privilege of waiting for a small herd of deer to cross my path on the way to work earlier this week. 

If you didn't catch my introduction to this challenge earlier in the week, please read this post before proceeding.

To say this week's Zero Waste efforts did not go well would be an understatement. Even one of my concerted attempts to make life more zero waste resulted in more waste.

Let's start from where I left off:

Monday

I don't work on Mondays, so to some extent I could control my day - and the waste I produced - a little bit better. I made Risotto using arborio rice and mushrooms covered in plastic for lunch, and covered half of my remaining onion with plastic wrap (I know, I know. There's really no excuse for still using plastic wrap, but I always convince myself that it's better than all the water waste that would result from using a storage container. I don't think that's true, probably, but given this article, could it maybe be true?).

Later in the day, I went out to dinner with friends and used a paper napkin.

Today's Waste:
  1. Coffee Filter (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
  2. Packaging on virtually all lunch recipe items
  3. Paper napkin
  4. 2-3 Paper Towels (half sheets)
  5. Cotton Ball
  6. Toilet Paper (but it was post-consumer recycled if that helps)

Tuesday

The dreaded grocery day, which puts a real strain on my efforts to go zero waste. 

But before we get there...I received my pour-over coffee maker with reusable filter Monday, so I was able to go filter-free Tuesday morning and my coffee tasted great, too (I bought this coffee maker if anyone's interested). Bad news is that I ate a granola bar for breakfast and it was covered in plastic. 

On Tuesdays, one of my sweet volunteers brings us bagels from the local bagel shop (shout out to Bodo's!) and my bagel was covered in wax paper. I threw it in the shop's single stream trash can, so who knows what will become of it. At work, I also tend to use a lot of paper towels to wipe off grubby donations and surfaces. 

Because we're lazy (and traffic in C-ville is insane during rush hour), Daniel and I decided to go to the closest grocery store instead of Whole Foods, so it was difficult to totally void packaging. I bought more mini potatoes covered in packaging, plus chopped carrots and a pre-made salad (I factored in a lot of details on the salad, including how much more packaging I would have created if I'd bought a full bottle of dressing and a full bag of cheese to go with my unpackaged romaine). I also got a package of Goldfish, which is technically paper with foil inside, so it might be recyclable. Will have to check before I toss it. 

I also sent a package in a plastic mailer, so there's that.

Today's Waste:
  1. Granola Bar packaging
  2. Bagel Wrapper (?)
  3. Several Paper Towels (half sheets)
  4. Toilet Paper
  5. Cotton Ball
  6. Plastic wrapping on a myriad of produce items from grocery store
  7. Plastic mailer

Wednesday

Wednesday was super busy at work, so I can't remember much else. Oh! I made Red Beans and Rice with sausage for dinner, so that generated some waste. Fortunately, the can is recyclable and the brown rice I use comes in a cardboard container, but the sausage was wrapped in plastic and I covered the leftovers in plastic wrap (I know, I know).

Today's Waste:
  1. Granola Bar
  2. 3-4 Paper Towels (used at work)
  3. Toilet Paper
  4. Cotton Ball
  5. Plastic covering Amy's Frozen Lunch
  6. Plastic packaging on Andouille sausage
  7. Plastic Wrap

Thursday

After I wrote my last post on this subject, I had the brilliant idea of purchasing reusable produce bags to make grocery shopping easier. They arrived in a large box surrounded by plastic bubble wrap (which is weird since they're made of mesh), which was sort of a *headdesk* moment for me. Had to throw the bubble wrap away, but at least I may start making progress at the grocery store.

I had leftover beans and rice for lunch, so no additional waste! I ate some tuna for dinner and the can was recyclable (as is the mayo container). 

Daniel and I headed to Trader Joe's for a couple of things and I bought a refrigerated cinnamon roll kit in one of those biscuit cartons that pops when you press on it. Theoretically, the whole thing should have been recyclable because it's cardboard, but there was a big piece of plastic packaging holding the small, plastic-sealed container of frosting inside the tube, so that's another headdesk for the day.

Also, got some packages in the mail. A couple were wrapped in plastic mailers.

Today's Waste:
  1. Banana Peel (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
  2. 3-4 Paper Towels (half sheets)
  3. Plastic from Cinnamon Rolls
  4. Toilet Paper
  5. Cotton Ball
  6. Floss
  7. Plastic mailers

Friday

Our lawn guy gave me free lunch in a styrofoam container (people give me a lot of food at the thrift shop; it's incredible). I made some potato soup for dinner and wrapped my leftover onion in plastic wrap. 

Today's Waste:
  1. Styrofoam Container
  2. 3-4 Paper Towels (half sheets)
  3. Plastic Wrap
  4. Toilet Paper
  5. Cotton Ball

What I've Learned So Far:

Well, that's 32 trash bullet points listed for 5 days. I know I can easily get that number down if I just strategize a little better.
  • I'm not going to quit toilet paper anytime soon, but I think I'll try to seek out post-consumer recycled options for the long term.
  • Gotta find better cotton ball and paper towel options.
  • Do a better job of weighing convenience versus reducing waste for produce and other grocery items.

For what it's worth, my husband already thinks I'm a crunchy hippie and I've barely skimmed the surface of this whole zero waste thing. You have to start somewhere. 

---------

Check out the triumphs and struggles of other members of the Ethical Writers Coalition on their blogs:



Every day is Earth Day for the EWC

ethical writers co earth day shenandoah national park
This year, members of the Ethical Writers Coalition banded together to share ways we honor the earth every day of the year. We get lots of pitches this time of year from brands who think today might be the only day we care about their nontoxic, zero waste, renewable-energy product, but in reality, the 65+ members of the EWC think about this all the time, so why not share it?

I mean, it's great that the earth has its very own day, but in light of the news last month that 95% of the Great Barrier Reef is now bleached due to rising water temperatures and the reality that Americans throw away 65 pounds of clothing per person per year, I think we can agree that honoring the earth is something we need to be actively pursuing on a daily basis. I hope the below statements inspire you and help you find small ways you can make a difference.

Mine: 

I honor the Earth throughout the year by using cloth menstrual pads instead of disposables and washing them with eco-friendly detergent.

---------

Alden Wicker, EcoCult

I honor the earth every single day, by always packing a reusable water bottle, a reusable handkerchief, and a reusable bag in my purse – they are as important as my wallet and keys!

Emily McLaughlin, Gathering Green

I honor the earth all year, beyond Earth Day, by being mindful of where my food is sourced, joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share, and educating myself on modern farming practices.

Stephanie Villano, My Kind Closet

I honor the earth every day by wearing my clothes more than once to save water with fewer washes, and sourcing my food locally whenever possible - even growing my own produce in the summer and fall.

Danielle Calhoun, Black Sheep Bride

I honor the earth every day by teaching my children the importance of picking up trash and recyclables in on our daily walks around the neighborhood and showing them the value of eating what’s available to them in our own environment (in our case fish from the Gulf of Mexico we catch).

Annie Zhu, Terumah

I honor the earth by buying organic and supporting local farmers.
  ethical writers co earth day
Catherine Harper, Walking with Cake

I honor the earth every day by teaching my boys to recycle, using what we have instead of always buying something new, and eating locally-grown foods.

Faye Lessler, Sustaining Life

I honor Mama Earth every day of the year by always being mindful of my actions, asking questions before I purchase, and appreciating the beauty of life.

K. Chayne, Kamea World

I honor planet earth every day by using a holistic view of health—one that encompasses the health of our minds, bodies, and our collective environment—to shape my thought processes, habits, and consumer choices.

Jacalyn Beales, Out of Wilderness

I honor our Earth everyday by striving to use products which don’t violate the rights and welfare of our planet’s wildlife.

Hanna Baror Padilla, Sotela.co

I honor the earth every day by creating timeless clothing with eco-friendly fabrics that is made in the US.

Chandra Fox, These Native Goods

I honor the earth every day by appreciating everything she has provided us with and by reducing my family's waste through more conscious shopping practices, when selecting our food and goods -less packaging, less chemicals, less impact.

Nichole Dunst, Green or Die

I honor the Earth by abstaining from products, materials, and practices that rob it of its precious natural resources, by getting out and enjoying the natural beauty that it has to offer, and by practicing compassion towards all of its creatures.

Renee Peters, Model 4 Green Living

I honor the Earth every day by not consuming animal products, walking and taking public transportation, consuming products responsibly and wasting less, and by using my platform as a model to spread my message...The little things that we, as individuals, do everyday all add up to combat climate change. Never underestimate the power of small, daily actions that add up to be a huge reduction in our carbon footprint.
  florida seagulls ethical writers co earth day
Eleanor Snare, Eleanor Snare

I honour the Earth each day by spending time outside, fully absorbing what’s around me, reducing my impact on the planet and learning to interact with the planet in new ways through planting, growing and nurturing.

Elizabeth Stilwell, The Note Passer

I honor the earth everyday by treading lightly on her resources and inhabitants as I practice minimalism, veganism, and use public transportation as much as possible.

Addie Benson, Old World New

I honor our one and only earth every day by making old things new again, such as thrifted fashion finds, thereby not encouraging the use of our finite precious natural resources.

Sara Weinreb, IMBY

I honor the earth everyday by using plastic-free packaging that is made of recycled and recyclable materials when I ship out new orders of our Made in USA clothing.

Abby Calhoun, A Conscious Consumer

I honor the earth every day by taking in as much as information as I can about her resources, climate change, and our role as consumers in the ‘bigger picture’. I promise to never stop asking questions and having conversations, and will always look for alternative consumption practices to relieve the pressure we are placing on our planet.

Juhea Kim, Peaceful Dumpling

I honor the earth every day by composting and eating vegan. I’ve been vegan for almost 10 years and composting for 5 years. These two activities ground me and make me feel more compassionate, conscientious, and connected to the earth.

Greta Matos, Greta Matos

Quiet moments to watch the sunrise, daily hikes in wild places, conscious and focused appreciation for the abundance of this planet and my connection to it- these are my daily rituals to honor this incredible Earth! I also fold this appreciation and respect into all aspects of my work- whether I am writing and sharing my adventure stories, publishing photos, or consulting on ethical supply chain strategy, I am inspired in my work by the beauty of nature and honor it throughout.

Dominique, Let’s Be Fair

I honor the Earth by loving the people on it and enjoying the beauty of the world with them as grateful stewards.

Kasi Martin, The Peahen

I show my love for the Earth by talking her up! You can eat vegan, live as minimally as possible, and do your homework when it comes to clothes, but when others know the motivation for your lifestyle choices they can also be inspired to action.

Holly Rose, Leotie Lovely

I honour Mama Earth each and every day by being mindful of how my actions and purchases affect her, from my clothing and food to my toothbrush and detergents.

---------

There are a lot of ways to make a change and we're not all going to have the exact same priorities, but the important thing is that we're trying, and that we're working together for a better world.

How do you honor the earth every day?


*All photos belong to me

Year in Review + Ethical Resolutions

The time has come to say goodbye to this glorious, tumultuous year. 2015 was a weird one.

year in review

THIS YEAR...


I feel like I came into my own as a writer. I took risks, got rejected, and published a few articles and posts that I'm really proud of (see one, two, and three). I worked with some cool companies, met some cool people, and befriended lots of ethical bloggers who have helped me refine my voice and find the confidence to press on.

Working in an increasingly crowded space means there's always someone else doing it better. There's always a prettier face, a more approachable writer, a bigger success story. But I'm learning that that's ok, because there's only one me and I've got to believe that I have something to offer or there's no point at all.

I had intended to start writing a book this year, but I realized early on that I need more time to define myself as a writer, blogger, and conscious consumer. That's ok. Things will work out in time. I'm also considering more formal study, but we'll see what 2016 brings.

This year, I feel like a real, capable adult for the first time, well, ever. And I understand that my words and actions have weight, not only in this space, but in everyday life. I'm learning the exhausting work of practicing kindess and fostering empathy for everyone - acknowledging my privilege, stepping out of conversations I have no business being involved in, and listening, even when I don't like what I'm hearing.

This year I've been angrier, more humbled, more sure, and more emotionally exhausted than ever before and I hope that the ride has taught me something. It's hard to keep the faith in a world of near insurmountable tragedy, violence, and catastrophe. Things aren't ok and it's easy to toss up your hands and say, "What's the point of trying?" every time another person dies in a mass shooting, or a refugee is denied entry, or another human rights abuse is brought to light. But we press on, because there's nothing else we can do.


new year's resolutions

WITHOUT FURTHER ADO, HERE ARE MY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS:


1. Get a plan.


Figure out what I want to do in the long term and take intentional steps to get there. Ever since I graduated, I've been flailing around waiting to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I feel like I'm getting close to knowing, and it's time to just go for it.

2. Reduce my plastic and materials consumption.


I took a few steps to reduce my daily waste this year, but it's time to go all the way: bring my reusable bags to the grocery store, purchase reusable food storage bags, use what I have until it's gone, consider shampoo and soap bars over liquids that require plastic containers. I'm excited about this, because I know from switching to cloth pads and cotton rounds that it's really not hard!

3. Read more books.


I've got a big ol' stack of books waiting to be opened. All I need to do is make time to read them. From capitalism to theology, global manufacturing to quiet novels, I know that I need the knowledge and enrichment good books bring.

4. Write more articles on ethical living and theology.


I want to continue to pitch large publications and write better long form pieces for the blog, too. I have a list of post ideas and I just need to get started on them. If you have a question or a topic idea, let me know.

5. Integrate my values into everything I do.


I want to get better at reconciling my consumer ethics to my everyday behavior, and vice versa. It's all too easy to put things in boxes and fail to recognize the internal inconsistencies in my ethical outlook. I want to think harder about how my faith practices, political and social views, and moral perspectives play into one another.

6. Pare down.


It's time to get a grip on my "collecting" habit. I don't need to buy everything I like at the thrift shop. I don't need to keep my 11th grade notes. A few blank spaces on the wall never killed anyone. I have a tendency to buy and keep things just for the heck of it and I think it's time to say goodbye to a few things (responsibly, of course - I'll donate to local thrifts or sell on ebay).

7. Exercise like a responsible person.


I've spent all of my adult life justifying my near total lack of exercise. To be fair, I do work in retail, so I get more exercise than your average office worker just by going to work, but I'm starting to feel my age and I would like to start jogging, or at least power walking, 2-3 times a week.

8. Celebrate humanity.


Look for the good, in myself and others. Seek reconciliation. Always give others the benefit of the doubt. See my failures as normal, expected parts of being human. Know that being human is good enough (you know, but try to be a good human).

---------

I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on this year and the next one. What did you learn about yourself this year? What are you looking forward to?

---------

Check out my fellow Ethical Writers Co. members' Resolutions posts:


Ethical Leather Guide, by Kasi Martin

This post was written by Kasi Martin and was originally published on The Peahen blog. 

ethical leather guide

"Ethical leather" is an oxymoron to some, but I believe there are ways to source leather from reputable sources that do less harm to animals and the environment, though I tend to agree with Kasi that secondhand and vegan options are often the better way to go. Eating meat and using leather are issues I haven't quite come to terms with from a moral perspective. I currently do eat meat, though I limit it to once a week, and I own a variety of fair trade bags and shoes that source leather as a byproduct of small scale meat industries. I truly believe that a perfect world is a vegetarian one, but I haven't made a firm decision on whether that means, on a practical level, that we should all be vegetarians. Kasi breaks down our leather options in the well researched post below. 

---------

Choosing leather ethically can be tricky. I’ve deciphered some of the popular options and brands to help you cut through the marketing and get to the truth.

I learned these lessons first-hand when my mom asked for my birthday wish-list, and kindly obliged to my request for an ethical, faux leather handbag.

After some research, I settled on a bag from Matt & Nat. It’s supple, neutral and ladylike – it doesn’t get more classic than that. The company has been delivering designs under the umbrella of ‘vegan leather’ since 1995. Matt & Nat’s brand relies on recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber and cork. Their commitment is impressive in an era where chemical additives and man-made materials reign.

However, it turns out that Matt & Nat’s standard is the exception to the rule. Most vegan leather brands rely on cheap Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), a synthetic material that’s carbon-intensive, doesn’t biodegrade and leaches toxins when disposed in landfills. After 20 years of Matt & Nat delivering beautiful vegan leather goods at accessible price points, I thought other brands would have adopted their model. I was wrong.

Most vegan leather brands rely on cheap Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), a synthetic material that’s carbon-intensive, doesn’t biodegrade and leaches toxins when disposed in landfills.


All this time, if you’ve been buying vegan or fake leather as a conscious decision for the environment and animals, you’ve been lead astray. This misinformation leaves us in a bind. How do we, as conscious consumers, decipher what’s ethical and what’s BS when it comes to leather?

As with all consumer decisions, we don’t make purchases in a vacuum. There are some seriously complex forces at work in the leather industry – from the supply chain, to environmental principles to labeling and false marketing. If you’re detail oriented, see references number one and two below.

You might want to crawl under a rock at this point, but stay with me. There are two important things you can do to keep your ethics in line when buying leather: learn the lingo and adopt some new laws.

Deciphering the Leather Label

First off, mastering leather lingo is the best way to make informed decisions. Most people choose their stance on leather the same way they choose their lunch. There is a strong correlation between hamburger habits and leather boots and, conversely, soy-dense diets and faux handbags. I wish the issue were as simple as real vs. fake but the nuances of the label are critical.

Here’s what you should pay attention to:

Real Leather

Surplus leather (sometimes labeled ‘dead-stock‘) can be thought of as, simply, scrap leather. It’s the leftover leather from agricultural or manufacturing production. Buying surplus is technically still reinforcing animal agriculture; however, it’s a step forward to eliminate production waste.

Vintage leather is your best option if you want the longevity and look of real leather. Be aware: if you’re an animal rights advocate, you’ll be a walking, talking contradiction of yourself. Still, vintage leather is considered an ethical option because no new demand is created for animal skin, or other polluting materials.

Handcrafted/artisanal leather honors traditional – oftentimes slower – production and supports local craftsmen. Buying direct from artisans allows you to get closer to the supply chain and be better informed about ethical practices.

Local leather is the equivalent of local produce, with the same benefits. Buying leather from locally raised cattle removes the carbon impact associated with transport. Unless you live in an agricultural area, this type of leather will be hard to find.

Vegetable tanned leather is a natural alternative to industrial, chromium-tanned leather that leaches toxins into the water supply. It goes easy on mama earth.

Calfskin leather is leather produced from young calves touted for its supple feel and fine grain. This is the veal of the leather industry. I can’t write avoid it enough times.

Alternative leather is made from animal skin by-products that are cast aside as leftovers during food production. You may see the skins from eel, fish (typically salmon), sheep, ostrich and – even chickens (poulard) – on the label. Be skeptical of this type of leather unless it follows the surplus model.

...vintage leather is considered an ethical option because no new demand is created for animal skin, or other polluting materials.


Faux Leather

Microfiber vegan leather can be identified by PU or PVC on the label. Try to avoid these under all circumstances. If you must, the lesser evil options are made from recycled nylons or degradable polyurethane (PU). Take Kamea’s word for it, PU and PVC are among the most polluting materials on the planet.

Natural vegan leather is hands-down the best option available. Look for cork, glazed organic cotton, paper, cardboard and barkcloth as the primary materials. Pleather is the retro name for vegan leather. Those outside the fashion set will refer to it this way.

The New Laws of Leather

Now that you can cut through the BS on a leather label, there are a few general guidelines you can follow to make ethical decisions in an industry that’s out to mislead you.

Some naysayers downplay fashion as frivolous or unimportant. They are wrong. Fashion can be presented as art, but when it’s boiled down to basics – it’s a common need of every human. Right now, fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil, and animal agriculture’s role in this is becoming increasingly important. Livestock make up 51% of all greenhouse gas emission (see Cowspiracy). All this said, there is massive potential for change-making in the industry if consumers demand ethical products, especially leather goods.

Fashion can be presented as art, but when it’s boiled down to basics – it’s a common need of every human.


Adhering to these new laws will keep you honest:

  • Always opt for vegan.
    •  Make the animal a non-issue.
    • Be sure to look for natural materials, with a preference on cork. Vintage, real leather is a better option than PVC or PU faux leather.
  • Watch out for greenwashing.
    • This is the sneaky way marketers tap into the eco trend by propping up their products as sustainable or animal friendly when they are not. Faux leather brands are prime offenders.
    • Be leery of “Made In” tags. This label guarantees only that a product was assembled in a designated location, not that it originated there. This can be a form of greenwashing because it sweeps the shipping and related carbon emissions involved in the supply chain under an eco-friendly label. 
  • Consider longevity.
    • If you’re going to wear the heck out of your purchase then vintage leather is a durable option. As long as you’re not morally opposed, choose real leather for these types of purchases. But, if you’re buying a trend piece, vegan leather makes more sense.
    • Vegan brands like Matt & Nat are rated surprisingly high for durability. Make your selections on a case-by-case basis.
  • Don’t buy it if you don’t need it.


Be leery of “Made In” tags. This label guarantees only that a product was assembled in a designated location, not that it originated there.


When it comes down to buying any kind of leather the details are wishy-washy. Consumers are stuck in the middle of the vintage vs faux war, forced to decide which is more important – earth or animals. The decision isn’t simple, but when it comes to ethics you can never go wrong with too much information.

...when it comes to ethics you can never go wrong with too much information.


Here are the leather brands doing it right: 

Do you know any I haven’t covered?

---------

About the Author: Kasi Martin is dedicated to making ethical standards in fashion mainstream. She is the creator of The Peahen, where she writes about brands, designers, issues and trends at the intersection of style and standards. Visit The Peahen blog here. 

References: World WatchEthical Fashion Forum (gated), Eluxe MagazineRefinery 29
Image Credit: Creative Commons via Robert Sheie on flickr; text and color editing added by me.

it's time to reduce our plastic consumption


Base photo: Plastic Pellets - "Nurdles" by gentlemanrook on flickr; used under Creative Commons license

This post was written by Hannah Baror-Padilla and originally appeared on Gold Polka Dots, an eco-conscious blog that focuses on ethical alternatives for fashion, beauty and food.
---------
Plastic has taken over every aspect of our lives and is affecting our health, animals and the environment. Over the last 10 years, we have produced more plastic than we had in the last century. Half of the plastic we use is only used once and thrown away. Throwing plastic away means it is either buried in landfills, remade into other products or lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea because it takes 500-1,000 years to degrade. When plastic “degrades” it breaks down into smaller fragments, but never goes away because plastic was made to be indestructible. And yes, this indestructible plastic is made with chemicals that we as well as animals ingest.
BPA, or Bisphenol, was originally created as a human birth control chemical in the early 1900’s, but banned because of its risks of causing cancer in women. However, in the 1950’s, scientists realized that BPA can be used to harden plastic to make it that much more durable. To this day, BPA is still used in baby bottles, water bottles, food packaging, cans and receipts. 93% of adults are contaminated with BPA. There have been studies on animals that show BPA affects hormone levels, causes brain and behavior problems, cancer, heart problems and other conditions like obesity, diabetes, ADHD. There is an increased risk in children because their bodies have a decreased ability to clear BPA from their systems.
In 2010, scientists revealed that the general population may suffer adverse health effects from current BPA levels. In 2012, the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, but the Environmental Working Group called the ban “”purely cosmetic” and said the FDA would have to ban BPA from all food packaging. The FDA continues to support the safety of BPA in food packaging...
---------

Read the rest and find additional resources on this topic at Gold Polka Dots.

behind the scenes: Liz Alig Fair Trade

liz alig's studio

This post was written by Julia of Fair-For-All Guide. The original post is available on her blog, here. Thanks for letting me share it, Julia!

---------

In an old farmhouse at an orchard east of Indianapolis is a hidden fashion design studio you’d never know was there. It’s the headquarters of Liz Alig, and a couple of weeks ago founder Elizabeth Roney invited me to visit the studio.

I had never been behind the scenes of any kind of fashion business, let alone a fair trade fashion company, so I came with tons of questions and left with a head full of knowledge (along with a bunch of food I bought at the adjacent country store).

Here are the biggest things I learned:

1. A small team can have a big impact. 


The first thing I was impressed to learn was that Liz Alig is only a two-person operation. Elizabeth, as designer and operations manager, designs the collections and handles the logistics of communicating with the fair trade producers. Liz Alig is focused on wholesale distribution through boutiques around the country, so Elizabeth has a part-time sales and marketing associate help with that end of things.

It was encouraging to see a small team make such a big impact. Through the work of just two people, Liz Alig provides opportunity to fair trade producers in several developing countries and offers conscious consumers an ethical and fashion-forward clothing option.

2. Design is a small part of the process. 


Elizabeth told me that the design part of being a fashion designer actually only takes up a fraction of her time. Liz Alig releases two collections a year, fall and spring, and each collection takes about two weeks to design. It takes another two weeks to create the patterns the producers will use to make the orders.

After creating the patterns, Elizabeth will make a sample of each piece and send it to the producer group, or more often, she will send the group the pattern and have them make the sample themselves with a sketch to guide them. “That way they understand more how the piece is assembled,” Elizabeth says.

The rest of Elizabeth’s time is spent working with the producer groups to make and receive the orders, which I learned has its own set of unique challenges.

3. Cultural miscommunication is a common occurrence. 


Liz Alig works with producer groups in Cambodia, India, Honduras, Haiti and more, and each group has different capabilities and resources. I asked about the language barrier, and Elizabeth said she frequently uses Google Translate to communicate with the different groups...

---------

To read the rest, check out the original post at Fair-For-All Guide here