IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO SAVE THE PLANET

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO SAVE THE PLANET

| The Importance of a Multi-Sectoral Approach to Climate Action |

Growing up in my Caribbean household, I often heard the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child.” Whilst 6-year-old Lauren may have taken this statement quite literally, the current young adult version of me has a much better grasp of the meaning behind this phrase. 

On one hand, to say that it takes a village to raise a child is to emphasize the importance of collaboration and teamwork in order to achieve the most beneficial results. On the other hand, this proverb also implies that in order for a child to grow up to be well-rounded and to have a full understanding of the world around them, they need to be exposed to a variety of values, lessons, and qualities that they can gain from their exposure to different types of people. 

The fact of the matter is that the sentiment that a project or task is much more successful when it involves collaboration from an array of perspectives and experiences is a universal concept that can be applied to just about anything in life, especially climate action.

Lately, I have been increasingly interested in understanding the need for interdisciplinary solutions when it comes to addressing the climate crisis, particularly with a heavy focus placed on creating channels of communication between diverse fields to encourage collaborative approaches. The issue that I have come to notice during my time as an advocate for sustainability is that most of the time, valuable information is certainly generated and even disseminated, but it is only dispersed amongst those already in the field. Those outside the boundaries of the field in question often have only a basic (if any) understanding of certain issues that could be critical when applied to another field. 

The more that we address the importance of intersectional climate action, namely focusing on inclusivity and acknowledging social justice issues in the sustainability space, the more we also need to recognize that climate justice requires a multi-sectoral approach. The tendency to attempt to fix such a multi-layered issue that expands over so many different fields without actually enforcing the collaboration and exchange of information and ideas within these fields is a large part of the reason why the climate agenda is far too stagnant. The most effective solution to a sustainability problem could lie in the combined knowledge of two or more fields but with information being so separated, even with the academic community, any collaboration is inefficient or worse, non-existent. 

With this desire for increased exchange of ideas and resources, I have been extremely grateful for social media platforms that are working to create these forums for education and discussion. As unfortunate as it is to say (both to my parents who are breaking the bank to finance me and for the American education system at large), I have probably learned more in the past two months on Instagram since I started The Eco Gal than I have in the past two years at my Ivy League university. Even further, I have been exposed to so many creators in fields that I never would have known before if I hadn’t been looking to learn more online. 

Beyond Instagram, social platforms like WONDR have been extremely helpful for me both in my personal journey to educate myself and to serve as an eye-opener that easy facilitation of information is not only possible but extremely effective! Since joining the app, I have been able to read more about the intersection between climate change and mental health and disabilities (which is honestly an intersection that I wasn’t aware of before) and I have been offered so many books and documentaries to read and watch to expand my own library of climate resources. I have also been able to create my own project on Intersectional Environmentalism that so many people have been able to read and learn from!

Apps like WONDR are so important to facilitate discussions and the exchange of information because they show how connected everything truly is and how much more there always is to learn. It’s so valuable for climate activists and mental health professionals or racial justice activists or refugee camp organizers to all be able to sit at the same table and work through these issues together. We all need to be a bit more open to learning more from each other and growing for the better from there.

ECO-FASCISM: WHEN ENVIRONMENTALISM MEETS WHITE SUPREMACY

ECO-FASCISM: WHEN ENVIRONMENTALISM MEETS WHITE SUPREMACY

As our society adapted in the wake of a global pandemic, various lessons emerged about what the COVID-19 response could (and could not) teach us about fighting climate change.

Tweet by @ThomasSchulz

In March 2020, a tweet by Thomas Shulz circulated on social media, namely Twitter, that explained that with humans locked away indoors, the planet improved. The original tweet wrote that air pollution had slowed down, water pollution had cleared, and natural wildlife had returned home. 

And, to a certain extent, this might have been true. 

For starters, there’s evidence in a report published by Carbon Brief that, at least temporarily, the lockdowns imposed due to COVID-19 cut global greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in China where emissions had dropped by at least 25% in February compared to the same period in 2019. 

Tweet by @Julian_Epp

Even before this tweet became a running joke exclaiming that unicorns and pizzas had finally returned to the environment, there was evidence that COVID-19 demonstrated the ability of the world to evolve in the face of a large and imminent threat. COVID-19 showed that it was definitely possible for people to change their behavior (something that climate activists have been trying to do for decades) and the shift to online services can have many climate benefits in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in years beyond the crisis.

Nonetheless, despite most environmentalists clearly stating that the social tragedy of coronavirus vastly outweighed any marginal environmental benefits, the narrative that the “Earth is better off now” and that we, humans, are killing the planet continued to go viral.

Here’s where the meme goes wrong.  

Jacqueline Klopp, co-director of the Earth Institute’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development at Columbia University, declared that COVID-19 should not be celebrated for its effects on the environment. It should serve as a warning.

She explained, “It is not constructive to treat the pandemic as a policy response in terms of [thinking] it’s helping us with our structural problems around emissions,” she said. “It’s a symptom of us not addressing our serious environmental and social problems.” 

Inger Anderson, Executive Director of United Nations Environmental Protection, furthered that the pandemic should not be praised by explaining that people fail to recognize that the virus “will also result in an increase in the amounts of medical and hazardous waste generated and this is no one’s model of environmental response, least of all an environmentalist’s.”

Inger Anderson, Executive Director of United Nations Environmental Protection

Aside from the error in seeing a pandemic as the cure for our climate issues, there is also an issue with viewing humans as the virus killing the planet since the reality is that we aren’t as separate from nature as we would like to lead ourselves to believe. 

It’s important to recognize that our actions such as dredging oil, agricultural failures, pollution, and over-cultivation (to name a few) all threaten to upend our world and everything in it – and that includes us. In fact, each molecule of excess carbon into the atmosphere or single-use plastic straw that ends up in the ocean ties our fate ever tighter to that of the planet.

Thus, saying that “we’re the virus” throws all of that out of the window. It erases our agency. It discards the fact that now, more than ever before, we need to acknowledge our partnership with the planet and that we are just as much a part of nature as the biodiversity that we are so desperately trying to save. 

Even further, the notion that COVID-19 “helped the planet” is misplaced and potentially harmful because labeling COVID-19 as a “cure” can distract attention away from bigger policy solutions and, in some more extreme cases, potentially tread dangerously close to authoritarian ideologies such as eco-fascism. 

Eco-fascism is defined as a totalitarian ideology that advocates for authoritarian governance for the greater environmental good. Those who ascribe to eco-fascist philosophies are usually in favor of Malthusian ideas of human population control — often in the most marginalized communities — as a means to preserve the planet. Therefore, minimizing or even encouraging human death and suffering to help the environment is an excellent example of this dark ideology that is perpetuated by the “coronavirus is good for the planet” rhetoric.  

Returning to the tweet, there has been some push back that recognizes the eco-fascist undertones of the meme with one user responding replying: “The problem is not people – that’s some ecofash [idea] that leads to genocide.” In response, the author of the tweet wrote “My intention was to show that there’s some positive in this incredibly bad and dark situation.” He clarified, “I am NOT saying all humans should die.”

And although most of those amplifying the original message would likely agree with the author’s sentiments and intent, this does not take away from the fact that such philosophies on the relationship between humanity and nature have coexisted with environmental activism for decades (and will continue to surface unless they are adequately addressed). 

In Sienna Garcia’s Grist article We’re the virus’: The pandemic is bringing out environmentalism’s dark side, she highlights that fighting overpopulation for the sake of conserving Earth’s resources became a mainstream preoccupation in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. Garcia adds that Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book The Population Bomb warned society of mass food insecurity as people “overwhelmed the Earth’s resources” and he recommended sterilization as part of the solution. Even further, Garrett Hardin, an influential environmentalist, suggested against food aid during famines, arguing that if poorer governments could not feed their populations then it would be in the best interest of the planet’s resources to let them starve. 

“The Population Bomb” by Paul R. Ehrlich, published 1968

Thus, the seemingly benign narrative that intends to optimistically highlight the benefits of human absence on the planet by declaring that “we are the virus” echoes the disturbing eco-fascist perceptions of humans as a disease that needs to be cleansed. Beyond the implications for genocide and sterilization, there is also evident racism and classism as human impacts on the planet are not evenly distributed as every person does not have the same access to resources. For this reason, it is not fair to justify overpopulation control, often in poorer regions, as a means to benefit the planet as this shifts responsibility away from the role that the wealthiest countries and corporations play in causing climate change. Thus, whilst poorer black and brown communities contribute the least to climate change and often experience the most of the harmful effects, ⁣they will be the ones most likely to suffer as they make the easiest targets. 

To this end, it is essential to recognize the potential harm and divisiveness of our narratives that humans are “trash” and that the planet would be much better off without us. Instead of using COVID-19 as a means to encourage the minimization of human populations for the sake of the planet, focus those efforts for optimism onto what COVD-19 teaches about the possibility of mobilization and large-scale change for future climate efforts. Let COVID-19 spark the hope that society will be able to learn from this, grow from this, and rebuild as a global community. 

I will leave you with the words of Thich Nhat Hanh from his 2014 Statement on Climate Change for the UN (who summed this up far more eloquently than I ever could):

“Our love and admiration for the Earth have the power to unite us and remove all boundaries, separation, and discrimination. Centuries of individualism and competition have brought about tremendous destruction and alienation. We need to re-establish true communication–true communion–with ourselves, with the Earth, and with one another as children of the same mother. We need more than new technology to protect the planet. We need real community and co-operation.”

HOW TO PREPARE FOR HURRICANE SEASON

HOW TO PREPARE FOR HURRICANE SEASON

The increased frequency and strength of natural disasters is a textbook consequence of our changing climate. 

For those who live on small island developing states (SIDS) like The Bahamas, we have witnessed first hand the destruction that Category 5 hurricanes like Matthew and Dorian can cause, especially when they occur back-to-back. Thus, with hurricane season rapidly approaching, it seems fitting to provide some advice to protect our safety and wellbeing, as well as potential ideas for eco-friendly hurricane preparedness (whenever possible!). 

GETTING READY!

Make A Plan

If you live in a low-lying area where evacuation may be necessary, make sure that you know ahead of time the location of your nearest hurricane shelter (list for all islands of The Bahamas attached here) and how you will get there. It can be a good idea to create a single point-of-contact for all family members and, if you have pets, have a plan for their evacuation as well.

Know Your Emergency Numbers

Grand Bahama:

  • Hospital – 352-6735
  • Ambulance – 352-2689
  • Fire – 919
  • Fire (Freeport) – 352-8888
  • Fire (Eight Mile Rock & West End) – 348-34444
  • BASRA – 322-3877 OR 325-8864
  • Police (Freeport) – 919
  • Police (Eight Mile Rock) 348-6444
  • Police (West End) 346-6444
  • Electrical Power Outage – 352-8411
  • Electrical Power Outage (Eight Mile Rock & West End) 348-2345
  • Water (Freeport) – 352-8411
  • Telephone Repairs – 914

Nassau:

  • Hospital – 322-2861
  • Ambulance – 322-2861
  • Air Ambulance – 327-7077
  • Fire – 919
  • BASRA – 646-6395 OR 359-4888
  • Police – 911, 919 OR 322-4444
  • Electrical Power Outage – 323-5561/4
  • Water & Sewerage 24 hrs – 325-0505 OR 325-4505

Abaco Islands:

  • Ambulance: 367-2911 ; 359-6282
  • Police – Marsh Harbour: 367-2560; 367-3437 ; 919
  • Police – Hope Town: 366-0667
  • Police – Man-O-War: 365-6911
  • Police – Treasure Cay: 365-8048
  • Police – Green Turtle Cay: 365-4133
  • Abaco Family Medicine: 367-2295
  • Abaco Medi-Center: 367-7999
  • Fire – Marsh Harbour: 367-2000; 367-3752
  • Fire – Hope Town: 366-0549
  • Fire – Green Turtle Cay: 365-4019
  • Fire – Guana Cay: 365-5178
  • Fire – Man-O-War: 365-4019
  • Fire – Treasure Cay: 365-9111; 365-8919
  • BASRA: 475-1389 ; 366-0549

Prepare An Emergency Kit

Make sure that you gather all of your essentials – flashlights, a portable radio, extra batteries, non-perishable food, bottled water, cash, blankets, clothing, first-aid kit, and toiletries.

Secure the Exterior

To prevent loss of life and property damage, secure your outside area as much as possible. This can entail trimming large trees and shrubs and bringing all outside furniture, potted plants, and bikes indoors. Move cars to higher ground or park them in your garage against the garage doors. Do not park under trees, power lines, or in low-lying areas. If necessary, make sure to secure outdoor sculptures with burlap or blankets tied with rope.

Seal Your Windows

Protect your windows and doors with appropriate shutters or impact-resistant glass. You can also nail pieces of plywood (or another material such as pallets (DIY storm shutter tutorial video)) to window frames as an alternative means of protection.

Power Up

Thorfire Hand Crank Solar Powered Rechargeable Flashlight

Make sure that your car has a full tank of gas in the event of an emergency. Also, make sure that you charge your cell phone and other devices ahead of time, test your generator, and have fuel-ready in case of power outages.

Secure Important Documents

As a good rule of thumb, remember to keep copies of important documents such as birth certificates, passports, and insurance cards in something waterproofs like Pridegreen Biodegradable zip lock bags and upload electronic copies to your device Cloud ahead of time. 

ECO-FRIENDLY IDEAS (if possible)!

Hurricane Season is already a stressful enough time as it is, even without the added element of making your preparations more sustainable. Thus, there is absolutely no pressure to make your hurricane preparedness more eco-friendly, however, if this is something that is accessible for you or if you’re simply just curious, here are a few ideas! 

Water

Sources recommend you have a three day supply of water on hand for every person in your household. That means about three gallons of water per person, to use for drinking and cleaning. To be more sustainable, rather than buy cases of plastic water bottles, fill up gallon-sized water jugs with filtered tap water. You can also use pitchers, thermoses, large water bottles, and even cooking pots.

Food

Buy snacks and other non-perishables in larger containers instead of single-serve to eliminate some unnecessary waste. Also, when thinking about what to buy, get non-perishables that you would normally eat to ensure that food gets eaten even after the power outage and doesn’t go to waste. 

Essentials

Although I normally wouldn’t advocate for paper materials, it can be far too much to wash dishes or clean rags during an extended power outage, especially if you need to conserve water. Therefore, try to look for paper plates made with recycled content, or invest in some plates made from sugarcane byproducts. Also, use reusable cups.

Eco-Friendly Items to Include in Your Emergency Kit

This article by Eco Warrior Princess includes a list of eco-friendly items to consider adding to your emergency kit including (but not limited to): hand-crank chargers, eco-friendly first aid kits, and a solar generator. A similar list was created by Kathryn, Going Zero Waste. 

If you have any questions or other tips or ideas that you think should be added to this list, feel free to reach out to me at theecogal@gmail.com. Stay safe everyone!

WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

| An Introduction to Sustainable Eating |

For something that is such an essential part of our everyday lives, figuring out the right things to eat can be really complicated – especially once you bring sustainability into the equation.

Veganism and vegetarianism tend to be considered the end-all-be-all of sustainable diets. This assumption, however, completely ignores the nuance and complexity of what sustainable eating actually entails.

Think about it. You can become vegetarian or vegan and end your search for sustainability there since these diets contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions but sustainability is about more than just the environment!

In my class last year called Ecological and Social Systems for Sustainable Development (second time referencing this class because it’s my favorite Columbia class by far!!), we had an assignment to create our version of a sustainable dinner and it was hard

Here’s the article published in the Washington Post about our assignment, if you’re interested. 

We found that there’s so much that goes into picking a sustainable meal and it extends far beyond environmental impacts. On the economic side of things, you have to be able to afford your diet otherwise you won’t be able to maintain it. Similarly, there’s also an element of social sustainability since you should be able to enjoy what you’re eating and it should provide the nutrients that your body needs! 

So then, what’s for dinner? 

A complex and layered question like this one requires an equally nuanced answer. Let’s tackle this issue in sections, shall we?

Healthy Eating

In order to practice sustainable eating, one must first ensure that their meals are satisfying, balanced, provide health benefits, and provide the required nutrients for the human body to function effectively. A diet that lacks the necessary nutrients or consists of harmful ingredients can lead to long term adverse health impacts, such as noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes. Negative diets are high in calories, added sugars, saturated fats, processed foods, and red meats, whereas positive diets consist of a diversity of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal source foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats. 

According to the Eat-Lancet Commission Report, humans should be eating a balanced meal that consists of 2,500 kcal per day. The healthy reference diet in the report lists fruits and vegetables (204 kcal/day), whole grains (811 kcal per day), dairy foods (153 kcal per day), protein sources (approx. 730 kcal per day), added fats (450 kcal/day), and added sugars (120 kcal/day). Although the report asserts that “the optimal energy intake to maintain a healthy weight will depend on body size and level of physical activity”, implying that the numbers given for calorie intake may vary, it does provide a good foundation upon which to build a personal diet. 

Ethical Purchasing

It’s not just about what you eat but also how it’s produced. It is important to consider fair wages, labor practices, and fair trade in discussions about sustainable eating. With this in mind, although it can be expensive, one can try to purchase fair trade items when possible as a means to promote fair practices for the people involved in the production process. Purchasing locally can also be an opportunity to get to know your local farmers, foster a sense of community, and speak to the farmer about the practices on their farm. 

Working With Your Budget (And Yourself)

Creating a sustainable meal means absolutely nothing if one cannot afford to maintain it and if it does not taste good enough for one to want to eat it again. Therefore, trying to work on a budget that is fiscally responsible and looking for new, interesting recipes or incorporating some favorite foods into a sustainable diet are great ways to make sustainable eating a lot more enjoyable. Sustainable eating should not always feel like a task or a chore as this is ineffective in the long run because most people will begin to feel helpless and quit. If it does, there are probably other ways to do it that do not leave one broke, hungry, and miserable. Also, a large part of sustainable eating on the part of the consumer is the effort that they put in so “cheat meals” (possibly unhealthy or not as good for the environment) to raise morale are greatly encouraged. 

Environmental Sustainability

Whilst understanding how to build a diet that is nutritionally beneficial, it is also important to note that diets that are harmful to the human body can also have negative impacts on the environment. These are known as “lose-lose” diets. Let us say, for example, one was to eat a diet that was very rich in red meat. Not only does red meat increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease, but it can also create more negative health impacts due to the air pollution created by biomass burning from agriculture and land clearing. Further environmentally detrimental effects include loss of biodiversity, extreme weather conditions/events, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, water insecurity, destruction of ecosystems, and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. All of these environmental and social impacts also lead to the occurrence of overall food insecurity and the socio-economic effects that are associated with this. Thus, it is important to understand how interconnected food systems are with social, economic, environmental impacts in order to fully understand the extent to which our dietary decisions can impact greater global systems. 

To address the environmental impacts of unsustainable eating, it is essential to note that sustainable food production should (ideally) refrain from using additional land, safeguard existing biodiversity, reduce consumptive water use and nitrogen/phosphorus pollution, produce zero carbon dioxide emissions, and seek to avoid increasing methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Although it is probably unrealistic to attempt to tackle all of these large issues at once, trying to eat organically and buy locally when possible can be a good, easy place to start if your budget allows for it. Not only can organic food be healthier and safer to consume, but the lack of pesticides and chemicals in production can help to keep water sources clean by avoiding agricultural run-off and reducing the overall water consumption. Attempting to reduce as much waste as possible is another good way to try to be more sustainable. This can be food waste (by buying only the amount of food that you plan on eating and won’t throw away), plastic waste from packaging, and energy and water waste during food preparation.

Final Thoughts

Sustainable eating is a difficult issue to try to tackle due to the complexity of food systems. Buying organic, for example, may seem like the perfect solution to sustainability, but then there are always so many other factors to consider. Of the light that I have shed on this issue, I think that the most feasible solutions to sustainable eating are attempts to create a delicious, nutritionally balanced meal that limits emissions, when possible, and waste (particularly the consumer’s food, water, and energy waste) and is affordable. It’s also important to understand that sustainable eating can be about give-and-take (maybe you’re more sustainable in some areas than you are in others!) 
It’s completely understandable that it can be daunting for the consumer to monitor all of the factors during the production process that they take no part in but it can still make a difference to attempt to be sustainable in the areas that they have control over, such as their own waste, grocery selections, and money spent. At the end of the day, there must be a bigger push for the responsible parties in the production process to put the most sustainable ingredients possible on the shelves, rather than expecting a consumer to be held fully accountable in global sustainability for the items they purchase.

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (ONCE)

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (ONCE)

| How Fast Fashion is Destroying the Planet and What We Can Do About It |

The fear of outfit repeating is ingrained in many young women at an early age. Growing up, I can vividly recall TV show and movie characters facing ridicule for being caught at an event in familiar attire and popular magazine headlines shaming celebrities for re-wearing an iconic dress. Worst of all, when I first heard the infamous line “Lizzie Mcguire, you’re an outfit repeater” in the 5th grade, I immediately understood the taboo and vowed to never incur the same tragic and humiliating fate as our on-screen Disney fav.

Since then, I’ve internalized the idea that I need to buy a new outfit for every event in order to prevent such a fashion faux-pas. Even outside of my social life, content creators, especially Instagram fashion bloggers, are constantly aware of the need to put out new and varied posts. The desire to remain “fresh” generally means avoiding the same clothing in every photo and attempting to make every day of your life look different from but still just as exciting as the day before. 

Nonetheless, buying cheap comes at a high cost. By trying to stay trendy, I found myself repeatedly thinking “I can’t wear that shirt again, it’s already on my Instagram!” or staring at mountains of clothes thrown across my bedroom floor and complaining “I have absolutely nothing to wear!” 

And so began the cycle of buying new clothes and relegating my old ones to the back of my closet. 

For the past few years, my shopping habits have consisted of everything that I have now come to despise about the clothing industry. I didn’t shop ethically, I didn’t shop for quality, and I definitely didn’t shop consciously!

The problem is, most buyers are completely blind to the damaging consequences that they’re supporting, and thus, being a consumer in the era of fast fashion gives the term “fashion victim” a whole new meaning. 

What Is Fast Fashion, Anyway?

Sounds a lot like fast food, doesn’t it? Honestly, they’re not too different – cheap, quick, and probably of questionable quality. 

By definition, fast fashion is “inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers”. Essentially, fast fashion is the industry’s response to consumers who want high fashion at a low cost – the best way for shoppers to get the largest quantity of trendy clothes for the least amount of money. 

So, how did fast fashion manage to take over our closets without us noticing? 

Whilst fast fashion may have begun as a way to “appease the consumer”, it has since expanded into a way for brands to line their own pockets. Instead of replenishing their stocks of older clothing items, fast fashion brands feed into the consumer mentality by replacing older items with new items of a different style. This makes our current clothes appear to be off-trend and leads us right back to the mall, credit card in hand, to purchase new items. 

The Dark Side of The Fashion Industry

In order to quickly get enormous quantities of clothing from a factory and into your shopping cart, many fashion companies rely on sweatshop workers, child labor, or slave labor in less developed nations with lenient labor laws. 

The exploitation of labor in the fashion industry is a lot more common than many realize. In Bangladesh, most workers earn $64 per month, a wage far below the cost of living. For further perspective, a shirt that a consumer buys for $50 was most likely produced by someone who received around $0.60 to make it. 

Sweatshop workers are also exposed to harmful carcinogens/chemicals and many women face sexual harassment, discrimination, and are refused maternity leave. If those conditions aren’t enough to make you reconsider the brands you support, since 1990, more than 400 workers have died in sweatshops and thousands have been injured including children, due to factory fires. 

But wait, there’s more! Not only are fashion brands putting human lives at risk to make these products, but since brands are constantly hunting for new trends, they often steal or copy ideas from smaller creators (without giving credit) in order to stay relevant. 

Environmental Costs

In addition to the social implications of fast fashion, there are also very serious environmental costs. 

Because fast fashion is so cheap and “disposable”, many consumers throw their clothes away at enormous rates. In the United States, 5% of all landfill waste comes from textiles and the average U.S. citizen throws away 70 pounds of clothing every year. 

The textile industry also emits more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and aviation combined, with some reports claiming that it is the second dirtiest industry in the world. This industry also uses large quantities of water and electricity in order to create their products. Further, chemical waste from textile factories is dumped into streams, water supplies, and the soil of nearby areas which harms ecosystems and contributes to global pollution.

Creating The New Normal

Now that you know what’s wrong with the fast fashion industry, what are you going to do about it?

The easy answer is to stop giving business to fast fashion brands altogether but this isn’t accessible or economically feasible for everyone. Some people don’t have access to thrift stores in their city or cannot afford ethical brands, but there are still other ways to build a more sustainable closet!

image by @navarose

Changing your habits!

First, and foremost, stop throwing so many clothes away! A rip in your favorite pair of jeans or a stain on your favorite t-shirt doesn’t have to be the end of the world! There are lots of ways to repair damaged clothing and many DIY videos online that will show you just how to do it! Even when you feel like your clothes are past the point of wear, those textiles can still be used to create a dish rag or other household items! Lastly, before donating, try to find a home for your clothes! Maybe give them away to friends or sell them online. There is no guarantee that the company to which you’re donating your clothes will be able to find a new owner and those clothes might still end up in a landfill anyway.

Choose Second Hand!

If you have thrift or vintage stores in your area, this can be a great way to shop more sustainably because you aren’t supporting the production of new items! If you don’t have thrift or vintage stores in your area, you can also do it online with websites like Depop or other second-hand online stores like Poshmark! There are, however, some clothes that you need to try on and some things you just shouldn’t buy second hand (like underwear!) which brings me to my next point…

Invest in Ethical Fashion Brands

When it comes to ethical fashion brands, it’s all about quality over quantity. It’s important to know ahead of time, however, that you can’t expect fast-fashion prices without the fast-fashion impacts. Thus, ethical stores can be pricey sometimes. Here are some directories of ethical brands that are stylish and affordable to look into: 

Some more options provided by sustainable fashion blogger, Ezaura

Buy Local

Another option to reduce the consequences of fast fashion is to buy clothing produced in your country. These clothes may not necessarily be ethically made but at least you’re supporting your local economy AND it’s a more eco-friendly option that reduces transportation costs. 

Final Thoughts

image from @thesustainablefashionforum

At the end of the day, if fast fashion is the only shopping you can afford, that’s okay too! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying something that you need from the only accessible option. My hope now, however, is that you are more aware and can be more conscious of how much you are buying from these stores and maybe make sure you get the full wear out of the clothes that you buy!

If you want more information on this topic, I strongly recommend watching the Fast Fashion documentary The True Costs on Netflix. 

Hopefully if we, as consumers, are armed with the knowledge of how fast fashion works and everything that needs to be fixed, we can be the ones to change not only just the fashion industry but also the way that our society views clothing.

LET’S TALK ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY, BABY!

LET’S TALK ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY, BABY!

| Easy Advice for Young People on Getting Involved with Climate Action |

When you’re constantly bombarded with scary stories of wildfires, natural disasters, and the potential impending apocalypse, it can be really daunting to think about getting involved with climate change or to believe that your actions can make any difference. Although monumental change may seem out of our grasp, there are still a lot of things that we can all do to help! 

A big part of the reason why I built this platform was to raise awareness about sustainability, especially within the Bahamian community and among young people. As cheesy as it may sound to say (forgive me), young people really are the future and we’re going to have to be the ones to use our knowledge, innovation, and talents to be the changes that we want to see. 

So, if you’re looking for a starter guide on living a more sustainable lifestyle or advice on getting involved in your community, you’re in the right place. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have to be as big of a chore as you might think!

Educate Yourself!

This may seem like a given answer but you will be surprised at the power of learning! One of the main problems surrounding the climate agenda isn’t only the fact that people don’t care about it but it’s also that people don’t know enough to understand why they should care. Read some blogs, keep up to date with current events, or maybe even follow some pages or hashtags on social media that discuss sustainability (there are a lot out there)! I think that you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the wealth of information online on this topic and, even further, the more that you learn, the more that you will be able to spread the word and educate others.

Join a Club!

If you’re a student, there is more than likely a sustainability or eco-friendly club at your school (shoutout Columbia EcoReps! @columbia.ecoreps). Those will be the places where you can further your educational journey and get involved with organizing fundraisers or demonstrations or events to help to spread the word across your campus. Even if you don’t want to commit to joining the club full time, go to some of their events! It doesn’t hurt to show up and have an open-mind to see what the club has to offer. If you are not on a school campus, there still may be organizations in your city that you can join (check out Keep Grand Bahama Clean!) that host sustainability events and promote making a difference in your community. 

Make Some Changes to Your Diet!

I know this is going to be the topic where people start to tune out but PLEASE HEAR ME OUT! Nobody (least of all me!) is telling you that you have to stop eating meat and dairy altogether. Even in my friend groups where I make jokes about my vegetarianism, I’ll never be one to force people to go vegan or vegetarian. I’m also not telling you to break the bank by completely changing your diet because I know that may not be easily accessible for everyone. At the end of the day, your body and your pockets are entirely up to you!

With that disclaimer out of the way, what I am encouraging, however, is for people to at least be a lot more open-minded about the millions of great plant-based (and affordable) alternatives that you can look into! There have been so many occasions where I have gotten my friends to try vegan BeyondMeat burgers and, after pushing aside their skepticism, they loved them and couldn’t even tell the difference! So, reducing your meat/dairy consumption could be as simple as opting for plant based alternatives one day a week (like a meatless monday), not eating meat with one of your meals in the day, or maybe just trying out some cool vegan recipes in your spare time (definitely recommend Tabitha Brown, she’s a queen!) 

Conscious Consumerism! 

Re-thinking some of your shopping choices is a super easy way to get involved in climate action. Again, I’m not telling anyone to turn their shopping habits completely upside down or begin purchasing in a manner out of their means. There are, however, a few ways to just be a bit more conscious about the impacts of your shopping choices on the planet! A few of my suggestions include: avoiding buying in bulk to limit waste, buying less items and finding innovative ways to reuse and revamp the items that you already own, and being a bit more picky about the places that you choose to support and give your money (fast fashion brands, I’m talking to you).

Make It Fun!

Whoever created the myth that sustainability has to be boring… I just want to talk. The idea that sustainable living or eco-friendly climate action has to be inconvenient and tedious could not be further from the truth. There are so many great ways that sustainability can be made fun! Think about going on bike rides or carpooling with your friends, or organizing a fun beach clean up party (like Hot Girl Meg has shown us is definitely possible). Be creative and find ways to clean the planet or reduce your environmental footprint that don’t feel like a chore!

All in all, there are so many fun and simple ways for young people to get involved in climate action. It’s very important to recognize that we can all make a difference and to throw away the destructive idea that our contributions are too insignificant so we shouldn’t even try at all. Consider incorporating some of these tips into your everyday lives and see what a great change you can make not only in your own life but also in your communities!

“BUT WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ME?”

“BUT WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ME?”

| Debunking The Myth that Climate Change ‘Isn’t Your Problem’ |

One of the greatest challenges of the climate agenda is getting people to care about it. 

In one of my Sustainable Development courses last year, we concluded that the most successful climate initiatives are the ones that appeal to the target population’s priorities.

Here’s an example. 

Let’s say that a group of conversationalists urged someone to stop eating red meat by explaining that the meat production industry contributes to climate emissions and excess waste. For anyone uninterested in sustainability, those words probably won’t mean anything and that whole heartfelt spiel about saving the planet will more than likely go through one ear and out the other. On the flip side, however, if a doctor explained to that same person that eating red meat leads to an increased risk of heart disease, they may be much more inclined to remove red meat from their diet. 

Different approach. Same result. 

That’s because, believe it or not, humans are wired to care about things. We care about our wellbeing, our loved ones, our hobbies, and pretty much anything else that piques our interests. So why don’t we care about the planet?

The short (and frank) answer: because we don’t see the need to. 

When it comes to climate change, especially if you don’t live somewhere where the consequences are visible, it’s easy for people to sit back and pretend like nothing’s happening, for them to relax and label the “green movement” as someone else’s problem that won’t ever affect them. 

And this couldn’t be further from the truth.

What many fail to realize is that the consequences of climate change extend far beyond the stereotypical rising temperatures, environmental degradation, and harm to ecosystems. Beyond impacts to the environment, there are also very serious social implications that stem from climate change and adversely affect people around the world.  

So, even if you don’t really care about the environment, here are five ways that climate change can impact your life that will (hopefully) turn some of the most apathetic of global citizens into potential climate allies. 

Natural Disasters

An increase in the frequency and strength of natural disasters is a textbook consequence of our changing climate. For those who live on small island developing states (SIDS) like The Bahamas, we have noticed first hand the destruction that Category 5 hurricanes like Matthew and Dorian can cause, especially when they occur back-to-back. Thus, as climate change becomes an increasing problem, nations that are vulnerable to disasters will not only experience the economic repercussions (as Grand Bahama has seen through the stagnancy of the tourism industry and businesses that have not recovered), but also property loss and casualties. 

Refugees and Displacement

Continuing with island nations, coastal communities are extremely susceptible to population displacement. As sea levels rise, many people will be forced to evacuate their homes and certain nations, like The Maldives, are already experiencing a crisis wherein the entire country may become uninhabitable in the next 30 years. Rising sea levels, however, are not the only potential cause for displacement. Climate impacts such as heat waves, drought, and water/food scarcity are all reasons why people in many places around the world have been forcefully displaced.

Health and Disease

One of the climate impacts that is often neglected in the climate conversation is human health. As temperatures rise, there is an increased risk of heat stroke, especially for vulnerable populations who have pre-existing health conditions or lack economic access to air conditioning. Further, health impacts like asthma attacks and respiratory diseases are common health consequences that arise from air pollution and hazards like sandstorms. Warmer global climates also lead to an increased prevalence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever as mosquitoes thrive in hotter climates. 

Food Security

Erratic precipitation, or a lack of rainfall altogether, can negatively impact the agricultural industry. This is a detrimental consequence not only for small farmers who utilize farming for subsistence or to accumulate revenue, but it also impacts the food industry at large. As the nation’s biggest food providers experience decreased crop yields, many people across the globe will suffer, leading to a potential displacement crisis or large scale famine. 

The Global Economy

In addition to the economic impacts illustrated in the agricultural industry, other areas such as fisheries, energy, insurance, tourism, and small businesses (and many more!) can also be sensitive to the market shifts that occur due to changes in climate. As a result, this disturbs the livelihoods of people who rely on these industries as a source of income and decreases their quality of life.

As environmentalists, we have to be realistic with ourselves and understand that not everyone is going to feel the same tug at their heartstrings about loss of biodiversity and dying ecosystems that we do. 

And that’s okay. 

Contrary to what people might tell you, there are no “right or wrong” motivations for caring about climate change. Whether you care about saving marine environments or whether you care about preventing your family from starvation, the reality of the matter is that your actions can still make a difference. The main point is to recognize that climate change is just as much your problem as it is anyone else’s and that means that you have a stake in helping to find the solution. 

A LETTER TO THE READER

A LETTER TO THE READER

Dear Reader, 

Welcome to my blog about everything sustainability! 

My name is Lauren and I’m from Grand Bahama in The Bahamas. I am currently a rising junior at Columbia University in New York City studying Sustainable Development and Political Science with the hope of one day working with the United Nations or non-governmental organizations on international policy-making for sustainability issues (quite the mouthful, I know!). 

For as long as I can remember, eco-friendly living has been a huge passion of mine. From a very young age, I have always been super interested in learning more about social and environmental issues, especially the ones occurring right on my front doorstep. As I left the comfort of my island and ventured out into the “real(er) world” of university and living in the “Big Apple”, I found myself increasingly drawn into sustainability and I craved new and innovative ways to learn more and more about this growing passion of mine. 

The further I delved into the eco-community, however, the more apparent it became that there was a severe lack of engagement from not only young people but also from people of color, namely Caribbean people, in the climate conversation. Realizing the grave disconnect between those around me and the field of sustainability, I began to feel a sense of responsibility to share the information that I was learning in my classes (and from the copious hours spent scouring environmental blogs like this one) with anyone who would listen. Nevertheless, what first began as me simply sharing sustainability content on my Instagram stories and pestering my friends about my amusing journey into vegetarianism has since expanded into this new, and exciting, platform to share my ideas and tips with a wider audience: The Eco Gal

I have a lot of things to say about topics ranging anywhere from unpacking the role of sustainability in the fashion and beauty industries to understanding sustainable eating and my ideas on living a more environmentally and socially conscious lifestyle. So, with all of that being said, I hope that you’ll enjoy joining me as I embark on this new adventure and dive (head first) into this new chapter of blogging and sharing my passion for sustainability with all of you. Thanks for reading and I’m super excited to bring you along with me for the ride! 

Stay tuned for my new posts every Friday (hopefully lol)!

Until next time, 

Lauren, The Eco Gal