Sustainability Journal | August 2020

Welcome to Sustainability Journal, where I document what I’m reading, learning, thinking, and doing in the sustainability space.

Personal update: What a month. We moved into a new home, and life is all kinds of chaotic: not knowing where things are, not knowing how to get places (grocery store? where is that?), and cats trying to get in every new nook and cranny they aren’t supposed to and causing mayhem. I haven’t baked sourdough, gone to the farmers market, or eaten at normal hours, so my routine feels pretty out of whack. We are still back and forth, picking up or donating any leftover things and taking care of the community garden as much as we can.

Through all of this, the overwhelming emotion I feel is guilt; guilt for even feeling busy and stressed (when we don’t have children, elderly, or sick family members to take care of), guilt for “falling out of my routine” being my biggest problem, guilt for moving into a bigger space, guilt for being able to buy a home while millions are out of jobs, etc. I’m trying hard to acknowledge the mental space I need, find nuggets of time to slow down, and channel these unproductive emotions of guilt and pity into gratitude and action. This probably sounds cheesy, but SO many people have been good to me in endless ways this past month, and that makes me wanna be a better human.

An individual action I’m focusing on at the moment: resisting the urge the buy. With ads and promo codes showing up literally at your door (“welcome to your new neighborhood! Here’s 20% off!”), it takes mighty will to not just go online and buy all the things. We have purchased a few things, and each has been a little bit of a mental struggle for me, the smallest/silliest being…some bathroom drawer dividers.

The vanity in the bathroom has one unconventionally sized drawer (wide and very shallow). I tried using shoe boxes or other organizers we already had to divvy up the space, but they were too tall. I then looked for secondhand dividers off Ebay and Mercari, but they were either too tall or not long enough. Next I tried making dividers from cardboard but worried they would get wet and moldy. After a week of digging through boxes to find things and stressing out…about stressing over something so insignificant (THE WORLD IS ON FIRE AND I JUST SPENT TWO HOURS LOOKING AT DRAWER DIVIDERS), I broke down and ordered some new ones online. Stupid example I know, but this is just where I am at right now. Consumerism is at work; you win some and lose some. 

A community action I’ve taken: helping to draft an equity framework at work. Many institutions are more earnestly thinking about and acting on diversity and equity than just a few months ago, so is my workplace. I volunteered to join a small drafting committee to solicit input and codify some of these thoughts into a more formal consensus document, and I learned much through the process. The framework was officially adopted, and I’m excited to be moving onto operationalizing this work next with my colleagues.

Where I sent my dollars: Amber Tamm, Maranda Miller, Black Trans Women Fund (linked to donation pages).

Amber Tamm is a Brooklyn-based black farmer and horticulturalist raising funds to buy land. Maranda is starting an eco-space in the Bronx to host pop-up markets and educational events on being low-waste and plastic-free. The Black Trans Women Fund was “started for a small community of Black Trans women living on the streets of Atlanta, many of whom are also sex workers.” With the project now raising nearly 3 million dollars, it has “grown into a unique opportunity to alleviate the chronic homelessness that exists among Trans people in Atlanta, especially among Black & brown Trans people.”

Book I’m reading:

Naomi Klein | The Battle for Paradise – Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists. Klein is a journalist known for working at the intersection of neoliberalism, environmentalism, capitalism, and globalization. This booklet documents the people, money, and exploitative forces attempting to take over Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and highlights how the community is organizing to fight back. 

A thing I’m enamored with: our new Little Free Library. I’ve wanted to build one in our old neighborhood forever, but procrastinated on fundraising. So you can imagine my excitement for discovering that there is already one on our new street! If you haven’t heard about The Little Free Library before – it is a global movement and network of book-sharing hutches. They are maintained by the community in which they are located, allowing the free exchange of books in over 100 countries. In fact, I got Naomi Klein’s book from the library the day we moved, and it’s now been returned for others’ reading pleasure!

More stuff you should check out:

(Header image: my favorite house in our old neighborhood. The front yard is on a steep slope but with a terraced garden, it is always blooming with different flowers during different times of the year. Feeling nostalgic just looking at it!)


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