STORIES FROM THE SISTERHOOD - DISCUSSING SUSTAINABILITY
25 August 2020 - Posted by The Sisterhood of Sustainability
We've always believed in community over competition and today we're giving three beautiful women from our Sisterhood Community the opportunity to share their stories and sustainable living journeys...
THE SUSTAINABLE STORY OF CHRISTINE
I’m a born-again sustainability activist living in the Inner West suburbs of Sydney. I grew up in Cronulla in Sydney’s south and spent lots of time at the beach or at my Nanna’s house where we would catch crabs and lobsters in traps from her wharf. My brothers and I would often spend many hours playing Yahtzee with her, looking out her big bay windows watching the ferries come and go and people swimming around Gunnamatta Bay.
Many years later when I got my licence, we would squish into my rickety small Suzuki Swift and drive through the Royal National Park to the swimming holes and scattered golden sandy beaches, shaking all the way down the rocky dirt tracks from the main road. A natural connection with water was instilled in me from birth that I carry with me to this day. My grades never got me into university, but then again, I did not want to go. From the Whitsundays to London, I spent several years travelling the world and working in the media industry including radio, TV, print, digital and social media. In 2018 whilst on a soul-seeking trip to India, and after weeks of seeing both human and animal suffering and a devastating amount of waste, I had my lightbulb moment – I was to dedicate my life to somehow, in some way, create a more sustainable earth for all beings. So, on a dusty rooftop in the Rajasthani desert I applied to become a student at Sydney University in the Faculty of Science.
That year I left my media job selling fast food coupons to kids on Facebook and got a digital job at my local council. With a more mature approach to work, and a loyalty to my new commitment, I threw myself into utilising the mediums at hand to promote environmentally friendly messages to my community .
At the time the ABC’s War On Waste program was stirring up public distress over our use of plastic straws. Out of rage over lack of change at my local cafes, I created a business offering wholesale biodegradable drinking straws called RAWW Straws which I continue run from my home office. We now have clients all around Australis. My full-time job is a 7min cycle away at the Sydney Environment Institute, a multidisciplinary research institute at the University of Sydney. My role as Communications and Project Officer sees me managing website content, running all social channels and pitching vital research outputs to media so that the wider community can be educated. It’s a real honour to be able to work with academics on their projects that focus on indigenous knowledges and practices, multispecies justice, and the intersection of performing arts and environmental humanities. Working in such a stimulating environment with such inspiring thinkers has really stirred in me an excitement and hope for a more sustainable future.
If my head’s not in a book you can often spot me walking around my neighbourhood with Dexter, my 11-yr-old Jack Russell, at the local pub watching the footy and drinking craft beers with my partner, or completing my Masters of Sustainability Climate Policy online with Curtin University. As I approach my 32nd birthday I realise that I have only taken a few small steps into my new life with purpose. I’m really interested in how technology can assist us to live smarter and am inspired by the whole ‘smart cities’ movement happening around the world. As most electricity is still generated from coal, I’m very conscious of my use at home. We have installed smart globes with sensors throughout our house so if it’s after 6pm and you walk into a room, a light will turn on. And when you leave the room you can command the light to ‘turn off’ with your voice or, after a few minutes, the sensor will detect you’re not there and turn off. This is great for when I’m running around with my hands full and can’t reach the switch but more importantly, it means there’s very little electricity wasted. We’ve also switched to a green electricity provider and are always on the lookout for companies that perform better and have higher sustainability targets. With technology rapidly changing the market, it’s important to be open to changing to more sustainable utility providers even if it means a bit of extra paperwork.
It’s really encouraging to see online groups such as The Sisterhood of Sustainability form and flourish. With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing us all online it’s becoming less intimidating to approach new people from all over the world. A simple photo of a strawberry patch in your garden or a request for natural cleaning tips can spark up conversation with people whom you’d never interact with in the real world. It’s these networks that we can come to for support and celebrate wins as women and as caretakers of this earth. It would be great to see this group share knowledge and discover ways to collaborate in ways that have not been done before.
I believe the most pressing issue of our current time is being able to comprehend the magnitude of the impact our fossil-fuel and plastic dependant lifestyles are having on the planet. It’s too confronting to look the consequence straight in the eye and while we know what we are doing, myself included, we cannot stop. We can try and make small changes to our lifestyle but the broken capitalist ‘supply and demand’ system the majority of the world has unknowingly submitted to is on a downhill train without breaks. Throwing cargo out now will not stop the velocity but may reduce the speed. Arrogance and greed blind followers with muddled facts and promises of economic prosperity and freedom, but it is unknown how long the success of this strategy will last. With raging bushfires, inland drought and coastal flooding getting worse every year, it’s beginning to see that wealth and freedom do not fully protect from such disasters. Mother nature does not shield the privileged from her wrath.
My plea to women who march for a sustainable future is be educated around the science so that you are able to educate others. With fake news and dirty politicians spreading disinformation it’s hard to know what is real anymore. I recommend being well-read on a number of topics that are important to you so that you are armoured with science-based facts so that you can feel confident entering into respectful debates. You don’t have to know everything..in fact, it’s impossible. But if we can all become experts in just a few things and put our minds together, as a collective, we can make real change.
THE SUSTAINABLE STORY OF JANICE
I was born and raised in a small town in the Philippines and came to New York City about 15 years ago. As an immigrant, threading 2 different cultures was an ongoing, enriching, and eye-opening experience. This environment encouraged me to further my love for travel, particularly exploring cultures that are different from my own. Travelling expanded my horizon, and the more I discovered differences, the less I felt different. This mindset has inspired my growing appreciation for interconnectedness, which furthered my notion of sustainable living.
Another favorite pastime of mine is spending time in nature. I love feeling the earth on my feet, the sun on my face, and the ocean on my skin. I try to connect with the earth whenever I can, whether it’s a hike, beach day, or bike ride in the park. I am passionate about climate change and environmental sustainability and curious to explore ways to live sustainably in a modern society that is heavily dependent on the convenience of all things nonbiodegradable.
In my opinion, sustainable living is being conscious about your environmental footprint and the long-term effects of your habits and behaviors. It’s also understanding and respecting life’s perfectly designed symbiotic ecosystem. To respect the earth is to respect your community, and ultimately—your own life. To live on earth is a matter of cause and effect. Sustainable living is making careful choices that honor the interconnectedness of all living things on this planet.
I cannot remember my tipping point, but I recall a nagging feeling about seeing so much trash in my communities. I have always had a sweet tooth, and growing up, I would put all my candy wrappers in my bookbag, only to get scolded by my parents seeing how much candy I ate. Looking back, I guess I always fought the impulse to litter.
In late 2018, I took the leap and decided to experiment on a zero-waste lifestyle. With it, I opened an Instagram account with the handle @mysmallgreensteps to document this journey. I wanted my experience to be personal and realistic, ensuring I form behaviors that are manageable and sustainable—ones I can slowly incorporate into my daily life. Hence, the phrase “my small green steps”. It suggests that every small step is just as important as the big ones, and it believes in incremental growth and its potential to create long lasting change. It is realizing that zero-waste is a journey and not a destination.
I took on small things, starting with grocery shopping. I started carrying a canvas bag and started making more frequent visits to the farmers market, where produce was organic, locally sourced, and package-free. From this came a slight change in diet, as I limited my options to foods with less to zero packaging. Then I moved on to kitchen and bath products, slowly replacing them with sustainable items. Eventually, I transitioned away from fast fashion, consulting thrift shops or seeking out high quality and fair-trade clothing, only when necessary. I switched to a menstrual cup and period panties, which added a whole different layer to the lifestyle adjustments I was already going through. I started reading more on recycling, composting, greenwashing, and the nuances of sustainable living. I ate less take out and started cooking more. On days that I ate out, I carried my food containers to deli stores and brought my reusable cup for regular coffee runs. I carried my metal straw and bamboo utensils everywhere; it was a staple in my purse such as my wallet and lip gloss. It has never been perfect, and some days were most definitely harder than others. Sometimes I felt like I was kicking ass, and other days, I felt like a total hypocrite. Through all this, I have come to know self-compassion and self-love as a main stay in this journey. As I grew comfortable with a new “green” habit, I found new barriers to break.
I find myself consistently dabbling into different sustainable projects, and I usually gravitate to projects that aim to mitigate food waste or experiment with dishes that are completely waste-free. I have made oat milk, saved scraps for veggie broth, frequented composting facilities to drop off compost, and made sugar wax to groom myself in place of razors and waxing kits.
One notable project I put my heart and soul into were cookies I gifted co-workers during the holidays in 2019. They were healthy energy cookies that only used ingredients that were zero-waste. I reused my mason jars to neatly pack them up and found some old ribbons to make it festive. For those who know me, baking has never been my thing, so it was a labor of love for my colleagues as much as it was for the environment. Some of my co-workers gave me back my mason jars knowing I would make better use of them, affirming their support for my cause to reuse and recycle.
I am hoping to embark on an educational journey in Costa Rica to study environmental sustainability and resource management in the fall of 2020. Costa Rica, being one of the pioneers of the green movement, will be fertile ground to learn how sustainable living can be effectively implemented by the government and its local communities. This by far will be my biggest small green step.
I am so inspired by The Sisterhood of Sustainability community and am incredibly honored to be able to share my story. I am sure we can all agree that this journey is not easy and can challenge us in ways we have not imagined. I am grateful that this community provides support and resources that keep us moving forward. May we continue to be an inspiration to one another.
THE SUSTAINABLE STORY OF ATEEKA
I arrived our planet earth in 1970 in a middle upper class sprawling suburban area outside of Denver, Colorado in the US. First daughter to two well intentioned young parents, I was born into an age of fast food, single-use plastics and growing consumerism. In a way, it was a very abundant childhood and I was given all the modern things that every little girl wanted - Barbies, Saturday lunches at Burger King and even a mini-television for my own room. These were the signs of success in this era, and sustainability was not a concern in the community where I grew up. We all felt that we had more than enough.
So it has been such an interesting “coming of age” over the last 20 years, to become more aware of our interconnectedness with Mother Earth and find ways that we can help care for our ONLY planet, our home, and also ourselves. One thing that has been vital for me in awakening to a sustainable way of living has been becoming more aware how I care for, move and breathe in my very own body.
For over 25 years, I have been a yoga and somatic movement teacher and women’s health advocate. The more structured and alignment based way that I practiced yoga in my 20s has changed gradually, yet profoundly, over the years. Now in my 50th year, I feel deeply connected to a sustainable yoga approach that has emerged from within me. I call it “yogaSOMATICS.” It is a feminine, soft, slow and inner contact expression of movement. Literally, yoga from the inside out.
While I also feel it really important to take sustainability actions in my “outer world”, such as recycling, not using single-use plastics, composting and living close to nature, YogaSOMATICS is my ultimate expression of sustainability from inside out. It is an experiential practice of getting to know oneself through life movements, here on Earth, here in a body, here with thoughts and emotions, here relating with each other. Here as-we-are.
YogaSOMATICS honours one’s own natural rhythms, steadily developing deepening confidence in the body and mind’s inherent capacity to balance and heal itself. It is a dedication to knowing myself through movement that has inspired me to take sustainable action in the world. The more I can respect and care for my own system, the more it makes sense to take care of the planet that supports, sustains and nourishes us.
To me, a very important quality of sustainable living is giving attention, giving care, listening and responding to the world around me. It is being both soft and receptive to sense what is needed in each moment yet also being willing to take action towards those needs. I feel that sustainability begins with listening.
First, being able to listen to my body each day. What is this body communicating to me today? How is my energy level? Do I have pain or good sensations in my body? Is there inflammation? Do I have new needs for rest, different foods, exercise? I don’t assume that each day will be the same for this body in which I live. The physical body, much like our Mother Earth, is cyclical and always responding to its environment. Sustainability is being able to listen and respond to these changing cues.
Then being able to listen and give attention to my emotions. What is moving there under the surface on an emotional level? What are my dreams communicating to me? My emotional life, much like the waters of our planet Earth needs to circulate and move to be naturally cleansed and sustain relationships. To bring attention to this present moment - as it is - and respond to that is sustainability to me. And of course, this also includes the actions and choices I take in the world around me.
The bigger question is often "how can I make gentle, gradual changes towards a more sustainable lifestyle." One day at a time. I feel it is very important to take it slow, one step at a time, give good care to ourselves and not be too hard on ourselves when we cannot “convert” to full sustainability all at once.
In my early 20’s, I suffered 3 years of severe eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulemia. After I began to eat healthy again and get back in touch with my body’s organic processes, it still took 10 more years to fully heal the cellular damage that I did to body. This was my first awakening to “taking care” and “giving care” to myself. I recognized that for a living organism to thrive, she must be nourished, cleansed, rested, moved and have circulation of energy. And I also recognised that healing takes time. This continues to inspire me to remember that also our good efforts towards a sustainable life in the world will take time. We will make mistakes. We will learn new ways. We will have jumps ahead and we will have setbacks as we step into new ways of living WITH Mother Earth, rather than ON Earth.
Time and nature is a gift for me. My husband Ola and I have a shared direction in sustainable living and we have chosen to live mostly off-the-grid. Our primary home is in the forest of Norway - far away from suburbs and cities, where we can have peace and quiet with a dog, a cat and some lovely free range chickens.
We also have a second little space - a sustainable living project in Sardegna, Italy called OLIVANANDA, where we explore with living sustainably in a rural olive garden. We harvest our own olive oil and grow our own vegetables with the help from friends who come from around Europe to share in this vision. Friends live and care for the garden when are not there and this also inspires us towards shared living spaces.
Important for us in both places is to have access to free, clean drinking water from the Earth. We have access to remote (but public) untreated mineral water springs in both homes. Free, clean drinking water from the Earth is truly a gift - and something we wish to help sustain and protect for all humans.
I so warmly suggest that every woman (and man!) find a sustainable, healing movement practice to dedicate to. One that you love to do and makes you feel good. One that helps you to connect with and feel your body’s needs and wishes. This could be yoga, tai chi, qi gong, swimming, walking, hiking. I really feel that movement and embodiment practices are a great font of awareness for widen the circle of our sustainability awareness.
Healing takes time and we cannot do it alone. We need each other and at the same time, we need time alone to reflect. Be kind to yourself. Let yourself make mistakes and let yourself explore new solutions. And find the time for some movement that you love and helps you to connect with yourself everyday.