Stephanie works in the event planning industry where she coordinates conferences for scientists and on occasions, weddings. She’s currently applying for a master’s program in higher education and student affairs, with a goal to create events at the university level. She loves to travel and is eager to plan her next big trip (most likely to Asia!). She considers herself to be a dog whisperer and loves late night talk shows. During her free time, she enjoys going to concerts and musicals but also staying active through volleyball and hot yoga.
What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you?
It’s one part ‘awareness’ and one part ‘action.’ You can’t have one without the other. In my life, it’s living in such a way where my impact isn’t harmful to future generations, whether it’s the effects on people or the environment. It’s about being aware of what I consume.
When did you become aware of the impact of your consumption?
It has always been in the background of how I wanted to live. I am a product of secondhand shopping, something I was exposed to as a young child, so that shows up in how I shop and why I enjoy thrifting. Thrifting has always been really neat to me; I love to do it, but I didn’t begin to take more action until recently.
We love that thrifting is a great alternative to fast fashion. Do you thrift for sustainable reasons?
Growing up, my family didn’t thrift for sustainability purposes, we were just trying to survive. We had all our basic needs, but if I wanted a little something extra and I knew I could find it for 75% off at a thrift store, then sweet. Now, as a young adult, I thrift for both financial and sustainability reasons. My purchases are made with the mindset that I will wear an item for the rest of my life, or until it reaches the end of its life cycle…or I no longer fit it. It has also helped me revolutionize my style.
You lived in Brazil for a few months, how did the experience help spark your awareness and action?
My trip to Brazil from June to November 2016 was to help raise awareness on modern day slavery. Our main focus was on victims and survivors of sex trafficking, but I also knew a large component of human trafficking involved labor. This experience impacted my mind and my actions; I became more aware of what I was purchasing, who it came from, where it came from, and through what means. I never saw anything first hand, but with the things I heard in the community or learned in seminars about slave labor, I didn’t want my purchases to contribute to that.
“Holding value in my material possessions felt like I needed those things to give my life more value. I am now living in a way that feels a lot fuller, even with lesser.”
How have you carried that experience into your personal life today?
When I left for Brazil, all I had was one large suitcase for five months, and even that ended up being plenty for me. I realized I didn’t need multiple jeans or sweaters to live comfortably. When I came home, I purged a lot of things I didn’t need; additionally, I no longer felt compelled to hold onto a lot of things anymore. Holding value in my material possessions felt like I needed those things to give my life more value. I am now living in a way that feels a lot fuller, even with less.
Wow, it seems the experience really changed your thinking on material perspective.
I grew up in a household where I had food every day, I received public education, I had clothes on my back. It puts things into perspective –– the things I have versus the things I can release from my life.
You’re also a huge advocate for menstrual cups, can you tell us more about that?
In college I had a fascination with menstrual cups. They’re so nice because they’re less wasteful; pads and tampons were just so extra. It wasn’t until my trip to Brazil when I realized I couldn’t pack enough pads and tampons for five months. It just took up too much room. My friend introduced me to the DivaCup, and I thought, “Okay, let’s give this a try.” It was a rough start for me because I was scared; the DivaCup was much bigger and harder than my Lunette (something I’m using right now), and although it worked, it never felt completely comfortable. So after that, I did a lot more research by comparing other menstrual cups and eventually went with the Lunette. The Lunette is softer and smaller and more manageable. I was able to fiddle with it and shape it for my body.
What’s a misconception people have with menstrual cups you want to clarify?
(1) Some don’t think it’ll fit, but it definitely gets in there pretty comfortably — I don’t even notice it. Every brand will show you techniques on how to fold it. Plus, when you’re on your period, things are more lubricated so it’s not as painful to push in. (2) Others think, “I bleed a lot. How will this work for 12 hours?” Everyone thinks they bleed more than they actually do. The way pads and tampons are designed, it spills on the surface and looks like a lot. On a normal day, I’ll change it once in the morning and once at night. On a heavy day, I’ll change it one extra time in the middle of the day.
Menstrual cups help you learn about and know your body better. It’s a game changer. You feel more confident because you don’t feel anything and periods are no longer a burden. It’s also a more sustainable approach to our menstrual cycle.
Do you now make most purchases with the purpose of sustainability in mind?
Recently, I’ve been shopping online more, and I’ve taken it upon myself to read the sustainability section on companies’ websites to learn about their practices. I’m more likely to buy from companies who are transparent about it. If I don’t find it, I probably won’t.
“I think about future generations a lot. Even if the world doesn’t come to the end in my or my child’s lifetime, I would still like it to exist for whoever is going to be living on it.”
Are you hopeful about the future and a more sustainable world?
I am. I know sometimes it feels like there is a “losing side,” but I know people who care will continue to fight harder. If it matters, you’ll do something about it. What you are passionate about, even when others don’t agree — I think people will appreciate that, and they’ll try to lend an ear. I believe in intimate impacts amongst your friends; my friend helped me start using the Lunette, and Tinycaravan made me more aware of To-Go Ware and not using plastic utensils. I’m a believer that in our own ways, although minor, it’ll make things better. Everything counts.
What would you say to someone who is not?
It all comes back to awareness and what I value. If people don’t think what I do will make an impact, I won’t force my ideology on anyone; but if I feel good at the end of the day about my impact and purchases, I’ll gladly do it over and over again.
Any last words?
I think about future generations a lot. Whether I have children or not, I know someone who will have children –– my friends have children –– and even if the world doesn’t come to the end in my or my child’s lifetime, I would still like it to exist for whoever is going to be living on it.
Read more about our Zero Hour Story: What’s It All About series.
*This interview was modified for the purpose of the series.