Annie currently works in social media for the global brand, Daniel Wellington and as a sales associate for Madewell. During the weekends you can find her exploring coffee shops and restaurants, or at home sleeping. She’s been taking small steps to improve important aspects of her life, specifically in her health and finances. For Annie, small steps tie into her goal to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you?
I don’t have a technical definition of sustainability. The way I define it is with the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
What led you to be more aware of your impact on the planet?
Growing up, my mom and grandmother had a huge influence on me. They taught me how to conserve toilet paper and reuse cloth scraps for napkins. Recycling is a big thing in my family too, which makes me frustrated when I see people throw bottles and cans into the trash bins instead of the recycling bins. I’ve also seen videos about how plastic can travel through different channels and end up in our oceans. Reading Tinycaravan’s articles, seeing companies practice sustainability, going to national parks, and educating myself through museums and classes have also helped me with this journey.
How have you changed your actions after learning more about our impact on the environment?
When I used to visit national parks, beaches, or any natural areas, I would take home shells, pine cones, leaves, or rocks to commemorate the trips. After visiting more parks and educating myself through the information placards, I’ve learned that taking these resources away from their natural space hurts the environment. If I take a pine cone home, it’s just going to sit on my desk and collect dust. It’s nothing more than just a decoration. Now, I don’t take anything home because they benefit the park, decompose at some point, and start their new life again.
That’s so great! We love that you practice the “Leave No Trace” rule. Do you also practice sustainability in your everyday life?
A lot of my practices are made through my purchases. If I shop online on Amazon, I’ll wait for two weeks to combine all the items so that it can be delivered in one shipment. I think it helps to reduce energy. Last year I also stopped buying Christmas presents. Most of the time, they end up being material things that don’t hold value and are left in the closet. These practices have helped me be more conscious about what I ‘want’ versus what I ‘need.’
“I’ve stopped buying more things because (a) I don’t want to waste money, (b) I don’t have anywhere to put it, and (c) it’s just wasteful.”
Are there other ways you practice sustainability in addition to your purchasing habits?
Tinycaravan talks a lot about this on their blog: I bring my own reusable utensils. My company eats out often, so I’ll keep a set of utensils at work (a butter knife, spoon, fork and a pair of chopsticks). It’s so easy to bring your own utensil set; you don’t even need to go out and buy a new set, you can just bring what you have from home. Two of my co-workers took notice and even started to bring their own. I find that really cool.
What is one of the biggest changes you’ve made since living a more sustainable lifestyle?
One of the biggest changes I’ve made is cutting down on the amount of time I spend in my car. I take the Metro to work and commute about 3.5 hours per day. I figured since driving to work would take the same amount of time, there and back, I would be decreasing my carbon footprint by taking the Metro. Also, I would probably be angry and cranky 24/7 if I sat behind a wheel for that long of a period.
Are you constantly finding ways to live more mindfully and with intent?
I’ve always wanted to practice ‘less is more’ in regards to my personal wardrobe. One of my goals moving forward is to add less to my closet. It’s so easy to cave in to trends rather than invest in timeless and classic pieces. I’m slowly eliminating purchases from fast fashion companies. I used to shop at Forever 21, H&M, and Zara. They were affordable, but the quality was poor. Over time, I learned that many of those companies do not engage in ethical business practices. Since I’ve stopped shopping at fast fashion companies, I realize I don’t care about trends as much. I’ve stopped buying more things because (a) I don’t want to waste money, (b) I don’t have anywhere to put it, and (c) it’s just wasteful.
The unfortunate fact about brands who engage in ethical practices is that their products are more pricey. How have you managed that?
I will spend more money on something with better quality. That’s especially true when it comes to my makeup and skincare products. Since this is something I use every day, why not buy from cruelty-free brands? When I found out that some of the brands I used were not cruelty-free, it was upsetting. I did my research and stopped buying from those brands (e.g. NARS, Laura Mercier) and started buying from cruelty-free brands like Tarte, Glossier, and RMS Beauty. They are more expensive than drugstore brands, but I’m willing to pay that much knowing they’re cruelty-free.
What brands and blogs do you follow that inspires you to be more eco-conscious?
I admire brands such as Tesla, Everlane, RMS Beauty, Coconut Bowls, Beeswrap, Ecotools, Madewell, and Reformation. I also follow blogs like Tinycaravan, Sustainyoself, and Matchbox Kitchen.
“You never know who you’re going to impact. It’s being a positive influence on your peers, family, or friends, for the greater good.”
Are you hopeful about the future?
Yes, I’m definitely hopeful. I say that because the more we study and practice sustainability, see companies be more environmentally conscious, and hear about it, the more awareness we have for the issues. If you tell a friend and they tell a friend, word will spread. I see more compostable and recyclable bins at restaurants and in parks now too. There are recycling centers today for cans, plastics, wood, and electronics. I think it’s a big deal for companies like Madewell to engage in philanthropic activities like their denim recycling program – Blue Jeans Go Green. If more companies see others practicing something similar, they’ll want to start too. From a consumer point of view, if I see a brand engaging in sustainability, I’ll rather buy from that company than others that don’t advocate for the environment.
What would you say to someone who isn’t as hopeful?
I would encourage them to take easy, small steps. You never know who you’re going to impact. It’s being an influence on your peers, family, or friends, for the greater good.
Any last words?
The thing with the environment is there will be people who care and people who don’t care. But if more people see action being taken, they’ll be curious and want to learn more or even do more. The people we surround ourselves with and the issues we educate ourselves to have a huge effect in the bigger picture.
Read more about our Zero Hour Story: What’s It All About series.
*This interview was modified for the purpose of the series.
* Annie no longer works with Daniel Wellington and Madewell.