MOVING FORWARD

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

Last week's elections saw some big wins for people-powered climate action. During a year marred by climate catastrophe and social strife, it was a real sign of hope. We now have the opportunity to capitalize on this momentum to continue to fight for a livable future and heal our wounded world.

It's in that spirit that I wanted to share three actions you can start digging into today to deepen political engagement and sustain people-powered climate action. And as always, please share additional actions in the comments!

SUPPORT THE OFF FOSSIL FUELS FOR A BETTER FUTURE ACT

Thanks to a passionate crew of organizers across the country, Food & Water Watch has devoted the last decade to advocating for a livable future through policy change. Right now, Food & Water Watch is working to pass the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act—one of the first legislative acts that truly acknowledges the need for drastic change over the course of the next ten years. Sign up here for access to all the materials you need to encourage your local representative to support the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act. 

MAKE THE LEAP

Join a local LEAP chapter and learn how you can collaborate with your community to build a "life-sustaining society" out of this crisis. And if you haven't yet read the LEAP Manifesto, do. 

TUNE INTO THE SISTERS BONDED IN ACTION WEBINAR SERIES

In collaboration with For the Wild and Spirit Weavers, this webinar series is an incredible opportunity to learn from passionate community organizers about how to build the world we want (and need). I can't wait to dig into these videos in the coming weeks!

 

SUSTAINABILITY & SELF-LOVE

WORDS & IMAGES: KATE WEINER

Several days ago, I found myself in a weird body shame spiral. 99% of the time, I'm pretty good about reveling in what I've got. I enjoy everything my body does—how I love, walk, eat, dance. But that day? My thighs were too squishy and my arms were too skinny and my hair was flat. Maybe ten minutes into this (tiring, boring, and profoundly unimportant) internal dialogue, some flare of self-love within pulled me out. Given the climate chaos surrounding, wasting one second worrying about my body was crazy. I am what I am right now. I'm growing, too, and changing, and in the midst of a world rife with wild beauty and deep grief, it feels like a radical act to put my body on the side of beauty. To celebrate my sensuous self and all the ways I am able to fall in love with and fight for this world. 

As an environmental educator, I struggle with how to frame conversations on personal actions within the context of our sociopolitical landscape. It's hard to find a balance between the pursuit of radical policy change and the need to seed sustainable activist practices in our own lives. But I really do believe that personal and political change work in tandem. You can't have one without the other!

And that's why finding self-love rituals that feed our soul is so damn important to our work as activists. If you want to be a puppet of the fossil-fueled patriarchy, waste your incredible, life-giving, world-building brains and beauty worrying about the space between your thighs or the thickness of your hair. Capitalism's mission is to distract us from the real work that needs to be done in this world by shoving us toward navel-gazing spirals. And man, the world needs us right now. 

Self-love doesn't have to be a distraction from the "real work." It can be a very important step in sustaining your work as an activist. When you strive to cut out the noise from your life—the body shaming, the self-pitying—you open up room in your world for delicious experience, co-creation, and discovery. Self-love is so often perceived as selfish; my own pursuit of self-love, however, has deepened the generosity and compassion I give to others. I'm not obsessing about my self so much and so it feels like I suddenly have a million more hours in the day to work on projects I care about with people I love.

Self-love is a process. I'm still fumbling my way through, figuring out which rituals work for me (essential oils, hiking, journaling) and which don't. But it's a process that I am coming to appreciate is as integral to my activism as voting in local elections and coordinating low-waste living workshops. 

I hope you take the time this week to do something that makes you feel loved and loving. Maybe it's treating yourself to an especially luscious cuppa herbal tea or staying in bed all Saturday morning reading books. Whatever it is, do it, wholeheartedly and in the faith that the love we give to ourselves translates to the love we give to this world, 

 

 

AN ANTIDOTE TO ANXIETY

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

I've been wracked with climate grief the last few weeks. The wildfires in Northern California hit me especially hard. I have many friends who were evacuated and several places especially close to my heart have been ravaged by the fire. And in the last ten days alone, my mountain town has spiraled from cold snow to seventy degree temperatures. The weather unpredictability felt like a manifestation of my own spiraling anxiety.

Carrying this big bolus of suffering isn't sustainable. Like many of you, I sometimes sink into a grief so mucky and murky I can't breathe deep. On a recent backpacking trip to the breathtaking Sequoia National Park, I struggled to find ways to ground myself in the present. Even though we were miles away from the fires, the air was hazy with smoke. Sleeping in the shade of a sequoia, I felt gripped with panic. What if we lose this land to climate chaos? What if it doesn't snow? What if I forget what fall chill feels like? What if...?

Sitting with my deep grief and anxiety is a necessary part of the process. We're living in unprecedented times and I've been going through the motions HARD since the autumnal equinox. But I've been here before. I've made my way out of the morass of darkness. I've felt fiery anger at our federal government for attacking our right to a livable future and cried hard for the change in seasons. I've felt grounded-in-reality hope, too, and wild joy and abundance. Every one of these emotions is an integral part of the cycle of profound loss and radical renewal that makes us human. 

And in some small way, it's healing to acknowledge that our earth is working through this same cycle right now. Loss makes way for new life. The horrific climate change we're seeing unfold throughout the world is creating the fertile soil for regeneration—providing that we stay awake to possibility and committed to creating a better world.

So what can we do to stay awake to possibility? How can we see these wildfires and earthquakes and heatwaves and droughts—this series of profound loss—as a doorway into radical renewal? 

I don't have all the answers. I'm still learning and growing and figuring it out. I've found, however, a few antidotes to anxiety that have made my life much richer and given me the fuel I need to keep fighting and dreaming and loving and giving and believing in a future worth living in.

For me, it's slowing down just when my heart rate rises. It's not looking at the weather forecast for the week ahead or checking my phone constantly. It's taking this day, as is, and seeing in these precious 24 hours an opportunity to be the change I want by showing presence, gratitude, and love. My fleeting sense of helplessness and hopelessness only fuels the fossil fuel plutocracy—and man, I don't want to give Trump and Pruitt and our f**cked up Republican Administration ANY of the inaction they need to thrive.

So I focus on doing small things that heal my corner of the universe. Picking up trash, creating with friends, making land art in hidden spaces. Walking slowly and finding a little nook to read my book. Doing juicy, joyous stuff that makes me feel loved and in love with this world.

Our anxiety and our grief are worth honoring. I've spent a lot of time being quiet with my sadness this month and I don't think I could've done anything else. But I want to suffer less so that I can get s**t done. And I can only do so when I'm at peace. When I give myself permission to be slow and still when everything else is spinning so fast.

 

 

DO LESS

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

Do less.

That's been my mantra these last few weeks. I've wanted to do less, to slow down, to sit still, to stay in bed longer and listen to the world wake up.

Confronting this desire in me isn't always easy. I love having a lot going on. But lately, it's been too much and I can sense it in my body. After a particularly productive weekend, packed with ALL the things—work, writing, hikes, yoga class, dinner with friends, farmers' market sojourns—I was jittery. I had thought interweaving room for leisurely meals with loved ones and outdoor activity would've tempered the hours I spent working. I soon realized what I was craving wasn't a crammed schedule, however infused with joy—it was the space to be quiet. Having gone from one thing to the next made me achey with anxiety. I couldn't quiet my brain. I don't think more stuff is better but I have always felt more experience is. I'm coming to realize a jam packed life isn't the same as a full life. And what I want is fullness.

I am so hungry for new, more, adventure that I don't always take the time to waste a day reading. When I reflect on the last year, however, those moments when I felt achingly alive were about presence, surrender, and stillness. I can remember what it felt like sitting naked under the stars after a soak in a redwood hot tub, the eucalyptus trees around me casting shadows across my stomach, and feeling deliciously happy that I had nothing else to do right now. That moment was it. And that's what I want. To do less and to live more. 

Doing less takes reframing. We live in a capitalist culture that prizes perpetual productivity. But maybe, when everything feels so urgent, when it's easy to lose a day to answering e-mails and careening between appointments, what we need is to do LESS. The urgency of climate action. The urgency of political change. The urgency of growing up and figuring our s**t out. Being victim to this urgency has complicated my capacity to be present. And like so many of you, I want to be awake to my life.

So here's my hope—for myself and for you, too. That in doing less, I live more. That in slowing down, I focus my energy. And that in breathing in the simple, irresistible bliss of every moment, I find the sustenance I need to heal our world. 

SUSTAINABLE SKINCARE

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: COURTESY of BOTNIA

Although skincare brings me joy—stirring up calendula-infused moisturizers is my kinda magic-making—it's only been in the last few years that I've celebrated the relationship between my daily beauty rituals and my environmental activism. Feeding my skin with plants from my garden and oils sourced from rad herbalists makes me happy, connects me to the earth, and inspires me to learn more about what's growing green in my corner of the universe.

Much like style, skincare is often derided as superficial. As I dig deeper into my studies of Ayurvedic medicine, however, I've loved discovering the emphasis on beauty within this holistic healing system. Taking care of our skin, embracing our natural beauty, and nourishing self-care rituals isn't shallow if it brings us into deeper relationship to the soil surrounding. 

Based in Sausalito, CA, Botnia is a skincare company that shares this same passion for holistic healing. When I first connected with founder Justine Kahn, I was struck by the joy she took in her work. Her commitment to healing the skin is really about healing our relationship to ourselves and to the land. Tune in as Justine and I talk about growing a botanical garden, feeding our skin, and what sustainable skincare really means (hint: spoilage!) 

KW: What inspired your work as an esthetician? 

JK: I was inspired to get into skincare mainly because I myself struggled with skin issues. I had horrific acne throughout my teen years. It really affected the way I presented myself to the world. I have an empathetic approach and I love helping people. I never went into it thinking I would make my own skincare line but I've always wanted to help people [feel at home in their bodies]. 

KW: What experiences encouraged you to launch Botnia?

JK: My inspiration came from the treatment room while I was working with clients. I really found as a skincare provider that I wasn't able to give my clients the proper treatment that their skin deserves—and needed—to heal and be healthy. What was in the skincare industry was a lot of chemicals, things that were inflammatory, and sythenthic ingredients that were made in a laboratory.

Botnia came from wanting to help my personal clients. I started to take classes through local [herbalism] schools in the Bay Area and began to craft these very simple and very basic formulations. I would take one client at a time. So if one client had acne and rosacea and was dehydrated, we would treat her skin with care by looking at anti-inflammatory ingredients.

KW: How does Botnia integrate your passion for environmental sustainability and holistic healing? And what practices do you use—both in your garden and in community—to heal our environment?

JK: Botnia is really something that I started in my garden in the Bay Area. I grew a small batch of botanicals that I thought were amazing for their anti-inflammatory properties. And when we need to outsource botanicals because of climate, we really focus on local and sustainable brands. We also have solar power at our spa in San Francisco and strive to hire from the area. Creating community and keeping it local for our clients—that's important to us. We're also really looking forward to partnering with more companies that are committed to healing our environment. 

KW: Although the skin is the largest organ in our body, we so often treat skincare as if it's superficial. What can we do to take better care of our skin?

JK: Our skin is our largest organ so what we put on our skin and in our bodies really affects us. Nutrition is such an integral part of our overall skincare regimen. I have a green smoothie with kale, coconut oil, and almond milk that I make myself—full of amazing vitamin A and minerals—every morning. It's such a nurturing drink to start the day off with. Greens and probiotics are really helpful for the skin. As is drinking water and getting sleep. Our body absolutely thrives on hydration. 

People always thinks about organic skincare but they don't always realize how very different it is than conventional skincare. Anything that goes in or on your body should go "bad." It should be just like food and have a shelf life. [At Botnia] we want our products to turn and spoil because that means they are alive and active. 

KW: How do you hope to grow Botnia in the coming year?

JK: The main thing I want Botnia to do is provide people with safe and natural skincare. I really want to deepen relationships with local estheticians to help push this message of clean beauty.

I'm always learning more about gardening too. Every day, I learn something new and discover an inspiring botanical or botanical extracts. So deepening my knowledge of organic farming and working with more farms—we currently work with Moving Roots in Petaluma—is important to me. 

KW: How do you embody hope for a better world in your everyday life? 

JK: The thing that helps me embody hope is bringing forward a handmade product. If we can go back to a time where we can value handmade things—where we can pour our love and energy [into creation]—we'll see people respond to that positively. 

For so long, we went in this other direction [of mass production and materialism]. So it's exciting to me that people are gravitating more and more to human interactions. To get to put on a cream that someone grew in their garden and made with their hands—that's magic. It gives me hope that people feel that love and energy on a daily basis [and can give that energy in turn] to the greater good. 

CELEBRATING IMPERFECTIONS

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

Perfection is a kind of death.

Pema Chödrön

Everything is imperfect and perfection is a kind of death. I know this much and still find myself craving smooth sailing and seamless days. The want arises without warning. Sometimes I'm in the grocery store and I'll suddenly turn toward my cart, cluttered with scratched glass jars and cloth bags, and think can I be buying better? Sometimes I'm working on Loam, feeling alive and energized, when I'm beset by the fear that I'll never have the time or money or discipline to make this passion project everything that it can be. 

I have so many dreams for Loam and my life and this world bubbling in my belly. And hard as I try, some days it's a real struggle to do what I need to do to make these dreams real. I waste time scouring for vintage evil eye rings on Etsy. I come home from a long day careening between part-time jobs and eat popcorn in bed because I'm too tired to cook myself a nourishing meal. More often than not, I fall short of my vision for "perfection."

For me, activism is interwoven into my everyday. It's a framework that fuels my daily decisions and drives the kind of work that I do and pursue. So when I feel that I've failed at being a "perfect" person, I feel that I've failed at fully realizing my life's work (eek!) Without meaning to, I confuse being a good advocate for this earth as being a "perfect" environmental activist. 

As many of Loam's readers have shared, this hunger for perfection is an issue that a lot of us struggle with. In our pursuit of personal growth as stewards of the earth, we're likely to sketch out a limiting definition of "perfection" that will always leave us in the lurch. "Perfection" might look like a vegan diet and daily calls to Congress. Or it might look like showing up for every climate strategizing session and forging a fruitful career at an environmental nonprofit. None of these goals are "bad" by any stretch. I'm only sharing these hypotheticals to suggest that whatever our "perfect" life looks like, it will never be exactly like that. We'll miss the protest. We'll make do with a day job that pays our rent even though it doesn't feed our soul. We'll sometimes buy stuff packaged in plastic and travel on carbon-intensive airplanes. We'll be imperfect, because it's wired in our blood, and we can either learn to celebrate our imperfections as a catalyst for change or perceive them as a roadblock to realizing our dreams. 

Sometimes, I fear that if I celebrate my imperfections—all the little ways that I'm learning and loving and messing up and making anew—I'll stay stagnant. Experience has taught me otherwise; when I'm at peace with my imperfections, I'm free. And when I'm free, I'm full of hope. And when I'm hopeful, I'm able to do what the world needs of me. I find delicious joy in my morning walk. I give my energy and time to the zero waste nonprofit that I volunteer with. I work on features for Loam in collaboration with the kind of kickass movers and makers who remind me this world is wild in wonder. In spite of (or maybe because of) my manifold imperfections, I do and dream and heal. 

So what can we do to feel free and full of hope? How can we see our imperfections as a vital energy source for our environmental activism? 

We can first (re) envision our imperfections. This opportunity came up for me just the other day when I was scrolling through Loam and found myself frustrated by how few features really met my vision. Archived online is every badly recorded podcast I'd produced and not-so-high quality photo I'd taken. There were interviews I wish I'd done a better job with and personal essays that felt unfinished. It took talking to a friend of mine to realize that for all its imperfections, Loam is full of heart and hope. It's reflective of my deep desire to do even when I don't have the resources for a "perfect" photoessay or podcast or feature. Loam is my passion project, and it's growing with me. When I returned to Loam with that in mind, I started to resee every imperfection as an invitation to do more and dream deeper. I felt so much more at peace with my work, so much more full of possibility, and it's my hope you'll feel the same when you bring this fresh frame of mind to your own work. 

It's in that spirit that (re) envisioning our imperfections helps us to renew our commitment to environmental activism. Making peace with our perceived shortcomings gives us the space to do some good in this world. We can waste precious time mourning our imperfections or we can buck up and try and love and grow and dream our hardest anyway. In my own life, whenever I'm wrestling with cognitive dissonance, strained by slippages between my values and my actions, I ground myself in the kind of rituals that affirm for me why I do the work that I do. I recognize those "imperfect" actions that didn't make me feel so good and strive to cultivate new practices that feel nourishing.

Because at the end of the day, we all have the power to live with, learn from, and to love our imperfections—providing that we trust that those imperfections truly are a power. 

 

 

 

PLANTING A PRAYER

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGE: KAILEA FREDERICK

Inspired by Loam Artist-in-Residence Kailea Frederick's project, Pause Within the Chaos, I've been planting prayers every day to keep me grounded when my eco-anxiety runs wild. It's such a simple practice but it helps me see beauty in my now. I love making my mandala from found materials—seashells I scavenged on the shores of Lopez Island, dandelion greens foraged from my neighborhood, dried flowers leftover from a bouquet—and sitting with this work of living art. And when I'm done, it's liberating to let it go. It's a reminder–shoutout to Pema Chödrön—that things fall apart only to come together. Again and again and again. 

As Kailea writes of her project: "How can we begin to become even more creative when thinking about ways to bridge our personal lives and the work of our lives?" How can we create daily rituals that not only enrich our present but also sustain the hard work of activism? I've found, in choosing to create moments where I can sit with my pain and explore the possibility of peace, the seeds for regenerating my relationship to activism. I've been vacillating between burnout and restlessness, between raw passion and deep sadness these last few months and so it's been especially healing to give over a few minutes every morning to disciplined creation. 

As we wade into the murky, muggy days of summer, I hope you'll explore planting a prayer of your own. Daily rituals for reconnection truly can restore the soul. 

 

YOUR SUSTAINABILITY STARTER SET

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGE: MEREDITH MACKENZIE 

As passionate as I am about trash-light living, I know that it's a privilege to live where I live and have access to the kind of resources—accessible bike paths, bulk stores, residential composting—that make sustainable living a cinch. Learning to live with less is a richly rewarding experience that has saved me money and nurtured my self-sufficiency skills. But it's a path that's infinitely easier for me to walk by virtue of the city I live in, the friends I share a home with, and the support system that Loam has interwoven across the world.

The last few weeks, my friend Andrea of Be Zero and I have been hosting Instagram Lives where we explore what it means to cultivate a circular mindset and answer questions from our community on putting zero waste philosophies into practice. One question we have heard a lot is: How do you live zero waste when you're not in a community that makes it easy? For so many of us, finding the type of regional tools, community, and norms that nourish sustainable living isn't within reach. We might live far from a farmers' market. We might live in the heart of car culture. We might struggle to find a secondhand retailer in our community or a local grocery store we can feel good about supporting or public transportation that's affordable. I have lived in New York, Valparaíso, Portland, San Diego, and Boulder throughout my life and each city has brought with it its own beauties and its own challenges. I've had to find a way to live my values as best as I can even when the streets I walk are littered in trash and finding fresh food is tough. 

Of course, there are a thousand and one ways you can live lighter on this earth no matter where you are. You can choose to mend your clothes rather than trash torn threads. You can refuse single-use plastics by bringing a reusable jar, cutlery, and cloth napkin with you. You can grow a little herb garden on your windowsill. Providing that you trust in the process, show compassion for yourself and others, and embrace imperfection, you will never need to wait on anyone or anything to create opportunities to live sustainably. You are your own permission. 

That said, it's sure nice when living sustainably is simplified—especially when you are new to the wild world of zero waste. Learning to cultivate a circular mindset asks us to radically rethink our relationship to ourselves, each other, and our land. And it's a process that's so much sweeter to sink into when we have some support.

Enter Bailiú. The lovely Meredith MacKenzie's online shop makes it easy for folks to find starter sets that mitigate the everyday plastic pollution challenges that arise within our household. As Meredith says: "I became more mindful about reducing my use of disposables and single-use plastics after a cross-country move from Oakland, CA to Southwest VA.  After a decade of carrying a reusable tote in the Bay Area, I found myself living in a place where Styrofoam and plastic bags were the norm, which felt shocking. I started paying closer attention to the choices I made and asking more questions. Although I found many helpful resources about a adopting a 'zero waste' lifestyle, they felt intimidating and the lifestyle struck me as unattainable. There seemed to be a lack of forgiveness and humor in the options out there. I wanted to offer an accessible way to start making better choices without taking ourselves so seriously, and while maintaining a sense of style. Practical goods should also be beautiful. So I started Bailiú to create a shop for the stylish, beginner minimalist, because you shouldn’t have to sacrifice style to be kind to the Earth."

Meredith's bridge into building Bailiú embodies many of the philosophies that I want to see better put into practice within the zero waste movement. Showing kindness to others, asking questions of our community, exercising compassion, humor, and open-mindedness—cultivating these characteristics as environmental advocates truly helps us to regenerate our communities as we reduce our waste. It's true that you don't need to buy anything to begin living with less. And learning how to make your own alternatives to plastic-based and plastic packaged goods is a viable (and sometimes really fun!) option. But as an environmental educator and lifelong student of sustainable living, I deeply believe that creating starter sets when we are just beginning helps us find our footing as we pursue new pathways. It's like gathering your supplies for the first day of school or supporting your dream of being a writer by investing in a gorgeous notebook. Sometimes, you need the tools to get started.

Herewith, a breakdown of Meredith's Kitchen Starter Set. Use it as a blueprint for beginning your zero waste journey at home.

BENTO BAG

Bento bags are beautiful cloth constructions that you can transform into everything from a reusable bag (I use mine to store bulk goodies from the grocery story and stash cherries from the local farmers' market) to a placemat for camping trip meals. Meredith selects her bento bags from Ambatalia, a Mill Valley-based textile supplier that creates goods to guide a non-disposable life. 

MESH TOTE

A mesh tote is super easy to fold up and bring with you in your day bag so that you'll always be prepared for the type of surprise situations—fresh fruit stand by the side of the road, post-work grocery store run—that crop up during our day-to-day lives. I love that I can carry this tote in my backpack to the market and fill it up with imperfect produce to share with friends.

BAMBOO STRAW

Americans trash more than 500 million plastic straws PER DAY. Sip sustainably with a bamboo straw and always make sure to ask for drinks at restaurants without a straw. 

ABEEGO WRAP

Bee's Wrap is a truly indispensable part of any sustainability starter set. I love Abeego's beautiful designs and minimalist mission. I've used their wrap for everything from storing goods and covering bread as it rises to rolling up sushi. 

UTENSIL ROLL

One of the most impactful switches you can make when are diving into your zero waste journey is to refuse single use disposables by carrying reusable cutlery with you. A utensil roll is useful because it helps you keep your straw, spork, and knife in one place (I've lost many a reusable fork to the depths of my jam-packed book bag) and creates conversation when you sit down to share a table with friends! 
 
 
As Meredith notes of her starter sets: "A big part of the joy that I get from Bailiú is curating a collection of products that I would gift to a dear friend. Gift giving is my love language!  I love the idea of introducing a dear friend to a product that will make her home and her heart a little happier." Meredith's sentiment is a reminder that learning how to live with less is really about making room for more love in our lives. To truly love what we have and to care for it translates into how we love and care for ourselves, for each other, and for our earth. So get to it, loamy loves. Sustainable living is always within reach.