ART IN PRAXIS: A CONVERSATION WITH JESSICA SOLOMON

WORDS: GRACE WINGO

IMAGE: OLIVIA OBINEME 

EXCERPTED FROM LOAM SUMMER 2016: A WOMAN'S WORK

In search of something new to read one rainy Sunday evening, I grabbed “Mystical Hope” by Cynthia Bourgeault off of my shelf. Since winter, I’ve been on somewhat of an inner spiritual journey, inspired by a food and sustainable self-care educator that I met last fall. Although our encounter was brief, I felt inspired to cook more, compost more, and interact with nature more through learning about plant medicine and gardening, among other things. Essentially, I’m finding ways to deepen my relationship to myself, others, and the planet in ways that align with my values. As a result, one of the things I’m curious about reading are diverse spiritual texts that range from the New Age to Buddhism and books on the Kabbalah. 

In “Mystical Hope,” Bourgeault talks about hope as an “abiding state of being.” For Bourgeault, hope evokes a physical quality, a sensation of “lightness of being,” a presence, a feeling of joy, an energy. It’s not tied to an outcome. It is rooted in an experience. 

Her language reminds me of the the way I feel when I seek to live sustainably. The idea that hope comes from within us resonates with my desire to tune into the abundance of possibility, spontaneity, and joy that exists within the Universe.

“Mystical Hope” also inspired me to reflect on the ways in which I choose to cultivate a sustainable life. As stewards of creation, how do we create mindful systems and organizations? How can we take on meaningful work and relate to people in ways that are conscious? 

And so, curious to explore the power of stories, community building, and culture, I reached out to my friend (and badass entrepreneur) Jessica Solomon of Art in Praxis. Art in Praxis melds arts and culture into the work of organizational capacity building, transformation, and community engagement. Throughout our conversation, Jessica and I talked about everything from June Jordan to systems change to being unapologetic about who you are.

Grace Wingo: Tell me about what you’re currently doing for a living and/or for pleasure. 

Jessica Solomon: I’m a practitioner and I work with organizations and changemakers around ways that they can be more intentionally strategic in their work. My work is really around people, supporting people who are doing movement work. How can you be most impactful in your work as a changemaker? That’s a question that guides a lot of my work.

One of the methodologies I use in supporting people in being more strategic is leveraging culture and the arts to do that work. How can we use the power of story, the power of ritual, the power of the narrative of who we are and what we believe in, how can we leverage that to be more intentional about our work? How can we think about communities as ecosystems? And how can we use the network to do more work, to be more effectual?

I’m really invested in systems change. I had a conversation with somebody, interestingly enough an artist, who in some ways was being co-opted, a black male artist was being co-opted by a white male artist, and there was a really intense conversation around this person and I asked him to look at the structures that had permitted this artist, this white man, to do this work over time. So many of my questions and a lot of my interrogations and inquiries are around systems at play that allow injustice, oppression, and racism to happen. How can we dismantle a lot of that? How can we break those down? A lot of my work is working with changemakers and organizations who are committed to that kind of work and who are intentional in doing that kind of work.

There’s a commitment to social change. And we also recognize that as an organization they may need some support in being their best selves. And they also have an interest in leveraging arts and culture as a way to get to that. 

GW: So something I want to know is you do this awesome work, and it’s pretty, major, in systems change and dismantling systems that create injustices. One of the things I’m interested in is how do you stay hopeful in the work that you do?

JS: I think part of it is bringing in the idea that none of this is new. If we open ourselves up enough we can go back and look at lessons from our ancestors and people that came before us, and in some ways it’s all a blueprint and there’s also a space to create and carve out new spaces. But in some instances, we can learn from the past and we don’t have to recreate a lot of that. I think a lot of people have learned those lessons for us in some ways. Knowing that I can go back and just remember that “oh, I’m not crazy, this happened, something like this happened before.” This isn’t me necessarily struggling up against this huge thing. This is the thing I was born into.

What keeps me hopeful is to engage with young people who are unapologetically who they are and don’t have that baggage. A friend of mine calls it “unmolested blackness.” Which means pride and comfortability in your skin that a lot of us don’t have. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing, but I think a lot of young people don’t have the same burden that I have, this notion of being Black in America and what this might mean and the implications that might come with that. And it’s refreshing to see young people stepping up. And also remembering in the Civil Rights Movement, young people ran that. The elders were there but young people were at the frontlines, especially in Baltimore, and seeing that played out is really inspiring and gives me hope. It definitely gives me hope. And none of this is new and we always have an opportunity to tap into history. 

An example of this for me is June Jordan. She was an amazing scholar, poet, and lover of young people who lived in Harlem in the sixties. She was also good friends with this futurist white man named Buckminster Fuller who was brilliant and came up with all kinds of crazy stuff before people could even handle it. And she was like, you know what? My neighborhood is decaying and it’s really not safe. And I want to do something about it. She was also an architect.

The only reason I know about June Jordan of course, about this project that she did, was because a friend of mine wrote about it in an obscure-ass blog, and I actually Googled it, to see who wrote it, and realized that oh, people have been collaborating on projects around space and place and race since at least the sixties, if not before. So it just reminded me that “Jess, the stuff you’re doing is not new, it’s just called something different.” And I’m actually glad about that. I’m actually really glad about that. She was a radical black woman. So she documented this project but it never happened. For me, the lesson, and there are so many lessons, is about being open to something because I might be set in my ways.

GW: I can definitely understand the wisdom of people who have come before us. I read something about how your design principle is to make new words and make new worlds. Can you tell me more about that? What does that mean and the part about designing for inclusion?

JS: So oftentimes, a lot of my work is about strategy. And for me that requires the organization or person to really imagine a vision for what the world will look like if they achieve the thing that they want to do. So we start with that vision. Which for some people is a stretch. Because we are not invited to imagine in general. Most of us are not invited to fully, actively imagine the world that we want. So when I tell people to do that, it requires them to take a step back and really kind of own the concept that we could do this. That’s part of the idea of building new worlds. What does it mean for the people you work with if you actually do the thing you’ve set out to do? What does that look like? And now that we have that, let’s work backwards. What are the things that you’re going to do today, a year from now, three years from now, to get toward that vision?

Because, borrowing from Adrienne Maree Brown, all of this is science fiction. All of this social justice stuff, we’re making it up and we’re building new worlds, so what kind of world do you want to build? Knowing that you are building one, regardless, where do you actually want to go? It’s an invitation for people to envision [the world that] they want. 


And designing for inclusion will require and call in different skill sets that you might not have and I won’t, so how do we create spaces for everybody? How can we be more mindful in the way that we use spaces? Sometimes, it’s just education and making people aware, and sometimes, it’s dealing with our own implicit bias. And that’s a challenge for me as a facilitator. I was telling someone that I have more edges around ability. That’s been a challenge for me. It’s something I’m working on, how can I recognize when I’m being ablest? And how does that show up in the way that I facilitate spaces? How am I showing up for my trans brothers and sisters? How does that show up in the way I facilitate? We all have our raw edges, and for me, I want to be more transparent about it so that I can invite other people to do their work

GW: What advice can you give to other women who are thinking of or want to take the path toward becoming an entrepreneur? 

JS: I think the lesson, would be, for any woman, anybody interested in entrepreneurship, is just being ready for what that means, and how everything falls squarely on you. The thing about a job that is great is that your work is spread out over time. But you know because you are on contract with this organization, you’re going to get paid. You can make up for the time on another day or another project. Or it’s just you and everything boils down to you. If you don’t produce what you need to produce, then that could have repercussions on your livelihood and you have to be ready for that. I don’t think entrepreneurship is for everybody, and that’s not a bad thing. If I found a job that aligned with my values and was a match, I might take it. There’s no question. It’s just what I feel I’m being called to be in this moment. And I’m being open to that. I feel so incredibly blessed and fortunate to have people around me who support me and hold me down. I also have people who don’t understand it and that’s hard. And I realize that I can’t really engage with people who see it as “that’s cute” or “you’re so different.” That’s not where I’m at. It’s important. So just being ready. 

Oh, another thing. Today a lesson came up for me. I’m about to take on a longer-term project right now, and I’m excited about that. The way that that project came about was by me showing up fully. And because I showed up fully, people around me were able to recognize who I was and what I could bring and that over time turned into a job. So that idea of being bold and brave is important. You know when you’re brave, and still showing up. Even when you’re afraid. Even more importantly when you’re afraid, that’s when you show up. That takes being grounded.

And having a spiritual practice that helps me get grounded and guides me [is vital]. Some kind of practice to ground yourself and who you are and why you chose this path and why this path chose you. Find community, think about strategies, and just know that it’s a ride.

GW: I think you’re awesome. Is there anything else that you want to share?

JS: I think as women we’re not necessarily groomed to be entrepreneurs. I know for me, it was already embedded in my family. My grandma would post bus trips to New Jersey. She would make fish dinners and people would pay. I think a lot of it is already embedded in culture, but it wasn’t called entrepreneurship, it wasn’t called sustainability. It was called taking care of family. And I think a lot of us need to go back to that. And recognize it for what it is and maybe update it and call it sustainability or environmental justice, but [recognize that] it was passed down to us.

 

As Jessica so aptly puts, these ideas and plans and motions are embedded in culture. It’s exciting to know that the work of creating social change comes from a deeper place within us. Just like Bourgeault’s vision of mystical hope, these qualities were passed down to us,  inherent within the “wellsprings of our beings.” 

In a time of innovation during this massive digital age, it can be easy to forget the social, emotional, psychological and physical processes of our elders that guided us to this moment. There is wisdom embedded in the work of social change. Wisdom is a steady stream of consciousness moving through us, always available to tap into. What draws me to the work of Art in Praxis is the acknowledgement to our ancestors and the honoring of our roots and where we came from. Honoring the past because that is how we got to this present moment? I think that is radical. 

 

 

THE SIMPLY CO.

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: THE SIMPLY CO. 

When I first started living a trash-light life, I was humbled to realize just how much I already had—and how much I didn't need. Sorting through the clutter in my cupboards awakened me to the ways in which we scribble in the empty spaces in our lives with stuff. 

Founded by Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers, The Simply Co. is an antidote to the culture of stuff. It's a return to the idea that less is more as well as a celebration of the power of simplicity to generate lasting environmental change. The Simply Co. creates 3-ingredient detergents sustainably packaged in beautiful (and reusable!) glass jars. Because we really don't need all that much to live well and in wonder—and we definitely don't need the thousand and one chemicals that taint the most common household cleaning products in our homes, in our bodies, and in our environments. 

I recently connected with Lauren over the phone to talk about transparency in the cleaning product industry, merging environmentalism and entrepreneurialism, and how to curate a chemical-free home. Her wise advice will empower you to start making simple swaps this very day. Living with less truly is the key to living better.

KATE WEINER: The Simply Co. crafts toxin-free and sustainable detergents. What inspired you to focus on creating change in the realm of home products?

LAUREN SINGER: I started this company because I had been making my own products for years and then started getting e-mails from people about how they loved the products that I was making but that they didn't have time to create their own. They would ask me What do you suggest that I can buy in stores that has the same qualities [as homemade goods]? So I went searching. Although I found some beauty products that were just as natural [as the products that I made], the same wasn't true for cleaning products. There are over 85,000 industrial chemicals used in the cleaning product industry. And on top of that, chemical companies aren't even legally required to be transparent about that. As a basic human right, we deserve to know what's going into our homes and into our bodies!

KW: What kind of challenges have you faced in growing your own business and how have you worked through them? 

LS: [The biggest challenges that I face exist at] the intersection between having all these ideas for how to run and to scale a zero waste company and getting other companies on board with that vision. There are so many things that I want to accomplish through this company but some stores aren't ready yet. I want to get bulk to be a mainstream resource but most people don't yet utilize bulk in ways that are necessary to sustaining a bulk model.

I'm not currently taking investors so I am growing at a more sustainable pace. It's been good and bad, because I can't just hire a million people all at once [to spread the word about The Simply Co.] but at the same time, I know exactly what's happening in my company, I have complete control over the quality of my products, and I know my vendors personally. This will give me sustainability in the long-run.

KW: The Simply Co. product line isn't just functional—it's also a thing of beauty! Do you see this celebration of aesthetics and simplicity as part of your approach to environmental activism? "The Beauty Way" is something we talk a lot about at Loam so I would love to hear your perspective on that.

LS: Totally! Inherently, more sustainable products are more beautiful. Within the cleaning product industry, good design is an afterthought. That's why I wanted this product to feel luxurious, even though it's detergent, because it imposes more value on the product and helps consumers realize [that quality] is something that they should be paying attention to. I only have three ingredients [and the simplicity of the design calls attention to that]. Typical products have 20+ ingredients so I hope that The Simply Co. drives the conversation on how simplicity and design can create sustainable living choices.

KW: How do you envision growing The Simply Co. in the coming year? 

LS: I'm coming out with a new box that will hold more laundry detergent. [Using boxes] will allow us to lower the price point and to enter markets that won't accept glass products. Anytime someone makes the decision to use my products, they're not supporting something that is potentially damaging and dangerous to their own bodies, their own homes, and the environment.

KW: In addition to founding The Simply Co., you're at the helm of Trash is For Tossers, a zero waste lifestyle blog. How do you merge environmental activism and entrepreneurialism? 

LS: I don't think that they are different. What I'm doing is completely a form of activism. I saw a problem—an enormous amount of toxic chemicals in the cleaning product industry—and a government that's not mandating transparency. My work is providing a solution to that problem that I hope creates a standard that all companies should be held to.

KW: What characteristics do you think are important to cultivate as an activist and as an entrepreneur?

LS: Consistency. If I say I'm going to be a certain way, I'm going to be that way. Don't give yourself a box unless you can stay in it. Live your values. What you do might change but be intentional about it. It's important to believe in what you do and not care what other people think. And not imposing your values on other people is also really important!

Oftentimes, our first reaction to people who believe or who act differently than us is to push them away. If there's someone who doesn't understand what I do or think it's stupid, I want to invite them into my world and show them how [I live zero waste]. My goal is to be inviting and not repelling. 

KW: What are your favorite tips for curating a chemical-free home?

LS: I use so few things! One of the first things I like to tell people [who are making the transition toward trash-light living is that] if you're in the process of reducing your waste, be sure to use up what you have first and recycle the containers.

To clean, I use The Simply Co. laundry detergent, liquid castile soap for dishes and scrubbing, baking soda for when things are sticky, and white vinegar infused with essential oils as an all-purpose cleaner.

And that's kind of it. I've realized you don't need anything else!

Love The Simply Co.? Check out the following video to learn how to live lighter. And be sure to use the discount code SIMPLYLOVESLOAM to order a luxurious detergent of your own. 

 

 

 

 

SWEET HONEY FARMACY

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: COURTESY of SWEET HONEY FARMACY INSTAGRAM

Scrolling through Sweet Honey Farmacy's Instagram feed during a little Loam "research" session, I felt as if I'd found a kindred spirit. Jme's snapshots of full moon harvests and medicine making resonated with the kind of life I envision for myself. My morning meditations and evening walks and weekend hikes rarely feel like enough: I want every day to be rich with the loamy goodness and succulent sun kisses that I experienced during my summers working in urban agriculture. Sweet Honey Farmacy rekindled that dream. 

I recently reached out to Jme of Sweet Honey to talk wild crafting and creative freedom. Jme's journey into homesteading took root during a "magical" ten-month apprenticeship at a homestead in Canada and has since grown into an ongoing education with herbalists in Oregon. Our conversation inspired me to get making: my hope is that Jme's wise words will do the same for you!

It's been four growing seasons since Jme connected with Co-Founder Lili Tova of Flying Coyote Farms. Jme met Lili at a little farmers' market in Sandy and the two quickly bonded over their passion for farming and interest in homesteading; of what it felt like, Jme shares, "being around all this abundance." Jme joined the Flying Coyote Farm, and after several years working on an isolated farm, found home. 

For most farmers, late spring through fall are full with sowing seeds and reaping the harvest. The dormant winter days, however, bring the opportunity to try something new. Jme and Liliy began to craft together during their downtime, mixing herbal remedies, fermenting goods, slow cooking nourishing bone broths. Their little passion project grew branches after their success at Portland's annual plant medicine gathering. "We had no intention of starting a business," Jme says, "but we had such a tremendous response."

Jme moved to Flying Coyote, drawn by the opportunity to grow an herb garden and inspired by Sweet Honey's succulent momentum. At first, Sweet Honey was focused on nutritional products—nutrient-dense broths, probiotic-rich products—that were made in-house. When Flying Coyote established an internship program, however, Jme and Lili split roles and Jme, now the Farmacy's sole owner, expanded Sweet Honey to integrate contributions from their growing customer base as well as to reflect Oregon's rich climate. 

As Jme notes: "My product line has changed [over the years]. It's now a small line of herbal medicine. I get to glean goat's milk for soap making [...] I have a small apiary share and so honey figures into my products. It's a really special relationship." Jme takes cues from the world surrounding and that, to me, is what makes Sweet Honey so beautiful. This Farmacy is about seeing how we fit into nature and not how nature can cleave to us. "I've gone through so much change in the last few years," Jme says. "I'm actually taking this summer to be in process [...] in an expansive place where I'm just trying to listen to see where [Sweet Honey] wants to go instead of trying to create something for her to go toward."

This generosity of spirit and trust in the process is part of the Sweet Honey Farmacy experience. Through Sweet Honey's hands-on workshops, Jme is able to share the skills that have helped the Farmacy thrive. "It's so exciting for me to be able to turn people onto the process," Jme tells me. "I love demystifying the process. Last winter, I taught an herbal body class during the holiday season so that people could make gifts for their family. I remember when I was learning [how to make my own salves] and I was like 'really?' I get to see that [spark] in people's experience."

Moving forward, it's Jme's mission to continue to tune into where Sweet Honey wants to go and nourish opportunities to teach. "Sweet Honey is still in a moldable place [...] I want her to grow how I'm growing. I want to stay small enough that I don't have a big account that will lock me in forever. [My hope is to] teach people as I'm learning and have a lot of creative freedom." Jme would like to incorporate a seasonal, CSA-model product line that empowers individuals to take control of their physical and emotional wellbeing during the changing seasons. Manifesting this project, however, is contingent on the stirrings of Sweet Honey's soul.

We're rarely invited to listen to our projects. Talking to Jme reminds me that Loam is a creature of her own. She's bigger than me, has a complex vision I could never control. To Jme, Sweet Honey is neither purely business nor solely a passion."[It's a way]" Jme shares, "to keep me active in what I'm already interested in. I get to stay committed to that practice which is important to me. I get to be more honest and authentic with my value system." 

Sweet Honey Farmacy is hard work because creating is hard work. It takes love and discipline and a willingness to learn. But hearing Jme treats Sweet Honey as her own entity—as this luscious something that exists outside of Jme—strikes me as a bighearted way to take off the pressure to be productive. 

Our passions, our projects, have lives of their own. What would happen if we gave these lives their own space to grow? If Sweet Honey's success is any inkling, it would be pretty damn sweet. 

 

 

 

MOUNTAIN FLOWER DAIRY

WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER

Nestled in North Boulder, Mountain Flower Dairy is home to more than thirty goats. The dairy shares a 25-acre parcel of land with Growing Gardens and Long's Gardens. It's a beautiful example of the power of integrative urban agriculture to both strengthen soils (goat manure can help to fertilize plants) and support local farms (if not for the historic Long's Gardens land, this site for urban ag couldn't have taken root).

On a blue Colorado morning, I spoke to Taber Ward, Mountain Flower's Co-Founder and Executive Director, in MFD's sweet little office space. As she pasteurizes chèvre for that afternoon's summer camp class, our conversation meanders from the real cost of food to the beauty of hands-on work. "Animal husbandry means being embodied," Taber says. "[It's about] taking care of the things I love." 

Taber grew up in upstate New York before migrating north to McGill for college to study anthropology and food systems (a girl after my own heart!) In Montreal, Taber worked on a rooftop farm as well as was part of a fresh-from-the-farm delivery service that brought nourishing fruits and veggies to communities throughout the city. A summer spent working on a goat dairy affirmed Taber's passion for animal husbandry. In 2012, Taber and Co-Founder Jonathan Vaught reached out to the Long Family to set up a working dairy. In the years since, Mountain Flower has established  a raw goat milk CSA (170 families get milk from just 14 goats), a kid's summer camp, and interactive workshops. The site has grown into a hub for community that links urban dwellers to the loamy soil underfoot. During summer Saturday visiting hours, families gather by the tall grasses to feed a goat; Wonder Press, downtown Boulder's destination for wholesome juices and ghee-rich coffees, donates some of its leftover pulp to serve as a sweet snack for the herd. In this way, MFD's situation at the nexus of rural and urban enables the farm to knit together the diverse threads of community that course through Boulder. Those goats are doing good

In collaboration with the Dairy's Board of Directors, Farm Director Michael Montgomery  and Education and Outreach Coordinator Madelynn Evensen, the team is working to revitalize the idea of what farming can be. "[Mountain Flower] is much more about animal rights and public health," Taber notes. MFD is on a mission to challenge the fetishization of our food and land. The farm's hope is to create a working model that will attract younger farmers by providing flexible hours (Taber works full-time as a lawyer as well) and shared responsibilities. Although this means higher labor costs, it also translates into a farm that fits into future visions of what kind of permutations living sustainably can take. Wandering through Mountain Flower's pastures later that day, I realize that this farm embodies the kinds of principles that I could bring back into my own life. The romanticization of farm life has been erased at MFD; you get the sense that the team works damn hard to nurture this space into being. In place of this fetishization, however, grows something far more nuanced: a holistic slice of urban agriculture life that is dedicated to exploring embodiment. How to be, how to live, how to tend to this world and everyone we love within it in ways that heal our landscape and not harm it. 

DAYDREAM DESSERTS

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: COURTESY of the DELECTABLE DAYDREAM DESSERTS INSTAGRAM

At Wonder Press, the rad women-run juice bar & coffee shop in downtown Boulder, nothing pairs better with the turmeric-inflected Golden Latte than the Mad Dunk Cookie from Daydream Desserts. No wonder this sunflower seed cookie layered with date caramel and coated in raw cocoa is perpetually sold-out; it's the perfect mix of wholesome goodness and crave-worthy sweetness (as I'm writing this, my friend and I are both trying our very best to share a cookie we would both much rather have all to ourselves). 

Inspired by Daydream Dessert's delectable line-up of raw goodies and biodegradable packaging, I reached out to founder Emma to talk baking with whole ingredients, shopping the farmers' market, and supporting honeybee conservation. Our conversation reinvigorated my desire to support local producers as best I can. This is the beauty of actually interfacing with the people who provide you with the food on your plate—you come to realize that every purchase you make implicates you in a broader network of passionate project makers who are working to nourish sustainable ecosystems. 

As Emma shares, Daydream Desserts stemmed from her work as a food photographer and recipe developer for her mom's raw honey company. The health benefits of raw honey—and the vital role honeybees play in our environment—is deeply important to Emma. Honey figures into most every one of Daydreams's desserts; her hope in the coming year is to develop a marketing campaign that educates consumers about bee conservation as well as encourages a culture of ethical eating (because if we want bee populations to flourish in our world—and anyone who wants to eat sure does—we need to support local pollinators). 

This is also why Emma cares about using compostable packing despite the higher price point. As her company grows, her goal is to continue to support the small economies that she values most—whether that means using glass over plastic, buying from her fellow vendors at the Boulder Farmers' Market, or sourcing from biodynamic suppliers. 

At the end of the day, Emma's work is about bringing our values and actions into alignment. When she talks about wanting Daydream to be a lifestyle and not just a dessert line, she's referencing the necessity of living, eating, cooking, and creating in ways that foster our vision for a healthy body and healthy environment. When you buy a cookie from the supermarket, it's just a cookie. But when you scoop up a treat from Daydream? It's a vote—however small and sweet—for sustainable agriculture and flourishing pollinator populations. 

And with that, I think I'll tuck into just one more Mad Dunk. 

 

 

 

WONDER PRESS

PHOTOS: COURTESY of WONDER PRESS

WORDS: KATE WEINER

Nestled in the West End of Pearl Street, Wonder is a succulent-studded site for sipping on reinvigorating juices and nourishing nut milks (for those craving caffeine, Wonder whips up an especially delectable butter coffee, rich in good-for-you ghee). 

I first fell in love with Wonder for its sanctuary-like space. The mindfully curated storefront was a beautiful breath of fresh air on a hot Colorado summer day. Since then, I've come back time and time again for their refreshing mint chip smoothie (tastes like a milkshake, but better) and "golden shots"—turmeric-infused elixirs that enliven my morning routine. 

What I value most, however, is that this juice bar and beloved Boulder hangout backs up its environmental ethos with a strong commitment to sustainability. Wonder walks the walk and that matters when you're doling out eight dollars for a beet juice. The locally-sourced veggies support soil-driven agriculture; the Lineage Seeds on sale by the counter encourage a culture of participatory gardening. There's a whole lot of goodness circulating within the shop.

Excited to learn more about Wonder's community work and composting program, I reached out to Erin Brady and Cecily Runge to talk healthful juice cleanses, repurposing pulp, and cultivating a welcoming and engaged staff. 

(1) What goes on behind the scenes of Wonder that you'd like to share with your community? 

Erin Brady: The staff environment is very welcoming and positive for the most part. Frequently in the Back of the House (where our juice, broth, and smoothies are made) there are in-depth conversions being had amongst everyone about life in Boulder, news, politics, science, you name it! And on other days, it is very quiet and everyone is content with that. I love the quick pace. Being in a small environment, while challenging at times, inherently forces people to open up. We all work well as a team and really try to do our best to learn from one another.

And we compost pretty much everything, including veggie/fruit scraps and all of our to-go cups, lids, and straws. Some of the juice pulp goes to the goats at the [Mountain Flower] farm and some veggie pulps go into the organic bone broths. 

 

(2) Tell us a little bit about a typical day working at Wonder. 

EB: A typical day is different for everyone in the shop. For FOH (Front of the House) it is pretty straight forward. We prep the shop in the morning by getting registers, coffee, and tables ready. Other than that we continually stock the case throughout the day. We have a very dynamic team and we really believe in teamwork. Everyday is different there which keeps it interesting.

 

(3) Wonder Press supports a very different kind of juice cleanse than the "fruit juice for three days" model that most of us are familiar with. Why is it important to integrate healthy eating into a juice cleanse and in what ways does Wonder's model promote body-soul nourishment? 

This one is a tricky one because our cleanse process is in the middle of being updated. In general with cleanses, we have to be careful how we phrase our write-ups about them. We believe in educating our customers and believe our cleanses are more for detoxing and restarting, but we also sell a lot of cleanses to people who want to lose a few pounds. That being said, we don't want to deter that type of individual from purchasing juice from us.  I believe cleansing is about listening to your body's needs. If you are starving during a cleanse you can add a healthy fat like an avocado into your day. It is not going to ruin anything!

 

(4) How does Wonder integrate environmental sustainability into its business model?  

EB: Starting from the first few weeks on West Pearl, one of Wonder's first priorities was to set up proper composting in the back alley. 

Cecily Runge: All of our to-go ware is compostable, and can be disposed of through the city of Boulder composting system. 

Our juice pulp is composted or reused in a couple of different ways. Firstly, the Mountain Flower Goat Dairy picks up buckets of pulp to feed to their goats several times per week. Pulp is a great supplement to their diet!

Secondly, we compost all of the juice pulp and food scraps in our alley's dumpster. This compost is then collected by the city. When we first moved into the Wonder space, there was only a small, residential-sized compost bin for the 4 neighboring businesses. Wonder lobbied to get a much larger commercial dumpster for the compost. This has given many of our local businesses more room to properly compost food waste. 

We have sent some people home with bags of pulp for home compost systems, but this is not a regular program.  We are also looking to create products from our pulp and food scraps, such as pulp crackers and muffins!  Dog biscuits could be good from our yam scraps as well.   

 

(5) Wonder turns one-year old this solstice! What can we expect from the team in the coming year?

CR: We are excited to start looking at the possibility of taking Wonder to new places.  The details are still in the dreaming phase!

 

GARRETT BLAD

WORDS: KATE WEINER

COLLAGES: GARRETT BLAD

Loam has brought a lot of goodness into my life— the opportunity to collaborate with the Brower Center, press passes to inspiring art festivals, the chance to share our story at community forums. But of the many perks this passion project has generated, my very favorite is that I get to connect with and learn from dynamic people who wholeheartedly embody hope. When I leave a conversation and feel flooded with that dizzying desire to do? That's golden. And it's exactly how I felt after talking to collage artist and climate change activist Garrett Blad. His succulent spirit and creative energy will spark a fire in your belly.

Growing up on a farm in Indiana, "I was sheltered from any issue at all, really," Garrett tells me. "I didn't have a passion or an issue I was focused on in high school." His awakening sunk in after graduation. Garrett was sailing on a pontoon boat in Lake Michigan when he first read "Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0" by Thomas Friedman. Reading a chapter that recounted the experiences of a woman in Saudia Arabia and the entanglement of oil oligarchies, feminism, and environmental exploitation encouraged Garrett to examine those linkages in his own life. He realized that even though he was a world away from Saudia Arabia, his life—and that of this woman—were deeply intertwined.

"I thought about my car," Garrett says, "and how I drove it every day to school, and didn't think about the broader, social, and environmental issues [that driving a car connected me to] all the way across the world. If I was connected to this woman through my car, I was connected to everything..."

Garrett found himself consumed by the resonances of his daily decisions. He thought about the ways in which his actions might contribute to "pain and suffering all over the world." He thought about what it would mean to take tangible steps that truly made a difference. And so he declined his arts scholarship to school and instead packed off to Notre Dame to study science. He knew that if he wanted to tackle climate change, it was imperative that he understand the nuts and bolts of what made water rise and ecosystems change and wind patterns shift. 

At Notre Dame, however, Garrett grew disillusioned with the science classes he was in. Although he was grateful for his baseline education in environmental issues, he hungered for that human component. Hours spent sitting at a computer transferring data in the lab felt too far removed from what was happening in the world. 

Searching for a way to dive in deep, Garrett spent the summer after his sophomore year with Climate Summer. He traveled across Maine by bicycle, collaborating with five collage-age students on a grassroots campaign against a pipeline project. His experiences working with frontline communities illuminated for Garrett the necessity of interpersonal connection. "I felt powerful for the first time," Garrett says. It was an opportunity to see the data that he studied in school at work in the real world. He spoke with people affected by the pipeline. He listened to their stories, absorbed their pain. 

Climate Summer didn't just stoke Garrett's passion for grassroots organizing; it affirmed for him that the creative arts—his first real passion—had just as vital a place in the realm of environmental activism as statistic-driven science. "Art is a potentially powerful source of inspiration, healing, and hope for the climate movement," Garrett tells me. It's a way for us to connect with one another and to our earth through the kind of immersive experiences—music, movement, oral history—that emerge in every culture. 

Art is a potentially powerful source of inspiration, healing, and hope for the climate movement.

Garrett's experience with Climate Summer laid the foundation for a new kind of activist work; one that melded making art with the physical act of movement. He joined Climate Journey in June of 2015 and made his way by bike—slowly, purposefully, and in alliance with a crew of incredible activists—to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Climate Journey was an exercise in storytelling. As the visual artist on the trip, Garrett sought out ways to convey the experiences of the people he encountered as he pedaled from New England to Eastern Europe. He collected collage samples too—faded postcards, images from old magazines—that would later give rise to Garrett's collage-a-day series. 

It was through Garrett's series, in fact, that I first learned about his activist work. This is the beauty of art—it enables us to access what we might not otherwise have perceived. Scrolling through Garrett's beautifully crafted collages, I was struck by the juxtaposition of sex and suffering, of idyllic landscapes and idealistic images. A city floats above an undisturbed stretch of desert. A naked torso writhes across a sea of technological innovation. His work gets at the heart of the patriarchal and capitalist systems that have contributed so profoundly to the climate crisis. As Garrett tells me: "I love playing with ideas that are at the root of environmental crises. There are a lot of male bodies in my work. I like to work with ideas of gender, masculinity, the control of the natural world and resource extraction."

Collage has always been a beloved medium of expression at Loam. But it wasn't until I talked to Garrett that I felt like I finally understood why this scrappy mode of art has resonated deeply with the Loam crew. His words gave voice to what I have long felt without being able to express: that collage "enables you to connect ideas in a world where it's so easy to categorize and separate ideas." Collage is one of the truest ways to work with what you have. In a collage, disparate visual narratives interact with one another. Vintage magazines salvaged from the library speak with glossy advertisements from a tabloid. Old and new communicate; past and present collide. "The books [I use in my collages]" Garrett notes, "were going to go into a landfill. Collage is a way to give it new life."

I love collage because it enables you to connect ideas in a world where it's so easy to categorize and separate ideas.

Listening to Garrett, I am filled with the thirst to make art; to see what connections will come into being if I only open my heart to the possibility of what's already there—lying dormant in an old Life Magazine, embedded in a scratched Polaroid snapshot. As we wrap up our conversation, I ask him what activism means to him now. He's biked across the world; he's fought alongside frontline communities. He's made art in the eye of the storm. 

Garrett laughs. "That's a tough one. I used to think that activism was just rallying the troops and protesting in those very visible ways—but I think it is a lot more that art can be a kind of activism. Growing food can be a form of activism. Resisting an industrial agriculture system [through the act of gardening]...that can be more powerful than having a protest. Building the world that we want to see—that's activism."

Garrett's words are a reminder that activism is accessible to each of us. We already have the tools we need to create something—be it a collage or community space—that carries the potential to reinvigorate our relationship to the natural world. And so we don't need to wait to start. We can begin this very day building the world we want to see. Because there are some things—creativity, a love for others, a reverence for the now—that will always be ours to give. 

BREAK FREE

IMAGE: NOELLE HIAM from LOAM: AUTUMN 2014

Wherever you are in the world, we hope you'll support Break Free. This momentous two-week long movement is a call to action against the fossil fuel industry. Coordinated by the brilliant and brave crew of 350, Break Free is about putting pressure on the producers to switch to entirely renewable energy sources. Our environment is too precious—and our lives in too great peril—to waste any more time waiting for change.

And if there's anything the recent wave of advocacy has proven, we are incredibly capable of change when we fight. So let's fight. Find an action near where you live using this helpful link. If you can make it to a rally, do so. Rallies are a rare opportunity in this technology-driven world to celebrate and connect in person—to breathe in the same air, to share the same space, to work passionately together for the same cause. If you can't make it to a rally, you can still be an invaluable part of the action by serving as a digital witness.

We already know what good we can do when we amplify our voices. Join Loam in Breaking Free this May.