We’ve been thinking a lot this year about climate reports, dire predictions, and mostly about what we, with our relatively limited reach, can do to effect positive change. Though we try to practice and preach throughout the year, Earth Day is always a reminder that as a retailer, we bear a unique challenge – at a time when paring back and reducing one’s consumption is so absolutely crucial, our task is to not only sell beautiful and unique pieces that last, but also a different way of thinking. Kindred Black was founded on the idea that the cumulative power of individual change can be quite massive. Getting back to our roots this Earth Day, we spoke to some of the women that inspire us about making small choices that can make a big difference.
ON BUILDING AN ECO-RESPONSIBLE WARDROBE
Photographer and Model @brainalaviena
Does sustainability / environmentalism factor into your sartorial decision making? And if so, do you feel you’ve made more meaningful changes to the way you shop / consume as the warnings about the state of the environment have become more urgent?
Absolutely! Now more than ever, it's very important that we factor in the environment into every purchase we make, not just clothing.
I try to be very aware of the creation process of anything I use, as a result I’ve stopped purchasing fast fashion all together. I read up on circular economy and resource recovery and realized this is what makes the most sense for most people; and so when I’m “shopping” for a product I first try to see if anyone I know has an extra one they don’t need, if not I buy second-hand, and only as a last resource do I purchase a brand new product. When purchasing a brand new product, I try as best as I can to take my time to research so that I can purchase sustainably made products made from recycled or non-finite resources with minimal or no waste packaging.
Are there any changes you wish you could make but haven’t been able to achieve for one reason or another?
There are more than a couple of things I still have to work on, but I think the most important thing is realizing you have to make a change if you're in a position to do so, and taking the steps towards that change and learning as you go, without judging yourself too harshly. I think mistakes are always allowed because how else can you learn?
For me the toughest thing has been achieving simplicity in skincare, I love trying new products so I’ve had a hard time minimizing my routine and sticking to the essentials, my improvement on that has been slow but I’m definitely making progress! I've been very inspired by Julia to up haul my skincare to use only essential oils for everything I can possibly need and am slowly transitioning into that.
Do you have any specific guidelines that you follow when choosing the pieces and brands that you wear?
I first source from vintage shops and if I can’t find what I’m looking for then I opt for brand new. I choose brands that are ethically and sustainably made with durable natural material, preferably local, and I make sure this is something I really want and need and will have and use for years to come. I give myself time before making a purchase and that is very important, when you really think about what you’re purchasing, how it’s made etc – more often than not, you realize you don’t really need it.
How do you go about putting together a wardrobe that is environmentally sound, but also fits your aesthetic?
I’m still figuring that out! For me something that has helped a lot has been to make sort of ‘moodboards’ for my wardrobe. As simple as it sounds, seeing on paper what your style is, what pieces you identify with is a very helpful tool to cutting out the unnecessary and narrowing down your search for vintage and sustainably made – it’s a lot easier to find something when you know exactly what you’re looking for.
I don’t think you need to sacrifice your style or aesthetic at all to be more sustainable, for me it’s more about learning patience and appreciating all the effort that goes into producing and making a single well made durable clothing item. When you think about an item from conception to creation, all the resources that are used in between and where its going to end up after you’re done with it, completing its life cycle, it can make a world of difference in your decision making.
ON LIVING A SUSTAINABLE LIFE
Artist and Sustainable Lifestyle Figure @ceciliagorgon
We love the story about you writing an impassioned letter to Al Gore about climate change when you were quite young – what initially sparked your fire for environmentalism at such a young age?
I think I was in 11 or 12 years old when I learned about climate change. My dad actually took me to see An Inconvenient Truth in theaters which was how I learned who Al Gore is. I was definitely completely shocked by everything I learned, and was even more shocked that people didn’t seem to care. I was really moved by the film, and by the passion of the people in the film. I got my parents to recycle, which was a feat at the time because Detroit didn’t have city recycling so we had to take it to a facility to sort it ourselves.
How does sustainability / environmentalism factor in to your daily life now? Do you find it’s something you still have to think about or is it very ingrained into your routine at this point?
Some things are ingrained for me like bringing my own bags when I go to grocery stores, and never putting produce in plastic. I also never shop fast fashion, and I don’t eat animal products. All of those things feel very much a part of what I do. Other things I have to remind myself, like that I probably don’t need a product in excessive plastic packaging. Or that I should go to our local farmers markets more. It’s all a constant learning process.
Any areas where you still feel you could improve?
Absolutely. I already make an effort to use less plastic, but I think I could and should try a lot harder to limit my plastic usage as much as possible. I also want to start composting! I got a plot at a community garden this year so I’m gonna try to grow a lot of my own food, and compost my food scraps there as well.
You became a vegan once you became aware of the impact of animal products on the environment – can you explain how eating a plant based diet helps?
The amount of waste and emissions produced by the animal agriculture industry is staggering. Something like half of the land in the USA is used for animal agriculture. Cows in particular produce a huge amount of methane, which is 30 times more greenhouse gas trapping than CO2. Animal agriculture also seriously disrupts ecosystems. Another thing to think about is the human rights aspect of animal agriculture. A lot of the waste created by the animals is put in low income neighborhoods which causes tons of health problems. A plant based, or vegan diet, has a massively lower impact. Plus plants are so yummy and good for you!
You have a pretty engaged audience, do you have any guidelines that you impose on yourself when recommending products?
I never recommend anything that I don’t use myself. I try to only use products that come in glass, or metal. I don’t use things like plastic glitter because it’s like premade microplastic. Which by the way is so crazy to me. No one talks about how terrible glitter is for the environment, and it’s in so many beauty products. I also like to keep things natural. I don’t love using synthetic ingredients, so I really only use things that have clean ingredients.
ON ECO-CONSCIOUS ENTERTAINING
Filmmaker, Photographer, and Wine Guru @mastergia
We loved putting together the platters and serving dishes for your launch party, our aesthetics really seem to jive. Do you normally mix antique and vintage into your home décor and if so, how important is the sustainability aspect of those pieces? Is it a conscious effort to reuse or do you just style with what you love?
I don’t really like solely one aesthetic – I love mixing and using my instincts to try very different pieces together. I love to entertain and over time I’ve collected vintage and antique tableware that I mix-up in different ways depending on the occasion. It’s amazing how you can curate the mood of an event with the setting. Being able to re-use is important and the pieces that you find are so much more unusual than what you can typically buy as a new set.
Is the environment something that you consider in your daily routine and if so, what environmentally friendly practices have you incorporated into your home life?
I’m trying to be more mindful of the things that I do and to make changes within my routine. I’ve started growing my own verbena, lemons, and basil at home and would love to expand my gardens over time. I don’t use plastic water bottles and try to carry reusable bottles and coffee cups. I also learned from my mom and her friend that Casa Dragones tequila bottles can be reused and make surprisingly pretty water jugs.
ON SUSTAINABLE SEXUAL WELLNESS
Artist and Model @ilanakozlov
Sex toys are frequently plastic, battery operated, and awful for the environment – how important is eco-responsibility when shopping sexual wellness?
I’m glad you raise the question, because I’ve been paying this a lot of mind. I had a few experiences with sex toys that made me renegotiate my habitual wellness investments. My most recent battery-operated vibrator required battery replacements every two to three uses. Before I purchased this vibrator I had bought a battery pack maybe once a year. While using this vibrator I was buying battery packs every two months. It’s incredibly wasteful. Rubber dildos have also been a problem for me because they are porous and deteriorate quickly. Stone and crystal toys are definitely my favorite. Putting natural materials into your body that aren’t coated in Phthalates is beneficial for your tantra and for the earth!!!
Aside from the environmental aspects, how can natural sexual wellness benefit the consumer?
If we masturbate with stone and crystal toys we are reintegrating with source energy! All stones store chakra energy. Crystal toys can be useful instruments in exploring the limitlessness of our sacral root chakra. Sometimes I sleep with my obsidian stone toys under my pillow because their vibrations offer protection from bad dreams. Stone toys are beautiful fetish objects and incredibly healing.
ON LOW WASTE LIVING & ECO-BEAUTY
Wellness and Sustainable Lifestyle Guide @itsblitzzz
You’re very up front with your followers and subscribers about your low waste lifestyle – what initially prompted your commitment to environmentalism?
My parents! I grew up in a household that always recycled and my mom was constantly reminding me to turn off lights whenever I left a room. It felt annoying to be reprimanded for these types of things when I was a kid but I’m so grateful because my parents really made me a more conscious person. As an adult, I started becoming really serious about lowering my waste when I moved to Los Angeles four years ago. I don’t know exactly what prompted it but there was definitely this defining moment in my life when I suddenly felt hyperaware of all the waste I was creating and I wanted to find solutions & share them. Moving across the country was eye opening too. You just realize how much stuff you have that you don't need.
Are there specific ways in which you’ve altered your lifestyle and beauty routine to be true to your ethos?
I try to keep things as simple as possible. For my body and my home, I use mostly natural ingredients. Everything from household cleaning products to my skincare routine. When looking for new products, whether beauty or household, I check to make sure the company I am supporting is cruelty free. There’s a great app you can download on your phone called Cruelty Cutter that lets you scan items at the store while you’re shopping. It’s free and it’s been so helpful for me. I also am a huge proponent for using what you already have even if it doesn’t align with all of your ethics. Basically, use things up that are in your possession before finding better alternatives. This prevents excess waste. I’m not proud to admit it but I used to have an entire closet of hair products (shampoos, conditioners, etc). I’ve been steadily using them all up for the past few years and recycling as much of the packaging as possible. It’s honestly really crazy what we can accumulate in our lifetime. I have since transitioned to shampoo bars and more eco friendly hair options.
The world is so far behind the eight ball on these issues, how do you think social media can best be used to change people’s behavior?
Educating and encouraging! A lot of people are honestly naive to the damage we are doing to the environment and it’s not their fault! A lot of us have been raised without awareness or the knowledge and tools to implement change. As I mentioned earlier, my parents have always been environmentally conscious and taught me how important it is to protect our planet at a young age. Even still, I grew up without fully understanding how detrimental things like single use plastics are, just because the information wasn’t really available. I also wasn’t learning about important topics like climate change and the environmental effects of large industries in school. I wish I had! Luckily there is more information now and more resources available for us to learn from.
Social media is such an important tool for educating because it is so far reaching. No matter where we live, most of us are checking social media on a daily basis. I really think it will be the most important tool for widespread change. Something to consider is the approach we are using when educating others on social media. Being open minded is so important. We should never be pointing fingers or shaming others for their lifestyle. If you approach someone critically and negatively, they are way less likely to listen to what you are saying. If we are more supportive towards each other, we can make a much bigger difference. We just need to keep spreading awareness on major issues and quit assuming the mentality that people are living ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We are all in different points of life and have all been influenced by different external factors. There really is so much at stake though (especially for future generations). It time for us to put in the necessary work and leave our planet in a better state than it was when we arrived.
ON ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM
You list yourself as an enviro scient-activist, can you talk about what that means?
Yes! I made up that phrase because I am primarily an activist, but I have a science background. I completed my BA at Barnard College in Environmental Science and Policy, and I did my thesis research at the Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, where some of the world’s cutting edge earth data gets churned out. I wrote 40 pages that tie microscopic plastic pollution data to historical and current plastic politics worldwide. But I have more experience in the ‘field’ – be it petroleum in the Amazon, mountaintop removal in Appalachia, tar sands in Canada, pipelines in North Dakota, oil spills in New Orleans, and microplastic pollution in Bali, Bermuda, and the Arctic.
At what age did you initially become interested in environmental activism and what sparked your interest?
I had a singular experience that sparked my interest in activism at age nine – I remember standing in the grocery checkout line with my mom. I saw on the front page of the NYT a mother holding her child who had died of malnutrition. The child was so small that I was shocked to read that she was my age. I told my mom I wanted to do something, so with her help I founded Superheroes Needed, my first non-profit, which brought water to school children in Malawi via PlayPumps. That year I also founded my school’s first Environmental Action Committee which adopted a recycling system and Klean Kanteen bottles for everyone.
It’s difficult to change people’s ingrained habits and routines overnight – and while of course everyone should be making big changes, we believe that if each of us started to incorporate even small changes, like carrying reusable cups, it would still amount to a lot of cumulative good. What are your recommendations for easy ways to get started down a more sustainable path?
It’s SO hard to get ‘people’ as a whole to want to change their behavior – but the amazing thing is that on an individual level, once we have the desire or urge to change our own behaviors, it becomes cumulatively easier to shift our lifestyles more sustainably.
Start with the reusable coffee cup! This was my first step. I love KeepCup, eCoffee Cup, and of course my insulated Klean Kanteen mug. For iced, I use a straw; love Simply Straws, which are glass. It may take you months to get to a point where 9 times out of 10 you remember to bring your reusable cup. But the beauty is that this behavior shift will last you your whole life – and save LOTS of money.
I am personally making my shifts when each new one feels right – when I don’t feel like it’s a burden, rather a natural evolution. I used to think that the effort would be overwhelming, but luckily going slow and steady requires close to zero effort.
I also used to think that zero waste was a super complex set of interconnected areas of life. It’s really just food and body products, in terms of number of single-use disposables used. So next step after coffee might be buying cloth produce bags, some jars to put your rice and pasta in, or make toothpaste when you finish your next tube. Once you get into this, you will go batshit at Package Free, my good friend Lauren Singer’s zero waste store.
The two most effective things for the average citizen/consumer to do are to use less plastic and eat less animal products. Just the facts. Both are primary drivers of the fossil fuel industry. We love our meat, but luckily we don’t live in the stone age anymore, and we have the impossible burger. Phew.
ON SHOPPING FOR PIECES THAT LAST
Singer, Actor, and Activist @rumerwillis
We’ve always been collectors of antique, vintage, and one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry – it’s our favorite category of the shop. What interests you about heirloom jewelry?
I love vintage jewelry because each piece tells such a unique and beautiful story. Each piece was loved by someone at some point and had a whole other life before it came to me. My favorite are pieces that have inscriptions on the inside. Plus new gold and silver can often be so harmful to the landscape and the environment – re-using something that already exists is always the better option.
Is the environment something that you consider when you’re shopping?
I can’t say that it has always been something that I considered but as I have gotten older and learned a bit more I would definitely say yes. I love supporting sustainable and eco friendly brands.
As a consumer who is also a public figure, how important is it to make sustainable choices?
I think it is important for everyone and anyone to make sustainable choices but especially if you are a public figure it is important to lead by example! I have learned a lot in the last year about how to make more sustainable choices in all areas of my life. It's something that we all need to think more about on a daily basis, no matter who you are.