Beginning March 1, 2020, the Bag Waste Reduction law went into affect in NYC. Although I’d been following the law as it went through it’s early stages in the legislation process, so much had been going on in the past couple of weeks that it completely slipped my mind when March 1st actually rolled around.
But once all the craziness was subdued, it took actually seeing this legislation in action in two stores for me to realize the amazingness that had finally taken place:
NO MORE PLASTIC BAGS IN NEW YORK CITY!
This new law doesn’t only affect those in the five boroughs, it applies to any retailer that collects New York State taxes.
And so, W O W.
I’m so exited and happy to be living during a time where veganism is bursting through the seams of major corporations and where taking care of our ecosystem is becoming part of the law.
However, this thought was also accompanied by the horrific realization that the massive amount of destruction we’ve done to our home has also taken place in my lifetime, and we are now in the early stages of damage control.
But I won’t linger on the bad news…
This is a truly gratifying time to be alive and I can’t wait to see the stats that will undoubtedly pop-up after this new law has been in place for awhile, regarding how much less plastic waste is in our city. No more gross bags hanging high in tree branches, or floating in our natural waterways or in the parks. So much less waste in landfills. And realistically, I think a lot of people may simply not purchase as much as they were before because they don’t have the ease of plastic bags.
However, that last one could be a blessing and a curse— without as many purchases, there could be something in store to try to lure people into opening up their wallets as much as they previously did. But let’s look on the bright side— maybe another stimulus package is on the way? 🙂
Another benefit that is admittedly quite personal, but still great nonetheless, will be not feeling slightly weird when bringing all my reusables to the grocery store. Although it didn’t bother that much, I would feel slightly weird and as if all eyes were on me when I’d take extra time packing my own groceries into bags instead of letting the store staff pack the stuff for me quickly and swiftly into plastic bags. Not anymore!
And finally, another eco friendly tip for all the folks out there, but especially my fellow NYC dwellers— while you’re stocking up on reusable bags, purchase some reusable produce bags as well! I’ve had my produce bags for some time now, and have barely used them (eeek!), but now? It’s gonna be a fruit and veggie bonanza in here!
Not only are reusable produce bags another great way to reduce plastic, they also help solve a problem that hasn’t yet found a solution in all groceries and markets because in-store (plastic!) produce bags are still-a-go. Additionally, there are many types of plastic bags that are exempt from the new law. Boo. But baby steps are better than no steps.
While briefly discussing the new “no plastic” policy with my mom, she mentioned that using good old paper bags is how they used to carry groceries “back in the day”. I excitedly exclaimed “I know!” A bit later, it truly sank in— although there are many things I wouldn’t want to bring back from past decades, the simpler, cleaner ways that some tasks were carried out are certainly welcome back.
I can’t wait to see what other eco friendly things the city will come up with!
This post has been a long time coming. I’ve been wanting to write about my period for quite some time. The ups, the downs, and everything in-between. So, here it goes– my journey to trying to make my period more eco-friendly.
But, before I begin, I’ll start with a disclaimer:
I won’t cover absolutely everything about the history of my period in this post. Honestly, I could write an entire thesis on what I’ve been through with my cycle— but I will touch on most of the major stuff that’s happened in the past several years. I also included a random af but pretty encompassing summary in the last paragraph in case you don’t want to read an entire blog post about my menstrual cycle. Feel free to email me through this blog or message me on Instagram if you’d like more info about my period.
Whoa… that sounded kinda creepy, but you know what I mean 🙂
A (not so) Brief Period History.
I’ll start by acknowledging that all these issues may have been condensed into a smaller time-frame if it weren’t for my overall laziness and lack of taking immediate action whenever something happens with my health. For the most part, I’ve learned my lesson when it comes to this, but in the past, I was definitely the type to “wait and see what happens”, no matter what happened.
For years I had really heavy periods that slowly got progressively heavier, accompanied by really crappy pain — as in, picture really horrible cramps, then, turn the dial up another notch or two. I would go through overnight pads in a matter of hours — not overnight. When I finally did see a gynecologist, I ended up on birth control and was diagnosed with menorrhagia — a fancy name for bleeding waaay too much when you’re on your period. I was also informed that I had both ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids.
You can imagine how much fun I was having at this appointment.
Ovarian cysts are common among many child-bearing aged woman, but the fibroids— which are actually benign tumors (that also appear during child-bearing years), are way more common among African-American women. I have no idea why and I don’t think the medical community does either. But I digress.
In the land of birth control, all was well. I had really clear skin and much lighter periods. I had to set about 100 alarms to remind myself to take it at the same time everyday, but once I got the hang of that, it was all good. Or so I thought…
… One day a few years ago, around the time I started trying to take control of my health, I was on my period and I decided to look up the side effects of birth control. It was horrifying. Now, the internet has the power to make anyone think they’re dying for any reason, but the stuff I was reading just wasn’t sitting well with me, especially not at this point in my life and health journey. Something inside just told me that I didn’t wanna be on birth control anymore.
Also, at this point in the aforementioned journey, I’d already decided that if one takes control of their diet and lifestyle, they have more control over certain health issues than they may think. So, although I wasn’t vegan yet, I felt I could maybe deal with a heavy period sans medication.
Not so coincidentally, at my next gyno visit, the results of my ultrasound showed something amazing: my fibroids had shrunk significantly and my cysts were now completely gone.
You may be thinking … “Wtf?” Or “that’s amazing!” Either one would be applicable and totally understandable.
I definitely believe that my changes in lifestyle and diet played a role in here somewhere— I ate horribly before getting healthy, and who knows what kinds of hormones and chemicals were affecting my poor uterus. But personally, I also believe in higher powers, so I gave a heartfelt shoutout to the universe on this miraculous occurrence as well. From there, I listened to my intuition and told my gyno I wanted off birth control for good. She obliged, but my heavy period journey was far from over.
No More Meds, and I Went Vegan… but the Heavy Bleeding Continued
As time went on, my periods were still heavy. I no longer experienced horrible cramps and pain as badly as I did before, but I was still going through pads more often than I felt I should. My thoughts were “oh crap, nothing has changed– what do I do now?” Even after going vegan, I didn’t notice immediate changes in my cycle.
Making My Period Eco-Friendly (and Later, Low-Waste)
Nonetheless, I started slowly trying to change everything I used for health, beauty and otherwise over to more eco-friendly options (hence the existence of this section of my blog). I think part of my thought process with my period products was that I really had to try everything I could think of to fix the heavy bleeding issue. If I had already changed my diet and was more physically active, I guess now I had to focus on the products I was using. I started buying eco-friendly pads and tampons around last winter. I was amazed to see that the price was the same as regular sanitary products– which frankly, contain stuff I do not want in my vagina.
I felt content that I’d made an eco-friendly switch, but I wanted to do more. So, several months ago, as I was scrolling through vegan Instagram, I came across an ad for a free menstrual cup. I thought “this is it! This is my chance to try a menstrual cup!”
I’d heard about the cup years ago when the famous Diva brand made the menstrual cup a household normality, but I had all sorts of reservations about using one— but still, I got the cup and tried it out on my next period. I chronicled the journey in my Instagram stories and highlights. The first cycle using it wasn’t too bad. Aside from the annoyance of getting used to putting the actual cup inside of me— and taking it out for that matter, when it was in place, it worked well. But sometimes it would move around, and that was a little uncomfortable.
Then, one day… it flipped. Both literally and figuratively.
The cup turned sideways inside of me. I was home when it happened which was a huge relief— I also had a pad on as a safety net. This very inconvenient occurrence shook me a bit. I envisioned every possible worse case scenario:
What if this had happened while I was on the train?
Or at work and on my feet?
Or I was nowhere near a bathroom?
What if I hadn’t been wearing a pad? (highly unlikely but still within the realm of possibility)
It freaked me out so much that I didn’t use the cup for the rest of that day. Or the rest of that cycle. I finished out that period with my eco-friendly pads and tampons. By the time my next cycle arrived, I tried the cup once more. I used it on my heaviest day, hoping for the best. But I could tell the spark was gone. I just wasn’t feeling it anymore. I used it for a few hours at most that day and that was the end of the cup and I’s short-lived relationship. I know there are tons of shapes and sizes available for menstrual cups, but I just didn’t feel enough motivation to try cup after cup.
However, this mishap contributed to zero discouragement in my period journey. I knew there was a chance I might not like the cup, and the fact that I got to try it for free calmed my nerves even more.
What was more concerning was wondering what my next step was. I really wanted to conquer having a low-waste, eco-friendly period; yes, I was using non-chemically treated, cotton products — but I felt like that just wasn’t enough, mainly because it was far from low-waste.
More time passed, and a page I follow on Instagram that makes reusable pads ended up having a huge flash sale.
Perhaps you’ve noticed a pattern of me trying to acquire products for cheap and/or free? 😀
This was yet another option I’d been aware of, but had been waiting for the right time to try it. Or maybe more like, had been too lazy to getting around to try it? Either way, a 50% off flash sale definitely seemed like the right time.
I was eager to see how the reusable pads would go over— I had a bunch of questions like: how would I store a soiled pad when I was in public and needed to change it? Were they truly absorbent? How long could I wear one before I had to change it? And so many more…
When they finally arrived, I was immediately obsessed. Mainly because I was in love with the prints! But I didn’t buy them to have cute pads… okay, having cute pads did factor in a bit, but the point was low-waste, eco-friendly periods… period.
Too Many Variables— but they Happened at the Right Time.
Now, I’ve gotta back track a bit, because this part is kinda crucial to the story. In May of this year, I turned 32. Why is that relevant? Well, as you may (or may not) know, as women get older, their periods will often get lighter. You may not (or may) notice drastically lighter periods overnight, but this is relevant for my story because as mentioned, I had a history of ridiculously heavy periods. But a couple of months before I turned 32, my periods were noticeably lighter. I couldn’t say with 100% certainty that it was only the age factor because there were just way too many variables:
I’d been eating about an 80% whole foods, plant-based diet for several months at this point (so very little processed foods and practically no mock meat at all… like, I stopped buying it completely)
I had become very physically active— I even took up running before I suffered an injury last winter.
I’d been vegan for a year and a half, so for all I knew, my body could have decided to just start adjusting to my new vegan lifestyle via my cycle (this one is actually very plausible because I know and have read stories from so many women who claim their periods got lighter after going vegan).
The entire paragraph above was written for the purpose of me saying this:
I don’t know if I would be as happy as I am with reusable pads if my period were still as heavy as it was in the past. But I love them now. They’re absorbent af and they work amazingly. So, my period journey has a happy ending. I’m still working out a few kinks like: changing and storing the reusables in public and washing and drying them as soon as possible, but overall they’re great. I’m thrilled that I found a low-waste solution for my period. I’m supplementing the use of the cotton pads with tampons, but cutting my waste in half makes me very proud, and I am constantly reminding myself that this is a baby-step journey, as it should be.
Here’s a Final Recap — or a Summary for the Slackers…
Super heavy periods > Menorrhagia nightmare > birth control saved me, but the chemicals had to go > I started trying to find natural ways to lighten my period and eventually I ended up also trying to make my period more eco-friendly and low-waste.
My first route was changing over to chemical-free, natural, cotton sanitary products > I felt great because I knew I was immediately eliminating placing chemicals inside my body, which I had apparently been doing for almost two decades— ew.
Next, I focused on low-waste > I tried the menstrual cup and it was unsuccessful for me; there were too many grey areas.
Then, I tried reusable pads and I loved them > I settled on a combo of the reusable pads and chemical-free, cotton tampons.
And that’s it! That’s my journey so far. Oh, and PS – full disclosure: I’m a visual person, so going in to change my pad and seeing a bloody Jaws kinda gives me a much needed chuckle when I have cramps and am bleeding from my uterus.
* Menstrual products image courtesy of Vanessa Ramirez via Pexels.com
With spring just a few weeks away, many of you are probably starting the “spring cleaning” process of your wardrobes— getting rid of some things that haven’t seen the light of day or been warn in years, and buying new pieces to prepare for the warmer weather.
I, on the other hand, will not be making any warm-weather purchases. What I will be doing is getting rid of more clothes that I don’t need or don’t wear. Don’t get me wrong, I love clothes. But my views on them have changed a bit as my vegan lifestyle continues to evolve. As a newbie to the world of eco-conscious living, I decided about a year ago (just a lil’ while after I went vegan) that I wouldn’t make anymore clothing purchases because I’d made a commitment to living a more minimal lifestyle. This vow spread to all parts of my life, wardrobe included. Luckily, I had a decently curated closet, and although my personal style is kind of ever-evolving (but has pretty much found its most comfortable place at this point), I was really happy with the clothing I already owned and was excited to mix and match the pieces I had in fun ways.
So, that brings me to the topic of this lovely blog post: fashion— well, a very specific type of fashion; fast fashion. “What’s that?” you might be asking. This is one of the best cases of a name being truly self-explanatory. It’s fashion that is produced quickly. Very quickly. The fashion industry is a billion dollar giant that has grown massively over the past several decades. Even if you’re a person who could truly care less about any of the clothing that goes on your body, the fashion industry likely has had some sort of affect on your life in one way or another.
Sure, some of us may scoff at an industry that is largely based on looks, status and elitism, but remember that scene in The Devil Wears Prada when Miranda Priestly tells Anne Hathaway’s character that her bargain basement sweater choice may seem like it was an independent decision made by her and her fashion-oblivious mind, when in reality, it was actually chosen for her by the very people in that room? Well yeah, that’s kinda true. You see, that’s how fast fashion is born— it’s all based off current trends, and these trends change annually, even seasonally. Giant retailers like Forever 21, H&M, and the biggest of them all, Zara, design and produce clothing that matches these seasonal, high-end trends so that everyday people like you and I can partake of the colors and styles of the season at a deeply discounted price than the high-end garments we see on the runway.
But there’s a downside. There are many problems within this seedy world of trendy clothing production. Here’s why fast-fashion is toxic for both people and the environment:
Horrible Labor Conditions
To make clothing for the masses at such a quick rate and at really low prices, cheap labor is required– and lots of it. The fast-fashion industry is notorious for using overseas labor to keep costs down. And the industry is also full of complaints of less than satisfactory working-conditions ranging from long hours in packed factories with no air-conditioning or regulated breaks, to horribly low and unlivable wages, to mistreatment of workers and even the use of child and slave labor. Many of these factories are located in countries like China and Bangladesh where the workers rights are very minimal or hardly enforced1. The 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh is just one extreme example of the poor conditions that garment and factory workers must endure. Over 1,100 people, including many garment workers died in the building collapse amid many warning signs of imminent structural failure of the building that went ignored by the building’s owners2.
Bangladeshi people protest in the aftermath of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse.
It’s the knowledge of instances such as this one that make me think twice about this industry. Personally, I don’t like the idea of essentially paying for atrocities like this one to take place. After all, it kinda aligns with the reason I’m vegan. In the same way that I don’t want to pay someone to slaughter animals for me, I also don’t want to pay someone to force a child to sew my sweater for me or to have someone working in unsafe conditions for minimal wages.
They Use Animal Skin and Fur in Production
Another byproduct of the fast fashion industry is less than stellar animal welfare standards. Over the years, companies like PETA have done their part to call out the big players in the world of fast fashion. Because of this, some of them have changed their standards and policies when it comes to using products like leather, wool, and animal skins. For example, PETA came down hard on Forever 21 for using mohair, and as a result, Forever 21 joined the ranks of H&M and Zara in banning the use of the hair, stating that the company would be mohair-free by 20203. I know, I thought the same thing — by 2020? But hey, it’s a start. Zara and H&M have stopped using exotic animal skins but all three companies still utilize leather and wool, although some claim to source their wool in a humane way. The site good on you is a sick resource for seeing how a ton of companies, including the fast fashion Gods are doing ethically, giving them report cards that rate their impact on people (labor conditions), the environment and animals.
The Environmental Impact is Bad; Like, Really Bad
This one makes a ton of sense but really break it down for a sec to understand. If fast fashion retailers are producing a massive amount of clothes every season, and people are buying these clothes every season, what happens after that? Because of the quick production and cheap prices, the quality is often questionable as well. So, we have clothes that are falling apart after just a few years (and some after just a few washes… I mean, hellooo Forever 21 basic tees, ugh.) coupled with clothes that are “out of style” within a year. That leads to hundreds of thousands of pounds of clothing going into our landfills every year. In fact, the amount of clothing that Americans throw out is crippling, clocking in at well over 14 million tons annually4. It only makes matters worse that the majority of these clothes contain synthetic fibers such as polyester, acrylic and nylon, all of which are derived from petroleum. Therefore, similar to plastic, those pieces of clothing will take hundreds of decades to decompose. This is horrible news for the environment. Another disgusting byproduct is water pollution. With the massive amounts of chemicals and dyes used on these clothes, the fashion industry is by far one of the biggest contributors to toxic H2O, producing over 20% of industrial water pollution5.
But I have to Wear Clothes, so What Can I do?
That’s a great question. And honestly, I’m probably not the best person to ask. I’ll explain why that’s the case in a little bit, but it isn’t because I don’t have a few suggestions on how you can cut down on the negative impacts of the fast fashion industry. I actually do have a few tips for that:
Buy American-made clothes: One way to ensure that you aren’t contributing to horrible working conditions is to buy from companies that make there clothes right here in the good ol’ U.S.A. Companies like American Apparel, Hackwith Design House, Todd Sheltonand Khloe Kardashian’s denim line Good American are all made in America. There are also plenty of designers, such as Pangaia that produce clothing overseas but ensure that working conditions are impeccable — just do a bit of research before shopping. If you’re not American but live in a thriving, Western country, purchase locally-made clothing from designers where you live.
Shop second-hand: One of the biggest things you can do is to shop second-hand. It’s basically buying recycled clothing. The idea is that by purchasing you clothing second-hand, you aren’t spending your money on more mass produced pieces, thereby supporting the fast-fashion industry. If you live in a major city, shopping second-hand is supa dupa easy. There are usually thrift shops and second-hand stores all over big cities. You’re also likely to find something that will suit your taste because they usually have a wide variety of clothing. And don’t worry about wearing clothing that’s old or used because a) all hail the hipster movement of Gen X and Gen Y that has made dressing like you’re from decades past insanely cool again, and b) personal style is exactly that — personal. Fashion has at least done a few things right– that coupled with good timing because there really is no such thing as not looking stylish anymore. Thanks to creative designers, everything has practically been done in the world of fashion (although designers will continue to try their hardest to innovate and I say go for it) and so long as you rock it with confidence, you’ll always be stylish. My favorite decade is the 90s and I actually grew up during that decade so it’s very fitting. But the point is that I’d be able to find an abundance of cool 90s digs in any thrift shop and so can you.
Don’t, I repeat DO NOT buy fur or leather: or wool, or angora, or snakeskin… you get the point. I specify this because just shopping second-hand doesn’t equal cruelty-free (if that’s what you’re aiming for). Many second-hand shops sell clothing that is made from animal products, skins and furs. If you want to look out for the environment and the animals, try not to purchase clothes in which animals have been killed or harmed in order to make them.
Do a clothing swap: I know someone who participates in these and although I have yet to do so, it’s a great way to recycle clothing. Basically, a group of folks gets together with all the clothing they don’t want, and you swap out your pieces for other pieces– sort of like an intimate thrift store among friends. There are two benefits; the clothes are being continuously recycled as you swap them with others, and it’s also a fun way to go “shopping” as you get rid of clothing you don’t want anymore. Let’s say you got a sweater at a previous swap and by the time it’s spring (kinda like now) you already aren’t feeling the sweater or it didn’t look as great as you thought it would look no matter how you styled it. Well, now you can pass it on at a clothing swap guilt-free and get something else in return. Voila, wardrobe crisis solved.
Make your own clothes: Okay, I know this may not be for everyone, myself included because I’m not really into making clothes and sewing. But you may discover you have a hidden talent or love for making your own clothing. All you need is a sewing machine and some patterns. You can also try going to a workshop or class to discover how to create your own fashions. One of my cousins knows how to make clothes (and just about anything for that matter) and seeing some of her creations solidifies that it’s completely possible to make your entire wardrobe. If you decide to go this route, don’t forget to use sustainable and, if possible, organic fabrics for your creations! The added benefit here is that you’ll have entirely custom pieces, created specifically for your body — kinda like how they used to do in the old days way before fast fashion was even a thing (sighs nostalgically).
Where I Stand
Remember when I said I’m probably not the best person to ask about how to shop ethically? That may have been a little self-critical but I said it because I can’t guarantee that I’ll never purchase anything from a fast fashion retailer again. I also really love contemporary and modern pieces that I feel are sometimes harder to come across in second-hand stores. But I haven’t given up on major retailers yet, especially as they continue to make improvements and move toward more sustainable and ethical practices. It’s similar to the dilemma many vegans face when eating at non-vegan establishments — do we not eat there in protest? Or do we order the one vegan option they have so they don’t take it off the menu and so they realize that people want to order it? If H&M has an amazing organic cotton, chunky knit, over-sized sweater (wow, I started drooling just writing that) that is part of a line they created of American-made pieces, why wouldn’t I buy it? I want to show them that I as a consumer will gladly spend my money on that organic cotton ya know? The same goes for any other brand. My minimalist lifestyle will keep me from decking out my closet with unnecessary clothing anyhow, so now all that’s left is to make sure that the clothes that are in there are as ethical– and cute as possible.
Here’s another website I found that features a few designers and design houses that make ethical, sustainable and/or eco-friendly clothing: