My Ethical Lifestyle Audit: Where I Am, Where I Want To Be

A few people have asked me recently when I started writing my blog. The real answer to that question is that I started back in 2012 when I decided to do a little "lifestyle experiment" of sorts- challenging myself to go for an entire year without "purchasing anything that I couldn't prove had been ethically made".  

Since 2012, I've been constantly learning and re-evaluating my lifestyle to better align with my values. In addition to being conscious of where my clothes and household goods are coming from, I'm now much more careful about consuming plastic, buying food, and even sourcing hygiene products. I've done a dismal job of keeping a record of the changes I'm making, so I'm going to start publishing "lifestyle audits" here on Life+Style+Justice every once in awhile in hopes that the stuff that I'm learning and implementing will be helpful to someone else out there! 

I've broken areas of my lifestyle up into food, clothing, hygiene and beauty, household goods, and waste. 

Food: 

What's going well? 
Andrew and I have been sourcing our food as locally as possible! This summer, we've been enjoying our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) share with Growing Lots Urban Farm. Each week, I head to one of the farm lots with my reusable bags (it's right here in the city- built up over an abandoned parking lot!) and gather up kale, herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and whatever else has sprung up! I've enjoyed gathering recipes that allow me to use vegetables that are in season, and my "eating in season" Pinterest board is growing. Ask me how to use up a ton of cucumbers without getting sick of them, or how to prepare bok choi ten different ways! 

Our diet has gone mostly plant-based, as we have been eating very little meat. Watching the documentary Cowspiracy about a year ago really opened my eyes to the (very scary) environmental impact of the meat industry on our planet and since then, when we do eat meat, we've been sticking to grass-fed, locally raised sources as much as possible. I could see us going completely vegetarian someday, perhaps, but for right now we're slowly making sustainable changes and seeing how we do as time does on. 

I can shop mostly plastic-free these days (when I do purchase something in plastic, it can usually be recycled), by sticking with mostly fruits and veggies and then using fabric bags to fill with staples like rice and oats in the bulk section. Things like tortillas and bread can easily be made from scratch, and I just purchased a cast iron tortilla press which is the best thing ever. 

What could be improved? 
I'd like to eventually be zero waste, entirely. The only thing that's holding me back at this point is that the few things that contribute most to the plastic packaging I buy are much more expensive purchased without packaging. For example, it's much cheaper to buy plastic-packaged cheese at Whole Foods than to go to the only shop nearby which sells unpackaged cheese (which is a really fancy cheese shop that will cut you a slice from a big wheel) and asking them to put it in my own container. 

Going off of my previous point, I'd also like to start moving toward more plant based substitutes for cheese and other dairy products. Andrew has recently switched from half-and-half in his coffee to almond milk, so that's a step in the right direction!  

Clothing: 

What's going well? 
In the past few months, I've started to place a bigger emphasis on natural fibers- trying to ensure that any new garments I add to my wardrobe are cotton, linen, or wool rather than synthetics. I'm so concerned about the amount of tiny plastic fibers that are shedding from our clothing and contaminating our water supplies. I'm still fine with synthetic fabrics when I'm thrifting, however- I'd rather have synthetic fabrics getting used in my closet than sitting in a landfill! 

What could be improved? 
I'm a bit disappointed with myself here. Looking at my current closet, I feel like I have gotten rid of/ replaced too many items in the past year and a half- even though most of the items I own are still the same. I'll be attempting to slow down my pace throughout the rest of the summer, knowing that I'll need to add a few more items to my wardrobe in the fall. 

I also ruined several items of clothing while in the Philippines with A Beautiful Refuge- one of the downsides of my habit of not keeping clothing that I don't love/are worn out is that I didn't have a stash of "work" clothes. A few of my tee shirts, a tank top, and an old pair of workout capris succumbed to screen printing ink stains and I've retired them from normal circulation in my wardrobe. However, I've learned my lesson and I'm setting aside the ruined clothes so that I'll have them for my next trip to the workshop! 

Beauty Products and Hygiene   

What's going well: 
I consume very little in this area... I usually go 6 months between any type of makeup purchases and don't wear makeup every day. I'm still using fair trade shampoo and conditioner, as well as homemade deodorant & toothpaste (and coconut oil to remove makeup- it's the best!). Aside from a facial moisturizer I buy from Whole Foods, that's about it for the products I use. I wash my face with just water and a cloth. I never use and don't own nail polish, hair or eyelash extensions, tanning products, etc. 

I just purchased some new makeup from two different natural/ethical brands: W3LL People and Gabriel, and I'd like to try RMS beauty as well! I've used the same conventional makeup for years, and I'd like to find a replacement to stick with for the years to come, so I'm definitely in a beauty-brand-testing phase. 

What could be improved? 
Makeup is one of my big focus areas this summer, because I know that I can do better- up until this point I've been using cosmetics from the Body Shop. I've been waiting until my current makeup items are used up before purchasing new ones, because I didn't want to throw things out and waste them! I'm definitely excited to have some new products to test, finally! 

I dyed my hair (it was supposed to be drastically lighter, but only went a shade lighter than my natural color) earlier this year and regretted it immediately. It's growing out somewhat awkwardly, but I'm using it as a reminder to myself that I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on hair upkeep and expose myself to chemicals. Two haircuts a year are enough for me.... oops. 

Home Goods: 

What's going well: 
e haven't added all that much to our home lately... we did spring for a new (made in the USA) mattress pad and some new non-synthetic pillows (so comfy)... and I've added a few fair trade decorations (especially in the bedroom, I've been doing a bit of a "makeover" on that particular room), but nothing major. 

What could be improved?
Nothing really that I can think of- just continuing to purchase slowly and thoughtfully, I suppose!  

Waste: 

What's going well: 
ndrew and I are still composting and recycling faithfully, which, combined with just lowering the amount of plastic we buy in the first place leaves very little trash behind... 

I've been slowly getting rid of some things around my home (does anyone else just get spring cleaning fever when the weather is hot instead of during the actual springtime?), but instead of just carting a load of stuff off to the closest goodwill I've been getting rid of it in a more conscious way, finding places that will really use my "junk". Old art supplies to a local kids' non-profit, bras that don't fit to Free The Girls, tech junk to Tech Dump. This takes ALOT more time, but it is worth it to me and it helps train me to think about the life span of my stuff before I buy it- in 5 years will I be trying to figure out where to get rid of whatever I'm purchasing? 

What could be improved?
Again, I'd like to go completely zero-waste in the future! I'd also like to get to the point where everything in my home is so useful/beautiful, and so little new stuff comes in, that I won't really ever need to spring clean! 

That's about it! I'm planning to revisit this "audit" in a few months, to mark the improvements I've made since this date! I'd love to hear where you are at in your own ethical journey, either here in the comments or over on instagram

-Hannah