Presenting My Non-Profit, Style Lottery

Check out my organization, Style Lottery! Style Lottery is a social enterprise dedicated to sustainable fashion and fashion philanthropy.  with the desire to uplift young women in the community. Style Lottery, through nominations from community members, selects hardworking women and men from low-income communities and gives them the gift of a free clothing.

Visit the site at stylelottery.org

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Website Designed by Timi Komonibo & Featured Picture by Bunmi Ishola

Photo Diary 1: All of Me

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I am no stranger to public speaking. I have spoken from countless platforms from the steps of commencement at The University of Texas at Austin to the TEDx stage at Syracuse University, but every time I’m asking to give remarks I’m just as nervous as the first time.

I have a love-hate relationship with the stage. It intimidates me and brings out the best in me. From an outsider’s perspective, my pre-speaking routine is pretty bizarre. If you listen closely in the mornings, you can hear me talking to myself emphatically in the shower. I’m practicing my inflection and almost always using my hands. Needless to say, my fingers are prunes by the time I’m done. I never really memorize my speeches anymore. I much rather prefer the art of storytelling. I believe that if what you’re saying is true, it will flow from your heart.

Before I get on stage, you can find me pacing back and forth, murmuring my remarks under my breath. Most likely, my stomach is turning and my body is tingling. I’m not certain if I’m having an allergic reaction to this speaking opportunity or just feeling nervous energy. Whatever it is, as soon as I step onto the stage, everything fades away and I transform into my public speaker persona. She is my alter-ego. Timi Komo, the girl boss. The fashion philanthropy crusader. She easily charms the crowd, demanding their attention. Gone are her awkward mannerisms. No one can tell she used to be tremendously shy in middle school. She is so bold that sometimes she overwhelms me.

I am not always that girl that people see on stage. That fact used to make me feel a bit like an impostor. Being on a platform gives the added (and often unrealistic) pressure that you always have to be ON. And although you don’t owe anyone perfection, you do yourself a health dose of self-love. I have learned to embrace the duplicity of my personality. I can deliver a killer presentation to a crowd of hundreds and I can also do an interpretative dance to Disney’s “Frozen” soundtrack for preschoolers. Both sides of me offer something of value. Quirky, confident, dramatic, or pensive– I am worthy of love.

I never want to lose my human, unpolished side. It is part of my essence. I am constantly growing into my true authentic self and I challenge everyone to do the same. I challenge you: Find out who you are when no one’s watching. Examine your natural reaction to adversity (tweet this). Explore your maximum impact environment. These aspects are crucial if we’re want to be leaders that actually make a difference in the world around us.

Photo cred: Gesiye Komo
Note: Impostor Syndrome (or the feeling that you’re somehow inadequate for the job you’re doing or opportunities you have) is not that uncommon among high achievers and go getters. In fact, it’s a sign that you’re on the right track. You’re getting things done and blowing your own expectations out of the water!

Before I Leave 2015 Behind…

I don’t know about you but when I don’t reflect, I get ungrateful. When I don’t look back on where I started, I miss how much I’ve grown.

A couple days into the 2016 new year, someone asked me how 2015 had been for me. With a labored sigh, I replied “In all honesty, it was a tough year.” I hadn’t told a lie– 2015 was sprinkled with unexpected let-downs and challenges. Social media has a way of compiling a highlight reel of our lives that gives the false impression of a perfect life. While I was winning awards and getting speaking engagements, I was grappling with the reality of a dwindling savings account. One day, when I’m ready, I will tell you all that story. It’s one of true friendship and God’s provision. I’ll save it for another day.

Right now I want to take you back to how I started the year. I wrote down a vision for what I wanted to see in the next 365 day. I included my ambitions, my hopes, and my motivations. I believe that the way you start (with optimism and hope) frames how you’ll approach the year, with all its good and its bad.

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Vision Board for 2015

“Go. See. Do”

I had purposed in my mind that I wanted to take a solo trip after I graduated with my Masters degree. I was nervous and was constantly checking Google Flight alerts for tickets during my lunch breaks. My destination of choice? Copenhagen, Denmark. I love biking culture and I had heard it’s a safe place for a woman to travel alone. I caught huge a break with a roundtrip ticket for under $600. On my trip, I stayed at the Urban House in Denmark and hopped over to Germany to visit friends and learn about sustainable fashion at H&M Starting House. I’d recommend a solo trip to anyone who’s ever considered it.

Be Happy. Live Well.

Happiness to me consists of spending time with loved ones and being free to be myself. Living far away from my family and friends, the things I cherish the most are unexpected phone calls, care packages, and authentic acts of friendship. In order for me to “live well,” I had to shed dead weight that was not helping me develop as an individual. It can be difficult to let go of relationships and things that used to fit you. Once those things become a hinderance, it’s necessary to remove them from your life. As a recovering people-pleaser, I still struggle with the need to justify my actions but a dear friend challenged me to start living for an audience of one. As long as God is pleased with my actions, I don’t owe anyone anything. I have said many times before that I am fiercely protective of my happiness— as we all should be. Before you invite people, habits, and things into your life, examine them thoroughly. And let them in only if they will make you a better version of yourself.

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Ambition

One day, I was praying and I thought what big and specific thing could I ask of God? I declared, “I want to have 5 speaking engagements this year.” As the months rolled by, I had almost forgotten my prayer. But emails and calls started pouring in and on December 4th, I found myself on stage at an award ceremony, giving remarks about sustainable fashion. It was my fifth and final speaking engagement for the year. Sometimes, I still feel like the nerdy girl who reads articles about textile waste for fun and it’s humbling that people want to hear what I have to say. The Word says, You have not because you do not ask (James 4:2). God is not intimidated by our ambition. Ask Him for what you want and when you do, ASK BIG.

Leaders of the New Cool 

I’m not shy about telling people that I want my startup Style Lottery to be the thought-leader in recycling textiles. We’ve been working with the circular economy for a couple of years and we have been changing the way consumers get rid of their old clothes. Sustainable fashion isn’t just the new cool, it’s going to become the new standard. This year, I challenged myself to be true to my convictions. I adjusted my shopping habits and now more than half my closet is second-hand. I enjoy fashion and I recognize its ability to connect and empower communities. I am an outspoken advocate for sustainable fashion. You know what qualifies us as leaders? Our closets, our wallets, and what we chose to use them for.

Necessary Goods

I dabbled in the zero waste world for a bit and learned some great ways to lower my carbon footprint. I attended SXSW Eco, tried composting, eliminated meat from my diet, and read The Zero Waste Home from cover to cover. At the end of the day, I identified the necessities and the excesses in my life. I focused on getting basic staples and timeless pieces that will last several seasons. I have chosen to adopt a minimal waste lifestyle, where I work to minimize my environmental impact. Ever since I made the switch, I have less stuff and more substance. I’m aware that not everyone can fit all their trash into a mason jar, but if we can all reduce our waste in some way, we can make the world a better place.

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Writing this post was therapeutic for me. In retrospect, I can see that I had a fantastic year. Although I didn’t get all the answers I wanted in 2015, I know that God will complete the work He started. One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11. It says,

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

That promise from God is enough optimism and hope to launch me into 2016. I cannot wait to see how His plans unfold in my life.

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Did you make a vision board this year? Or make New Years resolutions? If so, what were your main themes for 2016? Leave a comment below :)

Swishing Things Up A Little

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This season, we’ve upgraded the Style Lottery shopping experience. The first thing most people noticed was that we changed the name of our events.

So why a swish instead of a swap? It’s because swapping is simply about exchanging clothes while swishes are about creating community. Having lived in three cities in the last three years, I know from experience that meeting new people can be somewhat intimidating. Style Lottery brings people together and creates a sense of community around fashion. Our swish events happen on 3 levels (college, city, and community). Our events are our way of making our communities feel more intimate and our impact more evident.

For this event, we teamed up with a local creative collective called goDesignDC to create a unique shopping experience for our guests. The creative geniuses behind the collective (Obi and Amanda) gave us the boutique look we were going for. Here are a few highlights from the event.

A thoughtful & sustainably designed space

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Style Lottery is serious about sustainability, so teaming up with goDesignDC was a match made in Heaven. The team build the ceiling fixtures and racks from locally sourced and recycled materials. If you want to see more of their design vision, check out their Instagram page.

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We love when our social circles overlap and our friends meet each other. Friends can turn into style soulmates in a matter of minutes. We witnessed it happen several times throughout the event. A style soulmate is someone who wears a similar size in clothing. Although you didn’t intend to, you end up picking up most of the things she brought to the swish. Once you find her, you decide you have too much in common not to be friends in real life. You exchange numbers and decide to go on a roadtrip to Philly together. That last part actually did happened at our last event. We couldn’t have made it up if we tried.

A curated boutique experience

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Our guests’ favorite part about our events is our ever-changing inventory. As the swish goes on, new items are brought out onto the floor. We had blogger and stylist, Buki Peters of Style With Buki, in the building helping guests style their swish finds. For guests at home missing out on the action, Buki also did a LIVE style session on Periscope.

The option to recycle clothes

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For this swish event, we were fortunate to partner with a local H&M store. The leftover clothing was donated to the store’s recycling program. Most people don’t know that H&M will give you a 15% off coupon for recycling with them. To reward the ladies for lowering their carbon footprints, we made sure that each woman received a 15% off coupon for her contributions.

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Thank you to everyone who made it to our first ever City Swish in DC. We’re always looking to improve your shopping experience for our guests. The feedback we received from our guests has been fantastic!  If you’ve ever been to one of our events, we’d love to hear from you. Please take 2 minutes to fill out our survey.

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   Photo cred: Obi Okolo (goDesignDC)

5 Brands With Perks To Last a Lifetime

When it comes to shopping, I am beginning to realize that a brand’s promise can be more important that the sticker price of its products. There are some brands that take their commitment to quality and customer service to a higher level. I’m talking about brands that care about a product from the minute you purchase it to the second it gets a rip in it. Read below to explore 5 brands that offer lifetime/satisfaction guarantees for their products.

#1. PATAGONIA 

Customers standing in line to fix their torn clothing in Patagonia’s repair truck.

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For all my outdoorsy friends out there, Patagonia is a brand committed to making “high-quality stuff that lasts for years and can be repaired, so you don’t have to buy more of it.” This anti-consumerist message may seem paradoxical for a for-profit apparel brand, but Patagonia knows exactly what it’s doing. They have managed to create a customer culture that values quality items and hand-me-downs. They even created a blog that celebrates the stories behind their customer’s favorite Patagonia items, may of which have been restitched and repaired rather than being discarded or replaced.

Patagonia is so true to its promise to give well-loved clothing articles a second life that it embarked on a repairing cross-country journey. Additionally, through their “Worn Wear” recycling program, if your Patagonia gear is unrepairable, you can send it to them (or bring it into the store) to be recycled and/or repurposed. Old or new, Patagonia gear holds a lot of value. Not only will this brand last longer than most. When it finally gives up the ghost Patagonia repair technicians are ready to breathe life back into it. You can find many previously owned Patagonia pieces online and the repair promise applies to them as well. This is a brand it wouldn’t hurt to buy used.

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#2. REI and #3. L.L.BEAN

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In the movie “Wild” with Reese Witherspoon starring as Cheryl Strayed, there is a scene when Witherspoon throws her hiking boots off a cliff in frustration. She later calls the company REI and they send her new boots, free of charge. A few years ago, REI customers would have told you that was a normal occurrence. Recently, REI changed its return policy to a limited warranty that covers manufacturing defects but not regular wear and tear. However, it’s big outdoors competitor L.L. Bean has maintained its 100% satisfaction guarantee promise.

The scene in “Wild” prompted me to look for comparable policies. I discovered L.L.Bean’s robust return policy. According to the website, you simply return the item and L.L. Bean will either reimburse the original purchase price or give a L.L.Bean gift card to replace the item. There was an interesting NPR article that examined how REI and L.L. Bean’s return policies affected customer loyalty. If you search online, you can hear countless stories of customers returning items more than 10 years old and getting back a new replacement. Outdoor gear can be a hefty investment but these generous return policies give customers more bang for their buck.

#4. LEVI’S

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LEVI’s jeans are known for their quality and durability. What most customers don’t realize that some LEVI’s locations have an in-house tailor shop that will make alterations, repair rips, hem and customize your jeans for you.      Customers who often have to pay to have their pants shortened or taken in can take advantage of Levi’s free tailor services. When I spoke to one of Levi’s store tailors in Copenhagen, he said that as long as you keep your receipt you can bring in your jeans for mending. Even if you don’t have a proof of purchase, you will only pay a small fee for the tailor services. To find a tailor shop near you, check out their website for locations.

#5. JANSPORT

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Going back to school always involved shopping for the perfect backpack. Most backpacks have to be replaced year after year, but Jansport backpacks come with a lifetime warranty that few customers take advantage of. Their warranty promise states “If your pack ever breaks down, simply return it to our warranty center. We’ll fix it or if we can;t we’ll replace it or refund it.” I may not have believed the validity of this warranty, had I not sent in my ripped backpack a couple years ago. After I filled out the form and returned it to the mailing center, Jansport sent me a message saying they had received the backpack and were in the process of replacing it. They informed me that an exact replacement of my backpack was unavailable, but gave me the option of choosing from newer Jansport designs. I selected my backpack design and a new one was delivered to my front door, free of charge. The Jansport-brand warranty makes certain that its classic backpacks will .

These brands are household names for a reason. They know how to keep customers coming back and that is why they have lifelong fans. These “give back”policies create a feeling of reciprocity that enable the customer to justify a higher price tag. Customers hand over their money knowing that, along with the item they paid for, they are also ensuring the upkeep of it as well. While the brands listed above are not perfect, they are exemplars in the apparel industry. Simply selling clothes is no longer sufficient, apparel companies must create a culture around their products. Patagonia values storytelling, REI and L.LBean celebrates adventurers, LEVI’s is the symbol of rebels, and Jansport exudes reliability. Apparel brands seeking die-hard fans must ask themselves, what is the brand promise that customer’s get with each purchase? If the answer is nothing, then it may be time to go back to the drawing board.

3 Mindsets of the Eco-Conscious Shopper

Every year the fashion industry announces the newest trends, the color of the season, and the newest blue jeans cut. But something changed in recent years. The fashion seasons got shorter and the trends were turning over faster and faster. Before they knew it, consumers were finding that their new clothes were already out of style. In response to this change in fashion, consumers made some changes of their own. Here are 3 majors things to know about today’s fashion consumer.

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#1. Consumers are pushing back against trends 

At one point in their lives, consumers were content with the $5 tshirt that fell apart less than 4 months after purchase. However, when we consider the unethical labor practices that accompany cheap clothing, that $5 tshirt starts to look a little less attractive. Additionally, because most fast-fashion is not designed to last, clothes bought today could rip and fall apart the next day. This is fast-fashion’s cheap trill marketing trip. Brands entice consumers with low prices to distract them from the relatively low quality of the material. They then employ marketing schemes to convince consumers that their old clothes are not trendy and need to be replaced. Following trends feeds the endless cycle of buying and dumping clothing. Recently, the minimal fashion movement has been making a comeback on fashion blogs that focused less on trendy clothing and more on defining personal style. For example, the capsule wardrobe challenges wearers to build a cross-seasonal and versatile wardrobe that is comprised of interchangeable style staples. Minimal fashion pushes consumers to be intentional about their purchases. Every article of clothing has a purpose and impulse buying is discouraged. The result is a disciplined shopper who who know her/his style well enough to select items that complement it.

#2. Consumers have their fingers on the ethical pulse of big brands

With the low cost and accessibility afforded by fast-fashion, consumers often unknowingly purchase clothing from brands with questionable supply chains. However, saying consumer do not care about the conditions their clothing was made would be inaccurate. A recent study showed that 90% of the shoppers surveyed would boycott companies with socially irresponsible business practices. With more movements (like Fashion Revolution’s Who Made My Clothes? campaign to commemorate the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse) holding brands accountable for their their supply chains, the fashion industry is being forced to be more transparent about their business dealings. This new breed of empowered consumers have no qualms with exposing fashion’s dirty secrets, but they also raise awareness about ethical brand initiatives. Working closely with vocal eco-fashion advocates and bloggers allows brands to tap into the market of eco-inclined consumers. Brands should be careful not to throw out gimmicky greenwashing efforts that attempt to clean up its image. This specific type of consumer is known to examine brands with a fine tooth comb before giving their monetary support.

#3. Brands, Consumers, and Producers must come together to bear the cost of producing ethical & sustainable clothing

While consumers have been vocal in their urgings for more sustainable fashion practices, they haven’t necessarily connected those convictions to their wallets. Ethical fashion labels are mystified by this. A GQ article accurately explained this phenomenon: “[consumers are] not usually willing to pay a premium just because something is more socially and environmentally conscious.” Currently, the fashion industry has a limited supply of truly ethical and sustainable brands and the demand from consumers has not yet reached the point where the price is attractive for the average consumer. The good news is that the demand for sustainable fashion is growing. Perhaps, one day it will be an industry norm and more apparel retailers will switch over to eco-friendly practices. Until then, brands and their producers should be expect to bear the brunt of an “eco-tax,” rather than charging the consumer exponentially more for greener products. The eco-tax, for the sake of this article, is the cost (money, time, and effort) of implementing the more costly eco-friendly practices in lieu of cheaper, more wasteful options. Nin Castle, cofounder and creative director of sustainable fashion brand Goodone, encourages sustainable brands to create products that will entice people to buy based on its design. Over time, I believe brands will see that consumers will be willing to meet them half-way in exchange for eco-friendly products that are more affordable and of higher quality.

Green Up Your Period With Menstrual Cup

Eco-Blog Posts

Warning: Before I fully launch into this post, I should let you know that I’ll be talking about periods…as in a woman’s menstruation. The skirmish readers out there can go check out some safer posts here.

The most challenging area of waste for me has always been my period. My cycle typically would last 5 days and I would wear tampons with a safety pad underneath, in case of leaks. I have a pretty light cycle so I like solutions where I only have to do minimal work. When I started hearing horror stories (like a woman who got toxic shock syndrome from a tampon and had to have her leg amputated as a result) I decided tampons weren’t worth the risk. Also, the thought of having my used tampons in a landfill somewhere was a bit nausea-inducing to me. I started looking for alternatives that reduce my carbon footprint and not put me at risk.

There are studies that say “in her 20s alone, a woman will spend over $26,000 on vaginal maintenance (pads/tampons, exams, birth control, etc.” This was a price I had accepted as a result for Adam snitching on Eve for eating the apple being a woman. Someone did the calculation that I would have been happier not knowing of how much having period costs women.

With this high cost in mind, I went out in search for some options. One day a friend of mine (Julia) was telling me about this pad alternative that she’d been using for years. She said it was a little cup that collected the period blood and all she had to do was fish it out and dump it. Naturally, my mind went to a confused and creeped out place. But I was curious. So I did some research on menstrual cups and watched a few explanation videos on YouTube. The videos did a great job of informing me and calming down my fears about using the cups. So about a year ago, I bought the Diva Cup online and decided to give it a try.

A little background info: At the time I was thinking of first trying the cup, I had just had my first pap smear (late, I know, don’t judge me) and I was feeling tough. I thought I could handle anything so I opened up the packaging and read the instructions. Then I looked at the size of the cup and then back at the instructions. I proceeded to have a mini panic attack and text my friend inappropriate questions that were probably beyond our current level of friendship. With the help of her calm voice over the phone and some Youtube videos, I worked up the courage to do it.

Now, a year later I am loving the menstrual cup and the freedom it brings me. I highly recommend you give it a try if you’re tired of your period taking over your life. One of the updates I made to my monthly regimen is that instead of using a pantyliner under my Diva Cup. I’ recently tried a cloth pad from Paditude while I was wearing my Diva Cup. I must disclose that I met the owner, Amy Huffman at DC Green Festival and she gave me a light Paditude liner to try. I’d been hearing a lot about them and I had been very skeptical about trying it. Cloth pads are definitely an experience, but Paditude’s craftmanship is beautiful. It has a colorful design, is hand-sewn for sturdiness, and has an absorbent core made from organic bamboo fleece. I tried out the liner on the last day of my cycle and I didn’t leak onto my clothes. It didn’t move around (it’s secured by snaps) and was actually quite comfortable to sit on. Overall, it wasn’t too bad! Although plenty of people swear by cloth pads, I still prefer the flexibility of the menstrual cup. One of the downfalls is the price of a Paditude set. The way my wallet is set up, I’m not quite there yet. So I made a compromise and started using the Paditude liner instead of the disposable pantiliners. Yay for less menstrual waste in landfills!

Being waste free is not about being a hippie or doing extreme things. It’s about finding eco-friendly options that you’re comfortable with. I use menstrual cups because they make me periods more tolerable. I’m writing this post to give you all options. Take what fits your needs and leave what doesn’t work for you :).

To hear about my full experience with the cup, watch below to see my Periscope recap where I talk about menstrual cups:

Don’t take my word for it. See what these other ladies had to say:

1. Zero Waste Menstrual Products- by Fort Negrita (blog post and video)

2. Lunetta Cup Review- by Hallease (video)

3. Menstrual Cup 101- by The Eco Chic (blog post)

4. 18 Reasons You Should Switch to a Menstrual Cup by Buzzfeed (blog post)

5. About Menstrual cups- by Outside It’s Electric

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Any questions? Leave them in the comments below!

Talking Zero Waste with Fort Negrita

Meet Anamarie from the zero-waste blog, Fort Negrita. She is an Earth advocate with passion for zero-waste, traveling, self-reliance, and regenerative energy and waste. I had the chance to interview her about the realities of the zero waste lifestyle. Check out the interview to learn great tips for about living a more minimal lifestyle and creating less waste.

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Click on the image to visit FortNegrita.com

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What does zero waste mean to you?

Zero waste is a silent protest and it’s a conscious decision to eliminate waste from your life. You’re voting for the kind of products you want to see on shelves. From the way that you purchase groceries to how you buy clothes, being a conscious consumer lets you put your money where your mouth is. Instead of supporting unsustainable companies you get to support the kind of businesses you’d like to see thrive.

How much power and influence do you think the consumer has?

The power of the consumer is huge. Every dollar spent is a vote. And the more aware customers are of how their money is being used by companies, the more empowered they are. Consumers are letting businesses know what they like and what they want.

Before you started zero waste, what was producing the most waste in your life?

Definitely food. We live in a to-go culture and that to-go lifestyle has a lot of packaging. So it’s very easy to create waste with food. Before I started zero waste, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. I needed to go buy things like almond milk and I didn’t know how I was going to give up those things. Eventually, I swapped out all of them for zero waste options.

How do you handle grocery shopping if you’re trying to avoid food packaging waste?

I’ve swapped out food packaging for food that comes from the bulk section of stores. Not like Sam’s Club bulk, but bulk that involves a scooper and dried goods. I can get itemslike nuts, grains, rice, and granola in bulk. I go to the grocery with my own canvas bags and mason jars and take home all my dried goods inside of those. So I either buy in bulk or in the produce section.

What about when you go out to eat?

I tend to stick with dine-in restaurants, rather than to-go places. You have to find unique ways to get around making trash. I haven’t been able to get waiters to package up my food in my reusable food container because of food regulations, which I respect. So I order my food “for here” and when I want to take leftovers home I can package them up by myself in my own food container.

Since starting zero waste substitutes that you’ve made and things you’ve given up?

  • I gave up on toothpaste tubes and started making my own 4-ingredient toothpaste. It has baking soda, coconut oil, tea tree oil and peppermint oil. And I now use a bamboo toothbrush. When I’m done with it, I can use the toothbrush handle as a marker in my garden or toss it into my compost.

  • I also switched to soap without packaging. I fill up my jars with castile soap and I use it for cleaning my dishes, the floor, and the bathroom.

  • I buy a big jug of distilled white vinegar and use it for cleaning. When I’m done, I recycle the jug.

  • I don’t use disposable cups anymore so if I want some coffee or chai tea, I just grab my mason jar or a reusable cup.

What was the biggest challenge for you in your transition to zero waste?

I have been zero waste for over a year so it doesn’t feel weird to me anymore. It was a habit that I had to create to replace old ones. One of the toughest habits to break was using paper towels. I was so used to going into public bathrooms and drying my hands on paper towels that when I started zero waste, I was still doing it. It took me a full month before I stopped pulling paper towels.

How much do you stay ahead of the game?

I always keep 3 things in my bag at all times— a reusable cup, a cloth napkin, and either a spoon, spork or a fork. Preparation is a big thing for me. There were those moments at the beginning where I was out somewhere and really wanted something to eat or drink but was unprepared. Now I can’t leave home without my stuff because if I’m out with it, I risk not being able to eat when I want to. I had to figure out my groove, where I could go and shop. I learned a few tricks. For example, if I wanted some Powerade, I could go to Circle K or 7Eleven and use their machines to refill my reusable cup. It all took some time, but now that I’m doing it every day, it doesn’t feel like work to me.

What kind of progress would you like see in regards to zero waste?

I’d like to see more businesses cater their structure to the zero waste lifestyle. A lot of times, it’s on the individual to do good but it really should be on businesses to create a culture around zero waste. Think about a coffee shop. If they decided to no longer carry paper cups and instead have ceramic cups or let people bring in their reusable cups, we’ll see the culture begin to change to one that is zero waste-friendly.

If people want to try out zero waste, where should they start?

They should start by watching the things they’re throwing away and being more thoughtful about their waste. Think about how your trash is going to be around in landfills for a thousands years even after you’re done with it.

It seems like minimalism and zero waste go hand-in-hand. Would you say going zero waste has made you more of a minimalist?

Definitely. You start thinking Do I need this or do I want this? Sometimes people just buy things because it creates a comfort for them, but it’s not really a need. When you’re zero waste, buying something you don’t need is really just wasteful. I started looking at everything I already owned and it started to bother me. I looked into my closet and thought why do I even have all this stuff? And thinking about getting rid of it, just frustrated me even more. With zero waste, you start wanting less and you replace that consumer “feel-good” you get from buying things. You end up finding happiness in other ways. Zero waste is like an awakening. It makes you a conscious consumer.

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Anamarie was also featured on CNN. Click the picture to watch the video:

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The Battle of the Bamboo Toothbrushes

EMPTIES

In my minimal waste journey, I’ve been looking for areas where I could reduce my carbon footprint. One of the ways I found was switching over to a bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic. From the moment I saw a bamboo toothbrush, I was intrigued and wanted to give it a try. In this post, I will focus on the two brands that I tried:

1) Brush With Bamboo and 2) WooBamboo.

Those who know me know I am borderline obsessed with taking care of my teeth. I had changed up my toothbrushing routine to include the occasional (diluted) hydrogen peroxide rinse and activated charcoal powder for whitening. I wanted to see if these bamboo toothbrushes could keep up with my

#1. BRUSH WITH BAMBOO (BWB)

I tried this brand first and I really enjoyed using it. It felt sturdy in my grip as I brushed my teeth and I could angle it to get to hard to reach areas of my mouth. I had been worried that the bamboo would be too hard and potentially knock out a tooth with my rigorous brushing., Thankfully, the wood was lightweight and doesn’t clank around on your teeth. I have a bad habit of biting down on the bristles when I’m distracted with tasks like putting on mascara or something else, so the bristles quickly got bent out of shape. However, they didn’t shed from the toothbrush. The bristles did a good job of leaving my teeth clean without irritating my gums. One of the downsides was that the toothbrush was a bit porous so if you left it in a wet cup, it had a weird moist texture when you picked it up. After making the mistake once, I made sure to keep my tooth brush in a dry place. When I was done with the BWB toothbrush (after about 3 months of use), I snapped off the head of toothbrush and threw the head of it away. I saved the handle of the toothbrush for composting later.

Overall, I really liked this toothbrush…so much so that I’ve gifted it to a few people.

Score:

5stars

#2. WOO BAMBOO

If we were voting by design alone, Woo Bamboo toothbrushes are definitely killing the toothbrush game! They have different bristle types (super soft, soft, and medium), different handles (for kids, for adults, regular, and slim). I loved that I had those options. I went with the soft, slim handle combination. The slim handle was a cool design, but using it was an interesting experience. I’m not sure how to explain it but you have to hold it differently and getting used to that takes a little time. This handle was more compact than the BWB, so it didn’t have the same porous issue that the other toothbrush had. The bristles on the Woo Bamboo toothbrush were the detail breaker for me. On several occasions, the bristles came out while I was brushing. Once I almost gagged on a bristle that went astray. It was like that feeling you get when you almost swallow a piece of hair. I’ve been using the toothbrush for a little over two months but because of those flyaway bristles, I’m going to have to give up on this otherwise perfect toothbrush.

Score:

4stars

Overall, I love that both toothbrushes are biodegradable. The Brush With Bamboo toothbrush is the winner in my book because it does it’s job without trying to do too much. Anyone transitioning from a plastic toothbrush to bamboo will find this to be a good transitioning toothbrush. Also Brush With Bamboo’s packaging is mostly cardboard, with the toothbrush wrapped in a compostable wrapper. Woo Bamboo’s has a plastic cover with a paper backing. I’ve found my go-to bamboo toothbrush and I can’t wait to get my next one!

Portrait of my beloved toothbrush

Making brushing your teeth sexy since 2011

You can buy Brush With Bamboo toothbrushes online on Amazon.com or on their website.

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If you’d like to see more great reviews about Bamboo toothbrushes, check out these great blog posts:

1. Trash is for Tossers: I Brush With Bamboo, Do You?

2. The Plant Strong Vegan- Brush With Bamboo Review

6 Reflections for Graduates In Limbo

It’s graduation season and while some of you out there are heading out to your first day at your new job, some of us are tightening the drawstrings on our sweatpants to prepare for a day of job hunting on LinkedIn. It’s okay to be in that last group. If you’re having a pity party right now, stop right now and read my post “Living at Home Doesn’t Make You a Loser.” I’ve been in your shoes before and I want to share some of the reflections I have from that time of uncertainty.

CarefreeBlackgirl May 19, 2015, 3-08 AM

#1: Let Your Freak Flag Fly

There was a time when I tried to act normal and act like I was interested in the same things as everyone else. That didn’t last very long. The truth is that I love singing but I’m notoriously bad with lyrics, avocados make me gag and I am constantly shopping for the perfect planner (it has to have 30 minute increments and a spot for a to-do list). Don’t be afraid to like what you like. There are too many people trying to go with the flow and like what everyone else likes. Once you’re open about what you like, you’ll be surprised at the kind of people that gravitate towards you. I once had a 10 minute conversation with someone about the best pen for journal writing. This conversation included a hands-on demo of all the pens in her collection. As weird as it was that she had all those pens in her bag, it was a mutually enjoyable experience that would not have happened if I hadn’t mistakenly stolen her pen. Let’s all agree to free ourselves to be enthusiastic about life again!

Lesson 2: Failure Can Hurt but It Won’t Kill You

#2: Failure Can Hurt but It Won’t Kill You

I have heard “no” more times than I would like to admit. In fact, I heard it so many times that I became desensitized to it. I no longer heard it as a criticism of me as a person. Instead, I take “no” to mean “not now”, “not here”,”not like this”, and “not with them.” Getting over the fear of “no” is a challenge that I face head-on every day. Every time I cold-email a complete stranger that I admire from the industry, I hold my breath and send up a prayer before pressing send. It’s a ritual for me, but that little action helps me overcome my fear. I’ve found that the people on the other end, more times than not, actually reply back. Most of the time, they’re impressed someone had the guts randomly email them for advice. I’ve had some surprisingly pleasant interactions with random strangers. Just remember that they are humans and were once in your shoes, trying to find their place in the world.

Quick tip: Be brief and to the point (who you are and what you do). Make sure your email has an ask (what do you want from them).
Lesson #3: Hustle Outside of the Box

#3: Hustle Outside of the Box

If you want to know what you have a reputation for, take a peek at your LinkedIn endorsements. I have a few for “Public Speaking”, likely because of my TEDx talk and other speaking engagements but what kind of threw me off were the “Event Planning” endorsements. I noticed they were from people who had attended my Style Lottery closet swap events over the years. For some reason, I hadn’t thought of putting together swaps as event planning. But it was! Every year, I was planning 3-4 swaps with and for different groups in different cities and people were starting to take notice. Sometimes, people can see greatness in us and that is enough to plant a seed. About a year ago, I took my event planning hobby and turned it into my fashion startup called Style Lottery. Ever since, we’ve been teaching people to restyle, reuse, and reward with fashion. With a little creativity, your passions and talents can be transformed into a side-hustle.

Lesson #4: Become a True Learner

#4: Become a True Learner

When I first became interested in sustainability, I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on. I read up on the circular and sharing economy. I nerded out on statistics about the psychology behind the need to shop. I designed workshops about sustainable fashion. I subscribed to blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to minimalism and a more waste-conscious lifestyle. I researched natural substitutes for my every day products. In order to really know a subject, you have to become a true learner. Read books, attend talks, and link up with likeminded people who can teach you a thing or two. It’s important to never stop learning and seeking to know more.

Lesson #5: Know Thyself

#5: Know Thyself

I came to the realization that I am not the type of employee who can sit behind a desk from 9 to 5, staring at a computer. I am an idea person who thrives when I can bounce ideas off others. Just as it’s important to know what kind of job functions you enjoy and what kind of work environments you do your best work in. You should also be aware of your strengths and areas that need improvements.

Here’s an interesting thought about strengths and weaknesses: I was having a conversation with one of my “mentors-in-my-head” (borrowed this phrase from Chasity Cooper) and she said that we don’t always have to be so obsessed with working on our weaknesses. Our weaknesses may be a clue that we need someone on our team who excels in areas where we struggle. I think they’re a great reminder that we can’t do our best work in isolation.

Lesson #5: What is For You is For You

#6: What is For You is For You

My life has been an interesting ride, full of surprise turns and blessings in disguise. I’m not really the type to plan out every detail of my life very far out in advance. I have a vision for who I want to be and what I want to be known for but the road getting there is quite blurry to me. And you know what? I’m actually ok with that. In my experience, it’s been when I least expected it that God put up great roadblocks in my way and dropped amazing opportunities into my lap. When I look at where I am in my life now, I’m not exactly where I thought I would be but looking at the road that brought me here, I see God’s hand in every step I took.

I can’t look to my left or right and try to compare my life trajectories to anyone else’s. It wouldn’t be fair. I know that even now, the wheels are turning in my life, although I cannot see the outcomes just yet. In the meantime, I will continue chatting with awesome strangers on planes and having lunch dates with friends of friends who are doing exciting things. I’m enjoying hearing people’s life journeys. It’s refreshing to hear that none of them were exactly sure of where they’d end up when they started and no one’s career path was a straight shot. I’m not sure what God has in store for me, but I know He will continue on in the trend of surprising me beyond what I could ever dream. I don’t have to beg him for a job or plead with him for the success of my nonprofit. What is for me is for me. It will be mine as long as I have faith and work toward it. I pray the same peace and optimism for you in the period of waiting.

Pictures taken by Gesiye Komonibo, Washington, DC.

Millennial on a Mission: Timi Komonibo

CHASITY COOPER

Happy Friday!

Today’s Millennial on a Mission is not only a (future) fellow Syracuse University graduate, (congrats to the class of 2015!) but she’s also a entrepreneur with heart for giving back to her community. Her nonprofit organization, Style Lottery, is a sustainable fashion  philanthropy nonprofit that hosts “pop-up swaps” where guests can swap their lightly used clothing items with each other and donate what is un-swapped to organizations that serve women in need throughout the community. Now that she’s on the cusp of entering the job market, she hopes to launch a career within corporate social responsibility and/or philanthropy.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Timi Komonibo.

Timibday_ONE

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Timi went into college as an undeclared major, convinced (in her words) “that all Nigerian kids were supposed to excel at science and math”, but she struggled to fit into that cultural…

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