My friend Jen Kanter is co-founder of barrio.la, a company that sources and promotes local businesses that produce high-quality, eco-friendly goods made in Southern California. Jen and her brother Ricky founded barrio.la to make it easy for people to find beautifully-made, unique products, while having a positive impact on their community and environment.
I’ve known Jen for a while now, and one thing that has always struck me about her is that she makes a real effort to have a positive impact on our environment. Some of her methods are not that out-of-the-ordinary… things like driving a Prius and recycling. But Jen takes it a step (or multiple steps) further. She really tries to walk the talk of reusing, repurposing, and reclaiming while also staying conscious about what and how she is consuming. Whenever I hang out with Jen, she makes me aware of new and fun ways to have a positive impact on our world, and the best part is she doesn’t preach! I never feel judged, and I always feel inspired.
In this post, I am sharing Jen’s (current) top five ways of having a positive impact on the environment (and having fun at the same time). Maybe you’ll be inspired, too.
My daughter, Alex, has a lot of books that have sentimental value, but I am always looking for ways to keep her her challenged, and the [Los Angeles Public] library is so great for that. We go there together once a week, and she’ll pick out books she wants to read and books she wants me to read to her. Right now she is really interested in dinosaurs. I love the idea of libraries because you keep something for a short time, and then you give it back for the next person to use and enjoy. I also love used book stores. One of our favorites is Children’s Book World. There are so many great books that I used to read as a kid, and I loved them, but now they are out of print so you can only buy them second hand.
I love it when something I buy can have a second life when I am finished using it. The best example I can think of off the top of my head is the metal tins that the Organic Punk candles come in. Actually, that is a pretty good example because not only is it a great product that’s also environmentally friendly, but, when the candle is gone, it is a perfect container for storing things. Right now, Alex is using one of those tins to store her “treasures.” She loves it.
I really love thrift stores and consignment stores. I feel like you can find anything at a consignment store that you would want to buy new, especially in Los Angeles. This is a fashion-driven city, and sometimes you can even find brand new things. Not only is this kind of shopping less expensive and better for the environment, but there is something fun about the hunt. And when you are donating or selling your clothes to a thrift or consignment shop, you are giving those clothes a second life. It keeps things out of a landfill for a little while longer. One tip for people who are always looking for the latest high-end purse: don’t buy it new… I cannot tell you how many really great high-end bags I’ve found at consignment stores – sometimes even with the tags still on them.
Consignment and thrift stores are also great for high-end or vintage housewares. If you have time to look, you can find some amazing things. A couple of days ago, I found a set of Wedgwood plates for $3 a plate. These were pretty rad. It’s kind of fun to see what you find… especially if you are interested in the craftsmanship.
I love the Metro – makes me feel like we live in a proper city. I’ve been taking Alex on the Metro since she was a baby, and it has expanded so much since then. Now, there is a train stop that is walking distance from my house, and so we can just hop on the Metro to Santa Monica or even to go somewhere close like Culver City. It is so easy. People don’t think about public transportation when they think of Los Angeles. It’s a car culture, but I’ve gotten into the habit of not seeing my car as the default method of transportation. But, aside from the positive impact that has on the environment, I often find the Metro is easier than driving. You don’t have to worry about parking and traffic and gas, etc. For me, part of the fun of any activity is how we get there, and the metro definitely adds to the adventure. And, there is always at least some walking – so you get the exercise and fresh air – another plus.
This one took me a little longer to realize, but I started becoming conscious of how often was I ordering things online and what method of shipping was being used to deliver it. The US Post makes a stop at my house six days a week, so if that shipping method is an option, I try to use it since it saves another truck from making a special stop just for a single package. I also try to consolidate my ordering. When it is possible to order multiple items from the same site, I’ll purposely wait until I have more than one thing to order, and then I’ll have everything shipped together in one box. The same goes for using local delivery services for meals or household supplies. I appreciate the convenience of these services, and sometimes it is a true necessity, but when possible, I try to arrange my shopping trips so that I am getting most of what I need at one time. And, when it comes to meals, it’s fun to walk to a local restaurant to pick up dinner. You get to be out in the world, and you get some exercise and fresh air at the same time.
What do you think about the suggestions Jen shared? Were you already doing some (all) of them? If not, will you implement just one thing?
City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.