Being More Sustainable; An Update On My Progress

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I knew it would be difficult, just not this difficult. What I’m referring to is my renewed commitment to incorporate sustainability principles into my everyday life. For those just tuning in you may not know this, earlier this year I made a commitment to be more sustainable. Starting off with baby steps, I’d more deliberately support small business, eliminate single-use plastics at all cost, adopt zero-waste practices where possible, work to reduce my carbon footprint where realistic and more deeply continue my mostly plant based diet. I remember thinking “how hard can it be” because I was already doing this to some degree. But, now that I’m six months beyond that commitment, reality has crept in. It has changed my attitude quite a bit. I should also remind folks that this isn’t a resolution made at the head of the year, rather, it’s a lifestyle change I intend to continue as I evolve as a person.

So, you’re probably wondering what steps have I made. Some of these were big feats, and others are small, but I’m pleased to say that each has left its mark on both me and the world to some extent.

Shopping Local Farmers Markets

First and foremost to more deliberately support small business I’ve sought out a few farmers markets to get most of my groceries from. This includes Central Farm Markets and the Community Foodworks Arlington Farmers Market. While I’ve also branched out to visit the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar and Anne Arundel County Farmers’ Market those aren’t close enough to be my regulars. But for starters the Central Farm Markets and Arlington Farmers Market are great because they’re year round. So even through the winter I can source close to ninety percent of my produce from both. I do have to attend both however, because certain vendors only go to one or the other. So, while I can attend both, it does require a bit of planning to visit one on Saturday morning and the other Sunday. I also have to research which vendors will be present so that I can anticipate what produce will be available. Additionally, because these are local farmers my grocery list is often relegated to what is seasonally available. In the winter this means more root vegetables and squash, and in the summer it means more leafy greens and fruits.

I have a routine, and it doesn’t throw off my week like I initially thought it would. It just required that I plan some of my weekend activities around when the markets are open. For example, if I’m running Saturday morning, I need to be done by 8AM so that I can hit the market by the time it opens. Since the markets usually close by early afternoon I can’t put this off. As a result, I have to place some urgency around getting there in the morning. But, by doing this I’ve put myself in a position to purchase from local farmers, minimizing the “food miles” and keeping my money relatively local.

Reducing Single-Use Plastic

While I can’t control how vendors at a market or the grocery store (when I go to one) package their produce, I can certainly control my own. I’ve started carrying recycled bags with me everywhere I go. I use these at the farmers markets as well as in my everyday shopping. There’s just one catch, it’s always an exercise of making sure I have enough bags in my car. What’s even more difficult though is remembering to put them back in the car after I’m done bringing groceries into my home. So, nowadays just as I’d check to make sure I have my wallet, keys and phone before leaving my home, I also make sure I have my bags. It doesn’t stop there though, this habit has also made me more conscious of how foods and other products are packaged.

You’ll notice that some vegetables come wrapped in plastic. For example, cauliflower, I can’t find it at the farmers market, which means I need to get it at a grocery store. The problem is that cauliflower is usually wrapped in plastic. I’m not sure why to be honest. But, I can tell you that over time I’ve developed a habit to avoid buying vegetables that come individually wrapped. I’ve even become more conscious when buying products that are traditionally made with plastic. I now more deliberately seek items made with compostable materials. For example, I buy Seventh Generation cleaning products. Their products are often housed in containers with less plastic than their competitors, not tested on animals and use more natural ingredients.

For those that are living a zero-waste lifestyle, you’re probably scolding me, wondering why I don’t make laundry detergent and other household cleaning agents myself. I’m not there yet, so relax, this is a journey.

Being Zero-Waste Is Difficult

That all said though, the zero-waste practices are much, much harder to incorporate to say the least. I once ate a handful of oranges and chose to turn the peel into orange peel candy. It required extra work, and I ended up making something I don’t traditionally eat (candy). Then there was the problem of having more candy then I normally eat. That was a good lesson learned by trial and error. So I’ll say this, while the zero-waste practices are a bit harder to implement, it’s certainly made me more thoughtful and resourceful in what I purchase and how I use every bit of it. This again requires that I do more research so that I know what portions of fruits and vegetables (not traditionally cooked) are edible. I’ve also become more aware of my portion sizes to ensure that I don’t buy or serve myself more than I know I’ll consume. And while it might not sound glamorous to eat portions of food not traditionally served, I actually do feel a bit better about these decisions. Not to mention, some portions of these fruits and vegetables actually taste great.

I’m by no means zero-waste in terms of my overall lifestyle, however I needed to start somewhere. This is just a beginning.

What’s Next?

You’ll quickly notice I didn’t mention anything about ditching my car, or exclusively becoming a man of public transportation. Yes, I still take commercial air travel and know how bad that is. I recognize I still have plenty more I can do to be more responsible. But for me this isn’t about perfection, it’s about progress. This is about a continuous journey to incorporate practices in my life that I want to see from society at large. This post is a check-in for those who’ve been a part of this journey and others who are watching it from the sidelines. So, this isn’t by any means my final post on this. If you want to follow this journey I’d encourage you to follow my Instagram account where I post mostly on the topic of my sustainability journey.

Until next time please do share practices you incorporate into your own life. If you have a life hack or something to teach me I’m all ears. We can all learn from each other.

Note: The thoughts and views expressed in this post reflect my personal views alone and are not those of Marriott International or any of its brands

About the author: Jerome Tennille is the Manager of Volunteerism for Marriott International. Prior to that Jerome held the position of Senior Manager of Impact Analysis and Assessment for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a national organization that offers help, hope, and healing to all those grieving the death of a loved one serving in America’s armed forces. Jerome is a board of directors member of Peace Through Action USA and also serves on the PsychArmor Institute Advisory Committee for the School of Volunteers & Nonprofits. Jerome holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in operations management and a Master of Sustainability Leadership (MSL) from Arizona State University. Jerome is designated as Certified in Volunteer Administration (CVA) and is also a veteran of the US Navy.

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Social Good advocate for CSR, Volunteer Engagement, and Sustainability. Veteran. Manager of Volunteerism at Marriott International. Visit www.jerometennille.com

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