Being More Sustainable; Concluding a Recent Chapter

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It was about this time last year when I chose to more strictly inject sustainability principles into my life. In my first of three blog posts (including the mid-year update), I shared the changes I would take to change my lifestyle. While I had some small successes along the way, my journey was met with difficulties and challenges. This was to be expected, but the way in which these challenges appeared was quite a surprise. Before I continue I will share that this will be my final update of the progress (and setbacks) to becoming more sustainable personally. Just know that’ll be something I continue. You can continue to follow my journey on Instagram where I also share some useful tips from day-to-day.

Now, let’s get back to my progress through this past calendar year. I have to admit, since my mid-year update and as the year progressed beyond the summer and into fall my progress stalled a bit. My discipline waned and as a result my ability to make increased progress became incredibly more difficult. Here’s why. What I didn’t anticipate was how major changes professionally, and my increased level of interest in fall and winter sports would change my routines and habits. I didn’t realize how much my fall and winter progress would be thrown off by what could be characterized by both major and insignificant changes.

I also learned a great deal about myself. I don’t think it’s an overstatement when I characterize myself as disciplined. However, the places I apply such discipline differ. For example, I’m disciplined with my running, my dietary habits, work ethic, and my ability to be on time. But there are places in my life where I’m not quite so disciplined. Turns out one of those includes maintaining my consistency in visiting my local farmers markets and settling on limited selections on a week-to-week basis based on what’s grown locally.

Farmers markets and small business

Let’s start with a recap of my renewed focus on supporting local business. I sought out to be more thoughtful on where I purchase my goods and services. If you’ve been following my journey then you know I’ve added farmers markets to my list of where to source my (mostly plant-based) groceries. The markets I’ve frequented in 2019 include Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar and Anne Arundel County Farmers’ Market, both being in Maryland. But, as you know, I live in Northern Virginia, so I’ve made the markets in Fairfax County and Arlington County my regularly visits. These markets included Arlington Farmers Market, NOVA Central Farm Market and Freshfarm Mosaic Market. While I still do frequent these farmers markets I have to sadly admit my dedication to visiting weekly (usually both Saturday and Sunday mornings) has fallen dramatically since the end of summer. And this is what I didn’t anticipate, navigating events happening in both my professional and personal life. If you’re a frequent reader and would like to know about changes professionally please reach out, I’m open to sharing.

However, coupled with those changes include less significant events that had a more drastic impact on my routine. This has everything to do with the start of fall and winter sports. More specifically arranging my schedule to accommodate watching NFL games which primarily happen on Sundays. Additionally, I forgot how lazy and less adventurous I would become when the weather cooled down. For example, with sunrise being much later, I generally push my morning run later into the morning (which encroaches on my morning farmers market outings). With professional football in full swing, and my San Francisco 49ers having such a great season, that led to my arranging my schedule to watching 49ers games for over three months.

Look, you may think that’s extreme, but let me just break this down for you. It’s hard to catch west coast teams on TV here on the east coast. However, when west coast teams do better than average, they will generally get more than normal coverage on the east coast. This was the case for the 49ers (they’re headed to the Super Bowl). So, with each 49ers game that was aired here in the Greater Washington DC area, I arranged my entire day around being able to watch the game. Sometimes this meant going out to a sports bar with friends, or somethings staying home.

But that being said, despite fewer visits to farmers markets I’ve been able to double-down on my plant-based diet. Those who know me know I’ve been eating mostly plant-based for a couple years now and doing so has become much easier to maintain. In addition to that as we’ve gone through the holiday (namely Christmas and a handful of birthdays) I have been very deliberate in sourcing responsible gifts from some local establishments. For example, I’ve been shopping more and more from Trade Roots and Fair Trade Winds. Both stores are members of the Fair Trade Federation. Even when it comes to luxury items I’ve found outlets and companies that are more responsibly creating and sourcing their products.

When it came to purchasing new fragrances for myself or others, I shop at Arielle Shoshana, a small fragrance boutique that supports independent luxury artists. If I had not started shopping at the Freshfarm Mosaic Market I would’ve not found this boutique. Additionally, I found that even some larger companies like Diesel and Seletti (who co-designed a line of scented candles) created candles where the vessels in which the wax sits are designed to be reused after the candle has no more wax. I even found United By Blue, a sustainable outdoor apparel store, which has fantastic products. It’s almost like I’ve done a trade off. While I’ve been less successful in keeping up with my farmers market routine, I’ve found other avenues to explore as a result.

Eliminating the use of plastics

This has been much easier to manage at this point now having about two-dozen recyclable bags and totes to use on a daily basis. While I do need to remember to use them, it’s incredibly easy to stash the bags in my car and to remember to take them to either the farmers market or when I’m shopping elsewhere. In addition to that I’ve become very conscious about who is providing bags when they’re perhaps not necessary. In those cases I just decline the bag they’re offering.

I’m also more sensitive to when and where single-use plastic (or other single-use items) are being used in my professional life. Matter of fact in my position professionally I’m often times charged with hosting events that serve the community. But over the past calendar year I’ve sought to eliminate the use of plastics at volunteerism and fundraising events where I can. While we can debate the value of removing one single-use item for another single-use item, we’ll not do that today. But I’ll acknowledge that’s an issue.

However, if we’re seeking to reduce harm, replacing 3,000 single-use plastic water bottles for 3,000 single-use canned water bottles is doing just that, reducing harm. Even how I seek to source other consumables where I’m able to manage the source of the materials has changed for the better. I now ask more questions and think through the implications more thoroughly.

Zero-waste lifestyle

Lastly when it comes to zero waste, while I’ve been incredibly resourceful in how I use fruits and vegetables and being more conscious about what I use versus what I throw out, this still remains to be the biggest challenge. I would also add that in order to do this effectively you have to stop waste at the source. What do I mean by that? Let me tell you. It means when I go out shopping for fresh produce and groceries (or any consumable for that matter) I only shop for what I believe will be consumed. The idea is that I won’t have to toss items out if I’m more accurately shopping for myself. It also means cooking more responsible portions. By doing so, I reduce the amount of food that I would otherwise waste because I prepared too much or let it sit and rot in the fridge.

Truthfully though, I should really be congratulating and tipping my hat to those who truly live a sustainable or zero-waste lifestyle. I say that because it’s incredibly difficult. It requires anyone on that quest to do more than just make simple adjustments to their consumption habits, perhaps It also requires making adjustments to forms of entertainment, the types of activities that you were involved in and even the type of people you’re surrounded by.

And again I’m not talking about perfection I’m talking about progress. Nor am I recommending you change the cast of characters in your life (although you may choose to do that). The type of progress I’m referring to is what can reasonably be done incrementally year over year. For me 2019 marks a foundation year in hopes that I can take what I’ve learned and apply it further in 2020 and beyond.

While this will be my final post on my recent lifestyle escapades in trying to become more sustainable, fret not this will not be my final post on the topic of sustainability. Look to the coming weeks for a new announcement about my blog and the direction in which it’s headed. However, in the meantime continue to follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook if you choose. Until next time don’t be a stranger.

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 Social Impact & Volunteerism for Marriott International. Jerome is also an independent consultant and advisor in the subject matter of Sustainability and Social Impact. 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.

Written by

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

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