- Ashlee Piper was a political strategist before building a career in the sustainable-living space.
- The author, professor, plus speaker now educates people in order to be eco-conscious consumers.
- This article is part of ” Better Me , ” a series about improving your lifestyle and helping society through sustainable efforts and eco-consciousness.
In 2013, Ashlee Piper, a sustainable-living expert, pushed herself far beyond her limits. After reorienting the girl career from political strategy to climate-focused pursuits, she refused to buy anything new for an entire year. She instead purchased items secondhand, borrowed through friends and neighborhood groups, and repurposed products she already owned. This personal action became an initiative called the #NoNewThings challenge , which the girl launched on her platform.
Piper has since encouraged others to live more sustainably and be conscious customers through her work as a writer, consultant, speaker , and adjunct professor teaching marketing for environmental sustainability at Loyola University Chicago.
The inch Give a Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save the Planet. inches author spoke with Insider about how the lady developed the profession within the sustainable-living area, what individuals could do to buy fewer new items, and the best ways to fashion a suitable eco-friendly lifestyle.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How did you become interested in eco-conscious living and start using your platform to educate others about it?
I was a political strategist for the decade, plus I was working upon campaigns that were centered around public health and human rights. The environment was never something that was top of mind at that time with regard to politicians. In my individual life, I had become vegetarian, and later vegan. That was kind of my gateway drug into sustainability because I saw the interconnectedness between human rights, animal privileges, global inequities, and how we live well and be good stewards of the planet.
That’s what started me on my eco journey. I thought if I could show people how easy it can be to live sustainably, wherever you are with whatever resources you have, and make it feel inclusive and fun, then individuals might be more interested in it.
From that point, I left political strategy and started blazing the own trail, writing for different publications and eventually doing television appearances to talk about sustainable living. Then, within 2018, our book came out — it’s kind associated with a choose-your-own-adventure book for eco-friendly living — plus things further developed from there.
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If someone came to you and said, “Ashlee, I want in order to learn how to buy nothing or spend lightly, ” where would you tell them to start?
I recommend people make what We call a “need note. ” What are the things you’re going to need for the particular next month? Forecasting exactly what you’ll need gives you clarity and a plan, because my challenge doesn’t include not buying groceries and things like that — you can do all that will. It’s about not buying new clothes, home items, supplies, knickknacks. The challenge encourages people to find other ways in order to acquire that type of stuff.
People should also look at their triggers. Any time you feel tempted to purchase something, write it down and create the cost of this, or put it in a cart but don’t buy it. Then wait a day and see if you’re still interested in purchasing it. That’s one of the biggest exercises: understanding how a person shop and what compels you to shop.
What prevents people through thinking like a conscious consumer?
People don’t realize how robust marketing is. I’ve had a career in marketing, so I’ve had an inside view into how the sausage is made. With the internet, social media, push notifications, we can get 50 impressions each day from just one retailer. We’ve become much more steeped inside a culture that will tells us we’re not really enough unless we purchase things. So it’s about understanding what situations get you in that place where if you’re going in order to buy points and then developing restraint as a habit.
There are usually little items you may do, like removing your credit-card information off your own phone or even off of sites so that most likely not automatically buying issues. You can unsubscribe from emails, plus you may unfollow or mute influencers who make you want to buy stuff. In giving yourself a pause through buying, your brain will become rewired. You’ll stop associating stuff with recreation.
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That’s a good idea. I should go through some retail sites that I frequently shop on and remove my credit-card information. But , see, the problem will be that I have my card info memorized.
Oh, wow, that’s memorization .
Obviously, it’s not in my favor when it comes to reducing our shopping habits, though.
But there’s nothing wrong with however you want to shop and acquire things in your life. I also buy new stuff. Yet I’ve found that will my desire to buy stuff has naturally diminished because I actually get a lot more joy from finding factors secondhand, figuring out how I can repurpose products, or borrowing something through someone. Those things have replaced what used to be my Achilles’ heel, which would be going to T. J. Maxx and browsing with regard to six hours.
It sounds such as one associated with the ingredients to the particular secret sauce is finding new joys in sustainable spending.
Yes, plus they abound. I didn’t realize how much time I spent shopping in my life, yet when I did my year of no new stuff , We had a lot more time. I had more time to put together the book proposal. I had time to work my ass off and get a promotion at function. My friendships got better because there was more quality time spent having good conversations, and I actually got healthier.
The first two months, I was like, “This sucks, and I don’t know why I’m doing this. ” But I slowly began to see all these benefits. This enriched everything in my life, and am saved a lot of money, too.
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What barriers in order to eco-conscious residing have you noticed?
The biggest challenge for me personally early on was that it experienced a very — plus I’m, want, the whitest person alive — whitewashed standard of perfection. We’re seeing a more diverse representation of lasting living, which is great, but it wasn’t always like that will. For a long time, We think a lot of people felt like if they couldn’t keep all their trash in a jar, or even whatever the environmentally friendly habit du jour was, they’re not welcome within this movement.
The perfectionism and purity of it is hard regarding some people, and that’s gotten harder along with social media due to the fact everything is usually glossy and beautiful. People have these types of gorgeous minimalist homes. Meanwhile, my vintage apartment looks like shit sometimes.
The other thing is definitely, we’ve been fed this narrative that we, as individuals, are not powerful. We absolutely require industry regulation and government policy change. But we’ve kind of forgotten the power associated with individuals and how that can lead to collective movements. Which why I actually focus a lot on personal habits when it comes to sustainability and education.
What advice would you give to anyone who might feel eco-guilt if they fall short of clean-living goals?
We all feel eco-guilt, even those of us who are sustainability experts who’ve been doing this for a long time. We are humans. We are fallible. There’s tons of stuff that logistically, situationally, emotionally, financially, we are not able to do at a certain point in time. Giving yourself grace is one of the most important things you can do to keep going. My sustainable journey 10 years ago is very different than it is now. It evolves with my lifestyle, and other people have to go through that as well. It should be a journey of joy. I really believe that.
‘Better Me’ tips for sustainable living
Slide through the following cards to read more expert advice on sustainable living. Then check out the rest of the stories from Insider’s ” Better Me ” series.