Real Solutions for Climate Change from the Spirit & Place Festival

Sunlight shining through trees

Right now Indianapolis is in the midst of the Spirit & Place Festival, an annual 10-day span of arts, religion, and humanities events throughout the city. This past weekend I attended a thought-provoking panel discussion about real solutions for climate change. The discussion not only reaffirmed my philosophy behind this blog and my sustainable events business, but also helped clarify the bigger picture of broad changes that need to happen in order to avoid the most disastrous effects of climate change.

Something I vaguely understood before the event was that the current Republican party is a significant impediment to meaningful climate policy. What the event clarified for me is the extent to which the Republican party is possibly the biggest hindrance to preventing climate disaster not only nationally but globally. (Because the U.S. is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, lack of action on our part has effects that reach far beyond our borders.)

The panel discussion opened with a screening of an episode of Years of Living Dangerously, a National Geographic series about climate change. Without being a witch hunt, the episode, entitled Safe Passage, laid out the political reality experienced by Republican lawmakers: Even if they personally believe in human-caused climate change and want to take action, they often face the withdrawal of major support, and even career-ending opposition from fossil fuel interests, if they go public in support of climate change policy. It’s not enough to simply convince Republican representatives of the science; they must also be provided with politically acceptable cover for their climate beliefs and action—that is, until the party changes its position officially.

Enter the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). This organization, one of the hosts of the panel discussion, takes a deliberate—sometimes slow—but effective approach to lobbying Republicans to address climate change. By training concerned citizens to effectively and respectfully discuss climate change with their representatives, and by appealing to Republicans on values like freedom and market-based strategies, CCL has influenced several Republican lawmakers to join the bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which now boasts 30 Republican members.

CCL’s ultimate goal is to introduce the Carbon Fee & Dividend solution as a bill in Congress. This concept would establish a fee for fossil fuel extraction that would be returned to U.S. households in the form of dividends to help offset resulting higher energy bills. The overall result would be a financial disincentive for fossil fuel use, leading to a market-based transition to cleaner forms of energy.

One of the things I like about CCL is their focus on encouraging people to get involved in our representative democracy. This is something I’ve been more intentional about over the last year or two, largely through email and social media alerts from the Hoosier Environmental Council (another presenter of the event). HEC sends periodic updates about pending environmental legislation in Indiana and at the federal level, with clear explanations of why they support or oppose certain policies, and how citizens can advocate for sound environmental policy. I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable contacting my elected officials, and even though a few years ago I wondered “Is that something people really do?”, now I consider it a quick and easy way to influence issues I care about.

The panel of speakers included Janet McCabe (left), who served as the EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation under President Obama.

A theme that emerged from both the National Geographic episode and the panel discussion was the fact that we don’t have time for an incremental solution to climate change. While many articles about climate change talk about actions that individuals can take (such as driving less or eating less meat), these actions alone will not create the level of change needed to avert the most severe predictions of climate scientists. Change needs to happen faster than one individual citizen at a time—hence the focus on policy-based, industry-wide solutions.

A second, seemingly contradictory theme that emerged from the panel was the power of individual actions: specifically, how individual actions help people realize that they themselves have agency and can make an impact. This realization has the power to inspire individuals to take more and bigger actions, leading to greater change.

A high school science teacher on the panel gave a great example of how she helps her students begin to understand their impact. First she has students complete a carbon footprint calculator, and then she has the students calculate how many Earths would be necessary to sustain the global population if every person had the same carbon footprint they do. While this isn’t necessarily an example of an individual’s positive impact, this exercise helps students see themselves not as insignificant small-town kids, but as participants in a global system.

I see the two themes of the discussion as a natural progression. As citizens and humans, we first need to recognize our own impact on the world, and our ability to change that impact, before we begin to address the ills of the systems that compose society. For example, before someone can question the long-term viability of a consumption-based economy, they first need to consider the implications of their own consumption habits.

The action takeaway from the event was a marriage of individual and larger-scale action: CCL encouraged all attendees to fill out a form letter about climate change concerns (with space for personal comments) to their elected representatives, which CCL will deliver this month at their annual lobbying day in Washington, D.C. Taking this individual action is a building block toward the larger and more impactful goal of policy change—which, CCL emphasized, is unlikely to materialize without a chorus of voices in support of it.

I encourage you to check out Citizens’ Climate Lobby to learn more about their proposed solutions for climate change and to be inspired to contact your own representatives, not only about climate change, but about any issue that matters to you. As idealistic as it sounds, your representatives won’t know you care unless you tell them. It’s your responsibility to make your voice heard, and adding your voice to the collective support of an issue just may tip the scales toward policy change.

Save the Date for Our Next Swap!

It’s that time again! Our next style swap has been officially set for Wednesday, August 23, at New Day Craft Cider & Mead.

SummerSwap17 promo image

If you’re on the fence about whether a clothing swap is your scene, check out Bethany’s previous post about why swaps are basically the best thing ever. Then head over to the registration page to sign up!

See you at SummerSwap17!

The Three Blessings of the Swap Gods

Woman browsing dresses at clothing swap

In case you missed the very brief plug at the end of my last post, we’re having another clothing swap soon! If you’re on the fence about joining us, let Bethany convince you with her tales of three blessings from the clothing swap gods. – Julia

The Match Made In Heaven

“I’m wearing your pants!”

Amanda never fails to text me this statement and it never fails to make me smile. She picked up a pair of gray pants that I had brought to the first clothing swap. These pants were nice gray jeans, something that I really liked, but they just fit me strangely and I could never quite make them look right on me. I reluctantly brought them to the swap thinking that I would take them home after if no one took them.

Sisterhood of the traveling pants

Amanda modeling the sisterhood of the traveling pants

Fortunately, the swap gods had different plans in mind. Amanda snagged them quickly and went to try them on. She came out of the bathroom wearing this pair of pants that looked like they were made for her. These pants that I struggled to make work because I loved them so much looked exactly how I wanted them to when Amanda put them on, and it was wonderful! The only thing better than getting a match made in heaven is being able to provide one for someone else, so don’t hesitate to sacrifice those items on the cusp to the swap gods – they have a match in mind!

The Impulsive Grab

Towards the end of the swap, the items left on the table are often plain t-shirts or basic clothing that doesn’t have a lot of obvious pizzazz to it. A few times, I’ve impulsively picked up a plain shirt at the end thinking “well, it can’t hurt anything, if it doesn’t work I’ll just bring it to the next swap.” Somehow, those impulse grabs from the discards always end up being the items that I wear the most. One of them was a plain black t-shirt that is thin and long, and I wear it constantly. Another last minute grab was a tank top with a bold fern and red flower pattern on it – not something that I usually gravitate towards. However, it turned out to fit me perfectly and is an item that I’m really looking forward to wearing this summer. Trust the impulses that the swap gods send!

The Gift Of The Story

“Where did you get that shirt? I really like it!”
“Oh, I bought it at such and such a store”
– conversation ends –

“Where did you get that shirt? I really like it!”
“Oh, I got it at the Fair for All Clothing Swap!”
“What’s a clothing swap?”
– conversation flows, friendship is made, everything is lovely and wonderful –

Okay, maybe a bit exaggerated – but one of the biggest blessings bestowed by the swap gods is the story that your new favorite shirt has. There’s something special about having a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, and it’s really fun to tell people where you got your eco-friendly new duds.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the three blessings of the swap gods, and that you’ll come experience them in person on Wednesday, March 15th, from 6 pm – 8 pm at New Day Craft. Click here for more info and to RSVP!

~ Bethany

Guide to Vegetarian & Vegan Protein Substitutes

Fancy tofu appetizer on greens with mushrooms

Part of my effort to lessen my environmental footprint includes reducing the amount of meat in my diet. Eating mostly vegetarian food has become second-nature to me, and I have several vegetarian friends, so it always surprises me a little when restaurants and caterers don’t offer satisfactory vegetarian or vegan options. This is particularly a problem at events, which generally offer a more limited menu overall.

Once I was at a conference in college with my vegetarian roommate. The conference was being hosted at a mid-range hotel in a suburb of Indianapolis, and the dinner served was a meat lasagna. When my roommate informed the server she was vegetarian, he went to the kitchen to see what he could do and returned a while later with a single tomato that appeared to have been stuffed with a little cheese and baked. While the cooks on duty likely did their best to improvise in a situation they hadn’t been prepared for, the root of the issue is that food service professionals, especially in the hospitality industry, should be prepared to encounter vegetarians and vegans and equipped to provide them with nutritious alternatives to animal ingredients.

On my sustainable events blog, I’ve published a guide to vegetarian and vegan protein substitutes that caterers can use to better prepare themselves to serve plant-based meals. (There’s even a nifty chart!) Vegetarians and vegans get hungry too, so accommodating them means more than simply removing any “offending” ingredients from their plates. By focusing on substitution rather than elimination, caterers can create more successful veggie dishes and have more satisfied guests!

Check out the guide to vegetarian and vegan substitutions >>

Sustainable Wedding Reception Tips

Elegant table setting with white linens and daffodils

Since I started my sustainable events consulting business, one of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten from friends is, “Do you do weddings?” I’ve never actively avoided weddings, but my focus so far has been on corporate and non-profit events. But recently as I’ve met more people in the wedding planning community, I’ve found myself mentally organizing various sustainable strategies that would apply to weddings, and getting excited about helping a couple create a wedding day that matches their values.

So let me take this opportunity to say it officially: Yes, I do weddings! I recently expressed my newfound ardor for matrimony in a guest post on fellow EWC member blog Leotie Lovely by sharing some of my tips for planning a sustainable wedding reception. Check out my sustainable wedding reception tips on Leotie Lovely >>

Get Ready for SpringSwap16

It’s time for the next Fair for All style swap! SpringSwap16 is your opportunity to clean out your closet and swap unwanted items for new-to-you fashion.

This will be our third clothing swap event, and I’m so excited to have built up a community of people who enjoy getting new clothes in this fun, personal and environmentally-friendly way.

SpringSwap16 promo graphic

SpringSwap16 Women’s Style Swap

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 • New Day Craft Mead & Cider

See full details & sign up >>

Some scenes from our last swap:

Women browsing tables of clothing

Woman peruses jewelry table

Rack of women's clothing

As always, the style swap is a free event. And like at our last swap, New Day’s famous Mead & Knead will be going on in the front room at the same time, where you can get a chair massage and a glass of mead or cider for just $10. (Be sure to arrive early if you want a massage; slots fill up fast.)

We hope to see you on May 4!

Sustainable Events: Throwing a Green Kids’ Party

Cupcakes in ice cream cones

Business update! My sustainable events consulting venture is rolling along, and I’m making great connections in both the event planning community and the environmental community. It’s encouraging to hear people’s positive responses to what I’m doing, and I’m excited to bring these two groups closer together.

In addition to making new connections, I’m enjoying support from my fellow Ethical Writers Coalition members. I recently shared my top tips for throwing a green kids’ party with Summer of sustainable fashion and lifestyle blog Tortoise & Lady Grey. She’s celebrating her little one’s fourth birthday this week and is doing her best to keep the party sustainable. Kids’ parties can be a major source of waste generated by disposable plates, cups, streamers, balloons, treat bags… the list goes on. However, with a bit of careful planning, your child’s party can be a magical and memorable day that doesn’t heavily burden the environment.

Read my tips for throwing a green kids’ party on Tortoise & Lady Grey >>

P.S. On April 23 I’ll be representing my business with a booth at the Earth Day Indiana festival, so come say hey!

Sustainable Events: Reduce Waste at Your Next Party

Woman raising glass at dinner party

As part of my sustainable events consulting business, I was recently featured on the blog of socially-conscious retailer Paisley + Sparrow with my top four tips for reducing waste at dinner parties. Hosting a party has never been easier with the array of convenience products available, from packaged veggie trays and snacks to cases of soft drinks and beer, not to mention those red plastic cups. But we often don’t stop to think about the environmental impact of these items. Continue reading on Paisley + Sparrow >>

New Project: Sustainability in Events

Remember when I announced I was working a new, secret, scary, exciting project? I’m pumped to finally eliminate “secret” from that list!

Screenshot of Julia Spangler's sustainable event consulting website

I’m thrilled to share with you guys that I am starting my own sustainable events consulting business. The impetus for this idea came from several sources—my own love of events, my event experience from my day job, and the overall cultural shift in my generation toward valuing experiences more than possessions. As sustainability continues to become a more urgent global issue, event attendees (especially millennials) will demand that experiences are planned responsibly. Some brands are already doing this fantastically, but other companies and organizations need help to turn those sustainable ideals into reality. That’s where I come in!

A lot of the advice I offer is inspired by topics I’ve written about here on Fair for All. One person’s lifestyle changes at home can make a difference, but the impact is awesomely magnified at an event attended by hundreds of people!

If you’re interested in learning more, check out my official bizness website at www.juliaspangler.com. And of course, I’ll be continuing to plan sustainable events for the blog, including our next style swap on Jan. 20. Posting may take a downtick in frequency as I shift focus to the business, but I also plan to share a lot of the new things I’m learning with you!

Thanks to everyone who knew about this endeavor for your support so far; you’ve been awesome. And if you’re in the process planning a festival, fundraiser, bingo night or bar mitzvah, drop me a line—I’d love to help make it more sustainable!

Upcoming Events in January: Trunk Show and Style Swap

January looms before us as a barren wasteland of post-holiday gloom. But fear not! I have two free events coming up that are sure to break up your winter doldrums.

Slow Fashion Trunk Show promo poster

Slow Fashion Trunk Show

Thursday, Jan. 7 from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Outpost (Circle Centre Mall, 2nd floor, across from H&M)

Elizabeth Roney from Liz Alig, Sara Baldwin-Schatz from Lux & Ivy, and I are teaming up for an evening of fair trade fashion, secondhand style, and sustainable strategies. Elizabeth and Sara will offer great slow fashion items from their brands, and I’ll speak on the differences between slow fashion and fast fashion, with time for Q&A from all three of us. It’s also a great chance to see the Outpost pop-up shop before it closes!

Women browsing clothes at FairSwap15

WinterSwap16 Women’s Style Swap

Wednesday, Jan. 20 from 6–8 p.m.
New Day Craft

FairSwap15 was such a big hit last September that we’re bringing it back in January! Collect any wearable holiday gifts that weren’t quite your style, plus any other unwanted clothing, shoes and accessories you have, and bring them to WinterSwap16. This swap will be bigger and better than the last with more items allowed per person. Plus, New Day’s famous Mead & Knead will be going on at the same time! Sign up and get the full details. Spots are limited!

Check out photos and details from past events on the Events page. Happy holidays and I’ll see you in January!