Earth Day 2022. Somehow my news and social feeds are a bit more about climate anxiety, greenwashing, blaming, shaming, distraction, overwhelm, etc. than they are about celebrating and taking care of the magical planet we call home. I’m not downplaying the importance and urgency of the topic, and any duration rabbit holing is incredibly eye opening, but I don’t think that needs to be the focus ofall our energy. Some issues go so much larger and deeper than we may ever comprehend, so instead of overwhelm paralysis and feeling doom and gloom, what can we do right now? We appreciate and tend what we do have. When we come back to aligning with what feels good, to our own integrity, to being educated while still being human, we might find the sweet-spot for making it through this chapter in humanity.
Now when I say what I’m about to say, it’s not without risking some reputation as a brand that makes claims around eco-responsibility, but I actually get a little bit salty on Earth Day/Week. Long before I even found myself managing an eco-responsible brand, I was a wild and free, barefoot, tree-hugging, snarly-haired, skinny dipping little thing that never understood how anyone could actually live in a way that didn’t also treat the planet with respect. I come from a long line of pseudo-conservationists — simply put, good stewards of the land — and it felt like an insult to my soul that someone was telling me things that were obvious. Simply put, when did taking care of what we love and keeping our home clean ever seem like it was an option or something to question?
Obviously I had, and still have, a lot to learn. There are dynamics that little Katherine didn’t understand and there are still dynamics I wish I could ignore. But I am happy to report that on my 5th Earth Day with Lake Effect Co, I think I’ve arrived at a spot that feels truest and most impactful yet. There are no new products (we got close but it’s not quite right yet, and I’m not rushing the process) and no new promotions or new eco-challenges. It’s just me sharing a quick pulse on what my love of the planet means right now for the business. I’d go into what it means for me personally, but table that for my memoir coming, much later. ...joking, sort of.
The gist of things? I’m staying in my lane and controlling what I can. My focus is on my connection to nature, and sharing it through my words, brand and products through Lake Effect Co.
I’m not just posting a “LOVE YOUR MOTHER” graphic once a year or planting a tree while buying actual trash to mark-up and sell you. I’m living in integrity with my mission: investing time, financial and energetic resources to ensure that my products and brand experience align with that to the best of my ability. It’s not flawless, go on to read for more on the ins/outs, but it’s top of mind and I’m happily transparent with what is and isn’t fully aligned with the eco-responsible mission I’ve set out to achieve here.
The mission of this brand is to connect us with the beauty, adventure, and healing of nature. There are few reasons, including my faith that people more connected with nature will naturally want to take steps to protect her, and happy, healed people are generally able to contribute positively to the entire collective. Those are things I will stand behind, without fail, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, for my entire life.
A few highlights on our earth love journey lately:
Gifting money to causes important to me, and what I felt like was important to you, too, remains at our core. Because the cost of products has increased so dramatically while it seemed my customer base was not interested in also paying more for these goods means that the percent I give has lessened in order to keep my profit margin in a way that allows me to even keep producing goods. These organizations are FLOW - For Love of Water, Dig Deep - the Navajo Water Project, and the NAACP. We also give to the patreon accounts for Intersectional Environmentalist and for Wallace J Nichols, author of Blue Mind. These organizations and missions align to support the people and planet we love.
We have gotten zesty and creative with sourcing. We use suppliers that go the extra mile with their processes, we work in smaller batches which are inherently less wasteful, and we even use thrifted products as blanks. I’m always torn about whether I want to share the specifics of this information — giving other retailers access to the products / garments that are sorta unique to my brand. It doesn’t feel imperative here, but I’m happy to share with any shopper at any time. For the most part, this means we do not add to the demand for irresponsibly made goods. THAT SAID, the one practice we do use, that I still feel good about despite it not being 100% eco-responsible product, is dropshipping. This means that if we want something in a small amount of product, we can have it made by a third party in small volumes. Large volume runs are hard on our wallet and often are leaps of faith in terms of demand, so sometimes these things just don’t sell. So now we’ve expressed demand for the product and have no home for it. This doesn’t feel good in any way.
Our packaging has gone from a super aesthetically pleasing and over the top branding experience when we first launched to a bit less high maintenance and definitely eco-smart approach. Instead of having things custom made, we use what’s already in production: mailers, stickers, tissue. They’re all made of recycled materials and recyclable on the other end. We also use a TON of packaging materials that we’ve collected or received. So instead of just tossing or recycling something when we do some online shopping, we re-use it! Thank goodness for the little “proudly shipped in reused packaging” stickers so you know that we’re legit. We even use compostable tape when we can.
I LOVE a well-branded, high vibe, aesthetically pleasing experience, so I've had to humble myself to not always have that perfect experience. Using what's already in existence vs. having it made for me has felt like the best course. Anyone remember the bags of lake-themed gummy treats in 2017?
Last, and what I consider most important, is making space for connection with nature, honoring what it teaches me, and expressing that through this brand. I’ve wanted so many times to launch courses about connecting with nature, something that comes easily for me no matter where I am planted, but something always pulls me away. Those things do exist and I’m constantly doing my best to surface. Perhaps that will be a goal for coming months, to create a hub or database for others to access. No promises, but always feel free to reach out for more scoop.
Until then, or regardless, here are some articles and pieces of content that ARE inspiring and helpful:
I know I'm not pushing any compelling, forward-thinking agendas with this post, but I am certainly pulling for those who are. And while we're all living / working / dreaming together on this shared planet of ours, I'll be over here holding my vision for a healthy, happy, blue planet. Happy EARTH LIFE, friends.