Explore Sustainability With Angela Hamilton
Name: Angela Hamilton
Occupation: Writer & Founder of eco club
Current City: Seattle, Washington
Angela Hamilton is a Seattle-based freelance writer and the co-creator of eco club, a community of storytellers, advocates, and ethical brands exploring sustainability in the lifestyle space.
What does adopting a low impact/zero-waste lifestyle mean to you and when did you start? To add on to that, what was the main motivator for you?
Growing up in the PNW, I’ve always had a pretty low-impact lifestyle. I’ve always felt strongly connected to the environment, so the more I learned about its challenges, the more I wanted to get involved. My personal choices of avoiding plastic, boycotting fast fashion, choosing public transportation, buying secondhand—they slowly added up to form my lifestyle. I have a really long way to go! To me it’s not about having a label of “low impact “zero waste” “minimalism” etc.—these are all really helpful if you identify with them, but they can turn people off because they seem unrealistic.
In 2017 I read the book Great Tide Rising by Kathleen Dean Moore. It’s a mix between an environmental book and creative nonfiction, which are two major interest of mine. By the second page I was crying. It covers every possible argument for protecting the planet. I sat on it for a bit because it was so devastating, then I started to think about how I could do more.
What was the most challenging part of transitioning into a low impact lifestyle, and how did you overcome it?
The hardest part is how much mental energy it takes—the actual changes in lifestyle are pretty simple! But it can feel like the work is never done, because it isn’t, and that’s hard to come to terms with. There isn’t one day that you wake up and are like “I’m there!”. It’s a process of lifelong learning. There’s always something to learn that makes you rethink your whole lifestyle and how you can improve.
On the flip side, were you ever pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to switch certain things over?
Yes! When I first learned about the horrifying impacts of the palm oil industry, a switch went off. Palm oil is an ingredient in 80% products in US grocery stores and the industry has devastating effects on people and the planet. That was really intimidating. But, it wasn’t that hard to avoid it. It’s mostly in processed foods, and I was trying to eat less of that anyway. It actually contributed to a healthier diet because now I avoid the snack and baking aisles for the most part.
Do you believe zero-waste and sustainable living are a privilege?
Yes. Even simply being able to discuss how to live a more sustainable lifestyle is absolutely a privilege, and I believe that having that privilege gives us a responsibility to act. How we act is different for everyone, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that privilege and live in a way that contributes to the betterment of our environment and the people around us. Not everyone can do that, and communities are suffering because of privileged people like many of us.
Let’s switch gears a little, I understand that you’re a co-creator of eco club. Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do and the community you have created?
A few years ago I had an idea to create an online ethical shopping directory. I had this bookmarks list on my browser with so many ethical and sustainable shops that I was pulling from when shopping myself. I also worked in the lifestyle space and hated that so many blogs were built on promoting fast fashion. I wanted to create a directory and also a lifestyle blog where we only pulled from trusted brands that valued transparency and sustainability.
My friend Jenn is a web developer who built the site and helped manage members and my other friend Charity is a photographer who works in digital marketing, so we all collaborated to get it off the ground. Over 3 years or so, we partnered up with brands like Ten Thousand Villages, Manos Zapotecas, and Proof Eyewear to create inspiring lifestyle content that promoted these more thoughtful companies.
This was always an important side project for me but I went through phases were I had no time to work on it and it was difficult to gain traction. So late last year I re-committed myself to it and decided to pivot to more of a green living community. I learned a lot from my previous site and how there’s a ton of brands touting the “ethical” language, but they aren’t actually making products from earth-friendly materials. So when we launched eco club, I wanted everything we presented to be people AND earth friendly.
I also didn’t want it to have an exclusive focus on consumerism, I wanted to share things like zero waste tips, nature essays, interviews with designers in the space, etc., in addition to shopping guides and a directory.
How do you find the brands featured on your Brand Directory, and what qualifies them to be highlighted?
I’d worked with a lot of sustainable brands the past few years so I had a great start already. The only two requirements—and they are big ones—are to be a brand that is focused on both social responsibility and environmental sustainability. So, even if you are a fair trade brand but you rely on plastic or promote single-use products, that’s a start but not quite good enough. But I knew there were enough ethical + sustainable brands out there, like BackBeatRags and LeftEdit, two California fashion brands. And it’s a global directory. Brands can be based anywhere, but I focus on ones that ship to the US because that’s where our readers are based.
What’s one piece of advice you can give individuals trying to adopt a more eco-friendly, zero-waste lifestyle?
Don’t overthink it! Just start with something that you’re really intrigued by, do a little research, and go from there. There is no one way to be eco-friendly, and no one can do it all. When I really got into green living, I was a lifestyle blogger concerned about fast fashion. Some people get into it by learning about the food industry and changing their diet. Others are really inspired by minimalism so they adopt those principles. I find that people either think they have to do it all which stops them from starting, or they get so focused on the enormity of the situation that they aren’t living a joyful life. My goal, and my goal with eco club, is to show that everyone’s journey is different and everyone’s journey matters.
How would you like eco club to grow in the future, and what type of impact would you like to create?
I want eco club to have an in-person community, which is something I’m still envisioning how to build here in Seattle. That was a big factor when I decided to commit to this project. I’d love to have meetups to workshop creative projects within green living and volunteer days. My hope is that eventually we’ll have a strong local community and then other communities can learn about it on our site and Instagram and create their own versions.
About The Photos:
Photography by @charityvictoria
For eco club’s summer shoot, we took the concept of a classic backyard party and incorporated low waste ideas. We wanted to show that you could create something beautiful and stylish without using classic party supplies like paper products, single use décor, unhealthy foods etc. It seems frivolous to focus on a party but things like connecting with friends and family and even the process of planning an event, are important in so many people’s lives, and therefore is almost synonymous with waste at this point—but it doesn’t have to be. We’ll be sharing tips along with these photos on @ecoclubofficial and our blog in the coming weeks.