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Crookedfinger Art: Sustainable Fashion & Art

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Crookedfinger Art is an expression of my person style and creative impulses. – Kim Cadenhead

Meet Kim! 

Kim Cadenhead is the founder of Crookedfinger Art.  Kim has a unique quirk, two crooked pinky fingers, a result of a genetic glitch.  Her little quirk resulted in the inspiration for her company name, it is an ode to her unique characteristic which she embraces and has allowed her to flourish as an artist with her original artistic style.  Kim is passionate about various medias for art projects.  Her portfolio includes: paintings on canvas, mixed media, handcrafted sustainable products and graphic t-shirt designs.  Kim recently took part in an artist workshop in North Carolina.  The workshop gave Kim an opportunity to grow as an artist and finesse her painting skills.  Her experience there lead to her latest creative endeavor a series of floral paintings on both canvas and repurposed wooden trays— both wonderful works of art for home decor.

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Kim is an artist who is inspired by the environment around her and incorporates the very essence of her surroundings into her paintings, handmade items and mixed media projects.  In my humble option, I view Kim’s most recent floral collection as having a touch of influence from impressionist paintings incorporated with her own modern signature style, blending beautifully together.  Her floral paintings from her 2016 collection are my personal favorites.  Kim sells both original canvas artwork and canvas prints.

Sustainable Fashion and Eco Art

Since moving from Toronto, Canada to the Cayman Islands, Kim has visited local thrift shops to gather materials for her latest sustainable art projects.  It is her aspiration to repurpose materials found locally and transform them in sustainable handcrafted products including: beach tote bags, hand tote bags, messenger bags rugs, pot holders, coasters and even mixed media art pieces.

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It is rather astounding when you take a moment to realize the magnitude of materials available that has the potential to be repurposed and used in a sustainable way.  All of her eco-friendly items are handmade.  Kim’s sustainable art pieces have all been made from magazines that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.  Kim is an artist with an eco-conscious mindset.  Her sustainable fashion and home products prove that recycled and repurposed materials can be transformed into chic sustainable products.

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Support Local

Kim’s artwork and eco-friendly products are available for sale at Art Nest Creative Studio, at Pasadora Place.  You can also visit Kim at Camana Bay’s local Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays.

Stay Connected

Follow Kim on Facebook, click here

Follow Kim on Instagram, click here 

Visit her website, click here 

 

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Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet

 

Photo Credit: National Geographic

SEA OF HOPE follows iconic ocean explorer and conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle, renowned underwater photographer Brian Skerry, author and captain Max Kennedy, and their unlikely crew of teenage aquanauts on a year-long quest to secure their future. Deploying science and photography, they hope to inspire the creation of blue parks across an unseen and imperiled American wilderness.

It was an absolute honor to be published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories.  Please visit their website to read my full article Sea of Hope: Preserving the Heart of our Planet.  Sea of Hope is airing 15th January 2017 on National Geographic.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

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Epiphany: How A Family Of Explorers & Conservationists Overcame Their Fears

 

View Epiphany Movie Trailer

A popular definition of epiphany as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is: “A moment of sudden and great revelation or realization.  For me, an epiphany is a sublime moment.  It is an awakening, when your thoughts come into focus and there is a moment of clarity.  The opportunity presents itself as an illuminating thought.  A moment of such great revelation can bring forth incredible things.

I have had the privilege to get to know award-winning filmmaker and wildlife cinematographer Michael Maes and his wife Ellen Cuylaerts, an award-winning wildlife photographer.  They are truly two of the most amazing people I have ever met.  They are inspiring, compassionate, kind, generous, brave and humble people.  I am grateful to know them.  As a family they live intriguing and extraordinary lives as explorers and conservationists.  They explore the world and use their gifts and talents in film and photography to share their passion for conservation with the world.  An underlying message in their documentary Epiphany is the power of film and photography.  I am a firm believer that art whether it is in the form of film, photography, writing or any other genre has the ability to create change and have a positive impact.  The photographs and film both Michael and Ellen share with the world captures stunning encounters with wildlife, marine life and spectacular scenic views of nature.  It serves to remind us this planet is worth fighting for and protecting.  Art has an incredible ability to connect us all on a universal level.

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For Michael and Ellen, film and photography is a means for them to contribute to nature and conservation— a way of giving back.  They use their films and photography to educate, and create awareness about various environmental issues.  A strong image whether captured in a still photograph or a moving picture can evoke emotion, share a powerful message and allow an opportunity for one to be enlightened and enriched.  In particular, a scene in their documentary Epiphany with Whale Sharks captures a collection of beautiful moments spent in the presence of these majestic creatures.  There is utter tranquility within this scene and the Whale Sharks swim gracefully.  The scene showed the majesty of sharks— they are not to be feared but respected.  Other scenes with Oceanic White Tips present the elegant poises and patterns of these sharks as they glide through the water, depicting them beautifully in their natural habitat.  The sharks and divers were able to inhabit the space harmoniously.  It is important to note, the divers still had to remain very vigilant at all times.  Ellen and Michael take great care in the composition of their photography by ensuring they develop a connection with the wildlife during their encounter and allow that to translate in their photography.  By doing so, it creates a powerful image illustrating that there is a story and meaning behind every photograph.  The heart of their photography and film is to remind us all what a privilege it is to live on this beautiful planet and to not take for granted our natural resources, the environment, the ocean and all animals.  There is a great urgency for a united effort and action to happen globally to increase conservation of the environment and protection of all animals.  As advocates for the ocean they are keen to promote awareness of the urgency to protect sharks.  Ellen and Michael use film and photography to promote conservation and help rehabilitate the image of sharks by showing us that sharks are to be respected not feared.  The real fear is a life without sharks.  The reality is if sharks continue to be slaughtered for their fins and their population continues to rapidly decline they will face extinction.  Sharks have been roaming the ocean immensely longer than humans have inhabited the planet.  It would be a great tragedy for sharks to become extinct.  There is no coming back from extinction.

 

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Recently, I had the opportunity to watch their documentary Epiphany a film that is inspiring and moving.  The film left a profound impact on me.  It is a film that I hold dear to my heart, as it was truly special to watch a film friends of mine had made and with such admirable bravery they shared their story with the world.  I implore others to watch their award-winning documentary which is currently available on iTunes.  The documentary touches on a variety of themes: the power of art and film, conservation of sharks, environmentalism, Autism, the unbreakable bond of a family and finding bravery to overcome fear.  Michael and his family are incredibly courageous to share a vulnerable side of their lives and their journey through life with the world.  Primarily, the narrative of the film tells the journey of Ellen and how she finds the bravery to overcome her fear of the ocean.  It is her kids that leads Ellen back to nature.  It is on this journey, Ellen rediscovers her love for photography which allows her to overcome her fear of the water by swimming with sharks and photographing them.  The film also touches on Michael and their kids Margaux and Max leading extraordinary lives with autism.  A takeaway from their documentary is that there is a need in this world to look past each others differences and accept one another as they are.  We are all uniquely different and that is what adds to our individual beauty.  There is a need for society to stop labelling and creating divides due to differences— being different can be a remarkable gift.  A beautiful message within in the film, is the families unbreakable bond.  The diagnosis of Autism running in their family understandably initially created a feeling of isolation, fear and hardship.  However, together as a family they were able to thrive and live out their passions.  All of them having wonderfully marvelous courageous lives.  As a family they inspire us all to live a life of compassion, kindness and bravery.

 

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The power and healing of nature is beautifully interwoven within the story which unfolds throughout the documentary.  Nature serves as a catalyst to connect the family together, strengthen their bond and open doors for amazing opportunities to share their passion for conservation, film, photography and art.  A beautiful synergy is built between the family as they collectively immerse themselves in exploring nature and the depths of the ocean.  A profound message the documentary presents is that Ellen is able to move past her fear of the ocean and develop a trust within nature.  The ocean serves as a bit of a paradox in Ellen’s life, while on one hand it is the foundation of her fear of water, yet on the other, it serves to inspire her to contribute to conservation, follow her passion of photography and connect deeply with her family.  By having nature as an integral component of their lives, the differences within the family does not create walls to divide them, in fact nature bridges the family together and anchors them.  Moreover, through expeditions exploring nature, it brings forth a bravery within each of them to overcome their own personal fears.  Through their conservation efforts and giving back to nature, each of them were able embrace their individualism and remain true to themselves and their passion for the environment, photography, film and art.

Meet Michael Maes

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Michael Maes is a wildlife filmmaker, specialized in big animals and animal behavior. His portfolio (both underwater and topside) covers the polar regions, temperate waters and the tropics. He has a passionate interest for polar bears and Arctic whales.

His work has been broadcast on various national television like Nat Geo Wild, Outside Television, CBC. It also received recognition at a myriad of international film festivals; reflecting the ability to translate the need for wildlife conservation onto the screen.

In 2015 Michael was inducted as cinematographer in the Ocean Artists Society (http://www.oceanartistssociety.org), an organization uniting artists worldwide to raise awareness and protect the marine environment through art. Michael is also a founding Navigator of the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (http://www.reefresearch.org), a leading scientific research centre in the Caribbean focusing on coral reef restoration, research on coral resilience, and ocean education.

More About Michael  

Website michaelmaes.com   (Currently Under Construction)

Check out some of his recent Arctic Work:

 

Q & A with Award-winning Filmmaker Michael Maes

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1. What inspired the documentary and for you to tell this story?

Ellen Cuylaerts; my wife; challenged herself to overcome her fear of water and sharks, culminating her personal growth by feeding those feared sharks. That was the story to which many viewers can relate to.

2. What is the heart of the documentary? Or the core message for audiences to take from watching the film?

Basically Epiphany is a story about all of us. Everyone has his or her fears, everyone faces challenges of life, we can all make decisions to alter our paths.

Epiphany shows the viewer setbacks can be turned into strongholds of life itself.

In short, Epiphany is a story of hope.

3. Did you face any challenges while making this documentary?

Apart from logistical nightmares, the complete lack of privacy for our family during the 18 months of filming was very exigent. Although most of the shootings were at dream locations, we constantly had cameras and microphones pointed at or near us. Especially Ellen as I was fortunate enough to be behind the camera for most of the underwater filming and all areal cinematography.

Next would be the communication between the producer (me) and the rest of the crew. Having autism makes it very difficult to communicate my thoughts; up to a point where I even think I “say” something but I actually only “think” it. That has lead to many difficult situations, frustrations and even words. But, ultimately and always thanks to Ellen, we regrouped and were able to finish a gem.

4. What was one key lesson you learned from making this film?

Don’t think what you say but say what you think!

5. Is there a particular scene in the documentary that resonates with you or has the most significant meaning to you?

To me the most emotional scene in the documentary is at the end where Ellen stands strong among tens of sharks circling her and I (you can’t see that of course as I am filming it) am lying flat on the sand at her feet; filming Ellen from that extreme low angle; all the way up to the water surface; sharks everywhere.

That scene grabs me the most as it portrays in images the fact that Ellen conquered her fear, surrounded by sharks yet she is the one who is in charge! There she stands, holding food next to her body, telling the sharks with her body-language to not come in for the food… she… her… your wife… the mother of your two children… surrounded by sharks… I cannot express how powerful that scene is for a filmmaker who’s the husband of the talent…

As a cinematographer that scene also grabs me as it is – excuse-moi the bragging – simply a formidable shot completed by the genius score of music written by the Belgian musician Eric Bettens.

6. What was your favorite filming location?

Honestly? None! They all had their particular challenges and filmic rewards. A favorite moment I could tell you: a close to two hour dive with only Ellen and myself at Tiger Beach. We were down there without bait or chum. We just wanted to have our Zen moment; away from the fuzzy madness of the production. Did we get rewarded for being there: we had three 12 feet tiger sharks and a bunch of lemons and reefies. A mind-blowing peaceful moment! This footage did not end up in the documentary as the sequences were too long and beautiful to cut. Now that Epiphany is released I will review those amazing scenes again.

7. What do you hope this documentary will accomplish? Or what is your goal or hope for this film?

Of course we want to spread awareness on the sad condition sharks are facing globally. But we also want people to think about their own life and take action if they want to. We want Epiphany to bring hope to those whom are trapped in a fixed pattern, caught in a seemingly hopeless situation.

8. What does the film mean to you and your family?

30 months of blood, sweat and tears.

9. Do you believe film and art has the power to help bring positive changes to the environment?

Many of the world’s environmental issues are far out of reach of most people. Pictures and film bring those issues closer to many, though often in the hard “documenting” way – which is good of course.

Bringing the animals and their world to the beholder in all beauty – nature as it is – makes people see the beauty of those animals. This could lessen the fear of the unknown and invoke interest in the animal or its habitat. Every time I get a message from someone I don’t know telling me some work of mine made him or her get interested in that animal or its environment, is a bigger reward to me than a paycheck.

10. Do you find using art and film as a medium allows you to see the impact and changes in the environment differently, than as opposed to just reading about the issues our environment faces?

As I am a person whom thinks in images, I would believe so. However I feel this question should better be answered by an avid and passionate reader.

More Info about Epiphany 

Website            : www.epiphany.movie

Epiphany on iTunes : https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/epiphany/id1169290433

Trailer Epiphany                     : https://vimeo.com/156486645

Special Thanks

Special thanks: Photos and video courtesy of Michael Maes and Ellen Cuylaerts

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For The Love Of Animals: Ian Somerhalder Foundation Medical Emergency Grants

 

Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

A truly heartwarming initiative was started by the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) to aid in the rescue and rehabilitation of animals that have heartbreaking stories of being abused, neglected or suffered a traumatic injury.  These animals are deserving and in need of a second chance.  ISF created their Medical Emergency Program to extend compassion to these animals and assist in aiding to their recovery and wellbeing.  ISF launched their Medical Emergency Grant Program on Valentine’s Day, 2014.  A day symbolizing a commitment of love and compassion towards animals— inspiring others to do the same.  Since the inception of this program, they have helped over 1,000 animals including: cats, dogs, turtles, birds, bats, horses, sheep, cows, sea lions, goats, rabbits, and more.  All have benefited from an ISF Medical Emergency Grant— giving them an improved quality of life, resulting in a touching success stories.  These animal rescues are now living happier lives with their new families in their forever homes. The testimony of these animals show, that animals have an incredible resilience no matter how difficult the hardship they faced.  They also remind of us of the incredible bond animals establish with humans, despite the suffering they endured, once they found a new and loving family in a safe environment they continue to express love unconditionally.

Animals have an exquisitely poignant way of teaching us, through demonstration, how to love and be loved. We learn compassion, as well as expand our perception of the infinite connection to the environment around us, from our creature friends–whether they are furry and lick us, or slither and swim. We owe it to these creatures to provide protection, healing and love. That is exactly why I am so proud that the IS Foundation has launched our first grant program — the Emergency Medical Grant for Animals – Ian Somerhalder

ISF provides grants to both the US and Canada and works closely with dedicated teams of amazing rescuers in various parts of the US and Canada who are on the front line every day finding animals in need of a better life and urgent care.  These admirable individuals advocate on the behalf of these animals.  Animals that receive an Emergency Medical Grant have been found either, abused, neglected or have suffered a traumatic injury.  ISF reviews applications and typically makes a decision within a week.  They then have the money sent out the following week to the treating veterinarians and rescuers.  The ISF Medical Emergency Grant criteria and eligibility can be found on the ISF website, Grant Information Page.  “The purpose of this grant is to provide animal victims a second chance by alleviating their rescuers of the financial stress of treatment so they can focus on facilitating the animal’s adoption into a permanent, loving home” ISF works with individuals, animal rescuers, veterinarians and non-profit organizations seeking to rescue and rehabilitate animal victims.  (ISF)

The ISF Medical Emergency Grants Program has done an incredible job of bettering the lives of so many animals.  Animals that have had the opportunity to recover and rehabilitate now have wonderful success stories inspiring us all to help protect and care for animals in need.  ISF has established a network of dedicated animal rescuers (grantees) and built amazing relationships with them over the past 2 years.  Their collaboration and teamwork has created a positive impact.  An added bonus, the ISF have met so many loving animals that have greatly benefited from their program.  In instances when the animal in need and the rescuer are near by, the ISF take the opportunity to meet with the animal and rescuer(s).  The ISF have shared a plethora of wonderful heartwarming success stories of the animals they have help give a second chance to. To read their success stories visit their grant success page.  Their dedication to provide resources to assist in bringing a life changing positive impact on the lives of animals that have deeply suffered, inspires us all to work together to be a voice for animal victims that have endured a painful hardship.

Must Love Animals

Below are a few success stories of the ISF Medical Emergency Grant

Meet Elsa

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Ozzy

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

Meet Twinkle Toes

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Photo Credit: Ian Somerhalder Foundation

To support the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and stay up-to-date with their projects follow them on Facebook and Twitter or visit their website 

The Cayman Islands: A Haven for Sharks & Rays

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

The Cayman Islands has built its name and reputation primarily on being a renowned diving destination.  Pioneers in our local diving community over the last few decades contributed to building our diving industry into the premier operation that it is today.  They recognized the exquisite beauty our underwater landscape had to offer and have since then made it accessible for locals and tourists to recreationally experience and explore the beauty that lies below the surface for themselves.  With a desire to showcase our natural resources comes with a commitment to preserve them.  Our duty towards conservation for both land and the ocean is beneficial not just from an environmental perspective but also an economic one.  Our tourism industry is strongly tied to our island’s natural resources.  Ergo, an obvious reason to ensure that our natural resources are protected.  Last year on Earth Day (2015), the Cayman Islands officially became a Sharks and Rays Sanctuary.  The sanctuary expands across all three islands.  This is a positive step towards ecotourism as many tourists are keen to visit places that are committed to conservation.

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

“I’m extremely grateful that the Cayman Islands recognized the need to make the islands a shark and ray sanctuary. Not only will their protected status benefit the health of the reefs but it’s also a strong statement towards the tourism industry which is an important source of revenue. By protecting our natural resources the Cayman Islands puts itself in the the market of the informed and eco friendly tourist making the right choice for the future generations.” -Ellen Cuylaerts

Sharks in the Water

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

By virtue of us standing by and not acting to protect coral reefs and marine life that are under threat there is a very likely possibility that corals reefs will continue to become degraded and even destroyed.  The caribbean has already lost 80% of its coral reefs.  There is an intricate connection between coral reefs and all marine life.  If keystone species such as sharks continue to decrease in population it will have a tremendous impact on the coral reefs and the marine life that depend on the reefs.  A scary thought that should be racing through everyone’s minds is what if I never see a shark in the water again?  Our fear should be driven by the thought of what will happen to our ocean and the ecosystem if shark populations globally continues to spiral down or worse become extinct.  Sharks are a keystone species and are fundamental to maintaining the health and balance of: coral reefs, marine life and the ocean.  Without their presence there could potentially be a devastating collapse within our fragile ecosystem as their role in keeping our “life support” viable is monumental.  Ultimately, we need a healthy ocean as 70% of the world’s oxygen comes from there.  Healthy shark populations means healthy reefs.  Coral reefs support 1/4 of all marine life.  Healthy reefs means a flourishing population of marine life.  This is beneficial for: our ecosystem, recreational divers, snorkelers and for fisherman.  Balance within our ecosystem is key to benefiting the preservation of the planet, as well as a thriving diving industry, tourism industry and fisherman.

We can’t fail to act to protect our ocean and marine life.  The ocean is often referred to as the heart of the planet.  There seems to be a collective assumption that the ocean is indestructible, that no matter the amount of pollution pumped into the ocean it will always reset itself, that there will always be coral reefs and an abundance of fish, sharks and all marine life.  It is as though we cannot fathom the thought that it could all go away one day.  The reality is the ocean like anything else has its limitations.  We cannot keep testing the ocean’s ability to bounce back.  It is evident that the ocean is under an immense amount stress due to climate change and the rapid decrease in the populations of a multitude of marine species.  For instance, sharks and rays are under threat.  Every year, 70 million sharks are killed for their fins (Fin Free).  In comparison it is reported that targeted Manta Ray populations have declined by an estimated 56% to 88% in recent years (Wild Aid).  With this in mind, there is an urgency for countries around the world to declare their waters as a shark and rays sanctuary.  The more protection coverage of the ocean for sharks and rays will by virtue allow for coral reefs, and fish populations to have time to recover and recuperate.  This is beneficial to everyone.

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Specifically to our waters, current research indicated that we have a lower shark population than expected for a healthy reef ecosystem.  This suggests that our waters need an increase in sharks to ensure our coral reefs can remain healthy.  Shark populations recover over a significant period of time and sanctuaries can provide a safe haven for populations to recuperate.  Presently, there are no comparative ray nor shark surveys specific to our region.  It is difficult to state how our population of sharks and rays compares to other islands in the Caribbean.  However, some research conducted by Marine Conservation International (Research Partners of Department of Environment Cayman Islands) suggests that Cayman’s shark numbers are relatively low in comparison to our Caribbean neighbors.  Notably, numbers will vary from species to species.  However, our waters have a fair population of sharks and rays. Both species are being threatened across the Caribbean and around the world.  Protecting sharks and rays regionally will benefit not only our territory but also on a global scale as it encourages other countries to designate their waters as a sanctuary for these magnificent creatures.  It is evident that the protection of sharks and rays needs to be made as a united effort, and the Cayman Islands is doing their part to help in this initiative.  Now that our waters have been designated as a shark and ray sanctuary there is hope that it  will give our shark population a chance to recover.

A Sanctuary for Sharks, Rays & Coral Reefs

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The sanctuary serves as a haven for our sharks and rays. Our sharks and rays are of great significance to our coral reefs and marine environment both ecologically and economically.  Most importantly their protection is needed to ensure their survival —our ecosystem depends on it.

The sanctuary also serves as a means to benefit our island not only from an ecological standpoint but economically.  The protection of sharks and rays has a direct impact on benefiting our tourism industry.  Sharks are a highlight for divers.  Whereas, rays can be seen in a large school at Stingray City located at the sandbar on the eastern side of Grand Cayman.  Protecting our sharks and rays within our region will not only allow for a positive impact on improving the health of our coral reefs but also it will help to maintain our status as a popular diving destination.  Flourishing reefs serve us ecologically but as an added bonus they are attractive diving spots helping our tourism industry and economy.

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Declaring Cayman waters as a sharks and rays sanctuary is a positive step towards ecotourism and beneficial for our islands.  Countries making a shift towards ecotourism demonstrates that we can find a balance between developing the economy of a country but not at the cost of losing their natural resources.  It is possible to use our natural resources and benefit from them and not destroy them —rather there is an emphasis on the preservation of natural resources as they have intrinsic value.  Specific to Caribbean islands our natural resources are everything to our tourism industry which greatly impacts our economy.  For Cayman, we could look at the ocean as the very soul of our island.  Our culture is bound to the ocean and it is imperative that we continue to move forward in protecting our ocean, coral reefs, marine life and natural environment.  Cayman’s transition into ecotourism has helped to establish the Cayman Islands as setting a positive example for other islands in the Caribbean by way of encouraging other islands to consider becoming a sharks and rays sanctuary to increase the coverage of areas that serve as a haven for them.  While, our waters protect a small percentage of sharks and rays in our region, and is making a positive impact, it would be greatly beneficial if other regional countries made their waters a sanctuary.  Alone, we can make a small difference, but together we can make a much stronger impact.  Protecting the coral reefs, marine life, sharks and rays is a global need.  

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Photo Credit: Ellen Cuylaerts

 

This article was also published in Mission Blue’s Ocean Stories please click here 

A Day in the Life of an Ocean Conservationist with GHOF’s Louisa Gibson

Louisa Gibson is a local ocean conservationist working at Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF).  Growing up in the Cayman Islands Louisa has great respect for marine life, coral reefs, and the ocean.  This great appreciation for the ocean has instilled in her a strong desire to protect it.  Her strong connection to the ocean inspired her to pursue a degree in Animal Biology and a Master’s in Environmental Protection and Management with a focus on marine systems.  Through working with the GHOF, Louisa has had incredible opportunities to dive all over the globe.  Notably, a trip to Mexico to swim with whale sharks.  While in Costa Rica, Louisa swam with spotted dolphins and pilot whales.  For many, this is an adventure of a lifetime, but for Louisa, it is just another day at the office.  

Interview with Louisa Gibson

1.  What is your role at the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation?

I am the Development Coordinator for the GHOF. My primary responsibility is to raise the funds necessary to support our research and educational initiatives here in the Cayman Islands. These funds are raised through corporate sponsorships, individual donations, and philanthropic giving, along with GHOF hosted events throughout the year. It is a difficult job and we are always grateful for additional support.

2.  What inspired you to become interested in ocean conservation?

I have an intrinsic love of nature. I really believe that I was put on this Earth to do what I am doing. Growing up I wanted to be a vet – whether it was small animals or exotics I wasn’t sure – but then when I moved away from Cayman to go to university, I realized how important just being in, on and around the ocean is for me. I wanted to protect it. So I did my undergraduate degree in Animal Biology and my masters in Environmental Protection and Management, focusing on marine systems.

3.  What has been your most memorable experience out in the field?

I have so many! I am so grateful for the experiences that Guy, and working for the Foundation has given me. I have been diving with Tiger sharks in the Bahamas; Whale Sharks in Mexico; Silky sharks, spotted dolphins, and pilot whales in Costa Rica; fishing in world-famous sport-fishing destinations including Tropic Star Lodge in Panama, and Isla Mujeres, Mexico; and I have been a part of educating thousands of people around the world from New York, to Florida, Bahamas, Cayman Islands and all over the Caribbean about the issues and importance of ocean conservation.

4.  What is a typical day like for you in the office and in the field?

I go to work just like everybody else – I answer emails, read documents and write marketing content. Some days I am lucky enough to spend my 8 hours on a boat, surrounded by blue. In the field, it can be exhausting. An example is during our biannual stingray census where we spend 3 days surveying the size and health of every Southern stingray that inhabits stingray city sandbar. There are approximately 100 of them and the majority weigh over 100lbs. It is hard work but extremely rewarding.

5. What is your favorite species of shark?

I think my favorite species of shark is the oceanic whitetip. Their populations have declined by up to 98% is some of their range, including the Caribbean, and so I always feel lucky to be able to interact with them in their natural environment. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation tags and tracks these sharks with the aim of learning about their migrations to protect their key habitats.

6.  Where is your favorite place to dive in the world?

We are so lucky to call the Cayman Islands home! Our waters are warm, calm, crystal clear and diverse – I would have to say right here in Cayman, closely followed by the Bahamas which not only has all of these qualities but they also have a healthy population of large predatory sharks.

7.  What is the biggest threat you see our oceans facing today?

The easy answer is pollution and overfishing. Ocean plastic, ghost nets, and nutrient run-off are devastating for our oceans globally. Overfishing and by-catch are causing ecosystems to become unbalanced cascading the effects down trophic levels and causing fish stocks to crash affecting global economies, not to mention small coastal communities.

The more complex answer is climate change. Sea temperature rise is causing corals to bleach and atmospheric carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the ocean causing ocean acidification and the truth is, we don’t fully understand the long-term consequences to the ecosystem as a whole.

All of these threats, in addition to natural phenomenon, invasive species, habitat loss, and other human pressures are making it very difficult for the ocean to be resilient and rapidly decreasing its health.

 8.  What is the biggest takeaway you have gained from your experience working with Dr. Guy Harvey?

Guy is a huge inspiration for me. He doesn’t tire easily, he gives 110% of his effort all of the time, and he has really shown me what a big difference one person with a mission can make. Jessica Harvey has inherited his love of all ocean creatures and his drive to change the world, and I feel privileged to work alongside her to achieve the goals of GHOF.

Anyone can make a difference just by making small changes to our daily lives, contributing a small amount of time or money to the cause, or by simply having impactful conversations.

Ocean Conservation Month with Guy Harvey

“The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) conducts scientific research and hosts educational programs aimed at conserving the marine environment. The GHOF will help ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from a naturally balanced ocean ecosystem.”-Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

This year GHOF has dedicated March as Ocean Conservation Month and it is in full swing. The heart of Ocean Conservation Month is to “educate and inspire generations across the Cayman Islands to actively support and participate in initiatives to protect our ocean” (Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation). Ocean Conservation month is filled with an array of ocean-inspired activities that encourage the community to take part and learn more about how we can all contribute to helping keep our oceans healthy. Recently, the GHOF teamed up with Plastic Free Cayman for a beach cleanup. Dr. Guy Harvey has taken the 345 Pledge committing to reducing his use of single-use plastics. An array of stellar events are already underway. Two major upcoming events to look forward to are the documentary screening of “Stingray Chronicles Part 2” and the GHOF annual Fundraising Cocktail Party.

Documentary Screening “Stingray Chronicles Part 2”

 

The Cayman Islands is a popular diving destination. In particular, Stingray City is one of the most beloved animal interaction sites in the world—an unforgettable experience. It is said to be a multi-million dollar tourist attraction.  People travel from all over the globe to get up-close and personal with our world famous Southern Stingrays that are known for their friendly demeanor. The experience is an absolute privilege. The Cayman Islands is a shark and rays sanctuary. Under the National Conservation Law, there is 100% protection of all shark and ray species within our coastal and offshore waters, here in the Cayman Islands. With this in mind, it is important to recognize the continued efforts in protecting our islands’ stingrays. The GHOF works hard to contribute to the study and protection of our islands’ beloved stingrays. In particular, they focus on tagging stingrays, monitoring the health of each ray and studying their patterns and behaviors.

Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation Annual Fundraising Cocktail Party.

 

“I thoroughly enjoy this fundraiser! It gives us a chance to catch up with friends, meet new people, share ideas, accomplishments and plans for the future over a nice glass of wine or a cold whitetip beer and delicious food. We can’t do what we do without local support.  We are grateful to those willing to attend, and those who choose to purchase something special through our live and silent auctions. Together, this supports our commitment to share knowledge about our ocean and the marine life that we cannot live without via essential scientific research and educational initiatives.”- Jessica Harvey

This year, GHOF is raising funds for their work in researching sharks and rays in the Cayman Islands and educating the public on the importance and meaning of a biodiverse and balanced marine ecosystem.  Specifically, research projects include Oceanic Whitetip tagging projects and the long-running biannual Southern Stingray census. Educational initiatives include Shark Talk, documentary screenings, interactive learning activities and a short educational documentary series Jessica Harvey’s Expedition Notebook.

Dr. Guy Harvey and his daughter Jessica Harvey will be giving the keynote speech at their fundraiser discussing the importance of generations in ocean conservation, reflecting on their goals as a father and daughter team in conservation.  The fundraising cocktail party will take place at Luca, SMB on Friday 5th April.  RSVP email events@guyharvey.com by April 2nd. 

Learn more about the Foundation by visiting www.ghof.org?

International Women’s Day: Inspiring Women Helping The Planet

In celebration of International Women’s Day (8 March), I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the amazing work these inspiring women are doing to help the planet.  I am honored to know each of them. I am thankful for their friendship and the opportunities I’ve had to collaborate with them on various projects.  In their own way, they are making a positive impact for the betterment of the environment.  They inspire me daily.  I have great admiration for their strong work ethic and accomplishments.  In the spirit of sisterhood, we rise by lifting others up.  That being said, it is important that we recognize, celebrate and support the work of those who inspire us.  I am so proud of these ladies!  I  know that they will continue to do amazing things, inspiring others along the way.  I can’t wait to share the incredible work these women are doing around the world.

Ellen Cuylaerts

“Men and women are different! That does not mean they should be treated differently. Let’s focus on being good in what we do, following our passions not defined by gender, physical strength or limits. If we all think out of the box, we might focus on the positives of our differences instead of the negatives and combine our strength to be movers and shakers in a world that needs action!”- Ellen Cuylaerts

One of my personal heroes is Ellen Cuylaerts.  I am so grateful for her mentorship, support, and encouragement.  I am so proud of Ellen’s accomplishments.  Ellen is an award-winning photographer, explorer, diver, and conservationist.  Ellen combines her passion for photography with her dedication for conservation to educate communities globally about the importance of protecting fragile ecosystems and endangered wildlife.  

2. Taryn Larock    

Taryn Larock, is a sustainable luxury fashion designer and founder of Sage Larock.  SAGE LAROCK was founded in 2015 and is based in Los Angles, California.  Taryn is dedicated to creating fashion that is both stylish and sustainable.   As an ocean lover, Taryn is committed to using sustainable fashion as a platform to raise ocean awareness.  SAGE LAROCK’s sustainable luxury swimsuit line is made from ECONYL yarn, that is made from upcycled fishing lines and marine plastic debris.  A portion from their sales proceeds goes directly towards NGO’s HealthySeas.org,  Ghost Divers and NGO Canopy.

3. Kelsie Bodden

Someone asked me what goal I wanted to achieve using my platform. Simply put, I wish to get others to start thinking about how their everyday actions affect the environment. I would like to inspire others to act more consciously. To start thinking about whether that straw is necessary or what happens when you dispose of tires and batteries incorrectly. I would like to inspire others to live environmentally responsible with or without a law that says it is necessary.

I am blessed to be from an island that I believe has beauty like no other but I am more blessed to live on a planet that has many treasures. 🌎 🌍 🌏 The earth is the one thing we all have in common and we should all be working together to sustain it.”- Kelsie Bodden

Kelsie Bodden is the current reigning Miss World Cayman Islands.  Kelsie is using her reign as Miss World Cayman Islands as a platform to work with local environmental non-profit organizations in the Cayman Islands to raise awareness about local environmental issues.  Recently, Kelsie took Plastic Free Cayman’s 345 Pledge to show her commitment to reducing her use of single-use plastic.  To further raise awareness, Kelsie shares her plastic-free journey on her blog, click here to read more.  Kelsie is dedicated to making a positive environmental impact.    

4. Sharron Eyers

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”- Sharron Eyers

Sharron Eyers (a self-confessed lover of skincare & make-up) is the creator/owner of one of Cayman’s most luxurious cosmetics & skincare boutique located in Camana Bay. The store opened in 2010 with only 2 brands and has now expanded to 22 brands. When selecting the brands Sharron does her very best to bring cruelty-free and high-end brands that are unique to her store. They pride themselves on excellent customer service and creating a unique shopping experience like nowhere else.

5. Brittany Balli

Brittany Balli is an ocean conservationist devoted to coral reef conservation and restoration in the Cayman Islands.  As a diver, Brittany has a tremendous love for the ocean, knowing first hand the beauty that resides in this magical underwater world.  Brittany is a co-founder of Eco Divers Reef Foundation and is dedicated to their Coral Nursery Program.  Cayman’s Coral Nursery Program has proven success in helping revitalize fragile and damaged local reefs.  Their coral reef restoration program welcomes volunteers and students passionate about preserving Cayman’s coral reefs. 

Le Visage: Sharron’s Travel Essentials

Today we are delighted to share a guest post by Sharron Eyers, founder of Le Visage.  When it comes to traveling you never want to leave home without a few of your favorite things.  You always want to look your best and feel great.  You don’t have to forgo your regular beauty and skincare routine just because you’re traveling.  Sharron will be sharing her travel essentials that keep her looking fabulous and feeling great.  All the products are animal cruelty-free and ethically made.  If you’re planning a weekend getaway and wondering what to pack, Sharron has some great recommendations.

Read below Sharron’s Guest Post

 

I travelled to Miami recently with my husband for a Valentines getaway 💋 and of course I had to make sure I took all my favourite things to keep me looking/feeling/smelling fabulous!

Here is a sneak peak of some of my essentials taken on my romantic getaway. Of course you can find all these items at Le Visage – where else darling 😏

 

 

 

Scout Travel Bag – Glam Squad: this is the perfect bag to carry all my skincare with different compartments for liquids etc.

Coola – Make-up Setting Spray: this is an absolute essential for my handbag. Even though the weather in Miami was a little rainy, I still needed to make sure my skin was protected from the environment. It also doubles as a make-up setting spray which is perfect as you know I love my make-up 😊

Penhaligon’s – Duchess Rose:  My love for Penhaligon’s has no limits and Duchess Rose is my absolute favourite fragrance right now!  It’s romantic, wistful and perfect for my Valentine’s weekend!

Elemis – Hydra-Gel Eye Masks: Nothing compares to these life savers. Late night? A few glasses of wine? Not a problem for these powerful eyes masks to fix.

Elemis – Pro-Collagen Overnight Matrix: How did I ever live without you?? This is an absolute essential in my skincare routine, especially while travelling. My skin is completely in love with this powerful anti-aging cream 😍

Make-up Eraser – The best and quickest way to remove make-up (including waterproof) without drying out the skin. Of course I had to take the print with kisses on for Valentines 💋💋

BECCA – Ultimate Love Lipstick (Red): You have to wear red at Valentines and finding the perfect red with BECCA cosmetics is easy. I picked the Crimson (warm) Bright Red shade 💋

Guest Writer: Sharron Eyers

Sharron Eyers

Owner of Le Visage Cosmetics & Skincare Boutique

Self-Confessed lover of skincare & make-up

Our boutique is a very unique modern style with a hint of vintage

We pride ourselves on first class customer service with highly trained/knowledgeable staff

Our brands are all high end exclusive to Le Visage

Fashion Forward: Finery The Wardrobe Operating System

Get dressed up in your finery and join the Fashion Forward Revolution with Finery.  Finery, ‘The Wardrobe Operating System’ is where a styling app meets sustainable fashion.  Finery is a must-have wardrobe inventory management system created by Brooklyn Decker and Whitney Casey.  Finery will have you falling in love with your clothing all over again. After all, the reason you bought those clothes in the first place was to wear them more than once.  Somewhere along the way, many of us have fallen out of touch with our wardrobe and find ourselves faced with the dilemma of not knowing what to wear each day. We tell ourselves we have nothing to wear. So, we go out and buy new clothing that perhaps we don’t need.  Sound familiar? We come to the realization what we really need is a little inspiration to restyle our current wardrobe. Welcome, Finery! This user-friendly app will change your whole perspective on your existing wardrobe. By digitizing your wardrobe onto the Finery app you now have at your fingertips your whole closet.  (Think the ‘Clueless Closet.’) Finery helps you style outfits by providing a cleverly curated daily inspiration board tailored just for you based on your clothing and preferences—basically like having a personal wardrobe concierge. Finery is changing the way we get dressed. It is changing the way we look at fashion. You will find yourself excited about curating your own looks in a matter of no time.  Ultimately, extending the lifecycle of your clothing. You will also quickly find that Finery is more than just a styling app, it is a community.

The Finest In Sustainable Fashion

How does a styling app contribute to sustainable fashion exactly?  Our society is based on a consumerism culture encouraging us to shop more and keep up with the latest fashion trends.  This has lead to a ‘throwaway’ culture. We are being conditioned to discard clothing and products either because they are not on trend anymore or were not made to last.  This is an incredibly wasteful practice. As we become more aware of fast fashion and the amount of waste generated by the fashion industry we find ourselves wanting to make lifestyle changes.  Finery helps you rethink the way you look at fashion starting with your current wardrobe by bringing back that love for your clothing through using their styling inspiration boards and curating your own looks.  Restyling your existing wardrobe gives you a feeling of empowerment to wear outfits or pieces of clothing more than 4-5 times. Increasing the lifecycle of your clothing is a simple way we can all support sustainable fashion.  We buy clothes because we love the way they look and how they make us feel. Finery reminds us of this fact. The Finery community embraces a fashion revolution of loving clothing you already own, wear what you have in new stylish ways and shop your own closet.  The experience of using the app helps you have a brand new love for your clothes. It gives you that feeling of having bought new clothes without spending money. Ultimately, Finery encourages us to extend the lifecycle of the clothing we already own. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. An estimated USD $500 billion value lost every year due to clothing being barely worn or rarely recycled.”    

We can all do our part to contribute to sustainable fashion even by simply extending the lifecycle of our clothing or donating unwanted clothing to charities makes a positive impact on the environment.  When we buy clothing, we should choose well and buy less. Choose pieces of clothing you can envision yourself wearing on different occasions helps extend the lifecycle of your wardrobe. Finery creates an opportunity for you to take a step back and evaluate your wardrobe inventory.  As a top-notch wardrobe inventory management system, you have the opportunity to catalog and categorize your wardrobe, shoes, and accessories onto the Finery app. Managing your clothes digitally helps you shop smarter and saves you money in the long run. With your wardrobe inventory at your fingertips, you will no longer find yourself buying clothing you already own or similar to.  Finery also keeps track of your wishlist items and sale returns.

Take the Finery Challenge

The Finery Challenge was created by @thelittlecream. The challenge is simple, don’t shop for new clothing, instead fall back in love with your existing clothing. Challenge yourself for 1-3 months no shopping for new clothes, just restyle what already exists in your wardrobe.  Finery Challenge accepted! Who is with me? This challenge is a great way to contribute to the greater good of sustainable fashion by loving what you already own and wearing what you have more often. Join the Finery community by sharing your looks and style inspirations on Instagram.  It’s a fashion revolution of loving the clothing you already have and being creative with your looks.

My Finery Experience

Here is what my Finery experience has taught me…

It turns out I don’t need any more clothes!  If you are anything like me, you find yourself waking up in the morning not knowing what to wear or thinking I have ‘nothing” to wear.   When really it is a matter of needing some inspiration. Finery provides that. It makes interacting with my closet and the activity of picking out an outfit less stressful and more fun.  Taking part in the Finery Challenge has been a positive experience. I am encouraged, supported and inspired by the Finery community. We are all a part of something special. Using the Finery app helps me maintain my sustainable fashion resolution by buying less, shopping smarter and extending the lifecycle of my existing wardrobe.  Rewearing favorite outfits or styling them in new ways helps me feel good. I don’t play by that rule of ‘you can’t repeat an outfit’ or ‘wear the same dress again,’ God forbid. I love wearing rediscovered favorite pieces of clothing in new ways and new looks.

While I began the process of uploading my wardrobe onto the Finery app I was inspired to purge my closet of what I don’t wear or doesn’t fit— giving them a second life by donating and selling them.  Keeping only what brings me joy. If you shop mostly in store—digitizing your closet can take a little time and dedication… That being said, the browser extension is really good for this. Just google an item, click the little F button, and add to wardrobe.  Now, I have a new appreciation and love for my clothing. I am excited to put a little effort into styling an outfit with the help of Finery. I realized I need to break the habit or mindset of buying new clothing because I can’t ‘find’ anything to wear. For me personally, it really comes down to being in a rut of feeling uninspired about what to wear and Finery gives my current wardrobe new found life.  I make an effort to wear clothing I haven’t worn in ages. I love the process of rediscovering almost forgotten favorite pieces of clothing and putting together clothing to make a new look that I hadn’t thought of before. I credit Finery for that.

Interview with Brooklyn Decker, Co-Founder of Finery

It was such an incredible privilege to chat with Brooklyn Decker about Finery and sustainable fashion.

What inspired Finery?

Traveling a lot for work.  Going on a work trip and realizing I forgot a pair of jeans was a big annoyance.  I would go out and buy a new pair of jeans. I ended up with all the unnecessary redundancies in my wardrobe and I wanted a tool to streamline it all. From that inspired Finery, creating an inventory management system for clothing.  We manage everything else, finances, music, why not clothing? Closets are the last frontier, one of the last analog systems. This was an opportunity to fulfill a gap in the market.  Finery is built for women, by women.

What is the heart of Finery?

The heart of Finery is focusing on the value of our users.  We offer a lot of features on the app, styling inspiration, digital wardrobe and sale return notifications.  We ask ourselves does this help the user? For example, the weather feature informs users clothing to wear based on weather conditions and that is very helpful.  Finery also suggests outfits that are appropriate for an event. Finery helps users save money and time. It’s all about making the best user experience and giving them value.

How does Finery make getting dressed simpler?

Particularly for frequent online shoppers, Finery is very useful.  You log into your account and your clothing is already there uploaded into your Finery account.  For all users, it helps alleviate the burden of what to wear. You scroll through your wardrobe the night before, look at different styling options and put together an outfit in a matter of minutes.  Finery helps expedite the process of getting dressed.

What is your favorite feature on the Finery App?

My favorite feature with Finery is the return notifications.  I do a lot of shopping online. Finery makes things simple and keeps you informed when returns are due.  Often return windows are very short and can be confusing. Finery keeps you on track with email notifications and makes everything simpler.  Best of all it 100% benefits the user!

How do you hope Finery will revolutionize or make positive changes in the fashion industry?

We want to help consumers make more informed purchase decisions and change the way people consume.  Help consumers to shop smarter and become savvy consumers. Our society has a consumerism culture and we want to encourage consumers to shop smarter and rewear clothing more than 4-5 times.  Moving away from a ‘throwaway’ society and learn a new behavior of bringing favorite clothing back and thereby extending the lifecycle of clothing. Finery helps consumers find new and creative ways to wear clothing.  It is changing the way we get dressed and view our clothing.

What was your biggest challenge you have faced with this venture?

Finery is a company run by women and caters to a female audience.  Finery addresses a problem that does not speak to men. Raising capital and conveying the importance of this app to investors has been a challenge.

What has been the most positive experience of launching this app?

The loyalty from our users is a beautiful takeaway.  Hearing from users about their positive experience from using Finery and knowing that it is helping make their lives a little easier.  When you reach a friend of a friend and hear how Finery has helped them. Women understand the importance of their clothing and love using Finery.

What is the significance and inspiration behind the name Finery?

Whitney and I, wanted a word, a real word, an antique word to bring back.  “Dressed in your finery” is older vernacular and we thought it was cool. Dan Rather inspired the name.

 

 

Photo Credits:

With permission from Finery

Cover Photo:  @whowhatwear

Brooklyn Decker (Interview Photo):  @mothermag

Finery Video: Finery

Other Photos: Eco Chic Cayman

 

Sustainable Resolutions For The New Year

New year, new goals.  The beginning of a new year is an exciting time.  There is so much hope and possibility from new beginnings and fresh starts.  Spending time reflecting on the past year seeing how far you have come and looking forward focusing on your aspirations for the new year.   Sustainable living is a lifestyle.  Even by choosing to be dedicated to one sustainable resolution for the year will have a positive impact on the environment.  Take your time building up to incorporating other sustainable resolutions into your daily routine.    

1. Be Fashion Forward: Support Sustainable Fashion

Join the fashion revolution and support sustainable fashion.  If you can, support sustainably made clothing.  Other ways you can contribute to sustainable fashion is by wearing clothing more than once or twice.  It’s so easy to buy something pretty, wear it once and never pull it out of your closet again.  Buy pieces of clothing you love and envision yourself wearing in a variety of settings, occasions and events.  Have a bunch of clothing you don’t wear often? Consider restyling them to make new outfits and looks (check out Finery App, click here), donate them to a charity or swap clothing with your besties.  The goal is just to increase the lifecycle of clothing.  Choosing well and buying less helps you save money. 

2. Buy Less & Choose Well

Choose products that are sustainably made, ethically made and animal cruelty free.  Invest in  quality products and clothing.  They will last longer.  Choose makeup and skincare products that are animal cruelty free.  Support local, buy handmade and handcrafted items from local artisans.  

3. Support Local Farmers & Community Gardens

Support your local farmers market and eat seasonal fruits and veggies.  Supporting local is beneficial for both the environment and your local economy.  Start a community garden.  Whether it’s in your own backyard or apartment complex start growing your own herbs, fruits and vegetables.  It’s a great family and community project with your neighbours.   

4. Reconnect with Nature

Spend more time out in nature.  Marvel at the beauty and wonder of nature.  Going outdoors is a great way to boost your mood, reset and recharge.  For the love of nature, if you happen to see plastic and litter please take a few moments to pick it up.  

5. Break That Plastic Addiction

Who needs plastic when you have your own sustainable kit?  Create your own sustainable kit to bring with you to work or have with you as life is always on the go.  Essentials for a sustainable kit: reusable straw, cutlery, reusable bag(s), travel coffee mug, reusable water bottle and food containers.