Low-waste advocate and plant mama Cindy Villaseñor shares how she feels closer to nature through sustainable choices and cultivating new plant life. Words by Cindy Villaseñor. Photos by Naohmi Monroe.
One thing that I have come to learn is that we are part of nature, not separate. As we interact with the soil and plants, there is a place for us in this ecosystem. To me, Earth Day is every day. I honor it by trying to live the best sustainable life I can live, even when it’s not perfect. We shouldn’t need a holiday to remind us that we should care about Mother Earth. It should be a part of our everyday values.
I am a garden educator, consultant, low waste advocate, environmentalist, and plant mama. I offer edible food garden consultations for folks and work at an edible plant nursery in Highland Park, California. I also work for Suay Sew Shop to host their “Save it Saturdays” and encourage folks to keep using what they have by repairing it!
Before Covid, I had a wonderful job working with kids in the garden, teaching several different things, from compost to seed anatomy. Although it was a great role, the pay wasn’t sustainable. Or sometimes I would have kids not really care about what I was teaching. I would ask myself, “Is this worth it? Am I actually making an impact on these students to care about the soil, the plants, and simply just this earth? Does it even matter?”
When I had those thoughts, I would look at all the plants and pollinators in the gardens and remember all the times that my students (and even myself) would get so excited to see a seed sprout and grow—to see a plant thrive because we simply interacted with it. This was a reminder that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.
As an educator, I learned that showing by example is a great way to help inspire others rather than shaming folks. Showing how fun it can be, how imperfect it can be, and that it’s a life-long learning process. Even though we as individuals may not be the biggest polluters out there, we definitely have a say. We have a voice to not just inspire others but to also create change, create a ripple effect. Everybody starts somewhere!
Cindy wears the Original Universal sandals in Retro Multi, featuring straps thoughtfully engineered from 100% recycled content.
I actually didn’t grow up going on camping trips or hiking, gardening, or anything like that. I have memories of my father driving up Angeles Crest Highway to see the snow once in a while, going to the park right around the corner from where I grew up, running under the sprinklers on the grass, and sliding in the mud on the wet baseball fields in the summer. In my late teens, I started running on nearby trails in my hometown. Eventually in my early twenties, I started to go camping, hiking and gardening, which have now become my favorite ways of being outside.
One of my best memories wearing my Teva sandals was a recent camping trip in Big Sur. It had been a while since we had camped. When we first arrived and unloaded, I got to witness the most beautiful sunset on the coast of California. Yes, I have witnessed several sunsets, but it was just absolutely beautiful. I felt so grateful to be able to be there.
There are a few things I aim for when it comes to adding to our camp gear and closet. First, is buying second hand, if and when possible—online sites, thrift stores, garage sales, or even rentals. Borrow from a friend, if that’s available. When I first started camping, I would rent, and slowly build up the camping gear with secondhand items and some new. Next, if I’m buying new, I think about what might happen at the end of its lifecycle when it’s no longer usable. Is it made with compostable materials like, cotton, hemp or linen? Or will I have to throw it in the trash at the end?
Although I’m not perfect, I try to find out what other sustainability factors are part of the product. Is it grown organically and sustainably made by workers paid a fair wage? Shifting my mindset has me thinking about all of those factors when it comes to gear and clothing. The burden shouldn’t only fall on us as consumers. It’s time that companies also take responsibility for better and more ethical sustainability practices.
Recycling my Teva sandals in the future through the TevaForever recycling program is important to me because it’s very common that, when an item reaches the end of its lifecycle, there’s usually no other option but to throw it in the trash—which ends up in a landfill. I think it’s extremely important that companies take responsibility for the end-of-life for the things they make and put out into the world.
IN MY ELEMENT
Gardening puts me in my element because I get to play with the soil, tend to its needs, and see pollinators visit the flowers. Planting a seed and then seeing it grow, and later turn into a butternut squash, or snap peas on the vine. Or the fact that if I keep harvesting the flowers on a calendula plant, it’s going to keep giving. The following week it will be full of blooms again—and I was a part of that.
Learn how to send us your well-worn Teva sandals to be recycled at Teva.com and shop the latest Teva sandals made out of 100% recycled straps.