Grow With the Flow

Expression |

How Teva Explorer Johnie Gall is focusing the stay-home pause in normal life to cultivate a more sustainable lifestyle. Words by Johnie Gall. Photos by Brandon Scherzberg. 

I am supposed to be photographing a paleontologist uncovering clues about the future of climate change in our fossil record. Instead, I’m drinking wine on my couch. At 4 p.m. in the afternoon.

For someone who can’t stand the confines of four white walls, that’s exactly where I’m going to be for the foreseeable future. The world seemed to come to a standstill two weeks ago as COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) spread to nearly every continent, forcing businesses to close and people to practice social distancing. We’re all suspended in a state of limbo right now, unsure of when we’ll be able to be in the same room as our coworkers or shop for more than “life-sustaining” items again. It’s been a universally trying time emotionally, mentally, and financially. I’ve lost the majority of my projected work, and my friends are being laid off. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing or saying or, frankly, what day it is. I’m still unsure of how to articulate my thoughts, but since I have some time, I figured it’s worth a try.

Original Universal Upcycle

Extend the life of your favorite garments by repairing instead of replacing. Johnie wears the Original Universal Upcycle, made from 100% remnant fabric from seasons past.

Original Universal Upcycle

Thank your clothing for keeping you warm.  

Right now, the only responsible thing to do is to stay at home to protect the global community. That means no travel and limiting outdoor time to hyper-local, uncrowded spaces to help prevent the spread of this virus and keep hospital resources available to those who really need them. I’m disappointed by people rushing into national parks or going on backpacking trips. There’s been a surge in search and rescue calls and parks are struggling to adapt to the influx of visitors. This isn’t an extended vacation. To protect ourselves, each other, and our outdoor spaces, the experts say we need to stay home.

Adventure and purposeful work are huge parts of my identity and how I support myself, so this lull has brought me screeching—at times painfully—into the present moment. The need for exploration and freedom feels like part of my DNA (it’s why I work with Teva, a heritage outdoor brand founded on the same principles). If I can’t do those things, who am I? If there’s no trip to plan or deadlines to meet, what are my duties? There’s a privilege in being able to let that question surface. I’m lucky to be safe, healthy, and secure enough to audit my life.

Original Universal Upcycle

One of Johnie’s many stay-home hobbies: catching up on reading. Johnie wears the Original Universal Upcycle.

Original Universal Upcyle

“Right now, the only responsible thing to do is to stay at home… That means no travel and limiting outdoor time to hyper-local, uncrowded spaces to help prevent the spread of this virus.”

There are lessons to be learned during this time: don’t take more than you need, care for others, never take your health for granted (and seriously, stop hoarding soap and toilet paper). It’s a moment for questioning the ways in which we spend our time, how we participate in our communities, and what truly brings us joy.

More importantly, we can recognize that this public health crisis is a reflection of the plight of our planet. Social justice, public health, and environmental issues are intrinsically tied. Whether it’s due to a virus or the effects of climate change, compromised individuals and communities end up suffering the most. The health of the individual affects the health of the whole. Limited resources must be protected, conserved, distributed, and consumed wisely. How we respond to COVID-19 says a lot about how we’ll respond to the fallout of a climate crisis. In fact, it proves we can take drastic measures to mitigate a threat and act globally on environmental issues.

From an individual perspective, now that I’m grounded and Amazon deliveries have come to a halt, I realize just how much I consume and how large a carbon footprint I leave behind (despite considering myself a pretty eco-conscious person). All that said, what better time than now to adopt more resourceful and sustainable habits?

Original Universal Upcycle

“I started a garden and am learning to cook and bake with more local, seasonal ingredients.”

Original Dorado

Johnie wears the Original Dorado in Canyon to Canyon, featuring straps that have been engineered from REPREVE® recycled polyester straps to keep plastic out of landfills and keep you on your feet in style.

Original Dorado

I’m rethinking everything from my food sources to how I repurpose my clothing to how washing my leggings could be leeching microfibers into my watershed and affecting ecosystems downstream. I’m finally teaching myself how to sew in order to repair all those torn jackets and jeans around the house. I started a garden and am learning to cook and bake with more seasonal ingredients. I’m figuring out how to tell meaningful stories on a more local level. I mean, I also seem to be looking at memes for two hours a day and drinking wine in the afternoon, but mostly I’m framing this time as a forced period of experimentation and learning. I’m cultivating resourcefulness and resilience. I call it “growing with the flow.”

We may be preoccupied with this virus on a global level right now, but we can start fostering environmental connectedness right now by consuming less and finding ways to support our local communities. Here are a few ideas:

Donate to Mask-Making Operations. There’s a very limited supply of protective masks available to healthcare workers right now. Firstly, buy your personal masks from a brand pivoting to create them at cost, such as Avocado. Then, consider donating to a sewing operation producing masks for first responders in accordance to CDC recommendations. Suay Sew Shop is crowdfunding to get 10,000 masks sewn and distributed in Los Angeles. For every $1 you donate, they’ll get one mask into the hands of doctors and nursing organizations.

Original Dorado

Join a CSA. There’s very little financial support for farmers as-is, and they are often excluded from financial bailouts during a crisis. And these are the people growing our food! We need to embrace the importance of food security in our communities now more than ever. By joining a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program, you are making an investment that allows farmers to buy seed and plant crops now and secures you a share of that produce later in the year. Some farmer’s markets are still open, but make sure you visit when the crowds are sparse and you can stay a minimum of six-feet away from others. Call local farms to see if they are offering pick-up services for eggs and milk. Another option is to order online or buy virtual gift cards from local small businesses that buy from organic growers. Rodale Institute has a list of approved brands that support these farmers. 

Stay Involved in Environmental Causes. While we have a lot on our minds right now, those of us with our health intact and in a safe place to isolate have a responsibility to stay knowledgeable and active in the environmental space. You can access petitions and find contact information for your lawmakers easily online. Protect Our Winters, Patagonia Action Works, and Outdoor Advocacy Project are all great resources for getting started.

The things we all lost in this mess—the big plans, the dream trips, the work opportunities—hurt because they mattered to us. But it’s incredibly comforting to be reminded that some things matter more. Things worth making sacrifices to keep safe. I have no social media challenges or home workout videos for you. All I can do is reiterate the importance of staying home, washing your hands, and making sure those you love are overwhelmingly sure of it. We’ve perhaps never been so globally aware and connected before, and I hope when this is all over, we can remember how that feels.

Original Dorado

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