Tree huggers can be adults too.

I am not a fan of growing up. I didn’t realize that after “the best four years of your life” comes “the stuffy adult years of your life.” Just because I have a college degree and a somewhat professional job does not have to mean that I can no longer sleep with stuffed animals. Just because I am somebody’s boss does not mean that I need to throw out my old Northface pack and replace it with a briefcase. And just because I represent an organization as a professional does not mean I need to brush my hair when I wake up in the morning. Oh, but wait. It does.

This rant was sparked by a lot of snide remarks that I have been receiving lately about my level of professionalism and act-my-ageism. Just to name a few: I dress like a frump, I don’t use technology well enough, I curse too much, I should shower a little bit more often, I don’t wear enough make-up, adults shouldn’t have planners with squirrel patterns on them, Chacos don’t “match” anything, and I should “style” my hair rather than just let it do what it wants… which is styling if you ask me, but I digress.

So I have been slowly working up my professional behavior. I am not going to go all Peter Banning on everyone and grow up to become an acquisition lawyer who forgets how to fly. I will however prove to all of the skeptics that tree huggers can be adults too — all the while maintaining a tight grip on those trees.

The issue is that with a transition to professionalism also comes a lot of waste. I had to donate a lot of clothes, buy things that match for my apartment, buy more make-up (that I will probably never actually wear in a professional setting), print out agendas and emails “just to keep on file” (whatever that means), and search for new clothes from stores that don’t support one sustainable idea. So, here’s the question:

Do I need to give up my values on sustainability so that I can appear more professional?

The answer: no! The only difference is that I have to work a little harder to make sure this transition to adult life leaves behind a small impact. Here are some things I am keeping the same:

  • Using my car only when needed: this leads to a sweaty me showing up late to meetings because “I couldn’t remember my bike lock combination”
  • Eating vegetarian: this is difficult in settings where “Lunch will be provided with the seminar” and I have to ask if things were cooked in bacon grease (and because I live in the South, the answer is almost always “yes”)
  • Using my squirrel planner: I refuse to believe that adults can’t be a little quirky
  • Making my own chap stick: this really doesn’t affect my level of professionalism… I just like to remind you how awesome I am every once in a while
  • Making my own apartment decorations: I just put a lot more effort into them this time and they honestly look fantastic (I can post about eco-crafting one day… It will be epic.)

But there are some things I have decided to change. I have taken to technological advances that I was ignoring before. I am always attached to my phone now, which is unfortunate. There may not be a way around it though — unless I take a job as a backcountry ranger at a National Park. But my current job has a much lower risk of bear attacks.

I have been adding professional clothes to my wardrobe (at a glacial pace). Let me just say that it is hard to find professional clothes that don’t make me look like a stuffy tool. The one thing that I have been doing to put my eco-mind at ease while I am shopping is research various company’s sustainability initiatives. It turns out that Kohl’s aims to maintain sustainable practices and waste reduction techniques. That makes it a lot easier to hand over my paycheck to a cashier repeatedly asking me if I want to sign up for a Kohl’s card. Knowing that common stores like Kohl’s support my cause makes me feel like I can handle the new fashion rules of adulthood while maintaining my green integrity.

I have also caved in on my hair… a little. I do agree that it’s quite childish to wake up, brush my teeth, put in my contacts, get dressed and leave my apartment without thinking twice about what is happening on my head. Oh, wait. Did I say childish? I meant awesome. Nevertheless, I should have some kind of routine that makes me appear put together. Instead of investing in some chemical-filled hair product I made my own hairspray. I am lucky enough to not need anything specific from a haircare product (frizz control, curling ingredients, etc.) so I just made a “beach spray” that I can scrunch into my hair after a shower and let it make my hair a little more controlled. I tried it for the first time today and I already feel sexier and more professional (but mostly just sexy). Here is the simple recipe:

  • 2 cups hot water
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. conditioner

Throw all the ingredients in a spray bottle, shake, spray, and stare at yourself in the mirror for an hour because you look eco-fabulous!

In reality my new hair is really just my old hair with a product in it. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

So I suppose since you are all updated on what I’ve done so far, I should set some goals so I can make you (and myself) believe that I will continue on this eco-professional journey:

The professional version of myself will…

  • Invest in a briefcase/shoulder bag that doubles as a bike bag (they exist and they are fabulous)
  • Find a non-digital, non-sporty watch for professional events and interviews
  • Own one suit
  • Use my professional email account for everything
  • Have 5 — 10 go-to professional outfits
  • Match my nose ring to my other jewelry
  • Watch my potty mouth
  • Have a bed time routine

Seems simple enough, right? We shall see. For now I am off to Kohl’s to fill up my closet a little more.

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5 thoughts on “Tree huggers can be adults too.

  1. You and I have been in the same boat. I’ve had to address some things I ignored while in college and it’s no fun. BUT the happy thing is that moms exist and they can (given they’re your size) provide you with some clothing options that are both professional and hand-me-downs, making them eco-friendly in the best way.

    1. Good call on the hand-me-downs. I have just been secretly stealing clothes from my mom’s closet for years. Sometimes she compliments me and asks where I got an article of clothing that actually once belonged to her. I call that a “win.” And yes, I am aware that my mom will read this. Hey, Babs.

  2. Jane,
    I am going to have to digest all this for now and will reserve my comments for later on the” new you”. I am a grown up and still feel like I can do childish things when I want. I am the mother of three and question my sanity on a daily basis. So just for now I am going to take my time to respond to your blog, wait until I see the new you later today and then make my comments.
    I am proud of you for making the changes, but really angry if people don’t see you as a professional just because you wear Chaco’s. Who are they- I’ll tell them a thing or too.( that’s the grown up in me defending my daughter).
    Love Mom

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