• Ariel Green

Saving Green by Going Green with Ariel Maldonado of SaveGreenGoGreen Instagram Page

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

One of the great benefits of living a sustainable lifestyle is that you can save a lot of money!

For example, by using a water filter and refillable bottle, you save on buying single use plastic bottles every week. Or by switching to reusable period products, you can save money on buying pads and tampons every month. Usually there is a higher initial cost, but over time, your bank account will see the difference.  

Today's featured Sustainable Brown Girl is Ariel Maldonado, an online environmental educator and activist based out of Los Angeles. She is the founder and owner of the Instagram page @Gogreensavegreen.

Follow SaveGreenGoGreen on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gogreensavegreen/


LISTEN HERE: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Play | Watch on YouTube


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Transcription:


A. Green:

Today's featured Sustainable Brown Girl is Ariel Maldonado. She's an online environmental educator and activist based out of Los Angeles. And she's the founder and owner of GoGreenSaveGreen Instagram page. Thanks so much for joining us today Ariel.


A. Maldonado:

Yeah, thank you for having me, it's so nice.


A. Green:

Let's just jump right into it. Tell us how you became interested in sustainability?


A. Maldonado:

Yeah, so I would say that it definitely started to really kick off my senior year of high school, not high school, college, sorry. During my senior year of college, I really started seeing a lot of videos online about the climate crisis and stuff like that and it seemed more and more like something that I couldn't just ignore. But, I wasn't really sure how to do anything about it and I had roommates at the time and I was trying to be more eco-friendly, but they didn't really care and it was really discouraging for me to feel like I was making changes, but then seeing other people not making changes and then having that outweigh what I was doing. What I ended up doing was, not that they didn't care, I feel like at the time it was still coming, it wasn't as big of an issue yet. It was a big issue, but it wasn't the front of everything, like how everybody's talking about now. I was looking for an Instagram page, basically like mine. I figured somebody out there was sharing articles about this, but nobody was and the only pages I could find at the time were lifestyle sustainable, zero wasters, but I had nothing in common with them. A lot of them were suburban house moms and I was a super broke college student and so the information, while it was good, it also really wasn't useful or relevant to me because I didn't have the money to afford anything. So, GoGreenSaveGreen initially started out on ways to save money and be eco-friendly when you're super broke and it evolved as time went on.


A. Green:

So now, how would you say that it has evolved, what has it evolved into?


A. Maldonado:

I would say that it's definitely, evolved as I have evolved. In the beginning, I thought that it was just, "How do you be more eco-friendly? How do you switch out your toothbrush for a better toothbrush? How do you switch out a lighter for something better? What's better matches or electrical lighter?" I had all these, I guess preconceived notions of what being eco-friendly the time and that was just, buy a better version of the thing you're already going to buy, but I didn't realize that there were all these nuances. As I was learning and as I was learning about like greenwashing and as I was learning about how factory farming impacts the ocean and stuff like that, I started sharing that. I would say it's followed my personal educational journey on the environment. I try not to make the page about me so much as the information present, that's what's really important to me because since I was really discouraged in the beginning of following people because I didn't feel like they represented me, I was like, "You know what, I don't want to do that to someone else, I really want this page to be about the information and that includes sharing things that might not even be relevant to me."


A. Green:

Okay. Yeah. That's really interesting. Do you feel like, well, I guess you said it's not really about you, but do you feel like being a woman of color has impacted the way that you feel about climate change?


A. Maldonado:

Yes for sure. I cannot "buy my way out of it," I don't even have AC, so even something... As it's getting super hot in Los Angeles, I don't even have air conditioning and I live in a predominantly Latin X neighborhood, the kind of neighborhood where you see people on the street and you talk to them in Spanish or you talk to them in English. Yeah, I definitely come from somewhere that... The city next door to me is one of the most toxic cities in LA. They have toxic tours and there are only 125 residents because it's an incorporated city and it's literally all factories. When you drive through there it just smells bad, all the chemicals and everything. I mean, definitely, I do. The city shows that people of color are like the frontline people to like be affected by this.


A. Green:

Right! Yeah. And with you saying that, since black and brown communities are typically the most affected by climate change and environmental pollution and stuff, I also noticed on the other hand that a lot of people in these communities, especially the older generations, don't really care about climate change. They feel like they have more immediate problems like money issues and stuff. How do you think that we can approach people who may be apathetic about climate change?


A. Maldonado:

Yeah, honestly I get it because at a certain point, when I started this, I had no more than $50 in my bank account at any given time and that's on a good day. I get it when you're deciding like, "Oh man, am I getting to buy this McDonald's knowing that it's probably not good for your mental footprint or am I going to go somewhere and get like a salad?" It's definitely hard. I would say, start with things that are tangible to you. Maybe you don't need to spend your money, but you can dedicate free time and if you don't have any free time, you can at least maybe start to try to incorporate changes that are easy for you so, maybe an easy one would be... for women, menstrual cups, I switched to menstrual cups at a time when I was super broke and it was literally the best change I could've made because I never had to worry about purchasing menstrual products or things like a safety razor where maybe you're putting up $30 upfront but I bought my safety razor in 2017, 2018 and it's 2020 and I still haven't needed to buy new blades for it.


A. Green:

Wow!


A. Maldonado:

That was a really good purchase. Definitely, there are some things that if you go into them, they're a little bit more of an investment, but they help save you money really long-term.


A. Green:

Yeah, definitely switching to menstrual cups is one of the first things that I did too. And it wasn't an environmental change thing, it was just something that I wanted to try. And then later on, once I started thinking more about climate change and all that sustainability, and I was like, "Oh, this is a sustainable change that I made."


A. Maldonado:

Yeah


A. Green:

You post a lot of news articles and stuff on Instagram about climate change and sustainability and stuff. How do you stay on top of the latest news?


A. Maldonado:

Oh my gosh! Twitter and Instagram. I'm kind of addicted to my phone. I mean, aren't we all? But its serious, sometimes I'm like "Okay, you just need to put it down." I have an art practice as well and sometimes I'm just like, "Put your phone down and make something." Either that or tend to your plants or something. I have to do things that are tangible outside of myself. I also follow a lot of other environmental pages, so if I don't pick up something, usually they'll pick up something and then I can research it. It's definitely about following like a big variety of pages and not just getting a new source from any one thing. And then also, I will literally just type in climate change, environment, sustainability, fast-fashion or whatever into a search engine, and I'll just see what pops up for the news. It's pretty easy, but it keeps me up to date and I find some pretty interesting articles. I didn't know how bad video games were for the environment, outside of the disks and their plastic, video games are actually atrocious for the environment.


A. Green:

What?


A. Maldonado:

Yeah, and I didn't get that. I wouldn't have if I didn't just type in environment into Google one day and then I've seen three articles written about how bad video games are.


A. Green:

That's crazy! Why are they bad?


A. Maldonado:

Well, there's a couple of things, first of, is that when you're making the... Okay, so I'm not a gamer or a tech person at all so please don’t come for me.


A. Green:

Okay, yeah.


A. Maldonado:

When they're making the little green board that has all your electrical stuff... I don't know what that's called.


A. Green:

Sure we're going to let that...


A. Maldonado:

The little green board that has all the electrical things, when they're making that the room needs to be like spotless, perfectly clean. So just the amount of effort that goes into cleaning a room and making sure it's that level of clean all the time, because like specks of dust can mess up the whole thing. It takes a lot of chemicals, a lot of electricity, a lot of water and power. Also with new games, I know that the PlayStation and Xbox, they're moving to the cloud now that there's the cloud, there's all these data centers that need to store that stuff. So even though you don't necessarily have a hard copy of a disc and the plastic container there, you still have the data centers wherever they are using up electricity, putting out carbon, it has to run, it has to be somewhere it's just out of sight, out of mind.


A. Green:

Wow! That's very interesting. I had no idea.


A. Maldonado:

Yeah. And that's the thing, if 90% of all video game users switch to the cloud, the pollution is going to go up 120% or something like that. Just in that sector, not total, but the pollution that gamers make now, it'll go up 120%.


A. Green:

Wow! So do you think that we could maybe switch to solar power, would solar power prevent that? Is there any way you think that we could prevent that type of waste?


A. Maldonado:

I have no idea. It's not my forte. It's just one of the interesting things that I have found that like I never thought about, I never even... It didn't cross my mind.


A. Green:

That's crazy!


A. Maldonado:

There are people that are thinking about it.


A. Green:

Yeah. I got you. So you post obviously a lot of different things on your Instagram page. Are there any topics that you see people are more interested in than others?


A. Maldonado:

I could tell you some that people get angry about.


A. Green:

Okay sure.


A. Maldonado:

The one topic that I almost refuse to post about ever again. I did it once this year just to kind of feel the waters, but I've done it a few times and I was like, "No." And I didn't do it for months, was posting about dishwashers because people get really upset when you tell them dishwashers are more eco-friendly, it's just like dishwasher versus hand-washing. A dishwasher is only going to use a certain amount of water. Right?


A. Green:

Yeah.


A. Maldonado:

And hand washing's not, but people that wash dishes by hand are like so proud of that. And they're like, "You're never going to make me use a dishwasher." And I'm like, "No if you have one in your house consider using it, I'm not telling you you have to go buy one." But I mean, as far as things that people like, I don't know. That topic, I literally have had to turn off the comments because people get so defensive. You wouldn't expect it.


A. Green:

Right.


A. Maldonado:

I did it the first time and I was like, "Whatever!" And then my comments blew up and I was like, "Whoa! What's going on here?" I did it two more times hoping that they would be better than the last, they were not any better. I had to turn off the comments the third time. I was like, "I'm not even going to give you guys a chance. I'm just sharing this information, do with it what you will." And then I did it once this year and I wrote a whole 10 paragraph like, "This is what I'm saying, it's not this, it's not this, it's not this, you've told me this. It's not that." And I had to do this whole pre argument and it was pretty funny, but that's one thing that I didn't realize people would get so worked up over it.


A. Green:

Yeah. When I first found out that dishwashers were more eco-friendly I was surprised, but I get it because when I watch my husband wash dishes, he is so wasteful it irks me so bad, I don't even want him to wash dishes because he just leaves the water running and it makes me so angry. So yeah, I understand.


A. Maldonado:

I was super happy. I hate washing dishes. I have so many better things to do with my time than washing dishes. I hate washing dishes. So you tell me dishwashers better, okay. Done. Say less.


A. Green:

Yeah, so true.


A. Maldonado:

But for things people, like, I think people like tips that actually seem attainable, things that actually seem relevant. It's cool to post about solar panels and electric cars and stuff like that, but it's not necessarily feasible for everybody to do that. But when you start posting little things, people can do, I think people appreciate it. You just kind of also have to balance it. Because sometimes I have noticed that, I'll be like, "Hey, this is the thing you can do," and people will take it as I'm deflecting from these large companies that are making this huge pollution. And this is how I could put it on you to do better and that's not the case at all. It's just like, at this point in the game, we really need all the help we can get and pointing out that a hundred companies are making more pollution than me and you are not wrong. It's right. But it's also not doing anything.


A. Green:

Right. Yeah. So what are some, I know you mentioned earlier about the menstrual cup and the razor, what are some other simple tips that people can do?


A. Maldonado:

Yeah, composting, my favorite.


A. Green:

Yes! Let's talk about it.


A. Maldonado:

Yes. Okay. Composting. So a lot of people think that composting is really hard and I get it because before I started composting, I don't even know if I had heard the word composting growing up that often. I think it was very occasional, I don't know. It was not something that I grew up being aware of.


A. Green:

Yeah.


A. Maldonado:

So, yeah, composting people are always like, "I only have this much space or only have that or whatever." If you have a backyard, if you have a patio, if you have a small apartment, if you have a container or a five-gallon bucket, you can compost. I personally have a small one-bedroom apartment that I've been stuck in all quarantine in the middle of LA, but I have been able to compost with worms for two years now. I literally just have a storage container, one of those big ones. I think I got it at Walmart two years ago for six bucks. Just one of those big black storage containers and I just literally throw in veggie and fruit scraps and newspaper, any mail that I was going to shred, I can just throw in there and they'll eat it up. People ask, what can you do with the compost? I mean, it looks like dirt, you can literally just throw it on some grass. If you have absolutely nothing to do with it, you could just throw it in some public plants, you could sell it online, people buy it by the pound. You could give it to your friends that are gardening, you could use it for your own plants. There's so much, but yeah, I use worms. So I bought a thousand worms and I just have them housed in this container and they just eat my trash and it smells really good. A lot of people think it smells really gross, but it smells almost sweet, the smell like [inaudible 16:13] flowers. Yeah. Because they're taking all the sugars and nutrients from everything you ate and then they're just breaking it down and they don't escape and they don't overpopulate. They always want it somewhere, dark and moist. So in the two years that I've had them, I think they've only escaped.... one has escaped one time.

A. Green:

Wow. That's not bad at all.


A. Maldonado:

Yeah. They really don't leave. But if you don't want worms and you have the space, they have template composters. It kind of looks like a barrel that has a handle that you turn and it turns with all the trash inside and it kind of mixes everything and it doesn't break down as quickly, but it still breaks down pretty quickly and it's out of your way, it's not like taking up a huge thing. If you have a backyard, you can literally just start throwing all your organic waste in a pile. There are all kinds of stuff you could do.


A. Green:

So if you're going to do it in your backyard, in a pile, do you need the worms?


A. Maldonado:

No, you don't. If you're going to do it outside, you don't need them. The only time you really do need them as if you're going to do specifically called vermicomposting. But, if you're just regular composting, it's called trench composting I believe, is where you either dig a hole or you just put it on the grass or you can build kind of a box and then just start throwing stuff in that box and it'll start breaking down over time.


A. Green:

That's really interesting. And so for your method, about how long does it take for the veggie scraps and the paper and stuff to break down?


A. Maldonado:

I would say probably a few days.


A. Green:

Really?


A. Maldonado:

Because worms will eat half their body weight in a day so if you have a thousand worms, you have about a pound of worms. So that means they can eat through about a half pound a day. So they can go through it pretty quickly. I would say that I probably only check my box maybe once every six months, maybe. So maybe two to three times a year, if that.


A. Green:

Wow. So then do you just open it and throw stuff in there and then just close it back up?


A. Maldonado:

Yes. They don't need any maintenance, you don't have to clean up after them. You don't have to, they don't have..... I mean, I maybe open it and move stuff around maybe once every two months just to make sure that they're still alive, but they are. And last year, the only time they died for me was last year and it happens a lot when people are learning how so if they do die and you don't feel bad, but they died on me last year because I moved like three times. And so it was like, yeah, it was, it was a lot for them. And I couldn't keep up with them as much as I wanted to. So yeah. But I've been able to get another batch and they have since stayed alive. So it's all good.


A. Green:

That's awesome. I go to a community garden where I have a raised bed plot and stuff and grow stuff and they also make compost. So I just drop all my food scraps there, but my sister was talking about wanting to start her own compost bin. So I think that that'll be a really good option for her.


A. Maldonado:

Yeah. And I think it's way better than recycling because one, you're stopping all the methane and methane is like 25 times worse than carbon dioxide. So with recycling, right, you're just collecting it and then you're giving it to somebody else to deal with but you don't necessarily know what's happening. And there's all these articles and accounts of recycling not getting done. So you think you're delivering it, but it's not happening. With composting, you can directly see like, "Oh, this is broken down into soil." So it's quite easier.


A. Green:

Yeah, definitely. Okay. So some easy ways to start would be composting. What's something else someone else can do to reduce their carbon footprint?


A. Maldonado:

Yeah. Definitely cutting back meat. Maybe you don't have to go "cold turkey" and cut it all out but, just making little choices here and there. Personally, I loved meat growing up. I used to drink so much milk, so much meat, it was a lot. A meal was not a meal if it didn't have meat in it. But you can start making changes like, maybe you can't give up your mom's best dish. You're like, "I'm not going to give that up." So don't give that up. But maybe when you go to lunch with your co-workers, you get a veggie burger or something. Something where it's not high stakes where you're like, "No, that's too much for me." Make it comfortable, even things like bamboo toothbrushes, switching over to bamboo toilet paper, switching over to bamboo stuff is pretty easy, because it doesn't necessarily require a new habit or a sacrifice, you're just swapping out one thing for another. I think those are always really good to get started because then it's easy and it's not necessarily dependent on you giving up or starting something new. Oh shampoo bars, switching over to bars of soap instead of bottles of soap that's a really easy one. Thrifting instead of buying first-hand that's pretty easy. What else? Yeah. I mean, even just being conscious of when you purchase something, are you getting a plastic version or a wood version? Are you getting a metal version or a wood version? Are you buying things first-hand or second-hand? When you're getting rid of stuff, is there somebody else that can use it?


A. Green:

Yeah. That's great. I definitely agree that making those easy swaps, in the beginning, are the best way to start making those changes.


A. Maldonado:

Yeah. Don't feel like you need to start with all the hard stuff first.


A. Green:

Right. Or that you have to do everything at once.


A. Maldonado:

Yeah.


A. Green:

Back to your Instagram page, we were talking about you looking at all these different articles and stuff, what is the most disheartening news you've read in regards to the environment?


A. Maldonado:

I don't know if there's a single piece of news because whenever I read something really bad, you're always like, "Oh my God, this is so bad. How could it get worse?" And then a month or two later, there's a worst headline. I would say that being in this field is very disheartening at times because you see all of the stuff that's happening, you see all the corporate greed taking over, you see people really putting profits over like the health and wellbeing of other living things. I would say, every time that I see the clock get lower, where they're like, "Oh, actually we have less time. Oh, actually we weren't expecting to see this kind of stuff until 10 years from now." That is always pretty disheartening because you're like, crap, am I doing enough? How can I do more? How can I hold these corporations accountable? How can I become more involved in organizations? How can I do things outside of recycling? How can I get others to do things out of recycling, but yeah. But equally, on the other end, it's always super uplifting when you find articles of people who are getting together or have had an environmental victory, so, whenever I see activists. I think I saw yesterday that environmental activists in India were able to get Amazon to have to clean up and pay for all of the mess that they had made, like all the waste and stuff


A. Green:

Wow


A. Maldonado:

Yeah. So that's always a really nice win whenever I read stuff like that.


A. Green:

Yeah, definitely. Are you from LA, were you born and raised?


A. Maldonado:

Yeah. I was born in LA and then I bounced back and forth between San Diego and LA because my parents were split and then my dad lived in San Diego and my mom lived in LA, so I was kind of from both areas. I live in LA and now I've been in LA for years.


A. Green:

Yeah. So they say the coasts are going to be some of the first affected by climate change. Have you started seeing any differences from when you were a kid to now?


A. Maldonado:

No. As far as the weather and heat waves and wildfires go, yes, but as far as ocean levels rising, no. Although I do, whenever I drive by the beach or anything like that, and I see beachfront properties, I'm always like, "You're wild." Those people that literally live on the beach and so you're just like, "That's insane." They have all this money where you're seeing this news and you're not bothered like that's...


A. Green:

Right. I'm sure they probably have other properties elsewhere and they can just jet away if things get bad. But for everyone else, it's kind of like, "Oh no! What do we do?"


A. Maldonado:

Yeah.


A. Green:

Well, I live in Georgia and I agree, I would say some of the things that I see most is the temperature changes. It's still in the 80s here when normally, around Halloween it's in the 60s.


A. Maldonado:

It just cooled down here too and it was in the 80s until Friday I think it was the first day, which is crazy.


A. Green:

Yeah. It's super crazy. Let's see. Well, is there anything else you want to talk about?


A. Maldonado:

Let's see. Oh! What are your favorite changes you've made?


A. Green:

My favorite changes I've made were definitely the menstrual cup. I think it's the easiest, the greatest thing ever. If you're not into the menstrual cups, of course, you can go with the period undies and other options like that. My reusable water bottle, I used to be a like Aquafina girl, it was a tough change, but, it's been really good since then. And then, I feel like some of the best ways that you can make that you'll see the biggest difference are in the kitchen and the bathroom. In the kitchen, my favorite changes like these silicone bags or the reusable Ziploc bags, those have been a game-changer, I use them all the time.


A. Maldonado:

Yeah. I like those. I also like the beeswax wraps.

A. Green:

Oh! I couldn't get those to work for me. I think I just bought a cheap brand but...


A. Maldonado:

They're difficult, they are. Sometimes if you get... I tried to make some and they came out okay, but then somebody had given me some and they were good quality and they changed it. I was like, "Oh, okay. I get it."


A. Green:

Yeah. But there are so many different swaps out there, you just have to find what works for you. All right Ariel, what do you love most about being a sustainable brown girl?


A. Maldonado:

Here's one. Whenever I tell people that I'm...It took me a long time to start talking about my page publicly. It's not something that I'm necessarily like, "Hey, I have this Instagram page" It usually takes me a while before I tell somebody that. If I meet somebody new, like I said, it's not the first thing that I mention to them. But, whenever I do get to a point where it either comes up or I mention it to them, it's always really funny to me that they always are like, "Oh, I recycle." They start to panic and I don't want to do that, I'm not trying to make people uncomfortable or guilt anyone or try to pressure people, like, "I'm an environmentalist, what are you doing?" It's not like that but people always start to freak out or panic. Also, I think it's pretty awesome when I'm able to teach people new things. For example, there was this kid in Georgia, it was a teen in Georgia who messaged me one time. And he was like, "Hey, I read your post about composting and I wanted to try it." And I was like, "Okay, cool." And so he's like, "Do you have any more resources?" So I sent him some links, didn't think much of it. And he's like, "Okay, cool. I'll send you some pictures later." And I was like, "Okay." And I again didn't think much of it. And then two weeks later he sends me videos and he started vermicomposting and he sends me videos of all these little worms and stuff and I was like, "Oh my God! How did I impact this teen in Atlanta, Georgia?" That's crazy. It was really nice because it was a moment where I know would've never happened if I didn't have my page and I know that a lot of people tell me, "I liked that you put "woman of color" in your bio, it makes me feel like, "Okay, this is a perspective that I can more identify with," and stuff like that. I feel like there's definitely connections I make with people where they're like, "Okay." I kind of tried to remain semi-ambiguous of what woman of color means, because I don't want it to be like, "Oh, I'm this woman of color and you're not this woman of color like we're two different ones." To me, I don't want to focus on the identity politics so much of it, just so much as like, hey, this is coming from a perspective that a lot of people can share.


A. Green:

Yeah, definitely. That's awesome. I love that you're sharing so much information that is so useful and changing people's minds about things and just arming them with more information to improve their lives and hopefully the lives of others too. Tell everyone where they can find you.


A. Maldonado:

Oh! You can find me on Instagram @gogreensavegreen. On Twitter you can find me, although I'm a lot less active, I'm trying to change that. But, on Twitter you can find me @gogreensavegre2, we can write it down in a bio or something, but yeah, that's where you can find me.


A. Green:

Yeah! Thanks so much for joining us, Ariel. This was a lot of fun.


A. Maldonado:

Yeah. It's also nice to meet another Ariel because that doesn't happen very often.


A. Green:

I know. I really doesn't. It feels kind of weird. I'm like, "Oh, this is another Ariel."


A. Maldonado:

It's a little wild.





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