I’m a heckuva lot tougher than I knew.

Photo credit from another local, woman-owned small business owner, Adeline Artistry Studio.

It was June 2020 in New York City. In the months prior, perched on my balcony in western Queens, I spent sunsets clapping a chorus of thanks to essential workers, and nights awake listening to the blare of siren after siren, wailing deep into the dawn.

My partner had lost his job working for a WeWork subsidiary. Weeks later I lost my job (on my birthday!) as a marketing director in tech. Our neighborhood, city, and country had lost much more. We were the lucky ones.

I had not considered opening a business. Before my big and emotional job loss…

My springtime sensation of loss is linked with birdsong and rain and unfolding tulips.

Photo by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels

I am utterly destabilized by the month of April.

To be more specific, it starts sometime in mid-March. Exactly the day when the afternoon sun hits just right and finally warms my shoulders.

I stare up at a flowering tree in my Queens neighborhood and feel immense gratitude, then I basically double over. Something about the wind or the angle of the light. The combination of daylight savings and Easter plans. …

and now I owe back to her.

Photo by Tyler Lastovich from Pexels

My first poignant memory is outside. I run through the freshly cut grass, still pungent, in the summertime. Fireflies are flickering their magic in my hands. Nature at this moment is a soft friend, a gentle place to land. She offers me her comfort, her distraction, a home outside and separate from home. She’s exactly what I need.

In my preteens I walk the Mississippi muddy river banks with my dad. I use my hands to catch tiny turtles, the size of quarters, with painted bellies. Dad loves these trails, the Mines of Spain, and shares what he knows like…

And an interview with the girl who finds them

“For me it’s not about ‘who has the best picture’ — it’s to show the beauty of nature that we don’t forget how precious and worth to protect it is.” Photograph by Tabea Hosmann

In New York City, we’ve been in lockdown since March and I’ve hardly ventured out to the surrounding boroughs, let alone new countries. I miss travel so much. But one thing that has kept me going are photos I’ve received from Tabea Hosmann, a dear travel friend living in Switzerland.

I met Tabea in Dublin, Ireland, on a bus tour to the Wicklow Mountains. We sat next to each other on the winding, lush drive, listening to the guide wisecrack in his Irish accent. Tabea was quiet and kind with a sweet smile. We walked through the rain in a…

That depends: Are you cool with leftover pasta jars?

Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels

My zero-waste “journey” coincided with a surprising layoff from my job in the middle of a pandemic and recession. What started as a hobby soon became a survival tactic. Suddenly I was pinching pennies for food, cleaning supplies, and self-care — all while simultaneously trying to bootstrap my own new business in a tough economy and pay for healthcare out of pocket.

We’re conditioned sometimes to see minimalism as an aesthetic: high-end homes with simple but pricy furniture, whole grains stored in expensive West Elm glass containers, and jars of luxe beauty products atop natural wood shelves. …

Entirely usable, this fruit is a metaphor for zero-waste living

Photo by Robert Goldenowl

I did not start my day expecting to be wowed by a coconut.

I did not grow up in a place with palm trees waving in the wind, where coconut flavors and rituals laced my days. (Unless we count Almond Joys, which I always passed up at Halloween.) But my partner did. As we tried breaking open the shells of three grocery store coconuts with a hammer today, following the advice of a YouTube video, he told me his earliest coconut memories.

His grandmother in India used to break the shells with a loud, familiar crack. He remembers her scraping…

Saving and repurposing food scraps is simple

Photo by Daria Shevtsova

So you want to get started with compost? Even if you live in a small or shared space, you can compost easily (and smell-free) while reducing your personal trash output and helping gardens and crops to grow.

Composting keeps literal tons of food from rotting in our landfills, preventing climate-harming methane gas from being emitted in the process. The act of composting, due to its simplicity and impact, has been mandated recently in states like Vermont and even called an act of resistance.

It will take a few small commitments and shifts in how you manage personal waste—but once you…

Saving money, plastic, and stress with DIY supplies

Did you know you can clean your dishes (sparklingly so) with baking powder, washing powder, salt, and a little splash of vinegar as a rinse aid?

I didn’t. Not until I was laid off in the midst of a pandemic. Suddenly, I became very interested in uncovering crafty ways to save money.

I had been gifted a book called “Simply Living Well” by Julia Watkins for my birthday. Two days later, I lost my job. Thankfully DIY was already in motion for me. This beautiful guide shared remedies and alternatives to store-bought products, some as simple as one-ingredient solutions. …

Amid all else, quarantine habits have made me more wasteful

Photo by Belle Co

It’s 2020, also known as the year when everything fell apart. And what am I staying up at night panicking about? Besides joblessness, a global pandemic, police brutality, racism, and a life-altering election cycle—I’m thinking a lot about plastic.

I walk the streets of Astoria, Queens, armed with my mask and hand sanitizer bottle. The curbs are littered with used-up PPE: discarded masks and latex gloves collect in piles like autumn leaves. The city’s grocery stores had required everyone to carry a canvas tote in the “before times,” but now, we’re back to single-use plastic. I order in food to…

What employees call a culture of “convenient transparency” is no surprise

As someone who has long made environmentally friendly fashion the mainstay of my closet—which is to say, I don’t spend much money or time on fashion whatsoever—I was sold easily on Everlane. The online brand practiced “radical transparency,” a commitment to sharing their production process for high-quality clothing that was crafted ethically and sustainably. (Or, so we were told.)

For the past six years, I would routinely buy items for my capsule wardrobe and wear them out for years, then bring them to be tailored or cobbled for a few more years. My friends joked, “What are you not wearing…

Kayli Kunkel

She/her. Queens, NY. Creating new narratives on mental health and sustainability. Founder of Earth & Me, a zero-waste small business and publication.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store