It’s been a while since we launched an interview, and this week’s post is quite special. This week we interview Jennifer and Vivian of TinyCaravan, a platform that helps form a community of conscious, like-minded individuals hoping to make changes for our environmental and social issues that affect our world widely today.
Such interviews are always a delight because it also highlights small-scale tips and tricks that don’t seem overwhelming to implement in our own lives while also highlighting imperfections – we are not all perfect. We just need to value progress over perfection and remove the stigma that we all need to be perfect.
Tell us about yourself
Jennifer: I am a person living and working in San Francisco, CA. Growing up, I loved playing outside with my brothers – digging holes, climbing trees, watching animals in the wild (we only got as far as our backyard) – wherever our imagination took us. Nature is still a big part of my life today and I enjoy doing many outdoor activities, including hiking, backpacking, cycling, reading (at parks), and napping (at parks). When I’m home, I enjoy doing absolutely nothing.
Vivian: I am currently a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park (it’s my second season here!). I love exploring the outdoors especially summitting mountain peaks and backpacking through the wilderness. I am passionate about our environment and am definitely concerned about the global climate crisis we’re in. I hope to create a positive influence on those around me through my individual actions, knowledge, and of course, Tinycaravan.
Why the name Tinycaravan and what is Tinycaravan’s purpose?
Jennifer & Vivian: We made up the name a couple of years ago when we used to go on these wonderful road trips up the California coast or south to Utah and Arizona. We were obsessed with tiny homes and wanted to travel across national parks in a caravan. We even considered quitting our jobs at one point to live out this dream, even though we had no money and no savings. The name kind of just grew from there.
Today, Tinycaravan is about building a community that lives and travels consciously.
3. What has been your inspiration to reduce your carbon footprint and protect our environment?
Jennifer: I grew up in an immigrant household with 8 other siblings. My parents taught us to do things like hanging our clothes up to dry or saving grocery store deli meat containers to reuse. We shopped secondhand and I got a ton of hand me downs from my cousins. I never liked getting clothes with holes and stains on them, but looking back now, I was a kid who played in the dirt, so I’m glad I didn’t waste any new, nice clothes. We were also lucky to have a large backyard where my parents planted a lot of fruits and vegetables for us to eat. I think for a lot of POC or immigrant families, this lifestyle was more so to save money rather than “reduce” our impact. Though, I like to say that people of color are the OG zero waste influencers. I carry a lot of that into my life today, now for environment reasons first, saving money second. I’m a lot more conscious of my decisions and how they affect the world around me.
Vivian: I come from a small, immigrant family, raised by a single mother. Growing up, we were “sustainable” without even realizing it due to financial hardship and the need to survive. My mom always taught my brother and me to never waste anything, especially food (not even a single grain of rice) and to reuse our things such as towels and grocery bags. The idea of saving and reusing things to the end of their life cycle just made sense to me. Then, after an amazing trip to Yosemite National Park after my college graduation, I was inspired to preserve our outdoor spaces and public lands. My inspiration has also grown to understand more of the social impacts of environmental changes on people, especially communities of color.
Food for thought: we become frugal minimalists to save money, for a livelihood, for our children. So, we know we can do this successfully. Why are we finding it so difficult to approach our global climate crisis in a similar sense? We need to be fully aware that this global climate crisis will affect our livelihoods and the planet for future generations drastically
4. Do you think, nowadays, in developing countries especially, waste in all forms is a huge problem because people do not have enough time to even consider the environment?
Jennifer: There are so many nuances to consider. If we’re talking only of developing countries, I don’t agree that they don’t consider the environment – the environment affects all the things we need in order to live a fruitful life and developing countries are the one of the first to experience the effects of climate change. The problem is, developed countries like the US (where I’m from), are pretty wasteful.
For a lot of us, “waste is out of sight and out of mind,” because our waste gets sent to developing countries.Jennifer, TinyCaravan
This might be controversial, but I am very supportive of large countries like China refusing to take our waste – I mean, how were we okay with them accepting it in the first place? It’s a problem that we need to solve as a country and now we’re forced to think about it.
Vivian: Wow, this is a complex question. I wouldn’t say people don’t have enough time to consider the environment but that they may not have the infrastructure or support among their community to do so. It’s unfair to ask someone who is barely putting food on the table or don’t have clean water to drink to make certain environmental changes when their basic needs have not been met.
Environmental issues don’t just pertain to how we treat the natural world but also the people that are living in these communities.Vivian, TinyCaravan
I’m not saying that they shouldn’t consider the environment at all in their everyday choices, but understanding the broader picture and their current situation brings the human element into these issues especially in developing countries that are among the first to experience the effects of climate change.
5. What are some things you do to preserve our environment?
Jennifer: This year I’ve been making more of an effort to reduce my carbon footprint. I opt to walk, cycle, or take public transportation daily. I don’t shop anymore (though, I don’t really have a fashion sense and rarely shopped anyway). I cook at home most days and try to eat plant-based when I can. I bring along my reusable bags, straw, utensils, cups, tiffin box when I’m out and about. I practice Leave No Trace when I’m outdoors. They’re all really small parts of my habit. But I’m also not perfect – I flew a lot this year (huge carbon footprint!!) and still take long showers (it’s therapeutic for me, I’m sorry). Outside of that, I hope my sustainable habits inspire people to make a difference too. I love using Tinycaravan as a platform to share that.
Vivian: Lately I’ve been more focused on reducing my plastic waste. Before I left for Yellowstone, I planned ahead and bought beauty and kitchen products in bulk or in “bar” form. I’ve been loving the shampoo and conditioner bars I bought from a zero waste shop called No Tox Life – highly recommend them! I also try to stay updated in the environmental space and use my right to vote. When I’m in the outdoors, I practice the Leave No Trace principles and follow the rules and regulations. I do want to note that the changes I’ve made in my lifestyle have been a gradual shift and partially dependent on my community. Do what you can and adjust accordingly. What might work for me may not work for you.
The point of highlighting people’s attempts in achieving a sustainable lifestyle and the imperfections within it is simply to portray the fact that we are not perfect – but we have to value progress over perfection
6. Do you have any resources that you can share with us to help people learn and join the journey in preserving our environment?
Jennifer: I think Google/Ecosia is a great resource to find information on questions you may have, but make sure you do deep research and get different perspectives. I also love reading Litterless and Matchbox Kitchen and listening to Green Dreamer Podcast. When I remember, I’ll use the Think Dirty app while I shop. I’m also very lucky to live in San Francisco and the city provides lots of information on what we’re doing as a city to live more green. I don’t have a lot of resources, so you have any, hit me up.
Vivian: It all depends on what you’re interested in. I agree with Jennifer that Google is a great resource and a starting point – just be aware of the source you’re receiving your information from. For me, I like to listen to Green Dreamer Podcast and Sustainability Defined and watch videos from Levi Hildebrand and Our Changing Climate. I also recommend the book, Life Without Plastic, for those looking to reduce their plastic waste and learn more about the plastic and recycling industry.
7. What is Tinycaravan’s goal in the long run? What do you see Tinycaravan becoming?
Jennifer and Vivian: (Haha). We’ve talked about this many times and the honest answer is, we’re not sure. We just love writing about our travels, the environment, and how we can all do better to protect the planet. We might just continue doing just that. We have a small following, but they’re so supportive.
Even if one person tells us that we’ve helped them make more conscious decisions we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. For now, it’s just an outlet to talk about something that matters to us.TinyCaravan
We don’t have to change the whole world, but we hope we can change the world we’re connected to.
8. Can you share with us 5 types of advice for eco-tourism?
Jennifer: We wrote a few posts about this that we’ll share below, but I also want to say, (1) do your research and make sure the places you visit stay true to what they offer (2) any activity that looks like it’s hurting the environment probably is. For one, I don’t believe in ethical animal sanctuaries where tourists get to “ride” on the animals are actually ethical at all.
Vivian: I think the most important advice when it comes to eco-tourism is to do your research. You don’t want to fall for greenwashing and accidentally support an organization/company that isn’t actually doing something positive for the environment.
Look at their website and ask questions – What are they supporting? Do you agree with their mission? What sustainable practices are they implementing?Vivian, TinyCaravan
If they’re doing what they’re supposed to do, then they’ll be more than happy to answer any questions. We wrote a four-part series on eco-conscious travel for those that want to dive deeper.
9. I’m sure, during your conversations, discussions, you may receive a lot of pushback or those that do not wish to make a change because it doesn’t seem to be impacting them directly. How do you approach this?
Jennifer: This is something I struggle with and am continuing to find the right way to approach it. I’m never the type to push my ideas on someone else. In my opinion, if someone is not open or interested in hearing my thoughts, there’s nothing I can say to change their perspective. I’m also not a very argumentative person either. Though, I try to ask lots of questions in order to understand why someone may think that their impact doesn’t matter. I can only hope that they go home and do more research on their own. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to live my life in a way that is conscious and hopefully, that will influence those who are interested in knowing more. It’s really cool when someone messages me and says things like, “Oh I didn’t know going off-trail was bad for the environment. I’m going to stop doing that.”
Vivian: It’s funny because environmental changes affect everyone. Yes, some more than others (unfortunately), but overall, everyone is going to be impacted one way or another. The environment isn’t solely an “environmental” issue but also a social issue. It’s beyond the trees and the natural world – it’s also about our health, air, water, food – basic needs to simply live. It’s about supporting and fighting for equitable communities for a better future. So for those that don’t care about the outdoors or the natural world, I try to explain the social side of the environmental impacts. Like Jennifer, if they’re not willing to be open or listen to what I have to say, there’s no point in engaging with them. For those willing to listen, learn, and understand more, I’m all for having an open conversation. In the end, you can only do so much. It’s up to the person if they want to change and be involved. I do what I can individually and with those around me by setting an example and writing on Tinycaravan and social media.
10. Living in California, just like other places in the world, there are a lot of policies that deter our planet to move in the right direction. What do you think is the best way to make changes? (there is a misconception that you need to be influential to make changes)
Jennifer: I am a strong believer that one person can make a big impact.
One person can inspire another who can then inspire someone else – it’s a ripple effect.Jennifer, TinyCaravan
Government officials listen to their constituents if they want to be voted into office again. So as long as we can rally people who care, go out to vote, write letters, sign petitions, march for the environment, and live a more conscious life at home, we can make a change. I’m so happy to see people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in office who advocates for the things I believe in.
Vivian: California has done some amazing things in setting standards and policies for the rest of the nation and arguably even the world. However, there is always room for improvement.
I think the best way to make changes is to vote and write to your politicians.Vivian, TinyCaravan
I tell people that even if you don’t live a sustainable life or implement green practices, at least vote for those that fight for our environment and write to those that don’t. Voting is one of the most powerful actions you can do as a U.S. citizen. It’s a privilege that we should all take advantage of.
11. Any other thoughts and/or advice you would like to leave us with?
Jennifer: I know it feels hopeless and lonely at times, but we don’t get to stop fighting.
Remember that your journey is personal based on your circumstances, environments, financial capabilities, and so much more. If you can do more, do it. If you can’t, try to feel guilty about it (even though it can be so hard not too).
It’s counterproductive to put the weight of the world’s responsibility on your individual shoulders – protecting the planet is and should be a collective human responsibility. Also, make sure the changes you want to implement allow you to still be happy and to live your life in a way that you value and are proud of. We don’t have to make drastic changes, but I truly, hopelessly believe that our individual impact matters. That’s a huge way to influence bigger changes. We don’t need one person to do it perfectly, but we need 7.7 billion people to do it imperfectly. Whatever it is, JUST DO SOMETHING.
Vivian: Stay optimistic, surround yourself with positive people, and remember your “why” – why are you doing this?.
For those that feel the environmental space can be daunting, frustrating and just plain sad, I hear you and I feel you. You don’t need to be alone in this fight and have this entire environmental movement on your shoulders. Breathe and take a step back, we’re all in this together. As long as you’re doing something, hey, that’s all anyone can ask for.
THANK YOU JENNIFER, VIVIAN AND TINYCARAVAN FOR HELPING BUILD A COMMUNITY AND HELPING US FIND WAYS TO MAKE SMALL CHANGES IN OUR LIVES FOR THE BETTERMENT OF OUR PLANET, FUTURE GENERATIONS AND OUR LIVES.