The EcoGrrl Interview: Antonia



Every time I meet someone new I just have this awesome happy “wow!” moment. I had the good fortune of being introduced to Antonia (Nia) when I was looking for a social media coordinator during my time as a volunteer board member with Lettuce Grow.  She’s so cool!  A graduate of Reed College, it was fun to hear about all the stuff she did during her time both as a student and working there after graduation, along with her work and play in the performing arts world.  Follow Nia on Twitter and see what she’s passionate about!

What or who inspires you most? This is a tough one! I feel like there are so many people who inspire me in different ways.

High on the list is my family. My mom, my dad, my sisters, and my grandparents have all inspired me to try new things and be open to new opportunities. My mom, a retired teacher, is always learning something new and inspires me to do the same. My dad’s creativity shows up in his gardening, his cooking, and his past adventures as a poet and oral historian, among other things. My sisters all do very different things, but keep my on my toes and inspire me to keep reaching out. Both of my grandparents were accomplished writers and have now passed away, but they have always been a source of memory for me. They remind me to hold on to language and stories and traditions, and to make a few of my own.

What do you turn to when you need strength? There’s a particular bit of Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius that I return to a lot that is simple, but poignant. It reminds me to strip away anxiety, sadness, or anger from the issue at hand and to strive for clarity while staying true to myself. The lines a personal touchstone for me to remember that I am my own anchor. They are a few simple lines, but they have come to mean so much to me over the years. They go like this:

First of all: I am tired. I am true of heart!

And also: You are tired. You are true of heart!

How can women best support and/or empower other women? We get so caught up in comparison and negativity. Even among feminist groups, we fall into the trap of criticizing others for the sake of bolstering our own sense of self-righteousness or self-worth. We often do this unconsciously because we’re so used to hearing similar critiques about our clothes, our bodies, our jobs, or our partners, but it’s so, so damaging. Women should be striving to find the value strengths in each other, and supporting those strengths, rather than focusing solely on what we deem to be wrong. It can be so hard to change our way of thinking and speaking, but it’s so important to recognize.

What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday? When I had garden space growing up, I loved to grow sugar snap peas, raspberries, potatoes, and sorrel. A strange combination, but I love them all!

What are your creative outlets?  Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t? I’ve been practicing and performing modern dance since I was ten. I love to dance, and I love watching dance. There’s something so visceral about dance as a medium. I often find I can communicate feelings and emotions through movement I can’t through speech.

In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element? In my dad’s garden, a bookstore, or in the mountains.

Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?

  1. Heifer International: I started supporting them as a teenager when one of my favorite actors from The West Wing started working with them, but have come to really appreciate their approach to long-term sustainability rather than short-term relief.

  2. The Red Cross: One of my best friends recently survived Burkitt’s lymphoma. She required numerous blood and plasma transfusions throughout her treatment, and they made such a visible difference. While I can’t always donate blood (curses on you, low iron levels!), I try to encourage others to get involved.

  3. Kiva: I love that the focus is on supporting entrepreneurs around the world by giving them the tools to succeed, but I also love the personal selection and feel of it.

What recent “green” change have you made in your own life?  What’s next? I grew up eating the majority of my fruits and veggies from my backyard, so I’d love to find a plot in a community garden in Portland. I know I was very lucky to grow up with organic produce right around the corner, so I think community gardens are a great way to provide a no-pressure space for people who don’t have access to plots at home. I just moved to a new apartment, but once I’m settled in I hope to start searching for a place with a good fit!

Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary?  Why? At home, where I grew up in Anacortes, WA. I miss my island.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Would you rather do what you think is right, or do what’s kind?  Or, don’t forget to always keep being yourself.

How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet? Recognize that living a green and eco-centric life is important, but not always attainable for some people. Going green can sometimes be expensive on small budgets. In our own endeavors to be more sustainable, we should support those who may wish to but don’t have the means. Community and how it’s defined can have such an impact on sustainable efforts. Teach, teach, teach, and share all you can. Keep sustainability accessible!

What sparked your interest in environmental issues?   What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did? I was incredibly privileged to be raised in such a way that being “eco” was often second nature. My clothes were handmade (I had the best overalls – neon purple and green frogs were on my favorite pair), handed down, or thrifted. My dad is an expert in finding thrift store treasures – so much so that we at one time we had six different vintage waffle makers. (Not very sustainable, but they did make excellent gifts! New items were very special.

Growing up, most of my family’s fruit and veggies came from our back yard. I grew up knowing that gardening requires time and effort, but the payoff could be amazing. So, while I lived a reasonably green life, I would say that one of the first really “eco” things I did was help share our garden. My dad and I helped build a garden for a family friend, which they still co-maintain. We bartered vegetables for services, and vice versa. It really helped me learn that sustainability is just as much about encouraging and engaging others as it is about being as green as possible.

How do you live simply? My bike and the bus have been my sole modes of transport for the past five years. This wasn’t solely motivated by a desire to be more sustainable; I can’t afford my own four-wheeled transport, and certainly couldn’t as a student. For the most part, I try to shop local, at thrift stores, search for green alternatives for skin and body care, and re-use or re-purpose what I can. One of my deep secrets is that I actually love sorting things at recycling centers.

I try to ask myself if I reaaaallllly need something before buying it new. If I get something new, it’s an investment. If it’s a book, though, all bets are off!  Still, going through used books can be such a pleasure.

Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours? “Please tell me you remember kindness. Please tell me you remember kindness and joy, you cool motherfuckers.”                       ~ Crapalachia, Scott McClanahan


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