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Mattress Nerd's 2020 Sustainability Scholarship Winner

By Caroline Fletcher

The 2020 Mattress Nerd Sustainability Scholarship Winner

Whitney Keilani Hay

Cal State San Marcos
Award $1000
April 6, 2020

The Mattress Nerd team is pleased to announce Whitney Keilani Hay as the winner of The 2020 Mattress Nerd Sustainability Scholarship.  Whitney, who attends Cal State San Marcos, was selected from a pool of almost 350 candidates. Candidates had to craft and submit an essay detailing what choices we can make as consumers to better our carbon footprints, what reuse and recycle innovations they think are leading the change in business environmental conscientiousness, and how they have altered their own day-to-day life to reduce their own environmental impact.

Congratulations, Whitney! 

Whitney’s Winning Essay

“An idea that is written on everyone’s hearts we, as individuals, desire to change the world for the better. We dream of leaving a long-lasting impact. We dream of encouraging, inspiring, and instigating change. We want to leave the world better than we found it. Although this mentality is admirable, it can be intimidating for some. Years ago, when faced with the decision to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, I found myself erring on the side of, “how can I, one small person, impact the world by doing this.” I found myself making excuses about how unrealistic, not maintainable, and challenging it would be to lead a zero-waste lifestyle. I respected the practice of it but decided this lifestyle was not for me. I was inspired by a close friend (a.k.a the “sustainability queen”) to give this shift a second thought. I live in San Diego, California and am blessed with a beautiful coastline, hiking trails, parks, beaches, beaches, and more beaches. Did I forget to mention that we have some of the most beautiful, sought after beaches in the world?! I relish in my community and am so grateful for the life it has given me. I scoff at those who leave trash on the beach and believe I fulfill my good civilian duties by cleaning up after them. My friend explained that even though my trash goes in a proper trash can, it is not much more different than the trash I find on the beach-it all ends up in the same place; generally speaking, that place is the ocean. I quickly re-evaluated this new perspective and declared that I would be more mindful of my decisions. Ultimately I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of jumping headfirst into extreme practices that I could not maintain. 

Something really beautiful about the sustainability practice is that the more you know, the more you grow. I was encouraged to move slowly and pay attention to where in my life I “wasted the most.” No one is pleading that we deny ever using a paper napkin again or to write off taking showers all together because of the water usage. Though that life may be appealing to some, most of us need something a little more suited to our lifestyles. I began my journey by recognizing how long my showers were, that I did not turn lights off when I left the room, or left the sink running while I was brushing my teeth, recognizing that I used a paper plate for every meal, that I had a consumer mentality and every time I wanted something new I would buy one instead of making use of what I already had, and so many other mindless habits I grew accustomed too. Little by little, I started chipping away at these habits. I swapped out single-use papers and plastics and got a big reusable water bottle, ceramic plates, and proper cutlery. I swapped paper towels for wash rags, opened my windows for natural light, and began riding my bike to my local coffee shop *with my reusable coffee cup (which has become my favorite part of the morning). What I learned about this lifestyle is that I didn’t have to change my living and hygiene standards. I simply had to swap my unhealthy habits for more positive, eco-compliant products, utensils, routines, and habits. I’ve grown very passionate about this lifestyle and genuinely enjoy learning more about how I can lead a more eco-compassionate lifestyle. I support brands that have the same goal and have met many wonderful people along the way from being a teacher and student of this practice. The more you know, the more you grow.

Businesses have grown more environmentally conscious as this wave of sustainability has caught flame. What we forget as consumers is that there is power in our money and where we spend it. I joyfully spend my money at cafes, restaurants, thrift stores, etc. and on brands that are going out of their way to be sustainable. I have worked at a small, family-owned restaurant for years. We have slowly started making shifts in the way we run our business to be more earth and community-friendly. I have seen our small band of local eateries and shops come together to support one another in this way. We swapped out plastic straws for reusable metal straws that can be washed, we do not hand out paper napkins and started using direct deposit to avoid paper checks. We swapped the bathrooms paper towels for air dryers and our kitchen has shifted to more eco-friendly cooking and cleaning methods. In the long run, our restaurant is actually saving money and our guests are extra appreciative of our compliance with the communities goal to reduce waste. All of these subtle shifts breed more change in the healthiest way, these changes expose parts of our routine that need more intention and we can act accordingly. Healthy peer pressure has allowed me and my team to be more mindful of our waste in the restaurant and at home. Ultimately, we are all in this together because we all want to preserve our community and our oceans for one another.

There are areas that I can improve on but being more sustainable than my past self is better than not trying at all. Am I, as one individual, changing the whole world by minimizing the waste I produce? No. But have I encouraged and inspired my loved ones to jump on this journey with me and found a ripple effect as a result? You bet. I, as one individual, cannot change the world; but I can be a part of the change.

Thank you Mattress Nerd Team for all of your hard work and giving back to your community.”

Click here to learn about the 2021 scholarship opportunity

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