Living According to Your Values

On March 21, environmental and zero-waste activist Lauren Singer opened up on Instagram about creating trash for the first time in eight years in preparation for sheltering in place amid the coronavirus outbreak. In a heartfelt post she spoke about value systems and what living according to one’s values looks like.

Her Campus UFL caught up with five other inspiring women to find out more about what living according to one’s values in the modern world looks like, and whether or not it is a luxury. 

Dr. Anita Anantharam

“I am a college professor by day and a start-up founder by night—and a single-mom all day, every day,” Dr. Anita Anantharam said when asked over email to describe herself.

An associate professor in Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies Research right here at the University of Florida, Dr. Anantharam is also the CEO of Spect, a human resources company. After undergraduate work at Columbia University, earning a masters at the University of Wisconsin Madison and completing a PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. A. (as her students know her) eventually took a position at UF where she has taught ecofeminism and transnational feminism among other courses.

When asked what she thought about Lauren Singer’s idea of multiple values or value systems, Dr. Anantharam agreed but said that some values should be universal and timeless. “Martha Nussbaum has a great article called Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism,” Dr. Anantharam said. “In it she says, ‘the air has no boundaries’ so in some sense if we fuck up the air over America, it will affect people in India,” Dr. Anantharam explained. “And vice-versa. So in that sense, some values should last the test of time.” Dr. Anantharam disagreed with Singer on another point, though.

When asked whether living according to one’s values, such as sustainability and zero-waste, in the 21st century is a luxury, Dr. Anantharam said she doesn’t think it is.

“There is a myth that is perpetuated—and it’s a gross injustice to say that disenfranchised and socially or economically constrained people cannot have these ideas or embody these values,” Dr. Anantharam said. “They may be living well within their means and reducing their carbon footprint in ways more significant than those who talk about these things all day long.”

Emma Nickse

A freshman advertising major and Phi Mu sister, Emma is the multimedia brand manager for Her Campus UFL as well as an ambassador for Victoria Secret’s Pink.

Her Campus UFL caught up with her over email to discuss values.

“This is such a good question!” Emma said when asked about the difficulty of living according to one’s values in the 21st Century. “I think opposed to centuries before, we definitely have more of a luxury to live out our values than our ancestors that didn't have the education or resources,” However, she also said that this can vary from person to person. Even with limitations, Emma argued that there are doable ways to live according to one’s values.

“For example, I value having a healthy lifestyle but don't have space or equipment to live it out 24/7,” Emma said. “However, that doesn't mean I am prevented the opportunity to choose a healthy snack or make myself a salad at the sorority house.”

She went on to say, “I think for abstract things like kindness or adventure, it can be done in any size.” She gave examples such as a new bike route or paying for a stranger’s cup of coffee as ways to live out values like kindness and adventure in everyday life.

Emma says when it comes to living according to her values, she makes an effort, but she also said, “we're all human, so to place this expectation of living your goal values to a T is an unhealthy mindset.”

The Number Juan Bus Family

Kristin Betykefer and Will Watson have an unusual home.

Along with their daughter Roam, and their dog Rush Puppyman they live in a blue renovated school bus also known as the Number Juan Bus. As they travel through various areas from Florida to Nova Scotia, the family eats, sleeps and hangs out in their home on wheels.

Her Campus UFL caught up with Kristin and Will over email and Zoom to learn more about what living according to their values looks like for them.

Both Kristin and Will work as they travel on the Number Juan Bus, Kristin as the communications manager for the Bear Lake Reserve resort community and Will as the founder of his company Watson Creative but they also try to live according to their value of adventure by exploring the areas they park the bus in.

Adventure and financial freedom were two of the values that motivated the couple to pursue the bus life. In addition, Kristin is passionate about sustainability and the Number Juan Bus has solar panels that create electricity.

Kristin said over email that when she first read Lauren Singer’s post, “my initial thoughts were: ‘we do not need a few people doing zero waste and sustainability perfectly, what we need is the masses making an effort to do it imperfectly.’”

Kristin says she understands the online pressure to be perfect though. She cited an example of Will bringing her coffee. She might have liked to post about what a sweet gesture it was but since the coffee was in a disposable cup, she felt like she couldn’t post anything about it without receiving backlash.

When asked about whether living according to one’s values is a privilege, Kristin said over email, “I think anything outside of the basic needs for survival is a luxury and a privilege. A big problem is that we have been trained to believe we need to live outside of our means which is why most middle-class families live in debt and paycheck to paycheck,” she elaborated.

“In the long haul living a sustainable and minimalist lifestyle has saved my family tons of money, allowed us to become debt free and created the opportunities for us to pursue abstract values like adventure, kindness, compassion and discovery,” Kristin told Her Campus UFL. “Life was not always like this for us, but we made our core values our priority and yes, that is a luxury, but it’s also a choice.”

Mia Crisostomo

You might have seen her beautiful reusable bags for sale on Instagram, but you probably didn’t know that Redefined Goods founder and UF student Mia Crisostomo used to be a pre-health major with her eye on medical school. 

Now she is a marketing and sustainability double major with hopes to expand her business, Redefined Goods, to even more customers perhaps through a website. Mia says thriftiness has always been one of her central values.

“I've been thrifting since I was in middle school, and I've been sewing since before that, so I think growing up doing those kinds of activities disproved what I think normal consumer culture tells you. It’s like you can't do anything yourself so you need to buy it, and I think that a lot of what I do is built on the value that I'm capable of making things and I'm capable of finding my own way to do things so I don't need to buy into the mainstream way of doing things,” Mia said.  

“And I think that connects to why I think it's important to support local businesses and support artisans who are also doing that and finding their own way to make their products instead of just buying it from a big factory,” Mia added.

When asked if living according to one’s values is a luxury, Mia said, “I think that the way that some people do it could definitely be a luxury, and also I think it just depends on how you define luxury. I think that having the income to be able to choose the more expensive and more sustainable option is a luxury, but you could also live by those same values by just choosing not to buy as much,” Mia said. “I think it just depends on how you choose to go about it. Like you know you can exercise your luxury by picking a super fancy recycled notebook or you could go to Goodwill and buy a notebook that had a few pages used and then just use the rest of that notebook.”

Mia also said, “I think that there's a lot of focus in the media on kind of blaming consumers. And I think that's why sustainable products have gotten so big. There's been a lot of emphasis placed on the impacts of the products that we use every day.”

Kenley Cogan

When not busy working as the volunteer coordinator for the nonprofit Bring Me Hope or volunteering with the charity Night to Shine, she can be found with a good book or starting an art project surrounded by her rambunctious younger siblings.  

Speaking over the phone with Her Campus UFL, Kenley said that, as a Christian, her values stem mostly from her religion. Two of her central values include being a kind influence in the world and helping children find homes such as through her work with Bring Me Hope, a nonprofit for defending and encouraging orphans. When asked about living according to one’s values Kenley said it is sometimes an “uphill battle.” One of the biggest lessons that she has learned in trying to live according to your values is that “love is a choice.”  

She said she does not completely agree with the idea that living according to one’s values is a privilege, though.

Instead she said, “I guess I see it as a responsibility because if I have that ability to live the way that I want to live, I have everything I need. I guess I see it as a responsibility that I have to be there for people who don’t have that.”

“For people who have access to all the things that I do, it feels like for me to sit here and just live in that without doing something to make the world better for people who don’t have that, I would not be living according to my values at all.”