Dreaming in Green
Blair Libby '16, Sustainability Intern, Buildings & Grounds
Upon meeting Jo, you get the sense of a passionate person. Maybe it’s her self-made, up-cycled outfits that show a dedication to sustainability. Or when she references her younger sister, the “love of [her] life,” and her grandmother as her “main inspiration.” When I sat down to interview Jo, she conveyed the strong dedication to her work by speaking about education as a tool for empowerment: “it’s great to learn, but you’ve got to do something with what you know.”
Hailing from Fremont, CA, Jo is the daughter of Indian immigrants who met while pursuing their PhD’s in electrical engineering. They aimed to instill in their children a devotion to hard work. Jo started on that path early, beginning with Girl Scouts as soon as she entered elementary school. By third grade, she was already working on projects in the field with other Scouts, analyzing how to protect marine life at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay - an experience that sparked her interest in environmental issues. Inspired by her own struggles with mathematics as a child and the program that helped lift her out, Jo’s Gold Award focused on developing a math curriculum for 4th and 5th grade at-risk, mostly immigrant youth in East San Jose.
While expanding her knowledge in service work with Girl Scouts, Jo personal life was also changing. After losing a younger cousin to cancer, she became interested in environmental health issues. A closer relationship with her Singaporese-Indian grandmother, a master seamstress, also established new artistic interests. These passions synergistically paired with her past experience as an environmental and community advocate, creating a newfound interest: eco-fashion.
Eco-fashion - the broad term for constructing new outfits from recycled textiles and local, sustainable production - was the perfect combination of all that fascinated Jo. Recognizing the unsustainable, planned obsolescence of most fashion products, Jo wants to educate others on how to design for themselves. She’s also drawn to street fashion (as opposed to big name runway designers, a group she finds “pretentious and exclusive”), as it better represents the “beautiful expression of self that shows diversity, belief and vision.” Displaying a deeper cultural texture of people around the world, street fashion “allows people to express themselves in an uninhibited artistic manner.”
Adding her own piece to this grassroots sector of the fashion world, Jo started her own blog, Green With Envy, and participated in the 2015 SCU Eco-Fashion Show as a soon-to-be Bronco. Jo wants her work to “inspire people and show them what is pragmatic,” both in terms of fiscal responsibility and environmental sustainability. “I hope people realize this and become more conscious of what they wear and how it portrays them… people should wear something that represents their life philosophy.” Certainly, the artistic influence on educating for responsible consumerism contributes dramatically to building a greater culture of environmental justice. Combatting the norm of culturally appropriative and environmentally destructive mainstream fashion can be daunting, but in Jo’s own words, “education makes you fearless.”