With Our #TRReehugger Initiative, We’re Embracing Earth Day & Fighting COVID-19 One Hug At A Time


Today marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and even though our relationship to our environment, and certainly the outdoors, has changed immensely in the last few weeks, we still love Mother Earth. At The RealReal, we want to support the communities most weakened by COVID-19 and also encourage positive climate action. We’ve asked various members of our extended TRR family to get back to nature by hugging a tree. It’s a small gesture that reinforces our commitment to the planet and to spreading love in a time when staying in touch with our surroundings, and each other, feels harder than usual. 

In turn, for participation in this campaign, TRR has donated funds to the CFDA and Vogue’s A Common Thread, which is dedicated to helping the fashion industry sustain itself through this crisis. We’re also furthering our commitment to the One Million Trees Planted initiative that we began last year.

Here we highlight the work of inspiring eco-influencers who are making great strides in shifting the narrative of sustainability and joined us in this effort.  They fill us in on the significance of tree hugging and why it’s important to hold on to our eco values now more than ever.


Dr. Theanne Schiros, PhD
Assistant Professor of Science & Sustainability, Fashion Institute of Technology


While a small act, tree-hugging is certainly significant given the times we live in. What does hugging a tree right represent to you at this moment?
Connection, gratitude, and protection. There are stories of people “hugging” trees on their native land to protect their natural resources from being extracted by outsiders for things like building projects. Shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”, has ancient roots in Japan and Asia and has long been revered for it’s therapeutic and health benefits–as has walking barefoot, something I do as much as possible. It calms your nervous system, much like a good long human hug, something a lot of us are really missing right now!


All of our lives have shifted inside these days, but how have you been managing to stay connected to the environment and all of your sustainable efforts? 
As simple as it sounds, watching spring “springing” and the days growing longer and brighter has been a quiet but strong connection to the environment for me and gives a feeling of hopefulness and a strong sense of community. My research, especially with Werewool, and teaching has been a grounding conduit to continue progress in sustainability efforts for me. 

Directing some of my research and work with students to COVID innovation task forces, and collaboration with The Slow Factory on open education initiatives, such as Landfills as Museums, and through the One x One Conscious Design Initiative, fostering the development of a diverse community activated towards achieving social and environmental justice at scale, has also been grounding.


How can we maintain a focus on sustainability as we’re quarantined and commit to efforts that make an impact?
Less is more! And quarantine is an opportunity to focus on self-sufficiency and minimalist living. Make time for mindfulness and building regenerative communities.


What’s one thing you would advise someone who wants to take a step towards to be more environmental?
Start with one thing, a simple thing that you enjoy, as a seed for growing a more sustainable lifestyle. Small home gardens, even herbs by a sunny window will cut down food waste (cut what you need!), packaging and trips to the store. Save vegetable scraps and make stock, and compost whenever possible. 


How did your passion for environmental rights and efforts come to be?
Environmental issues are social justice issues. The health and environmental effects of toxic chemicals, climate change and ecosystem degradation disproportionately affect communities least responsible for these impacts, and often, least equipped to deal with them. You can see this walking through neighborhoods in New York City, to villages in West Africa. Education, especially of women and girls, is critical to eradicating poverty, building peace, and reversing the effects of climate change. My work in inclusive sustainable development and circular materials and communities was born out of gratitude for the many opportunities access to education has offered me.


Having dedicated your career to sustainability, what’s surprising to you about where we’re at and how sustainability is discussed today? Do you remain hopeful?
One thing that surprises me is that sustainability is still defined in terms of a materials economy, with a big focus on the next eco textile that will make all the problems go away. As a materials scientist curious and excited about innovation, I can appreciate this but would like to see conversations on sustainability framed in terms of circular systems thinking that includes marginalized communities and best use, reuse, and distribution of resources to build resilience.  As an educator, I’m continually surprised by the passion and dedication of my students to be change-makers for a better world. They keep me hopeful.  



Abrima Erwiah, President and Co-Founder of Studio 189


All of our lives have shifted inside these days, but how have you been managing to stay connected to your communities and your project?
I think it’s important to stay focused and try our best to confront reality while remaining hopeful and positive for the future. I can remember many instances in my life that really scared me. I was downtown New York during September 11th as I was at NYU at the time. I was in Japan during the earthquake/tsunami of 2011. Ebola virus broke out in West Africa shortly after we started working in Ghana building Studio 189… Although Ebola was not present in Ghana, we were indirectly affected and there was always the fear of the unknown. There are many times when we thought it was the end. But we make it through. And one of the main ways is having community. It’s working together towards common goals with positive missions for a greater good. [Studio 189] has had so many ups and downs and worked through so many obstacles and we managed to stay connected by staying the course. We keep our daily routines. We make plans together and we execute them as a team. We reached out to our factory and artisans and team before the virus really hit West Africa and explained what we knew at the time of COVID-19. We reorganized the factory so that we could make essential products like masks. We are coordinating with healthcare facilities and the government to start helping to produce needed materials where we can. We closed the factory for several weeks during the lockdown in Ghana and we worked with our team to understand what the staff’s individual needs were. We made sure everyone had necessary supplies (masks, gloves, water, soap, sanitizer, etc). We provided housing and food for some people that live far from the main city that couldn’t go home and the list goes on.


We FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and WhatsApp…but to be honest that is exactly what we were doing before all of this because we work long distance. Routines help. And taking things day by day. Checking in with each other. Taking stock of how we are feeling and where we are. We are also looking for funds, grants to be able to support the project through this difficult time. 


How has this moment impacted your brand and the communities you support?
We are greatly impacted. We see less sales. Stores are not paying and or pushing back launch dates which means pushing back payments. At the same time, costs are rising significantly and everything takes more time. But it’s not like we can just fire staff or just not pay. It means that brands like ours, and the entire supply chain, get essentially squeezed financially. But we are resilient. We don’t give up. We find a way. 

The best outcome for us right now would be if organizations that owe us money would pay and if everyone could be patient and understanding. With border closures and airport closures and cancelled flights, even getting shipments out is difficult. I really am so impressed by (and indebted to) all the frontliners and people, including members of our team, that power through challenges for the greater good. But patience is key. A cancelled order or a non payment, means that every single person along the supply chain suffers and on top of that loses out because we don’t only lose the sale but we pay twice because we lose the money and effort we put in and in addition the costs are in fact more expensive. We just shipped fabric from Burkina Faso to Ghana and the shipping was 400% more than it usually is, meanwhile the store we are doing the order for has asked for a 20% discount on the wholesale price and will only pay after delivery and they have pushed back the launch dates…Who pays for this?


How can we maintain a focus on sustainability as we’re quarantined and commit to efforts that make an impact?
Well, firstly it seems that just staying home and grounding airplanes and reducing consumption has lowered our carbon footprint and has made a tremendous impact. Skies are clearing up and animals are appearing again in environments where they have been pushed out. It’s very beautiful to watch Mother Nature thrive. “Staying home” seems to be what we should be doing to make an impact and to save lives and protect each other and protect Mother Nature.

In addition, I think supporting local businesses such as buying from local farmers or any of your favorite organizations. For example, I have been buying produce from a farm called “Farm to People” that I love, as well as from Roxbury Mountain Maple. I am excited to try a new olive oil that I bought from Kelis’ local farm brand Bounty and Full. I have been discovering so many great organizations and have been learning more about growing your own food at home from friends.

I just started growing scallions in my window by taking the roots of scallions I bought from a farm and putting them in the window in a jar. Watching the scallions regenerate has brought me so much joy. Also seeing the leaves grow on the trees outside and watching spring come in has brought me a lot of hope. I love how so many people are starting to grow their own food and buy locally and share recipes and consume less and figure out how to make what they have last longer. I think there has been a large shift in human consciousness. I am really hopeful that all these actions related to becoming more and more conscious, sustainable, aware, human etc will lead to us rethinking how we live on this planet and how we interact with each other and lead to a more positive impact.


The commitment and passion of your brand creates such great energy. It’s one of our favorite shows during fashion week. You’ve built around you a wonderful community that works with you and those who support.  What stands out to you today in the dialogue around sustainability? What do you feel is missing in the conversation?
What stands out in the dialogue around sustainability and what I kind of love is how loving and caring everyone is. This is an area that is not about becoming the richest person. It is motivated by a higher purpose. The result is that people share information and are very supportive of one another; they jump at the chance of helping out and they want to use their expertise towards innovation. It is a community rooted in growth and regeneration, not in destruction. I always feel very uplifted and inspired by this community. I always feel thankful and grateful. I hope that this energy stays and that it does not become corrupt.

I think the voices of marginalized communities are missing in the conversation, though. Many communities that have traditionally been sustainable are the ones that suffer the most at the effects of climate change and they are the ones that we see the least present when it comes to having a seat at the decision-making table. I don’t see how you can have a conversation about what the future looks like in terms of social/economic/political/environmental/technological etc impact and not include a more equitable share of voices of those that will be (and that are currently) largely impacted.


Do you remain hopeful?
Yes, 100-percent. I am extremely hopeful and optimistic. I believe in the good of humanity. I believe that love wins. I am lucky to teach a class at Parsons School of Design called “Systems and Society” as well as sit on panels and on committees for organizations such as H&M Global Change Awards and Gucci/CFDA Changemakers, and Rosario [Dawson] as well lends her voice and contributes in an enormous amount of ways to so many organizations. Seeing all the innovative ideas and solutions come from the youth, watching the change agents, seeing what the students are developing and how they want to change the world, learning from their predecessors mistakes and successes and focusing on finding solutions gives me a lot of hope. I know we will get through this and we will come out stronger.



Meg Haywood Sullivan, photographer and environmentalist


What does hugging a tree right represent to you at this moment?
We could all use a hug right about now, especially our beloved planet that we have ignored for so long. Our Mother needs us.


All of our lives have shifted inside these days, but how have you been managing to stay connected to the environment and all of your sustainable efforts?
I am fortunate to have a garden at my bungalow in Venice Beach, so you can find me tending to my green things daily. I am easily distracted these days like the rest of us with a flood of emotions/panic about the future, but I find grounding with my little slice of nature and by donating my time to environmental efforts that are close to my heart. Honestly, it’s been eye-opening to discover pockets of wildness in the city that are so often overlooked, like the monarch butterfly pollinating my neighbor’s flowers or watching the mourning doves seek out nesting material on the street. Nature is all around us, we just need to have the stillness to see her with clear eyes. 


How can we maintain a focus on sustainability as we’re quarantined and commit to efforts that make an impact?
Now more than ever I feel like many of us are becoming hyper-aware of our personal consumption habits. If there is a silver lining to this global pandemic, it’s showing us how much we waste,  from food and clothing to excessive traveling (I’m guilty of this). I’ve compiled a list of things we all can do and probably are already doing during these Covid-19 times. Change is upon us.


– Eat less meat
– Don’t waste food
– Travel less & offset with an UN-certified company when you do, like CHOOOSE
– Create a home garden, no matter how small
– Don’t buy new clothes, and support vintage / sustainability-driven brands when you do


How did your passion for environmental rights and efforts come to be?
I’m a third-generation photographer and nature-lover, so it’s deep in my DNA. My grandmother fell in love with gardening during the war when she and her friends created their own backyard Victory Gardens. That love of plants trickled down to my mother, and now me. On the creative side, my mother and father are artists and photographers, respectively, so from a young age, I learned to appreciate the natural world and capture its unspeakable power through my lens. In the past 10 years, I’ve dedicated my life and career to working closely with non-profits and documenting environmental stories with brands rooted in responsible practices. I believe in the power of a strong narrative to enact lasting change. 


Having been in the conversation around conservation for so long, what’s surprising to you about how it has changed and is discussed today? Do you remain hopeful?
Since the first Earth Day 50 years ago, we have come incredibly far in building awareness about mankind’s impact on our planet. But awareness is not enough. The IPCC report outlining that we have less than 10 years to limit the impending climate catastrophe is hard to ignore. The future will remain bright if we work together to put pressure on our governments & the top polluting corporations while creating our own greener social norms. We got this, I truly believe so. 

I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote for us all: 


We were once wild
and painted the sky black with our wings
soaring high above plains
of gold
flecked by the backs of brawny buffalo
no more.
The stories were once real. 

We were once wild
the creatures you tried to ignore
and squashed beneath thumbs
our jeweled wings, millions of years of fine-tuned elegance
a masterpiece in creation, evolution of the fittest.
And finest,
dazzling swarms and hives and marches. 

Wake up, Humanity. Wake up.
It is time. It’s your time
so flood the streets and the polls
have no fear except fear of sofa-bound apathy
The house is on fire. Our house. And your house.
Our dens and caves and nests and homes, little ones tucked under wing
the fate of life as we know it rests upon your shoulders
wake up.

Honoring heritage brands and extending the lifecycle of luxury items.