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Let's get back to basics and save ourselves: A conversation with SUSTAIN's Founder, Reza Cristián

It was the year 2019 and I was sitting in a one bedroom apartment in Delhi, scrolling through my Instagram feed when I stumbled upon a "call for contributing writers" by a digital publication named, SUSTAIN the Mag. Little did I know that the very opportunity would open up the doors to Narnia, sending me into a whole new dimension of sustainability, preaching the idea of ethical, conscious living through tales in and around the globe.

Fast forward to 2021, here I am, sitting with the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of the magazine with which I started my editorial journey. Now celebrating SUSTAIN's third anniversary in 2021, Reza Cristián is a beacon of hope for every sustainability enthusiast out there, who's willing to make even the tiniest bit of effort towards breaking stereotypes in the real world all the while saving the planet one syllable at a time. The eco-warrior has been making waves in the media industry and continues to do so through several myth-busting tactics and strategies along with redefining and revolutionising honest, raw, impactful storytelling.

Now, let's hear it from the boss woman herself:

Hi Reza! I’m so glad to finally sit with you (virtually) and talk about your journey through it all. I’d love for you to introduce yourself to our readers.

Thank you for having me and featuring my work! My name is Reza Cristián, I am the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SUSTAIN the Mag. I am currently based in Austin, Texas and when I am not working on SUSTAIN I am taking care of my foster kitties and enjoying as much nature as possible.

Would you like to walk us through your passion project, SUSTAIN?

SUSTAIN the Mag for me was a way to disrupt the fashion media publication industry. I wanted to create something for misfits and rebels like me because I knew there were so many others who felt the same way like I did, but with a big step and spotlight on sustainability through all aspects in life. I wanted to normalize it and create something that was budget-friendly and all about being resourceful and inclusive.

What has your heritage, your culture and your early childhood taught you about sustainability? What do you think has carried forward in your life, from those teachings?

I grew up in a Mexican-American household so I learned how to be resourceful from a very young age. I would reuse items from plastic utensils, bags and recycle bottles/cans for extra cash with my brothers, as well as go thrifting or shop at the flea market, which are things I still hold dear to me today. I didn’t really ever think of what I was doing as eco-conscious until much later in life and I am grateful for carrying these traits with me today into my adulthood.

The SUSTAIN team

SUSTAIN The Mag is a huge part of your life, which has been doing wonders and breaking many stereotypes. But I’d like to know the Reza behind the shiny, velvety curtains. What was it like before SUSTAIN took off? Would you like to share some personal struggles, challenges and obstacles you faced in the process?

Aww thank you so much for being part of our community and SUSTAIN fam! I would say it’s been hard not having all the financial means to really start a business with more monetary support and doing it from a grassroot level for the last 3 years, but I am looking to change that now, as it’s not some small blog anymore and we are all adults now working and contributing to this magazine, so I want to be able to really support my team and contributors financially too. Because we haven’t gotten there yet, there are times I felt I am doing this all for nothing or no one is listening, but it’s hard to give up on something so many others look up to and something I am so passionate about.

Do your ideas/perspectives ever contradict with how we live in the world today? Did it ever lead you to change your beliefs at any point of time?

To be honest, growing up I feel I was always self-aware of my actions and pretty radical with my opinions even when I grew up in a strict catholica, semi-conservative household. The only time I felt like my perspectives contradicted me was when I realized not everyone is going to be in the same mindset as me and that you need to give people space and time to unlearn and learn again. To not be judgemental towards others, for maybe not having the same opportunities to learn the same opinions as my own. This led me to be patient with others, and whenever I have an idea whether it’s with SUSTAIN or in my own personal life I know to always take time to think on it before doing and gaining a perspective from all angles.

What do you think are some of the biggest problems the world is facing right now, in terms of need-of-the-hour, revolutionary sustainable action? Do you think the narrative needs to change, in any way?

It all comes down to politics, people are going to shift their minds away from it now that Biden/Harris are in office, at least here in the US, and go back to their normal lives, but our country and the world will only get worse if we don’t keep pushing for actional change and help those in need. I think the narrative that Democrats mean good and Republican mean bad needs to go away, people need to understand that both sides don't really mean well for the general public and the government isn’t going to truly help us unless we do something about it.

We’re living in such unprecedented times, do you think the wheels would roll in 2021, eventually becoming the year of change?

I truly hope so, but I am honestly trying not to think too much of the future and stay in the present because we all know what happened in 2020, we have to be truly be kind to ourselves and each other as we slowly get into this year more, but I am hopeful that things will change once the vaccine rolls out more publicly.

I think we all had major plans for 2020 before the pandemic entered our lives? Did you have life-altering plans as well for the year? And did it change in any way?

When the pandemic hit, I was just about to launch my first Austin event for SUSTAIN around the time of SXSW and I also gained press-passes and was so excited to attend, but like for everyone else, life had a different outcome for us. I think as it was going to be my first full year in Austin, I was just excited to create with so many people and dive deeper into the sustainable community here in my new home, but I have been slowly doing that virtually now. Things will happen, but it will take time.

Fall '20 Digital Cover ft. @intersectionalenvironmentalist

With activists like Leah Thomas (@greengirlleah) introducing the intersectional environmentalist movement, simplifying eco-justice and dismantling systems of oppression for the masses, do you believe it gets complex for people to grasp on to new terms in the sustainable dictionary?

Not at all, I feel once a new term gets introduced into the community, it brings more conversations and more voices to the space like intersectional environmentalists, which so many people who are praising the white sustainable narrative needed to see and hear and take a step back because sustainability starts with BIPOC leaders.

How do you link feminism & sustainability in today’s world?

It’s all about intersectional feminism and sustainability in today’s world, and if you want to be in both you have to understand the harms of companies that are pertaining to vulnerable women of color communities, especially the fashion garment industry for example.

On a lighter note, tell us about your loving support system, your family and friends that have helped you evolve into the person you are today?

My support system is my nana and papa who have supported and loved me unapologetically and really have let my wings flutter and soar high, and support all my endeavors. Along with my partner and best friend who has been by my side and been the most gentle human being these past 2-3 years.

Do you celebrate/like to celebrate every little milestone and accomplishment in your journey till date? If yes, how do you do it? What does your joy look like today?

Not so much, I don’t like to rub my accomplishments out in public or really do so for myself, but one thing I’ve learned at TikTok for work is to write down my wins and learn from those as I continue to achieve more and I want to adopt that into my real life. Things that bring me joy is a cup of coffee in the morning, reading a book or having a nice meal at night with some wine. I guess food brings me joy lol.

We heard you’re now the brand development manager of TikTok. What's it like?

I love it! I truly love the platform and company I work for and I am learning so much more than I have in other jobs. I never worked for tech or in advertising that much before or with such a big company that is so well-known around the world. It’s truly an eye opening experience and lucky to be where I am currently.

What activities make you lose track of time?

Watching Netflix and scrolling through TikTok, which I should do less of and then biking as well does make me lose track of time.

Old soul or a true millennial?

Haha, love this question! I am a bit of both, plus a sprinkle of Gen-Z. Old soul with things I enjoy and the music I listen to, but millennial with everything else from the way I dress and act.

We’ve got young activists, creators and changemakers reading about you and your work right now, getting motivated to do the same things, follow a similar path you’ve taken. Can you share some tips or words of wisdom with our readers, especially something you’ve learned from your journey and can be applied as a life hack in the real world?

If you don’t feel happy doing something, but feel like you have to in order to succeed, don’t be afraid to turn the other cheek and disrupt the community and do something yourself! Start your own path, but always remember competition isn’t good for the soul, be sure to collaborate with others and unite on your work to create something big!

Thank you for chatting with me, Reza. I love your energy and the vibe you give out into the world. Can't wait to see more of what you do! :)

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