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A Year of UnNew Month 9: September

“So much of what we need already exists out there”
Dispatches from Mexico City and entryways to secondhand outdoorism

Surprise! Less than two weeks ago I moved to Mexico City. I packed up two duffle bags, flew from my home in Colorado and landed in the fifth largest city in the world. I’ll be here learning Spanish, exploring new secondhand and vintage cultures, and eating my way through the neighborhood streets until the end of the year.

Since arriving, I’ve been walking everywhere—sometimes aimlessly wandering and people watching, other times with a destination like the climbing gym, grocery stores and markets, or a museum in mind. To keep myself company, I’ll plug in a podcast, a recent favorite being the Pre-Loved Podcast hosted by Emily Stochl, “a show about rad vintage style and guests you’ll want to go thrifting with.” On a recent morning walk down Avenida Mazatlán, I listened to Emily interview Cindy Villaseñor, a garden educator and low-waste lifestyle influencer from California.

I love the tagline on Cindy’s website: Practical sustainability para todos (for everyone). She writes, “As a first generation Mexican-American, I believe low waste living can be for everyone. It is an intention to live simply, take only what you need, and restore the Earth through small conscious steps. We can get there together.”

Growing up in the Los Angeles area, Cindy learned about secondhand lifestyles from her mom, who’d take her thrifting as a kid. As Cindy grew older, she began building off her mom’s legacy after an environmental science course in college led her on a class field trip outside of LA that became her first camping trip. Inspired by her time outdoors, Cindy switched her major to focus on sustainability and geography, and later continued camping and backpacking as she developed a career in urban gardening and consulting.

Cindy serves as yet another wonderful example of how exposure to outdoor recreation inspires people to become conservationists. In her conversation on the Pre-Loved Podcast, she shares helpful advice for those new to the secondhand or UnNew life: forget about what you think a low-waste, thrifty person “should” look like, she stresses. Focus on what you already have available to you rather than “strive for the aesthetic that’s out there when it comes to zero-waste living,” she says.

If you’re looking to begin living more sustainably, she suggests starting with a trash audit. The concept: for one week, make a tally of all the things you throw away or the things that go to waste in your home. “From there, where is there room for you to make a change?” she asks. For example, if you notice a lot of snack-packaging trash, consider how you could purchase bulk snacks or make your own. It’s all about the baby steps for her, and understanding what actions are accessible in any given situation. This is something I’m excited to try myself.

Emily, too, recommended repurposing some trash as camping gear. A lot of grocery store packaging (think of that yogurt container, or a resealable bag of nuts) is made to be relatively durable and lightweight—perfect for car camping. “Don’t be afraid to dictate your trash,” Emily says.

For camping food, Cindy always looks at what she’s got at home already at her disposal (and so nothing goes to waste while she’s gone!); she gets creative with her meal-planning from there. You can pre-make a lot of food at home and bring it to reheat at the campsite, depending on how long your trip is and your cooler/food storage options. For drinks like beer and kombucha, she recommends filling reusable growlers for camping trips; for camp coffee, she brings a reusable pour-over system or the french press from her kitchen.

I’m not sure I’ll get to do any camping or many outdoor adventures while I’m here in the city, but I’ve already identified an appliance I’d like and don’t have in the apartment I’m renting: a moka pot to make coffee. I didn’t even know where I’d look in Mexico City to buy a new one, let alone a pre-owned one.

Thanks to Cindy’s suggestions for where she finds some of her secondhand camping equipment, I thought to look at Facebook Marketplace—something easily accessible and available all over the world. I set some parameters to filter my search and after a couple minutes of searching, I found a used, like-new moka pot. I messaged the woman, and we arranged to meet at a metro stop later that afternoon. I plugged another podcast in my ears and walked the 30 minutes to meet her there. Easy peasy, and now I’m caffeinated.

To read more about my Year of UnNew, see the August,  July, June, May, April, March, February and January installments.

Emma Athena is an award-winning journalist and fresh-air lover. She writes about adventure and the environment, where humans and nature intersect at their most impactful moments. When she’s not glued to her keyboard or curled up with a book, she’s running in the mountains with her dog or camping with people she loves. To read more of her work and get in contact, visit

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