Sustainable Coog Series: Mark Sommer

For Mark Sommer, environmental and social sustainability are of the utmost importance.  A junior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology, Mark’s dedication to sustainable eating and living practices has defined many of his hobbies and goals. Mark began volunteering at the UH Campus Community Garden in February and has since logged over 400 hours in the garden and at Shasta’s Prairie! He has been a valuable addition to our team of volunteers for nearly a year and is always learning and teaching others about sustainability.

When it came to facing the challenge of pursuing a sustainable lifestyle, Mark realized that he had to overcome his own willful ignorance when it came to practicing what he preached. “I really had to put in effort and time into the choices I made. But I haven’t had a problem welcoming the challenges.” The first sustainable change Mark committed to was becoming vegetarian.

“Animal rights is the main thing that made me realize I wanted to be a vegetarian.  I don’t think that another living creature should die to satisfy someone’s taste buds.”

He said that in order to transition to a vegetarian diet, he couldn’t just cut out meat and eat protein-rich vegetables blindly. Because he believes social sustainability is just as important as environmental sustainability, Mark researched the sources of his produce to ensure that he did not purchase from companies that violate workers’ civil rights. Mark also took steps to connect with local producers to minimize the impact of transporting food to consumers and to get more in touch with the people and processes that make what he eats.

Another way Mark engages in sustainable practices is by creating some of his own hair products. Mark became inspired to create his own hair gels and pomades in an effort to cut out the use of harmful chemicals in his normal hair care routine. He based his reasoning on self-reliance and the “Can you do it?” mentality that he has had since he was young. Mark sees sustainability as a personal challenge. His competitive nature keeps him driven to reach for the stars—or, in the case of veganism, the soy. To make his hair gel, Mark uses local beeswax from the Sugar Land area and organic coconut oil. He also says that his products serve as economically sustainable alternatives to conventional cosmetics.

Mark is an expert on all things tempeh and enjoys engaging in lively banter about contemporary mumble-rappers. He currently lives with his partner, Hilda, and their two cats here in Houston. Mark plans on returning to the East Coast this winter to visit his family and wear the traditional dress of his people: hoodies and Timberlands.

-Alex Rogers

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