What makes a purchase “worth it”? The answer is different for everybody, so we’re asking some of the coolest, most shopping-savvy people we know—from small-business owners to designers, artists, and actors—to tell us the story behind one of their most prized possessions.
At 27, Leah Thomas has built a name for herself as an intersectional environmentalist. From her platform on Instagram with more than 230,000 followers to her aptly named nonprofit, Intersectional Environmentalist, and recently released book, Leah now spends her time as a consultant and educator focusing on how climate and identity intersect. For her, it’s crucial that we move away from the idea that we can “buy into” sustainability—à la $500 organic pants and other inaccessible bandaids—and start to interrogate the history of environmentally unfriendly practices (hint: White supremacy is a key player).
“This isn’t just about ‘saving the salmon,’” she says, referencing popular movements to protect specific animal species. “It’s looking at the fishermen who make their living off of that salmon and the indigenous community surviving because of that salmon. It’s providing equitable solutions for an entire economy.” Her book, which debuted this month, is the textbook she wishes she had before entering this space, covering everything from eco-feminism to misogynoir.
Particularly during the pandemic, Leah found herself in the throws of building a career and a new home. “It was a really uncertain time of my life, I barely left the house some days,” she says. Like many of us, Leah found solace via artisans on Instagram—that’s when she came across Jasmine Law.
Jasmine is a Portland-based artist who combines stained glass and preserved botanicals for delightful home accents. Leah says that she had been sitting on buying a piece for a long time, but they often sell out quickly by way of Instagram DMs. When this disco ball–esque piece was posted, Leah knew she had to have it. The mobile’s three concentric circle parts descend in size, each playing with a gem at its center with the largest and top-most portion featuring compressed white leaves. In flirtation with the sun, the piece reflects an equally brilliant shadow that looks like it’s an integral part of our solar system.
Quite simply, Leah needed some joy in her space. Her personal and professional turning point warranted something special, something that she could look to as a reminder of investment in herself. Leah doesn’t typically splurge on pieces, mostly because she didn’t grow up in an environment where spending money on something like art was a standard practice. Compounded by the imposed expectations on activists by their followers to conserve their wealth as a way of “proving themselves”—particularly, Leah underscores, for those who do not come from generational wealth and who are Black women—a lavish buy for Leah is few and far between. But this piece was different.
Hanging over her yellow couch in Santa Barbara, California, the piece dangles and captures what Leah describes as “the most beautiful light” coming into the living room from her window. Its continuous movement keeps the activist happy as she takes on the daily work of restoring equity.