Growing up as a farmer’s daughter in Northern Kentucky, Jordan White’s natural state was barefoot. She’d tear through the barn when her mother wasn’t looking, feet caked in soil and dodging horses as if their legs were a game. She’d get in the car for school each morning, her mind eager for information, but she would be missing her sneakers. It vexed her mother, but White felt her feet were meant to feel the earth. Hands, too, really, as she spent time as a farm girl planting vegetables and flowers, helping animals enter the world and becoming completely immersed in understanding the importance of a life cycle. From the tiny spine of a young tomato plant to the pulsating heartbeat of a newborn foal in her arms, her family’s commitment to the biorhythms of the planet laid roots for who she’s become today.
Now 26, she is an eco-sustainability blogger and advocate, working to share her journey to live as waste-free as possible through her blog and social media channels, titled A State of Ruin. By sharing small adjustments that can create revolutionary changes, A State of Ruin works to make sustainability accessible for all walks of life — from tips and tricks on cleaning products, sustainable fashion brands, reusable bamboo to-go cutlery and more.
“How am I supposed to assume that a single mom living in a food desert can afford to do what I’m doing?” said White. “Or, take the straw ban, for example. Some people need them. Folks with disabilities, the elderly… for some, metal straws can be dangerous.” It’s that kind of openness and authenticity, and her drive to see the world through the lens of others and then find sustainability solutions for all communities, that seemingly makes her message one of activism. “I can’t care about the environment more than I do my community, and vise versa.”
While White works to promote a low-waste lifestyle and share her tricks of the trade (BYO to-go containers, anyone?), she is open about not being “zero-waste.” She and her partner are renovating their new home and sharing that journey through Instagram, from tearing down walls to creating inevitable trash.
“I’m kind of glad I’m not zero-waste, because it feels more accessible to people,” White said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Meander over to A State of Ruin’s blog or Instagram page, and you’ll find simple suggestions for changes we all can make in our day-to-day lives. She just hosted a giveaway for an eco-laundry starter pack, during which you could tag a friend on her post in an attempt to win waste-free laundry paste, wool dryer balls and lavender essential oils. Or, follow her stories on Insta as she documents sustainable attempts at remodeling her new home, with tips on how to reduce waste and fill a home with secondhand gems. White made an “Eco-Friendly Valentine’s Day Guide” in which she advises lovebirds to buy plants instead of supermarket flowers, shares her favorite brands of recycled, green paper greeting cards and suggests bringing your own reusable jars to local candy shops for chocolate.
Currently, White — who also works as the brand and operations manager at The New Blak, a local, sustainable, women-owned clothing shop — appears to be far from the farm girl of her past, or what one may envision a “sustainability blogger” might look like. On any given day, we can find her in vintage boots, clicking down Frankfort Avenue, often paired with a secondhand leather jacket draped over a sustainably-made tee bearing a radical political statement, all capped by a wide-brimmed black hat. Her aesthetic, which feels more “witchy rocker” than “eco-hippie chic,” is reflected by her edgy, head of purple hair (and eyebrows). The barefoot little girl is still in there, and she’s perhaps more passionate about Mother Earth than ever before. “I’m not coming at sustainability as a hippie, white chick that collects rainwater,” said White, “I don’t have a style that screams ‘eco,’ I’m kind of a ‘boho urban biker chick.’ I want people to find (sustainability) possible for everyone.” Being her true, authentic, feminist, sex and body-positive, cat-loving self, White has allowed folks of all walks of life to connect with her.
White began her blogging career focusing on fashion and beauty in 2015, and chose the name/handle, A State of Ruin as a rebellion against what every hyper-feminine fashion blogger seemed to represent at the time. She didn’t feel particularly safe being herself at the time, and she “needed a place to shout into the heavens” about what she was interested in. It was an NPR broadcast about landfills, methane gas and food waste that aired 18 months ago that began her blog’s evolution into eco-advocacy, and White’s aha! moment seemingly revealed a passion that was within her all along.
“I’m one person,” she said, “and thinking about affecting the problem on a global level is daunting. But I can change my behavior and share [how I do it].”
Perhaps the most prominent part of A State of Ruin is sustainable fashion, and White’s journey to partner with brands that she believes in. As an influencer, White aims to shed light on brands that are transparent about their materials and practices, and she prefers to work with small businesses. When it comes to clothing brands, White is looking for sustainable production and ethical responsibility. “Are the people making the product taken care of? Is the Earth taken care of? If they’re transparent about it, that’s a good thing,” she said. Since it can be difficult to find these companies, she’s frequently sharing the brands she can stand behind, so they’re as accessible as possible for her followers.
When it comes to fashion, White believes there’s a sustainable option for most current, prominent choices. “If you shop somewhere because it’s a price point you can afford, let’s talk about where you can get something at that price (that’s sustainably responsible),” she said, suggesting the ethical and “radically transparent” brand, Everlane, which even has a name-your-price option. If it’s a political message we’re searching for, like a feminist T-shirt from H&M (where she can’t fail to mention that 70 percent of underpaid garment workers are women), White suggests Green Box Shop, an Afro-Latina owned sweatshop-free brand from which she’s purchased T-shirts with empowering, anti-racist slogans.
To the naked eye, White’s anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ, pro-women, pro-artist aesthetic may seem like a noble but completely different fight than the sustainability lifestyle her blog promotes. But, she wants folks to understand that these issues deeply intertwine.
“Sustainability is political,” she said. “All issues intersect.”
White explained that the sustainability community often focuses on resources and luxuries that are afforded by the middle-to-upper-class, when, sustainability stems from indigenous and often poor communities, who couldn’t afford to allow things to be single-use.
She references a Mexican-American blogger/influencer, Heidi Violet (@Zerowastechica), who shares via Instagram the ways her family would use one thing for a myriad of purposes. Recently, Zero Waste Chica shared a photo of an ear of corn, and wrote that the shuck could be used for homemade doll hair, toilet paper, food steaming and more, and she challenged her followers to find 10 usages for one item before it becomes waste. “She’s doing such a beautiful job of being true to the source,” said White, who feels that the new sustainability community has almost hijacked these tools from indigenous communities, who’ve been sustainable for thousands of years. “It’s not that these practices shouldn’t be shared, it’s just, can’t we remember that (sustainability) isn’t new?”
And Violet is also complimentary of White.
“I think Jordan is so special in this space because she is true to her brand of compassion and sustainability through and through,” said Violet. “She advocates for a lifestyle that may not be wide-spread in Louisville yet, so not only is she bringing awareness to the area, but she is seeking out those options, which makes it easier for someone to also make those changes.”
So, is White’s beloved Mother Earth in a true “state of ruin?”
For this passionate blogger, it does get discouraging. “I do feel like people are opening their eyes, however, I think that it’s happening on a personal level and not on a community or political level,” White said. Voting on the ballot and with our wallets is a way to enact change in our neighborhoods, and White wants to push towards optimism. Jordan White is the barefoot little girl, feeling the cool soil of the earth on her skin, nourishing her roots and letting them flourish. She’s the child that stayed up late to help with the birth of a calf, the one who longed to kick off her shoes in class, who wiped her weary young eyes and saw the woman of her future. One who would believe that change can start with from within, and just maybe, could inspire others to care and to find the value in living with intention.