It may not seem like it at first glance, but Carolyn Becker’s two passions – thrifting and veganism – are cut from the same cloth. They’re both wrapped up in the life she leads as a sustainable living advocate. Thrifting came first, as she followed the example of her saving-savvy parents while growing up in Bethesda. She jokes that she was “born at the thrift store,” and that connection is still just as strong today.
Every aspect of the bright, colorful, patterned outfit she’s wearing on the cover is secondhand, procured through expert shopping at thrift stores – mostly Goodwill. Becker’s love of thrifting is central to her Instagram account, @petite_punk, where she shares secondhand finds and sustainable living tips. She also works for Goodwill of Greater Washington as the senior manager of communications and community engagement, handling social media and photography, managing the blog, and planning events for community-focused platform Finding Your Good.
She describes her style as low-key, eccentric, ’80s-inspired and “somewhat awkward,” and says in recent years, she’s learned to stop worrying about what others think. “As you grow up and get older, you shed different roles and grow into your sense of self through your experiences.”
That sense of self was also shaped by her stature, which is prominently announced via her Instagram handle and bio. Standing at 4 feet, 9 inches, Becker says her height has always set her apart.
“It’s something that will never change. I think being petite inherently has formed my identity, in terms of being comfortable with standing out and being different.”
Though she has been teased about her height in the past, she’s come to embrace this unique aspect of herself.
“I’m very proud to be petite, because being petite has allowed me to grow in many ways,” she says. “I’m this height. I will get some attention for X, Y and Z reasons. So, why not be proud?”
Both her stature and personal style make her a memorable figure around town, whether she’s hunting for vintage or locally made pieces at her favorite retail spots like Goodwill, Meeps, Fia’s Fabulous Finds and Femme Fatale, or eating her way through the city.
Veganism is something Becker adopted a little later in life –approximately four years ago, when a friend challenged her to try going vegan for a week. She breezed through that trial week and hasn’t looked back.
“It was easy to transition from being vegetarian to vegan,” she says. “I just went full force and kept going.”
In making everyday choices, Becker sees myriad similarities between secondhand shopping and a vegan diet, namely conscious consumption. She makes the point that what you consume affects the environment, and others.
“The way that a food is made and packaged affects the world in similar ways as how a piece of clothing is made and how it affects the people who make it; the animals who are harmed in the process or affected; how it’s sold. They operate in very similar ways.”
In other words, she says, both require being mindful and thinking about what footprint you’re making when you support certain brands and make purchases.
“In an effort to live more sustainably, I’m really trying to evaluate what I do and don’t need, which has led me to significantly downsize my closet and rethink what necessities are.”
That mentality is what guides her when sharing resources and communicating with her Instagram audience via @petite_punk and her food-focused platform @dcveganlife.
She’s also started rescuing food from grocery store dumpsters in an effort to combat food waste.
“I am doing a lot of learning as I’m going into different grocery store dumpsters in terms of what brands I want to support and how much is being thrown away.”
During the pandemic, Becker has been cooking at home a lot more, either with rescued food or with groceries she buys at her go-to stores like MOM’s and Yes! Organic Market. She still loves getting takeout from spots like VegHeaven and Smoke & Barrel, and her all-time vegan hit list includes Little Sesame, Calabash Tea & Tonic, Bethesda Bagels, Busboys and Poets, Roscoe’s Pizzeria, Senbeb Cafe, and Elizabeth’s Counter. These are just some of the restaurants she regularly highlights on Instagram.
“I’ve always viewed @dcveganlife as not my page, but the community’s page,” she says. “I always use it to amplify businesses across the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area.”
She’s also been using that platform for fundraising and advocacy, like her recent campaign in support of the Afro-Vegan Society, whose mission is to “offer information, resources and support to encourage and inspire people in marginalized communities to transition to vegan living.”
“Time is money, and sometimes education takes up a lot of time. When one has other competing priorities, it can be hard.”
That’s why she supports the organization’s educational work to make veganism accessible to all.
“Whether it’s with Goodwill or my [own Instagram accounts], I go at everything I do with, ‘How can I inform or educate or help the community?’” she says. “I want to build community and make others be friends with each other, especially unified over similar passions, beliefs or interests.”
Learn more about Becker and connect with her at @petite_punk or @dcveganlife on Instagram.
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