What does Exist Ethically mean to you?

August 19, 2020 7 min read

What does Exist Ethically mean to you? - Dynamite Starfish

Introduction and mission

Life is always changing and evolving, and so are our beliefs. We released a small number of Exist Ethically tees about a year ago, and we hope it has sparked thought and conversation for those who joined our mission then. In our original release, we called Exist Ethically a “stepping stone” movement — a call for greater consciousness. For the second release of this design, we are taking our new learnings and applying them to our mission for a more comprehensive approach.

To Exist Ethically means to exist in a way that betters ourselves, our fellow humans, and our environment through conscious acts, big or small.

The balance of these three pillars is necessary for a balanced life and a brighter tomorrow. Each of these pillars gives and takes from each other, and if the balance becomes disrupted, the entire system will become weak.

For example, If we constantly take more food than we grow, we will not only have waste, but we will become unhealthy, and in the future, we may have nothing to eat. In another situation, if you are very kind to the environment but very harsh on yourself, you are still out of balance and may end up treating others poorly as a result of too little self-care, or have a breakdown. Learning how to treat ourselves with respect and dignity is important because that informs how we will treat others and our planet, too.

All three pillars (Treatment of yourself, others, and your environment) are connected through the forces of giving and taking, and there is no final destination or one way to be. Being is a constant evolution that requires awareness at all times.

Exist Ethically is not just a call to action but a call to consciousness. If we continue down our current path and do not become more aware of our actions or make changes for a brighter tomorrow, it's likely our collective future will be very dim. We certainly don't want that for ourselves or for the generations to come.

Though we have written down a framework for our mission, the most important part of our Exist Ethically project is not about pushing our own ideas forward, it's about hearing the collective voice. And that’s why we want to hear what you believe. What does it mean to you? What do you think it means to Exist Ethically?

Please let us know what Exist Ethically means to you in the comments below, on Instagram, or via email at info@dynamitestarfish.com. We'll be collecting responses and adding them to this post once we have enough contributions.

As always, we are so appreciative of you being here and following along the Dynamite Starfish journey. We hope this project is as meaningful to you as it is to us. Thank you!


Leslie Kim and Austin Smith, co-creators of the Exist Ethically project


Images of the first release of the Exist Ethically tees, taken during the quarantine. Courtesy of K Salazar and Matt Lutey. A true community effort!

About the collection


It's hard to believe, but the third release of the Exist Ethically design is here! For our October 2021 release, we are offering women's and unisex t-shirts, unisex long-sleeves, and crewneck sweatshirts.

This re-release is coming due to a high demand from our audience, so we hope you have enough time to grab one while you can.



Community Responses:


"To me, existing ethically has been a huge part of my life, but I see it in a different way. Living ethically in my life has meant aligning my values, my thoughts and my actions in order to live a life I’m proud of. I don’t want empty words or thoughtless actions to be a part of my life. It’s constant work but I believe it’s worth it." 

"Progress not perfection" has been my go to motto in the last couple of years, for climbing, training, and ethics. Whether it's working on problematic thinking (negative thoughts about myself or others, for instance) or reducing my carbon footprint (vegan for nearly a decade, but recognizing that there are areas I need to improve on within that movement as well), striving to improve in pieces instead of becoming disappointed in my lack of perfection makes 'existing ethically' into an attainable process."

"Recognizing that ethics is like history. Often rewritten by those in charge. Our understanding of what is right in the moment is deeply impacted by our life experience and our bias. That why compassion is my anchor. For me existing ethically means being gentle with others and the world. Never believing in an absolute or seeing the world as black and white. Always learning and striving to be truly open to foreign ideas. That’s the ideal I strive for."

"For us, existing ethically is constantly striving to grow and improve and do better for ourselves, for others, and for the planet. It starts with increasing our awareness and making changes. In every decision we make, we want to choose the path that has a positive impact today, and towards the future. 🌎"

"Defining if the action I’m about to take is a want or a need and asking if it’s going to harm anyone outside myself. It’s easy to be compulsive whether that’s with words or how I spend my money. It takes so much practice."

"To live with awareness and gratitude. To help others in need & keep Earth clean."

"To not cause any kind of harm to other people as well as the surroundings we may come across in life because everything in this world has its own unique place in it and life is already difficult as it is so why would anyone wanna make it harder for anyone else or even for the environment that we live in so just be nice and selfless 🖤💗💕"

"Exist Ethically. A literal definition would be to survive doing no harm. But climbing is active; every move, each hand or foot is placed with intent and purpose. We belay and we solve routes and boulders together. We cheer when someone else tops out because their triumph is our triumph. We do not just survive, we seek to thrive. In that context then, exist ethically is an active, communal endeavor. Just as I am responsible when I belay, I am responsible to ensure everyone thrives. These responsibilities are many but have to start with recognizing the privilege I have just to be able to climb. They should also include ensuring that BIPOC climbers are included/welcomed and that indigenous rights and lands are recognized. Because again, we all triumph when one of us tops out."

"To exist ethically to me, is to care for the environment and every being who lives on it. Too many people seem to get caught up in materialistic life thats not nice to the outdoor world. But if we want to coexist ethically correct with all of our earth beings, we need to care for our planet, all of it's critters and ourselves before our planet gets in any worse condition. 💚🌍"

"To me, it’s co-existing with nature. We always learn (or at least, we should) to live peacefully with one another and take care of our neighbors. But that same ideal isn’t always extended to the environment. Because of that, we are watching resources become depleted, pollution continue to rise, and climate change become an ever present threat to life as we know it. If we exist ethically, we are advocating for those resources and the environment. And not just with our words; with our actions.

I exist ethically by carpooling as often as I can, eliminating as much single-use plastic as possible, volunteering at local parks, buying from eco-friendly companies, and teaching my students to care for nature. 💚"

"I think for me, it’s leaving things better with my presence than it was before - so if I’m going to go hike or climb, picking up existing trash and leaving no other trace I was there!"

"To me it means being a caretaker. Of people, of animals, of land, of life. It means protecting life in any form, and in order to protect meaningfully you need to care."

"To me, existing ethically means doing my best to have a positive impact on the world. I'm a sustainability nerd, so the things in my wheelhouse are using reusable and long lasting products whenever possible, educating my friends and family on intersectional sustainability, and just generally investing my time and money in things that treat the planet and people properly."

"Refuse, reuse, and recycle. It means constantly improving with baby steps because giant leaps are not realistic."

"Live simply so others can simply live.

This is a bit cheesy but to me it emphasizes the importance of being responsible with resources, especially with respect toward future generations. Ethical existence would, in my mind, focus on minimizing my negative impacts on other people, animals, plants, and the planet while simultaneously seeking out ways to positively impact those same entities."

"To me, exist ethically has a lot to do with Leave No Trace. And not just on the trails, but every aspect of your lifestyle — striving to reduce single-use plastic, waste in general, and cutting down on meat consumption. It’s doing what you can to minimize your impact on both the trails, crags, and on the Earth as a whole."

"Love this convo. Climbing is definitely a privileged sport so participating and existing ethically is important. To me this means being thoughtful and intentional of your impact on not only the environment (land stewardship and LNT), but also learning the history of land ownership of indigenous communities where you climb and trying to be actively inclusive of people facing barriers to climbing (and breaking down those barriers). Investing in local climbers coalitions and orgs like the Access Fund are good steps if you have the resources too. Lots of ways to be ethical at the crag! 🌈"

"For me, it means being conscious of my footprint in nature and as a consumer. It also means teaching about it!"

"For me it means not putting yourself in a situation (to the best of your ability) in which you would be harming other people, animals, or the earth. This can mean with you things you say, the stuff you buy, and the way you act."

"Living ethically to me, means that my existence in this world is a “net positive”. By this I mean that I try to leave things a little better from my presence, and in every interaction: with humans, with humans, and with institutions. In climbing, I try to be a good visitor to the lands that I climb on, to LNT, but also remind others and to pick up trash when I see it. I also try to create inclusive spaces for everyone, especially those who feel like climbing and the outdoor industry hasn’t welcomed them. It also means that I try to do what I can to dismantle racist and exclusionary institutions, through political activism."

Leslie Kim
Leslie Kim

1 Response

Girls who CCLiMb (Malorie, Carlie and Christina M)
Girls who CCLiMb (Malorie, Carlie and Christina M)

August 29, 2020

For us, existing ethically is constantly striving to grow and improve and do better for ourselves, for others, and for the planet. It starts with increasing our awareness and making changes. In every decision we make, we want to choose the path that has a positive impact today, and towards the future. <3

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