By Emily Merrell
Carolyn is one of the punniest people I know. Her Instagram captions are authentically her and represent a passionate love of travel, food and reading. Carolyn started sharing her Instagram with the public back in 2015. She’s evolved from a corporate employee to a digital strategist and content creator – spreading her love of sustainability by sharing tools that help her lead a more green existence. Learn more on how Carolyn took her Instagram hobby and turned it into a business.
SDS: Caro’s City started out as a passion, did you ever imagine it growing into an arm of your business?
CAROLYN STINE: Easy answer: Absolutely not. In the spirit of full transparency, my blog started as a time-saving tactic for me. I was getting inundated with requests from friends and friends of friends for restaurant recommendations, travel itineraries, recipes, books, you name it. I was like a human version of Text Rex: “Where should we eat near SoHo? Let’s text Caro!” So I figured if I downloaded all of my knowledge into a blog, I could easily refer people to said blog or send a link to a post instead of having to spend increasing amounts of time drafting personalized emails and texts to share information.
From there it really turned into a creative outlet for me, both with my writing and photography, and how to package them both together into this beautiful thing we call “content”. Did I foresee down the road that it would ultimately become a big lead generating engine for my consulting work? That’s a no from me, dawg. It’s truly been a pleasant and unanticipated surprise.
SDS: You’re the queen of finding new places to eat/visit/travel to – how do you find these places and what’s your secret to keeping yourself organized?
CS: I am, admittedly, a bit of a nut about organization. I can’t imagine being able to execute on all of the trip planning I do if it wasn’t a turnkey process for me.
For food and travel, I use Google Maps and Google Docs, primarily. With Google Maps, I star places I’ve been and flag places I want to go. That way, I have a visual representation on a map, which is great for figuring out what coffee shops are nearby the art exhibit I’m going to, or mapping out my days while traveling. I also use the CityMaps2Go app if I’m not sure I’ll have great WiFi while traveling, and can download city maps via this app in order to navigate without an internet connection.
I have two Google Docs that I use for organizing my travel notes – one with recommendations and more detailed information on places I want to visit, and one for places I’ve traveled to. Anytime I get back from a trip, the very next day I’ll write down everything I did, ate, saw, drank, and felt into this document while it’s fresh. This, in turn, becomes the basis of my travel guides on Caro’s City.
SDS: Last year you launched Carolyn Stine Consulting, where you step into businesses and manage their content, social media and more. Can you tell us why content is so important for a business?
CS: I think that content, when executed strategically, can really help to serve your larger business, digital and marketing goals – and it should be created in alignment with those goals. For example, are you a new brand with a need to illustrate real-life applications of your eCommerce offering? Maybe you’re using content as the vehicle for bringing your offering to life beyond the product page. Are you looking to connect with a particular niche audience? You’re creating and tailoring content pieces to appeal to them. Content can really bring viewers into the fold and strengthen their attachment to and engagement with your brand, which at the end of the day creates and builds loyalty.
SDS: In addition to travel and food, you’re passionate about sustainability. Tell us more about how you became invested in it and what simple daily things we can do to be more sustainable.
CS: I sure am 🙂 Sustainability is a very vast umbrella, and I would say that the best starting point is to read and educate yourself as much as possible. This way, you’ll start to hone in on the areas that you feel most aligned with and connected to personally. None of us can do everything at once, nor do you have to in order to make a difference. For example, I’m really passionate about sustainability in relation to food and agriculture and regenerative farming practices, which feeds into my larger interest in functional medicine, long-term health, and our healthcare system. But an area such as fashion and how to be a more conscious consumer in that realm (and I worked in that industry for almost 10 years), I know next to nothing about!
I’d recommend David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth as a broad educational starting point for all. It gives a great hundred-foot view on climate change and carbon drawdown, but also offers hope as far as how we can solve these problems that we ourselves essentially created. If you’re into food and agriculture like me, The Third Plate, Silent Spring, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma are good places to start learning. And if you’re still following me here and interested in doing a deeper dive, DM me and I’ll send you a few more recommendations.
SDS: As an avid reader you often frequent the library, and funnily enough I think many people still don’t know how to use the library. Can you walk us through it?
CS: Oh, this girl loves a library! First off, using the library is an inherently sustainable practice; you’re essentially recycling books. I’m gifted hardcover books all the time and I actually donate them to the library when I’m done, so you can pay it forward that way too.
If you’re looking to get involved with your local library, the first step is creating an account and then receiving your unique member ID (the modern day version of a library card). Once you’re a member, you’ll have access to the library’s online card catalog system – you log in, search for the book you want, then click to place a hold at your local library branch. They email you when your book comes in! You pick it up and return it when you’re done reading. It’s so simple, and there’s something really nostalgic about it for me. I’ve been going to the library for as long as I can remember and I know that this sentimental element is a big part of the allure for me, too.