Reading Material : Inside Closet

Posted on July 14, 2018

There are rules to look stylish. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. Nobody can help me find my personal style. They can point to some short cuts and get me to ape some IT girl who has discovered her own set of rules. But style is more in the intimate details. It is much more than what can be seen in an outfit. It requires a point of view. There is a relationship with the clothes, the culture, the location, the surroundings, real life, profession, fantasies, dreams, … It’s wonderful when we can see this connection between women and their style. An old favorite that I have been revisiting for inspiration is Insidecloset. All the featured people have beautiful apartments, good books and fantastic style. My favorites : AmelieVanessa, Audrey, Gabrielle and Julie. As always, I couldn’t help but answer the questions:

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1. What are your favorite pieces right now ?

A blue maxi dress. ( OOTD on my instagram stories. )

2. What is missing in your wardrobe ?

I should NOT answer this question. If I make a list, it’s in my nature to find a way to procure the items on it.

( Hypothetically : I can use more denim.

My current wish list : overalls, wrap dress, work wear shirt, )

3. The Deco / Mode piece you dream of ?

I would like an antique full size mirror in my apartment. Maybe one of those big brown writing desks I see in restoration hardware catalogs. A vintage bench that I can use to display my indoor plants is also on my wish list. I like the look of aged terracota planters with olive plants inside. Where can I get myself one of those ?

4. Your style ?

It is inspired by the following: the color blue, nature, the chic Parisian women, the adventurers, worker wear, farmer’s frugality, old money when they go hunting, an idea of androgyny that YSL put forth ( not the office wear version ), the sci-fi movie heroines in mobility friendly uniforms, the samurai, the monks, the yogis, … Only the tip of the ice burg has been actualized so far. I seem to add more influences to this list every year.

5. Your fav brands

Cuyana for shirt dresses, Celine for outerwear, NDC Made by Hand for boots, Stella McCartney for her innovation in sustainability, A.P.C for it’s consistency, Citizens of Humanity for the fit of its denim, Current/Elliot for chambray shirts with interesting details, Everlane for its affordable accessible basics, Steven Alan for reliable quality, Frye for its combat boots, Jil Sander for the napa leather shoes, Margaret Howell for every damn thing, Burberry for the military inspired outerwear, Rosie Assouline for interesting silhouettes for evening wear, Dries Van Noten for doing brocade well, Helmet Lang for the cut of their trousers, Yohji for the philosophy, Eka for its floral print, The Row the luxury, Acne for those snuggly sweaters, Filippa K for it’s repair policy, Patagonia for its heart, 45 rpm for its french-japanese-amercian-workwear-ness, Vintage Calvin Klein Collection for its simplicity, Ralph Lauren Collection for making the color brown look chic, Lemaire for the silhouette, Dolce & Gabbana for the usage of lace without being vulgar, Valentino for its red & mauveMaku textiles for it’s sarees, OffOn for jumpsuits,  …

My list is long. You got to know what to look for on the second hand market. The more you know, the easier it is to find great pieces. My influences are numerous.

6. The most valuable piece in your eyes

I do not have any sort of sentimental attachment to clothing.

On the basis of monetary value :

The Ippolita jewelry that I bought for myself, Stella McCarney jacket, Celine coat, Zara leather jacket, Church’s boots, …

On the basis of irreplaceability :

The blue dresses that hang in my closet.
Most my clothes are second hand finds that I doubt I will stumble into again. I can’t afford to spend the time or money look for them for the second time. None of it is replaceable.

7. Your unfailing beauty tip

Inversions – head stand, shoulder stand, hand stand, …

Exercise that makes your heart pound and sweat. Sprints work well for me. HIIT workouts are the way to go. 8 hours of sleep.

Small portion of raw veggies as a side serving everyday. Good fats. Blueberries. Sunscreen.

Sensuous lingerie. Signature perfume. Signature style.

Simplicity in clothing brings out the natural beauty and is soothing on the eyes.

Navy blue on glowing tan skin. Time spent outdoors while wearing a blue dress.

8. A default outfit when you don’t know what to wear ?

Summer : Navy dress + black ballet flats

Fall/Spring :  blue shirt, black denim, trench coat

Winter : Black turtleneck, black denim, black boots, black coat

9. The unbearable combinations ?

Crocs, mules, clogs, flip flops, camel toes, panty lines, high heels, peep toed shoes, print on print, jewelry that sparkles more than its human carrier, logos as print, …

Conspicuous consumption – things we buy to wear only when everyone is looking.

10. Last Purchase

Gardening overalls.

11. Top 5 beauty products

Sk2, vitamin C serum, retin-A, honey turmeric masks, white tea with lemon+ginger+turmeric, sunscreen.

12. Worst outfit memory

The outfits from my wedding day make me cringe. Rich heavy silks, gaudy prints, chunky jewelry, flower braids, a big wide gold belt,  … the whole deal. It’s one way to spit in simplicity’s face, pray at the alter of conspicuous consumption and kneel for the traditional police.

13. Obsessions

Reading. Photographs. Elegant solutions. Solitude. Nature.

14. Items you never take off

N/A. I don’t wear a wedding/engagement ring. I don’t wear a watch. I like jewellry but don’t want to wear it. Maybe perfume is something I wear on repeat every single day ?

15. Dream trip

Kayaking along the grand canyon and visiting the Nankoweap granaries in the Marble canyon.

France & Japan.

Lost coast trail.

North East Indian villages.

16. Your mantra

“It’s not who you are on the inside, but what you do that defines you.”

– Christopher Nolan, Batman Begins.

17. Your style mantra

We women constantly get told that we ought to look a certain way. Resist the brain washing.

Bright colors, printed fabrics & catchy logos – can visually clutter a space that the human resides in. Resist the urge to add. Keep it calm and simple.

Exercise has the same effect as haute couture. Simplest of garments look good on a toned body. Good fit is easier to achieve. Posture improves when the back is strengthened.

Buy less. Buy better. Make them last.

Clothes look their best after they are worn in and just before they fall apart. Wear them on repeat.

Color is therapeutic. Blue is the color of happiness. Red is the color of passion. Green is the color of the trees. Black is the color of universe. Wear them well.

Have fun with your clothes.

 

Knock, knock, if you are reading this, I welcome you to please pick a question of your choosing and answer it in the comments.

Place

Posted on July 7, 2018

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[ Sustainability feels like a hopeless cause that can only result in heart ache. But poetry gives me hope. This artist found his paradise by planting trees.  ]

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He never went into academia like his peers or worked for an enterprise. He ferociously maintained his independence to do what he wanted to do. He didn’t come from money. To make ends meet, he cut his own hair. Dressed out of Salvation army in old army clothes since his childhood. Lived the simplest life to achieve his goals. Shunned excessive consumption. Shunned sacrificing sustainability for the sake of convenience. Said that folks who support war and pollution have no reverence to life. Donated his prize money towards anti-war efforts. “I never wanted a domestic life. I didn’t need a lot of money. ….. I had a different set of examples in mind. I thought of the poets and the composers before the 20th century, who never thought that they were going to have any money. So I thought to myself … well this is what I want to do and I will do it anyways.” Used his life’s savings to start a conservatory. Moved and bought a piece of deforested waste land. Started plating native trees but found that the land was too damaged to grow them. He planted the trees required to re-build the soil and the ones that change the micro-climate. Built the forest canopy first and then planted the trees that grow under it. Found his heaven. This is how my kind of style icons dress – in old clothes and in blue.

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His mind and his work.

I am not in a stage of my life where I can follow his footsteps. But here are things I can do :

  1. I wanted to plant 10 trees this year. I hit the goal. 100 is my new target. I am at 38. Inside our home, outside our home, indoor plants gifted to friends, outdoor plant cuttings potted in family yards, any empty public land, our street, your street, buying carbon offsets, …. all of it is fair game.
  2. I have gone on a shopping fast since June 1st. I want to keep it a quiet long affair.
  3. I have gone as zero waste as I can. Any more, comes at the expense of my productivity and social life. I am doing my best. The rest, I plan to tackle on a different platform. Lot of our ocean plastic pollution comes from Asian rivers. Making a donation to a grass root organization in India would help. ( Haven’t figured out a specifics yet.  )
  4. Compost. It’s super food for plants. It keeps our land healthy.
  5. Save up to go solar and off the grid. I opened a seperate savings account.
  6. Keep blogging. It won’t change the world or solve world problems but it has changed me and kept me in check. Baby steps till I am ready for the leaps.

Tales about a compost bin

Posted on July 1, 2018

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The start 

I am scared.

Putting out a compost bin near this location is like putting out this sign on your front door : ” free food if you can break in” to all the animals who live along side us. Rats and possums were the first to invade. Raccoons and skunks joined the party. I like animals but preferably far far away from my patio ! “Screw zero waste. Most people in the world don’t do anything ! Why should I inconvenience myself? I want to quit” I confessed. But my support system didn’t let me.

  1. “Are you changing your plans because of rats?”, Fernando asked. (He is my landlord.) When you put it like that, of-course not ! “Aren’t YOU afraid Fernando? “, I asked. “I served in the Vietnam for 2 years. We slept in crowded dirty bunkers. They were everywhere. They would crawl over us in the night and you have to lay still to not get bitten. You don’t have the option of being afraid. It’s not a choice. You have to keep going”. He said these words with utmost humility and kindness in his voice. Can I respect this man anymore ? #saluteTheVeterans
  2. “I am no longer afraid. I want to kill those animals. Let’s get some poison”. Harsha spoke his mind. “We don’t live in an apartment in the city. We choose to live here because we wanted the experience of being close to nature. It’s their habitat. You don’t need to kill every animal that comes close to your precious compost bin. You also know that Cinco might find the animal you poison and eat it.” It’s annoying when everyone you live with, is wiser than you. My compost bin made me aware of being a part of my local eco system. I put a lid on the bin. I stopped putting cooked food scraps. After a while, the animals stopped trying.
  3. Rotting is a beautiful process. If done right, the compost doesn’t smell bad. Aging gracefully is a totally accomplishable goal for my vegetable peels.
  4. If I waste anything from my fridge, it stares me in the face until it decomposes. The mistakes can’t be forgotten. I have a whole cauliflower in there for the last month. I have a compostable cup in there for the last 6 months. It doesn’t go away. It made me more vigilant about food waste in my kitchen.
  5. If we don’t cook / eat out junk food, my additions to the bin would solely be coffee grounds and tea leaves. Not ideal for me, not ideal for the soil.
  6. The way food composts is dependent on the composition of the contents. If I throw in a few lemon peels, the acidity goes up. If I don’t turn my compost pile to aerate it, it starts becoming gooey. If it’s too moist, I can see it collapsing into a sludge. Extrapolating the process of rotting to larger picture : landfills are very problematic. It takes months and the right conditions for a potato to decompose in my pile. Imagine all that stuff laying in a landfill ! All of it is rotting aerobically out there and releasing methane into the surroundings. Once it decomposes, the trace minerals are buried too deep in the landfill to be of any use.
  7. For urban dwellers, the city should help us out. It’s a burden if you live in a small apartment.
  8. I can’t bear to put egg shells/vegetable peels in the landfill waste. I experience a special sort of heart ache. The kind that is equivalent to crumpling a 1$ bill and tossing it out of the moving car. I can’t do it. I won’t do it.
  9. I learnt that soil microbes are carbon processors.  They have been linked to drought tolerance, growth rate and other aspects of plant performance. It’s intriguing that they can act as a buffer against climate change. Compost returned to native soil keeps it healthy and properly functioning.
  10. To rot a vegetable, takes time. To make soil viable for growing a plant, takes effort. To keep a plant alive, takes effort. It’s hard to create life. It’s easy to kill a tree to make handsome furniture or pretty bowls or paper towels or that pretty viscose dress that I don’t need.
  11. I have been trying to grow a plant from scratch, like a farmer does. Make the soil, plant the seeds, grow the saplings, transplant them and keep it alive. It is not an easy job. Do we respect our farmers enough ?
  12. Refuse, Reuse, Return, Refill, Reduce, Recycle, Rot – are the 7 R’s of zero waste. After trying to grow a few plants, I think ‘Rot’ deserves a better spot than at the end of the train. Without soil, we don’t get to eat.
  13. The entire process is a joy. My first ‘I made soil’ moment felt invincible. I felt like a god. I don’t do many good things with my life but this act makes my heart sing.

The middle 

I am a plant mother.

 

 

touniversewithlove

 

OOTD : Wrap blouse : Steven Alan. Pants : J.Brand. Ballet flats : Jil Sander.

Keep it going 

I want to learn

 

I started my compost in a hurry to become I was possessed by the idea of going zero waste. I dis-regarded all the instructions. I use the wrong kind of bin – a plastic bucket that my landlord had sitting around in the backyard. I don’t add twigs or dried leaves like I should. I forget to turn my pile all the time. Sometimes, it gets moldy. Sometimes, its dry. But it all seems to add up to soil in the end. Now that I am no longer intimidated by the process, I want to see if I can learn the science behind it and do a better job at it.

Required Reading : This encyclopedia on composting.

A Summer Closet

Posted on June 29, 2018

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Last year, I wrote some notes on my take on an ideal closet. It resulted in a discussion on if the ideal state is a myth we chase. Aren’t we in a constant state of growth which results in different wants ? Is a closet ever really built ? Can desire be contained ? I don’t know the answers to these questions. Instead of over analyzing the idea, I set some rules and a target. I have learnt to be contentment within my bounds. My closet is built. Let me explain :

The right amount

Once upon a time, I had excess and I was underutilizing the clothes I had. There was also a time when I have exactly what I needed but was not content. With time, I found my ‘just right’. I want it to stay clutter free and organized. I want the incoming and outgoing rate to be low. I like the current status quo.

 

The right garments

There is something in there for every occasion life throws at me. The purpose of building a closet is to be stylish. I am not interested in a closet whose only virtue is that it has less than a count “n” , with n being small. But at the end of the day, it needs to be cruelty free and responsible. It should be second-hand, vintage or ethically made. There should be some glamour and lot of pragmatism. There should be a balance of feminine and masculine elements. Some garments exist to be worn out in the next 2 years. Some are to be worn over a decade. Some are to be worn over two decades. Some have the potential to become heirlooms. Getting dressed should be joyful. Else, there is no point to any of this.

[ A silk blouse. A floral print blouse. A pinstripe shirt. A polka dot shirt. A chambray shirt. A shift dress. A shirt dress. A maxi dress. A midi dress. A t-shirt. Blue denim. Black pants. Charcoal denim. ]

A whole lot of navy blue

An ocean of blue. Opening the door to my closet is color therapy. I write this with a big grin : if you want to discuss the “right shade” of navy blue, I am here. If you want to talk “bad shades” of navy blue, I am here for that too.

Some army green, red and pink.

For the full moon days when I turn into a wolf and don’t want to wear navy blue.

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( Missing ) This trio of printed photographs : Charlotte Rampling for YSL, shirt dress by Yohji, sketch by Clemence Poesy. 

My interpretation :

Image 1 : There are two ways to do androgyny – the YSL muse and the office worker.

Image 2 : Yhoji-saan’s women :“Fashion cannot make you sexy. Experience makes you sexy. Imagination makes people sexy. You have to train yourself, you have to study, and you have to live your life”

Image 3 : “Don’t bother me.”

I have a straw and a wool hat on a hook on the walls. ( Not visible in this photo. )

Books

I want an eclectic mix of inspiration on my shelf. Flipping through the street style photos while sitting on the floor is a pleasure.

[ The Sartorialist (my fav), Tomboy Style, Trench, It’s Vintage Darling, Paris Street Style ( must-read) , The New Garçonne, Many of Them, Asian Street Fashion, Men in this town, Women in this town, Elegance ( This book is an abridged version of finishing school for women. Made me cringe a little.) ]

Maintenance gear

Vodka refresher spray. A clothing brush. Some shoe conditioner.

Perfume

My 4 year affair with Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir continues. I sometimes wear it to bed.

Shoes

I have the most used and the really dirty ones by the front door. The ones in my closet are the least used and are reasonably sanitary to bring into the bedroom.

A dresser

Something to hold the scarves, slips, belts, t-shirts, sweaters, pjs, workout clothes, gardening overalls, underpinnings, socks and handkerchiefs.

Collections !

I have lots of shoes but I am not interested in collecting them. They come on a need/want basis. They go when they are worn out. I am not interested in collecting luxury handbags. I carry a canvas backpack or a cotton tote on most days. I want to collect blue dresses …. which I sort of do.

The Trinket box

I wear a tiny gold dot necklace on most summer days. It gets the most accessible hot spot.

Jewellry box

This is where I hide my clutter. I have trinkets from my teenage years. The tacky metal butterfly ring, color changing talismans, plastic beads, silver plated “peace” pendants, ‘I am grown up’ pearls, coming-of-age presents from relatives, heirlooms that I don’t know what to do, unworn wedding rings, ……  I am not okay with owning things that hardly get used – that’s hoarding ! Do you guys declutter your jewellry ? I don’t have the guts.

 

Peace. 

There is no scope to ponder if a certain garment is of the right vibe, the right kind of trendy, the right kind of classic, the right kind of chic, if the French woman would approve, if American woman would approve, if the Indian women approve, if I am rebel, if I am a conformist, if I am a contrarian, ….. There are no “if”s and “but”s waiting. These garments won’t be culled next year. Most of them have been around for years and are old friends. They will be worn till they are worn out. I can walk in, choose something, get dressed and get on. I am at peace.

Reading : Summer Edition

Posted on June 24, 2018

Look ma, no summer wish list !

Creativity is a muscle. It atrophies when not in use. I missed blogging. Surprising side effects of doing a social media detox : increased attention span, reduced interest in acquiring stuff, being in control of what I want to read, privacy, … Less is definitely more ! I am finally getting around to putting a dent in the book stack that I have laying around. ‘Books mean all possibilities. They mean moving out of yourself, losing yourself, dying of thirst and living to your full. They mean everything’, says Ali Smith. The worthy mentions that live up to the hype :

 

Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari.

Homo Sapiens, we named ourselves. It means ‘the wise ones’. Not very modest are we ? The selfish ones, would be more apt from what I now know about our species. I have always looked at our current time period extrapolating from the future I want. When I use the word sustainability, I do so with an assumption that we are capable of co-existing in our eco system. But connecting the lines from our history gave me a new perspective. Spoiler : We have never been eco-friendly. We have been ecological serial killers for the last 40,000 years. We are tribal in our instinct who like being brainwashed by our leaders. Be it religion or the declaration of Independence or the laws we write, it serve a purpose – bringing order among the masses. If you like reading words that make you feel uncomfortable, this book is for you.

 

Medium Raw, Anthony Bourdain.

Anthony Bourdain is my favorite global citizen. He ranks high on a humanitarian scale in my book of life. I will mourn him by learning from him. I want to read everything he has written. ( You can find a lot of content from this book as quotes on the internet or in his interviews. I choose the book form because I wanted the whole essay, not quotes taken out of context for their punch factor. )

 

Buddhist Economics, Clair Brown.

A mathematician who reads my blog asked me out for a coffee. “Everything you say sounds wonderful and important. But how much of it is fact vs emotion. You should be more discerning about the information you present”. The coffee wasn’t strong enough to hear the critique. We should have gone for a cocktail instead?  I talk about sustainability, consuming less, human dignity in sweatshops, capitalism with a good heart, profitable socialism, …. but the problem is – this utopian dream, is it possible ? It is easy to propose simplistic solutions to some very complex problems on a blog. I want to learn more from a view point of economics. This book is still in my echo chamber but it’s a starting point.

 

Denim: Street Style, Vintage, Obsession

Bay Area is chilly. I no longer wear blue dresses the way I used to. I am looking to add maxi dresses to my closet in their stead. I carry a jacket at all times. Chinos, denim and trousers have become my most worn clothing. I currently have two pairs of jeans – a light weight light wash blue in in 98% cotton for summer and a charcoal gray heavy weight pair in 100% cotton for winter.  I want to add one more pair – a black or mid-wash blue. Looking for it made me discover a the world of denim heads. The way these women speak of the color blue, idea of worn-in, their reverence for their old clothes and the fabric – is my kind of love for clothes. I borrowed the book from the library first and later got a physical copy for my home.

 

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, Edward C Smith.

“We can teach philosophy by teaching gardening, but we cannot teach gardening by teaching philosophy.” — Bill Mollison

I started a compost bin to go zero waste. Once I made the nutritious soil, I wanted to use it. It started with a succulent in a pot. Then came the window box of herbs. A tomato plant came next. Then came the seeds germinating by the window. …… It’s now become a full grown obsession for Harsha and I. We built a small raised vegetable bed and are looking after it. I no longer exercise. I dig, weed, water and plant everyday. I no longer want to go far away to a campground or on hikes to enjoy nature. It’s here in my backyard. I can help grow it and enjoy it every single day. I can create an environment that will attract bees. I can learn a lot by working this land. This book became our bible. A household with two atheists now start a lot of their sentences with “the bible says … ” and “look up in the bible”. This book is that good. The man who wrote it has a way of life privy to people who live in close symbiosis with nature – the philosophy is worth reading about even if growing vegetables is not an intention. Farmers are philosophers in their own right.

 

The Garden Awakening, Mary Reynolds. 

“Gardens these days have nothing to do with the feeling wild places give us. People travel all over the world to see places of beauty, yet their gardens are quite the opposite. They’re manicured laws full of pesticide and weed killers. They should be covered with moss and clover the bees love and only need to be cut once a year. Our gardens often ignore the true spirit of nature. City parks are like cosmetics. Beautiful in the way that a made-up face is beautiful but they are not real. They are not glowing with life force and atmosphere like the magical places of the wild that fewer and fewer people remember from their childhood. “

Firstly, she shares my contempt for cosmetic lawns. She speaks the language of wilderness. In her world, it is something every individual can contribute towards. Not a a fairy land accessible only to hardcore backpackers and botanists. You can watch Mary’s story in the movie : Dare to be Wild, ( on Netflix). Folks, if you are lucky to live in a place with some soil on which you can plant or have an apartment with windows, this book might be helpful.


 

P.S : Please read Sapiens !

Spring Cleaning

Posted on March 24, 2018

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This year, I have nothing to declutter. A deep clean done. A zero waste check list half conquered. A closet that has been declared built. A personal uniform adopted. 3 years since I gave up fast fashion and synthetic fabrics. A 90% plastic free home. What next ? I never addressed the way I consume content online. I am an introvert by nature and have been feeling the brunt of information overload. An detox might be beneficial. I could never stay away in the past. So, wrote a little snippet of python script to enforce it. Aiming for a week’s worth black out. Longer if I can keep going. (That includes this blog too.) See you in a bit.

While I am gone, check out some good podcasts :

Waking up, Sam Harris ( My fav critical thinker )

Dan Carlin, Hardcore History ( Story telling at its finest. )

Quanta Magazine podcast ( For science. )

( Notable mentions : O’Reilly Data Show, Data Sceptic, Linear digressions and Talking Machines. ) 

Bloom and Grow Radio ( For green thumbs. )

 

On Being, with Krista Tippet ( For spiritual enquiry. )

Zero Waste : 100 little steps

Posted on March 23, 2018

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Am I doing zero waste right ?

This is a question that has been on my mind a lot. More so since I started blogging about it. I don’t know enough about sustainability and the optimized solutions. These simplistic low impact solutions to complex problems that I tout on the blog makes me uneasy. I haven’t asked “What is zero waste” until recently. Fitting a solution without properly defining a problem is just bad science. So what is zero waste ? Is it about sending nothing to our landfills ? ( One can dump waste into the oceans and the atmosphere too ! ) Is it about avoiding plastic ? Is it about switching to bamboo and glass appliances ? Should I adopt the essentialist version of minimalism ? I looked up.

A little history 

“The term zero waste was first used publicly in the name of a company, Zero Waste Systems Inc. (ZWS), which was founded by PhD chemist Paul Palmer in the mid-1970s in Oakland, California. The mission of ZWS was to find new homes for most of the chemicals being excessed by the nascent electronics industry. They soon expanded their services in many other directions.”

The Circular Economy 

“The Circular Mindset is a way to rethink our daily consumer and lifestyle habits to help us reduce our trash and plastic footprint. It’s also a mindset that encourages us to add value back into the things we use, the communities we live in, the food we eat, those who create the materials we consume and the resources used to make them. A circular economy seeks to rebuild capital, whether this is financial, manufactured, human, social or natural. This ensures enhanced flows of goods and services.

Transitioning to a circular economy does not only amount to adjustments aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the linear economy. Rather, it represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits.

The model distinguishes between technical and biological cycles. Consumption happens only in biological cycles, where food and biologically-based materials (such as cotton or wood) are designed to feed back into the system through processes like composting and anaerobic digestion. These cycles regenerate living systems, such as soil, which provide renewable resources for the economy. Technical cycles recover and restore products, components, and materials through strategies like reuse, repair, remanufacture or (in the last resort) recycling.”

Is it a consumer movement ?

There is only so much I as a consumer can do other than becoming vigilant about what I bring home. From what I understand, it’s a symbiosis between the manufacturers and consumers. Designing good products and making them accessible is important. Us making a good choice is equally important.

Problem Solving :

The right solution. We fixate on this a lot. Most of the criticism this blog gets is about how my solution is low impact and I should be doing something else.

I don’t know if there is the ONE miraculous solution to tackle this problem considering the complexity of our global economy.

Simplistic solutions like “buy second hand and it’s all good”, “buy less and it will all get fixed” or “buy sustainably made and continue consuming” are almost simpleton solutions. We need long term solutions which try to minimize the short term losses. During the World War 2, “loose the battle but win the war” was adopted after the Allies cracked the German code. They used mathematics to come up with the stratergy. We need AI and data driven solutions now more than ever. We need responsible citizens who will do their part.

And Me : 

Do I sit out this battle and wait for a good solution to miraculously drop ? I don’t think so. Zero waste is not as intimidating as I thought it would be, once I stopped caring about my ego and flaunting my empty trash can. You make a few switches and you can bring down the volume of waste. You stay vigilant, refuse things you don’t need, buy well designed products and manage the budget … it keeps going. The rest, I don’t sweat it. It’s a game of optimization given the time, money, resources and resolve. As a consumer, I made a list of 100 little steps that I think help. I do about half of them and am proud to be a part of this movement. I don’t need everyone around me to do what I do, but it makes me very happy when you do.

Our trash tells a story. A story about what we collectively value. We need to put meaning and value back into resources, materials, people, community and planet.

– Andrea Sanders.

1.Fly less.

Trash is not only the solid waste we send to the landfill. It’s what we release into the air and water. Take some solace in the fact that average hipster who flaunts mason jars but jet sets around the world produces lot more waste than an average householder who stays put. The emissions into the atmosphere are a problem too.

Frying economy is more eco friendly than business class / first class.

2. Do not go on a cruise.

It’s one of the most polluting ways to get from point A to point B.

3. Family Planning

I apologize for this and I couldn’t find a way to skirt around this. I don’t mean to associate children with waste but family planning definitely helps in this fight. Have one less child, it has been suggested. Oregon study puts the emissions at ~9,441 tons per child. Even if I recycle properly and do a few eco friendly measures, I would reduce ~17 tons over a lifetime. Everything else we do in terms of lifestyle choices is negligible in comparison. But it has also been found that the birth rate has decreased in developed nations while it has increased in developing nation. Overall average lifespan of humans has increased. There may be a time where retired aging population will outpace the working population. I, obviously don’t know the solution. But if someone wants to research and propose solutions, I want my tax money to fund it.

Women having access to birth control and family planning is cited as the 7th most effective way to combat climate change by Drawdown.

Have one less, applies to pets too. Consider adopting a rescue animal instead of shopping for a bred animal. #adoptDontShop

4. Live in a smaller home

Less wood used, less land needed == less deforestation.

Less material == less resources mined for earth.

Less sft == less in heating/cooling costs.

Less cleaning to do == less products to be used.

5. Use public transport when you can.

Own one less/no car per household. Buy a smaller car.

6. Bike to work for one day of the week.

If its not a realistic prospect, do not buy a bike and hoard it.

7. Find ways to entertain yourself that doesn’t need new stuff.

It could be listening to music, watching a movie, going for a walk, playing with a dog, cleaning, reading, walking around the city taking photos, cooking, playing a board game, solving puzzles, ….

8. With books, borrow from the library instead of buying.

Buy ebooks and read on your existing devices. Keep digital records.

9. Find joy in nature.

These are the folk who are likely to support efforts to conserve it. All consumer goods comes from the nature at it’s expense. Maybe one day, we will love it for more then it’s looks and beauty. We will love it enough to downsize our lives to conserve it. Maybe it will inspire us to live in a more sacred relationship with the natural world.

10. Go meat-less for few days of the week.

( Slowly get it down to eating meat only on special ocassions and weekends. )

If meat must be had, eat chicken instead of red meats like lamb, beef and pork.

11. Eat (much) less dairy if you are a grown adult.

( Am not qualified to give dietary advice. Please use some skepticism. )

12. Learn cooking techniques instead of learning recipes.

If we know what to do with locally grown ingredients, it solves a lot of fundamental problems behind food waste. Imagine buying what ever is in season and being able to whip up good food !

13. Be vigilant about food waste in the house.

Buy less and use it up. Eat the right amount. In some cultures, they advocate eating till you are 7/8th full. If possible, do the European style grocery shopping – multiple visits to the store and getting only what’s needed for the next day or two. Have a pantry with dry foods like beans and lentils to carry you over to the next grocery visit.

14. Instead of buying paper towels in the kitchen, use cloth rags.

In America, you can find 2$ tshirts in thrift stores. They can be cut into 4 rags on an average. They last months even if they are the only rags you own ( provided you live in a small home. Mansions need more back and core strength to be mopped. )

Use recycled toilet paper or a bidet.

15. Carry a handkerchief in your bag.

16. Use a cloth tote bag instead of leather bags.

17. Use less leather.

18. Pick up one piece of litter everyday from your surroundings.

19. Use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning the home.

Use rags and bar soap to get the stains out.

( Natural products work only if you clean often. Else, it’s a long day of scrubbing that will make you wish for harsher cleaners. )

20. Find a community to share resources with.

( I borrow tools from Fernando for repairs. I have a boss who gives me lemons from his backyard. I borrow Indian clothes from my sister/mother to wear to weddings. )

21. If you go on a hike, pick up the trash you see on trail.

22. Buy the best quality you can afford.

( Not to be confused with buy the best quality ever. )

23. Use products till the end of their life cycle.

Don’t throw out stuff because some minimalist on the internet did and is flaunting the aesthetic. Use up the things you own. Do not throw out stuff that you would repurchase after 3 years.

24. Learn a few repair techniques for your most beloved products.

Or go to the local repair shop.

25. Stretch the boundaries of what is considered ‘worn out’

“30 more wears, dear”

26. Re-write the mindset that calls something old.

Treat the older goods as more valuable, like one would respect their grandparents.

27. Tell yourself that you do not have the luxury of getting bored with the things owned.

Buy and cull is terrible for the environment even if you are buying well made products.

28. Refuse that plastic straw.

If it does make it to the table, politely take it back to the kitchen and return it to be put back. ( They trash unused straws when they clean the table. )

29. Refuse plastic water bottles.

Carry a small reusable bottle.

30. Be ashamed of shabby ideas, not shabby things.

( These are Einstien’s words, not mine. They helped me rewire my thinking. I won’t get rid of my old car. I am not ashamed of living in a tiny home. I love sleeping on the floor. I refuse to be ashamed of the stuff I own. I can say these words for the most part, but the society makes it very hard. )

31. Tweet/share good ideas on social media.

Even if you don’t have a following or if you don’t see a difference your tweet can make, it helps. The ranking of an article goes up with every share, like and comment. It becomes more searchable and and visible.

Share, tweet, comment and like. It’s free !

32. Read and converse.

If you are not in a monetary position to make sustainable choices, educate yourself on the issues. Support the ones who are fighting for the cause. The early adopters pave the way for the rest of the society. Some of these choices trickle down once the markets catch up.

33. Surround yourself with the right influence.

Do not read the blogs that is an endless parade of stuff that gets acquired / disposed / hoarded. My life has gotten easier since I detoxed blogs and magazines.

34. Become comfortable with empty spaces.

Imagine not having the itch to fill it up with stuff ….

35. Hit the flea market for your furniture.

36. Hit the thrift stores for household items.

37. When ever possible, try to avoid plastic packaging.

38. Try growing one vegetable/herb by your window/patio/backyard.

39. Try using multipurpose products at home – like coconut oil / mild bar soap / baking soda, vinegar, ….

40. Over-dye your clothes to give them a refresh.

I buy navy blue/black clothes because they don’t show stains. When the fabric becomes patchy, I dye them again in the same color.

41. Line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer.

42. Recycle properly.

Batteries, medicines, electronics should not be sent to the landfill. Look up information on how your city recycles.

The thin plastic wrapping needs to go to a special facility to be recycled. Look up a place to drop them off. ( In America, grocery stores have a box for them. )

Write to your civic leaders asking them for better recycling facilities.

43. Take shorter showers.

44. Elect officials who give a shit.

45. Rethink electronic upgrades.

( if you work in the tech innovative field, consider renting instead of owning+discarding. )

46.Switch to email-notifications instead of snail mail from institutions you do business with.

47. Consider adopting a uniform. Call your self a minimalist and proudly announce it to people.

It liberates you from a race where we keep up with the Jhonses. They are less likely to judge you harshly or dump stuff on you if they know your philosophy.

“Your apartment is tiny”

I live a simple life.

“You should buy a new outfit for the wedding”

I am a minimalist.

“You eat lentils every day?”

I like simple food.

“Why aren’t you shopping?”

I am a minimalist.

” You still drive that old car? ”

I am zero waste. My car works !

 

48. Consider adopting a plant-based diet made up of local ingredients.

Make week day meals as simple as possible.

49. Adopt voluntary simplicity.

What are some common mistakes people make when trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle or build a more sustainable home?

One common mistake that people make is throwing money at a problem in order to be more “sustainable.”  Yes, you may be able to buy a giant photovoltaic system to meet all of your power needs without cutting back on anything.  But remember, those solar components don’t come out of thin air, and they don’t last forever.  Bigger system = bigger waste.  Scale it back first, and then look to technology for solving your remaining problems.”

– Jessie Kamm.

50. Do not declutter for an aesthetic.

Buying less is more important than decluttering. Using up what we own is more impactful than Marie-Kondo-ing. Throwing stuff away for a minimalist aesthetic is wasteful. Buying piles of ethically made/second hand stuff is hardly sustainable. It’s treating a symptom while keeping the disease alive.

51. When buying packaged goods for the pantry, save up and buy the largest bag available instead of multiple small ones.

52. Switch to a menstrual cup.

53. Switch to a reusable water bottle.

54. Carry a tote bag that can house a water bottle, some cutlery, a hanky and a small box at all times.

55. Switch from plastic disposable razor to a safety razor.

56. Carry your re-usable coffee cup.

57. Look for bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones.

58. When in the market for a hair brush, look for one made of bamboo.

59. Have a grocery store kit.

Have a few cloth bags in hand for loose produce. Have a bottle on hand for any bulk bin shopping you might do.

60. The thin plastic bags are notoriously hard to recycle. Some grocery stores take them back. Be vigilant about sorting the waste produced.

61. Buy conventionally-ugly fruit and vegetables.

62. Volunteer at a food back or soup kitchen.

63. Store the left overs properly or freeze the extras.

64. Meal prep to avoid wastage of food.

65. Use bar soap for cleaning and bathing.

66. Figure out a way to compost in your community.

If you have a backyard, you won the jackpot. If you live in an apartment, there are options.

67. Declutter responsibly.

Try selling the items instead of dumping them on a charity shop or into a landfill.

68. Build an attic responsibly. 

If you own doubles/ excess that can be used in the future, store it away. Bring it back as replacements.

69. Buy versatile easy to pair clothes.

70. Learn to dress up every day clothes for evening wear.

Buying a garment that can only be worn 5 times a year is a waste. Underutilizing a resource is also a waste.

71. Encourage folks around you to share.

Offer your possessions to be borrowed.

72. Say no to palm oil.

Look for ingredient lists before you purchase products.

73. Do not hoard unused items. Let someone else who have a need for it have them.

74. Avoid conventional dry cleaners. They use petro-chemicals. 

75. Buy clothing in natural fabrics that are durable.

76. If you have a toddler, toilet train and ween off diapers as soon as possible.

Use cloth diapers if your lifestyle and budget allows for it.

77. Shop local.

78. Do not throw out existing durable plastic wares for glass/bamboo just for an aesthetic.

79. Avoid skin care products with micro beads. Avoid clothing that contributes to mico-plastic pollution when washed. 

80. If you own pets, look for more sustainable protein / diet.

They need not eat salmon / lamb on an everyday basis.

81. Plant a tree.

82. Buy carbon offsets if you air travel.

83. When buying your clothes, consider the country in which they are made.

Does that country have strong laws preventing the dumping of toxic byproduct into the local water sources ?

84. Try out the baking soda toothpaste.

85. Use a compostable scrub at the kitchen sink.

 

86. Switch to a shampoo bar.

87. Reuse the plastic that comes into your home. Encourage up-cycling.

88. Do not smoke.

89. Weddings create a ton of waste.

Simplify the event and forego the unnecessary.

90. Stop buying blood diamonds and conflict metals.

91.Buy ethically made and fair trade. Buy from companies who use a circular economy. 

92. Consider environmental causes in your fund raisers and charitable contributions.

93. Stop supporting fast fashion companies.

94. Avoid coffee pods and tea bags.

95. Lay off the wild life.

Please don’t keep exotic pets for recreation. Please don’t buy tiger claws, ivory and exotic skins. Let the wild animals be. They keep our forests healthy.

96. Shop your groceries from the bulk bins.

97. Switch to an electric car.

98. Install solar panels on your property.

99. Buy vintage/antique wares.

100. Donate to environmental campaigns.

101. Sponsor a girl child’s education in an under-developed country.

102. Buy organic.

103. Switch to a more ethical bank.

104. Support corporate initiatives that encourage a cyclic economy.

105. Investigate supply chains of the organizations you work for, and make waste a parameter to optimize.

106. Slow Travel.

107. Lot of our ocean plastic comes from developing countries due to lack of good waste disposal system.

Raise awareness, raise understanding, raise money – if you can.

Zero Waste Vs Low Waste : Does the terminology matter ?

Everytime a layman hears the “zero” in zero-waste, it becomes a mission to prove me wrong. The conversation shifts into a personal attack and becomes an evaluation of individual failures. “What about the grocery store from which you bought your bulk produce ? Are they plastic free ? You zero wasters leave your trash elsewhere and pat your backs. ” We are an complex system with many layers. Each layer needs to be optimized for zero waste. I cant go design a supply chain for the grocery store to eliminate its plastic. The store cant force me to buy unpacked goods. But we can each do our jobs and work towards a better system.

Zero waste is not a personal egotistical mission. It doesn’t matter if I don’t send anything to the landfill if our fundamental economy is not circular. IT IS NOT. I won’t second guess if my actions make a difference because there is no other way to do it given the state of affairs. I won’t quit because I believe in community leadership having the power to make an impact. I think we have a long way to go. Zero waste a mind set and a collective goal, not a Pinterest board or a trash can paraded like a trophy. Instead of being intimidated by the word zero, I want us to never loose sight of the big goal.  Zero waste should be “our” goal. Once we understand the problem, we go about life with a different mindset.

civiliations

The Real Big Picture

Astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev measured the energy needs of a civilization on the Kardashev scale and extrapolated this data to categorize the progress of civilizations :

Type I designation is given to species who have been able to harness all the energy that is available from a neighboring star, gathering and storing it to meet the energy demands of a growing population. This means that we would need to boost our current energy production over 100,000 times to reach this status. However, being able to harness all Earth’s energy would also mean that we could have control over all natural forces. Human beings could control volcanoes, the weather, and even earthquakes!

Type II civilization – can harness the power of their entire star (not merely transforming starlight into energy, but controlling the star). Several methods for this have been proposed. The most popular of which is the hypothetical ‘Dyson Sphere.’ This device, if you want to call it that, would encompass every single inch of the star, gathering most (if not all) of its energy output and transferring it to a planet for later use. Alternatively, if fusion power (the mechanism that powers stars) had been mastered by the race, a reactor on a truly immense scale could be used to satisfy their needs. Nearby gas giants can be utilized for their hydrogen, slowly drained of life by an orbiting reactor.

Type III, where a species then becomes galactic traversers with knowledge of everything having to do with energy, resulting in them becoming a master race.  In terms of humans, hundreds of thousands of years of evolution – both biological and mechanical – may result in the inhabitants of this type III civilization being incredibly different from the human race as we know it.

 Type IV civilizations would almost be able to harness the energy content of the entire universe and with that, they could traverse the accelerating expansion of space.

Type V might just be the next possible advancement to such a civilization. Here beings would be like gods, having the knowledge to manipulate the universe as they please.

And we are at ……..

Type 0. ( or 0.7 if you want a more encouraging number to use as a label. )

We still meet our energy needs from fossilized dead plants and animals while sending our trash to the landfills/the atmosphere/oceans. There may be planets out there in the universe with intelligent life that went extinct before they transitioned from type 0 to type 1. I hope we make it. ( In my personal opinion, the difference between humans perishing and thriving depends on if we can get from Stage 0 to Stage 1 in the next 50-100 years. Sustainability is important ! So are the technological advancements. )


Aren’t you inspired ? So much to invent ! So much to do !