Zero Waste Dental Routine

Posted on February 17, 2018

What is zero waste ?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

zero waste dental routine

Bamboo Toothbrush :

Imagine winning a zero-waste badge just for switching to a different kind of brush ! They look much prettier in the bathroom. Imagine how cheap these brushes can get when the factories in China that make bamboo chopsticks get into the business … Let’s increase the demand for them and the markets will start to price them better. ( Costco sells them if you live in America. )

Tooth Powder :

This is an Indian apothecary find. This powder is called triphala. It’s an Ayurvedic remedy that was suggested by my elderly relatives who lives in my ancestral village. They have been using it for decades. A few of them are in their 90s and have lot of their teeth intact. So why not ! I tried the baking soda DIY tooth paste and disliked it. This powder tastes tangy and is good for health if ingested. ( In India, you can find it packaged in cardboard boxes or in bulk near farming communities. I apologize for showing a non-scalable solution. )

( My husband doesn’t care for any of this. He uses toothpaste and a plastic toothbrush. My house guests are glad that there is toothpaste in the house. )

Please do not take my advice on the tooth paste. This is something that I am doing for now as a experiment on myself. It may be quack science that I am promoting. Try at your own risk. 

What-about-ism(s) I heard this week :

” what about the factory in which the toothbrush got made ? Did the factory use plastic at all? ”    ( good question )

“what about the plastic inside your laptop? you are not zero waste”  ( Not zero waste. Am low waste. )

“what about the leather shoes you wear ? You have lots of shoes. ”   ( Guilty as charged. But everything else I do cant be clouded by the shoes I own ! )

“what about the plastic cap on that glass bottle ? ”    ( now, now, you are just picking on me. )

” What about all the plastic parts inside your car ? ”  ( errr … you are right. )

” What about the plastic brakes on your bike? ”    ( blank sad face )

” Please don’t do this to your children. These are the kinds of children who grow up with no immunity and fall sick all the time. They build resistance by exposure to plastic. ” ( I wanted to punch him in the face )

“If you want to make a change, do what the likes of Bill Gates is doing. Donate a lot of money. That makes a difference. Who cares if you save one plastic tooth brush from being made? ”    ( Absolutely. Its a life goal. )

” I know a single mom on minimum wage. She can’t do it. What about her? ”   ( She is not the problem. I am. )

” I cant do any of this. Being nice to fellow humans is what matters the most. I am a good person. ”   ( Plastic pollution hits the underprivileged humans the most. )


 

The word got out that there is a woman trying to avoid plastic. It’s making folk around her go defensive. The thing is : it’s alright that I get criticized. Please propose better solutions that you have acted upon. I want this problem tackled from all possible angles. But understand that I am struggling too – not just to do these swaps but to come in terms with my failures.

Also, where can I sign a petition to change the term ‘zero waste’ to ‘low waste’ ?

Zero Waste Period : Menstrual Cup

Posted on February 9, 2018

What is zero waste ?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

Its been two years since I made the switch. There is no going back.

I impulse bought it. When it arrived, I was terrified to try it. I threw in the back of my bathroom cabinet and vowed to rectify my impulse buying habit.

A resolve to go Zero Waste made me pick it up again.

This is one of the best things ever made for women, on matters related to menstruating. I have said these words multiple times. I started off with using a cloth rag at age 14. It was very uncomfortable. Then came those bulky pads you buy in stores. They were uncomfortable but a big step up. Then came the thin pads. The words ‘this is the best thing ever made for women’ were first uttered. Moving to America introduced me to a lot of choice on products. Tampons were one of em. I called all my Indian girl friends and told them : ‘this is the best thing ever made for women’. But a menstrual cup is better.

Pros :

Cost effective. Buy once and use for a long long time. I always took the expenditure incurred from buying tampons/pads as a given cost – cost of being born female. Not anymore. I am a fan of great design and sustainable solutions. This is one. No more buying pads/tampons on repeat.

Comfortable. I can forget that I have a foreign body inside me.

I can quantize my menstrual flow. I knew I have a terrible day-one that drains me. It helps to know that I am not imagining it. I have to empty my cup multiple times on day 1 of my period. It works for women with a heavy flow.

You get to learn a little about your own anatomy.

Was told that its a revolutionary product for women in some under-developed countries. Girls in certain regions of the world skip school when they have their period because of social stigma/lack of access to bathrooms in schools. Now, its a quiet personal affair and nobody needs to know.

India needs this product. I talk about it to ALL the women I know. I talk about it to all the doctors I know. I want to spread the awareness.

I have gone swimming, camping, running, … wearing it. I do yoga wearing it.

If you go backcountry hiking/camping, you can not dispose your tampons in the wild. You have to carry it out in a plastic bag. But you can dig a hole, empty your cup and cover it up. It’s allowed.

You no longer send these products to the landfills every month. Tampons and pads have chemicals that may be harmless to us, but might be harmful to other organisms once they reach the soil. They take a while to decompose. Cotton used in pads/tampons has a carbon footprint, an appetite for pesticides and depletes the soil. Silicone used for the cup is not exactly a green product but ranks way better.

White Noise : January Edition

Posted on February 1, 2018

Fashion film of the month : Lacoste, Timeless. ( Max Richer did the music.)

Have you checked out the Covetan house yet ? 

The Endless Quest, on Put This On.

No Onion, you are wrong. I do spend time outdoors. Don’t you mock the trench coat ! Two possibilities : Onion is right ( it usually is ) and I am a fashion victim. Or I am an outlier. ( Its good for my ego to think the latter. )

Homo sapien fossils found in Morocco and Israel. This could help us understand our origins and migration patterns better.

 Ignore people’s advice, avoid tradition for tradition’s sake, and stop following recipes. A bountiful home garden helps, too.

– Erez Komarovsky, How to live life, Saveur Magazine.

This closet tour.

This last letter.

This blue fabric. 

This pinstripe wool short coat by Isabel Marant.

This graveyard for clothing.

Interview with Brandon Truaxe, founder of The Ordinary Skincare Brand :

Why did you get into the beauty business ?

….. I was horrified that in the lab, it was all about the scent, consistency, touch, sensorial experience, its not about the evidence ….. eventually, the role of the chemist reduces to meeting the requirements of the marketing team instead of inventing the next big thing …

( another reason we need better reviews of products. )

Cristóbal Balenciaga’s black.

(new) Blog discovery : Wear About, an Indian Street Style Blog. ( When living in India, I took a lot of styles of dressing for granted. I called them mundane/common place. This street style blog presents Indian fashion to me with a fresh pair of eyes. It makes me nostalgic. It makes me miss traveling in India. It makes me miss the textiles that I once had access to. I am amazed at the diversity from each state. I am amazed by the way the West meets the East in some of the northern states. That is something I have been meaning to achieve. To make both the cultures represent and meet in my closet. There is plenty of inspiration for me. The blog has interviews with my kind of designers. I am counting on this blog to be a window into letting me explore Indian fashion and style. )

2⁷⁷²³²⁹¹⁷-1


Please excuse me while I take a break from talking about myself, clothes and style. I over did it in 2017 and am turned off by it all. I want to write about other matters that are dear to me. Zero waste. Food. Travel. Or nothing at all. If you don’t want to see these other essays, do check back in Spring.

Zero Waste Kitchen

Posted on January 26, 2018

Appetti-food-waste-Infographic-hosted-on-MyZeroWaste

What is zero waste ?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

Zero waste Vs Low waste :

I don’t presume that I am solving the global food waste problem in my kitchen. But I want to educate myself on why its happening and subscribe to some of the solutions suggested. Not sending organic matter to the landfill is an ambitious under taking. Avoiding anything that comes in plastic takes effort. Switching to locally grown food for the sake of reducing ones carbon emissions takes sacrifices. How ever impossible zero waste may seem, we can try to reduce the VOLUME of trash you make. We can cherry pick what we absolutely need in our home that comes wrapped in plastic. We can make do without some products. We can change our eating habits. We can simplify how we eat. Like always, my take : Make a lot. Buy some. Forego some. 

Zero Waste grocery shopping tote

1. Easiest things first : Grocery shopping kit

A few sacs and a tote. Easiest switch to make. Plain cloth, old shoe bags, worn out pillow cases, knotted t-shirts, …. do the job. If none of those options are viable, this cloth bag kit is nice to have on hand. I think I would look cute carrying this wicker basket to the farmers market but the totes I have on hand are good enough.

IMG_4615

2. Less meat

In terms of environmental impact, if I were to make a guess : eating a plant based diet makes the most impact. This has nothing to do with our spending capacity and the ability to afford bulk food stores. Meat is expensive when compared to vegetables/lentils/beans. Less meat is something we can all attempt.

I tried cutting it out completely but couldn’t. I was vegan for 2 years and was miserable by the end of it. I cook meat once a week. I gave up eating lamb, goat and beef. We cook pork when we go camping. At home, it’s usually chicken biryani or chicken curry. There is a fish recipe of mine that has reached legendary status among friends and family. I only make it when I have guests.

This is as less as I can go for now. With time, I think I can phase it out completely. If lab grown meat appears soon enough, I will keep my once a week habit. The truth of the matter is : vegans hold the ethical and moral high ground. There is nothing I can say to justify my eating meat.

A confession : I wish every one else cuts down their meat consumption so that I may continue to eat it once a week. With the current rate at which the humans consume meat, my eating once a week is also too much. I know that.

3. Buy groceries in small amounts. Practice portion control. 

I rather have us run out of groceries before the end of the week than buy the excess that rots. Our pantry comes to the rescue and sustains us till our Saturday farmers market run.

I am old enough to know the portion sizing that works for me. Eat less is a controversial thing to say. There is a thin line between energy and lethargy. I try to stay under that line.

Our grocery list usually looks like this :

2 greens, cilantro, ginger, garlic, turmeric, 2 root vegetables, 2 non-leafy vegetables.

We get fresh fruit in summer. In the winter, we rely on frozen blueberries bought in large 4 lb bags.

4. Have a few cheat meals down

I have 4 one pot recipes that I can whip up in < 20 minutes with minimal effort. They are not the most nutritious but they are not unhealthy either. Prevents me from stocking up on packaged/junk food for ‘just in case’/’too tired to cook’/’too famished to wait’ scenarios.

5. Simplify food. 

I simplified my closet and developed a signature style. Blue dresses. Navy blue shirts with black pants. Every day all year long. I did the same to food.

I like food but I don’t want to prioritize it above other things in life that I want to do. We have a meal plan.

My formulae for supper : one lentil stew + one vegetable curry with rice.

My formulae for breakfast : Green smoothie bowl.

My choices for snack : Nuts. A cup of dark chocolate. Tea with barley. A small portion of supper. 

The routine is optimized for time, cost and nutrition. Its hard to do zero waste if you are struggling to feed yourself. Learning how to cook is a life skill.

I started cooking in my early 20s and struggled a lot during the initial years. I was latching on to a few recipes and ingredients to keep my head above the water. I then devised a plan to learn it the academic way. Started with taking a knife skills lesson. Then read a few ‘science behind cooking‘ books. Would pick one recipe and cook it 30 times with slight variations like one does a chemistry experiment. The interaction between salt-fat-acid-heat with the vegetable should be understood. At the end of it, one graduates from following a recipe to understanding the technique. Cooking becomes effortless. I now get what ever is in season/cheap/local from the farmers market and cook it intuitively. Cooking is just like science and engineering. Learn the underlaying theorems first and apply them to various applications.

We go out to eat when we socialize. Its alright. To me, one of the best things about America is the diversity. I want to try out lots of cuisines and kinds of dishes. They inspire me to experiment at home. They give me a taste of lands far away while saying put in one place. They help me expand my spice directory and fill up my pantry.

Zero Waste compost

6. Compost

This took out the majority of the volume of my trash at home. Returns the nutrients to the soil to sustain agriculture. Win, win.

To start a compost is an easy thing. All you need is a bin and some twigs/dried leaves. But to keep it going and to have it decompose aerobically is 8th grade science that anyone can learn.

I really recommend finding a place to drop off your food scraps if you are lucky enough to live in an agricultural state / community. If you know a farmer, ask him if he wants it. For a little while, I was freezing mine in a plastic bag, taking it to Whole Foods and dropping it in their compost bin. I now have my own bin in my backyard.

Not every food scrap belongs in the compost. The professional composting facilities measure the ph, temperature and moisture levels to modify their additions to the bin. They have the supplemental ingredients on hand to balance out carbon to nitrogen ratio. Since I can’t do that, I direct some scraps to the landfill and its fine.

[ The government should help us out with this one. I cant do it on my own. I don’t know what to do with my compost when its ready. Do I go around asking the sellers in my farmers market if they want it ? Is it legal to dig a hole in some remote area and bury it ? Should I list it on Craig’s list ? I don’t know ! It feels all wrong to waste these nutrients when the farmers complain about the decline in the quality of the top soil. I would pick throwing my finished compost on a remote lot of land, to sending it to a landfill to anaerobically decompose. Letting the rich soil go to waste feels very wrong. ]

Zero Waste dish cleaning scrubs

7. Cleaning 

Bar soap : currently using an olive oil soap. Its wonderful. My hands feel nourished after I am done cleaning. A true Luxury ! Works as a hand soap by the kitchen sink.

Coconut scrub : Is gentle on the seasoned cast iron. Gets the job done. Has enough traction to scrub the grits. Compostable at the end of its life. Comes not packaged in plastic.

Copper scrub : gets the rust out if I ever need to. Scrubs the hard to clean pots. Lasts years.

Zero Waste dish rags

8. Cleaning rags

I come from India where majority of humans use rags for cleaning and kitchen towels. This is not a downgrade for me. It’s only natural that I have navy blue rags because most of my clothes are in this color.

Zero Waste chefs knife

9. The ONE knife

Most home cooks don’t need a knife block with 10 different knives. I have one chef’s knife, one pairing and one serrated one. I get them sharpened once a year at my farmer’s market for 5$ each. Knife skills can be learnt. I dislike buying specialized premium items to be used like layman. So, took a few lessons with a chef. Chopping is no longer a chore but a skill to be polished every time we cook. Its meditative. Its fun. I can keep the plastic appliances that exist to chop, out of my house.

Zero Waste wooden cutting boards

10. Cutting boards

I can’t imagine using my precious knives on a plastic cutting board. It dulls them faster. ( Marble and glass cutting boards are terrible for the knives. ) I got my plank of wood from a lumber yard in Tucson 6 years ago for 30$. The cheese boards are thrifted. I season my boards with mineral oil, bee’s wax, olive oil – what ever I have on hand.

Zero Waste cast iron skillet

11. Cast iron cookware

No to sending non stick cookware to the landfills at the end of their life. Cast iron lasts a lifetime and is cheap. You can find them in second hand shops and flea markets. Rust is easy to remove if it does happen. Seasoning a skillet/dutch oven is easy. These days, you can find enameled cast iron for those terrified of rust or seasoning technique. They are heavy but it builds arm strength. I believe that I can do more push ups because of the pots I own. Its a win win.

( Using wooden ladles keeps the seasoning intact.  )

Zero Waste glass steel containers

12. Glass/steel containers

To pack lunch. To store in the fridge. To pack food when traveling.

13. Single use plastic vs plastic that lasts a decade

One time use plastic is definitely the devil. I try to avoid them like I am allergic to it.

I own a plastic broom. My blender has plastic parts.

I don’t plan to throw out the plastic I already own to replace it with glass/bamboo till it wears out on me. I don’t need to do the zero waste aesthetic. I need to not waste stuff.

I live with a partner who doesn’t care about any of this. I have tried my best to keep plastic appliances at the bay. An instapot did sneak in. I moved in with my husband last year. I came with an army of cast iron vessels and he moved in with his one pot. It’s a slow cooker, pressure cooker and rice cooker with a timer – which was a boon in our tiny kitchen. If there should be that one appliance, let it be an instapot and/or a high speed blender.

Zero Waste travel tote

14. On the go kit

Tote bag. Thermos that holds water/tea/coffee but can also carry snack/leftovers if needed.  I have this tote by our front door / in the car / under the desk.

When eating out, order less. I bring my leftovers back home in my thermos and its fine. I make it a point to tell them to not give me a plastic straw, but it usually arrives if I ask for water. If they are serving food in a styrofoam plate in the restaurant, I leave and find another place to eat. Some more awareness in the media might fix this problem.

I carry a handkerchief in my purse at all times. It helps with resisting using paper towels.

15. Farmers market

When I lived in Arizona, the farmers markets were more expensive than whole foods and had much less variety. We were in severe drought and it’s a desert – I understand. California is an agricultural state and we have access to fresh food without spending a fortune. It’s local and might help with cutting down packaging waste / food waste associated with the supply chains of grocery chains. Produce wrapped in individual plastic wrapping is my pet peeve. This is my way of avoiding it.

There is a Wednesday flea market in San Jose where the farmers bring overly ripe fruit that would be thrown out soon if not sold. I get some to use for my smoothies. I meet folks who like baking and canning in these places. At the end of summer, you can find 20lb of tomatoes for pennies. I celebrate a tomato week in our kitchen when we can get hold of some. California has been helping.

[ If there are no farmers markets in my city, I would go back to a conventional grocery store. I would work on lessening the volume of plastic I bring in and recycle it properly. ]

bulkFoodsZeroWaste

16. Bulk Bin shopping

We get a few things like oil from Costco in large sizes. We get granola, salt, spices, dried coconut … from the bulk bins in Sprouts. There are a few things that make me pay a visit to Whole Foods. I dread that visit. It’s like walking around with a hole in your wallet. There is the Rainbow grocery in San Francisco where you can find everything in bulk. I dislike how zero waste becomes a matter of being able to shop at these places. ( I know deep down that I can make a budget for it if I stop buying clothes. I am trying. The irony is : I gave up eating out to afford sweatshop free clothes. If I buy lot less clothes, I can go zero waste to the dot. Living the simplest frugal life is the only way I can be eco-friendly. )

Even without the bulk bins, a lot can be done to reduce the volume of waste being produced. We get a few things like oil/ACV/Alcohol in glass containers. Its a work in progress.

Zero Waste bulk smoothie bowl

17. Make some. Forego some. Buy some.

These, I couldn’t phase out. That cat, I cant keep away from my flat lays. They are my chosen ones.

This amazing green powder that has 30 amazing ingredients that I would never find in bulk and acts like a protein powder in my smoothies.

Ghee that my mother makes from the produce from my family farm. Yes, I am spoilt. I still get fed by my mom. I get it double sealed in plastic.

18. Not chasing the zero.

We make a small amount of trash per month in the kitchen.

I can’t cook every damn thing. I have my total exhaustion days.

Friends and family come home. Food is a part of it.

I get some food from India double sealed in plastic.

I sometimes need a sugar high before a deadline and Oreos help.

I don’t sweat it. I am doing what I can. I wont let that stupid trash in a mason jar trophy make me feel like I lost the race.

19. Zero Waste by another name

Two of my neighbors are elderly retired couples. They live frugally. They don’t go out to restaurants or order stuff online that show up home in packages. They visit the grocery store and home cook all their meals. They eat simple suppers. There is nothing coming into the house for it to go out. They have been wearing the same outfits for ages. They don’t even put their trash cans by the curb every week because they don’t fill it. When they do fill it, its the size of mine after all these switches. No incoming == no outgoing.

20. Miles to go before I sleep

If we eat less Indian food, I would cut down a lot more of the dependancies. Once my mother’s cookbook is done, I will phase it out. I want to eat what ever is local. I want to eat like a global citizen.

Be less dependent on mom for ghee and other pickled food. I want to stop bringing food from India.

Find some snacks to have on hand, for when people visit. Giving them bananas/apples hasn’t exactly been winning me any favors with the kids nor the adults. Recently, a friend showed up at home with his own groceries claiming that I don’t serve snacks that he likes to eat. Ouch ! Very ouch ! It’s only adding to them mocking the zero waste movement and writing it off as a huge sacrifice.

My husband has an Indian belly that needs yoghurt everyday. I have to convince him to make his own. I cant help out because it gives me a gag reflex. I cant stand most dairy products.

Find a re-usuable coffee filter instead of the paper ones.

Buy ugly produce at the farmers market. That is the kind most likely to not get sold and goes waste.

Individual level decisions are fine. I want to support the ones who are reducing waste in their supply chains. Those are the big fish.

We volunteer at Second Harvest food bank. I want to put in more hours.

Waste is generated by land, air and water. There is a larger picture here than what I have listed in this post.

21. Reasons not to do it

It can be more expensive unless you forego lots of kinds of food. Budgets are important. I don’t mean to be self righteous to a fault and to my own demise. We are programmed to buy the cheapest option. I put the cut off at 20% more than the base. I am willing to pay a little more but I have my limits.

Not everything can be found in bulk. We eat rice instead of pasta/ramen/soba/… because I can find rice in bulk. I don’t want to drive around Bay Area hunting for groceries.

If there are no bulk stores, what can one do ? You got to eat ! Donating to the cause instead is one way of supporting the movement.

Time : if we all had plenty of time, we would make everything from scratch. But we don’t. We have exhausting days and lot going on. Food is sustenance. I would pick eating packaged food over slaving in the kitchen when I don’t have the energy to.

Its harder than the conventional way.

The society is not structured into a cyclic economy. One has to swim upstream against the current tide.

Everyone tells me its not worth my time either. I get mocked incessantly.

My husband thinks individual contribution hardly makes a difference. But he is on board 90% of the time. I suspect he does it for me.

Few of my business owner friends tell me that even the bulk stores get their products in plastic bags that they empty into the dispensers. No one should pay the extra just to not bring plastic into the house when its made its way to the grocery store.

The silicon valley big shots tell me that tech will solve this problem in the future. We will one day suck the plastic out of the oceans and invent a solvent that biodegrades plastic miraculously. We needn’t waste our time with the low impact solutions now. Work on growing the economy. Wait till the better solutions arrive. ( I don’t like the beat your wife but donate a lot of money to the women’s shelter later, sort of arguments. )

AI is here and home cooking will become extinct due to automation. We have to buy it from a vending machine after a robot cooked it from a grocery store like setting. There is no escaping packaging.

I don’t have children. I don’t have a stake in the future. If I die on schedule, I may escape the consequences. Let the next generation deal with it and inherit the problems.

22. Zero waste is a nascent movement.

Its not perfect. If you slip into ‘what-about-ism’, one could find the justifications to not give it a try. As long as we make it an important constraint in our problem statement, I am sure we will figure out a good solution. I want those high impact solutions too. I want it to be convenient and easy. I want those restructured supply chains. I want regulations and legislation. Since its not happening any time soon, this is what we can do to keep the momentum going that will lead to the big changes. This is what I can do for now. This is what I have to show for year one of making an effort.

The purpose of this exercise is not to characterize ourselves, the humans, into waste creators and zero-wasters. The journey is the destination. The best advice I was given was ‘find a way to make zero waste work for you.’ Make one switch per month and you eventually get there. Four years ago, I never once considered plastic pollution when making my everyday decisions. Today, its made its way into my blog. It’s a result of the awareness of the problem. Nobody will come and solve our problems. We are the ones we have been waiting for. Its made me very optimistic for all the good solutions to come.


Zero waste is exciting. You do one thing and it sets off a chain reaction. You slowly start climbing up a check list. One by one, the list gets ticked. You want to climb up the ladder. You want to do more. Just by association, you inspire folks around you. Some mock you. Some join the club and you encourage each other. It’s a wonderful movement ! I am doing all this because I was inspired by Ariana. It went from ‘that is impossible‘ to ‘woah, it can be done‘ to ‘I can do it too‘.

I hope you guys give it a try and have a lot of success. Lets starve those landfills and eat well. Cheers !

Skincare routine : Zero-waste Edition

Posted on January 19, 2018

What is zero waste? What do you consider waste?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

A skincare routine

This is not a routine where I preach about doing nothing for the sake of the trash produced. We have to take care of ourselves. This post is not written from a view point that humans only need the food and nothing else. On the contrary, its a routine that tropically nourishes the skin while being responsible about the packaging waste being generated. It tries to avoid plastic like I am allergic to it. It’s a routine that tries to demarcate between need/want/greed for the individual in question – me.

Who ?

I have normal skin with no medical concerns. My skin is alright. Its doesn’t glow in the dark or is dewey like a ripe fruit. But it’s healthy. I have pigmentation near my mouth that I try to treat but its not a major concern. My intention with skincare ( in the order of priority ) :

  1. Good hygiene.
  2. Nourish it from the outside for good health.
  3. Keep hyper pigmentation at bay.
  4. Don’t trash the planet.

Zero-Waste Vs Low-waste 

My way of looking at the trash I generate when it comes to skin care  : Forego some, Make some, Buy some. I optimize between skin concerns, cost and trash being produced. Things I can whip up in my kitchen are not always better than the products made by experts who spend a lifetime learning the science of how the molecules react. If I believed that, I would have been in a different profession. Choose the few products wisely. These are my picks.

face Bar Soap Zero Waste

Cleanse

Bar soap.

face Scrub Zero Waste

Exfoliate

Gram flour + oats.

I exfoliate every other day because it is gentle enough.

Wash pillow cases every week. Wipe down my electronics once a week. Drink lots of white tea/water. Eat foods that aide with detoxing – a serving of raw food per day, apple cider vinegar, herbs like parsley/cilantro, … Exercise.

face toner Zero Waste

Tone

I make a pot of ginger-turmeric-white tea every night to drink after dinner. I collect the left overs and store them in a glass spray bottle. Use as a toner/wake up spray.

face sunscreen Zero Waste

AM : Protect

Sunscreen. Fantastic product. Comes in glass packaging with some plastic bits. I have a baby bottle for my purse.

face serum Zero Waste

PM : Treatment

Sk2, my dearest. ( It really irks me that I don’t know why it works. ) It treats my hyper-pigmentation. I use it every other day, in the night.  I let my skin be bare on rest of the days. It is packaged in a glass bottle with some plastic bits.

( Its terribly expensive and I wish I didn’t need it. I buy one bottle per year during 20% off Thanksgiving sales every year and I try to get it to last. )

face mask Zero Waste

Mask

Turmeric + honey

Twice a week.

Zero Waste facial

At home facial

With self care, I have realized  a few things over the years.

Its not about treating myself to expensive stuff that my brain says I cant indulge in.

I see it as an opportunity to put in the time to pamper myself.

I do this once a month.

Wash the face with a gentle soap.

Apply a gram flour mask. 15 minutes. Scrub and rinse it off with water. Wipe with a towel.

Put some tea in boiling water over the stove. Use a towel to make a tent above the head and steam the face at a safe distance. Wipe with a towel.

Turn on Lisa Eldridge’s facial massage video. Use May Lindstrom’s face oil and do what she does.  Wash with water. Wipe with a towel.

Turmeric honey mask. 10 minutes. Wash with water.

Tone. Moisturize.

Vola, facial done ! I want to do this every week, but life has other plans …

Zero Waste body routine

Body :

Body brush. Best return for 5$ spent at Body Shop a few years ago. I can see the dead skin cells fly off the body when I brush. It feels invigorating after I am done.

Soap

I dislike clutter in my shower. I have one soap bar and one shampoo bar in there.

Moisturizer

I use the almond oil from Loccitane. After a long hike or an intense workout, I give myself a mini massage with coconut oil from my kitchen, before I jump into the shower. Helps with the recovery of sore muscles. If my skin feels very dry, I apply olive oil. It can stain the clothes. Wipe off the excess with a towel.

Zero Waste body scrub

Scrub

Once a week. Collect the used coffee grains from morning coffee making, gram four & green tea, … Mix and scrub. In the winter, add some oil to the scrub.

Shave

I have been using an electric epilator for a decade now. I use it once a month. It gives me ingrown hair if I don’t exfoliate and moisturize properly. I use the scrub, a day before and the day after the shave. If I do, it rewards me with smooth legs and a zero waste shaving routine. I have a safety razor for the under arms. I use olive oil from my kitchen as my shaving cream.

Summary :

Buy Some – sk-II , sunscreen, oil, bar soap

Make some – toner, scrub, exfoliator, mask, shaving cream

Forego some – I used to buy a lot of products packaged in plastic bottles. Now, I can’t even remember what and why. Between my buy and make categories, I think I have all my needs covered. There is never a day where I wish for more products. So I assume : I didn’t forego anything. This is as luxurious and wonderful as it can get for me.

P.S : When we have house guests, they have to adjust to what I got in the house. My husband complains a little. I write it off as ‘its not the end of the world. A lil discomfort is good from time to time.’ Like how we get used to conveniences, we get used to inconveniences pretty quickly too.


A year at this routine and its been good so far. I am rather encouraged by this movement. There are many products out  there & there is a high chance of finding something that isn’t packaged in plastic. Beyond the packaging, there are easy DIY recipes out there. We can find a balance between buy / make / forego. I hope you give it a try too and have lots of success phasing out some plastic from your routine.

A Zero Waste Closet

Posted on January 13, 2018

 

Photo Credit : 45R

For those on the outside, zero waste can seem like a pretty daunting idea. It’s easy to get scared by the intensity of an idea like ‘zero’, or feel overwhelmed by the amount we’d love to change. I think some of this comes from human tendency to think dualistically; reducing concepts to black and white thinking leaves us seeing zero waste as the all encompassing challenge of removing each and every piece of plastic from our lives, only able to touch things if we know they biodegrade, and feeling intense guilt if we ever make a mistake. If this is the image people get when they think of zero waste, of course it’s a hard sell.

But for those of us on the inside, we know that this isn’t the case. If I could have my own way I’d love to rebrand zero waste as ‘low waste’, as this is a much easier idea to get people on board with and a more realistic reflection of what the lifestyle looks like (after all, it is essentially impossible to produce no waste across our lifetime). I don’t quite wield the ability to rename an entire lifestyle movement however, so instead I love to use this platform to share the stories of organisations and ideas the truly embody the ideals of zero waste as I like to think of them.

I believe a real, achievable type of zero waste is one that embraces a more holistic way of living. Whilst on a practical level it can look like replacing items and eliminating plastic, especially at the beginning of the journey, it’s also about extending the lives of the things we use, and finding ways to utilize every aspect of the resources and materials that are offered to us.

There’s a Japanese word, mottainai, which I think sums up the fully realized idea of a low waste lifestyle. It’s a term used to express regret or distaste for wasted resources, but at the same time it encompasses a deference for nature and a gratitude for what it supplies us with. You’ll often hear the sustainable community talking about the R’s (refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot) when it comes to eliminating waste, but mottainai adds a sixth element, that of respect. The aversion to waste and tendency to recycle has a long history in Japan (the upcycling of kimonos has been around for centuries), whilst the regard for nature is rooted in shinto beliefs that all objects have a soul and should be respected. But even without this belief in animism, I think we can all benefit from taking on this spirit of reverence. By cultivating gratitude and acknowledging where our items come from we are more connected to the stories of our possessions, and we are often more willing to work to protect our resources.

– Francesca Willow

I was wondering about how the mindset of zero waste extends into closet building. ( Is it only about buying second hand garments in natural fibers ? Or can this mind set be extended to the ENTIRE life cycle of the garment ? How they are made ? How they are worn and cared for ? Are they really worn out ? How they are up-cycled or down-cycled ? How did they rot ? Designing this entire cycle is a fantastic problem to take on. I am glad that mankind is paying attention to it. ) Her words struck a chord.

 I have a wardrobe filled with mainly secondhand or sustainable, ethically made items, all of which have either already proven themselves to be durable, or are deliberately designed to be. And because I haven’t grown since I was maybe 14, some of these items stretch back a decade or more. In fact, I just rifled through my wardrobe and can specifically name my oldest items. In reverse order: a vintage jacket from Ebay that I’ve owned for 12 years, a vintage faux fur coat handed down from my grandma that she got in the 1950s and a 100 year old winter coat/kimono that I got in Nara, Japan.

And you know what, I’m actually really good at wearing everything in my wardrobe. I make a deliberate effort to rotate through my clothes because it’s a better way to care for them, and for every minimalist simple piece I’ve got a fun little pattern or print somewhere, so I’ve got something for every season and mood. Because most of my pieces were discovered, and because I have a ridiculous memory, I can also put a story and place to everything. Want to see the blouse I got in Paris at a vide de grenier 5 years ago? How about the four pairs of secondhand Nike shoes I’ve acquired since 2013 (I’ve never bought directly from them) from thrift stores in Seattle, Chicago, Brooklyn and Stoke Newington respectively. The shirt I got from a Methodist charity shop and wore the first time I went to winter wonderland, the vintage jacket I found the first time I went to Kyoto, the mom jeans I bought in Houston when Air France lost my suitcase. I could literally go on for every single thing I own. I look at my wardrobe and I see a wealth of stories, my life lived out in the clothes I’ve worn and where I’ve found them. And I think, this is really what fashion should be.

My wardrobe has been compiled and curated over multiple years, thanks to a totally coincidental combination of factors, so for me to now have a capsule wardrobe just doesn’t make sense. In order to do that I would have to get rid of a lot of stuff, just to fit into a lifestyle concept. It seems silly to create waste in order to live a lifestyle that might seem more outwardly sustainable, but in reality wouldn’t be. And at the end of the day, why would I want to get rid of all the stories and memories I see every time I open the doors to my wardrobe, just to fit into what sustainable fashion ‘should’ look like?

Instead, I do my best to not purchase much, only getting something when it is really necessary or really, really loved. When I do buy things I make sure they can go with things I already have, so as not to create a need for more consumption, and I just enjoy my clothes. Instead of thinking capsule wardrobe, I think durable wardrobe. I consider longevity, with the full confidence that everything that I currently wear, I will also happily wear in ten years time.

And that, for me, is a type of conscious consumption that fits my context. I never want to create more problems in order to fit the aesthetic of ethical, eco-friendly living. Instead of trying to fit myself into a mould created by someone else, I find a way of living sustainably that actually makes sense.

– Francesca Willow.

( The word respect is not often used when referencing clothes. We don’t discard our past in a second and go searching for the next best thing. Perhaps Lemaire had that in mind when he said ‘treat clothes as friends’.  )

Do check out Francesca’s blog : Ethical Unicorn.

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OOTD : *Celine double wool coat. *Wool turtleneck. R13 raw denim. N.D.C taupe boots. *APC dusty pink bag. *Canon 5D Mark-ii camera (the best accessory I could ever carry).

 

OOTDs : Everlane Cashmere Sweater.  *Wool Funnel Coat by Stella McCartney. (in black) R13 raw denim. Clarks dusty pink flats.

* indicates second-hand

Possible Axioms of a Zero Waste Closet :

  1. Stop with this whole aggressive counting of garments. Get out of the buy and cull cycle.
  2. Want a minimalist closet ? One doesnt become a minimalist by constantly throwing their stuff out but by keeping the stuff out. Stop shopping. Too much emphasis is put on decluttering side of the story in the current culture. Remember that clothes wear out. Even the well made ones. Throwing some stuff away to repurchase again after a year or two is wasteful. Think of a long term strategy. Shop your own closet. Store some clothes for the time being and bring them back when something wears out.
  3. One can have a zero waste closet without maxing out on minimalism. As long as you don’t waste things, it doesn’t matter if you have 20 more garments than the most popular minimalist on the internet. In fact, I will argue for owning enough garments to let each garment rest between wears. Clothes/shoes do last longer if they are not worn back to back.
  4. Wear the clothes till they fall apart. Mend them. Wear them some more. Don’t get rid of them at the earliest stain or scuff. Wearing the garment 30 more times has a significant impact in reducing the emissions its responsible for.
  5. Clothes made by fast fashion companies ? Someone probably suffered to get that garment into my closet. Show them extra love. Don’t reserve the love just for the designer pieces and the upgrades that one can make. Once a purchase has been made, I am responsible for it. I need to respect it.
  6. I put on some weight in the last year. Two of my shift dresses pull at the hip. My black leather jacket just about fits me. I can no longer zip it up. This may be the last year I can wear them before I spill out. Wear them as many times as possible before they have to be retired. I call this the mom-frugality axiom. When I was a child, my mom would stack up my clothes in the order in which I will outgrow them. The shortest and tightest garments were on top. She wanted us to get the maximum use out of the clothing before she passed them on to a younger cousin.
  7. Buy second hand. Buy natural fabrics in durable weaves. Buy recycled polyester if its needed ( I own a camping tent ). Buy traceable down feather goods for winter needs ( I own a sleeping bag for backcountry camping ). Reduce usage of leather products.
  8. Support the designers who take steps towards reducing their environmental footprint. Stella McCartney for example, releases a environment tax report every year. She talks about the switches she made in introducing solar energy in her factories, how much of recycled fiber was introduced into the fabrics that made the garments, conservative usage of cashmere, using alternatives to leather, technological advances in weaves, pattern cutting with least wastage, carbon footprint of transporting her raw materials, etc. And every year, she beats the goals achieved during the last year. Every step of the cycle is being optimized constantly. Engineering and mathematics when applied to fashion == makes me very very happy ! Amour Vent, Christy Dawn, Everlane, People Tree, Elizebeth Suzanne, Eileen Fisher, … have been trying hard to move the needle. Support the designers who design for durability. Support the designers who chase quality and improve their own garments by the year.
  9. When buying a garment, think of the entire life cycle. Will I love it after the year ends ? Will anyone want it if I tire of it after 3 years ? How do I plan to recycle it ? Do not buy if there is no chance of a long life in your closet.
  10. Buy simpler garments that are versatile, are easy to pair and wont get tiring on the eye. They are easier to recycle too, fabric wise.
  11. Do not buy things that are not worth repairing. Do not buy things that need upkeep that you are not ready to put in. Develop a mindset that repairs the things acquired cheaply too. 30 more wears, remember ?
  12. Improve the utility factor of the clothes you already own. I derive some happiness in wearing my favorite things all the time. Some of my garments go untouched for long periods of time. I want to use a circular queue sort of data structure to pick out the garments in the morning. I have the size of my closet under control. I want to increase the efficiency of wear. They say, if you haven’t worn something in a year, get rid of it. I would ask : why havent you worn it in the last year ? Find a way to wear the clothes instead of disposing them.
  13. Take care of the garments properly. Sweaters should be folded and stacked. Clothes should be washed as little as possible. I spot cleaning my silk garments for the most part. I make sure I do laundry every week and don’t let the body oils/sweat sit on the fabric rotting them faster. I hang my clothes inside out on a wooden hanger at the end of the day for it to air dry before next wear. I use a gentle detergent. We line dry our clothes. In the winter, I find a place to let the garments dry inside our small 400 sft apartment. In the summer, they dry outdoors. Store out of season garments properly.
  14. Learn some mending skills. I see rips and seams coming apart in my older garments. A stitch in time, saves nine.
  15. Clothes look their best just before they are worn out. Stylish people look their best when they wear their most beloved worn-in items. New clothes seldom look effortless.
  16. Explore the boundaries of what we call ‘old’. And stop treating the old as ready to be disposed.
  17. Push the boundaries of what we call ‘worn out’. Wear the clothes till the fabric becomes thread bare.
  18. Do not equate love of fashion with love of shopping. Fashion can be like a drug. Newer, faster, cheaper ! New purchases often give a high. Practice appreciation of the existing garments instead of constantly chasing the next thing. Pick materialism over consumerism. Experiment and do the additions responsibly.
  19. Know when to declutter. I have a 7 year old saree that I have worn 10 times so far. I can hold on to and might wear it once more 2 years from now. It’s not about how long one can hold a garment in the closet. It’s about how much wear it will get in the years it stays there. Every time I bring a new garment in, the likelihood of older garments getting worn goes down. Will it be useful to someone else right now and get worn a lot more ? Is there someone who needs it and is looking for it ? My letting it go might help that person find it on the second hand market. Do not hoard the clothes that hardly get worn.
  20. The pipeline should be optimized for the community, not just the one human – me. There are x resources and n humans. As n grows, x becomes more scarce. Stop thinking of just myself when it comes to saving for the future. The more I hoard, the less all of us have. Its a waste to buy or own things that get worn once a year but have to stay in my closet all year round. When we talk of waste, its usually form a view point of one human – me. Its also a waste to have things that don’t get used.  Its wasting humanities resources.
  21. Stop accepting free products that you don’t like or need. Yes, most of us have these bourgeoisie values that we cant shake off. We feel the guilt of waste. We try to find ways to use things we don’t need. Its all valid. But with time, we can learn to be content with what we don’t need. I rather wear a worn out garment that I love than a new freebee that I was guilted into accepting.
  22. Never send the clothes to the landfill. Try to sell them. Or look for the right place to donate them. Or drop them off at a textile recycling facility if you can find one. From my understanding, they do not belong in the compost bin either since the fibers have undergone a lot of processing. Declutter responsibly. There is no getting rid of it even if it leaves our home. It’s our problem once we summoned it into existence.
  23. Make an effort to encourage lending and borrowing of garments in the community you reside in. A few of us have these clothes that we can only wear to weddings or the holiday parties. A few of us have friends who own a lot of clothes and friends who own very few clothes. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to share ? If we can find our sartorial tribe and rotate our garments, I suspect we would have more choice and hoard less.
  24. Train the mind to want less. Downsizing or decluttering doesn’t automatically make one shop less. That is all in the head.

( to be updated as I discover more … There is no one size fits all zero waste method. I am trying find a way to make it work for me. All these years, I concentrated on optimizing my closet to my whims. If felt good when I unloaded my discards onto the thrift stores. I felt good when my closet looked sparse. I felt good as I made upgrades. I let go duplicates that I repurchased again after the originals wore out. It was all centered around my short sighted impulses. It was all centered around a very selfish self. Going into the future, I want to optimize it for less waste on a long term basis. These are my closet resolutions for 2018 and beyond. )

100 Notes on Style & Blogging

Posted on January 5, 2018

Blogging Lessons on To Universe With Love

1. Own your style. That is the best advice I can give myself at this point. This is not an area to second guess / look for constructive criticism / imitate the average person in the room. Its personal. Even if that means that I stray a little from my tribe, I got to do what makes me happy. I know what I like and I have embrace it.

2. The right answer to ‘why are you all dressed up? ‘ is “I felt like it today morning”. Smile after you say those words so that you don’t sound cocky.

3. About fitting in : As long as I am not wearing new outfits all the time and don’t look unapproachable, I fit in. I got it all wrong. Bay Area loves the hoodies and the sneakers. I automatically assumed that I have to wear that dress code to fit in. But they don’t care !! They don’t think about clothes or style or fashion for the most part. The CEO’s walk around in tshirts. There are enough hipsters who talk sustainability and ethical fashion. We are the rule breakers. If you wear the shit out of your old clothes and keep it under stated, you fit in.

4. When it comes to style, we talk too much about the clothes one can buy. But not enough about confidence and attitude to wear them well. I wasn’t born with it. I didn’t grow un in an environment where I could have picked it up. I have been trying to earn it and learn it since.

5. Stop thinking in terms of outfits to create. This happened to me after I did my first few OOTD posts. I am not a model wearing the clothes and posing to make a sale. Making unique outfits/buying garments for a specific look, is not for me. A lot of minimalist bloggers concentrate on ‘look at how many pairings I make with these 33 garments without getting bored’ sort of content. My contribution to the cause will be : I will wear the same clothes in the exact same manner everyday and wont apologize for it. I like this uniform THAT much !

6. Blogging made me ask if I was pretty enough to post an OOTD on the internet. Should I pretend that I don’t have a head and cut it out of all my posts – show just the clothes ? The answer : style has nothing to do with being pretty. Its not only about the clothes either. Its a point of view. We are all entitled to one. We should celebrate out choices. Don’t hide that head which carries the brain. If you are wondering if you should start a blog, DO IT !

7. My style journey didn’t end this year after I declared my closet built. There came a time this summer where I went into my closet and disliked all my clothes. It was a phase. A style rut. A new silhouette in the form of Everlane pants made me content again. I understand that its a part of life to want some change from time to time. As long as its once/twice a year, I am still honoring the pact I made with myself to put sustainability above my greed. I understand that its going to take time to edit my consumption habits. 30 years of bourgeois values aren’t going to un-do themselves in a year or two. I can how ever, try.