Posts from the “Simplify” Category

Tiny Home : The good, the bad, the ugly

Posted on October 27, 2018

“This is not simplicity. This is selfishness. What about your guests?” – mum. Tiny home is a wonderful concept. Urban density reduces emissions from daily commute. It’s a way to take less from earth to build a home. (Cement, steel & wood have big carbon footprints.)  It’s a way to reduce needs. I tell them that I am “trying out sustainable living” but hear the usual “all this doesn’t matter”. I for one, usually smile, nod and brush off the comments. But my partner is a more social being. When my parents & in-laws decided to visit us this summer, we moved out of the tiny house and into a 950 sft cottage with a backyard. Looking back, I really miss my old home.…

On Sustainable Fashion Bloggers

Posted on October 20, 2018

Blogger : look at all the stuff I bought ! You know how much I like striped tops. #secondhand #vintage #haul #ethicalFashion #climateChange #saveThePlanet #voteWithDollars #minimalism #sustainableFashion 

Earth : Phew ! What did you consume AGAIN this month in the name of sustainability ? Stop taking from me if you want to be friendly. #ecoFriendly #letMeRenew #stopConsuming


There are words that we, as an internet culture, render meaningless.

‘Research’ is one word that is often mis-used on blogs. If you go on the internet and search for some information, it doesn’t become your research. It’s just search. If at all you do an exhaustive reading and analysis of everything published out there on a certain topic, it’s called a literature survey. ( Still not research. ) When you are trying to add to the existing body of knowledge using hypothesis/experimentation/method studies, it’s called research.

‘Curate’ is one such word. Everyone on the internet can call themselves a curator and a reviewer while knowing nothing of the craft. Most bloggers who review shoes cant identify the types of leather. Most bloggers who review clothes cant identify one stitch from other. Most reviews are feelings and reactions to a garment.

Another such word is ‘minimalist’. You can have a shopping blog, show what you buy every week/month and call your self a minimalist fashion blogger.

‘Mindful consumption’ : a word to use when ever a garment is purchased from a non-fast fashion store. How much can one mindfully consume ? Is your 12th sweater a mindful purchase ? As opposed to grabbing stuff and mindlessly racing to the checkout ? What does this term mean ?

‘Sustainability’ is a word that is slowing going down this path. On one hand, the experts in the field have tightened the ropes on what is considered sustainable. The bar is set high. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when we (all of humanity) have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. In 2018, it fell on August 1. We are using 1.7 earths per year. Considering that information, the way the ‘S’ word is used on the internet is troubling.

“One of the toughest things to do is to figure out the important questions to ask before solving a problem. Once you figure out the question, the answer is relatively easy.”

– Elon Musk

What is sustainable fashion ?

“Sustainability requires a long-term outlook that encourages responsible consumption. Fashion, it seems, is fundamentally at odds with this goal. Perhaps apparel can be made sustainably, but fashion? Fashion is more than a product. Fashion is a mode of thought. It affects everything from design to purchasing to obsolescence, and is usually distinguished by a fast-paced and ever-replenishing chain of supply and demand. The inevitable consequence of quick and constant change is ravenous resources consumption and a vast accumulation of waste. Better production methods can slow resource use and recycling can reduce waste, but buying ( and therefore making ) fewer products will address both problems.

– Deborah J C Brosdahl, Professor of Ecology.

“The term sustainable is not one we use often, because it’s meaning seems to have been lost. From our perspective, ‘sustainability’ refers to long term objectives that are both environmentally and economical. The definition of sustainable development, as originally drafted by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, refers to “meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the needs of future generations.” As such, development policies and environmental protection are not at odds, as both aim to increase people’s overall welfare.

– Susab and Yves Gagnon, SYKA Textiles Trading Corp

What is the root cause ?

Growing population whose needs are dependent on our non renewable and limited resources.

The way goods are produced.

The way goods are consumed.

The way goods are disposed.

Solution ?

From what I read :

Systemic Changes. Innovation. Regulation. Colonizing other planets for raw materials and real estate. ….. All the ones not happening right now. What we can do :

Scale back on needs. Want less. Buy less.

The stuff you do end up buying should be sustainably made to lessen the damage done during production. Even the most sustainably made garment consumes resources and not consuming it is most sustainable option. A second hand garment that I don’t purchase gives a better chance for someone who actually needs it to find it. A garment that I don’t hoard gives it a fresh lease of life in the second hand market.

What is sustainably made ?

Meets market’s requirements.

Has positive social effects for individuals and communities

Is safe for human and ecological health

Is sourced from renewable or repeated recycled materials

Is sourced from renewable energy

Is designed for safe, productive return to nature or industry.

Is recovered and recycled at the highest quality after use.

– Cradle to Cradle design.

No brand meets them all. ( The solution isn’t about consuming fast fashion claiming that no brand is perfect. That is like saying “I can’t save 100% of my pay cheque. So, I wont save at all for the future.” ) The brands who are change makers in today’s market seem to meet at-least 4 of these requirements. ( Stella McCartney has my admiration for making strides in every aspect of this check list.)

Does individual impact make a difference ?

Only if it has strength in numbers. But I am not sure. Some movements start this way and eventually change the world. One can only hope, at this point.

If it’s a law or a regulation, our compliance matters. But I doubt we as a society will regulate our consumption in this free market capitalist economy. We cant even agree on a carbon tax to provide an incentive to consume less.

Sustainability has been left to individual citizens as a choice / a hobby / a conspiracy theory / a belief / a buzzword. There is no immediate reward for individuals who lower their carbon footprint or for buying eco friendly products or for spending the extra money on sustainably made goods. Why would anyone do it ? I don’t know the answer to that question either.

If you are a person like Elon Musk who is working on the big impact solutions, by all means, go ahead. Do not divert your energy towards these lifestyle changes. Eat your steak and work the long hours. If you are a non-Elon Musk-ish citizen of the planet, do your bid. This maybe the only contribution you will make to this cause.

So you think you are better than me huh ? 

I hear this line a lot. I call it the small town syndrome.

No, I am not in competition with who ever you are. But I shall point to some bloggers who are truly better than me towards the end of this post.

That being said … there is a bigger picture. As of today, there are 2,349,496+ hashtags on Instagram. Each image shows a tiny action taken / an intention set. It is great that more people are interested. Maybe this is a movement that can only exist in small steps. Maybe aspiring towards a no-impact zero-waste living is not a viable solution. Maybe it’s a mindset that is cultivated while being a part of this wonderful civilization and it’s advances. Maybe it’s us trying to buy time till the future problem solvers find the solutions with big impact. In what ever scope, I am happy when I see folks talk about sustainability. I get angry when someone criticizes the movement. While I don’t enjoy the criticism, I do appreciate a good critique. Any movement, how ever important, can be critiqued. I am not in a position to judge anybody’s lifestyle, let alone a sustainability lifestyle blogger. I also don’t know about the right solutions vs the wrong solutions. But I can however, talk about the sort of content I find inspiring. I ask these 5 questions when I see a blogger preaching sustainability  :

FIVE QUESTIONS ( in the order of priority) :

1. HOW MUCH DO YOU OWN ?

Coz, can you preach sustainability while owning excess ?  Can you really say “I really need this sustainably made high quality sweater” when you already have a dozen hiding in your closet ? Can you keep a large closet but ask us to own less ?

2. HOW MUCH DO YOU BUY PER YEAR ?

Coz buying excess from a second hand store is a band-aide fix to a behavior that was once exhibited at a fast fashion store. Can the planet can’t support providing 20 garments per year multiplied by 7 billion people?  Or do you justify your consumption because you write a blog ? Do you get a free pass to consume more because you supposedly care about sustainability ?

3. ARE YOU ALWAYS LOOKING TO BUY SOMETHING ?

Coz it’s all in the mind. Actions follow intentions.

4. ARE YOU BUYING AND CULLING ON REPEAT ?

Coz you are treating the symptoms while keeping the disease alive. Coz you are decluttering, not de-owning. Coz you haven’t lessened your needs, but want the optics of owning less. Coz you are only downsizing to make space for more. Coz at the end of the day, you are still consuming. Coz at the end of the day, your practices are wasteful. Crash diets don’t work.

5. WHAT DID YOU BUY ?

 

Coz how the garments are made, matters. Buying what you absolutely need second hand helps. Repairing and wearing what you own, helps. The way you take care of what you own, matters. But understand that even a Stella McCartney sweater made from recycled yarn and in solar powered factories didn’t come out of thin air. It won’t poof into thin air once you wear it out.

I put this last coz I don’t think sustainability is about being able to afford Jesse Kamm pants and Eileen Fisher tunics.  I see too many blogs fail at points 1-4 and consume excess from sustainable brands.

Look for answers to these 5 questions. Not in words, but in actions. I don’t want the narrative to shift from ‘Buy less. Buy better’ to ‘continue buying from these brands instead’. If they are not transparent about how much they own/consume, I am not interested. I am left with 3 blogs that have made the cut off. While most blogs increase awareness of the problem, these 3 increase the understanding of the problem. They are a part of the solution. In the spirit of minimalism, 3 good blogs is enough. ( Raise your hand if you complain about not having time to mend your clothes/be sustainable/be zero waste but have enough scroll time to read blogs ? ) If we are to become the average of our influences, who would you choose ? My picks :

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 9.23.07 AM

I have always equated minimalism with boring clothes and a gray life. Ariana showed me that you can live in style and embrace your wild side while fitting your entire closet into a carry on. I have never been the one who could admire one’s style if I didn’t respect the intellect of the women behind the clothes. I think she is fabulous.

( I don’t agree with her stance on carbon offsets. At times, she makes me uncomfortable with my choices but it’s good to have your views challenged isn’t it ? )

Blog.  Instagram.

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 9.11.19 AM

Conscious Creators Consume Consciously

Say that 5 times fast 😜

I’m probably at the more extreme end of this since I have a capsule wardrobe and live fairly minimally, but any creator who is promoting and actually living a more sustainable lifestyle knows the importance of mindful consumption. Having overflowing closets, drawers full of beauty products and piles of household goods, even if they’re eco friendly, still isn’t very sustainable.

There’s a balance to find as a blogger/youtuber though because people are looking for recommendations – if you’re thinking of purchasing something you want to make sure it meets your criteria and is something you’re going to like and use. The main mission of My Green Closet is to help and inspire people to live more sustainably and responsibly. One way of doing this is making it easier to shop in line with your values by sharing brands, products and better options. However I also have to to do this without going against my own values and ideas; how hypocritical would it be if I talk about consuming consciously and then every month share a new beauty line I’m using, have a totally new wardrobe each season, or post “hauls”.

This quote sums up her commitment to the cause.

Blog. Youtube. Instagram

Screen Shot 2018-10-16 at 9.27.33 AM

I don’t read many zero waste blogs because I find photos of glass jars filled with food, tote bags, linens and bamboo appliances boring to view after the 10th image of the same. But Andrea Sanders manages to teach me something new in every post of hers . Her simplicity is inspiring. Her content is calm, compassionate, peaceful and joyful.

Blog. Instagram.

And me ?

For a long time, I thought I was living a rather sustainable life because I decluttered and have been buying from the right stores. But if it’s really about the amount you consume, I don’t live a sustainable lifestyle.  When I successfully complete the French 5 challenge for a year, I will put ‘a blog about sustainable living‘ in my blog’s tag line. This leaves me with the uncomfortable question : What is my blog about ? I removed my ‘About Me’ page because I don’t know what to write in it. This post is meant to make me introspect a little before the Thanksgiving shopping frenzy takes over the country. It has already started raining coupon codes. Everyone around me is making lists on what to buy. I am being sent shopping lists by my family in India. Advice to self :

How to “mindfully” shop the sales this season ?

YOU HAVE ENOUGH.

SIT THIS ONE OUT.

White Noise : September

Posted on September 29, 2018

[ “Activist Kalpona Akter who began working in a garment factory in Bangladesh at the age of 12 and in the 30 years since has become a prominent campaigner for the rights of 4 million Bangladeshi garment workers. Her cause is relevant to anyone working in fashion — and to anyone who buys clothes.” ] F**king amazing music as a result of Epic Mountain studio collaborating with Kurzgesagt Science. ( Watch the educational videos on Youtube in the night. Exercise to the background music in the morning. ) This closet inventory.  WTF Bloggers : Influencers are now getting paid to write negative reviews on the sponsoring brand’s competitors.  WTF Social Media : Instagram making people miserable ? When engineers write blogs, they are special  …. ♡ All…

White Noise : August Edition

Posted on August 31, 2018

This Tribeca Loft won the Gold A design award.  The view of the sky room/patio filled with plants from the living room is charming. Take a closer look. Ferm Living catalogue has dropped.  A talk by Fibershed’s founder Rebecca Burgess, hands down the best comprehensive lifecycle 101 for laymen who want to understand sustainable fashion. ( Students of science will love this one. ) I am an anti-lawn evangelist. A scientist marvels at the engineering in a Comme des Garcons dress. ( For readers who understand Telugu language. )  When a member of samskari police and an artist with the urban sensibilities of modern India have a dialog. ( Samskari police is an Indian slang used to refer to folks who bully others in the…

Field Notes : House Plants

Posted on August 17, 2018

[ I am new to this. It’s too early to declare love. It’s way too early to profess knowledge. This is what I have learnt so far. ]

“It’s now trendy to have house plants. Instagram is making people jump on the bandwagon. What a cliche.”

– an acquaintance.

“I don’t see it that way at all. I rejoice in the fact that we have more common ground than differences, in the pursuit of happiness. It can be really simple. Grow some plants. It’s accessible for everyone.”

– me.

“Only the ones who have never grown a plant are capable of saying such stupid words. The ones who garden are usually eager to share the happiness.”

– I wanted to say but that would have been very rude.

There is a certain happiness in nurture. It could be with a fellow human we find companionship in. It could be a child we raise. It could be a pet we grow old with. It could be a robot we train. It could be a tree that we plant. Of all of them, houseplants are the easiest to deal with !! They add that element of living beauty to my home. They clean the air inside for me to breathe. Why did I wait this long to get started ? Maybe it was the tiny home I was living in. I was terrified of every addition becoming clutter and stealing the limited space. Or maybe I hid behind ‘no green thumb here’ excuse. It’s a total myth. Nobody is born with brown or green fingers. Everyone learns it as we go. It is said that when a student is ready, the teacher appears. In my case, I found many teachers :

White Noise : July Edition

Posted on July 28, 2018

Dress : Steven Alan, second-hand and worn in ( as seen here ). We moved out of our tiny apartment and into a cottage with a backyard. 15 days after we left, Fernando, my ex-landlord gave me Cinco.  I gave up on zero waste for the initial move in period and am slowly getting back into the routine again. I am learning about the challenges of living more sustainably in a bigger space. ( Is that oxymoronic? ) Growing vegetables, planting native shrubs, bee-friendly gardening, repairing the soil, reducing water waste, … have replaced the mind space I once reserved for fashion and clothes. I used to churn out blog posts every week after working on them for a few hours. Lately, I am…

Simple Pleasures : Home Fragrance

Posted on July 21, 2018

I want to live in a home that smells of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, the summer sun in the afternoon and of lavender in the night. If I am lucky, a whiff of foraged flowers from time to time would be a luxury. 

Formerly, this discussion of mine would have started and ended with the kind of candles one can buy. But a hike changed the experience for me. Uvas Canyon is very under rated by the adventurers for many reasons – too close to the city, park not large enough, hikes not being difficult enough, native trees not photogenic enough, … Travel can be conveniently romanticized and life changing when it’s to lands far away. But California has so much beauty in the little nooks and corners when nobody is looking. Uvas Canyon takes on a life of it’s own after it rains. The little water falls appear in otherwise dry crevices and rock moldings. The moss covered trees glow green. The tree browns glisten. It has the power to make a human instantly happy. We remember it as ‘the fragrant trail we once did during the monsoons’. Californian bay trees lined a mile of the trail. Then came the plain lands with sun streaming and wild flowers growing with careless abandon. Then came the water bodies flowing in full vigor that smelt like the forest. An array of fragrances – is this something I can design at home ? Some ideas :

Lavender in planters to use as leading lines near the doorways.

Fragrant indoor plants placed by the windows that let in sunlight.

Growing herbs indoors by the window or by fluorescent light on the kitchen counter.

Mop the floors with some lavender essential oils added to the water.

Let the kitchen countertops smell of lemon and champagne.

Light a tea candle in the diffuser with an essential oil of your choice.

Use a humidifier – the smell of H2O is soothing too.

Having a pot of floral tea on the desk to sip on.

Floral vines like jasmine, outside the windows that can be opened.

A small stash of candles for instant gratification.

Add some moss to indoor plants. The air smells different.

Wash bedding, curtains, towels in Laundress rose detergent.

Line dry the clothes outside. They smell of the summer sun and the soil.

 

Even if I succeed at growing the plants, it will not be the same experience as a candle. It will be uneven. It will be faint. It will be seasonal. I will have to constantly work at it. It will be a different kind of experience – one closer to nature. Serendipitous and fleeting. Let the experiment begin.