Posts from the “zero waste” Category

Zero Waste Kitchen

Posted on January 26, 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 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.


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. ]


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


Bar soap.

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.

Processed with VSCO with se3 preset

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. )

#lowWasteLife : Only as Chic as her Trash

Posted on October 1, 2017


My compost bin & I.

Outfits of the Week …

“I am still going strong in wearing a uniform dress everyday (it is black). After trying a couple of black dresses off the rack that couldn’t handle daily wear, I finally chose a custom made black dress in a washable French wool, lined, that can be worn frontwards or backwards with a removable sash made by a small woman owned business with a refugee seamstress in Houston (its called Kit made). The price was so reasonable and about the same as a new dress from a store like Anthropology or Banana Republic. I have worn it everyday and it is so durable and beautiful- perfectly tailored. I am making it work for the Boston fall by wear some black tights, a warm black cashmere infinity scarf (made by a refugee cooperative), and a closet staple from many years ago (I got it in the 90s in high school)- a Levi’s trucker jean jacket that has southwestern embroidery on the back. It’s just the right weight for this season and feels like a warm hug.”

 – a comment by NSH

These words stayed with me and I wore an all black(-ish) outfit all week in solidarity. I like that my closet meets all of my whims. I like that it doesn’t need me to make hard decisions but still offers me variety, frivolity and joy.

My month’s trash :

Never ever thought I would pose and post pictures of outfits for a style blog. The feeling is still surreal and it peaked this week : I now pose with my trash can and its contents. A year ago, I wanted to give zero waste a honest attempt. This is what I have to show for it. This is all the trash we made in the month of September. (It’s our best month so far.) Buy some, make some and forego some, has been my strategy. Considering whats going on in the world, I don’t forego anything at all. NONE of this is a real inconvenience in any sense of the word. The switches I have made so far, save me money. I can chase the “zero”, in zero-waste to the dot. But that would require some planning and stern budgeting. (Sorry Ariana, I will do better. I promise.)

Downcyclables :

A cardboard box that is a relic of my online shopping habit. Large vinegar container.

I do get some junk mail. We used it to start a fire last weekend when we went camping.

Landfill :

Some food scraps that should not go into my compost bin.

Stickers/plastic produce ties on vegetables from a brick and motor grocery store

Some misc un-avoidables.

Plastic downcyclables that only grocery stores take back :

Plastic bags for Indian spices that are significantly expensive to buy in bulk.

Homemade ghee that I bring from India, sealed in plastic. My mom still feeds me. Its the best feeling!

Glass Recyclables : 

The wine we drank

The jam we licked.

Am I chic yet ?

Have you heard of the zero waste movement ? Is it a cause that enlists you ?



Did you consider the waste you make when you create your ‘Buy some, make some and forego some’ list ? I used to only factor in the cost until 2 years ago. Environmentalism forced me to consider the waste. To afford bulk produce, I have to be frugal. Minimalism is a pleasant side effect of it all. It’s all intertwined ?

Do you count the little victories ? Or do you let the ‘zero’ in zero-waste make you feel like you are not doing enough ?


Outfit of the day pictures : You have seen it all. Blue dresses. A blue shirt with black pants. I have been taking the picture-a-day just because I want to look back when I turn 50 and see a style journal.  Hope you don’t mind seeing them on the blog.

Camping : a packing list

Posted on September 9, 2017



 Every packing list and shopping list should take zero waste into consideration. I look up to folks who have achieved this lifestyle with awe and admiration. They seem to be able to make sacrifices and sign up for inconveniences for no immediate return. They spend more money to be earth-friendly. Money that can be used for brunch / clothes / travel / vacation / buying a house / retirement or what ever else is our priority. They deserve the recognition and applause. Take a bow for doing what I can’t seem to achieve. It is an intimidating concept. ( A 0 or 1. Trash in a mason jar. It has a branding problem ! ) The binary connotation to it that always makes me fixate on my failures instead of what I have done right. Low waste is my goal and very achievable given my location, circumstances and resolve. Ariana talks about finding a way to make zero waste work for you – great advice and thank you for all the encouragement. 

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” – Martin Buber

Processed with VSCO with se3 preset

Camping means different things to Harsha and me. It’s his escape from the city life for a day or two… a getaway. I go because I want to live in the woods. I go for the pleasure. Campgrounds are million star hotels in disguise. The beauty of living close to nature with as little as possible has a purity that I lose constantly find myself losing in my everyday life. Perhaps I am looking for an escape too, from my own bad habits. Our backpacks are always packed and ready to go at moments notice. I see the nature that we currently have access to, attached to a ticking time bomb. The castles in Italy and the vineyards in France will stand. Not sure about the health of our forests. I am determined to explore California’s backcountry until our list is exhausted. I want to be that aunt who introduces the kids to the pleasures of sleeping under the trees and eating pancakes at sunrise. I want to be the grandma telling her grand-children about the great trees she walked under. I will tell them about the makeshift jingles that Harsha and I used to sing, to alert the bears of our presence on our trails. I will tell them about how we became children of the forest – climbing trees, jumping into swimming holes, counting banana slugs, cooking with fire, snuggling in feather beds, breathing the pure air, … Camping without trashing is a matter of planning and doing the required prep work. This is our master packing list. The longest we have done is 12 days. The longest backcountry trail we did was 15 miles in day while carrying our gear and carried it out it out the next day. We do weekend trips and day trips which require a subset of items from this list. It’s optimized for weight, budget and self-sufficiency.

Set an Intention : Zero Waste

Posted on January 13, 2017


*current view from our backyard


I am in India. Eye surgeries finally done and am in the recovery period ! Even with my swollen red eyes, I can see piles and piles of rubbish everywhere. As I write this, my neighborhood is burning its trash next to our home. The smell of burnt plastic is sickening. Its not just in my country. America hides its landfills well until you go real-estate hunting. Prices are cheaper when you get closer to one. And its the same sad story. Piles of discarded crap polluting the planet for the next generations – our inheritance to them. Its quite shameful.

Zero-Waste Stories from My Great-grand-ma

Posted on August 12, 2016

My great-grand-ma passed away this week. I am thousands of miles away from her and don’t know how to help. She was very ‘great’ to me. She was born in 1915. She lost her mother when young and was abandoned by her father. She was married at age 13. She lived through India’s struggle for Independance. She lived through some famines. She outlived a few of her children. She outlived her husband. The passion and strength with which she she lived is admirable. I wanted to share a few stories that are a window into the past. My great-grandmother is so much more to me than what is written here. I grew up with her and she was my childhood roommate. We are a ridiculously large family because she…