Sunday, April 29, 2018

Thrift shopping in Lisbon

I love the idea of buying clothing items as souvenirs whenever I visit new places. Most of the time, they have nothing to do with the place itself, but there's automatically a story behind it for me and I get to re-live a little bit of that holiday mood every time I wear these things.

I found this yellow top from a regular Humana store in Lisbon last month. All tags are cut out, so I have no idea what the material or brand name is, but I can't get over the color! I actually feel like I bought some Portugese sunshine for 5€ and brought it home with me. I will forever remember how it matched the Azulejo and channel my inner Lisboeta when I wear this pretty thing. Not that I'm much of a fashion expert, but I also feel like this color has been everywhere lately, so I don't know why anyone would want to get rid of it. Thank you, stranger! 

As for advice on thrift shopping in Lisbon, I totally recommend Humana. I didn't like the one directly in the downtown shopping area as much, but the ones further away were awesome. I couldn't find a reliable source, but saw somewhere that the Humana stores in Portugal support educational projects in third world countries or something like that, so if that's true, there's all the more reason to like!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Thoughts on Fashion Revolution Day

Today is Fashion Revolution Day. This year marks the five year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, the deadliest garment industry accident of all times. Even though I was hardly concerned about ethical fashion back then, I still remember hearing about it in the news. It doesn't feel like it happened so long ago at all. Nevertheless, most items of clothing made five years ago have most likely long found their way to a landfill by now. It's the flip side of fast fashion, the price of pushing out new collections every few weeks, wanting new clothes for every party, thinking we need new things to be happy or "cool" or just feel good about ourselves.

I'm actually not a big fan of aggressive expression of one's worldviews, but this is literally where this day originates from and I felt like I needed to explain it a bit. Actually, I figured that today would just be a good occasion to reflect on some thoughts regarding my resolution to strictly reduce my shopping for newly made things this year. I've started following a lot of ethical fashion promoters on social media and tried to make sense of what I do and what I don't agree with. I also came across this graph recently, which pretty much sums up my opinion.

The biggest section of this pyramid is using what you already have. Since I started following ethical fasion, zero waste and sustainable living platforms on social media, this is one of the first things I noticed. Sometimes people get too excited about embracing a new journey that they want to turn a clean page, throw everything out and buy all this "zero waste equipment". But it's not about buying a new water bottle, lunch boxes, reusable straws or emptying out your closet to replace everything with clothing from thrift stores and sustainable brands. Wearing that H&M top that you already have is still better than tossing it and getting a fairly made one. How about starting with selling or giving away some things instead? Especially with clothing, actually telling yourself to use what you have, can also help with the urge to buy new items. Realizing that I'm supposed to wear a purchased item until it's not wearable anymore has made me think a lot more about bringing new things into my closet. 

The next two sections, borrowing and swapping, are awesome ways of getting some change while not buying anything at all. It's mostly a sisters thing, but I do this with my Mom all the time, haha. I borrow way more from her than the other way round, but it is what it is. Recently we swapped our backpacks of different colors, for instance. :D 

THRIFTING. This is the most controversial part of ethical and sustainable fashion. Hunting in second hand stores can be as addicting as regular shopping. Most people I follow argue that thrifting items from brands that they would otherwise never buy from is okay, because none of your money goes to that company. Whereas I completely agree that shopping second hand is WAY better, I think we shouldn't lose all caution with this. Most second hand shops get clothes through donation boxes. However, the word "donation" here is such a slippery slope, in my opinion. It makes people feel good about themselves for donating, whereas in reality, a lot of the time, they are just using a convenient way to dispose of irresponsible purchases. Only a small amount of the clothes actually go to people in need and I don't know how much of a hero you are for a shirt that was sold for maybe 5€ after managing the boxes, transporting and sorting the clothes and running the store? Why isn't it called donating when you're actually willing to pay 5€ for someone's old shirt? It's the buyer that supports the charity with their money and helps the environment by not buying newly made things. 

But second hand stores are not going anywhere, not only because the fashion industry is not showing any signs of slowing down, but also because there are other occasions where clothes are simply not used anymore and need to be passed on. Therefore, above all, I admire the amount of work and dedication different organizations put into fighting clothing waste and fast fashion.

Anyway, I hope that more and more people get inspired to make a change and would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. đź’—

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Zero waste life: Quitting fast fashion in 2018?

Hey guys! I thought I'd write about a little challenge that I've decided to do this year - mostly to have it written down for myself and not forget about following it. It's not even necessarily a New Year's Resolution, but since I've unconciously followed it ever since the beginning of the year or even before, it might be nice to tie it down to something anyway. So here goes: I'm planning on being serious about quitting fast fashion this year!

There are obviousuy so many reasons why I want to do this, so to name a few

  • Fast fashion creates enormous amounts of clothing waste due to people not feeling bad about only wearing things a couple of times before throwing them out if they cost as little as they do.
  • Clothes from H&M and similar stores wear out SO fast, so even if it seems cheap, I feel like it's not worth it if you end up buying 5 pairs of cheap jeans instead of one decent pair (not figuring out what that long-lasting decent pair is, is another story...)
  • If your t-shirt travelled across the planet to you and still costs 5€, there is just no way that the person who made it got a fair salary for their work. 
  • Producing and washing new clothes all the time releases microplastics into our water. 
  • I want to reward myself with better investments that I will wear for a long time instead of buying impulse purchases.

Shifting to a sustainable lifestyle is all about baby steps. It's not realistic to quit fast fashion, meat, fossil fuel based energy, plastic and whatnot overnight, and, honestly, not actually necessary. Sometimes the more I get invested into this topic, the more helpless I feel. But it's important to keep in mind that it's about being concious and respectful, not making your life miserable by not allowing yourself anything.

The best part of this challenge is that I can make my own rules! First, I decided to allow myself to buy one new item per month. So maybe by the end of the year I can share the 12 things I decided to treat myself to. Second, I'm not putting a limit on second hand items. I've never been a successful thrift shop wolf, but I'm super motivated to treasure hunt now. That also gives my me some flexibility if I need more than one thing a month sometimes. We'll see. :)

A lot of people who do these kinds of challenges make an exception for socks and underwear. I have not yet decided on what to do in that regard... I recently remembered that there is an Estonian company that produces socks called SUVA. Their prices seem reasonable and I definitely like the idea of supporting anything that comes out of my home country. If I find any other options, I'll let you know!

The first step is obviously to make use of what I already have. Sometimes starting sustainable habits literally means doing nothing.

This picture is only kind of offtopic. This shirt is pretty much my only second hand item right now (aside from all the stuff that I've hijacked from my Mom's closet) and the carpet is what happens to old/broken/stained clothes in our family - my Grandma makes these funky colorful carpets out of them! These carpets are such a childhood thing for me, I remember having them all around the house and my Mom rotating them from the rooms to the kitchen (where they would get worn out) to the balcony. I always loved to see the new patterns that Grandma came up with and as a picky teenager I even gave in custom orders for a while, haha.

Friday, February 9, 2018

How I Became Obsessed with the Environment

A couple of days ago, one of my best friends asked how my fascination with environmentalism actually started. Now that makes it sound like it's a story going back a long way, but it actually isn't. I guess it's just a side effect of me having lived abroad on and off for about 3.5 years now that something that has been growing for a while might seem live an overnight change even to my closest friends back home. So I figured this might be a good chance to reflect on this whole venture a bit. 

What does environmentalism even mean? I actually contemplate this often - can I even call myself an environmentalist?

   - one concerned about environmental quality especially of the human environment with respect to the control of pollution (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
   - a person who is interested in or studies the environment and who tries to protect it from being damaged by human activities (Cambridge Dictionary)

For me, it's been a snowball effect where one thing led to another and eventually accumulated into a somewhat coherent set of environmentalist views and habits. Then again, on some days, I'm also completely overwhelmed by the wide range of issues whis field attempts to cover and find the term "environmentalist" pretty ungrateful in itself. How can someone devote themselves to reducing waste, fighting pollution, protecting endangered species and whatnot all at the same time? And if that's impossible, when does one do "enough" to count as an environmentalist? But this is not a scientific paper, so for the sake of simplicity I can agree to label myself an environmentalist and embrace the fact that this is a worldview that unites so many (but not enough!) people whereas being relatively open to all kinds of interpretations, at least when it comes to individual level actions. Hence a disclaimer: what I mean by talking about environment stuff on this blog, concerns mostly what I myself and potentially anyone who reads this, can do to make at least the slightest of difference. Be the change you want to see in the world, or whatever they say, right? It's actually pretty widely agreed that climate change can only be fought through large-scale collective agreement and action only. That's why I think that the effort that a single person can contribute is actually not as pointless and irrelevant as it might seem. 

What I've also realized is that environmentalism is largely a matter of perception. I mainly (at least for now) identify my environmentalism through my personal behaviour and not so much through research (which would be awesome, though) or any sort participation in organized activism. However, I'm also not living a 100% zero waste lifestyle, I'm not vegan (not even vegetarian), I still go on flights... so for some, I'm probably no different than an average person that's not concious about the environment at all. Then again, to others, I am a "total hippie" even without all that because I bike around town, never buy any to-go meals in one-time-use packaging or spam the internet with my environment stuff. 

This is the most tree-hugging picture of me I could find :D

So what did actually happen?

I'm pretty sure I can pinpoint this whole mindset change down to one event - getting a job in a coffee shop. Even though we offer discounts for people that bring their own cup (or don't make them pay extra, to be exact), I still saw the same people come in sometimes multiple times every day to buy their latte-to-go and head over to their offices around the block. And all I could think of were the dozens of the same paper cups (what a shitty term, they're only partly made out of paper and that's the problem) that must be piling up in their office corners?! 

I'm not quite sure what happened, but whatever did, like I said, could best be described by a snowball rolling down a hill. I reevaluated my own consumption habits (and almost drove my boyfriend nuts along the way). We strictly reduced our plastic consumption, started selecting package free fruit and vegetables at the store, refined our recycling and got over the thought that collecting biodegradable waste is too much of a hassle. At the same time we also completely unrelatedly became friends with a vegan couple and were inspired by them to try out more soy and other vegan products. I got more interested in reading about consumption, the way our things are produced and disposed of. The desire to browse H&M or whatever fast fashion store pretty much disappeared. I started to think of long-lasting and better-quality items of clothing that I would want to invest in instead whereas trying to figure out which brand treats their production workers in the least horrible way and would still be at least somewhat affordable for my student budget (still majorly struggling with this one, all advice welcome). I started to educate myself all around through articles, books, youtube, blogs and like-minded people and, I gotta say, it's been a truly eye-opening experience. Seeing plastic being washed up to the shores of countries that have no fault in Western countries sick consumerism... I mean, I was also born on an island with beautiful untouched beaches. And just the thought of going there one day and finding washed up straws and flip flops just makes me shiver. But that's the reality for so many people in other parts of the world and I honestly don't know how someone could NOT care, really. 

I don't want this blog to turn into a zero-waste environmentalist blog, because that's not all I am and I also have other things to share. But I do want to make an effort to incorporate my experiences on this journey into this blog and hope that it might be useful to whoever happens to read.

AND! I would love to hear back from you! Even if this is the only post that you ever read on my blog. Do you ever think about the environment and the impact of your own actions? Feel free to answer in English, Estonian or German. :) 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Reading in 2017 and 2018

Hey everyone! Remember how last summer I made a little effort to try to start writing about more every-day topics? No? Yea, well, that was kind of a fail. Every time I think of something to write about, I immediately get second thoughts and literally can not decide what I should share and what not. Anyway, like last time, reading seemed to be a safe enough topic to break some ice over here.

I actually don't think of myself as much of a bookworm, since I know so many people read so much more than I do. I also don't really want to say the usual "oh, I just don't have time to read more", because there is always time. I love reading, but then again, I love doing so many things. Anyway, I try to squeeze in some reading time here and there and always enjoy a good book talk. I always wanted to join a book club, but never actually encountered one in real life... hmm.

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions (even though I do have a couple of small goals in mind for 2018 and it's looking good so far!), so I didn't plan on reading a specific number of books in 2017. I did, however, make a concious effort to read books in all three languages I speak. That has actually been quite interesting, since I generally avoid reading translated books if I can understand the original version. In other cases, I just go for the English translation, because they tend to be the most neutral, and let's be honest, cheapest to buy. Is it just me, or do German translations always give a book a different vibe? I once attempted to read Jack Kerouac in German and just had to quit halfway through, because I just couldn't picture America if it was described to me in German?! This principle also pushes me to read at least a few books by Estonian authors as well, which I might otherwise forget. Every time I go home or have my Mom visiting, I pick a couple good ones out. Any recommendations for next time?

It might just be too late for end-of-the-year summaries, but if you want to see what I read last year, Goodreads puts together a cool little summary for you. If I had to name three favorites, I'd say (in order I read them):
1. "East of Eden" by John Steinbeck. Total classic and I loved the twisted story.
2. "Nimed Marmortahvlil" ("Names in Marble") by Albert Kivikas. I really think this is one of the best Estonian books and it gives unbelievably real human perspective to an exciting yet difficult time in Estonian history. I'm not sure if this has been translated into English, but it was also made into a movie that's also really good.
3. "Praktikaaruanne" by Daniel Vaarik just because it made me laugh in tears while waiting in line at the town administration office.

In 2018, I want to:
1. Continue with my tradition of reading books in Estonian, English and German while avoiding translations as much as possible.
2. Do more easy reading. Seriously? Yes. I tend to get really excited about reading classics and "big books" that, when they don't turn out to be so enjoyable, I just don't want to read anything anymore. Even though it's still worth the few ones I really liked, I also want to master the art of just kicking back and reading a random adventure story (I don't think I'm quite there yet for romantic novels, haha).

3. See how I do in this little challenge I found on the internet:

Saturday, January 20, 2018

California & Oregon travel vlog

Finally! Here's our little travel video from the trip last fall - one month in 15 minutes. Being busy with school and work, it took me three months to put it together, but I think it'll be fun to watch in 5, 10, 15 years time. We kind of started to forget about the filming towards the end of the trip, which is why there is so little footage of Portland, where we actually spent quite a bit of time. But all in all, I'm quite happy with how it turned out and excited to improve my skills in talking to the camera as well as editing, haha. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

US trip part three: in and around Portland, Oregon

The second half of our trip was mostly spent in Portland and it's surroundings in all directions. By that point, I apparently started forgetting about taking pictures, which is why I included some taken with my phone. To be honest, a lot of the time we were just hanging out with friends and family and not so much "sightseeing" anymore.

Portland was just awesome. The city is super liberal and has an open-minded feel to it (or as they say, hipster) and there is always something to do. We went to an arcade bar, ate donuts, saw a drag queen pageant show, shopped at Powell's, helped Matt's brother build haunted houses for the Halloween season, walked across the St. Johns Bridge at sunset (way scarier than it sounds because it's shaky and the pedestrian paths are narrow), checked out where Matt used to go to classes at PSU, ate some more donuts, hiked up Mount Tabor, went to Powell's again, had sushi for lunch every day, went cider tasting and so much more.

We also had another camping gone glamping trip in Government Camp. Instead of tents, we ended up staying in a 4-bedroom cabin with a terrace, fireplace, kitchen, living room and two bathrooms. Besides the two days of family derping in the cabin and checking out Oregons highest mountain Mount Hood up close, Matt's sister and her husband took us there from Portland via the scenic route through the Columbia river gorge. We climbed Beacon Rock and had a spontaneous wine tasting session in a small winery.

During our time in Scappoose, we took two trips to the coast. First, we drove to Astoria, which might as well be called small San Francisco. I mean, it's by the ocean, it's hilly, it has the sealions hanging out at the docks... We almost accidentally found a restaurant called Buoy that had a glass wall on the water side and a part of the floor made of glass with heat lamps under it so that the sealions were just chilling there - so cool! Besides that they had great beer and cider selections, some of it brewed by themselves. Second, we headed towards Cannon Beach and Seaside. Cannon Beach was obviously super cool because of the Haystack Rock whereas Seaside was way too touristy for my taste.