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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

US trip part two: Northern California & Southern Oregon

From San Francisco we slowly made our way up north. We had an ultimate reunion with our friend Kyle after not seeing each other for a year and a half. He came to pick us up and even agreed to take a detour on our way to Sacramento so that we could drive over the Golden Gate Bridge! Little did I know how much hotter the weather would get as we drove further away from the ocean... it got up to 40C during our time in Sacramento and Redding, which is, safe to say, the hottest weather I've experienced in my life! But if it means sipping mimosas in the pool all day, I think there are worse fates. Kyle also made it his mission to introduce me to the wonders of Costco - a massive grocery store where you can buy everything in bulk. You never know when you might suddenly need 10 jars of peanut butter... Even though I knew that everything in the US is bigger, I was still amazed every single time. Like for example there was a megachurch near Kyle's house. From the outside it looked like a mall and it had huge billboards on the highway inviting people to join?!

The hot weather, drought and sadly also people doing stupid things meant that we had to change our plans multiple times due to wildfires everywhere in the area. Our original plan was to go to the coast right away and see the Redwoods, but in the end we had to head straight over towards Oregon. First we took the Greyhound to Redding, where Jeanette and Brian picked us up for the next leg of the journey. Taking the bus in the US is apparently a very dangerous activity and the Greyhound has somehow aquired the worst reputation, which is why our decision to take the bus caused a lot of panic in the family, lol. Thankfully we survived the 4 hours on the bus without getting stabbed or anything like that... If you can, however, take the train instead, do it - Amtrak was honestly SO NICE, but I'll write more about it next time.

In Redding I went to my first real diner - just like in the movies. I wish I had practiced ordering breakfast beforehand, though... you have to communicate your wishes regarding what type of bread you want, how you'd like your eggs, what you want as a side and if you want anything to drink besides water in what felt like three and a half seconds tops?! Most breakfast foods would qualify as a home-style dinner in Europe (except in the UK where they also eat sausages and beans for breakfast), especially the fried potatoes in all forms. I was pleasantly surprised when I thought that my waffle was served with a scoop of ice cream. Thank god Matt warned me before I was about to eat that spoonful of butter... :D

From there we drove up towards Oregon, stopping here and there to check our pretty nature stuff like the Sacramento river headwaters near Mount Shasta. Collected some water and saw a lot of hippies doing the same. It was also cool to see a part of the Pacific Crest Trail, since I read/watched "Wild" not too long ago. I'm still planning on hiking a part of it one day!

We spent our first night in Oregon in Ashland and met up with another friend who grew up there and now also studies in Germany. I really liked the town - everything seemed so peaceful, more authentic and relaxed. Matt thinks that the people there are more rude than in other places but I actually liked the way everyone was in Ashland - polite but not overly (fake) friendly like we experienced in some other places. The cold-hearted northerner in me got to relax for a moment, haha. There was also a weird moment at our motel when I thought there was some sort of sand in the bottom of the pool. Turned out it was ashes from the wildfires forming such a big pile...

Our "main destination" for this part of the trip was Klamath Falls, where Matt's mom and some other family members live. It's a pretty small town, but the coolest part of it is that it's also not too far from pretty nature stuff. Oregon's most famous, of course, is the Crater Lake, which we went to see on my birthday. It's a massive volcano crater that has turned into a lake. It was the bluest thing I've ever seen! When we got up there, it was a little smoky, but not too bad. But after about an hour of walking around, we weren't even able to see the island in the middle of it as a thick cloud of smoke just kept rolling in... I'm so glad we got there when there was still something to see. Afterwards we picked up a huge ice cream cake from Dairy Queen (they even spelled my name correctly on it!!!) for my birthday, which we then ate for three consecutive days with the entire family. :D

Last but not least (actually my favourite part of this part of the trip), we also went camping at Fish Lake and exploring around Lake of the Woods. Fish Lake was cool (especially with the view on Mount McLaughlin when we were kayaking around), but Lake of the Woods was one of my favourite places during the whole month! It's just so pretty and peaceful, even though it's pretty much surrounded by people's summer houses and campsites. We also went to an event with live music by the water and attempted to make s'mores out of peeps, which everyone thought was hilarious. Speaking of camping, it's definately something else in the US. Especially in small towns, literally everyone has a fifth wheel camper in their yard - bonus points if it's bigger than your neighbour's. When you park them, most of them can be expanded to the sides so that you have a bedroom, bathroom, living room and a kitchen corner in it. It was insane one night when there was a beautiful sunset across the lake from our campsite and the family next to us were all sitting in their camper watching football on their flat screen TV. :D

I divided the posts up by the amount of pictures so I didn't think this one would be so long... But I think it'll be nice for me to read all this in the future and remember all my first impressions like that. It's funny, because every time people ask how the trip was, I can't even think where to begin or how to answer this shortly. But now I feel like I could keep writing here forever and still not be able to share all the adventures and emotions anyway.

Friday, November 3, 2017

US trip part one: San Francisco

Wow, long time no see. SO much has happened in the meantime. Not only did I find out for sure that I was accepted for the Master's programme that I hoped for (so much that I didn't even apply anywhere else), but by now, I already have the first couple of weeks of classes behind me. I am studying politics and public administration at the University of Konstanz - the place I did my Erasmus, fell in love with the city but not only and found home. Good thing the university rocks, right?

Anyway, I actually wanted to slowly start posting about our US trip this September. I will be posting this stuff as fast as I can, but considering how busy I've been with everything ever since we got back a few weeks ago, this will still probably take months, so gather patience.

Even though our priority was to visit Matt's family in Oregon, we decided to treat ourselves with San Francisco at the beginning of the trip as a birthday present to one another. I was so excited to go to the US for the first time ever, but now I feel like the whole trip was just one new thing after another. Obviously, I've lived abroad, but I've never actually continuously travelled for a month like that. Since we were also moving between places every three days on average, it was also quite overwhelming, but totally worth it. Like all Europeans, I think, i felt like I was in an average Hollywood movie for the first few days, haha.

San Francisco is absolutely crazy! We stayed in a weird hotel near the Civic Centre on Market Street - the absolute culture shock to a terribly jet-lagged me. We literally saw hundreds of homeless people, some pantsless looking for a vein to shoot in the street and so on. We might have just been unlucky with our location, though. The areas by the ocean and the bay were a totally different story. Some were pretty touristy, like the Fisherman's Wharf area. Then again, seeing sealions was pretty awesome, so I can't blame the people. My favourite was the trail going east from Fort Point with a view on the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and a big chunk of the city. It was crazy foggy (like every day in San Fran...), so there weren't too many people strolling around. San Francisco was also my first time seeing the Ocean! I think this has caused some confusion, though, since Americans also call most seas "the ocean". Obviously, since I grew up on an island, I've seen open water before. :D Anyway, I was still pretty excited to be able to look into the distance and think that on the other side of the water is Japan?! Another cool place to go is the Grandview Park with the tiled steps going up there. We also loved hanging out on Pier 7 in the evenings, which is totally quiet unlike the touristy piers. Oh, and you can try free chocolate samples if you walk through the Ghiradelli factory. :D

If you're up for it, San Francisco is pretty good for walking around - but you have to be prepared for the hills! Other than that, there are like 5 (?) different public transport systems with separate ticket systems. We managed to mess up once, but I guess now we have a $5 reimbursement check waiting for us next time we go over, lol.