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!