2019: monthly challenges

sarah-dorweiler-357715-unsplashNew Years resolutions have never been a big thing for me. Committing to something for an entire year takes a lot of devotion and engagement, which I tend to lack. Instead, this year I will be doing monthly “challenges” to push myself to do and learn more, and in some cases just to push myself to do stuff that I have long been meaning to do but tend to forget when life comes along.

Having a monthly goal, or challenges as I choose to call it, is more sustainable since committing to 30 days of something gives a clearer horizon and you may not feel deprived in the same way since you can just “return to normal” if it’s not for you, without feeling like you failed. So just setting up reasonable goals that you can actually do. You might have heard about SMART goals. SMART goals is all about creating motivational and tangible goals that you can actually reach. SMART was first coined by George T. Duran in 1981 stands for:

S – Specific (or Significant).
M – Measurable (or Meaningful).
A – Attainable (or Action-Oriented).
R – Relevant (or Rewarding).
T – Time-bound (or Trackable).

So by giving myself a clearer horizon by limiting the time to one month, it feels more attainable. I will also only focus on things that feel relevant to me and my journey, that are very specific for each month and that I will be able to see a result from.

Monthly challenges

January: Veganuary

This is a global challenge and yearly challenge from https://veganuary.com/ to inspire people to eat more vegan. All of January I will eat (or do my best to) eat vegan. To push myself to try something new, to try new recipes, ingredients and how to eat out.

February: Meditate daily

February is a dark month with bad weather, and if you live in the north it’s probably like four months since you saw the sun. So when the SAD (seasonal affective disorder) starts knocking on the door I will spend a month meditating daily. These past few months have been stressful for me and I have felt that my defence against stress is quite low. Hopefully with daily meditation I can improve this.

March: Digital detox 

For the month of March my focus will be on minimising my use of Internet, computers, tablets and phones. My only tech appliances that will not be on the decrease list are my e-reader and my camera. How much I will “detox” is unsure right now. Since Instagram is a big inspiration and I like to read interesting articles online I would not be able to do a full on detox, but I will be avoiding it as much as I feel is viable.

April: Shopping ban

This one is quite explanatory, I will not do any shopping for the entire month. Which of course excludes food, medications and hygiene stuff (I need to survive it!!). No new clothes, no new beauty products, no interior shopping, no unnecessary stuff I can live without.

May: 30-day yoga

I will do a 30-day yoga challenge to really feel the benefits of the practice and stretch out my body. I have done yoga on and off for almost 10 years and even though I love it during and after, I never seem to get into a routine that sticks, so this month I will challenge myself to stick to it and hopefully feel better both physically and mentally.

June: Capsule challenge

For the month of June I will commit to a capsule closet. I have yet to decide the number of items to be used but somewhere between 20-30 is where I am aiming. This years mini capsule challenge felt slightly too constricting for me, so I want to give a bigger and longer capsule a shot.

July: Plastic-free July

Plastic-free July is a quite well known challenge by now, which means that for all of July, the goal is to not consume any plastics. This means no plastic single use items like take away bowls or plastic cutlery. This feels like a tough challenge for me right now, but my hope is that it will teach me more about the low impact living.

August: Reading challenge

One of my goals this year is to read more and for this I purpose I will do a book club for myself, but I will also assign one month of the year for reading even more. When I was a teenager I would read several books a week, but when I started university and had to read large amounts of course literature, I lost the appetite for reading for fun. I want to find the fun in reading again and this is what I am hoping to achieve during this month.

September: Self care September

During September I will focus on taking better care of myself and doing stuff I enjoy. Since fall tends to be very dark and gloomy where I come from it feels like the perfect start to the darker times.

October: Slow-Fashion October

For October I will be challenging myself to be more circular when it comes to my closet. I will be mending broken clothes, tailoring bad fitting ones, upcycle that which is no longer my style or simply make new items. A personal goal for the year is to get better at sewing, so this challenge caters mostly to this. By using what we have better and not wasting fabric is good for the environment and my own economy, as I will feel less a need to buy new.

November: Food challenge

For this month the challenge will be to explore new foods. New recipes, new ingredients, new cooking techniques etc. The goal is to compile 25 new recipes to try out during the month, both breakfast, snacks and dinners.

December: Creativity challenge

When I was a child I was constantly drawing, cutting and pasting. I had subscription boxes for what we in Sweden call “pyssel” which is a somewhat broad word for doing any kind of creative hand-work. During December I want to get creative again, just like when I was a child. Maybe I won’t be gluing beads on a picture frame, but more knitting pot holders, painting, colouring and maybe practice my calligraphy.

Conscious book club 2019

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One personal goal I have this year is to read more. Another is to learn more about conscious and sustainable living. Therefore I will be doing a small reading challenge, call it a book club. Every two month I will read a book related to the sustainability topic, such as consumption, fashion, plastic etc. I will evaluate the book here on the blog and discuss the topics brought up by the book.

This changes everything – Naomi Klein

A book about climate crisis and economy. In this book Naomi Klein discusses capitalism and the connection between social, environmental and economic sustainability and equality. She means that we have to change our relationship with nature and each other in order to manage this crisis and that we have to do it now.

Overdressed – Elizabeth L. Cline

The shockingly high cost of cheap fashion. This book looks into the fashion industry to unveil why clothing is cheaper than ever and who is actually paying the price for it. What do we do with all the clothes produced, as well as what all this production does to society and the environment.

Turning the tide on plastic – Lucy Siegle

With this years word being single-use this is a very current book about plastic. Facts about the plastic industry, how much plastic there actually is in the world and what it is doing to us all. How do we change our habits to avoid seeing more whales being washed ashore with several pounds of plastic inside?

Rise and resist. How to change the world – Claire Press

Clare Press runs one of my favourite podcasts around and I have been longing to get my hands on this new book of hers. In this book she meets passionate change makers that work towards a better world and explores how we can all help change the world with activism.

Cradle to cradle – Michael Braungart & William McDonough

This well known book rethinks the way we make things. Must our production really damage the world? Or are there ways of increasing the effectiveness of our production in ways that harm the planet and the people less?

Doing good better – William MacAskill

How can we make a difference in this world? By using our time to help people? Or are we more effective letting our money do the job? In this book the author tries to understand effective altruism and how we can maximise our impact with our decisions.

Interested in learning more about sustainability? Why don’t you join me in my reading?

Friendly gift wrapping guide

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Wrapping gifts for christmas. Some people love it, some dread it. This is an area where you can get really creative if you want, just try to remember that most wrapping paper is not recyclable. However, there are several other ways of wrapping gifts than in regular wrapping paper.

Firstly, I would start looking around the home what is lying around that could be used. Maybe you find an old shoebox that you haven’t thrown out. With some paint or fabric that could make the perfect box for grandpa’s new sweater. Just put a bow on it and you are done! Maybe you have some old wall paper lying around from renovating the house, those would make great stand-ins for regular wrapping paper and they don’t require you buying new. With some creativity, most things can become a nice wrapping design!

If you are the really creative one with some time on your hands, I would go for designing your own wrapping paper with potatoes. By buying simple brown or white gift paper (the ones without the shiny side) you can simply design different papers for the entire family. All you need are the paper, an ink pad, a knife and some potatoes.

joanna-kosinska-480420-unsplashIf you are more of the lazy type (like me most of the time) go for reusing old newspapers. It gives a nice retro feel and you can dress it up nicely with nice bands and some decorations.

Last idea is to wrap in fabric, so called furoshiki (you can see more about furoshiki and the techniques on my Pinterest board here). It is a traditional Japanese way of wrapping gifts. You do not need to buy new for this, you could wrap it in a kitchen cloth, old sheets or whatever you have laying around.

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For all the ideas you have the option of making it more fancy by accessorizing. Some pine cones, a tree twig or some dried winter flower that are easy to find outside. It really takes a gift from regular to special looking.

 

 

 

My biggest challenges with sustainable fashion

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I am still quite new to the concept of sustainable shopping and conscious closets. Only about a year ago I started to learn more about this topic and more recently changing my own habits. Changing ones habits from being slightly shopaholic and always having new clothes to a more slow lifestyle is hard in itself. Trying to cultivate a sustainable closet comes with additional challenges. Since the world is mainly built on fast fashion and unethical business practices, finding sustainable options can be hard, time consuming and, let’s not forget, expensive compared to regular shopping.

Top challenges

So what are really the main challenges I face when trying to switch over to a more sustainable and ethical shopping habit?

Finding clothing I like

I can be quite picky with style and I tend to like a more expensive and elegant style. With sustainable fashion I feel like a lot of things are either boring and generic, as in all is made super minimalistic in black and white or that everyone is wearing the same Everlane pants, or colorful ethnic fabrics that are just not me. Honestly, I don’t really get the Everlane thing, they are a bit to everyday and plain for my taste, even if I do like some styles. Also they do not really have sustainable fabrics or processes which I would prefer. Also, I do not really feel comfortable in colors, especially when combined with crazy prints. So I tend to feel a bit lost in the middle at times. I have managed to find some brands I like, but they are few.

Finding materials I like

When I happen to stumble onto brands or garments I like, I get disappointed 95% of the time because of material mixes or poly. In my opinion you are not a sustainable brand if you mix in plastic at every chance you get. Sure, there are times when it makes sense, like in socks that would break very quickly without the add in. But in a woolen coat I really do not see the big point in adding synthetics. Synthetics are made from non renewable resources and should not be overused just because it’s cheap. They also make  it impossible to recycle. The fabric recycling techniques available today cannot handle material mixes, only 100% fabrics.

Finding things that are accessible

Taking a normal shopping trip to town or the mall is really not a feasible way of shopping ethically and sustainably. The majority of brick and mortar stores are big brand and fast fashion with bad materials, bad quality and that is way too trend sensitive. So when shopping for sustainable brands you are often dependant on online shopping. I like to shop online, but since smaller brands often do not have the opportunity to offer free shipping and returns it makes it a bit risky to order when you are not sure about sizing.

Finding things that are within budget

Let’s be honest, ethically produced or sustainably made clothing is not cheap. Quality materials are more expensive than polyester and having a fair supply chain where people are being payed fair wages means more expensive end prices. I have a quite high budget and have in the later years mostly shopped in the bridge or affordable luxury category. So it is not as much of a stretch for me to be able to afford sustainable items. However, it is still very expensive especially when looking for high quality materials like cashmere and silk that can be bought for 100€ at H&M. The sustainable ditto is more towards 500€, so the difference is still noticeable.

When it comes to sustainable fashion I have come to terms with the fact that you can’t always tick all boxes. Buying something you really like, with good quality that will last a long time, that is also sustainable and ethical is like finding a four leafed clover, doable but hard. You have to compromise a bit sometimes and go with the best option available. For me, material is one of the criteria I do not like to compromise, for others it might be the ethical production. Whatever are your boxes to be ticked just remember that perfection shouldn’t stand in the way of good.

How you can make your closet more sustainable even if you shop fast fashion

henry-co-573432-unsplashFast fashion and sustainable fashion are somewhat opposites within the fashion industry. However, a lot of people feel they cannot afford buying sustainable fashion or that the style of these brands don’t fit them. So how can you shop sustainable when you shop at fast fashion high street brands?

Well, it all comes down to how much you shop and of what quality. The absolute best thing is to refuse fast fashion all together, with the second best being reduce.

If you love a fast fashion store and you feel you cannot live without it, you don’t have to have to give it up completely. There are ways to minimize your impact that do not include changing your entire closet or only buying ethical brands.

How to have a conscious closet

Buy less

The first thing to do is to refuse and reduce. That means buying less in general and try to avoid things that are just trendy items that will be used once. The goal should be to build a long lasting closet that represents your personal style. If possible, try to see if you can find the item second hand first. There are so many people who wear something for a week and then sell it online or hand it in to a consignment store. So that should always be a first option.

Use what you have

I believe the best way of avoiding unnecessary consumption is to shop your own closet. Most people have a full closet, while still feeling like they have nothing to wear. Take some time to look around to see what you really own, you might find some forgotten favorites that could need some new love. A great way of rediscovering ones closet is to do a challenge, maybe a 10×10 or a capsule closet where you are forced to be more creative with what you already own?

Take care of what you own

By taking care of what you own it will last longer. Make an effort to follow the washing instructions, to not wash or dry more than necessary and to mend things that break instead of discarding. When you take care of what you own, the need for constantly buying new is not as noticeable since you have a full closet of nice looking clothes.

Sell or give away the things you no longer want or use

If you really feel that an item is not for you, then get rid of it. We should not have things that make us feel bad or doesn’t serve a real purpose. When you actually decide to get rid of something, sell it or give away to someone you know would like it. There are issues with donating and recycling clothing so I would try to avoid that if I do not know exactly where the clothes will end up. There are several great ways you can sell clothes online today, everything from eBay to depop, Facebook or the old regular flea market.

Repurpose that which is no longer wearable

If you have a dress of which you no longer like the top, maybe you can turn it into a skirt? A pair of jeans can be cropped off for a new trendy fringed crop length or simply turned into a pari of shorts or a skirt. If all else fails, make something completely new out of it. An old bed sheet can be turned into several small handkerchiefs (perfect for cold season!) and an old towel can be turned into reusable face pads. There are several ways of using old fabric for new things.

Have you made the move to shop sustainably? Or do you still have a love affair with H&M?

 

How I traveled 5 countries in 12 days without leaving the ground

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Dubrovnik, Croatia

Flying not the greatest thing you can do for the environment. Actually, it is one of the worst things. The biggest issue with flights are the CO2 emissions, with one transatlantic flight equaling the yearly emissions of almost 100 people in Tanzania. Crazy, right?

Many people think that by being vegetarian or vegan, recycling, living zero waste or not consuming they can outweigh the effects of flying, but that is unfortunately not the case. I still fly, I have even flown a lot! Last year I did five return flights, three within Europe, one within the States and one transatlantic. At the time I did not think about it but this year I am decreasing it and trying to find other ways to get by. I did fly back and forth from Rome to Copenhagen once this spring and will be flying down to Madrid this weekend for a short holiday. To some people, five flights or even two might sound a lot, to others not that much. Anyways, I am exploring other ways of travelling that do not hurt the planet as much.

So back to the point. I love to travel. I grew up travelling and as I have grown up I have enjoyed living abroad several times which has meant a few flights now and then just to visit family and friends. But this summer I travelled through 5 different countries in 12 days completely without flying. Starting in Italy, where I had been living for a few months, and going all the way to Copenhagen and then Sweden.

There are several ways to travel over the ground, like train, car, bike and hitchhiking (don’t know about the safety of that one though). For this summers trip, however, I chose to go by bus. I chose the bus mainly because it was the cheapest option available, and they also had the option of night buses, that would get me long distances in one haul as well as saving me money on housing. I am not a person who needs a lot of sleep and I do quite well even on several days of bad sleep so sitting on a bus all night was doable. Actually, my family used to travel a lot by long haul buses when I was a kid so sleeping on a bus was nothing new to me.

The company I travelled with to get from Italy to Scandinavia was Flixbus. They are really nice and have affordable prices and some great routes. The buses all have toilets (even though they are not always that fresh, but I’ll blame that on some people’s ability to use the bathroom while on a moving vehicle…) as well as wifi and power outlets. The only time I had a bit of problem was when I travelled through Croatia. The buses there were chartered by a local company that didn’t have working toilets or outlets onboard, which can be a bit annoying when you are on a 10-ride with 30 per cent battery. Also, don’t expect bus drivers to understand English or anything else spoken outside the region. Even with somewhat fluency in 5 languages I didn’t manage to well in communicating, though some were a bit more accommodating with trying to explain than others.

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Ljubljana, Slovenia

So how did I travel to 5 countries in 5 days? Well, I started in Rome with way too much packed into my backpack. I left with 40 minutes extra time since I knew that public transport in Rome was unreliable, but still, I got completely stuck like never before and ended up being so late I had to run up three flights of stairs and 300 meters with almost 30 kg of luggage just to stop the bus exactly when it was departing. After a somewhat stressful start, the rest of the trip was great. With barely no people on board it was quiet and enough space to take up a full double seat on your own, which really helps with the comfort. I left Rome at 8.30 in the evening and arrived in Ljubljana, Slovenia, around 6 am the day after.

After a short visit to Ljubljana, I continued to Zagreb, which was only about 3 hours away. I stayed in Zagreb two nights before leaving on a night bus for Dubrovnik. This leg of the trip was probably the worst, because of rude drivers and no toilets on board. However, Dubrovnik was quite worth it.

From Dubrovnik, I continued back up north to Zagreb, where I caught a night bus to Vienna. This one was the longest ride out of all. I spent a total of 18 hours on a bus, with a 2-hour stopover at Zagreb bus station. It is safe to say I was quite happy to arrive in Vienna in the morning.

After a nice visit to Vienna I continued to the next and last stop of the trip Berlin. And I got thereby, you guessed it, taking a night bus! I was lucky enough to get a double seat to myself so I was quite comfortable, however, we had to get out a few times in the middle of the night due to border controls which were not ideal, but hey, what can you do. I arrived in Berlin just in time for the morning traffic.

The ultimate ride was the one that was the most crowded, the one from Berlin to Copenhagen. It was completely full, but I was one of the first ones on so I at least scored a window seat. Even being overcrowded I managed to get some sleep. In all honesty, I didn’t care too much at that point because I was coming home anyways where a warm bed was waiting. This last ride took about 8 hours, leaving close to midnight from Berlin.

All in all, I am very happy with the trip. I was a bit homesick and really longed for the day I arrived home to Sweden, but I still managed to enjoy the travels. The best part about going by bus was that I got to see so much more of the country than if I had flown. Driving through the Slovenian countryside and the Croatian mountains were unbelievably beautiful and well worth the time it took. I will definitely travel by bus again!

The 5 R’s of sustainable living

When it comes to minimizing your impact on the planet, a lot of people feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. A simple way to start thinking more about ones’ behavior and how one consumes. Both in terms of food (food waste is a big problem, in Sweden 45 kg of food per person is thrown away every year), clothing, services and packaging (I’m thinking of you plastic wrap!). Some basically, one of the best ways to reduce ones impact is to think one step further and to avoid getting unnecessary stuff, and to use that which you already own.

This is where the 5 R’s come in. 5 basic guidelines for sustainable living.

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The 5 R’s

Refuse

things that do not serve you in any way, as well as things that do not serve the planet and you don’t have a need for. Refuse unnecessary materials like plastic straws, plastic cup lids, plastic bags. Also, say no to receipts if you have the opportunity.

Reduce

your consumption. It is inevitable to buy stuff, but reducing your consumption will not only help the planet, but also your personal finances.

Reuse

the things you already own. Have a dress you love, wear it! Buy a tote bag to use instead of plastic bags. Buy or make your own produce bags for food shopping.

Repurpose

things that no longer serve their purpose. Empty glass jars can be used as food containers or made into candle light holders.

Recycle

that which you cannot repurpose or reuse.