The decision fatigue of sustainable living

My sustainability votes, according to some…

Welcome to another summer rant, closely linked to the previous one. Decision fatigue is a real thing, especially popular among the capsule wardrobe preachers, but lurking around all of us, especially if many frequent and complex decisions are to be taken. Obviously, the more concerned about the quality of your decisions you are, the more tiring it gets. When a happily oblivious person is hungry after work, she pops in the supermarket, asks herself what of things that she can afford appeals to her (that’s probably a decision interacting taste and convenience), grabs it and goes home to eat it. When a conscious consumer gets hungry, it can be a decision-making disaster…

There are many choices to make and – having assimilated that € = votes and that each meal is an opportunity to change the world – it feels important to get it just right. Following a tradition of long, anxiety induced lists of shoulds, here are the questions I’m frying my brain when making a shopping list:

Is it safe to eat? (Yeah, dumpster diving is not my forte.)

Is it vegan? Or shall I make an exception again?

Is it in season?

Is it km0? But really? Or do I just like to think like that for Canary bananas? That’s ~2500km in a straight-ish line, btw.

What are the conditions of production? Is it basically slavery, although on EU ground? Looking at you, Andalusian greenhouses!

What’s the packaging? Is it wrapped in plastic or other unnecessary waste?

Is it nutritious?

Is it organic? Or has it been laced with pesticides that will kill me in 50 years?

Is it easily attainable or am I supposed to go across the city for those bulk goods?

Is is an establishment worth supporting?

Is it something I want to eat?

*

Already suffering from a time squeeze, being an urbanite, and having left the CSA cooperative because it was hassle, nothing I eat ticks all the boxes. Boom! And that’s where the haggling starts… which restrictions shall I relax? I’ll walk you through some of my staples whom I have somehow deemed to be good enough just to share my 1st world struggles:

Soy yogurt. I’ve eaten liters of this particular one this summer since I discovered that it makes for the perfect tzatziki-ranch-mayo style sauce for all my salad and dipping fantasies. Organic non-GMO French soy, no added sugar… also two pieces of plastic, one of cardboard (although these people at least make the cardboard easily separable from plastic) and 2.02 € for 400 grams of yogurt. That’s a lot of garbage and a high price to pay for a bit of fermented soy milk. Considering myself a person who can resist most of the bullshit vegan products, I find it very annoying that I finally have one I’m craving and raving about. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.

Huelva strawberries. Ugh. This one is annoying, because I don’t even like the taste once I’ve fallen for them in March – after a season with only citruses – and brought them home, but it happens. These huge strawberry monsters are not really strawberries, it’s a frankenstein derivative that looks good, smells enticing but tastes like a bad cucumber most of the time. It took me 10 years of disappointment with Spanish strawberries until I tried Catalan mountain strawberries. Those do taste like the Northern strawberries I grew up with! But concerns about taste, pesticides and the distances traveled is only half of the reasons to avoid these sweet-smelling abominations of fruit. Most intensive work in the Spanish agricultural industry is done my seasonal migrants from Morocco and the stories that come out of Huelva’s strawberry fields, when they come because there is a lot of opacity in the industry, are heartbreaking. It’s all discrimination, abuse, sexual assault, labor fraud, horrible working conditions, etc. Fails at: eat local, think about the worker, chose organic ethos.

Cooked chickpeas. Yeah, I can buy my bulk Spanish chickpeas and then boil them for several hours on the stove top. And time by time, especially in winter when the whole pot becomes a stew afterwards, we do. But a (vegan) girl has to eat, and soaking and boiling takes planning, time and fuel. I’m terrified of pressure cookers and we don’t have a slow cooker (and I don’t want to invest in another gadget). And I’m not that sure that 4 liters of water and chickpeas cooking on a gas stove top for several hours consumes significantly less energy than the industrial production. I expect those people to be more efficient than I am! Even more, taking into account the summer temperatures and year-round humidity, home cooking legumes messes with our quality of life by increasing already unbearable temperatures and humidity in summer and helping the fucking mold in winter. So I’m left with glass jars, metal lids and a couple of ingredients that my home-cooked chickpeas wouldn’t have, namely, calcium disodium EDTA and sodium metabisulfite. And hummus. And chickpeas for my salads. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.

One of the reasons why I prefer swaps and hand-me-downs so much is that the decision fatigue so often becomes unbearable when a bigger purchase has to be made, and I’m so anxious to make the right choice.

A sports bra. My current fast-sport-fashion wonder from Karrimor – a desperate 2015 slip-up when I really needed one – needs replacing. It has been so much wears, both for yoga and casual, that it needed replacement a year ago but I just haven’t got myself to do so. Also, almost nobody sees it, so there is no social pressure… And I’ve already had enough failures in this field to know that the right breast garment isn’t necessarily easy to find. Examples: (a) I had a Nike top with built-in breast support from 2013 till 2017 that I used actively, despite the straps never being perfectly comfortable, even after several alterations; (b) I bought a basic Nike sports bra together with the Karrimor one in 2015 (oh, that was a shopping spree, I also got my athletic swimsuit then), but that one was so uncomfortable and itchy at the neck I just could not wear it; (c) my mom handed me down a top with breast support in January, but it was too big and awkwardly made… (d) and my yoga short fail still eats my heart, you would have thought that shorts were easy! Since I started to publish my swap wish lists, people are really helpful in offering anything sports bra-looking that comes around, but I know that my chances are very slim.

Internets do not make my life easier to get a new one. There was a Patagonia sports bra that, according to their homepage, ‘left Patagonia.com and joined a heavy metal band’. And another one. These people who wouldn’t disclose the no-name material described as ‘moisture wicking and breathable fabric’. Or these that wouldn’t reveal the country their stuff is produced in. And the merino wonders that had me ready to ditch the vegan prerequisite – it is true that all the synthetic athletic wear is stinky alright – but I couldn’t get their wares in Europe and then they discontinued the style I wanted…

Am I really asking that much? Is a basic comfy sports bra made for women with breasts produced in a Western country that much? And I’m not even looking at the prices…

*

What are your sources of sustainability decision fatigue? Is it more about the little everyday things or about bigger purchases? What are your routine compromises just to overcome the decision paralysis?

The time squeeze of sustainability attempts and blogging

I started this endeavor knowing that (1) I wouldn’t be blogging full time at least in the foreseeable future – even if I would magically go viral and start to monetize as crazy – because of the thesis; (2) overnight successes happen rarely, so I better count on not being to live off a blog; and (3) I’ve always enjoyed much more blogs whose authors live off something else, makes them much more relatable and, when it comes to sustainable lifestye blogs, make their suggestions more viable. So I set out to be a twice-a-week blogger (yeah, insane!) doing several calendar-mandate recurring posts (money series and wardrobe update series) *and* a weekly outfit recap. On my own. While doing a PhD and – although that came later – establishing a KonMari consultancy.

So this is a ‘I’m pissed off at my own unattainable standards’ post. You see, I don’t care knowing that my favorite food bloggers do only that: come up with recipes tweaking them repeatedly for my ease of use. I somehow don’t compare my life with theirs and if this week’s recipe doesn’t resonate with me, see you next week! I understand that creating the perfect oven falafel burger takes time, and don’t resent them having all the time in the world to do that.

I have an issue with sustainable lifestyle bloggers, though. When style bloggers show off beautiful lives of pretty garments and sponsored vacations on turquoise beaches, I don’t care. I’m only there for pretty pictures. But the base assumption of sustainability DIY and ‘do this easy switch / ditch this horrible pollutant’ blogs is that the advice given must be replicable, easily so. And here we get into trouble…

Well, I get into trouble because I take all of it seriously and easily add new projects to my ‘true urban ecologist’ check-list. My eco-sin list was only part of my ongoing battle with all those ‘I should really’. Big part if the problem, of course, is that – at least I – tend to incorporate this stuff in my identity. I feel so deliciously smug being the person who gets a CSA veggie box, the person with only second-hand clothing, the person with the most sustainable yoga mat in my yoga studio, the person with the most nutritious whole foods plant based homemade meal in my work canteen. Self righteousness feels amazing! So I go on organizing anticaptialist events with local biodynamic wine, double fermented fair trade tea kombucha that I made myself and the most nutritious vegan brownie. Boom!

(On those mentioned: we left the CSA cooperative in May, I left the yoga studio too, not everything is second-hand, and the whole foods part of our eating is not true – white pasta, among others, for the win!)

What constantly ruins all this smug-fest of satisfying little gestures is that the day has 24 hours and everything takes time. Of course I’d like to, off the top of my head:

Start composting

Go zero waste and plastic free

Truly research the few industrial cleaning / beauty products we have left instead of relying on certifications and what the bulk shop guy tells me

Get all the produce from CSA

Go fully organic

Make my own bread

Start sprouting

Be 100% vegan whole food plant based

Reduce my possessions even more

Reduce my spending and move towards FIRE (1, 2), at least a teeny tiny bit

Do daily yoga

Meditate

Do morning pages

Experiment more with cooking

Take better care of our kombucha

Never fly again

Make my own snacks and sweets

Make my own plant milks

Make my own nut butter

Make my own ice cream

Learn to sew well

Cut my own hair

Look into natural dyes

Organize more events

Learn more…

You see where this is going, right? I’m already exhausted after just putting that list together. I want to do everything that’s cool on the Internets, I want to be good at it, and I want it now. And these are not all my goals, of course! Throw in a couple more languages (Russian, Catalan), several other arts (more drawing, analogous photography), cultural capital (literature, cinema), and you have my impossible life plan.

I know that my brain is doing that old trick of discounting all I’m already doing (nope, I won’t make a list of that, this is a different kind of post) and valuating all I’m not doing but I can’t really help it. Years of therapy around that Hamilton line is what expects me: “I will never be satisfied!” That’s the first part of my fit: frustration about not being able to do everything on the sustainability checklist. Knowing that even on the internets full of fringe lifestyle heroines I haven’t found anybody who would really do all of the above does not send a signal my brain can interpret adequately as “see, *nobody* can do it all”.

The second part is time spent blogging. Setting aside the whole question of if you went capsule wardrobe or zero waste and didn’t start a blog about it, did it really happened… I’ve realized that for me a post starts from 1000 words and often goes on for more (the body positivity post is the current record holder at 3180). I greatly enjoy inserting vaguely connected scholarly references and bits of song lyrics. The only post where the photos are not mine is the first one where they have to illustrate a point I cannot convey in any other way. (I have to admit that I despise – among so many other things and people, admittedly – content creators who use stock or other people’s IG photos. Yuck! Keep those in your Pinterest for inspiration, but do not make your visual identity out of those.) I love doing this, but it takes time. And the weekly outfit thing is stressing alright. And, of course, I’ve made a decision to stick to my initial concept of weekly outfit posts + the weekly substantial post, no summer vacations, no winter breaks, no PhD hiatuses. Thank you to all who worked so hard to instill all this self-imposed work ethic in me, great job, Grandpa and Grandma! On the other hand, this is a creative outlet after all, and I don’t really want to know what the counterfactual would feel like.

The aim of this post is not to announce that I’m shutting all this down or to just get yours ‘oh, poor thing!’, just to vent my frustration with – of course – my self-imposed rules. My blog effort mean that I take time off either the thesis, C, sleep, housework or leisure. And all these have suffered because of my blogging. The only silver lining I see to my time squeeze, falling behind on my posting schedule and ‘shoulding all over myself’ is an empathy that a full-time blogger cannot have. This experience brings me closer to normal people with more serious jobs and n other worries beside correct recycling and the most nutritional plant milk (it’s soy, btw).

Let me preach to you so maybe sth sticks to me as well! tl;dr: it’s OK to relax your sustainability standards to get through the day.

Here, have a spoonful of my climate pessimism! We are already all fucked and these little things are but feel good rituals of washing off the common guilt, taking an observer’s position to the havoc we as a species are wrecking and sigh ‘if only everybody would have said no to one more plastic bag’. Right now I’m unable to come up with a smart little bit of hopefulness, sorry. That stated above is my end of the day truth where the ultimate advice is not to have children and to get ready to witness a great deal more of misery. I re-watched George Carlin’s Jammin’ in New York recently and, curiously enough, I think he is ultimately right about the whole sustainability thing: “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” I hope you all go zero waste and prove me wrong.

*

Yeah, I fluctuate inexplicably between the extremes of ‘all the little things matter’ and ‘it’s all already lost anyways’. It may be the heat wave (or, as scientists would call it, this extreme weather event) making life unpleasant all over Europe that’s making me more rant-inclined than usual. (I have had angry outbursts before, though. They are all neatly filed here.) Is there anything that’s eating you? Do you experience the sustainability time squeeze? And where do you stand on the climate pessimism to optimism gradient?

Body positivity, the average user’s guide

This is a story about a never-ending road towards body positivity (including fat positivity but not only that) in a world where we are all damaged goods when it comes to our own bodies, a brainwashed civilization unable to appreciate everything our bodies do for us. I’ll do my best not to relive my traumas again in this post, I’m still busy healing them. Throughout this post I’m talking about a very mild case of body dismorphia and societal pressures felt while inhabiting still a very – in the statistical sense – ‘normal’ body, I am aware that life at other configurations of body shape, color, ability, sexual identity among other traits are very different, and I eagerly read when other people share their body stories but they are not mine to re-imagine and retell. Here I will try to capture what has let me be so much more happy with my body now than in any other moment since I gained aesthetic consciousness of it at around 8 or so.

Odessa 1995, I was the bubba on the left just having a really good time and pretty oblivious to bodies.

And even more absurd is the fact that, despite not having any experience of being properly fat, I have so much trauma around this shit. I have experienced very little direct body shaming, but I did the rest of the job myself with a little help from the popculture, thank you very much. I was prone to adolescent idiocy moments like observing that ‘my tights wobble in shorts’ and then taking around 15 years to wear short again, Barcelona summer made me. But now adolescence is over, and either (a) at least in my circles, Spaniards are less judgemental than Latvians, (b) my social circles are better selected now than 15 years ago, or (c) I’m getting immune to this crap. So I’m ready to impart advice:

1. Become an engineer, see function!

You might have been looking for the wrong shapes all along. Somebody told us that small, tall, young and willowy was where it’s at and here we are. But think about evolution! Think about primates! Think about what bodies are for! Your genes are probably a couple of hundreds (if not thousands) years off in their expression, but they are doing what they can. Try to see your body in connection with your ancestors, that’s the inheritance, the family trunk full of treasures that made sense way back. I’ve had to admit that my body is not made for gender bending, androgynous play and being willowy. It’s the opposite, just what my fertile peasant grand-grandmothers needed to live, work, and, yes, marry well and survive all those pregnancies. Wide back and shoulders to carry water from the well, firewood from the forest, and potatoes from the field. Strong tights and calves to keep walking all day long from one farm errand to another. Wide feet to keep my bare feet grounded in places that even now don’t have asphalt. A round belly to grow babies in and downward looking breasts to feed them. Such waste to have it all on me, from an evolutionary point of view, as the use is pretty limited, but that’s my trunk. Here, my best selfie ever (2016):

2. Become a historian, do your research!

Women’s bodies also have fashions, get to know those. The click-bait places are full of ‘the ideal woman through ages’ videos and there is an abundance of more serious materials too. For an extra level, try to explain the trends, i.e. fat when most people were starving, pale skin when only the leisurely classes didn’t spend the day outside followed by appreciation of tan when people started to spend most of their time in factories and offices, or the abundant meatiness of the 1950’s sex symbols following the Great Depression and WWII. And these trends move fast: I’ve seen supermodels, heroin chic, and Kardashian butt being all the rage since I am alive and that hasn’t been so many years. Assume that this – as bell-bottoms, platform shoes or millennial pink – will also pass. Maybe Rubens will have a revival and cellulite will be the next big thing! A girl can dream.

Although taking into account that only the scarce commodity can be truly valued, I’d suggest not giving a fuck as a more sustainable and reality-based alternative in comparison for waiting for the cellulite trend.

3. Become an art historian, de-earth women who chose to become icons instead of becoming pretty!

There are stories of rebellion and ‘fuck pretty’ for all tastes, including those that wanted to be part of the game and learnt that extravagant also works (hello, Diana Vreeland) and those that knew that she needed more than being recognized for her looks (hello, young Georgia O’Keeffe), because striking stays when the youthful beauty is gone. Frida Kahlo is a bit overused for coasters and pins by now, but always a good place to start. You have Wikipedia for days: Nina Simone, Iris Apfel, Virginia Woolf, Patti Smith, Joan Baez, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth I, etc. etc. And for some gore and to remember that for a long time religion was the only reasonable alternative to the three Ks of domesticity, you have the stories of Joan of Arc, Agatha of Sicily, Hildegard of Bingen and Teresa of Ávila (those two actually succeeded at the whole thing) to begin with. And I’m sure you have a handful of local examples to add to this list, let me know in the comments!

4. Become a fly on the wall. Observe!

Relax! Look at real people instead of billboards. A ride in public transit, especially in a day of ‘wear shorts or die’ will do much more for your body confidence than a fashion magazine. The same goes for a day at the beach or gym showers. And I don’t mean it in a ‘you are so much better than’ way. Nope, it’s just bodies going places, and cellulite or upper arm flap is completely irrelevant Try to practice observing bodies without judging them: the shapes, the sizes, the little things nobody has had time for. Among strangers or friends, I love to notice half-shaven legs, undone nail polish, blood stains that never came out, droopy shoulders, early wrinkles, and all the rolls, rolls, rolls. As The Killers asked ten years ago, ‘Are we human or are we dancer?’

5. Use your body! Preferably, naked.

There is a great piece about this point exactly in Caitlin Moran‘s new book ‘How to be Famous’ (see the quote above). It almost boils down to the old cliché of nobody having a low self esteem at the moment of orgasm, but in a classier and more ample way. If you are truly present while using your body – in sports, traffic, crafts, dancing, sex – you are not likely to be thinking about it. Again, function trumps aesthetic, or at least we seem to lack bandwidth to process both at the same time. If you treat your body as tool for self expression (and life in general), the criteria are very different than if the body is an aesthetic commodity. In this sedentary world moving the body might require an effort, but only in movement it shows its magic.

The note about nakedness is not random, though. As most bodies we see are printed or digital, they are far removed from actual bodily experiences – they are plastic or cardboard, heavily airbrushed and sanitized. They don’t sweat, bleed or have random hairs sprouting out of unsuspected places. So hanging around – at least – with your own naked body creates counter-images of living, breathing, warm bodies being the norm. We have to hack our brain back to recognizing the true us as the baseline, not some painted lady on the billboard.

Oh, and – when taking a break among all that movement – take all the selfies in the world! I’d say that the greatest benefit of digital photography has been giving the tools of instant and infinite self-portrait to the people. Selfies have helped us all to discover that, while some are more photogenic than others, the great majority of us have a couple of great angles in the right light, and that great part of the airbrushed commercial photos we see around are due to – after make-up, styling and before photoshopping – about taking enough pictures until some came out nice. Of course it’s narcissistic, but in a world which puts us down for not being pretty enough while bombarding us with images of supposed perfection of others, knowing that the magic of one stunning photo is usually having taken 200 of them is power. I cling to the idea that my first digital camera did almost as much for me as my first pop feminist books did. If I was able to make ‘pretty’ out of myself, I didn’t rely on anybody else to do it. Ha, and be careful about putting naked pictures on the internets. Here, have some of mine instead (Berlin 2008):

6. Experiment with the limits of patriarchy in beauty.

Play a little truth or dare with yourself and body/beauty standards. First of all, there is already probably a bunch of supposedly ‘essential’ beauty routines you are not doing. How do I know? Because there are so many of them that nobody could possibly have time for them all! Make a list of every Cosmopolitan advice you are not following: painting the toenails? daily face/body/hair masks? curling your eyelashes? waxing your forearms? permanent make-up? permanent hair removal? hair transplants? magical pills for better skin? hockey mask with pink lights for acne treatment (that exists, btw)? If you do any of these or any else, that’s fine. My point is that the options and their combinations greatly exceeds our numbers.

So keeping in mind that there is no universal beauty list beyond the very basics of some soap and maybe cleaning under your nails, you get to decide and shake it up a bit. My minimalist-bias go towards reducing instead of adding, so I suggest looking at your routines and asking ‘do I enjoy this?’, ‘what does it do for me?’ and ‘why am I doing this?’. Allow for trial and error, it’s an experiment.

My personal recent ‘transgressions’ include: the above-mentioned short wearing (yay); trying to stop using a lip balm (nay, doesn’t work for me); replacing facial cream with almond oil (yay); and giving up yoga classes because those didn’t spark joy anymore – I was more attached to wanting to be the person who does yoga than actually enjoying the practice.

Older and established choices include: wearing my nails short and unpainted; wearing only flat shoes; not wearing trousers; getting a haircut only once a year; doing a diy hair dye with henna once a month; having a wax every seven weeks; not wearing make-up… Each of these was a process of ‘let me see how can I twist this’. For example, I tried not removing body hair at all just to realize that I am not comfortable living like that, unfortunately. So a compromise I’ve devised is to allow for a lot of time between waxes so that I actually get to live with some hair before they are stripped off again. While politically I would be on the side of ‘if it gets too bushy, you can trim’, I played with the external standards to find out where my current limits are. Remember that all that shit is arbitrary and relax! The same goes for experimental dressing and letting go of ‘no horizontal stripes’ type of prejudice – check and re-check that your limits are truly yours. And have fun with glitter and curling iron meanwhile!

7. Practice compassion for those in the first line of combat.

Some people’s value – measured in income – actually depend on their looks. People get dragged through the yellow press, shamed, and contractually obliged to lose or gain weight, hair, tan, etc. Imagine the exhaustion! Having come of age when Britney Spears was a thing and then not again when she couldn’t maintain the appearances, having read about Amanda Palmer switching to crowd funding and self editing because of record label considering her fat, Pink being dragged through media because of the same shit, Jennifer Lawrence being a ‘fat actress’ for the contemporary Hollywood, you know what? Thank goodness my life is not like that.

No wonder there is a great demand for celebrity ‘stolen’ swimsuit photos – we all crave a confirmation that they are ‘wrong’ too. The chastising ‘how dares she not to be airbrushed!’ remarks and evil indulgence in those photos is the only passive aggressive ‘revenge’ that people have when reminded that we are being tricked all along. Obviously, that doesn’t change anything for anybody: the celebrities keep being tightly controlled by the masses willing to believe in their perfection and that 10 sit-ups a day will give the same for everybody who persists.

And when you think that people talking up about this stuff is celebrities doing alright, remember all those that just have to swallow the insults while doing the jobs where one *has* to be pretty, feminine, helpful, and not threatening: flight attendants, secretaries, waitresses… Or those arts/sports where eating disorders and communal hard-core body policing seems to come with the discipline. Yuck!

8. Carefully select food for your brain.

This one consists of two parts, one being media and other the everyday interactions. Fill your feeds with truly fat people. Knowing is not enough, our brains need to see things again and again to file them under ‘typical’, and, taking into account how many idealized and airbrushed bodies you have seen by now (because all the corporate dollars have been channeled into making sure you see all those), we need *a lot* of other pictures to counteract that. Depending on the stage of healing you are at, side effects might include: (a) de-stigmatizing the word ‘fat’ and reminding you that it is just a noun or adjective, not a crushing insult unless we make it so, (b) realizing that the fantasy world of ‘I’ll get thin / get a boob job / nose job / six pack and then I’ll be…’ doesn’t work that way, except for very few cases, (c) discovering the variety contained by the plus size and body positivity universe, especially the tensions around body shapes of most plus size models and plus size fashion representing mostly a slightly overweight, tall, long-legged, hourglass figure, (d) confirm that confidence and believing it is the key to sexiness (and all other -nesses, too), if that’s what you are going for. And try to cut out the toxic crap: hours on tumblr will do you much good while beauty pageants, talk shows that body-police, mainstream series, TV advertisement, and women’s magazines will put new images we are already sick of in your head.

9. Help liberate others’ brain (at least don’t add crap to it).

OK, so once you have have your power place built up on the internets (I have a tumblr partially dedicated to this and a Pinterest board to go back to when the day is dark) and your brain is high on #fatgirlsdoingthings, now your job as the secret avenger of the body shamers begin. All that toxic talk, all that damage we inflict on ourselves and others. It takes so little, only a subtle eye roll or a nuance in tone in ‘oh, that’s what you are wearing?!’ It is about control, fitting in, guilt, and equaling fat with a character flaw, and making sure everybody knows they are not photoshop perfect. Self-depreciation is the norm, kind of pre-emptive strike at ourselves.

I’ve adopted a strategy to be very blasé when anybody tries to discuss my body, especially when people do the ‘oh, you so thin today!’ bullshit. I won’t allow anybody to police my fat or feet or anything else I’m happily doing – faking incomprehension is my favorite way of challenging that, makes assholes name *their* issues – or try to buy me over with sweet talk. Even when people clearly mean the best, I try to softly switch those remarks towards them, because commenting on others people’s bodies without a good reason (a medical emergency, for example) is never about other people. It hurts me profoundly to think about all the direct attacks people get if they are… well, not even, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés would put it, in the wrong nest, just in a normal family where body policing is what people do, mostly among females and mostly with the best intentions of wishing acceptance and desirability upon their daughters and granddaughters, transferring the survival strategies they have learnt.

And from that follows the self-depreciation stuff you’ll have to deal with, especially as the above-mentioned ‘compliments’ tend to have the following structure of ‘Oh, you so x, me so not x’ that tries to trick you into responding with at least ‘Of course you’re x, we are all amazing here!’ and preferably, as body-confidence is frowned upon, one-upping into a self-hating tirade along the lines of ‘Naah, me the fattest ugliest troll ever, you the pretty princess’. And that spiral can go on – and downwards! – for years… I tend to respond with something between ‘babe, quit the bullshit’ and ‘stop talking shit about my friends, be nice to your body, after all the hard work it does for you’. Try to figure out if the person is just engaging in a familiar ritual, a game you just don’t want to play anymore, or is this an occasion to sit down and truly talk about it. You will meet plenty of people who are deaf to such conversation, so accept that your capacity to change them stops at making it clear that you are out of the body shaming game, planting the little seed of doubt, and reassuring that you will be there if they ever want to talk about it.

And for people raising little people, may the force be with you, because, despite all your body positivity work, feminist pedagogy, and unconditional love, they are bound to bring home all the toxic crap, and it will be your job to hold their hand and explain what patriarchy and unattainable beauty standards are about. This stuff is powerful with thousands of years of history and all the current big money behind, so, please join the resistance! We really need you.

*

Obviously, there are better days and ones when the fat demons come back, but at least now we have an argument instead of a dismissive monologue. I have my safe places: that Pinterest board, the swimming pool, an intimate lube, and just plain spite of ‘nope, I refuse to be ordered around by stupid ideas, I have a great and functional body and I shall cherish it’.

How do you fight against the shame monsters, be they human or ghosts in your head? Do you have key songs, playlists, movies, books, fridge magnets with inspirational quotes? What do you tell yourself to get over the body shaming moments? And what do you say to others trying to do that to you?

Train travel long distance in Europe

If you have read this blog at least since March (1, 2, 3) or talked to me lately about traveling, you will know that in April I planned to do some some international train travel which I had to cancel due to French rail worker strike. However, in the beginning of June I did an even more ambitious route than the initially planned Barcelona-Paris -London-Paris-Barcelona. Ha! I did Barcelona-Lyon-Brussels-London-Paris-Barcelona instead.

This wasn’t my first time crossing borders in a train, though. I started at 7 doing Rīga-Odessa-Kiev-Rīga with my mom in a slow train where she convinced that trains were the best places to sleep, provided that we are talking coaches with compartments shared among 4 or less persons, having your own little shelf with a proper bedding and when the train is not a high speed one. It was 1995 and former Soviet Union, so seeing the tracks when going to bathroom was normal. As an adult I’ve done the very short Brussels-Rotterdam-Brussels, Brussels-London-Brussels, Brussels-Paris-Brussels trips and the overnight Moscow-Rīga (17h) we did for fun in 2012.
I’ve also crossed Spain and Poland by train but that was not complicated either, except that time I got confused when part of the train bound for Bilbao was left in Valladolid. They do the same in Paris-Montpellier-Barcelona train: half of it stays in Montpellier, so you want to be in the right coach when that happens.

This is what overnight travel Moscow-Rīga looks like in a 2-berth compartment. Very cutesy and sentimental! By the way, this slow but tranquil option but in a more luxurious compartments is known to be the favorite way to travel by some Russian celebrities with links to Rīga; makes sense: you get a no hassle and almost no disturbances travel packed together with a trip down the memory lane. The border guards that wake you up to look at you passport in the middle of the night not pictured:

Horrified by my last year’s 23 flights and 17 of the year before, and knowing that some options exist, I did my best and below you have a long list of the pros and cons of long distance train travel according to me. These are, obviously, restricted by external factors such as distances and your closeness to a railway hub. For example, I’m not planing to go to Latvia by train anytime soon, as around 1500km of train travel per day seems to be my limit with current speeds, it’s twice that to Rīga, and several day train trips with multiple uncoordinated layovers is not in my wish list (something like Barcelona-Paris-Brussels-Berlin-Warsaw-Vilnius-Rīga). The other is personal preferences, those, well, to each her own!

*

(My) reasons to take train long distance:

Significantly lower CO2 emissions.

Time *seems* better spent as you are in movement for a bigger proportion of the journey. Because the airport waiting times are just soul crushing…

Though vistas still fly by, at ~300 km/h of high speed railway you appreciate distances better than at the ~1000 km/h of the commercial planes. In my book that’s a good thing – distance is not a trivial thing and being mindful about it is a nice added value. For example, now my knowledge that Paris-London distance is less than half of Paris-Barcelona is a very real experience. And, yes, I am aware that in both cases those mentioned are top speeds and that the reality is often lower, especially for the high speed railway lines with many stops.

As Eurostar advertised in its beginnings, train normally takes you to actual places that have the same name as your destination. Even more, as railway is much older, most of the big stations are pretty central. No disrespect to people living in Prat, Charleroi, Nyköping or Luton, but these are not the places I was going to.

While we are now used to airlines policing our bodies and stuff (remember, the 100ml restriction has been there since 2006, not forever), the trains are a much freer world. Depending on a station and type of train, there might be a bag scan, but that’s it. Nobody controls how much stuff you are carrying and if any of that is liquid.

The most heart-breaking example of what the liquid restrictions have to done to us was at the Eurostar check-in in Brussels Midi. There are recycling bins before security and passport control there, and there was a bunch of half-full drink bottles, water and soft drinks. I already got scared that for some reason Eurostar has adopted the airline liquid rules, and asked the security staff. Clearly enjoying themselves, they explained that people just did that without being asked. Sad.

So bring your own water, and, if you are willing to suspend your water taste criteria in favor of reducing all the stupid bottled water waste, get a filter bottle and drink some bathroom water. Mine is a Bobble, I’ve had it for five months without changing the filter yet because I only use it for travel as we have a nic etasting water fountain in the office. I have to admit that the filter bottle is not as comfy to use as any normal vessel as you actually have to push the water through the filter and – as all normal plastic bottles – it’s not insulated, so you are bound to drink your water the same temperature as the ambient. I have made my mind though: I am easily disgusted by the common public water (chlorine!), so I prefer to push mine through a filter, even if it’s warm. In any case, hydration is important, please take care of yourself even if that means purchasing overpriced plastic bottles of water!

And bringing your own food is normal and expected, and snacking is great! Bring sandwiches, sturdy salads (read about how pros do it here) and fruit, snacks, it all helps. My basics are granny smith apples, cherry tomatoes, carrots, pistachios, dark chocolate and then whatever else that seems like a good idea. On the other hand, there is such thing as a ‘restaurant-vagon’ or at least a bar section in all trains (significantly cooler in older and slower trains, of course). Moving around freely is OK when in train, serendipitous encounters might happen, and it’s a way of escaping your seat-mate if need be.

On the other end of hydrating and travel nutrition we have the bathroom issue. Just to keep it short: have paper tissues just in case, liquid hand sanitizer (regardless of what you think about harsh chemicals, I think that they are very good idea for travel, including dealing with toilet seats) and small change for those places (French train stations!) that think that taking money for access to bathroom is a good thing.

Space! There is significantly more leg space! For real. And only two seats together, so you will need to climb over a maximum of one person (those who have been stuck in the 6-seat mid-row on a trans-continental flight and then in a lap of a complete stranger mid-way through your gymnastics towards toilet know what I mean). Also, if traveling in a small group, you can get the 4-seat 2-facing-2 table to have some quality time of conversations, meals, and games. For example, Spanish railway actually give you cheaper tickets if you book the whole 4-seats because few people want to share those with strangers.

And plugs. There are plugs. The number depends on a train model (one per every two seats in most trains I took), but still much better than none. So non-online computer work is a real option from the moment you get into your seat until the moment the train stops in your station. None of the ‘all big electronics have to be safely stored in the overhead lockers’. And the unified EU no-roaming-fees zone will take care of your data needs, although access to those fluctuated across my itinerary.

Less crowded. I see two reasons for it. First, not all of these are full. For example, my Barcelona-Lyon coach was pretty sparsely populated. Second, even when full, there are just fewer people in one coach and that gives breathing space. Yes, a train is a chain of coaches, I know, but the feeling is different sharing a closed space with 2 seats by 2 sides by 11 to 15 rows = [44; 60] than by 3 x 2 x 30 (or a bit more) ~ 180 on commercial median distance flights. My Paris-Barcelona train was a double-decker, having 88 or so passengers per coach but divided in two spaces.

(My) obstacles to take train long distance:

It is more expensive. The only exceptions might be the very short ones like the Belgium-Netherlands ones. All those I took this time were more expensive than low-fare flying. Like twice as expensive.

In many cases, it takes more time. The Brussels-London (2h) and Paris-London (2’15h) seem to be among the exceptions, and so are the trains connecting Belgium and the Netherlands. But if you are covering longer distances or using slower trains, it will take significantly more time. So, apart from the few faster-than-flying itineraries, this is not an option for people in hurry. As the pink letters in London-St. Pancras claim, trains want their time with us:

Failure could be much harder to fix and more time-consuming. Especially because the connections are not formal, so nobody will reseat you in the next train if you just missed yours because of a delay or give you a hotel if you have to spend the night. Again, the probability of such desperate moments depends on your itinerary, and my feeling is that it’s mostly linked to industrial actions instead of tech failure. So do your research and err on a safe side, especially if people with reasonable power for industrial action are planning to strike (hi, France!).

The infrastructure and habitual uses are less homogeneous, hence more stressful for the traveller. The differences among airports are smaller than among train stations. Timing cultures, security checks, infrastructures vary a lot. And language is not English necessarily. There is much less baby sitting than in air travel: nobody will call your name throughout the station and, depending on the station, check if you are getting on the correct train! And you can lose your stop if you are not paying attention or sleeping. Connections are not formal, so you are the one responsible of being informed and alert.

Depending on train model and itinerary, and booking algorithms, you might end up being seated backwards. I was sitting like that on my Lyon-Brussels train and found it only mildly unpleasant, but I know that there are people who get truly sick with stuff like this and in a full train with all seats booked your only option would be an informal seat change with a flexible-enough stranger. Please, nobody talk about this to Ryanair, they could implement random – cheaper! – sitting backwards seats just to fuck with us.

Also, not necessarily pretty. You’ll be seeing this a lot:

You have to be able to deal with your luggage on your own. This is very important! While nobody cares how big your carry-on is the whole point is that it is an actual ‘carry-on’: you will have to move it on and off train, climb steps and put it in the luggage shelves, either together with others in one spot in the coach or on the shelf above your head. I had a typical size carry-on and a cross-body with my essentials, and even this way it was annoying at times to do all the steps and gymnastics. It is true that people with big bags looking helpless get assistance from staff or kind strangers, but that’s not something I would like to rely on, especially in French stations where in both cases – in Lyon and Paris-Lyon – the track was announced less than 10 minutes before departure resulting in mass hysteria and stampede. So follow my grandpa’s advice and always be able to comfortably carry your own stuff!

As you can imagine, my strategy was to plan for outfit repetition and carry very little. Most of the little cross-body was taken by my two cases for glasses, so my clothing and conference shoes, notebooks, books, laptop, grooming pouch, food and water bottle had to go into the carry-on. Apart from what I was wearing for travel (kaftan, sports bra, sneakers, cardigan + ‘just in case AC’ leggings), I took two dresses, a bra, a pair of formal shoes, extra underwear and socks. You can see all the outfits here and here. And this is my hotel wardrobe in Brussels, the things on shelves are drying after a sink-wash:

And more hand-wash drying in London. While I take extra pairs, I do not take enough to cover all days, so washing by hand is a routine. If my dad and Paul Krugman can do it, so can I! I heard Krugman telling about his book-tour sink hand-washing habits due to the ridiculous prices hotels charge for laundry on some youtube talk years ago and he’s been a role model since. My all-time favorite knickers both for comfort and the super-quick dry are Luva Huva Satin Frilly Knickers in black you see in this photo:

*

Do you have any experiences with lower CO2 travel? What mode of transportation, where to and how did it go? Do any of the cons I mentioned that make it impossible to you: price, time, stress levels?

Yes, there are garments that I’ve never washed

I revised my notes of Kate Fletcher’s Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys (2014, London – New York: Earthscan from Routledge) and found a ‘make post about this’ note in Chapter 3 waiting for me since November last year.
However, as I had it on a limited loan from a far-away library, I only have my notes… and I was convinced that the all data cited about wear frequency were from the Dutch paper cited below. It’s not! I checked all 170 pages of that report… So get Fletcher’s book from your library and check.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to *use* and this phase of garment’s lifecycle is a tricky one as it’s private and individual. It’s hard to track, and the industry just love to put the responsibility on the consumer reminding that (a) ‘ha, you made a shitty decision’ and (b) ‘loads of energy gets wasted and water polluted via poor laundry practices’. And they are not wrong. So (and this is from my notes, Fletcher does not use the f-word):

– A garment spends on average 3 years and 5 months in one wardrobe
– Get 44 wears
– Gets ~3 wears between the washes
– If a person has 10 pairs of underwear, that means 36.5 wears every year (provided that all are worn equally and one per day)
– Most garments get only around 20 washes that cause a lot of environmental impact
– Washing is responsible of 80% of the energy impact of underwear
– Cold washing and line-drying reduces the lifecycle energy for polyester 4 times and for cotton – 2 times
– The increase of individual households with more machines and less people tend to cancel out the washing machine efficiency gains due to smaller load sizes
– The launderette as an alternative are: better because they are communal and guarantee maximal use of fewer machines while getting big loads, worse because they use higher temperatures used and tempts people into using the f*ing dryer

(obviously the averages here are statistical artifacts, provided that there are categories of garments that are washed after every wear and ones that are never washed)

From the Uitdenbogerd et al 1998 paper “Domestic Energy Saving Potentials for Food and Textiles: An Empirical Study” we get that, according to the behaviour of Dutch families in 1997, the most promising options for energy saving in household when it comes to textiles are:

– washing at lower temperatures, including 25ºC cycles,
– use of ½- or S-buttons for ½- and ¾- loads, and E-buttons on the machines,
– longer wearing,
– line drying.

So, following St.Kate’s advice and being mindful that notions of cleanliness has more to do with idea about culture, civilization, piety, propriety (as opposite to dirty) than dirt. And for the germophobes: as a species we are not very good at disease prevention via cleanliness, unless you boil and bleach everything, and even then… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(A disclaimer is due here that – quite ironically – our household experienced an order from a doctor to up our temperatures for certain types of laundry lately… So, as always, follow your doctor’s orders.)

Stop the automatic ‘I take it off and put it in the hamper’. Look at it, smell it, ask yourself if maybe drying it on a hanger and/or spraying with a mix of water and essential oils could be enough.

If you have decided that a garment needs washing, collect them until you have a full load (cold washes allow for not separating the colors), get an environmentally friendly detergent and go cold at least with the often worn clothing (very few of us truly cover our garments with mud every day). Rethinking the function of underwear is an idea, too. Let’s keep in mind that one of its missions is to separate the living, breathing, sweating, etc. flesh from our outer garments. The practice of wearing an undershirt might be on its demise (and now associated only with Marlon Brando and old men not wanting to show their nipples), but just give it a thought, especially for places with winters. And remember that the ‘iconic white t-shirt’ is not much more than a rebranded piece of underwear.

The impact assessments tend to include bleaching and ironing, so forget about that shit and the softener too. You never needed those for everyday use anyways. In our household only an occasional stubborn fruit stained serviette gets a 100ºC bleach soak before going in with the rest of household textiles at 60ºC. And only C’s summer shirts and my handkerchiefs get ironed.

Forget the dryer if you can, line drying is a beautiful practice in the sunnier parts of the globe (dry your brights inside out, though, sun is the original bleach; on the other hand, your whites will love it) and the northerners with proper heating at home get an actual health benefit from drying their clothes indoors on a rack – no need for an additional humidifier! The only people I’d give a permission slip for the dryer would be those with a lot of small children and those using launderettes (which normally comes accompanied with no space for a drying rack and a tendency towards mold in their studio apartments). But with reasonably cold/lukewarm water, good detergent and full loads, eh?

And now, after the yearly ‘how to wash’ primer (this was the last year’s), here is the phrase that peaked my interest: “It is very likely […] that we all have durable unwashed items in our wardrobes, but probably have never recognized them as such” (Fletcher 2014: 107). This is part that got me thinking: what are my no-washes? And rarely washes? What would be the common characteristics of the garments that do not get washed?

*No washes* are my fluffy coat (2006),

my festive bolero (2011),

my cape (2013),

my red woolen sweater (2015),

my Lithuanian woolen sweater (2015),

my swimsuit (2015) – rinsed a lot, never washed,

Ginta’s Monton bird skirt (2016),

Liisa’s velvet skater skirt (2017),

my Pavlovo Posad shawl (~2013) and my Cien Colores shawl (2017),

Julie’s cardigan (2017).

The WAG set has gotten no washes, but I’ve worn it only few times, we’ll see this summer if that structured but unlined cotton begs washing. Rare (as in ‘once in a season maybe’) washes are my parka (2003; the outer shell, the inner one has been washed once in 15 years, I think), HnM sweetheart dress (2008), Ginta’s trench (2010), Ginta’s blue silk dress (2016).

So, the riddle is served: what do these have in common? (1) Almost all are outer layers, so that my filthy body does not touch them directly. On the other hand however, the same characteristic makes them more vulnerable to outside dirt: bike oil, bird poo… (2) Many of them are worn strictly seasonally or for special occasions, so the overall number of wears is small, hence reduced exposure to being dirtied. (3) Materials! Wool is my golden amazing darling that does not smell, basically auto-cleans and any minor mayonnaise stain can be fixed with a damp cloth and all refreshing these garments need is just some alone time in wardrobe with a baggie of lavender. (4) Fear and awe inspiring items: I’m scared of fucking them up and wearing them out by repeated washing + the swimsuit which seems to be doing just fine with its chlorine soaks and less-chlorinated rinses afterwards.

*

What are your *no washes*? Are those things that don’t need washing because of their function or are those things that you haven’t worn enough? Do you have any secret garment refreshing techniques: spot cleaning, steaming them in shower, freeing them? Tell me, I’m all ears!

My sustainability fails

Hello, there! The lent might be in the air in this historically catholic country or maybe I just want to make a dent in the holier-than-thou issues of the blogosphere and consumption-based activism. Anyways, this will be a mea culpa of my poorest sustainability practices. While I can go through one of those long ‘get greener’ bucket lists (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and tick off quite few, there are several big ones I suck at. Welcome to the club!

Flying!

Ugh, the elephant in the room nobody in the online sustainability crowd likes to talk about. What’s the point to bring your own napkin to a transatlantic flight? I took 17 flights in 2016 and 23 in 2017. Aha, horrendous. And those include 8 intercontinental ones, just to make it completely awful. It must be much less in 2018 as my ‘take your PhD on a tour’ conference hopping is pretty much over, but is has already been 5 flights just between January and February 2018. I have none planned at least until June, and I’m trying a new trick at throwing money at my problem…

The basic step I am doing: Trains! I’ve been hating flying for a long time (I enjoyed my first few flights, it was all new and exciting, you know, going places), so I’ve opted to go to my KonMari seminar in train: Barcelona-Paris-London and back. It has cost me 260€ (flying would have cost me around 70€) and will mean hours more. On the other hand, it’s a better environmental option and better option for me: more space, views to watch, not fretting about the exact luggage size, not having to go to and from airports in the middle of nowhere (Eurostar had me convinced years ago with their ‘go from Paris to London instead of Charles de Gaulle to Heathrow’ ads), etc. And at least in this route it’s possible.

Not happening: I am not considering going to Rīga by train anytime soon, but the idea is to keep flying down to just love miles. I’ll let you know!

Garbage!

We (a shared household, so) are so far from being zero waste. We recycle religiously but I get guilt ping every time I stuff a bag in one of the colorful bins, even more if something goes to the gray bin. In Barcelona there are five different containers lining streets: brown for the organic waste, blue for paper, green for glass, yellow for plastics and aluminum, gray for the landfill. The additional services include textile containers of two different NGOs, furniture pick-up once a week from the curb and Punt Vert where they will take everything that’s shouldn’t go into the gray container or any other: electronics, batteries, random pieces of metal, used cooking oil, cava bottles. Ah, and pharmacies gather the pharmacological garbage: unused medicines and empty blisters! So significant space at our place is already occupied by different kind of garbage waiting for their turn to get out. And, yes, we are very lucky and privileged to have all that sorting and recycling being done for us by the City of Barcelona.

The basic step we are not doing: Switching to biodegradable bags for the organic garbage! We take out our paper in paper, glass in whatever as jars have to go in one by one, and plastic in a plastic bag. We did try a biodegradable bag for a short while, but they were too small and fragile for the amount of organic garbage we produce. I know, I know, my grandma also takes her kitchen garbage out everyday… and during summer we actually do switch to smaller bags because everything in that garbage bin goes compost and garbage juice in a very short time when it’s 28ºC and extremely humid.

Further steps we aren’t doing either: Composting! Without even entering into the conversation about where exactly and which type exactly, C has given a hard no on rotting stuff at home and I’m not passionate enough to try to fight that.

Dental hygene!

I switched to a children’s Humble Brush (the softest bristle but took time to get used to the small handle) years ago and I’m using an eco-certified vegan *with fluoride* toothpaste. However, Humble Brush has nylon bristle and my toothpaste travels to me by air from Germany clad in plastic (oh, all the waste and emissions of online shopping). I use dental floss every day knowing very well that it’s not biodegradable and peril to marine life. Oh, and I also chew a piece of plastic every night in the form of my mouth guard. It also has it’s own hard plastic coffin, of course.

The basic step I am not doing: Trying out real zero waste alternatives like baking soda or bar soap and neem stick. Nope! My gums are happy, my dentist and hygienist are happy. It’s actually funny because these people, despite the fact that they are peddling the latest super electronic brush, actually know a thing or two about dental hygiene. Nobody’s complaining about my current results while after a few months of experimenting with ayurvedic toothpastes years ago my dentist just had to intervene ‘with what have you been brushing your teeth? whatever it is, stop it’.

The teeny-tiny step I’m doing: Cutting my floss in smaller pieces, so that nobody could get tangled in it.

The tiny step I might do: Switching to Brush with Bamboo for my next toothbrush order (again, the flying packages!). Dental Lace, maybe? But, again, I have very sensitive gums and this stuff flies from far away (Maine, yo!).

Online shopping!

Of course I enjoy getting the best of all over the world right at my place. And I love receiving any kind of package! The excitement, the unboxing… and it goes to ridiculous lengths. My latest fails include (a) ordering four bottles of imported American apple cider vinegar from Madrid (and we did it twice as the first package had a broken bottle) without looking around in the neighborhood, and then I discovering that we can get French stuff in bulk for a very reasonable price in the shop I buy my almond oil and (b) being seduced by one of those companies that promote a ‘you buy and we give’ model and getting a present for C from the USA that didn’t ship to Spain so I had to engage an Italian friend to get it. Absurd! And Amazon Premium is nothing else than promoting laziness and killing local businesses. And so convenient, of course.

The teeny-tiny step I’m doing: For my German cosmetics I’m revising my existing supplies and postponing orders to make them big enough (and get free shipping, of course). I recently run out of lipbalm (the addiction thing keeps fluctuating) and made an excel (obviously!) just to find out that I’m up to my ears in toothpaste, solar protection, deodorants and cream. And the cream has fallen off my shopping list since I’ve discovered sweet almond oil! So I just stole a lip balm from my mom and carried on without buying more.

The other teeny-tiny step I’m doing: Stopping and thinking about possibilities to get what I want off-line. Barcelona is big and hip and there are a lot of great businesses either producing or importing. I do allow myself to buy online if I can’t find what I want or if the price is so much higher. The latest addition to our Amazon Prime basket of LED light bulbs and whatnot: (a) circle stencils for drawing that no shop in Barcelona had (I asked at several) and (b) a new Grids and Guides notebook as the previous one brought me so much joy; I suspected only one shop here to have them in stock and that would have necessarily been 10€ more. And we needed the lightbulbs!

The step I’ve completed: I’ve managed to stop buying books, headbands, and t-shirts with revolutionary slogans, though. Wasn’t easy. Very proud.

*

These are only few, of course. Our food supply is patchy ranging from a weekly CSA vegetable box to palm oil in our conventional wheat tortillas. We wash our dishes constantly opening and closing the tap (and switching on the gas-powered water heater). We just bought a giant TV set…

On the other hand, I’m trying to relax my orthorexic and obsessive-compulsive impulses of living up to a sustainability perfection that cannot be achieved. Relax, sweety, relax! There is only one Bea Johnson, and I will never replace her. I’m not planning to turn my life into a one cause anytime soon.

So let’s talk trash! What are your sustainability stumbles you are not really planning to address? Any babe steps you feel immensely proud of? Any aspects of your life where you have decided to just let go?

Some things change: My bag now and 10 years ago

My Dad’s hand-me-down backpack I’ve been using since 2014. My sentimental investment has been allowing for the leather detailing, and my financial investment in repairing it were 25€ last year when the main zipper went kaput after all that strain. It’s also the perfect size for both carry-on luggage that fits under the seat in front and my everyday needs.

*

Years ago there was a Latvian blog collecting photos and descriptions of people’s bags and pockets. I am unable to find it now, and I’m sure there are a gazillion more still doing it… However, having done such exercise in March 2008 and having found the email describing the contents when cleaning out my inbox, I just couldn’t resist repeating the exercise.

*

So, the contents of my bag – a leopard-print plastic HnM tote, btw – in 2008:

For a bit of context: I was living in Ciudad Real then, doing my European Voluntary Service in a local NGO and actively learning Spanish. I worked mornings only and had lunch at home. The town is tiny, I walked everywhere, and actively tried to befriend the right people.

What you see here are:

My agenda
A notebook
A book: Taibo, Carlos. 2007. Movimientos antiglobalización (fun fact: this is the first book I ever read in Spanish!)
A CD: Veneno. 1977. Veneno
Headphones
MP3 player
A rechargeable battery
A USB drive 512 MB
Mobile phone
My purse
A Finnish lip balm
A Spanish lip balm
A pill-box containing chewing gum and pain killers
Honey perfumed kleenex
Passport
‘Libreta’ of Caja Castilla-La Mancha
Ciudad Real library card
A fountain pen
A marker pen
A ‘No sin él’ card holder containing: 2 debit cards, youth card, EU health insurance, AXA insurance, family doctor’s appointment card, bank password card,
A receipt for withdrawal of 30€
A boarding pass for a Brussels Airlines flight Brussels-Madrid

*

And in 2018

I’m living in Barcelona, doing a PhD, commuting by bicycle, carefully planning all my activities and things to carry with me because popping home between, let’s say, yoga and work, would be a waste of time. I take lunch from home.

So 10 years later, on a normal Friday evening, I take out of my backpack:

My agenda
A notebook
Office key card
Home keys: front door, apartment door, postbox, both bicycle locks + bottle opener
Two cases for glasses: regular ones and sunglasses
Empty lunch tupperware with orange rinds, dirty knife and fork, a serviette in a cloth bag
A loaf of ‘German bread’ (a sad Spanish attempt at rye bread, ugh!)
Used yoga outfit: t-shirt, racerback top, leggings, knickers, socks

The pouch my mother-in-law made (she also made the two other ones inside) containing:

Phone + charger
My purse
Pill purse containing bandaids, painkillers, antivirals, a tampon
A Pusheen snack box with three dried figs
Oral contraceptives
Dirty handkerchief
Kleenex (those are a ‘last resort’ I don’t use routinely but you never know when you’ll end up in a dirty Spanish bar with no paper/towels)
A hand sanitizer
Earplugs in a case
USB stick 32 GB
A Latvian lipbalm
7 writing tools: a fountain pen, 4 markers, a permanent marker, a pencil
A hair elastic
A tiny clothes pin that was attached to Gulia’s present
A PAA card holder: ID, university ID, 2 Riga travel cards (one empty, one usable), 2 Barcelona travel cards (1-zone and 4-zone), a receipt for having spent 44 euros in the post office, debit card, bank password card, Catalunya health care system card, EU health insurance card, gym membership, La Festival buy 9-get-10th-for-free card

*

Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi: while many aspects of my life have changed – the daily distances, schedules, tasks – other have stayed the same. I am still faithful to paper agendas and paper notebooks, and I still routinely carry with me a ‘first aid’ kit of wellbeing (that has expanded in last 10 years): handkerchiefs, kleenex, pain killers, ear plugs… I did finally switch to a smart phone last December and my lipbalm addiction is much less severe than before. But on days I’m not taking bicycle (rain!), I will always carry a book with me.

If you would shake out your everyday bag now and 10 (5? 15? 1?) years ago, what would still be there? What are the little things that help you maintain comfort when you are out and about? Is there anything you panic without? (I had that with lipbalms for years…)

The reading matter: part 2 – Save and sustain

The first part = The reading matter: part 1 – Art and inspo

My information diet is almost as lean as my closet: I have unfollowed everybody except my mother, my partner and some pages on Facebook, I don’t read press, I don’t use Twitter as a source of reading matter… I watch a Spanish late-night comedy show to keep up with the local news, Stephen Colbert to keep up with the American news and have my feeds to keep me warm. C did a search for a new RSS feed organizer when Google killed it’s Reader and found Feedly. It’s not perfect (very few things are, ugh), but does its job of bringing my news to me instead of me having to go after them. I really don’t get the ‘check my latest post’ logic on Instagram – if I like your content, I already have it in my reader, thank you very much!

So I’ll show you my reading lists… only the fashion and sustainability related folders, though, if you want recommendations for recipe blogs, illustrated sex toy reviews or my favorite academic journals, just ask.

Folder 2: Save + sustain
Eco-fashion, zero waste, financial independence, etc…

I’ve postponed this post for a long time due descriptions I wanted to write, as done is better than perfect, here you have them in descriptive categories.

Sustainability in general:

Ethical and green living with Lucy Siegle

Sustainable America

Fashion as Business:

The Fashion Law

Sustainable fashion / Fashion as Business:

Elizabeth Suzann

Sustainable fashion / Garment Stories:

Patagonia’s Worn Wear

Sustainable fashion / Conscious Dressing:

Kate Fletcher

Style Bee

Un-Fancy

Good on You

Sustainable fashion / Conscious Dressing / Minimalism:

Anuschka Rees

To Universe, With Love

Sewing / Upcycling:

Refashionista

Zero Waste:

Zero Waste Home

Paris to Go

Wasteland Rebel

Zero Waste / Whole Foods Plants Based:

Mama Eats Plants

Plastic Free:

(In Spanish) Vivir sin plástico

Zero Waste / Minimalism:

(In Latvian) Seek the Simple

Tidying:

(In Spanish) Orden y Limpieza en Casa

Spark Joy Podcast

Financial Independence:

J.L. Collins

Mr. Money Mustache

Miscellaneous:

Bonzai Aphrodite

Madame Manumus

*

What are your favorite feeds for sustainability inspiration? Is there anyone out there in the blogosphere that changed your life? Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home is often the answer to this one, i know. Whom am I missing in my list? Suggestions are more than welcome!

#whatiwore 2018w05 + Sunday links

This post marks a new year in the weekly outfit world – it’s Nº53. You can see them all via this link or on Pinterest! And on we go with the brain-food:

On sartorial butterfly effects: The Marie Antoinette Dress That Ignited the Slave Trade. Allows you to appreciate the pros of a multi-polar world when one dress (or dress-wearer) doesn’t have that much trendsetting power. Oh, no, wait, the fucking Kardashians & Co… + now we all have the power to ignite slave or – in the best cases – almost slave labor while eating brioche fruit flown in from faraway lands ans swiping left.

Menstrual cups are still a novelty or what? They just keep popping up in my feeds, see examples here and here, and on display in our local pharmacy. I’ve had mine since the winter 2012/2013 (this one, because C’s sister was getting one and Fleurcup does this pay-for-1-get-2 thing so she offered giving me the other one), I had to cut the ‘stem’ part off to make it comfortable and have been happy since. My cup is dark brown now because I do not obsess about cleaning it. It’s fine, only my cervix sees it and he doesn’t care!
What truly strikes me every time somebody writes about menstrual cups is the ‘oh, it was scary, oh, you get to go to places you have never been to’ tone. Really? Are we really missing so much sexuality education that people with cervixes don’t know how to locate them?
Nevermind, tl;dr – try a menstrual cup if you haven’t yet, especially if you are not sure about your basic anatomy, and get your hand in there! It’s about the time you understood where all that blood came from.

A little fun Buzzfeed piece Here’s Why Clothing Sizes Are The Way They Are that so beautifully reveals the naïveté of early applications of social research. Serious and dedicated people going out there and doing thousands of measurements just to have the results completely off because their sampling was shit.

*

What are your (sustainable) menstrual product preferences? Hand-made reusable pads, eco-tampons, period undies, a cup, or just bleeding all over the place your moon goddess magic? Was there ever a life-changing switch (that one for me was the change from maxi pads to tampons some 15 years ago)?
Additional dysmenorrhea pro-tip (I have street cred for painful periods, I’ve been taken to hospital in an ambulance): forget the anti-inflammatory analgesics and look for antispasmodics. Not for nothing those are called menstrual cramps!

The reading matter: part 1 – Art and inspo

The second part = The reading matter: part 2 – Save and sustain

My information diet is almost as lean as my closet: I have unfollowed everybody except my mother, my partner and some pages on Facebook, I don’t read press, I don’t use Twitter as a source of reading matter… I watch a Spanish late-night comedy show to keep up with the local news, Stephen Colbert to keep up with the American news and have my feeds to keep me warm. C did a search for a new RSS feed organizer when Google killed it’s Reader and found Feedly. It’s not perfect (very few things are, ugh), but does its job of bringing my news to me instead of me having to go after them. I really don’t get the ‘check my latest post’ logic on Instagram – if I like your content, I already have it in my reader, thank you very much!

So I’ll show you my reading lists… only the fashion and sustainability related folders, though, if you want recommendations for recipe blogs, illustrated sex toy reviews or my favorite academic journals, just ask. Keep in mind that while I might be critical (see the ‘nothing’s perfect’ note above), this is the content I enjoy.

Folder 1 – Art + inspo:
These are the pretty picture blogs that don’t care about sustainability or minimalism.
Also, a lot of illustration.

A Clothes Horse: breathtaking photography, orange hair, great style. I think I re-pin Rebecca’s photos the most. While she is neither into sustainability nor minimalism and a lot of content is sponsored, this is real style inspo for me.

A Curious Fancy: Indian, plus size, into all things cute. Think lace tights, thoughtful accessorizing, and very nice photography + an occasional essay on bodies, like this one.

A Robot Heart: Polish, sews some garments, occasional post-soviet anthropological references. Lately a lot of sponsored content, but time by time a styling gem like this session appears there.

African Prints in Fashion: I really tried to find some African fashion blogs with an aesthetic that resonated with me after I came back from Cape Town in late 2017 (oh, the amount of ’10 African fashion bloggers that are slaying it’ articles with broken links that I went through). This is one of the few satisfactory ones I found.

All You Need is a Wall: illustrations by Alexandra Dvornikova. If Clarissa Pinkola Estés would have been born Russian and more recently, this is what she’d be doing.

Edits All the Way: the classiest moodboards on Tumblr.

Cupcake’s Clothes (defunct): I’m so sad Georgina stopped curating her blog! It was the perfect over-the-top sweet plus size hybrid. And when C thought that the cat ear headband was too much, I threatened him with getting one of Georgina’s antler creations from her Etsy shop.

Gemma Correll’s illustrations on her Blogspot, Tumblr and Facebook page. She is great, dedicated to feminism, introverts and animals, so I find her merch so hard to resist.

Annya Marttinen’s Tumblr – her work is a lighter, more childish version of Dvornikova’s ‘she lives in a dark forest and runs with the wolves‘ vibe.

Taryn Knight’s work: What can I do, I love me some nice drawings… and hers are excellent.

Johanna Öst’s art and occasional dark pin-up outfit – Oh, when people live their art!

Kate Tokley’s blog: I came across this via #FashRev, I think. She crochets, she deals with anxiety, tries out capsule wardrobes. It resonates, I don’t know why.

Pauline aka Punziella who went viral with her casual Disney princesses. So much talent, so cute!

Madison Ross: again, a lot of wild women art I find hard not to buy.

Martha Anne illustrations. Defined borders, clear colors, female characters, and food! What’s not to love?

Miss Pandora: Oh, Louise! Elaborated editorials, background in art history and all that in French only. Rarely truly my aesthetic (too much heels and make-up to start with), but so undeniably cool.

Nancy Zhang: or when fashion blog meets illustration. Move over, Garance, this is the real deal!

Olga Valeska: Her photos, paintings, collages, etc. etc. are so stunning I don’t even care for her religiosity, and that’s rare! Truly breathtaking and makes my 19th century Russian-aesthetics-loving heart rejoice.

Pagnifik: another source of ‘wax hollandais‘ magic.

Serina Kitazono’s illustrations.

Zuzana Èupová’s aka Suwi’s illustrations.

Third local: a Ugandan now in France, urban, mostly pants and very cool. And a side of beautiful photography to go with it.

And just for fun in the same folder also Pusheen and Heart & Brain live.

*

What are your favorite feeds for pretty pictures? Whom am I missing in my list? Suggestions more than welcome.