Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Lifestyle Reboot - August/September: The Comings and Goings of Foods

How are we halfway through October already? It seems like fall just happened all of a sudden out of nowhere. One day it was 90 degrees and the next it was time for pumpkin spice everything. Time has seriously gotten away from me. I actually wrote this post 3 weeks ago but I wanted to do a final edit before posting and then somehow it's now. Oops. No matter, today we get back on track with some lifestyle updates!

Even though the last 2 months have flown by and I have not had a chance to sit down and blog, I have been keeping on with some lifestyle adjustments. Coincidentally, one habit has to do with where my food comes from and the other is all about what I do with the bits I don't want or can't eat. I've been really focusing on both simultaneously since I got home so it doesn't really work to say one is for August and one is for September, but I figure 2 habits, 2 months, it all works out.

Starting with the purchasing end of the conversation, I have been making a very concerted effort to buy as much food as I possibly can from the farmer's market each week. So far this is going well. There are enough options around me that, even on weekends when I have found myself in another city, I have been able to make it work each week to buy the bulk of my produce as well as cheese, meat, bread and honey straight from the farms that grew or made them. It can definitely be a little bit of a hassle and I still have to make a (much quicker) grocery store run most weeks because there are some things that I just can't buy locally (sadly, no lemon trees here). But I think it's worth it to know exactly where my food is coming from and to support the local farmers that put so much work into making that possible.

I haven't been doing the best job of keeping track, but so far it seems like I am spending about the same amount of money as I would at the grocery store with the added bonus that I get to know the people that grew my food. I have really appreciated the dialogue that goes along with buying food straight from the people that made it. I can ask them about unfamiliar vegetables and how their animals were raised and they can tell me all about them, often followed by tips on how to cook the food and maybe even a sample. I have some stands that I love to visit just because I really like the people that run them and I enjoy supporting them. The whole experience just makes me feel far more comfortable about what I'm putting into my body and I find that I really value the food when I'm eating it because of what went into acquiring it.

Shopping at the farmer's market has the added bonus of being far easier on the environment because the food isn't traveling so far to get to me, which means less waste in the shipping process from packaging and fuel. And since I bring all of my own bags, I can avoid most packaging on my end. All in all, I think it's a win and I plan to maintain this lifestyle change for as long as the farmer's market is open.

Not only have I been much more thoughtful about where my food comes from, but I've also been very purposeful in what I do with all the bits and pieces I can't eat. I started getting in the habit of collecting compost way back in June but at the time I didn't yet have a dedicated compost bin, so I was just dumping it in my friends' garden. This worked but I really wanted to have a more sustainable solution that I could manage on my own. I also wanted it to be as low-maintenance as possible.

Looking at the wealth of information on the internet, I found that most sites that talk about apartment-specific options focus on worm bins, which I'm just not sure is right for me. There are some definite benefits but it seems much harder to maintain the proper environment for them and I'm really not sure that they would make it through the winter. I also discovered a Japanese system called bokashi that uses microorganisms to break down food, including meat and dairy scraps. This actually is a pretty attractive option, but it involves investing in a whole system, which I'm just not sure I'm quite ready to do. I would definitely encourage looking into it, though. It's pretty interesting and great if you're wanting to keep something inside.

In the end, I opted to go very low-tech and inexpensive. I found several tutorials for compost bins made out of large plastic totes or garbage cans. Plastic is not my favorite option, but it's durable for something I intend to have for quite awhile and I couldn't think of another way to make something comparable that didn't involve a lot of tools/skills/time I don't have. So, I took a trip to Menard's and found a 20 gallon black plastic tote for $5. I also bought a small shovel for turning the compost. Then I just used the biggest drill bit I had to drill lots and lots of holes in all four sides, the bottom and the lid. (Pro-tip, make sure your drill has been charged at some point in the last 2 years before starting this project.) After cleaning up all the dislodged plastic (easier said than done), it was ready for stuff.

I put it out on my balcony and, based on what I read online, started it with some shredded cardboard and brown packing paper (since I don't have yardwaste), a bunch of organic potting soil that had been sitting in pots after I gave up on trying to grow plants, lots of water, and the food scraps I had already collected that week. I'm not really sure if potting soil is going to work, but the internet suggested dirt and it's basically dirt, right? I figured I should use it for something since I'm really not planning to grow anymore plants.

I've been continually adding food scraps and toilet paper tubes for the past couple months and it seems okay. I've just been keeping a bowl of scraps in the fridge as I cook throughout the week and then dumping it as it gets full, which is working well. So far the compost bin is kind of swarming with fruit flies and I'm not really sure what that means. I appreciate that it's helping to keep them out of my kitchen and they are pretty much contained inside the compost bin, but it's unclear to me if they are really supposed to be there. To be honest, I don't really know what it should be doing, so I'm just rolling with it for the moment. I know that less and less composting will happen as the weather turns colder, so I think it's going to be awhile before I actually know if it's working. I guess we'll see what happens. Don't worry, I'll keep you posted.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Sun's Out, Thumb's Out

Hello! Welcome back! Well, welcome back to me, I don't know what you've been doing all summer. I've been on vacation basically all summer and I'm not even going to try to be diplomatic about it, it's been awesome. I'm going to take a small departure today from the recent theme of this blog and throw back to its roots as a space for me to share my experiences abroad. Don't worry, we'll get back to our regularly scheduled lifestyle challenges soon but today is all about travel. Feel free to ignore this post if that's not your jam.

I visited several destinations this summer but, most recently and probably most interestingly, I spent roughly 3 weeks in Iceland. It is a stunning country full of lovely people and I highly recommend it as a travel destination. It was so incredible, in fact, that I honestly don't even have the words to describe it. I'm not sure I've fully processed everything yet and I'm not even going to attempt to do so here. Instead, I am going to focus in on one piece of my trip that I think really contributed to making it such an amazing experience.

The country is an island with a main highway called the Ring Road that runs all the way around it in a big circle. The best way to see the country is by car, with the general idea being that you drive around the ring road stopping in each region and making detours all along the way. This is awesome, except that a) car rentals are super expensive and b) even if I did rent a car, it means I would be driving around by myself for 3 weeks. This is not my ideal when it comes to travel. Iceland does have a fairly extensive bus system, but they are also pretty expensive and the timing is just not what you want it to be. However, for the adventurous traveler, there is another, much more fun alternative: hitchhiking.

I know, I know, I know. Hitchhiking is dangerous. Never get in cars with strangers. (Even if they have candy...ok, especially if they have candy.) And, in this day and age, in most situations, I would agree with you. However, Iceland is a little bit of an outlier. It is an incredibly safe country, with very low crime rates and it also still has a culture of hitchhiking. People do it pretty regularly, and it's one of the only places in the world where I feel like it's safe to stick out my thumb. Which is precisely why I wanted to give it a go.

Ride, ride, ride, hitchin' a ride...
Real talk: hitchhiking is awesome and I kind of want to do it all the time. I won't, because I don't think it's actually safe in most places, but that fact makes me kind of sad. I wish that it was still a thing people could confidently do more often because it's great. It's not a perfect way to travel and it's definitely not as convenient as having your own set of wheels, but, if you are interested in meeting new people and having random adventures, it's the best way to travel. Plus, ride sharing is great for the environment and much more enjoyable than sitting on a bus.

I was pretty nervous before I started, and, honestly, it's always a little bit stressful just because it's so unpredictable. I was so unsure about how it would go initially that, the first couple times I got picked up, I almost cried because I was just so glad someone had given me a ride. It was surprisingly hard for me to stand and watch all the cars that didn't want to pick me up go by. I felt equal parts frustrated when there was clearly plenty of room in the vehicle and amused to watch people's reactions, which included waving, ignoring me, smiling and gesturing an apology (usually because their car was completely full of stuff and/or people).

My companions for a movie about Iceland's volcanic past.
What really made it worth it were the people that did pick me up. They were a pretty even mix of Icelanders and fellow travelers and I was struck again and again by their kindness and willingness to hang out with a stranger. Almost everyone at least wanted to chat, most were willing to go out of their way to make sure I got where I was going and many were happy to bring me along for an adventure. Over and over again, I was blown away by how willing people were to help me. I fully expected that people would take me as close as they could to my destination and then I would walk or hitch the rest of the way. Instead, most people were happy to drive out of their way to take me exactly where I needed to go and many offered other help as well. One woman actually drove by as I was walking toward the main road from a parking lot, reversed, and then offered me a ride before I had even started hitching. Another guy who lived locally offered me his number when he dropped me off in case I needed anything while I was in town.

There's a waterfall hiding back there.
Aside from reaffirming my faith in humanity, the best part was the people that were willing to take me along for whatever adventure they were having. I feel like almost everything I did, and certainly most of the best things, were because of the people that I met catching rides. My second ride was with a British girl about my age that was driving around the island on her own. She picked me up in the morning and together we stopped at several of the tourist spots on the way to where I was going. I ended up traveling around with her for almost a week, having all sorts of awesome adventures that I hadn't anticipated. An Icelandic couple that picked us up took us on a random hike into a canyon to find a stunning waterfall hidden in a crevice in the back. They were absolutely adorable and also enjoyed telling us about landforms in the area as we drove through (unicorn mountain was a personal favorite). A group of Icelandic and Danish gentlemen invited me to join them for a movie about the past volcanic eruptions on the island. They also picked up some Icelandic snacks they wanted me to try, waited for me while I checked into my hostel and bought me a beer while we hung out and waited for the movie to start, and then paid for my movie ticket to boot, all of which was entirely unexpected.

This trip was definitely about letting go and just rolling with the punches. I met a lot of people in lots of random ways that led to many many excellent adventures. Hitchhiking was a huge part of that. It was a very good lesson in what is possible when you let go of expectations and just let yourself be present in the current situation. My strategy of having basically no plans whatsoever really only let me down once in 3 weeks and all that happened was I spent several hours of my day waiting at a bus stop, which ended up being a great opportunity to journal. I feel like the trip was a great lesson in being open to unexpected opportunities and a reminder of how I want to live my life - focusing on being truly present and realizing that sometimes the best plans are no plans at all.

I have a hunch that at least part of what makes Iceland such a safe place for hitchhiking is related to it being a generally rural and relatively inaccessible place. Though I can't factually back that up, I couldn't help but draw a number of parallels to the more rural, agricultural areas of the Midwest. It seems to me that living "out in the country," or, in this case, on a remote fjord, tends to lend itself to developing a culture of helping and caring. In a more remote setting, supporting each other becomes an important part of making sure everyone can thrive. Regardless of the reason, I'm glad to know that such a place still exists in the world and I'm so grateful I got the chance to experience it in this way. Thank you, Iceland, for expanding my horizons, teaching me about life and just generally sharing your stunning self with me. I look forward to our next meeting.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lifestyle Reboot - June: Composting, sort of

Welcome to summer! I don't know about y'all, but I am so happy it's finally here. I could have lived without the sudden jump into 90-100 degree weather but I'll take the free time nonetheless. May's challenge was a roaring success. I'm pretty active anyway but I liked how having that mindset encouraged me to do some extra things, like having a little dance party in my living room (which had the added benefit of making me happier) or looking for opportunities to walk instead of drive. I think I missed a couple days over the month but overall it did encourage me to find some extra ways to infuse activity into my daily life. This is definitely a mindset I'll maintain, whether I'm doing a challenge or not. 

I didn't really set a specific challenge for June. I am travelling for most of the summer, which makes it tricky to be strict about a lot of the challenges. My goal instead has been on really making a concerted effort toward more sustainable life choices as much as I can, whether travelling or at home. 

I have been trying to buy as much as I can from the farmer's market and I started composting, sort of. I realized that getting it set up before my travels wasn't really feasible so I've been collecting my food scraps and dumping them in my friend's garden. I did some research and think I have an idea of what I want to set up when I'm back, but this is working for now. 

I also finally ordered a bunch of items that I've had a hard time finding locally. I bought a compostable dish brush and toothbrushes, a tea strainer for loose leaf tea instead of bags, a safety razor and some cloth bags for bulk bin items. I am just starting to try out the items so we'll see how I feel about the changes over time. I have to admit that I don't love the feeling of a wooden toothbrush but I'm hoping I'll get used to it over time. It reminds me of using those little wooden spoons for chocolate malt cups at amusement parks and sporting events, which is vaguely nostalgic but in an unfortunate way.

I'm also finding a bit of a learning curve to using the safety razor. I was a bit nervous about giving myself wicked razor burn so I watched some videos online before I tried using it and then got a little concerned about what I had gotten myself into. It's such a process! There's a prewash and a preshave and shaving cream with a brush and like 5 minutes of just making lather and then the actual shaving and then aftershave. I'm not sure I'm prepared for all that. So far I've been using it like normal and just making sure I have a lot of lather but I'll admit it has not produced the best shave ever. I'm hoping it'll get better over time. Maybe I'm making it harder than it needs to be. 

I am very happy about the bulk bin bags, though. While most grocery stores I frequent have a bulk food section, they don't really encourage you to bring your own containers. Whole Foods has signs explicitly asking you not to and Hy-Vee doesn't seem to mind but there's no way to avoid paying for the weight of the jar. The only place I've found in Lincoln or Omaha that will tare out the weight of a jar is Open Harvest in Lincoln. While I'm happy to shop there as much as I can, it's just not very feasible to always do all of my bulk bin shopping in Lincoln. So I'm opting for lightweight bags instead. It's not a perfect solution as I'm still paying for the weight of the bag but it's a step in the right direction. 

Overall, I'm feeling good about the direction things are going. It's been interesting trying to make even some of these simple changes because I feel like I'm really swimming against the tide here in Nebraska. A lot of the items I want just aren't really available. I looked for a dish brush and safety razor in several stores before just ordering them because I couldn't find any. I love that I have the internet and the option to order things but it's a little bit frustrating because I'm solving one waste problem at the expense of creating another in the form of packing material and a special delivery. the good thing is that I'm starting to see more and more options over time and I'm hoping that trend continues as interest and demand increases. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Lifestyle Reboot: February Fast Fashion Review

[A much delayed posting of my thoughts from the beginning of March.]

I have to tell you, friends, I am digging this no fast fashion thing. I am really starting to get behind the idea of embracing my own personal style rather than remaining beholden to the fickle whims of the current fashion industry. It actually feels like this challenge has been helping me reconnect to my past self a bit, which I am really appreciating.

I have been shopping at thrift stores since at least high school, probably earlier. Back then my wardrobe consisted mostly of jeans and thrifted kids' t-shirts with whatever random designs amused me. These were accented with ridiculous handbags and brightly colored plastic earrings. I fully embraced a slightly punk, counter-culture look and didn't worry too much about being fashionable. Granted, my friends were all into the same look, so it was actually kind of the cool thing to do. Or at least we thought so at the time. 

Somewhere over the past decade I started to care a lot more about actually being "in style". It was kind of gradual and I'm not really sure how it happened. But I started looking at my closet and realizing that more and more of it was populated with current trends from retail stores and less and less was made up of the funky and unique thrifted pieces I really enjoy. And that made me kind of sad, like I had lost a fun and fierce part of myself. A part that just wore whatever made her happy and didn't bother to care about if other people would like it too much. 

While my fashion sense has grown up dramatically, stepping away from current trends is helping me reconnect with my former self. I'm starting to take more risks with my clothes and actually think about what my personal style is, rather than if what I'm wearing is fashionable enough. And I like it. I like that it makes me feel kind of spunky again. I have been very inspired lately by people like Jillian of Refashionista, a fashion blog dedicated to thrift store finds and refashions.

So what have I been wearing lately that's so funky? Honestly, most of what I'm wearing is actually pretty normal and probably I'm the only one who has noticed the change. However, here are my fashion finds for the month:

I wasn't so sure about the navy knit dress but I liked the fit and the weight of it and I like it with leggings now that I've shortened it a bit. The real question mark this month was the white silk blouse. I stood in the dressing room for so long debating whether or not it was actually really wearable. I finally decided it was worth the $1.50 to find out. Plus it came with a skirt, which is totally wearable, though definitely not together. After washing out the wrinkles and trying it on at home, I think the blouse is going to end up being a great piece. I have already worn it for a tea-party themed cocktail party and I'm looking forward to wearing it out with jeans. 

I'm also continuing to try to fix or adjust the things I have rather than buying new. This month I stitched up a hole in some leggings to make them wearable again. I'm hoping that holds up as I didn't really know what I was doing. And I have some boots in my car that I need to take to have the zipper repaired so that they don't snag another pair of leggings. At some point I also adjusted a couple thrifted silk tank tops. The jungle print one started tearing, so I hemmed it above the tear, which makes it a bit short to wear alone, but it's a fun way to spice up a plain maxi dress. The blue one was very very large. I took it in and hemmed it and it came out ok. I am not very good at taking things in but I think it'll work.

All in all, this has definitely been a good challenge. I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes me over the course of the year.

Update: Both repairs appear to be holding up well and I even found another pair of grey leggings while thrifting that are even more comfortable, so I'm all set if/when my stitching fails. Can I also just add that I am seriously appreciating how much shorter my trips to Target have become?

Lifestyle Reboot - May: Get Moving!

Oh, hey there! So nice to see you again! My apologies for the radio silence after leaving you with a promise of many ruminations. March and April turned out to be bit intense with a quick vacation, a work conference and standardized testing. While it was kind of nice to take a pause on writing, I do have lots to share, so I will try to finish up all the posts I started with such high hopes way back in March. 

Truth time. March and April were kind of a fail in terms of challenges. I hit the ground running in March and then just kind of petered out. Things I have learned about myself: I'm not great at doing things every single day. I have a much better chance of making weekly or monthly goals, though, let's be honest, I'll probably do almost all of it at the last minute. I suppose it's good to know oneself well and now I am very aware that flexibility is key for me. So, at least I'm still learning things.

I ended up just taking April off. My goal with this project was not to make my life more stressful but to help myself grow and hopefully make some lasting changes. That wasn't going to happen in April. I didn't have any challenges that seemed really doable with traveling and testing time gets pretty intense, so I gave myself a pass on setting a challenge.  Instead I continued to work toward zero waste and tried to get a feel for what that might look like while traveling. It was definitely not a zero waste trip, but San Francisco made it fairly easy to at least lower my footprint and I learned some things about what might work for me in the future. 

I am, however, back up and running for May! I am LOVING the warmer, sunnier days and starting to slip into manic summer mode, so this month is all about getting moving and getting outside. My goal is to get moving, ideally outside, for at least 10 minutes each day. Despite what I said 2 paragraphs ago, I have a lot of faith in this challenge. 10 minutes is a low enough bar that I'm pretty sure I can get myself to do it every day and, usually, once I get going, it ends up being more than 10 minutes. Plus, I just bought a bike that I can't wait to ride. (Yes, mom, I also bought a helmet. You're welcome.)

Additionally, I am sticking with my commitment to avoid fast fashion and am continuing to acquire the things I need to replace more and more of the disposable items in my life (there aren't very many left!). I am also planning to start composting just as soon as I can acquire a suitable container. It's driving me crazy to keep throwing away all of my food scraps. 

As always, thank you for joining me on this journey! I am still open to suggestions of challenges if you have any ideas to share. I am also feeling a little bit intimidated about composting in an apartment, so if anyone knows a lot about composting and would be willing to chat with me about it, that would be cool. The internet can be a very overwhelming place...

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Lifestyle Reboot - March: Random Acts of Kindness

Another month, another challenge! This month is all about positivity. We are reaching the point of the year where the weather starts getting our hopes up for summer by being (relatively) nice sometimes. Which is of course immediately followed by a biting cold snap and 8 inches of snow, just to bring us back to reality. It seems like a perfect time to focus on brightening everyone's moods with some good old-fashioned kindness. My goal for this month is to do one random act of kindness every day. So far this has mostly consisted of giving people cookies. People seem to like cookies.

I feel like a little bit of a liar. I started this year being all, "I'm going to make changes all about sustainability" and then two of the first three aren't really about sustainable living at all. However, as I look over my list of potential ideas, I am reminded more and more that this is a process. There are a lot of things that just aren't feasible yet for various reasons. For instance, I'm looking forward to eating locally for a month, but I really need to wait for it to not be winter in order for that to actually work and be enjoyable. And there are a lot of things that I need to do before I can go completely 100% zero waste.

I'm still making small changes all the time that are helping to build to some of these bigger challenges, like working on replacing the kleenex that just ran out with handkerchiefs. (I really thought it would be fun/easy to find old school handkerchiefs secondhand. I am learning this is not the case.) I'm also just trying to change my mindset. Now, anytime I go to reach for something disposable, I stop and try to figure out what I could use instead that wouldn't create any waste. It's interesting and a learning process. For example, I learned that fork tines are no replacement for toothpicks when trying to get cookie dough out of all the little crevices in a plastic cookie cutter (any other suggestions?). I also learned that pretty thrifted dishes are a great way to share cookies with others, though I did not find a better way to protect them than with plastic wrap. (Tins, I think decorative tins might start to become a thing in my life...)

I am also continuing my commitment to no fast fashion. I will share more about how that's going in another post but overall I'm digging it. I actually have quite a few things to share from February, so stay tuned. Much ruminating is afoot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Lifestyle Reboot: January in Review

Month 1, Challenge 1: Complete. So far this year of change is going swimmingly. I very successfully managed to avoid any fast fashion purchases last month. I did not, however, avoid adding to my wardrobe and I'm pretty excited to share with you some of the ways that I managed to do that. (In case you haven't been keeping up with my challenges and have no idea what I'm up to this year, feel free to check out previous posts here.)

The most obvious, of course, is shopping secondhand. The one downside of this challenge is that I think it just helped me give myself an excuse to go thrifting more often, which may be counteracting any budgeting gains I made by avoiding the mall. No matter, here is what I found this month:

-This cozy blue sweatshirt (WITH ELBOW PATCHES) has been perfect for being comfy and warm now that it's actually cold ($5)
-These gray leggings were a serendipitous find as I just accidentally tore a hole in my old pair. ($3)
-My new favorite shirt for spring ($1!)
-I expected this 'a' sweatshirt to be a brand name, but no, it's the ALPHABET ($5)
-Updated winter coat as I've been looking to replace mine for a couple years now ($20, but I spent $6 after trading in some clothes)

I also tried selling some of my clothes to a couple consignment stores here in town. I wasn't super successful, as I think I missed the window on selling back sweaters but I did manage to make $10 on 2 dresses from Scout and $14 from a few items at Plato's Closet, which I ended up using as a trade-in toward my coat. If you live in Omaha and haven't checked out Scout, I highly recommend it. They have lots of interesting old and new pieces and pay better than a lot of places that buy back clothing. (No, they did not sponsor this post, I just really like them.) I would like to try a couple spots in Lincoln next time I'm in town and I just noticed a new place in Benson to check out before I donate the leftovers.

In addition to buying and selling to secondhand shops, I made a few edits to some clothes I already owned in an attempt to make them more wearable. [Full disclosure: Both of these projects are things I had been meaning to do for awhile and just hadn't quite gotten to yet. No matter, I still think they are worth sharing. ]

Project 1: Attempting to dye a couple pieces to cover up some stains. The pants had gotten a tiny smidge of bleach or something that was just enough to make them unwearable. The dye didn't fully cover it but it's at least enough that no one should notice while I'm wearing them unless they are seriously scrutinizing my thigh. The shirt clearly didn't work. It actually made the stain more prominent. That shirt is instead getting donated in hopes that someone else will find a good use for it. Overall, dying things to cover up stains has been very hit or miss for me (based on this and previous attempts). Another downside I have found of dying things is that you have to use hot water, which sometimes has the effect of shrinking things a bit.

Project 2: I bought this sweater dress secondhand last year to wear with leggings. It's super comfy and I like it but I am insanely sensitive to sweaters being itchy and realized after wearing it to work last year that it wasn't going to work for me without long sleeves under it. Unfortunately the neck is too wide for it to work with most of my long-sleeved shirts, so I made a couple chops to an old one that I had that was nearing the end of its useful life (it has already been dyed in an attempt to cover up some staining, which was only sort of successful). Now I'm good to go!

Overall, the month wasn't too challenging. I actually really appreciated having a good reason to stay more focused at Target and completely skip out on entering any stores when I met a friend at the mall for dinner in the fancy new local food court. In fact, I liked it so much that I am going to keep this challenge going. I am officially committing to 6 months, but ideally I'll hold out for the whole year.

I hesitate because making that commitment feels a bit too overwhelming right now and I'm not up for adding more stress to my life. I also have some reservations about being able to find certain items if I need them, namely pants, bras and shoes. These are all items that I struggle to find secondhand for various reasons and some are things I know I am going to need to replace in the next year. (I think the pants thing might be easier if Omaha were able to support more consignment shops like Plato's Closet and Scout, but I digress.) I will continue to look when I'm thrifting but I am also going to need to start looking into buying items that are new but made with sustainable practices. I'm not entirely certain how successful that will be.

I'm looking forward to continuing to update on how this challenge is going throughout the year. I've got a number of things in the works that I'd like to post about soon. I came across a book about fast fashion that I just started last week, which I think will warrant a post when it's finished, as well as a couple more refashions that I'm hoping to finish this week as part of my creativity challenge for February. And there will definitely be more thrift store finds to share, not to mention updates on all the challenges to come, so stay tuned!

Lifestyle Reboot - February: Getting Creative

Alright, everyone! A new month is officially upon us, which makes it time for a new challenge! This month's challenge is a bit less focused on sustainability and instead is more geared toward building mindfulness in my every day life (although, given that it's me, there are definitely some sustainability undertones).

I have always been a fairly creative/artistic person and I've noticed lately that this part of myself is almost entirely absent from my daily life. I very rarely make it a priority to spend time taking photos or working on any sort of artistic projects, so my focus for this month is to spend at least 30-60 minutes every day working on something creative. I anticipate that this will include refashioning some thrifted duds, making/remaking jewelry, coloring, taking pictures, editing pictures and getting my new camera all figured out. I'm looking forward to getting lost in the creative process again and revitalizing a lost piece of myself.

While my focus this month isn't exclusively on sustainability, some of the projects I anticipate working on are all about repurposing rather than buying new and adding to the waste stream. I am also slowly but surely making changes in my daily life to create less waste and be more thoughtful with resources. I've started looking for cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, reusable menstrual products, metal food storage containers, etc. in order to start swapping out disposable products for reusable ones. (I'm trying to look at sustainable/local purchasing options as well, rather than just running to Target for everything.) And I'm starting to carry some of those things with me more and more so that I'm prepared when things come up and don't have to rely on disposable solutions.

Additionally, I am starting to be more and more mindful about the health and beauty products I'm currently using, as well as more natural and less wasteful options so that I can be ready to try replacing them as things run out. I'm expecting that to start happening maybe next month, but we'll see. I don't want to waste the products I already have by not using them up.

Thanks for keeping up with my lifestyle adventures this year. I love sharing the changes I'm making with you and am so looking forward to showing you all of my artistic endeavors at the end of this month!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Lifestyle Reboot - January: Fast Fashion

The time has come, my friends, to announce my first challenge of the year! For those of you who read my post yesterday, I apologize for keeping you in suspense all day. I hope you were still able to sleep last night. For those that haven't and would like to know what challenges I'm talking about, please check out yesterday's post. 

My challenge for this month was inspired by a trip to Target on Sunday. All I needed was toothpaste and yet, just moments after entering the store, I found myself browsing the women's clearance section. How did that even happen!? How does it happen every. single. time.? I managed to walk away empty handed (this time), but it got me thinking about my clothing-buying habits. 

About a year ago, I went on a bender of getting rid of stuff from all over my house, particularly my closet. It's been amazing. I had no idea how much guilt I felt every time I tried to get dressed until I cleaned out all of the pieces that I just wasn't wearing. (Seriously, please ask me about this. I can't even tell you how great getting rid of stuff has been. I had no idea when I started how much I would like it. Maybe I'll have to write about that sometime...)

Letting go of so much stuff has made me a lot more mindful about the new things that I'm bringing home. I have gotten a lot better over the past year about only buying pieces that I really like and am certain will be very functional in my life, rather than buying things that are "good enough" just because they are super cheap. 

However, I think I can do better to make my clothing-buying habits even more sustainable, so this month I am giving up fast fashion. For me, that means buying only clothing and accessories that are secondhand, handmade or from a company with socially and environmentally sustainable practices. Even though I am working to reduce the amount of personal clothing waste I create by not buying things that I am just going to turn around and get rid of, there is a lot of waste being created further up the supply chain. Fast fashion means that items are made quickly and cheaply and are meant to be out of style and discarded in a year. Additionally, from what I understand, a lot of material gets wasted in the process. (We could also talk about factory working conditions, but this isn't meant to be a soapbox.) I'd like to avoid as many of these things as I can. 

To be perfectly honest, I don't actually think this is going to be a very difficult challenge for me. I have always been a big fan of the thrift store and I don't actually buy clothing that often. I could probably just go a whole month without buying any. My goal here is more about changing mental habits. I want to make the Target racks off-limits and retrain my brain to think of other avenues for buying clothing. I want to make fast fashion items a last resort and get myself used to shopping differently. 

This is one challenge that I am intending to carry on for more than a month mostly because I don't think a month will be long enough for me to really feel it and actually make those changes. Don't worry though, I'll still check in at the end of January and take on another challenge for February. I'm looking forward to sharing what I learn (and buy)!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lifestyle Reboot 2016

I don't know if you know this, but we just started a brand new year. Now, I'm not generally one for new year's resolutions. I don't feel a strong need to wait for the new year to make life changes. I tend to just make changes whenever I think to make them. Well, actually, I usually think of something I would like to change and then actually start making that change out of nowhere on like a random Tuesday three weeks later.

However, as I was doing some shopping yesterday I got to thinking about some of the lifestyle habits I have been trending toward over the past couple years. And since my pondering happened to coincide with the time of year when everyone is talking about resolutions and changes and things, an idea was born. And now I'm making new year's resolutions.

Since moving back to the States I've gotten more and more interested in things like eating real food and thinking about my waste footprint and being more mindful about the products I'm buying and how I'm spending money in general. You know, hippie shit. I have become much more mindful about all of these aspects of my life and have made some incremental changes that all trend toward a more sustainable, healthier lifestyle. But I haven't really taken the plunge to fully commit to most of them. And thus, my resolutions.

My plan for this year is to set a challenge for myself each month that requires me to dive head first into a lifestyle change. I'm thinking of things like avoiding fast fashion, trying to eat only local food, shopping only at local businesses, going zero waste, setting aside a daily tech free hour, doing random acts of kindness, getting outside for a bit every day, switching to all natural beauty products...

I've started a list of possible challenges but I'm not setting a schedule for myself up front. I know that this list will grow and evolve as I move through the year and I don't want it to feel too rigid. I also want to have the flexibility to choose challenges that seem manageable at the time given all the other things going on in my life.

I don't expect all of them to become permanent lifestyle changes. I am hoping that some of them do stick even after their month is up, but my real goals are to break some old habits (like hitting the women's clearance rack every time I walk into Target), discover some new resources and create some new habits. I think that it's really important to have balance in pretty much everything and I think that some of the challenges will seem kind of extreme in relation to current social norms. My hope is that, by committing to the extreme for a bit, I will be able to come back to a place that feels manageable and balanced but much more aligned with my ideals. And, hopefully, I'll learn some cool stuff along the way.

A secondary goal is to blog about each challenge as I go so that I can share what I learn with anyone who is interested. I will do my very best to continue to actualize that intention throughout the entire year (though I'm not making any guarantees). Please check back each month to see what I'm doing and how it's going! Even better, join me in my challenge for the month!

Lastly, I am totally open to suggestions on challenges to make life more sustainable and mindful, so if you have any ideas, please share!