I’ve been away a few times over the summer and mostly on holiday from blogging. It was a broken-up European tour encompassing France, Slovakia, Hungary, Finland and Spain.
Going away has made me much more aware of what being zero waste would mean giving up. It hit me when I was in a petrol station and wanted a pre-made chilled latte. The ZW option would have been to get a coffee in my keep cup and wait for it to cool down. When I’m at home, I’m happy to make an espresso frappe thing. But the idea of drinking a cold filter coffee was just too depressing to contemplate.
Apparently coffee is my main trigger because I had a similar dilemma later in the summer. ZW option: Nescafe. Preferred option: single-serve iced latte drink. I was too much of a snob to drink the instant. So many of my favourite tasty treats- crunchy Cheetos, Bugles, different kinds of chocolate and cheese- are packaged in plastic. I’m glad that my eyes were opened a bit more, even if I’m not sure how I will approach this dilemma.
I got my third OddBox the week I returned home properly. I didn’t use it for anything glamorous enough to photograph but all of it has been used a little under a week later.
Just before the summer I started having terrible sugar cravings in the afternoons. I realised it was because I had got into the habit of having a protein bar every day. Although the ones I have are ‘low sugar’ (AKA filled with horrifying chemicals that I almost certainly should not be consuming), they taste like a chocolate bar. Clearly my body had become accustomed to having its daily sugar hit. To be fair, I have always had a sweet tooth. I just don’t remember having such strong sugar cravings.
I picked up some more dates to make up some more caramel bite things to snack on instead. I bought the dates on impulse at the supermarket so they were inevitably packaged in plastic. Next time, I will get them at the Source. I added a ‘no single-use plastics’ item to my habit tracker and I haven’t been able to tick it off once. I’m quite strict and include everything like milk cartons and yoghurt tubs. Still a long, long way to go.
A disadvantage of trying to reduce waste is becoming hyper-aware of how wasteful society is. Here I share things that have bothered or worried me.
- I can’t seem to find a plastic-free moisturiser. Neither of the shops near me with bulk options stock one. I guess one idea would be to try something from Lush because they at least reuse their tubs in a closed-loop economy.
I managed to see another inspirational exhibition in Helsinki. My flatmate and I were visiting our Finish friend and I read that we were just in time to catch the Grayson Perry show at the Kiasma gallery. I went to see his exhibition when I was in Bristol for a conference less than a year ago but was still keen to see more.
Folk Wisdom contained some different pieces to the last Perry exhibition I visited. Again, I was impressed by how prolific he is as an artist and how he brings methods that might be traditionally regarded as craft into the realm of high art.
I love Perry as a cultural commentator. The image below is just part of one of his huge tapestries, itself part of a series. However, it really captures an issue that comes up a lot in my work as a psychologist.
I’ve been noticing how artists that inspire me have included my current interests in their work. For example, the textiles on show at the Frida Kahlo exhibition I visited. Similarly, I was taken by the garments Perry had made.
I have been getting more interested in beading since doing some work on the vintage jacket I picked up. I’m hoping to do an embroidery and/or beading class at the Royal School of Needlework soon. I noticed that part of one of Perry’s tapestries was beaded.
While in Helsinki we were staying near an adorable LYS called Snurre. Of course I coudn’t resist possing in and my flatmate was very patient while I looked at every single skein in the shop. I had hoped to get yarn that was linked to Finland in some way but they were a little low on stock. I ended up getting this, which I plan to use for some new fingerless gloves/mittens to match my planned Kelly anorak, if I ever get around to making it. I impulse-bought the buttons, which are made from coconut husk and would be perfect for a cardigan.
I also picked up this hemp yarn at the local craft store in my friend’s hometown. I’m planning to use it to make some plastic-free kitchen scourers.
Finally, we managed a visit to the national craft museum in Jyvaskyla. I highly recommend it. It’s got lots of interactive exhibits, which are always a plus for me. I resent not being allowed to touch stuff in museums. I tried my hand at the loom pictured and I’m even more sure that I want to have a proper go at weaving.
Last week I went to Wilderness festival. I have been mostly blissfully ignorant of the rubbish problem when I have attended festivals before. I’m sure I felt a little bothered by the bins full of disposable cups and plates, and the massive piles of perfectly good items that attendees leave behind. But now my eyes are much more open to the problem.
I armed myself with my vacuum flask, water bottle, keep cup, metal straw and cutlery. This was quite a lot of equipment to have with me at all times, but I brought my beloved yellow backpack along largely for the purpose of carrying these items. Aaaaand…. like the best laid plans of mice and men, it went completely out of the window.
I learnt that I actually find it very difficult to make a special request for myself when the infrastructure is not set up to deal with it. All of the plating was set up and I just felt bad asking the vendors to change it so that it would fit in my containers. Wilderness has a lot of ego-massaging placatory messages, such as the dishes being compostable, but of course there is a lot of upstream waste associated with making the disposable items.
Because I am extra af and dangerously addicted to espresso, I took my stovetop coffee maker and milk frother for my morning flat white. So I at least didn’t use any coffee cups during the weekend.
One thing that the zero waste mindset helped me with was with making purchases. Wilderness is a festival where people feel very free to dress outlandishly, which I am very much on board with. This year was one of my first festival experiences where I had some disposable income available. It would have been very easy to spend a lot of money on items that are just not wearable in any other context. I was very much enamoured of this pompom headdress.
In the end, I bought a vintage beaded jacket that was actually very restrained for the festival, but just about straddles the line between jazzy and useful in my real life.
I also bought some little sparkly jewels to wear on my forehead because I couldn’t resist getting a little something.
The festival did allow me to get out some much-loved but seldom-worn items. I wore my rocket Southport dress for just the second time and it was perfect for this event.
I brought the circuit sentiments kit I have had at home for years and used it to fashion my own light-up headdress using a flower crown I bought a few years ago on eBay. The LED kits are the kind of impulse craft purchase that I would like to stop making as much. I used a few of the items to make my Port Charlotte jumper light up when I was pretending it was a Christmas jumper.
Being into making clothing definitely makes me notice textiles wherever I am. In London, I often use the proximity of the tube as an excuse to stare at strangers and try to work out how their clothes are made. When shopping, I check labels for the fibre content of the fabric and turn garments inside-out to see how they are finished. It’s an obsession.
I found myself doing the same thing on a recent trip to India. I looked at my taxi driver’s kurta and wondered whether it was handmade. I videoed men making alterations in the back of market stalls.
Since labour is so cheap in India, tailoring is much more commonplace. I had hoped to bring some fabric home and noticed some lovely silk in the shop where some friends were having dresses made.
Mukesh, the owner, quoted me the price (the equivalent of around £4/m if I remember correctly) but then said that it would only cost 200 rupees (around £2.50) for him to make something up for me. In the end, I asked him to make me a reversible wrap skirt.
In a single night, he made three Indian style outfits, two pairs of trousers and a top as well as my skirt. Plus he may have had other commissions to work on. The skirt alone would have been a huge source of stress for me, so it was nice to have someone else take that on.
My skirt is such a fun souvenir of the trip, even though I’m pretty scared of destroying it.
A taxi driver in Mumbai mentioned that Zara has a big factory there. Having an experience of the low cost of labour only adds to my growing sense of unease about the fashion industry. It’s hard to have another big thing to worry about, over which I have little control. Even if I made all my clothes, I have no idea of the conditions under which the fabric is made. Growing, spinning and weaving my own cotton seems like a bit of a stretch.
What I do feel I can do is renew my pledge to try and avoid the lure of fast fashion. I want to be mindful with my purchases and try to buy investment pieces where possible. I will continue to purchase second-hand when I can. I will also try not to have a ‘fast’ attitude to the things I make. I only want to create items that I know will be worn a lot, and try to waste as few raw materials as I can.