Two steps forward, one step back

Isn’t that how it always goes with progress?

Lately I feel that I’ve been living a much more sustainable lifestyle in some aspects – for instance, I am currently sipping my first totally waste-free tea, as I recently received some lovely loose leaf tea as a gift, and I borrowed my roommate’s tea infuser ball, which is super cool!

On the flipside, I have certainly failed a few times in getting single use disposals with my take-away lunches when I haven’t been prepared. Positively, I’ve noticed that my local supermarket has switched from some single use plastics to compostable cardboard bowls, and the plastic lids now claim to be made of 100% recycled plastic!
I try to recycle these things where it makes sense, but it’s also important not to be a “wish-cycler” – aka when you throw things in the recycling bin with an unrealistic optimism that they will actually get recycled. Not all things can/will be recycled, regardless of whether you throw them in the bin, and aside from easing your guilty conscience, aspirational recycling isn’t doing anyone any favours,

Sometimes it can be demotivating to think about how you represent just one drop in the ocean, and I’ve wondered recently if my efforts wouldn’t be better spent in other ways. Surely there’s a biggest project I could work on that would have more of an impact than spending hours debating over which product at the supermarket has a lower environmental footprint?

In the end I suppose it’s about balance – about doing what you can, not beating yourself up too much, and making the changes and the choices that work for you. For me, for example, pescetarianism is the right balance between my desire to minimize my impact on the planet, my nutrition needs and what is convenient to my lifestyle (e.g. giving me more options when eating out with friends, family or colleagues). Is it perfect? Probably not, but it’s a balance of what works for me.

We should remember that everything is a learning process. Two steps forward, one step back is still a net positive movement in the right direction 😉

Let’s talk about sustainable fashion!

Featuring a tank top I’ve had for almost 10 years!

Recently, as I’ve tried to move towards making my life more sustainable, I’ve become increasingly interested in sustainable fashion. This past weekend I went to a vintage ‘by the kilo’ clothing sale, which was really fun! Although it was not the cheapest, at 40 euros per kilo, I did come home with a couple fun finds.

Thrift shopping challenges

Though I love the idea of buying all of my clothes second-hand, in reality I still encounter a number of challenges when trying to create a sustainable wardrobe. These include:

  • Finding professional looking second-hand pieces that I can wear to work
    • While I love loose, hippie thrifted style for my weekend looks, office wear generally has to be well fitting and shouldn’t look too old…
  • Finding pants that actually fit
    • Related to point one, it’s easier to do loose, mom-jean or tomboyish styles, but finding pants that actually fit well is hard, especially at flea markets where you often can’t try them on
  • Basics like tank tops and underwear, and (usually) shoes
    • As far as I can tell these are things that you always have to buy new… But hopefully from sustainable / conscious brands if you can afford it
    • Although I did get one pair of black high heeled boots secondhand that I love and still wear

Sustainability wins

  • I am pretty good at taking care of the clothes that I do have and wearing them for a long time (Except for that one merino wool sweater that I shrunk in the washing machine… Oops! RIP)
  • I have to admit, I used to be a total fiend for fast fashion, but now I try to avoid or minimise my fast fashion purchases as much as possible
  • I have drastically cut back my shopping in general. When I was younger, I liked to buy a new top at least every month, so that I always had something new to wear, since I was going out all the time. When I went on an extended backpacking trip, I started to develop more minimalist ways, and when I became a masters student my budget certainly didn’t allow me to go shopping. This meant for a couple years, I hardly bought any new clothes, except for what I really, really needed. I preferred to spend my money (and time!) on other activities
  • Now that I’m back to working full time, I do like to look nice when I’m at the office, but I’m also much more conscious about what I buy and what I wear, and the impact that it has. I’m no longer ignorant about the huge impact that the (fast)
  • fashion industry has, and I want to minimise my contribution to that

Moving forward, I hope to be even better about being a minimalist, investing in fewer, higher quality pieces (ideally secondhand!) and being really conscious about everything that I buy.

Have you considered the impact your fashion choices have on the environment?

Looking for more inspiration on sustainable fashion? Check out , about living an ethical and sustainable lifestyle, written by a fellow Canadian blogger here in Munich!

What is the circular economy?

The concept of the circular economy (CE) has rapidly gained popularity over the past few years, and is currently being promoted by the EU, several national governments and many businesses around the world. There are numerous definitions of the circular economy, but perhaps the simplest is that it’s a cradle-to-cradle approach – one that aims to close the loop and bring consciousness and ownership to the entire lifecycle of a product.

It’s about manufacturers taking responsibility for their product from production through to disposal, recycling or reuse. It’s the same kind of system that many countries use for bottle recycling, for example. Bottles are sold with a small deposit fee to incentivise consumers to to bring them back, they are then collected by a retailer, shipped back to the manufacturer, cleaned and reused.

Now imagine this idea being implemented everywhere, for all kinds of products. No longer would you be left wondering what to do with old electronics that don’t work anymore, debating if you should just throw them out or spend time and effort to look up where you can recycle them, and then making a special trip to a special electronics recycling location that’s probably out of your way.

Or with clothes – H&M is one retailer that is now collecting old textiles, whether they can be reused as clothes or not. In exchange, they offer customers a discount coupon for their next purchase. Similarly, some sustainable razor companies now have programs where you can safely send back your old blades instead of throwing them away.

In this way, the circular economy aims to minimise waste, make the most of resources and reduce externalities. It’s in contrast to the traditional linear economy, which operates along a one-way chain of resource extraction, production, and disposal – which the manufacturer isn’t responsible for.

Moving away from the linear model will help promote a more sustainable society, allow us to design waste out of the system, and slowly separate productive economic activity from the consumption of finite resources.