Perhaps on Sunday evening or early this week, you watched John Oliver’s segment that shared the scary cycle of fast fashion companies getting in trouble for human rights violations and the rest of us quickly forgiving and forgetting.
It is a full 17 minutes, but I hope you’ll forget about the fact that our attention spans have disappeared and stick it out for the full video.
Why? Because we have to recognize this as a significant moment. No, we didn’t do enough after the Rana Plaza factory collapse and the subsequent factory fires that led to the creation of Fashion Revolution Day whose anniversary was April 24. Just like we didn’t do enough after all the tragedies since the early 1990s caused by the pursuit of ever cheaper clothing that John highlights in this feature. But it is a significant moment when an extremely popular tv show that is only 30 minutes long gives more than half of the show over to reminding us how we (this means you and me) are letting this pattern continue.
I will say that Gap, which is the company in focus for majority of the video, is not the worst offender. Who is? Every store you’ve ever been in where you’ve exclaimed “I can’t believe how cheap this is.” Sometimes that is Gap, but it’s also Forever21, H&M, Zara, Target, Walmart, American Eagle Outfitters, Old Navy, Topshop, Kohl’s, Joe Fresh, and so many more.
Many of these companies are in reputable industry organizations and have CSR departments and compliance teams. Some of them have really innovative programs for trying to improve on environmental issues. But at the end of the day, a $5 t-shirt and a $20 blouse need to cause us to raise our eyebrows and ask ourselves “but how?”.
The next step is action, but today, I hope you’ll take some time to watch the video, notice the patterns, see the cycle, and decide whether you want to do something about it.
Spring is officially here. The birds are chirping. The flowers are blooming. And you’re ready to pull out your sunglasses and sundresses and head outside. If you’re like me, you may be feeling like you never want to see a coat or scarf ever again. Seriously, never ever again. But unless you’re migrating south, you’re going to need that winter wardrobe to be in great shape next winter too.
This weekend, as I dropped off two pairs of boots to my neighborhood shoe repair for end-of-season cleaning and heel repair, I realized it’s time for the official wardrobe switch over. But I tend to forget exactly what’s required to do the switch well. Since I take a lot of time and care (and sometimes money) in selecting what goes in my closet, I want those pieces to last for several more seasons. So I figured there’s no better time than now to get organized with a good old-fashioned list to make sure I spend as much time and care in putting away last season’s clothes and accessories as I do in pulling out my old favorites from last spring/summer.
For your benefit and mine, included here are my checklists for saying “thanks and see you later” to your winter wardrobe and saying “hello” to spring. And as an added bonus, you can download a simple PDF version, so you can keep the lists handy for future reference.
*Before I leap in, just a quick note. I have a tiny NYC apartment, so I don’t have lots of space to store anything. In fact, I usually have all seasons of my wardrobe accessible year round. But taking the time to properly mend, clean and fold/hang clothes after a season (especially winter woolens!) is key to helping them last for years to come. So whether you have the luxury of being able to store away off-season clothing or you’re just moving them a little further to the back of your closet, following these steps will help your things last a lot longer.
Balance may be a myth, but the stress we’re putting on our bodies is real.
Last year, I shared the beginning of my switch to natural beauty products with you. The switch was motivated by a desire to incorporate my values around sustainability and health into what I put on my skin. Yet it also coincided with my own search to find new daily self-care rituals for myself, especially at the end of a long workday. And that latter part is because I’ve realized that I have been putting myself under so much stress, that the stress is starting to show up as very real physical health issues.
From the unusual pain in my neck that I’ve had since last August to the feeling of being unable to go any further as I’m rushing the six blocks to the subway in the morning, my health issues have been seemingly inexplicable. My doctor tells me I’m perfectly healthy. And admittedly, every time I go to a doctor and tell her what’s wrong, I follow up any description of the problem with “but I think it is just stress related.”
Well, at this point, most choices I’m making about how I live my life are “stress related.”
Before doing a total life overall, I’ve started to get curious about what balance means for me right now.
Ayurveda, an ancient system of healing founded in India, offers a totally different perspective on balance. Ayurveda is about “learning how intimately your body and mind are connected, knowing what will make them work in harmony, and doing what you can to create that harmony.”* It sees balance not as an end goal – you cannot achieve it once and then always have it – but instead as a constant process of listening to our bodies and responding to its needs through the activities we choose to do, the food we choose to eat, and the lifestyle we choose to lead. Balance, in Ayurveda, looks different for each one of us and differs based on our age, the season and even the time of day.
Inspired and intrigued by this different perspective on balance, I tumbled down the Ayurveda rabbit hole. Here’s why I think I might stay for awhile.
After a few initial attempts to learn about Ayurveda (a dense confusing book and a few online dosha quizzes), I serendipitously ended up in class at the yoga studio I attend occasionally with the resident Ayurveda teacher who had just returned from India. Taking it as a sign but too intimidated by my total ignorance to ask her where to start, I picked up the book Essential Ayurveda by Shubhra Krishnan in the studio’s lobby, assuming that the teacher had likely picked out this book anyway. And lucky for me, it was the perfect introductory book and was such a good read that I almost missed my train stop on multiple occasions.
Since Ayurveda is a holistic healing system that relies on whole foods as “medicine,” the focus is truly on what we are putting into our bodies as nourishment, which obviously reflects in our outer beauty. When we’re functioning well on the inside, the outside glow is a natural side effect. But there are quite a lot of Ayurvedic daily “beauty” rituals – just consider oil pulling or dry skin brushing. My curiosity around how Ayurveda translates to skincare led me to Pratima Spa and Skincare, based in NYC.
As a birthday treat for myself, I tried the Ayurvedic facial, and my amazing esthetician Heidi (after I admitted I was intimidated by the products) walked me through where to start. I’ve been using the Pitta face oil twice daily after cleansing and before I add a little moisturizer on top. I’ve also been massaging post-shower with the Vata body oil, which is really lovely. If I had based my purchase on scent alone, I wouldn’t have picked these, but given how happy my skin is, I plan to stick with both. If you’re curious, you can pick up Pratima’s book Absolute Beauty (though I don’t recommend it as an introductory book) and take her dosha skincare quiz to find your dosha type and the right products for you.
And after all of this, I am still so hungry for more knowledge. It’s been really interesting also to see how it fits in with my regular yoga practice and (mostly) healthful diet.
So what does balance look like for me right now? Well, it looks like 10 minutes with the Headspace meditation app while I ride the train to work, going to bed earlier than I would like (old habits die hard!), and letting myself get up from my desk and take a break without feeling guilty for not looking busy. It looks like really luxurious evening rituals like a steamy shower followed by thoughtfully applying body oil to soothe the aches and pains. It looks like reaching for a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea instead of a caffeinated beverage. And it also looks like experimenting with new and delicious recipes that warm me from the inside out.
And most of all, it means acknowledging that only I know what my body feels like when it is in balance, and trusting my gut (rather than a perfectly normal blood test) when it says that it’s time to make some changes. Balance is not achieved in one day, but then again, it didn’t take just one day to reach this state of imbalance. But a very good place to start the healing process is simply to redefine our idea of balance to allow for constant change and even imperfection.
So tell me, what rituals keep you in balance? What are your best tips for letting go of stress?
This week, despite having multiple finished posts ready for your reading pleasure, I’m going to keep you in suspense just a little longer. Why? Because this week, I’m feeling a little bit more interested in being inspired than sharing. There’s something about the changing of the season that makes me feel more like listening than talking or writing. So here’s a few things that have been lighting me up lately, and I hope you’ll share what’s inspiring you in the comments.
1. ReadEssential Ayurveda by Subhra Krishnan. I picked up this book at my yoga studio and it was the perfect introduction to Ayurveda. I’ll be talking more about why I loved it very soon, but why not get a head start on all of the lovely beauty and health tips about staying balanced year-round? 2. Adopt a plant. I just bought a little rosemary plant to add to my apartment’s greenery, and I have to say that buying a plant really brings out your inner optimist. Now just to find the perfect container for it…
3. Sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share! April and May are prime time for securing a farm share and getting delicious, freshly picked produce every single freaking week from summer into winter. Have no idea what I’m talking about? Read this. Then look up what’s available in your community on LocalHarvest.org.
4. Email me your career questions. I’ve been getting quite a lot of requests for career advice from many of you interested in working in sustainable fashion or a CSR department full-time. I will be putting a post together on my experience, so please email me if you’d like to make sure your question is answered.
While I am ok with roughing it once I’ve reached a destination, I like to make sure the journey is pretty comfortable and in line with my routines at home. As I was flying back from New Orleans last week, drinking a cup of herbal tea, I realized how much more enjoyable travel becomes when we bring some of our home wellness habits with us. A good journey means we arrive at our destination relaxed, and return home still savoring the good memories of a trip.
My travel calendar is filling up for spring, and I have my heart set on a few summer trips already (does anyone know a good yoga retreat in Costa Rica?). As my at-home routine has become more health and self-care focused, I can’t imagine traveling without bringing these practices with me. Especially when there’s lots of travel on the horizon, it’s nice to know that you can still feel like a human even in an airport.
I hope you’re planning a few adventures, and if you are, here are my favorite tips to travel naturally and healthfully:
1. Travel with tea. Sugar, caffeine and alcohol are your worst enemies during a flight, especially when you’re going between time zones or seated for an extended period of time. Instead of a sugary in-flight beverage, I ask for a cup of hot water and use my own caffeine-free herbal tea bags that I pack in my carry-on. The experience of drinking tea is not only relaxing, but the aroma of the herbal blend freshens the air around you. If you’re like me and love something warming or spicy, try Yogi Tea Ginger or Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice.
2. Bring a cozy wrap from home. No little scarf or paper-thin airplane blanket will do when you’re freezing on a flight. A large wrap like this one from Study NY rolled up in your carry-on is easy to pack and can double as a blanket during transit. It’s also the perfect accessory once you reach your destination.
3. Opt for refillable containers to bring your natural body care with you. I used to use whatever shampoo a hotel supplied. Now that I’ve so carefully selected the safe and natural products I use at home, I stock up on small refillable containers (These mini Nalgene bottles have never let me down!) rather than purchasing travel size items or using hotel-supplied products. Bonus tip: In my carry-on, I always make sure to have hand sanitizer and a heavy duty hand cream to keep me fresh and moisturized during a flight
4. Don’t underestimate an eye mask (and earplugs). Sleep can be tough in unfamiliar environs and when you know you should sleep, but it’s hard. Pack an eye mask (like this option on Etsy) and earplugs to protect your sleep, both during travel and once you arrive at your destination.
5. Drink enough water. It’s hard when you’re in transit and out of your normal routine to remember to drink enough water. But water can kick jet lag to the curb and keep your body working when it’s under the stress of travel. Pack a reusable water bottle like this easy-to-clean and super lightweight Klean Kanteen version and fill it up at the airport after security. Then play a game – whenever you see your travel companion(s) drink water, you each have to take a gulp. It’s a helpful reminder and it keeps everyone mutually un-grouchy.
6. Carry a reusable bag that folds up. Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean you should say yes to plastic bags. And with more cities charging for disposable bags, it’s a good time to start the habit of bringing one with you. Slip a fold up bag into your purse for day trips or bring a larger bag that folds up and stores in your luggage in case you plan to do some shopping.
7. Stay grounded with a yoga or meditation service. Whether you have a regular routine you want to keep up while you’re away from home or to stretch out if you will be doing lots of walking, try a service or app that will stream to your phone or tablet. I’ve been a yogaglo subscriber for 3 years, and I love taking a break for a 10-minute post travel grounding practice or a longer session to work out the travel aches. Recently I’ve been trying out the meditation app Headspace. It’s a great option for beginners and quickly brings a little calm to long days. I’ve also heard that vacation is the best time to start new habits, so if you aren’t meditating or practicing yoga yet, it’s a great opportunity to try it out.
So there you have it. Those are my travel tips, but I can’t wait to hear yours! What are your travel essentials? What at-home routines do you make time for during your travel? And most importantly, where are you headed this year?