Tagged: india

Defining Trash


Jodhpur, Rajasthan | This I Wear

There is a very clear difference between culture shock and experiencing an overwhelming culture. In my case, it is the latter as I knew what to expect when I arrived in India. I expected to give up many comforts from home, to experience an infinite influx of new sights/sounds/tastes/smells, and to wear bug spray 24/7. I expected to binge on souvenirs, to travel in rickshaws, and to see a drastic contrast between the wealthy and the poor. I also anticipated that there was just going to be a lot of people.

Given the sheer size of the Indian population, it is not surprising that there is a waste problem. Trash doesn’t disappear here – it remains a part of the community even after it has left the home. In fact, if there is a trash pickup service, it is probably an informal one. Trash picking is a livelihood for significant numbers of people. It is not uncommon to see a landfill excavated for anything of value to be reclaimed and sold or reused in creative ways.

Even beyond the trash pickers, reuse is part of the culture here. In Rajasthan, the textile capital of India, shops overflow with beautiful quilts, scarves and fabrics. Looking more closely at many of these products, it is easy to see how scraps from one item become the appliquéd camels on a patchwork bedspread or recycled sari fabrics are sewn together to create new items in a tradition known as Kantha. More formal recycling efforts are led by such organizations as Goonj that uses textile recycling both to create employment and to provide essential goods to those in need throughout India.

I, conscious of my limited experience, would like to propose that the main difference between India and the U.S. in this situation is in our definitions of trash. Let’s for a moment, consider the lowly dandelion: To the owner of the perfectly manicured lawn, it is a weed to be destroyed. To someone else, it’s a beautiful flower. It’s only a weed if you choose to see it as disruptive or inconvenient, and the same view applies to trash.

Waste is a problem in the U.S. even if we can’t see it as easily as on the streets of India, so the challenge to reduce what we send to the curb already exists. Will it only be when we are faced with limited resources and a visible pile of trash in our neighborhood that we will be willing (or forced) to reconsider our concept of waste? I hope not.

If you’re interested in exploring more sides to this topic, a few additional resources:
– Pietra Rivoli’s book, Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy (specifically the section on textile recycling and the secondhand clothing market in Africa)
– Patagonia’s Common Threads Initiative is using some unconventional methods to keep their products out of landfills

Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear and share how you define trash.

One more thing, apologies for the delay in posting! Writing and prepping a post is a bit more of a challenge for the time being, but I’ve got some great interviews that I hope to share soon.

My Closet: The best sandals ever

Naya Leather Sandals | This I Wear

It is truly a rare piece that one might call “reliable” when referring to one’s closet. Me and these sandals? We have that special bond of trust.

In New York, I had one priority when it came to shoes: comfort. But “comfort shoes” and cute often seem to be at odds (can I get an amen, Ladies?). Comfortable, cute, and environmentally responsible in one pair of shoes, therefore, literally defies all laws of nature. But one day I stumbled upon the best sandals of all time, at a DSW no less. Vegetable tanned leather, non-slip recycled rubber sole, cushioned, adorable, and not outrageously priced. Interestingly enough, they are made by the Naturalizer company, specifically their brand Naya (which I should investigate more). In two years, these sandals have never let me down.

Because of their nature-defying characteristics, I originally didn’t want to pack these shoes for India where they’d inevitably get ruined on the backpacking trail. They’ve seen a lot of adventure already – could they handle more? Though their wear shows (and in all honesty, smells), I planned to wear these shoes forever.

But I started packing and realized that I was willing to risk an early death of these sandals. Not only are they reliably comfortable, but they make me feel like myself. And as I’m already in India, I can tell you that these shoes have been a welcome and familiar source of relief in a place where everything is foreign. As of today, they can even count the Taj Mahal as one of their many adventures.

Trust in the things in your closet, in the people that create them, and in the way they consistently make you feel is not to be underrated. It is a great feeling to be able to not have to think twice before wearing something (unlike that cute shirt with the slightly off fit or the jacket whose zipper sometimes breaks, etc.). These shoes make me feel confident that I will get to the next place blister-free and that I’ll feel comfortable in every sense of the word even when I’m out of my comfort zone.

If they don’t make it through India, I may be investigating how I can get another pair. Because me and these sandals? We have something special.

Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear to share which pieces in your closet you trust the most.

P.S. This is my first post from the road. Please excuse any errors while I get used to using new resources.

A New Adventure

Biddeford Pool, Maine | This I Wear

You may have noticed things were a little quiet here last week. If you’ve been tracking me on Twitter, you’ll know that I was off adventuring in NYC and Maine (check out that photo!) but also hard at work on some amazing interviews that will hopefully be posted soon.

During my ten days of travel, I also confirmed a very exciting new adventure for me both personally and professionally. After years of dreaming about it, I am headed to India for at least three months, starting in early September, for travel and some hands-on work and learning opportunities with artisan communities. I am so passionate about craft preservation, sustainability, design and supporting the people involved in this field, even if I am still unsure of my role. I am also very excited to share the stories of craftsmen and the people that I meet in my travels here. While the conversation might be different, the stories remain true to the mission of THIS I WEAR.

This is a huge step for me, even if I’m not quite sure where it will lead. I’m also not sure how this will affect THIS I WEAR. But I have some ideas:

New series: everything from peeks into my backpack to exploring the meaning of clothes in a new cultural context. If you have an idea of what you’d like to see here, email me.
New contributors: I am looking for writers/interviewers! If you’d like to tell stories from your city or if you have some ideas for posts you’d like to write, email me with your ideas and why you want to write for THIS I WEAR. If you have a writing sample, feel free to include it. Not interested in writing? You can help by spreading the word.

There may be more quiet time here while I try to get ready for three months of travel in just three weeks and as I settle into new surroundings, but I look forward to sharing these adventures with you.

Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear with India travel tips, words of wisdom, and ideas for what you want to see here.

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