Self care, skin care,
& nurturing Mother Nature.

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Living life with good intention, loving with soul, and consuming with a conscience

January 12, 2020

Low Waste Eco-friendly Transitioning Tips: At Home

Being more environmentally conscious seemed to gain traction and popularity with reusable straws, tote bags, and reusable coffee cups and bottles and whilst there's definitely some ways in which you can be more eco-friendly on the go, there's *so* many ways you can be more low waste at home that will positively impact the environment too. Over the past few months, I've been sharing ways in which you can be more low waste and eco-friendly and trying my best to demonstrate just how easy it can be to make some changes to your everyday life. So here's some ways you can do just that but this time, we're focusing on what you can switch-up at home:

Reusable cloths and old fabrics:
Something that I'm sure a lot of us do already is use cloths that we wash and use again when doing various bits of housework. Cloths are cheap and obviously better for the environment as you can use them until they literally fall apart. I'm sure I don't really need to mention it here but, using cleaning wipes for example can be so detrimental to the environment and let's be honest - they're not particularly cost-effective either as they are single use items. If you're running low on cloths and don't want to/can't buy any new ones, cutting up old fabrics such as old t-shirts are always a great way to repurpose some items for a little longer (and FYI, t-shirt rags are often pretty darn good for dusting cloths - particularly on mirrors!).

I personally have also enjoyed using old socks which have holes in as dusting or cleaning mitts or old flannels/muslin cloths which are too old and grubby to continue to use for skincare!

If you typically use paper towels or kitchen roll often, either try using rags or fabric cloths instead or try out bamboo kitchen roll. It can be used multiple times before it needs to be thrown away and even then, it will degrade much faster than the "paper" alternatives we're all familiar with.

Get to grips with your local recycling:
Obviously recycling is a step to a more eco-friendly lifestyle but, it's important that you're clear on how to actually recycle. Check out your local council's website to get to grips with how your local area recycles as not each county or even each town recycles in the same way (for example, I used to live in Winchester and glass wasn't collected. I moved 10 minutes away to a neighbouring town and it is now recycled separately to other recycling).

Not only is it just handy to know your local recycling guidelines, it's also great to just educate yourself on recycling in general. Many items that you'd assume can be recycled (such as paper straws, sticky notes, and some receipts just to name a few) can't actually be recycled due to contamination or parts of them being difficult to break down. Knowing this sort of thing might help you with making decisions such as refusing a paper copy of receipt on your next in-store purchase but will also make your recycling journey more streamline and effective.

Use storage you already have:
I talked about how handy glass jars can be in a previous post so naturally, I'm going to talk about them again here! Whether it's an old jam jar or a passata jar, keeping them once they've been used up can help you reduce how much single-use or non-eco-friendly items you use. A jar is just as good as keeping half an avocado fresh as cling film, it just means it can be washed out and used time and time again without negatively impacting the planet.

Almost every household has some tupperware floating around and my oh my, is it a godsend. People sometimes make the mistake of getting rid of things like tupperware when they switch to being more eco-friendly because it's often made from plastic but please don't get rid of what you already have - that goes against the whole idea of being more zero waste! Instead just put it to good use and reap the benefits; the planet will thank you too!

Invest in other short-term food storage:
If you're someone who needs to use things like food bags or currently relies on cling film a great deal, buying beeswax wraps can be a more eco-friendly option for you as can resusable food bags. If buying new items such as these are out of the question for you, simply washing out generic "single-use" food bags to try and get as many uses out of them as possible is also just a small way you can make less of an impact.

Reduce your food waste:
A biggie that we can all try to implement (myself included) is trying to produce less food waste. It's easy to go food shopping and over buy or be sucked into deals such as a huge sack of potatoes being the same price as the two individual potatoes you actually intended to buy and then those excess items sit in our cupboards, fridges, and freezers, taking up space and often going off and rotting before we get a chance to use them. I talked about this in a lot more detail here, but meal planning, only buying what you need, and composting if you can can all be ways to be more low waste.

Composting is a great free and easy option if you have a garden you like to care for but don't fret if you don't - you can always ask your local council for a composting bin if your area supplies them or you can keep it in a air-tight container in your freezer and take it to a local drop-off bin if you have one!

Buy biodegradable options instead:
Whether it's bamboo toothbrushes or wooden scrubbers for your dishes, there's plenty of biodegradable options out there to replace plastic items that you usually need to repurchase over time. I've been a huge advocate of bamboo toothbrushes for some time but, after learning about how damaging sponges can be in terms of micro plastics, switching to a biodegradable cleaning pad, brush, or dish loofa is one of my next swaps to make.

Make your own cleaning products:
Whilst we're on the topic of cleaning, many cleaners we typically buy are harmful to the environment due to their plastic packaging and the chemicals in them. If you're a regular Northern Blood reader, you will already know how much I support making your own cleaning products - it's much easier than you think as you only need a few items which can be bought in bulk. By making your own cleaners, you're not only saving money, but you're also using eco-friendly products that don't have harsh chemicals in. That's a win win for the ocean but also for your lungs and skin!

If DIY-ing your own cleaning agents isn't your cup of tea, making more conscious choices when shopping for your cleaning products is also a step in the right direction. Get out of the habit of thinking you need a million different cleaners because you simply don't. Do some research on which brands are things like cruelty free, vegan, and chemical-free. Buy from the brands who offer refill options either in store or allow you to bulk buy and refill bottles you've already purchased from them. Think about everything from your washing up liquid dish soap to your laundry detergent. It's an area we can often overlook due to the necessity of these items but even a small change can make all the difference.

Buy organic and sustainable materials & take care of what you own:
I've talked in detail about how good it is to buy natural fibres instead of synthetic fibres when it comes to fashion but, why stop there? Think about things like blankets, your bedding, cushion covers... all of these items will no doubt end up in your washing machine one day and when they do, are they going to release micro plastics into the water that end up in the ocean? Possibly - especially those exclusively synthetic materials. When you're buying items around the home in future, consider what they're made of before purchasing, but if you already own a lot of synthetic materials - don't fret! Buying a guppy friend which catches the micro plastics in your laundry can be a life saver.

Another point that I've mentioned before in relation to fashion that I just want to mention again here to really drive the message home is to take care of what you already own. If your items have label instructions for washing or storage actually pay attention to them and follow them! This will mean you will get the most out of your items and therefore have to replace them less and potentially, not at all. This will help you buy less and use things for longer which is one of the simplest ways you can be more low waste.

Repair what you can and shop secondhand:
If there's a tear in something - patch it up. If there's a scratch on a table - don't just get rid of it; research if you can fix it or disguise it somehow. We have all been brought up in a "just buy a new one" culture when things aren't quite perfect and it's just so unnecessary. Not only does having a more "I'll try to fix it" approach mean you get the most out of items ranging from your clothing to a wardrobe to an electronic device, it also means you can build up your own skill set because you might have to learn something new. This can help you salvage things in the future and save you money too!

As for buying secondhand, y'all know that I'm an advocate of that in every capacity but, using things like Facebook Marketplace, buy and sell pages, Gumtree etc. are a great way to locally source secondhand furniture, electronics, equipment, tools etc. that others no longer need or want and that you do. It's cheaper, helps out others, and stops you directly buying from the source.

Go green with your energy:
The last pointer I'm going to mention here (that will also save you some dosh), is to switch to a green or eco-friendly energy provider. This is something we only recently did but my oh my, do I feel better for it. I'm not going to go into too much detail here about green energy providers - namely because I'm going to talk about them in more detail in the 'tech' post in this series - but generally speaking they're better for the environment and usually have really good deals/cost you less in the long term.

Not only can you switch providers but think about how you consume energy in your home in general. Simple things such as having shorter showers, using eco settings on appliances, turning lights off in rooms you're not using, and making sure electronics are completely turned off and not left on standby can cut your bill and your footprint. Even only filling your kettle with as much water as you actually need rather than completely filling it will help too!

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January 02, 2020

Fabrics and Fibres You Should be Avoiding

We all know by now that fast fashion is causing a crisis on our planet. We're buying and consuming more than ever before and it's having a detrimental impact. Women's wardrobes in particular have doubled in size but we're only wearing everything half as long with 80% of our clothing ending up in landfill (clothing that isn't biodegradable!). Even when clothing is given to services to be recycled, only around 1% of the fibres can be broken down and reused. With that in mind, something I've become more conscious of over the last few months is homing clothing pieces that are made of good materials that haven't put too much of a strain on our planet to be created and that will also degrade when they eventually reach the end of their cycle with me or whoever I pass those items on to.

Why natural vs. synthetic fibres are important
Only 2% of the textiles produced and sold worldwide are made of natural fibres such as linen, tencel, hemp etc. and that is pretty alarming. Although this is going up over time due to us taking more ethical and sustainable steps within our consumerism, we've still got a long way to go.

I've talked about natural vs. synthetic fibres before but the basics are this: natural fibres are typically less agriculturally intensive, they don't release micro-plastics when they're washed, they produce items which are more comfortable and breathable, and they biodegrade in a much shorter time than their synthetic counterparts (also without releasing toxins of any kind when doing so). Natural fibres help create a natural circular economy because they come from nature and go back to nature which is of course, the best scenario for our planet.

So... what fabrics and fibres should we be avoiding?

Girrrl, this is the worst of the worst. Polyester is the most unsustainable fibre because it starts it's life in an oil rig as it requires crude oil/petroleum to be made and therefore is using a fossil fuel. It takes the same weight of oil to make the same weight of polyester clothing - e.g. 1kg of oil will make roughly 1kg of fabric. This is so incredibly damaging to our environment in a multitude of ways, particularly when it's estimated that 70 million barrels of oil go towards fast fashion every year! It is also a very water-intensive production process which can lead to contamination.

Polyester is incredibly popular in fast fashion because it's built to not last. As it's low quality, 100% polyester items won't last you a long time so they're perfect for brands who want you to constantly spend money with them. Although they won't last you forever, they unfortunately will stick around on our planet for the foreseeable because they are basically wearable plastic bottles.

Scientists claim that it will last pretty much for forever as it is basically plastic and petroleum and therefore is not biodegradable. Not only that but, each time you wash and wear polyester, it sheds micro-plastics into our atmosphere and water systems which then ends up in our food chain.

It can be recycled but as with all recyclable plastics, it is simply turn into a lesser form of plastic which isn't really sustainable or a good option. It's the all-round bad guy and if you can avoid it, definitely do.

Synthetic blends are very similar to polyester in how they are produced and are often a material that has some polyester mixed in it. As these blends are exactly that - blends - they can't be recycled properly because they can't be separated again (imagine us trying to separate milk and sugar from a cup of tea with our hands; it's just not possible!).

Often synthetic blends aren't labelled as that and are instead labelled as percentages of the items makeup, so it's worth getting to know what your synthetic materials are so you can identify them when shopping (e.g. 40% polyester, 50% nylon, 10% acrylic.)

Acrylic tends to rear it's ugly head during the colder months as it's often used in knitwear. Not only is it incredibly uncomfortable to wear and doesn't really let your skin breathe, it is carcinogenic and can attack our nervous systems by being absorbed through our skin when wearing the fabric or by being inhaled. It's bad for us as consumers to wear but it's 100 times worse for the individuals creating acrylic items in factories. Manufacturing it is involves highly toxic substances which is detrimental to both factory workers and also our environment.

It's not easily recyclable or biodegradable making it a bad choice all-round.

Ahh, how many brands have you seen release vinyl skirts over the last couple of years? How many lingerie brands have PVC options that are meant to bring a bit of kink into your life? Well, I'm here to spoil your fun because PVC is the devil. It is not biodegradable and when it does break down, it simply breaks down into smaller particles of itself.

Just like Polyester, PVC is made from petroleum and therefore is contributing to fossil fuel usage too and similar to acrylic, it is carcinogenic, exposes garment workers to toxic chemicals during item production, and it also releases toxins into our environment.

Yet another fibre made from petroleum, Nylon is another bad egg. Producing Nylon is a very chemical intensive process which produces nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide) but unfortunately, due to its durability and ability to be moulded into shape, it is commonly used in the fashion industry and you'll be most familiar with seeing it in your tights/stockings.

Not only does it emit a terrible greenhouse gas, but it is water-intensive to produce Nylon - which can lead to contamination and pollution much like Polyester - and it is also takes a lot of energy during it's manufacturing process too; meaning it contributes to global warming.

Okay, Rayon is one of those fibres that on first glance seems to be eco-friendly because it's made from plants but due to the toxicity of it's manufacturing process and the deforestation it leaves in its wake, it's actually pretty darn bad for our planet.

Viscose is the same thing as Rayon and Modal or "Modal Blends" on your clothing tags are also a type of Rayon (Modal is less toxic however, deforestation is still a huge impact on our planet when creating this material). Viscose is believed to be the third most commonly used fibre in the world which, considering the reasons I'm going to list, should be pretty alarming when taking into consideration the impact it has on our planet.

So although the raw crop is biodegradable (Viscose is usually derived from bamboo, eucalyptus, sugar cane etc. and Modal from softwood trees such as pine and beech), the chemicals used to change it into a fabric are toxic. These chemicals include carbon disulphide which can cause serious health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, birth defects and Parkinson's disease for factory workers who are in constant contact with it during it's production but also those who live close to those factories producing it too.

The deforestation caused by the growth of the raw crop is also obviously detrimental to our planet, people, and animals. The destruction of rain forests in areas such as Indonesia, India, and China are made regularly in order to make space for pulpwood plantations to create Rayon, Viscose, and Modal.

It's estimated that 30% of Rayon/Viscose/Modal is sourced from endangered and/or ancient forests worldwide and when we consider the fact that around 70% of the trees harvested for the pulp are wasted, it just hardly seems worth it. Due to the creation of these plantation to meet fast fashion demands, it means we are destroying wildlife habitats, altering ecosystems, and land-grabbing from indigenous people.

Unlike many of the other fibres discussed in this post, Rayon - of all types - is considered biodegradable but due to the many different manufacturing processes used to create it, (most of which using polluting chemicals we've talked about), it's not considered to be eco-friendly.

Of course, it is sometimes impossible to avoid these fibres listed as they may be the only option for particular items you need and just like me, they might be in your wardrobe already. When you buy anything new, it's worth knowing what fibres do what to our planet, our oceans, and even to our skin so that you can make reasonable decisions about your purchasing choices. I try my best to only buy natural, organic, fairtrade etc. fibres brand new now but if I'm buying secondhand, often it is fast fashion items that are made of those things listed above. The best thing to do in that scenario is to invest in a Guppy Friend for the washing machine, take good care of those items, and hand them to others when you're finished with them so they can continue to be used and not end up in landfill!

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September 13, 2019

My Positive Birth Story

So... that's my son. Son. That is a word I cannot believe I get the pleasure to use and it's going to take me quite some time to get used to it. It's been a little over 4 weeks since he decided it was his time to come earthside and I now feel ready to share my birth story here. When I was pregnant, I loved reading positive birth stories and watching positive labour videos on YouTube because honestly? I was shit-scared of childbirth. Finding out I was pregnant resulted in me immediately stating I wanted a cesarean no matter what but thankfully through reading and watching positive stories and practicing hypnobirthing, I became comfortable and confident with the idea of labour - in all forms - and had a positive experience myself as a result of this change in my outlook on the procedure.

I feel like I owe it to others to share my labour story not because people have to share (it's a very personal experience and it's fully understandable that some individuals have experiences they don't wish to mention again or divulge on the internet), but simply because I gathered so much knowledge, strength, and inspiration from others who had shared, I'd like to give back in case I can provide the same for anyone else. So, here is my story (trigger warning: discussing labour in detail, blood, and postpartum care)

It actually all started early on Sunday 11th August morning. I woke up at 2:06am with really bad cramps. After lying in bed in discomfort for a little while, I waddled to the bathroom and back and decided that I was having more obvious Braxton Hicks than I had had up to that point. The fact that they had managed to wake me up made me feel a bit concerned but also extremely excited in case it was "the real deal". After managing to go back to sleep, I realised in the morning it had all been a false alarm and felt a bit disappointed. This happened again in the early hours of Monday and Tuesday morning bizarrely, at exactly 2:06am again both mornings. 2:06am Wednesday 14th August I woke again, with cramps that felt incredibly strong compared to the past few nights. I assumed, again, that they were Braxton Hicks or an upset stomach and if I walked to the bathroom for the gazillionth time that night that they would subside. Oh how wrong I was.

Sitting on the toilet, I made the distinctive "mooing" sound that pregnant women make during established labour. Now, I had only just woken up and was still convincing myself that I was just having a rough time i.e. the shits but when I made that noise that I had learned so much about, that noise that is completely involuntary and just seems to come out of its own accord, I shouted to Matt who was still in bed that I thought it was actually happening this time around. He brought my phone to me so I could use my Positive Birth Company Freya app to keep track of my contractions or "surges".

I decided to hop into the shower in case it really was happening - because god forbid I went to the birth centre with greasy bed hair - and the hot water helped me focus and collect my thoughts that felt like they were bouncing around from panic to dread to overwhelming excitement. It took me too long to dry my hair due to the surges and when Matt returned from having a shower himself, I stood up to speak to him and my waters broke. I stood in the middle of our spare bedroom shouting "I'm not wetting myself on purpose I can't make it stop!" as if that made it any better. I decided to perch on the toilet again if nothing else but to save our carpets from devastation and my waters kept coming.

I called the labour line at that point and was told to try to go back to bed and see how I was feeling in 24-48 hours. I was frustrated when I got off the phone because my app had been telling me to go to the birth centre for the last 10 minutes because my contractions were coming thick and fast. I lasted maybe 10-15 minutes longer before asking Matt to call the labour line back again because I didn't want to speak to them unless I really needed to and in that time, I'd started to lose my mucus plug and felt like I'd never be able to leave the toilet ever again.

By around 3am, Matt and I were clambering into a taxi that bumped and rocked us all the way to the birth centre. I had put my headphones in and was still using my Positive Birth Company Freya app to track my surges - not because I needed to anymore, but it was helping me time my breathing and the positive affirmations in-between each surge helped me feel really calm and in control. Matt was amazing and took it upon his shoulders to be my voice for the most part and ran into the birth centre (alongside the taxi driver!) to let them know I was outside but finding it hard to get inside because the surges were so strong. I finally got inside and needed to have an assessment.

The midwives I had during my labour were fantastic. I'm sure they thought I was being dramatic during my assessment because I went from occasionally bending over the desk/chair in the room to breathe through a surge to crawling on the floor to breathe through one. For whatever reason, my body wanted to get as close to the ground as possible and I seemed to gravitate towards being on all fours and facing away from everyone. It turned out that little man had decided to have some of his first poo during this time and thus the midwives wanted to check how dilated I was as if I was under 4cm, they thought it would be better for me to go to the main hospital and labour ward because of little man's - literally - shitty antics.

I struggled to lie on the examination bed long enough for them to examine me but next thing I knew, I had asked how dilated I was and I was 10cm. 10cm! The midwife could see my baby's head! I can't lie, I was elated because a speck of doubt had started to creep into the back of mind that I wasn't going to be able to cope with labour. I started to think that if they feeling got any more severe and I was only 4cm dilated or less, I was going to have an awful time, so hearing "10cm - we really need to get you into the birthing room!" was the *best* thing I could have heard.

The rest of the labour was a bit of a blur to be honest. Because I had had headphones in for the majority of the time, I wasn't really listening to what was being said and Matt was answering most of the midwives' questions. When we got into the birthing room (somewhere between 4:30-5am), I noticed they weren't running the water for the birthing pool and realised that I had overheard a conversation that they had had with Matt correctly; because my waters had gone a green shade meaning they suspected Teddy had pooed, getting in the birthing pool was no longer an option. Due to how quick things were moving, I didn't really mind.

I didn't have time to put on my playlist of calming music I had created, I didn't have time to turn on my battery powered tealight candles, I didn't even have time to take my poorly chosen white t-shirt off. I simply got on all fours on a old-school-style gym mat on the floor whilst Matt was advised to sit on a birthing seat so I could lean on his legs whilst I pushed through the surges. Again, the midwives were amazing and encouraging - leaving me to do my own thing and just encouraging me through positive affirmations which I really appreciated. It helped me keep in the zone I'd managed to get into listening to my positive affirmations via my hypnobirthing app and I decided to continue to have that playing loudly as getting my playlist on was no longer a priority.

Everyone always says it but, it's truly amazing what the human body is capable of and how little of a shit you give during labour about various strangers staring intently into your vagina. Whilst I was hunched over on all fours, I had 3 of them with a torch behind me checking everything was moving along okay and it was still a sort of blur. Every single birth is so very different and there's absolutely no shame in anyone using pain relief during labour, but I was so shocked and surprised that I didn't stop to ask for any at any point. I honestly believe that practicing hypnobirthing and getting into such a positive mindset about labour aided this.

I had a 2nd degree tear as well as some grazing all of which needed stitches afterwards yet even during that, when I was advised to use gas and air, I was on such a euphoric high cuddling my baby that I simply didn't need it. Of course, it wasn't painless and it was certainly uncomfortable, but it was oddly manageable due to the outlook I had on the whole experience.

6:25am on the clock and Teddy was finally here. I've never felt such raw, animalistic instincts and emotion as I did during the last couple of hours of my birth and when he finally arrived. I remember hearing the midwives shouting "well done! Amy pick him up! That's it!" once he'd arrived and I scooped him up off the ground.

Remember what I was saying about my poorly-chosen white t-shirt? Well, something people failed to mention to me about labour was the amount of blood you can lose during the process. I didn't actually lose a lot, but I lost the "standard" amount really quickly as soon as Teddy arrived and therefore I was hurried onto the bed to have skin-to-skin contact with him and also advised to have the injection that can hurry up the second birth (of the placenta) and slow down the bleeding. I was happy to receive this because now I was just truly in a state of euphoria that I was actually holding my baby. My son.

Matt had the pleasure of cutting the cord after Teddy had received all of his blood back. Once it was cut and once I'd received my stitches, it was Matt's turn to have some skin-to-skin contact with our little boy whilst I ate some toast and a grotesque cup of tea but at the time, it tasted delightful.

Although I had a fantastic labour and couldn't have asked for it to have gone better, my aftercare wasn't so great. I had specifically chosen the birth centre as I was a low risk birth and I knew they were keen to help mothers with breastfeeding. It turned out that breastfeeding just wasn't right for us due to Teddy's tongue tie, his difficulties with staying latched, and then the stress of me not producing anything. The latter started happening because I was constantly being manhandled by staff and was getting upset.

The first night staying there, Teddy hardly ate anything and had to be syringed colostrum (first breast milk) because he couldn't feed directly from me. As you can imagine, it wasn't a smooth-sailing night for the two of us and it certainly wasn't helped by staff. If they weren't pushing his face hard onto my breasts when he was hysterically crying and distressed, they were instead nowhere to be seen despite their "concerns" over him not feeding. The next day when Matt returned to the centre, we spent all day waiting for someone to come and help us. We had one midwife who came and asked "has he managed to latch at all?" twice over the course of the day but that was it. No advice, no support.

In that time I had watched one woman come in, have her baby, and be discharged, and another woman who had been transferred from another hospital getting special treatment despite her openly saying that there were no complications with her birth or her or the baby's health afterwards. In such a small centre, I was a priority patient and wasn't being treated as such. It was incredibly frustrating and absolutely heartbreaking that my baby was screaming due to hunger and I simply had nothing to provide for him.

Once it got to around 7pm, I had fully lost my temper and will to stay there. The straw that really broke the camel's back (and my polite British-ness) was when I finally had the chance to speak to a midwife and said I wanted to go home, I was met with the rudest "and how do you expect to feed your baby at home when he's not feeding here?". "Well none of you have fucking helped me since 3am this morning so I guess I'll carry on figuring it out by myself?" is what I should have said. I was too tired and defeated by that point though and just repeatedly said "I'd like to go home" instead, in fear of bursting into tears in front of this clown who was supposed to have some bedside manner. By 8pm we had been discharged and as soon as we got home, I burst into hysterical tears in relief. I instantly felt calm and in control and Teddy had stopped seeming so distressed too.

I'm very proud and pleased to say that one month on, he's thriving, feeding well (albeit not the way we planned), and growing with no issues. He's a healthy, happy, and very active boy and I only wish it wasn't totally bitter to visit the centre one last time to give some of the staff a big middle finger because my little family have flourished all on their own. Despite the poor aftercare, my labour is something that I already look back on fondly and I'm just *so* pleased with how the whole process went. Whether it was luck or just normality, I had a good experience and I know not everyone does. And that's where my little slice of "miracle" lies.

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September 09, 2019

#SecondhandSeptember: Staying on Trend without Buying New Clothes

The title of this post is making me feel a bit queasy because I wouldn't really count myself as someone who stays up-to-date with trends and I always seem to be a few seasons behind if I've got my finger on the pulse at all. If you looked at my Etsy recent searches, the fact that I'm constantly on the scout out for some WWII era vintage clothing might give you an idea of how much of a mish-mash my personal style can truly be. Last week I shared what my journey has been like so far with ditching fast fashion purchases but something that can make that lifestyle change all the more difficult is the trends and changes we see in heavy rotation in high street stores and on our favourite social platforms.

I follow a wide range of accounts on YouTube and Instagram but many of those are fashion-based. I like to see what people are styling up and how and get inspired for my own outfits and wardrobe this way so it's all positive for me. The problem with this though can be that that awful little lust devil can spring out and make me want to purchase *that* specific dress or *that* pair of shoes but of course, if they're from a fast fashion brand, I find myself in a dilemma of my ethics fighting my desires. Thankfully, my ethics override my lusting 99.9% of the time but it got me thinking; how do I usually get around this so I can still enjoy "on-trend" items if I want them but stay true to my slow, secondhand, sustainable fashion ways?

Is it the item or is it the style?
One thing I try to work out from the start is whether or not I'm lusting over the item itself or is it something about the cut, colour, styling etc. If it's a flowing midi dress of some description, it's probably the silhouette that's caught my eye and thus I can look out for items that have a similar cut in charity shops or online secondhand. I can cross-reference the dress with sustainable brands I follow and see if they've got something similar in their collections or better yet, can make me something similar as a commission piece (if I'm feeling flush).

Although some people believe you shouldn't have any fast fashion brands in your wardrobe if you're being a conscious fashion consumer, I'm all for secondhand purchases because you're giving that item a loving home where it will be worn (probably too much) and that's never a bad thing. Therefore if I've worked out that it's actually the unique print of a piece that's attracted me or if in three months time, I still haven't managed to find anything like the item in question, I'll start searching eBay and Depop for that specific item. Fast fashion has such a quick turn-around in terms of what's on-trend, but purchasing secondhand like this can always help you stay relevant with those trends without buying direct.

Try things on in store
If you're someone who can resist the urge to just purchase a fast fashion item, trying things on in store is always a great idea. If you're not apposed to picking up fast fashion items secondhand, trying them on in store can ensure that the silhouette/cut/fit suits you and is actually something you want to own. Part of shopping secondhand/living a slow fashion lifestyle is trying to not have too much in your wardrobe just for the sake of it. Over the last couple of years I've tried my upmost to make more considered choices with my purchases and even if I'm buying into a trend, I want to purchase items knowing that they'll actually get worn. Trying items on in store helps me decide if I will actually wear that dress I've been lusting over and it also gives me a chance to wear it with items already in my wardrobe such as shoes/a bag that I envisioned it looking great with.

Remember, trends come back around
Trends always resurface and the speed in which they are doing this doesn't seem to be slowing down. For example, I bought a lot of my woven straw/rattan bags a few years ago from the likes of Bohemia Design and surprise surprise, this summer they've still been something that's on-trend. I can just pull out those bags in summer and there's been no new purchases in sight. Always shop your wardrobe first to see if you have something similar already that maybe you can just update or wear slightly differently before you feel you need to purchase something new. For instance, if you've been lusting after a red midi dress you've seen popping up everywhere, why not see if you have another midi in your wardrobe you've been wearing less that could be dyed and revived? Not only will it save you some money, but it'll give that item a new purpose and you'll have something unique - not everyone is happy to wear *that* Zara polka dot dress if everyone else is wearing it too.

If it's a trend item that is from a previous generation (i.e. 70's crochet handbags, Y2K denim etc.), searching online for genuine vintage items or in vintage stores is a great option because not only are you avoiding fast fashion that - let's be honest - is probably badly/cheaply made, you will also be getting a more authentic item that will still have an element of uniqueness because it's not from Asos or Topshop's current season. Investing in vintage items that have come back around in trends is always a good shout because they're usually better quality and you can sometimes find a gem for a fraction of the price of the current fast fashion season equivalent!

Create a list and stick to it!
If you're a regular reader around here, you'll know I always suggest creating a list for almost all situations so there should be no surprise that I'm suggesting it again, here. If you're someone who curates fashion inspiration via Pinterest, Instagram's "saved posts" function, or simply folders on your laptop or phone, check out what trends are reoccurring for you. When you then feel the need to shop or need to pick up some new items at the start of a fresh season, you have the ammunition to pick out exactly what you want. This not only helps you pick out the trends you actually want to invest in, but it also stops you from impulse buying and being wasteful. For example, for me this Autumn/Winter, I want a pair of black heeled boots that are smarter to wear than my Doc Martens, a wrap belted winter coat, a specific handbag that I seem to be seeing everywhere and I'm disappointed that I don't own - yet. Therefore, these are the items I'll be hunting for in charity shops and online on eBay, Depop, and Etsy (mostly).

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September 04, 2019

Saying Goodbye to Fast Fashion: My Journey so Far

Back in 2017, I decided to say goodbye to fast fashion. Getting older and learning more about the industry I so heavily invested my time and passion in made me realise that it wasn't as nice of a place as I once thought that actually, the fashion industry can be damaging and how I was consuming it was adding to that damage. I wanted to consume less. I wanted to consume smart.

It's been almost two and half years now since I pledged to ditch the fast fashion world and reflecting on the changes I've made in that time and the things I've learned is great. I am very aware of what I've managed to achieve, what I really truly failed to, and what things I could and hopefully will still improve. It's a huge lifestyle overhaul and that shouldn't be overlooked when transitioning to a more sustainable or conscious-consumer lifestyle. So, for all of you out there who might be trying to switch things up and you feel like you're not doing it right or you've had a setback or you just simply want to join the conversation - this post is for you so you know that everyone fucks up. Me included and in a variety of ways (it's cool, we can all drag me together).

I've slipped off the wagon
I would be straight up lying to you all if I sat here and said that I've not bought directly from a fast fashion brand at all over the past 2.5 years. There's been times when that convenience, accessibility, and sheer overwhelming choice of options have won me over and honestly? It's something I know I can't beat myself up about too much. I've mentioned it before, but choosing to shop slow fashion in any capacity can be a shock to the system, particularly if you are or were someone like me who would buy a few items from Asos every. single. week. If you are/were on first name terms with the Hermes delivery driver and could ask him how the wife and kids were that week, then yes, suddenly curbing the spending would be a huge change.

I now know that it hasn't been the end of the world that I have done this over the last couple of years but instead, I can take away learning curves from it and assess why it is that I felt the high street fast fashion labels were my only option and ensure that I don't make the same slip ups in the future. A couple of areas that stick out for me is buying underwear (I had zero idea where to shop sustainable brands and I'm a girl who likes some underwire and support - a lot of ethical/sustainable brands seemed to have comfy triangle bras but not a lot of the industrial-support I was looking for) and maternity clothing. Oh my my, when I found out I was pregnant, I had all these grand schemes for buying ethical handmade dresses and stretchy items but it just wasn't feasible. I've literally woken up and not been able to fit into a pair of leggings that I had on the previous day and I've had to panic-buy something so I could go to work on Monday, not wearing my pyjamas. I also haven't been able to justify buying a £200 ethical dress when I've had to compare that to buying 5 for the same price because again, having one item that fits when you're a clumsy pregnant woman who constantly spills things down herself just isn't feasible. I know that these decisions haven't been made with no thought or consideration and I know with better planning, research, and now experience, they are unlikely to happen again in the future and that's good enough for me.

It really is a complete lifestyle overhaul and it's not linear
Again, I've mentioned how overwhelming the change of the transition can be, but it's because it's not just a case of changing your wardrobe - it's breaking old habits, changing how you have consumed fashion for years, and feeling confident in doing so. A huge learning curve for me has been assessing my shopping habits. Previously I shopped often. I'm talking spending hours each week scrolling through sites such as Zara and Asos and always picking at least one item up. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that a transition into slow fashion and only shopping secondhand or sustainably meant that I couldn't maintain that attitude to consuming. Trying to be a conscious consumer meant that I needed to put my shopping under more scrutiny. Buying 10 items on Depop instead of having a my very own weekly Asos haul wasn't being a conscious consumer - it didn't mean I was I doing the whole slow fashion thing right. Although my best intentions were there, it took me time to realise that my actions weren't mirroring the impact I wanted to make and I had to give myself time to realise that and change it.

There's some areas of your consumer personality you don't need to change
Changing to slow fashion, I initially detoxed all of my social media and YouTube subscriptions over a few days. I stopped following people I had for years all because they did weekly fashion hauls or really loved certain brands etc. and that was actually a bad move for me. I realised I could still be inspired by these influencers I enjoyed watching or reading about whilst changing my own outlook. Don't get me wrong, if you're someone who has very little willpower or you're easily tempted, following loads of fast fashion YouTubers probably isn't wise, but I found a happy medium between following influencers who are sustainable/ethical/slow fashion aficionados and promoters and then influencers who's personal style I just love and therefore look to for inspiration. It doesn't mean I have to go out and buy that sold-out Topshop skirt because they're wearing it in a really nice outfit, it just means that if I'm still lusting after that item in a couple of months time, maybe I can look for something similar on eBay or in my local charity shops.

*Do* follow some slow fashion inspiration though
It's definitely all about balance and following individuals who are also passionate about slow fashion or conscious consuming in general can really help you keep focus and also learn so you can continue to grow on your own journey. Instagram and YouTube are my two biggies for this and I enjoy following such a range of accounts that either share important climate change information (which helps me remind myself why I've made the changes I've made) or who buy exclusively from sustainable brands (so I find new shops I've not heard of before) or who simply shop completely secondhand (so they inspire me to keep that aspect of personal style and wear whatever I want, sourced in a more circular way). Following these positive influencers helps me when I'm feeling tempted by something I've seen or if I'm feeling in a "treat yo' self" mood to take a step back and ask if I a) really need this and b) if I do, does it really need to come from this awful brand with awful ethics?

Get informed - you won't know everything right away!
Lastly something that I *need* to get across to anyone worrying is that you won't be perfect and you certainly won't be at the start of your journey and that's *more* than okay! When I first decided to make the switch, I hadn't actually done all that much research in the grand scheme of things - I did a bit of reading, donated and sold a lot of my unworn clothes, and tried my hand at creating a capsule wardrobe to try and get things moving. These things did help me start the process, but I've learned so much more since then about fast fashion, ethical practices, my consuming habits etc. and I'm well aware that my approach and attitude to this lifestyle choice will continue to change and alter course and content as the years go by. Rather than worry about that and see it as something I haven't perfected yet and therefore it's a failure, I'm seeing it more exciting steps in the right direction and my journey will continue to improve over the next few years.

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August 29, 2019

A Self-Care Routine you can Stick to

Self-care is something that I've always advocated here on NB and I'm a big fan of self-care involving anything you want it to that makes *you* feel good. Whether it's bath bombs and face masks or a walk out in nature - self-care is very personal and unique to us all as individuals and in my humble opinion? It's central to having striking some sort of balance and happiness in your day-to-day life. It consists of those daily or weekly "rituals" that help us feel relaxed, feel like we've got our shit together, or that help us reach our goals. They are the tasks that can make you feel a little more whole and "with it" that can distract you from the negatives and any stresses that you're currently experience. If it makes you feel good, label it as self-care.

One of the major problems with self-care is sometimes it's hard to keep it up. I know for me, activities such as drawing, yoga, and playing ukulele are great self-care but do I regularly do them? Not really. I fall in and out of good routines with all of these tasks and more and it leaves you feel under-accomplished. I find that not sticking to a self-care routine or being lazy with it then makes me feel even worse than having no self-care going on at all. Half the battle seems to be striking that balance right and actually actively looking after myself and striving to make myself happy and content. But you know what? I think I may have finally cracked a way to make sure my self-care routine is never broken ever again (or at least not quite so regularly with such disastrous effect!):

1. Make a list of everything that makes you feel good:
You can't practice self-care if you don't know what that actually means for you. As I mentioned earlier, creative outlets such as drawing and also some gentle exercise is great for making me feel good about myself or making me feel more positive, but some other self-care that I seemingly manage to practice more often involves embroidery, blogging (hi!), getting out in nature, reading, and a good thorough skincare routine every evening. By taking notice of what it is that makes you feel well within yourself, you can create a list of those things so that you can refer back to the list whenever you need some inspiration. It doesn't matter if it's something you do often or something you do only occasionally, having it written down in a list may prompt and motivate you to partake in a specific activity that you may have forgotten about.

It's also important to take stock of what brings you down or effects your wellbeing. Is it usually after work that you feel stiff or achy? Is it usually at the weekend that you feel stressed and helpless? Identifying when self-care would benefit you might help you create new links between what you want to do and what would benefit you. For example, I know work stresses me out so some of my very simple self-care when I get home each working day is getting straight into my PJs, making a cup of tea, and doing some embroidery. Knowing that this is kind of a safe way for me to dispose of those stressed thoughts means I will continue to go back to it again and again, no matter how many times I have a break from it in between.

2. Identify the core self-care activities:
Now that you have your list, it's time to actually analyse which ones are the top priorities for you. You should choose the sort of things that will impact you the most and in the most positive way, but you may also need to consider which are the easiest to put into regular practice, which are possibly already in your normal routine they just need nurturing some more, or any number of other things. Again for me, having an evening skincare routine isn't always easy for me to stick to - particularly when I'm really tired (joke that's all the time) - but I never miss my full ten step Korean skincare routine every Sunday evening. Doing this routine helps me have a hard reset for the week ahead and makes me feel more collected and calm about the start of my week. Reading in bed each evening also helps me feel more calm and helps me try to get a better night's sleep, and my previously mentioned embroidery each week also helps me just escape for a little while. Whether it's just not skipping a particular meal or going to the gym, taking a walk, or visiting the charity shops every Saturday morning - make yourself three tasks that you can stick to that won't just be another chore for you to tick off your to-do list.

3. Having a schedule will really help:
I know some of us out there like to be spontaneous and not be tied down to timings or promises you made yourself the previous day, but having a schedule for your self-care helps you make time for it; especially if you usually struggle to fit it into normal day-to-day life. 20 minutes is not a long time. 20 minutes is a great amount of time to complete some sort self-care no matter what it is. Experiment with scheduling your different self-care acts at different times of your day or week and see what makes you feel good. It might be that actually, you need to get up those 20 minutes sooner to fit in your work out because you feel great if it's the first part of your day. You might need to step away from the computer or your phone on your lunch break at work and just read your book because it relaxes you for your afternoon of cramming the last of your to-do list in in the office. Whatever time of day/week works for you, let it just take over. If you're constantly skipping a task, the chances are it's just not sitting well into your usual routine and needs a new place to slot into. Self-care should always be flexible and suit you because it's all about you so play around with every tasks' adaptability and see what works best for you.

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