When The World Stands Still

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been saidsung, preached from rooftops and social platforms. Everyone’s vying for their voice to be heard amidst all this noise, it seems, but if you’ve got the space (or mental capacity) for just a few more words, here are mine.

It may feel like we don’t have much choice right now – on who gets sick, on who is allowed to work and make money, on what we can cook for dinner – but still there are choices that we can make.

We can choose to:

spread panic or hope
spread fear or support
close our doors or open them
create isolation or community
choose to do what’s personally advantageous or morally right.

I know that times are hard. During times like these, it’s difficult to think clearly, to predict the best course of action, let alone to keep it together. Actionable tips are more useful now than ever.

After much reflection, this is all I’ve got.

First, let go of the anxieties which aren’t serving you. Stop watching videos of hoarding and stop posting pictures of empty shelves, which doesn’t serve anyone either. All this causes is panic. There is enough anxieties to go around and we don’t need it. There is enough food to go around, if we share. This isn’t to say I don’t have anxieties of my own. This isn’t ill-advice coming from the privileged. This is general advice coming from a person whose job is considered at highest risk for exposure during this epidemic, who works with limited medical supplies caused by a global hoarding of masks that won’t prevent disease acquisition, whose office just closed in order to protect others (staff and patients alike), and who doesn’t get paid time off but whose staff thankfully does. Despite going into half a million dollars in student debt in order to help heal the world, despite risking my health in order to take care of people in pain, despite having only one mask a day because of a shortage of medical supplies, and despite stopping work to protect those around me, I still call myself one of the lucky ones. The power of positivity has to be prioritized here. Which brings me to my second point…

Approach everything from a place of gratitude. I know it’s hard to do, especially for those who are just trying to get by, but trust me, the gratitude will be the thing that helps get you by. If you are working from home, at least you still get paid. If you aren’t getting paid, at least you still have your health. If you don’t have your health, at least you still have family to support you. If you don’t have family to support you, you have a world of people who wants to help. When you feel alone, just reach out a hand, and someone will grab it.

This is the time to reawaken relationships. If you are at home, lamenting your joblessness, pull out your phone and CALL someone. Don’t text, but CALL. Talk to them in ways that you couldn’t when life had you running in circles. This time is a gift, and it is temporary. Ask how people are. Talk about what’s going on in their life rather than what’s going on in your grocery store. And once you’ve finally rekindled connection with others…

Take the time to BE WITH YOURSELF. As uncomfortable as that is, sit in introspection. It may be painful if you think of what you have and don’t have at the moment.

“The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience” – The Book of Joy

Rather, think about yourself in terms of your role in society. Instead of fretting about what is uncontrollable outside those walls, heed attention to what is within. You have to care for yourself before you can care for others. All that is neglected in the home and in yourself, organize and take care of them. Putting things in order indoors will be reflected in bigger things. Once you’ve got yourself in order, you are finally ready to create community amidst this isolation.

If you’ve got a skill that you can share, if you’ve got extra toilet paper that a family needs, if you can cook meals for those living paycheck to paycheck, if you can provide emotional support, financial guidance, mental health advice, a foster home for pets that are being euthanized, if you can support small businesses who can’t stay afloat, if you can volunteer time … go ahead and do it. This is it. The time when the world stops and stands still. This is the time for us to stop with it, lest we all continue spinning out of control.

If you need help putting everything into perspective, a few of my favorite reads:

  • The Book of Joy – Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu
  • Slow Living in a Frantic World – Brooke McAlary
  • Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Measure of a Man – Sydney Poitier
  • Simple Matters – Erin Boyle
  • Chasing Slow – Erin Loechner

 

Buckwheat Blueberry Pancakes

This post is in partnership with East Fork Pottery,  a company slinging hand-thrown, timeless pottery in Oregon using regionally-sourced stoneware clay. Their beautiful food-safe glazes are made in house and lend their pieces character, but in an unfussy and classic manner. The collection is, truly, a treasure trove.

With the advent of daylight-savings-time-changes mid-winter comes a post-apocalyptic episode of me scrounging a few more moments of sleep, desperately and daily. The time change lands on my most dreaded day of the year, and what follows is a week full of lethargy, a pathology that is largely self-diagnosed by yours truly. Coupled with dreary weather, rainy forecasts and winter blues, there isn’t much to be excited about after the clock sets back. EXCEPT perhaps… naturally leavened buckwheat blueberry pancakes! 

All of this to say that the sun dost continue to shine, even if we can’t see it. You find brightness in other ways. In my case, flour to match in color with the winter blues, a dash of farm treasures in the form of berries, and perfect pottery to bring out those moody hues.

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Before you begin to think this post is mostly a ranting of my hatred for time changes and a boasting of my favorite vessels, let me straighten the record and say that this truly is a sharing of a recipe. In particular, one that gets me out of bed on those mornings when I feel as if sinking into oblivion would be a better option. I guarantee you, it is not. With the record straight, let me digress and romanticize about all the reasons why this pancake (and this plate) makes this time of year more amicable.

There’s something about the color of buckwheat. It does, to me, give the pancake a bluish hue. The texture of the flour is soft and fluffy, and with the help of a natural starter, gives rise (pun intended) to a very delicate stack. Yet the taste of buckwheat contradicts this delicacy with its bold, earthy tone. The savory taste so distinct in soba noodles is ever so faintly noticeable in this overall sweet recipe.

Then there are the blueberries, which we purchase from a local farm up the road from my parent’s house. Organic and freshly picked, I like to mix these additions into the batter prior to pouring onto the pan. What results when cooked in the cake is a juicy bubble bursting to seep its way into the pancake’s core. The tartness of the berries offsets the savory pancake, their juiciness offsetting the sandy texture of buckwheat.

Off course, drizzling the entire stack with maple syrup and pairing with maple sausage links can’t hurt. And if this hasn’t convinced you of the therapeutic effects of cooking a comforting breakfast on a wintry morning, perhaps the presentation on hand-thrown, human-made clay pots is more appealing to you.

This morel hue does just the trick. Reminiscent of earthy things, like mushrooms that sprout, grounding and calming all at the same time. It’s no wonder East Fork considers it the most versatile color in the collection. Rich and soft like brown butter, morel adds elegance to the presentation without being pretentious. The coffee mug, also in morel, fits warmly in the hand and elevates my mood.

Then again, the coffee also helps.

Whatever wintry flourishes you’ve got in your back pocket to abide the time until Spring arrives, may this help get you through.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Buckwheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Instructions:

  1. Whisk the eggs in a Kitchen Aid mixer or by hand, depending on your energy level.
  2. Add the milk and starter and whisk again, on low, until well incorporated.
  3. Add the dry ingredients including the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar. Mix thoroughly, stopping halfway to scrape a rubber spatula down the sides of the bowl, catching all the escaped floury bits.
  4. Whisk in the melted butter, and let sit for 20 minutes to allow starter to do it’s magic.
  5. Add the blueberries right before frying on the pan. Fold the berries in with a spatula.
  6. Scoop 2 tablespoons onto a pan and heat on the first side. Flip after bubbles begin to pop at the surface and cook again for about the same amount of time.
  7. Serve with Grade A amber maple syrup, more berries, and bacon or sausage links, if preferred.
  8. Get by for the rest of winter.

 

A Period of Essentialism

Doesn’t it seem sometimes that finding yourself requires rejecting everything that defines you? Like a snake shedding skin. Or a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. The less we have, the more we are whole. I’ve found that after rejecting associations, all that is left behind is the rawness of “me, myself, and I”, and the beauty of what that has to offer.

This entire journey started with getting rid of external associations, such as physical clutter. Then it continued with societal expectations, financial burden, and more recently, digital stimuli. Now, a more difficult task. What I’ve struggled with the most in the past year is ridding myself of aspirational clutter, but I am refocusing to address that struggle.

My aspirations, titles, roles, and expectations dictate my day-to-day actions. This much I know to be true. Most of these things are self-imposed. I choose to identify with these things, and therefore, I can choose to un-identify, as well. I’ve come to this awakening that a lot of my stresses result from these impositions on the self. These are also the sources of the majority of my time-suck. And since my ultimate dream is to achieve waking up each day and doing whatever calls to me, without being tied to money, possession, job, title or expectation, I must face the fact that none of these self-impositions get me closer to that point. In fact, I am being drowned by their current.

In order to get to ultimate freedom, I have to free everything else.

Awakenings are the hardest part,
But also the BEST.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately and I’ve decided to close the bakery. Cancel the course. Stop Rover. Write for myself again.

What brought this on was the husband’s current situation.

This is a really special time for my husband and I. He recently stopped working, having quit a job that he had grown impassionate about, and is going through a growing phase that entails a bit of self-discovery. I’ve found that with all of my titles and roles, I have not had the time to be there for this period of rebirth. The last few weeks, I’ve been telling him to stay out of my way because I have “things to do”. I didn’t want to talk to him because I had to “focus” on creating content for the blog. I couldn’t spend much time with him because I had to bake bread. I hated that the first thing I cut from my life whenever I needed space or time was my relationship, which is arguably most important. And it’s safe to say that over time, perhaps I myself have grown to become impassionate about my own work, too. There is always that line between hobby and work and when we cross it, other things shift with it, too.

So we are re-structuring,

My husband and I haven’t had this freedom since… college? We have an opportunity to come home and be idle. To have nothing due. This is the first time in our lives where we are both at a place where we can create the opportunity to just be. To reject most obligations. To do as little as possible. Or rather, to do only that which is essential.

I decided to commit to only one professional title (dentistry) as I fulfill more important roles of being a wife and friend. Where I was prompting him to find himself, I figure I should listen to my own advice and do much the same.

If I am being completely honest, perhaps taking on these jobs was my way of filling a void, rather than understanding why I felt partial instead of whole … arguably deeper work. I took on the title “baker” with Rye Goods one year ago, and I remember saying to Sara that I was looking for something more. The bakery was my saving grace from a dissatisfaction with where my life was at.

It was also my distraction.

Now it’s time to face fears, and start a new age.

A period of essentialism.


They say it takes courage to hold on when everything around you is falling apart,

When you are falling apart.

But usually we hold on for the sole reason that we are too afraid to let go.

Therefore, it takes equal courage to move on.

Either way,

You are brave,

Whatever you choose to do.

Task Switching Meditation

I started working withStarting from Within to keep my health in check as I transitioned into a work-a-holic at the turn of the decade. I wanted to add-on jobs and projects that fulfilled my life without detracting from my overall health, a task whose plausibility I am beginning to question. If we add, we must always detract elsewhere, no?

But add to my work I did, and Starting from Within has helped me tremendously with maintaining balance across many aspects of my life. The program entails a bi-weekly phone conversation that keeps mindfulness and intentionality at the forefront of our minds. Through the sessions, I gained a number of resources that got me re-thinking what it means to be healthy, a few practices that have me re-evaluating the habits that work in my life, and a few exercises help keep me sane.

One exercise in particular that I am enamored with is the 3 minute meditation that precedes every session with SFW. A 3 minute guided body scan helps me to really focus on the present moment and what is about to come. I find this exercise extremely helpful when task switching. The 3 minute meditation closes the door on the previous task, and paves the way for the next one, while giving my brain time to slow down and reset.

Multi-tasking has been proven to be humanly impossible. What partakes during perceived multi-tasking is a task switching that requires energy from the brain to do. We are task switching all day long, and the lack of focus is preventing us from doing any deep work. But by adding meditation in between tasks, I have found that the work I switch to becomes easier, more focused, and more productive.

I highly suggest finding the space to occasionally meditate in between your tasks.

Perhaps sit in your car for your few minutes after wrangling through traffic in order to get home. Close your eyes and breathe, palms up.

If you just finished making dinner, set the food down, close your eyes and bow. Or better yet, take stock between each bite.

When I close a book, I always stare out a window or into space. It’s a processing technique that I have, but never use with other things. Eventually, I’d slide the book off my lap and get up from the couch. I can’t move on from reading something without it, lest I brush off what I would otherwise gain from the page.

The most common excuse these days is this: “I don’t have the time.” I would know, because I use it more frequently than I would like. But I promise you that by taking three minutes to meditate, you will focus your energy in a way that expands time, and you reap the time spent plus more.

I urge you to try it, and let me know what you think.

More importantly, how you feel.

Gratitude In Things You Don’t

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I was sitting in yoga class after a strenuous hour of being berated by a room full of heat, which I was convinced was too high for the particular class that I took, side-swaddling my right arm underneath my cheek bone, facing my husband as he reaps his benefits off of his mat and practice, when our instructor’s calm voice soothingly asks of us one thing before lifting ourselves off of the mat to end class:

Find gratitude in all the things you have in your life…

And gratitude in the things that you don’t.

As the rest of class pushed themselves gently up from their preferred side to continue on with their day, I stayed lying still a heartbeat longer to process what I just heard. I think I was in momentary shock.

If I am being quite honest, I have been lacking, the past few months, a sense of satisfaction with the way life has turned out to be. With the advent of taking on 6 days of dentistry for the first time in my life at the turn of the decade, while trying to manage a bakery, dog sit a few days a month, and partake in an international project to Sustain the Maldives with Bogobrush, my world has been in a state of overwhelm that has been hard to combat. My only saving graces are my husband, Starting From Within’s guidance, a few books, and yoga class.

At times like these, the standard advice of listing all the things you are grateful for in order to keep chins high appear to be good advice … at first glance.

However, the practice of acknowledging all the things one can be grateful for can feel a bit anti-climactic for minimalists, whose lists tend to end soon after it’s begun. Let’s face it, the list of things for minimalists are generally not very long. Which leaves one feeling like there isn’t much to be grateful for.

But what if we take a step back and look at the big picture. The world remains balanced, whether we recognize it or not. In order to have complete understanding, we need to extend our gratefulness to encompass both sides of the coin. After all, a list in gratitude of only the things we own can rob us of our enoughness. In order to grow our appreciation for the life of our choosing, we must compliment this list with all the things we don’t have, in gratitude. Such as…

  • Disease
  • War
  • Poverty
  • Famine
  • Hate
  • Clutter
  • Toxic relationships
  • Insecurity
  • Jealousy
  • Death
  • Isolation
  • Fear
  • Social constructs and norms
  • Peer pressure
  • Societal expectations
  • Addictions
  • Imprisonment
  • And for all minimalists, a long list of things that would otherwise steal our time and attention.

So when you feel life’s gotten away from you a bit, and that nothing seems to be going to plan, re-center and list all the things to be grateful for – whether you have them or not. Your world of positivity will expand, and perhaps you’ll start to notice a change in perception.

I mean, at least you’re not underwhelmed.

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Photographed: A few propagating leaves and East Fork‘s cake plates in Soapstone. 

Less Waste: A Vision of an Eco-conscious Dental Office

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

The medical industry can hardly be excused for their participation in plastic waste production. Medical facilities are notorious for creating plastic waste on a daily basis, and in exorbitant amounts.

As a dentist, the role I play in creating waste does not escape me. It’s a fact that has never sat well with me, and I’ve found it an unsettling part of my profession that does not align with my personal values. If I am being honest, some of the waste that we produce is unnecessary. 

The need for disposable items for the sake of sanitation is a fallacy. It’s a shame that patients expect disposable and replaceable medical tools in order to feel safe. But where do you think plastic suctions and mirrors are made? Factories? Stored in plastic bags? Shipped in boxes on a truck? Placed into drawers? Pulled out for your visit.

Sanitary? Hardly.

But it is expected.

What if I told you that we can create a safe, sanitary dental office that is more sustainable by using re-usable instruments that are properly sterilized? What if the key to creating a cleaner tomorrow lies in changing patient perception?

Education lies in the hands of dentists and doctors dedicated to creating eco-conscious offices. We can show patients it is more sanitary to use an auto-clavable, heat-sterilized metal suction than pulling a plastic straw suction from a drawer. Likewise, the driving force for change lies in the patients asking for alternatives to plastic from their providers.

I have a vision.

I haven’t implemented it yet because between the zero-plastic bakery, helping with building an all-sustainable Hard Rock hotel on a zero-waste island in the Maldives, working six days of dentistry a week, dog-sitting for pets in need of a home, and writing here, I just don’t have the time.

But today, I’d like to share the vision that I have for a more sustainable practice, in hopes that other dentists would aspire to it, too.

Why?

Healthcare facilities in the United States generate 14,000 tons of waste per day. Up to 25% of this waste is composed of plastic products, including packaging of disposable items. In my office, we have the problem of an overflowing the trash bin and recycle bin with waste. We have been cited by the city multiple times, but with the patient pool that we are seeing, we are creating more waste than the current bins can hold. This cannot continue.

With environmental awareness rising, the issue of medical waste has never been more pertinent. We are a dump-and-cover society but we can’t stop from knowing that plastic never disappears. It can only break down into micro-plastics that end up in landfills and oceans and then enters our food chain which then affects not just the environment and other species, but us as well.

Can medical care exist without waste?

Maybe not completely, but we can definitely get closer.

We HAVE to get closer.

WHO?

We need to do this not for ourselves, but for the younger generations of tomorrow. Young people today are overwhelmed by the daunting task of cleaning up after past generation’s messes. We need to alleviate that pressure from them, and it needs to start now.

Practitioners can educate their patients on what cleanliness really means. Explain to them your efforts in going zero-waste. Millennials will support sustainable efforts. They will come to your office if you advertise yourself as doing more than taking care of their health. If they see that you care about the environment, it will show them your character, and if you care for the environment, how much better care will you be able to provide for your patient?

My friend recently opened a dental practice in Irvine called Blue Brush Dental and his new patient and recall patient goody bags are all organic cotton tote bags that a patient can re-use for their market needs. Imagine what that says to a new patient. The value of your practice is tied to the values that you portray. A practitioner making efforts to create a cleaner tomorrow speaks volumes. Younger generations will appreciate that you care about THEM.

Patients, on the other hand, need to demand zero waste practices. Say “NO” to those free plastic toothbrushes. Ask for alternatives. Opt for recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable toothbrush options such as Bogobrush, and don’t be afraid to start a conversation and ask the office to get them. Deny goodie bags made of plastic.

We need to work together. We are all responsible.

WHAT?

A sustainable dental practice begins with a physical office, and the best office is a LEED certified building. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design and it was implemented in 1993 to promote sustainable design in architecture. There are four levels of LEED certification, based on a points system wherein points are awarded for different categories.

LEED certified buildings:

  • reduce usage fees by 40% in energy and water bills
  • are good for the environment and occupants
  • have higher occupant rates and higher lease rates per square foot
  • have increased visibility in the community

LEED buildings implement a number of structural and architectural designs that decrease energy consumption. Skylights and wide windows in operatories allow for more natural light which then reduces the need to use electricity during the day. Some buildings use geothermoregulation via flooring systems. The use of LED lights also reduce energy consumption and is an easy change that offices can start implementing TODAY. Likewise, using tile carpeting makes it fairly cost-effective to switch out high traffic areas with a new tile rather than redoing the entire flooring all together.

Check out this pediatric dentist’s LEED certified practice, for inspiration.

HOW?

Having an eco-conscious practice is not only what building we work in but also how we do our work.

Digital technology has allowed for the removal of much of the materials that we used to use in dentistry.

  • Digital x-rays eliminates the need for film, and the chemicals needed to produce the film which sit in plastic cups and are purchased in plastic containers.
  • Digital scanners eliminate the need for impression material, plastic cartridges, plastic tips, impression trays, and packaging used to send models to and from the lab.
  • A Cerec Milling Machine eliminates the need for a second appointment (which would need another chair set up and more head rest covers, bibs, suctions, and syringes), as well as a model and a temporary crown.
  • Clinical notes on a computer eliminates the need for paper charts and filling forms out online prior to the appointment rids us of paperwork to be scanned.
  • Signature pads record consent directly on the computer.
  • Text appointment and recall reminders eliminate the need to mail postcards.
  • Social media eliminates the need for physical marketing strategies.
  • Digital reading material can replace paper magazines in the lobby.

On top of going digital, we can substitute alternatives that use less plastic overall. Sometimes, instead of looking to new gadgets, the trick lies in using old school stuff. Below is a list of examples, both old and new:

  • Sterilization Casettes and Enviropouches eliminate disposable sterilization pouches.

Image result for dental sterilization cassettes

  • Cloth head covers and bibs are alternatives to plastic head rest covers and water resistant bibs. Not even having head covers and simply using Cavicide between each patient is also an option.
  • Sterilizable metal suctions and water -syringe tips instead of disposable plastic ones are the dental equivalent of metal straws instead of plastic straws.

Image result for metal syringe tipsImage result for metal suction dental

  • White coats instead of disposable clinical gowns are an option, depending on the extent of your treatment.
  • Wood wedges instead of plastic wedges for composite restorations are the way to go. Some argue the contacts are better with the plastic versions, but they now make flared wooden wedges that fit fine, even with isolated matrices.

Image result for wood wedges dentistry versus plastic VS Image result for wood wedges dentistry versus plastic

  • Paper Dri-Angles instead of plastic ones can be used. Even though the plastic version can isolate for twice as long and requires less triangles, the plastic itself will NEVER disappear from this Earth. The paper versions will degrade, even if there are twice as many.

Image result for paper dri angles versus plastic VS Image result for plastic dry angles

  • Reusable prophy angles that can latch onto a slow-speed hand-piece can reduce plastic disposable versions from entering the landfill.

Image result for dental polishing cup reusable prophyVS Image result for prophy cup

  • Prophy paste in ten flavors individually wrapped in plastic tubes increase plastic waste. Why not buy prophy paste by the tub in a limited number of flavors, such as mint or cherry? These tubs will last a VERY long time.

Image result for prophy paste bulk VS Image result for prophy paste bulk

  • Installing a water distiller in the office for the water lines instead of having distilled water tubs delivered to the office every week is an option. It will not only save the Earth from plastic gallons, but also from emissions related to a water delivery service.
  • Disposable scented nitrous oxide gas masks are nice for kids, but why not try sterilizable gas masks with a touch of essential oil for the scent.
  • Reclaimed, Recycled or Up-cycled furniture for the lobby is preferred over brand new furniture. Try to choose sustainable materials such as wood instead of plastic chairs and tables.
  • Wooden toys for the kid’s toy box in the lobby are an aesthetic AND sustainable touch.
  • Avoid plastic goodie bags after hygiene appointments. Try paper bags! Better yet, recyclable market totes made from organic cotton like this one from BlueBrush Dental give goodie bags a lasting purpose.

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Image result for reusable dental eye protectors VS Image result for reusable dental eye protectors

Other ways in which we can commit to reducing waste in our dental offices.

  • Walk or bike to work. Find a job close to home and nix the commute. Carpool, if you must, with your co-workers.
  • Bring your lunch in Tupperware rather than dining out. Bring a reusable water bottle or coffee mug from home.
  • Implement the use of a water fountain instead of a Sparklett’s water station.
  • Don’t allow for disposable utensils, plates and cups in the break room. Choose metal utensils and durable, washable tableware.
  • Instead of a Keurig machine that uses coffee pods, invest in an old school coffee machine with paper filters. Buy coffee beans in bulk and grind them yourself.
  • When you buy a dental practice, don’t gut the place entirely and renovate the whole thing. Use the existing cabinets and give them a paint job. Changing artwork? Use the existing frames and swap out the paper images. You get the drift. Don’t be in a rush to buy everything BRAND NEW.

These are just some basic ways in which we can create change. Most of these we can do immediately. Some of these may take months to get to. But it’d be great if we all start working towards it.

I’m not saying do ALL of these. But I ask you implement one or two new things every few months. Work towards a more eco-conscious practice. We won’t get to zero-waste, but if someone can try to create an All-Sustainable Hotel built on a Zero-Waste island, why can’t we get close with a dental office?

Want more? Here are 80 ways to make your dental practice go green!

Curating Closets: One Work-out Outfit

I have never been one to stick to a work-out routine long-term. I find that we train our minds to have grit with certain things, but with physical activity, I haven’t had much practice. However, with the turn of the decade, for the world but also for myself, my thirtieth birthday brought on an awareness of muscle aches, tenderness, and fatigue. Instead of dwelling on the regretful lack of physical activity in my earlier years, I decided to start setting it all straight.

Since there are only two exercises that I ever liked, swimming and yoga, I decided to sign up for an unlimited membership at CorePower. I did this a year ago and regretted my decision from a financial perspective. But I realized that without the discipline for sticking to a regular workout routine, I would not get anywhere without a financial reason to push me. Spending money is a great motivator for someone who seeks getting the most value. The last year has taught me the value of outsourcing certain things in order to get high returns. I knew it was the right choice for me.

Which brings us to the topic of work-out clothes.

Having Just One

For those curating closets, I am here to tell you that one work-out set (a top and bottom) is enough for all of your work out needs. I attend yoga classes at least FIVE TIMES a week, and I have one set. In black, of course, not that that’s a pre-requisite for all. Just for me. (Why black? I like to streamline my clothes so that it works for every season. Your color could be rainbow, and that wouldn’t matter so much as the fact that it’s a color that works for you despite changes in weather or mood. For me, black looks good whether my skin is tan or not, whether my nails are painted a bright color or nude, and just makes me feel confident and comfortable overall. Curating closets, after all, is about knowing yourself.)

Maintenance

The secret with having a singular outfit is being pro-active with keeping work-out wear clean. The yoga sessions are heated and intense, and I don’t have an anti-sweat recipe up my sleeve. Yes, I do come out of those sessions drenched. But I shower right after those sessions and in the shower, I hand wash my top and bottom and hang them to dry. I am not so good (yet!) as to attend back-to-back sessions, so my workout attire can typically hang to dry until the next day. In the morning, I take the drying towels and yoga wear and toss it in my “yoga bag” which is nothing more than a ten-year-old enlarged shoulder tote that happens to fit a water bottle, my workout attire, and a yoga towel. At the end of every week, I toss the workout set into the wash with the other clothes.

Avoiding Decision Fatigue

One of the best things about having a curated closet is the avoidance of decision fatigue. Our brains require energy to make decisions and it is not proportional to the size of the decision. This means that making little decisions is just as taxing for our brain as making larger, life-altering decisions. To save brain power for the important stuff, I avoid having to choose for the smaller things in life, yoga attire included. Imagine how much stress and energy it takes to decide which outfit works well for you today while you are rushing to make class. My timelines are always filled with to-do’s, so it isn’t worth wasting time and energy on the mundane. Plus, I guarantee you’ll enter yoga class with a clearer mind, ready to accept all the benefits that the class has to offer, instead of fretting about whether you made the right outfit choice.

Easier Organization

I have met many girls who struggle with organizing their workout wear. Intricate straps make it difficult to hang and bulky to fold. Silky leggings slip right off the hanger. Drives a neatnik quite mad.  It helps to choose workout wear that skips all of that. For me, I have a T strap top with no inside bra cups to lose in the wash. It has an empress style body to hide the fact that I just engulfed a burger prior to class. The bottom of the top has a cinch that can tighten around my hips, for yoga inversions that tend to be unsuccessful. The leggings are cropped right underneath my knee caps, with enough coverage for the winter and enough air flow for the summer. The pants are fairly light, with a drawstring around the waist and no pockets.

Instead of trying to hang my slippery workout wear, I fold my clothes into tiny squares and toss in the bag. The bag hangs on a hanger in our bathroom, making it easily accessible when I’m ready to dash out the door and keeping it off the floor. The hanger is on a rod next to the shower, where I wash the clothes. When wet, the clothes hang on a shower curtain rod to drip into a tub until dry. The next morning they are dry enough to toss into the bag, which helps control clutter, and eliminating the need to search for them later on.

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Accessories

I have only a few accessories for yoga. The first is a Maduka yoga mat which is inside a yoga mat bag that stays in the back of my car at all times. Inside this yoga mat bag is a yoga mat cleaner and a lock for the locker room. Additionally, in the cold winter months, I wear a white Eileen Fisher sweater. This sweater is dedicated to yoga only. I don’t wear this sweater for other occasions, and it stays inside the same bag as my workout clothes. I do not change the sweater I wear to yoga either. It is always the same (see “decision fatigue” above). Lastly, I have one yoga towel that I lay over my mat. This yoga towel is also folded inside the bag that holds my clothes. I lay this towel over my yoga mat, and also hand wash the towel with my clothes. I use this same towel to dry myself off after my showers, too. Then it gets hung up to dry on the shower rod, just like everything else.

Having a routine helps me focus on the yoga itself. It makes gym-going a calm and easy experience. For anyone looking to curate their closet, I would highly recommend trying this! If you already own a ton of workout wear, I wouldn’t get rid of them right away. Pick one and see if its an outfit that jives with you. See if you can do without the others. When you’re ready to finally pull the trigger and slim your closet down even more, donate!

I’d love to hear some of your curating closet tips! Leave a comment and say hello.

Plant Paper, A New Toilet Paper Alternative for Body and Eco-Conscious Individuals

This post is in partnership with Plant Paper, a toilet paper company focused on creating an everyday product that is both body and eco-conscious. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wish to check out Plant Paper in person, they can be found at OtherWild General – a bulk and zero waste store located in Los Angeles, CA. 

Environmental change isn’t going to happen overnight placed in a consumer’s hands. At least, not enough of it. Sufficient change required to turn the tide will involve support from large organizations and changes at the macro-level by government bodies. But as a person who believes in the strength of the smallest of action, I also think we, as consumers, have some power. That power is strengthened when our product choices are intentional, especially when buying products required for daily activities whose redundancy magnifies the effect of our actions.

So here we are again, talking about toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a privilege, which I spoke about in my original post featuring Who Gives a Crap.  But for most people in the United States, toilet paper is a “necessity”. And when certain household products are viewed as such, it becomes more urgent to source these products mindfully. If we can curb the way we use, purchase, and choose toilet paper, then we can really make an impact.

So after a year of advocating WGAC, which is based in Australia, I was ever so excited to come across a California company also shedding light on creating eco-freindly toilet paper alternatives.

Introducing … PLANT PAPER!

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Plant Paper is a company imagined by Lee Reitelman and Joshua Solomon, two individuals who recognized that the ways in which we produce toilet paper does not align with neither our bodies nor our environment. The two then partnered with Scott Barry, creative director of LA’s all day breakfast joint, Sqirl, and on a December morning in 2019, I was able to hop onto a call with Rachel Eubanks, business and life partner of Scott.

The calling to create new toilet paper came after Reitelman and Solomon recognized the amount of energy, formaldehyde and chlorine it takes to convert wood to soft paper. We have a tree-based system of toilet paper-making that was not in effect until the Scott Brothers and Dupont Chemical got into the business. Prior to their invention of the toilet paper that we now see in our minds, toilet paper was made from hemp and sugarcane, both materials that take less chemicals and water to dissolve. The first person to ever invent toilet paper was actually Dr. Gayetty and his T.P. was of hemp!

Interestingly enough, when Gayetty first introduced toilet paper to the public, it did not take. Most consumers at the time could not fathom why one would pay for paper that you throw away. It wasn’t until after the 1880’s that toilet paper began to be seen as a product that signifies upper middle class status – and when you have a product that sells a lifestyle, well, it sells itself.

One thing’s for sure. With the growing attention on climate change, intentional living, and ethical consumer consumption, Reitelman and Solomon are right. “Tree paper should be, and will be, a thing of the past.”

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Great for the Environment, Swell for the Bum

The focus of Plant Paper is to create a toilet paper that is good for the body and the environment. The amount of chemicals used in the production of paper used to wipe butts is a long list – the most toxic ingredient included is chlorine which is used as chlorine bleach.

When you think of toilet paper, what color comes to mind? Usually, white. All white toilet paper require a bleaching process that turns the paper from a natural brown tree-color to a color that is deemed “sanitary”. Plant Paper wishes to change consumer perception of what toilet paper looks like. Plant Paper is BROWN, and avoids harsh chemicals such as bleaching agents and formaldehyde. If we can get people to embrace naturally colored toilet paper, then we can eliminate unnecessary chemicals that we are essentially wiping all over our bodies.

In fact, I would wager that not many Americans are aware of the fact that 37 gallons of water go into every roll of tree paper, plus a gallon of chemicals. Chemicals such as bleach and formaldehyde are known to cause UTI’s, hemorrhoids, and fissures in our bodies. But these are things we’ve grown accustomed to because we don’t stop to think that there is another way. 50 to 60% of women will get UTI’s in their lifetime and half of all people will get hemorrhoids by age 50. Something to think about.

Additionally, we must consider the environmental implications. Options on the market for eco-conscious toilet paper include recycled paper such as that of Seventh Generation, which is where most conversations stop. However, the resources required to recycle paper are often more than simply producing from new trees. In a world where resources in general are running scarce, we must consider more than the number of trees we save. We must consider the true cost. Recycled paper is no longer an option that is good enough.

Plant Paper looked at alternatives to both trees and recycled paper. They landed on the notion of using a type of grass to produce their toilet paper. Grasses grow incredibly faster than trees do. They first considered hemp as an option but eventually landed on bamboo, one of the fastest growing grasses in the world. Bamboo can grow up to 36 inches every 24 hours. Because of this choice, they had to turn make their production China-based, which means there is the logistic of still shipping their toilet paper half-way around the world.

When asked how they mitigate that choice, Rachel from Plant Paper explains that they try to reduce the impact by shipping in containers and sending in bulk. This reduces the shipping frequency, and all fulfillment of orders originate from centers in North Carolina. Currently, all orders may only be made via their online site, but the goal is to bring ethical toilet paper to locations near you.

Their dream is to eventually create a dispensary system where people are encouraged to bring their own bag and take as many rolls home as they need. Currently, they have their toilet paper stocked at OtherWild General in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. You can find Plant Paper in the Zero Waste/Bulk Section of the general store. Hopefully, these babies will start popping up at more folk shops and zero waste stores.

Beyond Environment and Health

To say that the environmental and health benefits are secondary to the real reason behind the creation of Plant Paper is true. This goes beyond current consumer trends and green washing and embracing the new status symbols of upper middle class. The true reason to buy a product like Plant Paper is simply because it is the best product out there.

We are a society trained to be content with unsatisfactory products and to accept that “it is what it is”, so much so that we even have a saying for it. We can no longer settle for mediocrity. We got to the point where we created recycled toilet paper with Seventh Generation, ticked off the box that said we were eco-conscious consumers, and stopped further conversation. But that’s not where it ends.

Plant Paper pushes the envelope to do more. How can we replace trees with a more sustainable material? How can we deconstruct the expectation that toilet paper should be white and thereby get away from all the chemicals? How can we reduce the amount of toilet paper usage all together? Perhaps we raise awareness of the recentness of toilet paper, and tell the story of it’s initial rejection by society. Perhaps we shed light on the fact that it is a monopoly controlled by one company, and that is why change at the macro-level is so difficult to achieve. All of this was discussed in my one hour conversation with Rachel, and it has got me excited about this company.

As Reitelman and Solomon worded it in another interview, we’ve created a hybrid car but the end point is an all electric vehicle.

The Verdict:

So now, the question most of you wish to be answered: How is the quality of toilet paper?

Plant Paper is double-sided and 3-ply. One side is soft and silky, what the team jokingly say is for dabbing, whereas the opposite side is textured, you know… for grabbing. With a smile on my face and a giggle in the air, I can see that it is this kind of whimsical thinking and creativity that has the power to change the world.

The branding for Plant Paper is simple, at best. Unlike Who Gives A Crap’s enthusiastic and colorful branding, Plant Paper may appeal more to minimalists who wish not to inundate their bathroom with colorfully wrapped rolls. If I am being honest, I myself prefer a more calm loo environment that reminds me of a zen spa and am relieved to know that such an eco-conscious option exists. Additionally, I prefer the buy-as-you-need approach of Plant Paper over the bulk orders of Who Gives A Crap. I think that what separates Plant Paper from Who Gives A Crap is their vision to be a wellness product in addition to being an environmentally friendly product, but what sells it to me is their hope to change a social norm by getting consumers to question, “Why?”

If you wish to try Plant Paper for yourself, I highly do recommend. I do not receive a commission from Plant Paper for your purchase.

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