Getting to Know: Gina Stovall of Two Days Off

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

Gina Stovall is a climate scientist and the founder of the ethical clothing line Two Days Off. Her move from New York City to Los Angeles catapulted a series of changes that had her pursuing a slower, more intentional life, one which involves a balanced mesh between her practical implementation of climate solutions and her creative love for sewing. Below, we chat about her career(s), her thoughts on sustainability, a hobby-turned-side-hustle, her love for coffee and plant life, and mindful living, in general.

Sooooo, may we start at the beginning? Could you give our readers a little synopsis about who you are and what you do, in case they are not yet familiar?

Absolutely! I am Gina, and I am the founder and designer behind Two Days Off, an environmentally conscious clothing line. I am originally from NYC but relocated to Los Angeles with my partner a year and a half ago; shortly thereafter I founded my Two Days Off. My professional background is in geology and I build a career conducting climate change solutions and working with cities on implementing climate solutions. My concern for sustainability and their societal implications led to my personal interest in  intentional and mindful living, minimalism, and conscious capitalism which I talk a lot about on my personal instagram. All of these interests and values are interwoven into Two Days Off.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Meet Gina Stovall. 

Out of curiosity, how has being a climate scientist influenced the way you consume and purchase things? 

I never saw consumption as a bad thing. As a scientist you learn that it is all about maintaining a balance within a system. The issue with climate change and environmental degradation is that we humans over-consume the planets resources, and do so at astonishing rates. I use to get anxiety thinking that I can’t consume anything if I want to help get humanity out of this mess, but that is unrealistic in the society we live in. Instead I just look with a critical eye first if I really need something or think it will bring significant value to my life. Then I consider how long it will last. Is it well made and can be used and passed down, or will I have to throw it out at some point. Next I consider the materials it is made out of. Will they biodegrade? Did someone destroy a habitat to make this? And finally I think of the embodied energy it takes to produce it and try to find a second hand option so I am not creating additional demand for a product that may exist already. I know if seems like a lot to consider, because it is! I think most people are “trained” to buy the cheapest, most readily available and well marketed option, but it is going to take a lot of people being a lot more considerate and pushing companies to produce products that are smarter for our species to survive the climate crisis. 

I love the way you approach this. It seems to me that you have a very positive outlook on one’s ability to have an impact in preserving our environment. I, too, am a firm believer that our individual, everyday choices can make a difference. Would you mind sharing some of your best life hacks regarding a lifestyle of less waste. 

I am very optimistic about our future. Peace activist, author and president of the SGI Daisaku Ikeda has said “Hope is a decision… even in the face of the severe crises confronting humanity today, I cannot side with the advocates of apocalypse. We can best negotiate the challenges we face when guided by hope, not when motivated by fear.” I completely agree. Humankind has immense potential. We already have all the technologies to solve the climate crisis, all that is left is to harness the will to implement them fast enough. My biggest hack on living a lower-waste lifestyle is to engage on the issues politically. It’s our policies and regulations that help drive forward the biggest impact and make it easier for us as consumer to have access to low waste-products. All the work shouldn’t be on the purchaser and the power we hold is to make our lawmakers hold companies accountable. Then I say vote with your dollar. Don’t support companies that are okay with sending you a bunch of plastic waste when there are great sustainable options out there for example. Two Days Off is a tiny business in the early stages and yet to turn a profit, but I have found a way to send eco-friendly packaging and use natural and recycled materials so big companies should too. And finally, reconsider if you really need something and buy only what you decided you do need or really want. Lastly, for the things you don’t want anymore, never throw them out. Repurpose, recycle, donate, et cetera. 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Eco-friendly packaging of Two Days Off.

While all of this is great, I can see how it can seem a bit overwhelming to someone just looking to start a journey of less waste. I was hoping to probe your mind on the importance of grace when it comes to sustainable living.

I love that you used the term grace, because that is precisely what we need to have with each other and ourselves when trying to live sustainably. If people are policing one another it will discourage more from making the small steps we need to overcome the environmental and social crisis we face. Success will be everyone imperfectly trying to be sustainable, not a handful of people doing it perfectly.

Let’s talk about Two Days Off! From where did the inspiration come? Was it born directly from your line of scientific work, or was it mostly a creative outlet that required exploring? Perhaps a marriage of both?

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
“I have been sewing since I was a teen.”

I have been sewing since I was a teen. I’ve always loved designing and playing with textiles so in that sense Two Days Off is a creative outlet. But my desire to create a business out of my hobby came a few years ago when I started learning about the fashion industry and fast fashion in particular. I had very little insight into the massive contribution to climate change fashion played, nor did I understand that most of the clothes I was purchasing came from the hands of garment workers working in unsafe and at times violent factories. I took making my clothes more seriously in 2016 and started to share it online. Over time and with the urging of friends I realized there may be a space in the slow fashion market for me. The slow fashion community is small and not everyone had the time or interest in making their own clothes so I wanted to contribute to the list of sustainable options out there and help shift the industry in my own way. I make all of my pieces from deadstock, essentially recycled, fabric here in LA. I take a lot of time designing and constructing pieces that are durable and hopefully timeless. I try to minimize waste, and any textile waste I produce gets recycled. 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Dead-stock sourced fabrics turned into timeless pieces.

I have seen your clothing line and am absolutely in L.O.V.E. with the minimalist styles and stream-lined cuts. I, myself, own the Olivia top in white and the Suki crop top in Slate Blue. I love the versatility of both! As a person who tries to make getting dressed as simple a process as possible, do tell, what are your ideal criteria when it comes to your own clothing choices, and how does that translate into the pieces that you choose to make?

Thank you so much! I, too, want getting dressed to be simple, fast, and fun. I want to feel polished and even a bit elegant, but know that I will be comfortable all day. If I don’t notice my clothes except when I look in the mirror then I know that I am comfortable. I design clothes made from natural fibers that I know will breathe well, feel good on the skin, and last for years. I spend a lot of time sourcing my deadstock fabrics because it’s all about the handfeel, color and print for me. And lastly, I like to design silhouettes that are beautiful, unfussy, and all about the quiet details like a pocket here or a subtle neck line that hits at the perfect place. 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Minimalist approach to getting dressed.

You and I are very similar in that we have science-related professions by day and passion-driven projects by night/weekend/every other free moment possible. As a dentist-turned-baker who happens to write on the side, I often get questioned how my lifestyle could possibly reflect slow-living. And yet, it does. I often say that slow-living isn’t so much what we DO, but rather, HOW we do it. Would you like to share your perspective on how, despite a busy schedule, slow-living is still the lifestyle that you embody? 

I think that your perspective is spot on for me too. When I lived in New York City I worked full time but had all my weekends and evenings and despite that I always felt on the go and busy. Since moving to LA and starting my business and working full time, sure I always have a lot to do, but I also have the balance of going to the beach and resting my mind or taking an evening to be inspired. I am not about rapid growth with my business, I want to do things true to my values and that takes time. I am growing slowly and enjoying the process. That’s how I live my life now, slowly and despite doing a lot I still think this is the mentality of slow living.

I see that you share the same affinity for indoor plants and coffee making as I do. What is your favorite plant and coffee drink (to make at home or order to-go on a busy day)?

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Coffee and plants fueling a side-hustle.

My favorite coffee drink right now is a flat white! I love the frothy texture of the milk and am still working on getting that same quality of froth at home. Favorite plant is very very hard. I love all of my plant babies so much. But if I have to choose, I would have to say my monstera deliciosa because mine has had a major growth spurt recently after having a really rough winter. I finally found a spot in the house she just loves and I just love letting her take up as much space as she can (something I am learning to do more of!).

Do you have any references (books, articles, or podcasts) that you would recommend for those wishing to learn more about environmental solutions?

Yes! the books Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (I liked the audio book because it was so long!) and Goodbye, Things but Fumio Sasaki totally changed how I perceive my material possessions. And Drawdown by Paul Hawken is excellent to get a feel for what the solutions to climate change are so you can spread the word and advocate for them! I also love Simple Matters by Erin Boyle, she has a blog that inspires me to live more sustainably and her book is packed with solutions and lifestyle hacks.

Simple Matters is one of my favorite books. Erin Boyle is just amazing, and her book is part of what helped me be, not only okay, but absolutely in LOVE with a life of less. Last question: Where to next? 

That’s a big question, I am one of those people with a pharmacy receipt-long list of next projects but immediately I have one major and ambitious priority. I want to make Two Days Off circular and share more of the process behind that. I am thinking about creative ways to handle waste and consider every aspect of my products, cradle to grave. 

TwoDaysOff_InTheStudio_Spring2019_23.jpg

For those interested in Two Days Off clothing, may I be the first to say that her articles of clothing are so very versatile and comfortable. For those curious about how the styles fit a 5’1″ petite 30 year old, see how I styled them on my trip to Seattle, WA. I would highly recommend them and I’ve got my sights on Indya dress next! The first four photos in this post were captured by Summer Blues Collective, and the last four were captured by Two Days Off.

Curating Closets: Reliable, Ethical Shoes with Nisolo + a 20% discount!

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

When it comes to curating closets, the process is simplified when there are particular brands that you trust. Ones that would have your back, or in this case, support your feet. For shoes, I undoubtedly have a single preference, and that would be Nisolo. Nisolo means “not alone”. Founded on the longing to foster the interdependencies of relationships between consumers and producers, Nisolo has since its foundation expanded to encompass not only social impact, but environmental sustainability and social good as well. One only needs to look at their impact report to understand why it is that we need to support companies such as these. The report opens with their unique vision:

“To push the fashion industry in a more sustainable direction— where success is based on more than just offering the cheapest price—a direction that not only values exceptional design, but the original producer and the planet just as much as the end consumer.”

nisolo1

Untitled

While the above images are simply highlights of what the report details, it summarizes what the sixty-plus page report says. Additionally, some things to note.

Certified B corporation

B Corp certification is similar to fair trade, but determines environmental and social impact beyond product attributes or production processes. Rather, the assessment takes a deep look into a company’s leadership, governance, suppliers, employees, communities, etc. in order to determine (and ultimately score) the social and  environmental impact an organization has on all of its stakeholders.

Environmental sustainability

To minimize their carbon footprint, the majority of Nisolo’s raw materials are intentionally sourced and processed in close proximity of their production facilities. Third party suppliers to the factories are frequently visited, and encouraged to use environmentally friendly practices. When possible, they purchase from tanneries that have received certification from The Leather Working Group, the most well regarded third party certification in leather processing.

All Nisolo jewelry is made from upcycled materials in Nairobi, Kenya, and their first venture into vegetable tanned leather, a much more sustainable and environmentally friendly tanning process, has come via their new partner factories. Unlike most tanning methods that use chrome and other chemicals (which can create a severe impact on the environment if not properly disposed), vegetable tanning uses natural oils from bark or plant tannins, which reduce the product’s environmental impact. 

Defying Gender Norms

Nisolo has a female co-founder, as well as an executive team that consists of  40% female. Of the current staff, over 69% are female.

Education

Nearly all of the Peruvian workers had ended their education early due to a financial situation. To help combat this, Nisolo works with two universities in Trujillo to offer their producers discounted rates and opportunities to attend school at nights and during the weekend. 

They are proud to share that 100% of their producer’s children are attending school, and of the students in the university, 100% will be first generation graduates.

With that being said, I am proud to be an affiliate for a company that I so whole-heartedly believe in and support. To learn more about the ways in which Nisolo is pushing the fashion forward to a better future, read the entire impact report here.

The Shoes Themselves

Company ethics aside, what of the shoes? It is important to note that I have graduated (happily) from that stage in my life where I thought uncomfortable shoes were pretty. In fact, when curating my closet, comfort sits quite high on the list of boxes to check off. Additionally, shoes must be simple and versatile. I want them to match multiple outfits so that I could make use of them as much as possible. Shoes are meant to be worn. There was a time when I used to own over fifty pairs of shoes. Blame it on a pair of feet that never grew since the eight grade, but really, it was just a disgusting habit of over-consumption of very cheap products that were so trend-specific that they were essentially useless, most of the time. There was a neglecting of forty of those pairs, because they matched only one or two outfits in my closet, at most. However, simplicity does not mean plain. The shoes that I look for still have to be stylish and in line with my taste. Also, what I love about Nisolo shoes is that they are affordable, especially for the high-quality material and attention to detail that you get. A factory-produced Nike shoes is comparable in price to a pair of environmentally-conscious leather shoes that support an artisan who otherwise would have no access to a market. To me, the choice is very easy. Lastly, I want them to be timeless, and I want them to last. These two must go hand-in-hand, for timelessness explains the longevity of the style and the latter explains the longevity of the physical product. Without the other, the shoe would enter a landfill way too soon. I would like to confirm that Nisolo has definitely passed all of these requirements with flying colors, time and time again, which is why I keep coming back.

Below are some of the shoes I own from Nisolo’s Women Collection. They just recently released a curated Mother’s Day collection that features some products perfect for mothers at a 10% off rate. Also, subscribers will receive 20% off their first order, so do head over using the link above, scroll to the bottom of the page, and subscribe with your email to enjoy this awesome discount.

DSC05721.JPG

With summer just around the corner, this is going to be my go-to shoe for the upcoming season. It was last year and it will be again this year. There is something so traditional and timeless about a pair of Huaraches. Excited to announce that new colors have been recently released!

DSC08268

This is undeniably my most worn shoe outside of work. The Sophia Slip On is so versatile, that I have half a mind to also purchase the Sophia Slip On in brandy as well, which happens to be on sale right now. It’s easy to put on, very comfortable, but also sleek and elevates any outfit.

DSC08538

These Ava Ballerina flats are easy to dress up or down, and are probably my most versatile shoe. I can see toe-cleavage-haters extremely disliking this shoe, but personally, I’ve got no problems.

DSC06143

These are my favorite boots. They are Nisolo’s chukkas from 2016, although for 2018, they have their Isa Chukka Boot in the light oak, an updated version that looks pretty similar.

DSC04443

The Oliver Oxfords are so comfortable that these are actually my every day work shoes. Which means I wear these five days a week and am able to run from room to room, maneuver a foot pedal, and still get compliments on my footwear. If you prefer a more modern style, check out the James Oxfords or the Emma D’orsay Oxfords.

DSC00787

I get people asking me about these flip flops all the time! Which just goes to show that the simplest of silhouettes can be extremely attractive. These Isla Slides are fantastic, and new versions are soon to be released! Stay tuned!

These are just some of the Nisolo shoes I own, and I absolutely enjoy every single one of them. Mike as well is very fond of Nisolo’s Men’s Collection, so much so that he donned Nisolo shoes for our New Year’s Eve Wedding.

How about you guys? Reliable shoes?

Recent Reads: A Baker’s Year by Tara Jensen

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

Sometimes in your life, you come across a kindred spirit. Usually, it’s at a time when you least expect it, and in the most unusual of characters. Fictional, for example, or in people who you have never met. Despite these peculiarities, you just know that they are of the same spirit and mind as you, even if they are miles away. Tara Jensen is one of these kindred spirits. When I picked up her book and sat it across my lap in a hidden, dusty corner of Barnes and Nobles, I was not expecting to meet anyone kindred that day. But after the first few words, I just knew. Her book, A Baker’s Year, “chronicles twelve months of baking and living the simple life at the Smoke Signals Bakery”, smattered with a few recipes and baking techniques, which is what roped me in in the first place, but it was her story that made me stay. Better yet, she was able to summarize a collection of very deep-rooted feelings that even I was not able to bring to the surface until her words dug them from their graves, feelings which all too entirely shape the view that I have of the world today, as well as drive the actions that I choose to take in my daily living. I think everyone could benefit from her words, even if they are not interested in baking bread for their communities. Below is an excerpt from the book that struck a chord with me so many times over the course of two pages (!!). Below is the story of Camille. 

“Camille came to Madison County in 1972 with her husband, Dave. Dave’s father had grown up here, moving to Detroit at the age of nineteen for a better life. He couldn’t believe Camille and Dave wanted to return to what he remembered as a desolate region with nothing to offer. They were warned not to come, but their minds were set on it. Enraged by the Vietnam War, they wanted to be as self-sufficient as possible and learn directly from those who could still teach the way of the land. Less income meant minor tax payments, resulting in fewer dollars toward war machine. They took on cows, chickens, rabbits, sheep and a garden. “A farm is a big name for what we had,” she says.

What was big was their ambition. It had to be. It was up against a lot. War was a symptom of an entire broken social system fueled by overconsumption. Refusal of business as usual was crucial to Camille. “I know we have to live,” she pointed out, “but we don’t need to do it at this level – we don’t need to destroy.”

Camille had already experienced the horrors of war. In 1944, her childhood home in Normandy was bombed, and although everyone was safe, the devastation left only a corner of the original house. Her family first took refuge in a nearby graveyard, surviving only on milk. There her father decided they would take the two-day walk to his parent’s farm, where he was certain food could be found. In the summer, they returned home to rebuild.

Normal weekly rituals ensued, one of which was a trip into town for bread. One afternoon, her sister returned with more than a sack of loaves; she also bore toys she’d found scattered on the roadside. Thin metal rods, like long pens, with a coil wrapped around the middle. They played with them for days, knocking them on rocks like drumsticks. But they weren’t toys. They were cast-aside detonators, and while her mother was busy with the wash, one exploded in Camille’s hand, causing the loss of her right arm at the age of two.

A decade into their life of resistance, Dave was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The long list of daily chores became difficult to maneuver. The cow jumped the fence. The sheep ran away. The dog chased the chickens into the woods. They allowed their responsibilities to dwindle, eventually eating the cow. “It was part of the economy,” Camille explained, a firmness still in her tone. Despite changes in physical comfort and energy, they were as true to their original intentions as they possibly could be.

After Dave passed, Camille carried on the design of their home and land, every nook and cranny meticulously thought out and crafted. Stairwells fashioned after the golden spiral, massive mosaic projects, wood scraps and windows everywhere: ideals for a gentle society radiate from the walls. “I never had a course in building,” she said, “just an interest. I could look at an old building, I would see that it was still standing, and I would think, That is good.” Although Dave is gone, his presence remains, amidst a host of new and radical projects.

Never short on determination, Camille hired a carpenter to frame a door into a dirt wall so that she might dig herself a basement. Rigging up a bucket, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow, she chipped at the top of the wall, directing the dirt downward into the bucket. When the bucket was full, she’d take it to the wheelbarrow and empty it. When the wheelbarrow was full, she’d haul it outside and dump it in the gully. She kept at the work for days and months until rumors began to surface.

Her apprentice who frequented the local bar came to report back on the widespread speculation about what exactly Camille was up to. “You’ll never believe what they’re saying about you, Camille. They say you are digging out your basement single-handedly with a spoon!”

She chuckled. “Well then, let them think just that.”

I spoke with Camille recently. We wondered if it was even possible for future generations to go back to the land. There is increasingly less land to go back to, and the old-times who knew the plants and the ballads are passing each year. Besides, living the rural life isn’t for everyone. It seems that each spring, a new crop of young homesteaders arrive bursting with ideas, and only some of them make it to the next year for one reason of another. Many leave when they have children, and divorce is common under the stress of poverty. I like living here because it is so unchanged, and yet sometimes I forget there is a world past the blown-out streetlight. This landscape is a jungle that does not bend to human will easily. Some like the challenge. Some don’t.

Yet what we lack in finery we make up for in freedom. We have a choice. We can choose the detonator or the spoon. What will you leave behind? What will your legacy be? Free, gentle, and diverse is the culture I want for myself, my community, and my bread. Be an instrument for peace. Choose the spoon.”

To learn more about the nuances of simple living, or to learn about baking bread, please do go on and read A Baker’s Year. Our society can benefit from her words in more ways than one. 

Cherry Compote

With our recent bread baking habit, we have the privilege of having left-over starter around every single day. In case you are not familiar with baking bread using a live starter, a starter is pretty much a yeast culture in a mason jar that we feed on a daily basis on a set schedule so that the yeast continues to grow. We refer to our starter as our baby. And since feeding requires only a portion of the existing starter to continue growing, the rest is discarded in the trash. Or as is the case in our household, refashioned into a number of different baked goods, sourdough pancakes being one of them.

While the post regarding our entire bread baking experience will be saved for another day, this post is all about what we drizzle over that delicious pancake recipe. Cherry Compote! When I think of cherries, I think of warm summer days, with handfuls of this red, juicy fruit in a bowl, twined together by common, wispy limbs. I think of juice dribbling down chins, and fingers, and for some, shirts while we sit in basic tees and sneakers on the sidewalk or in the grass, picnic style. I envision a collection of pits, delicately eaten around, or more enjoyably, chewed and spit back out. I don’t associate the word cherry with the winter time, but winter time seems to be when I crave it the most.

This compote recipe is perfect for winter. Warm cherries should be as coveted as their cold summer counterpart, and the combination with something as earthy and aromatic as thyme really makes this recipe a simple yet special one. Even though we drizzle this mostly over our sourdough pancakes, it would also be a great addition to scoops of vanilla ice cream, a slice of cheesecake, or as a topping for a Thanksgiving pie. It’s officially Spring, but the weather is still cool enough that this recipe remains relevant, for another few months more. DSC02313.JPG

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of cherries
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • Pinch of Salt

Procedure:

  1. The first part is the fun part. Remove the cherry pits from the cherries! I usually just use a pairing knife, although a cherry pitter would probably be quicker. But you know, minimalist household. The less tools the merrier in our book.
  2. Slice the cherries into halves or quarters, depending on the size you want.
  3. Add the cherries, water, and thyme in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Make sure to stir frequently, and continue to cook until they start to break down (approximately 3 minutes).
  4. Stir in the honey and salt and remove from the heat. The compote is all done! Set aside until you are ready for use and rewarm as necessary. Sprinkle in some blueberries, and top with powdered sugar, more honey, or melted butter.

DSC02481

 

 

Refill, Reuse, Rejoice with Plaine Products

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

I’ve already said my piece here regarding reducing plastic waste in my daily hygiene routine, by switching to bars of shampoo and conditioner and soap. But what of lotion? What of wintry dry skin, flaking away at the shudder of a cold, harsh winter wind? We live in sunny Southern California, but nonetheless, sensitive, scaly skin prevails in this dry desertland. Surely, there is no lotion bar? At the very least, I have yet to discover it.

DSC04700

There is, however, the introduction of a new company called Plaine Products. Focused on the idea of reusable containers, sisters Lindsey and Alison Delaplaine created a way to offer shampoo, conditioner, body wash, AND lotion in aluminum reusable bottles. The stuff itself is quite lovely and aromatic, with two scent options. A rosemary, mint, and vanilla combination for the fall and winter, and a citrus lavender for the spring and summer, or so I like to think. Associate with the scents whatever seasons tickle your fancy. I must admit that I was ready for an alternative that would allow me to switch back to liquid conditioners. Bar soap shampoos are fine in my book, but my hair was starting to hang a bit too heavy, giving it a sadder appearance than my cheery personality would like. Nothing Plaine Products couldn’t save. After one day of switching to liquid shampoo and conditioner, the flounce of the hair has been returned. And the lotion has got my skin feeling silky, without my conscience feeling plastic-guilt. It’s a thing, I swear!

The concept behind the refillability (not a word?) of the bottles is simple. It’s a wonder why it is not more widely implemented. A subscription can be shipped to your door in a box (made of 95% post-consumer waste and 5% post-industrial waste), which can act as the same vessel to return your already used and empty bottles back to the company. The bottles are then refilled, thus giving them a new life. You can opt to order the new bottle without the pump, if you already own a pump that’s easily reusable. The box is reused, the bottle is reused, and the plastic pump is reused. Multiply that to account for shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion, and we’ve got ourselves quite an impact. Currently, face wash, hand wash, and face moisturizer products are in the works.

DSC04689

DSC04697

In an effort to be all around environmentally friendly, the contents are well considered. The products avoid animal testing of any kind, is devoid of sulfates, parabens, and pthalates, and is designed to biodegrade more easily than typical, chemical products. The specifics of the contents can be found here, if microanalysis of such details are your thing, just as they are mine. Proudly vegan, the main component of their products are none other than Aloe Vera. The same extract that my mom would scrape from the plant leaves and weave into our hairs before a night’s rest. Less sticky, less messy, less fuss and crying and wails of discontent (sorry mom!).

I must admit, I do still have to deal with the internal struggle of whether the back-and-forth shipping of subscriptions really outweighs the long-term consequences of the plastic that never degrades. The elusiveness of the topic at large feeds the frustration I feel when well-intentioned actions are unclear in their effects. It’s as if a cloud is purposefully shifted above the whole matter, making it difficult to really measure the impact of hauling our goods versus increasing plastic waste, which alternatively blankets our ability to measure the opposite as well. While we could discuss this topic for a long time and perhaps stay stagnant in our search for an answer, I would like to say that for now, Plaine Products gives us plastic-avoiders a welcome alternative. As does nixing shampoo all-together, a step I admittedly am not ready to make.

DSC04887

Care to give them a try? Order your first Plaine Products today! TheDebtist readers will receive 10% off of their purchase when the code thedebtist10 is entered at checkout. The shipping was quick, and hassle-free, with an option to subscribe to their products for regularly spaced deliveries, if simplicity is kind of your thing.

This post was sponsored by Plaine Products. All opinions are my own.

Hidden Perks of an AirBNB

There is something to be said of waking up in the morning in a city other than your own. I find the experience to be a bit transcendental, if only for the duration of our stay; The same person waking up in someone else’s shoes. The location which we choose to live greatly affects the experience.

When we were planning our trip to Mexico City, we teeter-tottered between a standard hotel in the heart of Roma, where we would have a view of the Angel de Independencia and be surrounded by other extranjeros eager to walk to streets, equally unfamiliar with the rules, and an AirBNB apartment located in the Guerrero, slightly away from the main road. I am extremely happy we went with the latter.

IMG_7118

The perks of AirBNB are known to many, and the world over too. It was significantly cheaper to rent this apartment for $40 per night, than it was to rent a single hotel room for upwards of $150 a night. This apartment is huge, big enough for Mike and I to permanently move into and be happy living in, and just as tempting an idea. It’s got a bit of history, being the home of a passed away father whose son wanted to dedicate the space to the man he loved. It is a mix between a modern renovation with recessed lighting and white walls, and a vintage memory, housing original kitchen tiles and a retro oven. An original brick wall acts as a beautiful backdrop in the small dining room, its corner intersecting with a contrasting black granite countertop and new wooden shelving. The shower is tall and modern, exhibiting good temperature and strong pressure as water falls onto a cobblestone floor on the opposite side of a thick pane of glass. The furnishings of the place is functional, and minimal, just our cup of tea.

IMG_7123

LRG_DSC03341

LRG_DSC03342

LRG_DSC03345

LRG_DSC03346

LRG_DSC03348

LRG_DSC03428

LRG_DSC03438

LRG_DSC03440

But what I love most about choosing AirBNB is the way in which it helps us feel a bit more dissociated with our identity as foreigners. Admission into the apartment required meeting up with Chacha, a friendly man with afro hair and a big smile, who happens to own the tienda downstairs and slightly next door. After guiding us into the gated alleyway, painted yellow, a perfect signature of the surrounding buildings, he dropped us off in front of a bright blue door atop red marbled stairs. After a quick explanation of how to access the keys, and with an invitation to pop by his shop for any of our daily needs, off he went to leave us feeling completely displaced, but interestingly, happy to be so.

IMG_7160

Light floods into the heavily windowed apartment, but even more so do the sounds, floating in through a broken window sill in the living room. Sounds of automobiles honking in the traffic of surronding busy streets, as expected in a city as populous as this. Sounds of a neighboring gal saying Buenas Tardes to Chacha as she bicycles her way into the gated alley across the street. The sound of mothers urging their ninos to walk just a bit faster as they hurry off to school. The sound of kids playing in the streets as the sun sets, and as the smells of neighboring kitchens slowly waft into our own.

Our location is close enough to the main street, La Reforma, that we can walk to it and be a straight shot away from the rest of the more affluent, tall, buildings and restuarant-laden streets (albeit a few miles down the way), where we and all the other visitors of Mexico may spend on the things we take for granted. But the location is remote enough from downtown that one turn in the opposite direction, and we see the people who live through their day to day on the streets, selling whatever they can, wearing clothes with holes and worn down shoes, sitting under plastic tents made of sticks to shield from both rain and sun.

From my window, I stare at graffiti walls on a chipping blue paint,  and trash on the streets. Discarded crates left on their sides to rot. Cars dented, chipped, fading. It smells of city streets when it gets warm in the afternoons. It’s enough to keep one grounded. A beautiful reminder that although there is a small part of this city dedicated to entertaining people with some of the Top 50 restaurants in the world and historic sites and museums that contain so much beauty, there is a larger part that is just trying to get by one day at at time.

LRG_DSC03436

LRG_DSC03676

This is part of the feeling of being displaced. Taking part in the glamor and the glitz of what geoarbitrage can afford any American visiting Mexico, and also taking part in the reality of the people who live in it. Just as I feel in limbo with which language to speak, responding in whichever language they choose to speak with me, and not realizing when I make the switch, regardless of which person I am talking to. And for this I am grateful. I don’t think I would have ever experienced Mexico City in this way if, like many visitors, we decided to stay in the heart of it all, where every site was walkable, the streets are kept clean, and people speak English. And to hear Mike say, “I love this city”, after we just walked through an alleyway of streets filled with rubble and reeking of piss and filled with mostly men outdoors breaking down their home-made tiendas in the middle of the narrow street, it really makes me think that we could live here a few months to learn more about the culture and the people. I could get used to saying Buenos Dias to Chacha every morning, just as I could get used to the broken window sill, and the sounds of traffic, eating great food, and being surrounded by a friendly population of cuidadanos.

LRG_DSC03675

With that, I would highly recommend AirBNB in an attempt to integrate with the foreigners less and the locals more. I know it may throw some out of their comfort zone, but for what reasons do we really travel and can we really understand the lifestyles of fellow humans in other countries if we purposefully blind ourselves to it? Mike and I mostly travel to understand, to get some grasp of the larger world view, and to slowly put the pieces of a grand and complicated puzzle together. We will likely spend our lives doing it and never get close, except for little decisions such as these that help us get just a little bit closer.

LRG_DSC03674

 

Thoughts on: The Human Nature of Being Too Hard on Yourself

Today, I was sitting at home with my brother for my lunch break, and we were talking about my brother’s current progress with his studies for the DAT. With a month away, I think the pressure has been slowly increasing ever so slightly. This morning, he was having difficulty waking up, having stayed up late studying the night prior. He was so tired that he called out ofwork, unable to make his usual morning shift.

Now my brother and I, though similar in some things, are also quite different in other things. When I took the DAT the first time, I did not even study. In fact, I did not even know the sections that we were going to be tested on. I just walked in there and took it. Obviously, I didn’t do too well, but honestly, I didn’t do horribly either. The second time, I decided to borrow a DAT book from the library and study a little bit a day, not in any structured way, but rather, freely, whenever I had extra time. It was kind of a last priority. I entered the test without having finished the DAT review book, actually. The second time, I scored really well. I don’t believe it was because I studied the material so much, but rather, because I saw the test once before and knew what questions to expect and how to answer them.

I guess you can say I am a bit relaxed when it comes to these things. It’s partly due to an exorbitant confidence in myself (that may be misguided at times) and partly a feeling of, “Oh well, what happens, happens.” I guess that’s putting it in a bit too oversimplified of a way. It’s not that I don’t try, I try pretty hard in a lot of things that I do. But I never try so hard as to inconvenience myself too greatly. I have a tendency to put my best efforts in everything all the time, so I can comfortably retire at my usual sleeping hour every night, despite unfinished work, and sleep soundly knowing that I did my best in the amount of time that I had. I tend to have a sense of ease and trust in my ability to perform well. Some call that arrogance, but I swear, it’s never done in a malicious manner. I like to attribute it more to a c’est la vie mentality.

My brother does equally well as I but he is what we call in my language a “segurista“. He goes above and beyond the level of preparedness necessary to ace a test. If I could assemble a team to carry me through a zombie apocalypse, he would definitely be on it. I’m not sure if his zeal stems from anxiety (possibly) or insecurity (unlikely), but there’s almost this fear that if he does not put in the most of his efforts, all hell would break lose and the whole system would fall apart and it would all be for naught.

When he told me that he had stayed up until 3 am last night studying, I asked him why he didn’t study yesterday during the day, to which he replied, “I did.” I guess the kid studied 12 hours yesterday, which to me is mind boggling. The crazy thing is, he has already gone through all the study material once. Even crazier was when he told me that he was reviewing over the study guide and made 360 flashcards yesterday off of 20 pages of study guide. And while my frugal self borrowed whatever DAT book the library had on the shelf for free, my little bro has purchased every video, tutorial, and packet that was rated highest in pass rate for the DAT.

Which led us to the following discussion. I asked him why he felt like he needed to work that hard. I expressed that it’s a bit overkill, and certainly not worth it if he was not even able to wake up in the mornings due to exhaustion. He was trading in healthy, among other things, in exchange for something that does not even increase his feeling of security. I think the ultimate answer was that he did not want to fail. He really wanted to give his best in order to do his best, which is commendable, surely, but not exactly sustainable.

At times, I think, we are too hard on ourselves. We treat ourselves in really unkind ways, and push ourselves to crazy limits, and contain ourselves in such structured boxes. We can have such high expectations of ourselves and when we don’t meet those expectations, we feel disappointment in our abilities or lack thereof. We don’t like to see ourselves fail, and sometimes, we don’t allow ourselves failure. When we do, we feel very unworthy, somehow as if we are less. I don’t know what it is that trains us to be this way. Maybe it’s the weight of society and its judgements that fuel our need to succeed. I like to think it’s our human goodness that makes us want to carry the weight on our shoulders. Either way, it’s not entirely good for the human soul to be so harsh.  And so I asked him, “Why do you treat yourself that way? You don’t treat anyone else that way, so why do you allow yourself to do that to you?” 

When we watch a friend or a child try their best and then fail, we don’t go up to them and call them a failure. At least, I hope not. We are kind and lift them up and tell them that life moves on and there’ll be more chances and more opportunities. If they try again, we’re sure they’ll get it next time! If we treat other people naturally in this way, then why is it so easy for us to dump on ourselves? We recite the old addage, “treat others the way you want to be treated”, but do we follow our own advice?

Sometimes, people just need to hear that what they are doing is enough. Can we gift that same thing to ourselves?

My advice?

— Instead of being fixated on success, have a simple intention of improving a little bit every day.

— Instead of fearing failure, embrace the possibility of failure, with the understanding that failure will teach you more about yourself than any success would.

— Try your best in everything you do, without going out of your way to inconvenience yourself. Anything you do after your best efforts will no longer be considered your best efforts, once you’ve detracted from other aspects of your life. Know that you can’t perform your best at all, when you’re short on sleep, or are hungry, or are emotionally deprived, or are spiritually exhausted.

— Stop trying to control everything in life. Do what you have to do, but also learn how to roll with the tide.

— You can carpe diem, but also know, c’est la vie. It’s all about balance, in the end.

Back to Basics with Miakoda New York

This post is sponsored by Miakoda New York, an athleisure clothing label devoted to producing comfortable, every day wear in an ethical and sustainable manner. 

When it comes to curating closets, I’ve embraced something close to a no-frills policy. Over the past few years, my clothing choices have increasingly gravitated towards basic, minimalist styles, dismissing trends in exchange for timeless classics. I’ve found that this is simply my personal taste, but decreasing the need to keep up with fashion trends is also a plus, since it eliminates the draw towards buying clothing or accessories in order to keep up with the times.

Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself.                                                       -Oscar de la Renta

Additionally, practicality has climbed my ladder of priorities, usurping the need to search for statement pieces. I prefer to make statements with my actions rather than my things. Versatility is equally important, to fit my hobby-filled lifestyle. On any given day, you can catch me baking bread, while practicing yoga, writing on my blog, photographing random “lifestyle” moments, learning guitar and new languages, and sneaking in a few pages of my current book at every opportunity in between bulk fermentation sessions for my dough. Those activities may embrace practicing dentistry more half of the week. Top the busy schedule with hours of socializing with family and friends, and one can see why going back to basics was attractive to me. The most ideal pieces in my closet fit together with any other article of clothing, making grab-and-go an easy, and common, occurrence.  Regardless, I try to attempt getting dressed with the utmost intentionality, establishing a sense of comfort for whatever activity may arise, while still attempting a decent appearance, for who ever I end up meeting during the day.

So today, I decided to take Miakoda New York through my daily routine. Their clothing line is composed of athleisure wear, all of which I could see myself toting on any given Sunday. Sunday is my only weekend day off, and while I wear scrubs a majority of my other work days, I like to use Sunday as an(other) excuse to dress as comfortably as possible.

Snapseed

A huge fan of the basic black tee, you can see me outfitted in just this very thing for half of any given week. In fact, I have about five black tees that I cycle through, but I always find myself running out by Saturday. So here I am, adding another black tee to my arsenal.

Snapseed.jpg

This essential tee is all sorts of comfy, and all I need on any warm, Southern California morning (read as: for two-thirds of the calendar year). I spent the morning taking in the sun’s rays, before ordering my chocolate pretzel, a twist on my usual pain au chocolat.

The boxier fit is less constricting than the body hugging types and honestly, is more flattering for teenage-girl-like physiques like mine. Each tee, as well as other products from their clothing line, is ethically made in a New York factory that the founders personally visit a few times each season. The black one that I’m wearing in particular is made up of bamboo, organic cotton, and spandex. Bamboo lends to the fabric a layer of softness, while the spandex lends some stretch. Both were much appreciated when I continued to wear this tee later in the afternoon on my yoga mat.

Snapseed.jpg

Unfortunately, despite the warm sun rays, it was not long before I started to feel a bit too cool. Comfortable to me usually means a room temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and although we live in So Cal, it IS the middle of January. Sensibly, I am always carrying around additional layers and I couldn’t help but throw on Miakoda’s sweatshirt before we’ve even left our first destination. The sweatshirt kept me warm, and happy, as I continued to gobble up that chocolate pastry.

DSC02072

The sweatshirt accompanied me on my search for a spritzer for my new Ficus houseplant, and all errands and chores thereafter, including grocery shopping, running the laundry, washing the dishes, etc. It definitely draws me in with its functionality. I can see myself throwing this over scrubs, wearing them to bed as pajamas, or sitting on the couch sinking in its comforts while I type, type, type. In fact, I continued to wear it while I did some writing, cooked meals for the upcoming week with Mike, and relaxed with a late-night movie with Kirsten. (Note: over scrubs, and all other activities, never in the same day). This piece will definitely transition through my day-to-day activities quite nicely.

Snapseed.jpg

DSC02178

For a more refined look, I paired the sweater with light and airy silk drawstring pants. Still laid-back and modest, but slightly more elevated. Averse as I am to putting on the ritz, as some would say, I usually combine cotton basics with more delicate fabrics, to create a discreet outfit that is all-together enticing to the wearer (me) and alluring to the eye. Paired with some sturdy clogs, this summarizes my ideal ratio of practicality and style.

DSC02228

DSC02244

The boxy nature of the sweater makes it similar to the tee, a brother if you will, with longer sleeves and a thicker, softer composition. You can tell that this sweater was very thoughtfully constructed. Perhaps worth mentioning is Miakoda’s affinity towards using sustainable plant fibers such as organic cotton, bamboo, and soy. From their commitment towards finding ethical fabric suppliers who are using sustainable products, to their investment in partnering with high quality garment factories in New York, one can tell that the company is committed towards creating change in the way clothes are being made.

DSC02116

With tees and sweaters such as these in tow, I can go on with my hobby-infused lifestyle without a hitch. Suffice to say, writing about ethical companies and about not believing in the word negligible interests me more than writing about the next fashion trend. On the heels of that thought, it’s just as important to me to support companies that are trying to change the way the fashion industry is being run.

Unfortunately, fashion has transformed significantly in the last twenty years. The way we produce, distribute, consume, and then throw away, clothes has sped up to an alarming rate. Larger companies cannot keep up with the supply and demand without hiring megasuppliers, who then hire suppliers, who hire sub (sub-, sub-, sub-) suppliers to produce the clothing. It’s become such a large scale ordeal that it’s difficult to control how large orders are being filled. Case in point, when a factory burned down in Tazreen and sixty percent of the products were being produced for Walmart. Walmart had no idea that their orders were in Tazreen. In fact, they had previously visited the factory and deemed it unsafe and had specifically banned their suppliers from using that factory. So how did their products end up there? Because multiple sub-sub-sub-suppliers pawned off the work to this factory, without ever needing to communicate with Walmart. Other companies’s products were also being produced there, such as Disney and Dickies. Because these companies have specifically banned the Tazreen factory due to unethical working conditions, none of these companies were responsible for compensating the victims of the fire. When the fire first began, some workers asked to leave, and they were told to go back to work. Minutes later, they were enveloped in smoke, and some tried to escape through stairwells that had locked exits. 112 workers were killed in that fire, and many people suffered broken limbs trying to jump out of the windows.

Factories are being audited, but audits don’t necessarily prove that factories themselves are improving, only that factories are improving at making it seem like their conditions are improving. Additionally, as with the case above, audits aren’t really enough to stop orders from reaching these factories. Some orders are even sent to small groups of workers, or at-home workers. It’s gotten so bad that producers don’t know what company their products are being made for. Their orders come from, and are delivered to, middlemen. Alternatively, interviews show that many large companies don’t know in which countries their products are being made, let alone which factories.

Supporting small companies dedicated towards ensuring high quality products and meeting ethical standards of working conditions is important to me. Miakoda’s sustainability and ethics are worth noting. One of the problems we see with people who are aware of the pitfalls of fast fashion is the immediate reluctance to buy anything new at all. As more anti-fast-fashion advocates protest by shopping only vintage hand-me-downs to abstain from supporting unethically made clothing lines and to decrease waste, may I suggest that doing so does not pave the way for an improved future in the fashion industry. By shying away from purchasing new products completely, we do not allow the growth of smaller companies trying to change the fashion scene. As we disappear from the consumer population, those who are left purchasing any goods at all are either unaware of the situation, or are aware but choose to ignore. The hamster wheel of supporting companies that sell cheaply-produced goods at a larger cost to the planet and the living beings inhabiting it will be strengthened, and these companies will continue to thrive. Who will be left to support smaller companies trying to implement change?

In order to ensure that our products are being made ethically, the companies have to be held accountable for the production of their products, down to the very last detail. This doesn’t include just factory workers and hired employees, but also includes the workers who supplied the materials and their working conditions. We need to start thinking about the planet, as well as everything and everyone living on it.

IMG_6464

I understand that this problem goes way beyond our purchasing power. Buying from the right companies will not directly yield immediate abolition of child labor and unhealthy working conditions. Governmental policies need to be implemented in order to successfully produce the changes we want to see. But in order for those policies to go into effect, it requires a call for change. As long as the large majority of the population continue to consume as if we are okay with conditions that violate basic human rights, there will be no pressure created to promote change. Our purchasing power acts as a vote towards the future we want to see.

Miakoda understands that as well. When asked to name the one message that they wish to send out to the world through their work, they answered with this. Everytime you make a conscious decision, you make an impact. Your closet can be filled with fast-fashion, or clothes that you’ve only worn once, but the decision to buy an ethical basic tee that you wear daily does make a difference. I do not believe in the word negligible. We need to feel empowered by our decisions, because they do matter.

Snapseed

For those who were wondering, the tee was paired with Eileen Fisher denim (similar one here) and accessorized with Nisolos and a gold Giving Key with the word “Create”. The sweater was paired with silk pants, also from Eileen Fisher, and accessorized with another pair of Nisolos and a black matte Giving Key with the word “Fearless”.

This post was sponsored by Miakoda New York, but all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support The Debtist.