Secret Lunch Weapon: “Emergency” Burritos

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I hate buying lunch out, so I try to always have lunch made or leftovers ready to go in the morning. If buying lunch costs something like $4 – $8 depending on where you go, if you did that every day that’s $20 – $40 a week! Not to mention probably a lot of plastic. Making your own is better for your wallet, the environment, and is usually healthier.

But, for the times I don’t manage to get it together, I like to have “emergency” burritos in the freezer. I usually make a few at a time, wrap in foil (which you can reuse when its done, and depending on your city, recycle if it’s clean), and stick in the freezer and forget about them until you realize you have to run out the door and don’t have a lunch to bring! The beauty is you can literally fill them with whatever you want, I often do a kitchen-sink kind of thing where I just take stock of what I have already and combine. (My most recent batch were tahini, spiced chickpeas, kale, and roasted sweet potato).

Another life/money-saving trick is making snacks and freezing them – my favorite is these No-Bake Peanut Butter & Jelly protein bites from Minimalist Baker which I freeze and then I’ll take 2 with me for a good snack at work or class.

How to Hand Wash Silk

When I started researching more ethical clothing brands, I noticed that many of them used fabrics that I always thought of as a fussy. Over the last few years, especially with athletic clothing, I’ve starting amassing more and more items that can’t go in the dryer, so I figured silk might be worth a try since I’m already dealing with so many “fussy” pieces, and especially since it’s a natural textile.

Hand washing was totally new to me though, since I’ve always been a lazy washer and would toss things in the washer anyway… but investing in a high-quality garment is pretty good motivation to take care of it as you should. And actually, hand washing is not that hard. Here’s how I do it:

First I got some Delicate Wash detergent from the Laundress, because it’s specifically designed to be good on silk. I use it for hand washing and in washing a load of delicates that are OK to go in the machine washer. Just a few drops is all you need.

For the actual washing, I place a plastic container in my bathtub and fill it halfway with cold water. Add a couple drops of the detergent, and drop in the silk shirt. Silk should not be soaked for more than a couple minutes, so I swish it around, then run the faucet over it to wash out the detergent and go on to the next shirt. I started washing my Osei Duro shirt first because it’s light, and kept the water for my Everlane shirt, which is a darker dye and does run a bit while being washed (but looks the same afterward). When rinsed, let it drip out excess water but do not wring out.

Lay out a clean towel and place the shirt flat on top. Roll the towel (like you’re rolling a sleeping bag) to get the excess water out. Repeat if necessary.

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Lay flat to air dry.

The whole process takes … about 15 minutes? I definitely put it off and these 2 shirts have been languishing in my delicates laundry bag for about 2 weeks because I am lazy, but it is really simple.

Natural Skincare – What Works for Me

I have struggled with acne since puberty. Part of it is my own fault – I pop pimples and touch my face all the time. And the best way to stave off this bad habit is to keep my skin as clear as possible. I have tried nearly every drugstore brand of face wash, maybe more than once, and for many years was constantly switching up my skincare routine when it wasn’t successful. This probably made my skin worse.

In the last year I’ve made more of an effort to get away from drug store brands, partly for the chemical/environmental impacts, but also to see if I could really simplify and figure out something that worked. I bought some TreeActiv products off amazon for several months, which were OK for a little while. I got an IUD last summer and in the first few months that my hormones were ~*settling*~, my skin went crazy, which drove me crazy.

In December I tried Dr. Hauschka’s line for oily skin and I was delighted/dismayed that it actually worked. The routine is gentle and simple and it works for me! Plus, I never thought that adding oil to my skin made sense at all but it does. Somehow. However, Dr. Hauschka is pretty expensive. Since I’m not buying a new $7-10 face wash every 3 weeks anymore, it’s probably not all that different, but Dr. Hauschka products are not cheap.

Once I ran out of the sample/travel sized products I’d bought to try it out, I invested in the regular sizes of the cleansing cream, toner, day oil, and lotion, which consequently get used up at very different rates, but do last long enough that they feel worth it. Since the Dr. Hauschka routine recommends that you wash your face in the morning (and do the whole routine) and wash and use the toner at night, I use Duross and Langel Naked face wash, which is made locally and has 1% salicylic acid. (It also smells amazing.) This way I can stretch out the more expensive Dr. Hauschka face wash and use it just in the morning.  I still get breakouts, mostly hormonal–during my period–but this routine has really minimized my breakouts and made my skin so much clearer.

Other products I love:

Duross and Langel green tea mud mask – Nothing like a weekend mask to really relax, right? This is green tea and avocado and it’s nice and light and is cooling on your skin.

Duross and Langel tea tree toning mist and rose water toning mist. I really just like spritzing my face with nice smelling toner. The tea tree toner is definitely more firming, and the rose water toner I find pretty calming. I even have a travel sized rose water toner that I keep in my desk at work so I can have a little spritz when I’m feeling stressed.

When Minimalism Feels Oppressive

For however much I am trying to be more thoughtful and purposeful about my consumption, I am not a Minimalist and probably won’t ever be one. I’ve got a lot of stuff. Craft supplies, DVDs, games, books, tchotchkes… I live in a small, city apartment and this thing is full.

That being said, sometimes I lust after pictures of those perfectly curated instagram-ready homes that have like monochromatic themes and clean lines and no clutter. (No clutter! What a dream!) I am very fortunate to have stuff and also have a partner who gives me a reality check when I get too amped about cleaning when people come over.

However, when thinking ethically/minimally about consumption, I think it’s important to not start treating minimalism as its own product to fetishize and consume. The Financial Diet just posted about this and it’s full of some good real talk:

Long story short, the past 10 years or so has sold us one of the most oddly logical, yet no less cloying, answers to our hyper-consumerist late capitalism: minimalism as a secular kind of religion, an add-on to the cultures of yoga and green juices and general living well by putting together a tapas platter of cultural and spiritual practices without ever fully committing to one.

So, it’s not an article against minimalism so much as against minimalism as a product that purchases superiority: With $5,000, you too can get rid of all of your clothing and own a 100% ethical, sustainable wardrobe of shapeless tunics and solve all your problems! 

Even ignoring the class angles, this idea that any “decluttering” in your life is automatically a positive thing is simply an aesthetic choice being reframed as a moral one because, let’s be honest, it’s really easy to look at a lot of what (mostly) women own as being totally frivolous. Makeup, more-elaborate wardrobes, cozy home decor, art, supplies for hobbies, nice home goods – it’s not a coincidence that most of the stuff we’re being told to flush away from our lives happens to be stuff that women mostly accumulate.

And, yes, there is a very strong capitalist-critical argument to be made about buying in more intentional and ethical ways, but color me shocked that very few of these minimalist troubadours ever really take things to an economic or class-based argument. It’s about reducing for personal enlightenment and pompous blog posts, it’s not about arguing for a more equitable society in which people consume proportionate to their needs.

The class dynamics of consumption are important, and it’s hard to see that zoomed out view when you’re thinking about yourself. If I commit to buying sustainable and ethical clothing, will Walmart go out of business? No. But I’m going to feel pretty good about my own shopping practices without looking at the systemic issues that depress wages, exploit workers and segregate ethical and environmental products into price points that only the wealthy can afford.

My approach (so far) is trying to be realistic about what I use and need. (“Need.” Do I ever “need” another dress?) I can appreciate the minimalist #inspo blogs and instagramers I follow and definitely get ideas from them, but I am never going to be the kind of lady who wears $250 linen culottes and an oversized kimono cardigan. That is not my style, and I would look like a clown and feel extremely uncomfortable.  My mindful shopping can’t just be theoretical, it has to be practical.

I want to be mindful of the way I consume and why I consume (a work in progress) as well as mindful and thoughtful about the broader systems that perpetuate inequality (a much larger task). That second part is something I’m still mulling over and researching… and it seems like it’s definitely an uphill battle, particularly with this current administration (like for regulations that would protect labor and ethical manufacturing or crack down on companies that use cheap overseas labor). So, this is kind of a bummer post, but I liked the article on TFD and think reminders to check my privilege are helpful and warranted.

Read more:

Minimalism is Just Another Boring Product Wealthy People Can Buy
    –This reddit thread
discussing the article is also interesting

Marie Kondo and the Privilege of Clutter
On the immigrant experience and why minimalism doesn’t always translate

How to Declutter Your Life, Assuming You Can Afford to Buy New Possessions at Any Time
some satire to lighten it up

 

Sustainability Blindspots

Fashion was always a sustainability blindspot for me, and it’s still something I’m working on being more mindful about. But there are lots of other areas where–despite my religious recycling and knowledge of the hard effects of climate change– I could do better.

One of those areas is convenience items. What am I really talking about? PLASTICS.

My office has a break room, but until a couple months ago, did not have sink. For the three years I’ve worked there, I have most days brought my lunch in an effort to be more healthy, more financially responsible, and have less of an environmental impact. However! For lots of the things I brought for lunch, I needed silverware. And then I would use our office supply of plastic forks and spoons, which I would use and then throw away. So bad. So shameful.

Finally, in December, I bought a To-Go Ware set of reusable bamboo utensils. And with our sink, I can wash everything after they’re used and keep the set at my desk!

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These utensils are definitely larger and thicker than your average utensils (and definitely larger/thicker than plastic disposable silverware!) so it definitely felt a little different and odd when I first started using them, but after a few meals I got used to them and I actually appreciate that they kind of force you to take smaller bites and eat slower. As a human-hoover accustomed to eating quickly and running off to the next thing, I definitely need that encouragement to slow down.

Plastics are everywhere, and unfortunately, they last … practically forever. They are cheap to purchase, but the cost to the environment is high. Using plastic forks at the office was free to me, but over time that is a huge amount of plastic that is used, plus a sizable cost of purchasing plastic utensils for the office every month. Buying a $13 set of utensils one time makes long-term financial and environmental sense.

Where can you reduce your plastic impact? This chapter from The World Without Us,  by Alan Weisman, offers a disturbing look into the long-term impact of plastics on our environment. From Chapter 9, Polymers are Forever:

In 1975, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences had estimated that all oceangoing vessels together dumped 8 million pounds of plastic annually. More recent research showed the world’s merchant fleet alone shamelessly tossing around 639,000 plastic containers every day. But littering by all the commercial ships and navies, Moore discovered, amounted to mere polymer crumbs in the ocean compared to what was pouring from the shore.

The real reason that the world’s landfills weren’t overflowing with plastic, he found, was because most of it ends up in an ocean-fill. After a few years of sampling the North Pacific gyre, Moore concluded that 80 percent of mid-ocean flotsam had originally been discarded on land. It had blown off garbage trucks or out of landfills, spilled from railroad shipping containers and washed down storm drains, sailed down rivers or wafted on the wind, and found its way to this widening gyre.

You can read the whole chapter online , which gets into much more detail about the sheer  amount of plastic litter in the environment. I promise you, it’s hard not to think of the phrase “polymers are forever” after reading this and looking around at how much plastic you have in your life.

I definitely have more sustainability blindspots, but trying to reduce the amount of plastics I use and purchase new is definitely going up there as one I am actively trying to address.

Winter10x10 part II

Having just finished day 5 of the Winter10x10 challenge I’m thinking maybe I didn’t put enough thought into this. On the other hand, getting dressed in the morning is very fast.

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Continue reading “Winter10x10 part II”

Review: Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things

Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things (available to stream on Netflix) focuses on Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, founders of “The Minimalists,” a blog on minimalism, and the producers of the documentary. Other academics and authors who focus on capitalism, consumption and minimalism are also featured in clips, but the crux of the material is about Millburn’s and Nicodemus’ journey from conspicuous consumers to mindful minimalists. They had high powered jobs with lots of stuff, yet weren’t happy until they divested themselves of everything in favor of a minimalist existence. Oh, and they’re also promoting a book…  Continue reading “Review: Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things”