Recently I’ve been making a few changes to the way I eat, drink and consume – an experiment into living lighter and reducing my impact on the planet, and it has sort of changed my life.
Let me explain. Before I stumbled across the Brooklyn-based Lauren Singer’s s blog, Trash is for Tossers, I thought I was doing a half-decent job of living a relatively sustainable existence. I don’t drive, I eat only a small amount of meat and I recycle… sometimes.
I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but I used to think I couldn’t do anything to help. I thought humankind has collectively placed such a burden on the planet, that the personal actions of one person would not amount to anything. So defeatist, I know.
But now, I’m doing better. I’ve come to realise I am responsible for my own actions and, so far, the benefits of living lighter have been countless. I am hyper aware of my decisions, my actions and their consequences. I place more value on food, my health and am more grateful for my comforts. I’m also saving money, which, as a student and someone on the salary of an arts-worker, is also a win.
So there you have it. For the moment, I see this a cumulative process. I’ll keep making little changes, and little by little, work on reducing my impact more and more.
So what have I been doing?
It is good to know I can eliminate some of the food scraps that are sent to landfills, where their potential to create nutrient dense soil is totally wasted. So how I compost when I live in a big city? Well, I store the scraps in bags in the freezer! Every week, I take them into the Gallery with me, where my boss, a gardener, has a compost out the back.
I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from this process!
USE IT AGAIN (FOR SOMETHING ELSE)
I love coffee and, at my place, we’ve (almost completely) swapped nespresso pods for ground coffee, which we percolate on the stove. delicious!
I then take the used coffee grounds and combine it with coconut oil and lavender oil to create a very effective body exfoliate.
And while we’re on the topic of coffee, I’ve also invested in a glass KEEP CUP, which not only looks beautiful, it also helps save money because I can just bring coffee from home. It’s one less coffee cup (a day!) in a landfill and three more dollars in my pocket.
BUY IN BULK, STORE IN GLASS
I already prefer fresh over processed, yet many fresh foods come inside ridiculous non-recyclable plastic bags. I have managed to reduce this by shopping instead at NAKED FOODS (Bondi and Newtown). There, you can use the brown paper bags they supply for all the foods (or you can just bring your own bags) and buy some pretty glass jars to store it all in. I have found that buying things in bulk once a month is also a massive $ saver.
Then there’s all the other stuff. I keep a canvas bag in my handbag, should I decide to pop to the shops on my way home from work. I recycle EVERYTHING – and am more aware of unlikely items that I only recently realised can be recycled, like deodorant containers.
I still have a long way to go. I have a deep love of my electric toothbrush, an unhealthy reliance on face wipes and don’t think I could ever eschew makeup, despite the harmful chemicals I know it’s made of. But next month I’m going to explore making my own cleaning products and dabbling further with natural beauty products.
I’d love to know your recommendations, or experience with living a more sustainable life.
i know, i know. i’m twenty six but sometimes it feels like i’m a hundred.
leaving my personal neurosis aside, i want to write about something i’m excited about. last week, al + i moved in together… and it has been so good. it just feels right.
we’re living in a beautiful, spacious one bedroom apartment in one of sydney’s most densely populated suburbs. it reminds me of new york! less than twenty steps away, we’ve got cafes, bars, supermarkets, the gym, parks and the waterfront. not to mention that i get to see my man whenever i want! i hate to sound crass, but i am feeling really lucky. we’ve fitted our space with some dang fine mid-century furniture + my grandfather’s chocolate leather couch, and there are expansive, high ceilings and big windows that look onto a street filled with people we can look at without them even realising. already i have noticed weird neighbourhood quirks – every afternoon in an apartment across the road, pigeons ravage a window in search of food. it’s probably the residence of an elderly person who feeds them every day, or someone accidentally left some food on the windowsill one time and is forever paying the price.
when i walk on the roof i am reminded of one of my favourite books. it’s a huge space made of white concrete. it is minimally adorned. there’s not much up there aside from some hills hoists for your laundry and one table with two chairs. during the day, the sun reflects ferociously against the white concrete, not only heating up the roof but also making it difficult to see. when i am up there i am reminded of the opening pages of Albert Camus’ ‘The Outsider’ when the lead character, Mersault, is walking through the Algerian desert after maybe committing a murder (although that is beside the point) and as he is walking he is blinded by the sunlight.
as much as i relish this new change, i can’t help but feel a bit like i’ve dumped my grungy lover (newtown) for one that’s shiny and new (new hood). but then i know i’ll always be a bit of an inner west hippie at heart. though i know my priorities are changing but friends remain so important to me and i realise this even more so when they’re not around or feeling sparse on the ground or when they all move overseas at the same time – that’s when i become anxious. what matters more to me over quantity though, is quality of friends – i want to nurture the friendships i have, the ones that really mean something, not the ones i have to struggle consistently to maintain.
i don’t really want to ‘grow up’. it feels strange and unnatural. i’m not sure i’m very good at acting like an adult. it feels false, perhaps everyone can see through it. is it an act? probably. i just want to sit on the floor and draw pictures with my friends while drinking wine. or lie in the park with friends, eat pizza in bed, listen to music in my underwear. or smoke in the bath. or stay up late reading about things that don’t matter to others but that resonate so deeply with me. and yet, this feels like an adult apartment. an adult neighbourhood. but thankfully there’s still a bit of grunge, a bit of naughtiness to keep it real. i want to find a way to integrate this part of me into my ‘professional self’. because i am professional, but i don’t want to lose my personality within this person.
my beautiful grandfather recently told me that we never really ‘grow up’. that he still has the same internal monologue he had as a boy, chasing balls and playing with his enormous alsation puppy. you’d think our mind would make us better equipped to deal with the complexities of life as we age – that our mind would age with us to help accommodate new ways of thinking. instead, i’m coming to realise it’s not the case. that it’s all too easy to get lost in past moments, past friendships, past memories of sheer freedom. but things change and although they become more complex, they also become more rewarding. i think. or maybe we just become so physically tired that we just need to settle down and go to bed early.
perfectionism can be a crippling disease and the biggest roadblock to creativity. it’s the reason i don’t post much. it’s also the reason i often don’t pursue a lot of the projects i’d like to do.
“when i have more time, i will be able to completely surrender myself to this project, and it’s going to be amazing.”
this is the thought that plagues me, because deep down i know i’ll never have ‘more time’. it also doesn’t have to be ‘amazing’. it can be just ‘okay’ as well. an ‘okay’ project can eventually be developed into something amazing. giving myself the permission to produce ‘okay’ projects means i can produce more. and producing more will help me to identify the projects where potential exists, and also the ones i’d rather let go.
doing a project in, say, fifteen minutes, and giving myself the freedom for the product to be just ‘okay’ is a notion so liberating that i hope it will enable me to produce more.
to reference one of my favourite quotes by Ira Glass:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
I’ve just gotta make stuff that’s ‘just not that good’. stuff that is trying to be good. that has potential, but it’s not good. my work, it doesn’t always have to have this special thing that I want it to have.
Because one day, after fishing for years with not a single bite, there will be a magnificent fish on the end of the line. and it will taste delicious!
if you know me at all, you are probably familiar with my deep curiosity in the elderly. and so, in light of what feels like a reinvigorated, or even completely fresh interest in our fabulous dignitaries, i’ve really enjoyed following projects like advanced style, simone rocha’s AW13 Collection dedicated to her grannies and karen walker’s SS13 campaign.
but equally, i’m surprised it’s taken so long for creative types to take inspiration from these sassy sistas (and brothers!).
these guys grew up in a day devoid of distractions like tablets and smartphones and revoked of the interwebs.
Instead they would amuse themselves with any of the following activities*:
– dictating the classics aloud to each other in a park in a act of bourgeois frivolity
– hosting daily afternoon tea sessions – and by tea, i mean gin + tonic with cucumber sandwiches
– dallying with the gardener
– mastering the art of small talk
– curating an impeccable wardrobe
– learning to ballroom dance
– becoming adept at a musical instrument
– cooking feasts and hosting opulent, extravagant dinner parties.
To put it into sobering perspective, we spend 70 hours** a week staring at a screen of some kind and sitting on our big, flat arses. We are less-well read, less polite, less impeccably dressed, probably fatter and our only ‘talk’ we feel comfortable doing is via text or, maybe, MAYBE Skype. But only with close friends.***
What the hell are we doing?
it’s no wonder we want to be like them! our nans and pops are naturally better at life than us in almost every way and i’m intrigued to know more.
i first became interested in old folks when i returned to australia at 18, rediscovered my grandparents and became paralysed by fear at the thought of their mortality. so, as part of a university class in ethnography, i interviewed my grandfather, capturing his life story on 5 hours of tape and 40 pages of transcribed notes. a cathartic exercise, it also gave me a new appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices he made in his life in the interest of his family – all the while maintaining his dry glaswegian wit and an immaculate getup.
another project that takes a leaf out of this book is starlet. released last year, but of course, i only managed to stumble across it today, the film stars dree hemingway and besedka johnson and tells the story of a pornstar who makes the acquaintance of an elderly lady. it looks melancholy and bittersweet and i think i’m going to watch it this weekend.
*according to me
**an approximate estimated by me
*** a slight exaggeration
this week i am reading lee tran lam’s freakin’ gorgeous tribute to japan.
in her beautiful zine, she captures the landscape, cultural quirks + unique aesthetic charms through the lens of the expats who live + work there. i bought the zine at this year’s MCA zine fair way back in march, and up until recently, it’s been sitting unopened on top of an ever-expanding pile of books + magazines i am slowly but surely conquering.
washi tape brings me all the joys.
having spent my final school years an expat in yokohama, i recognise the unexplainable pull that draws these folks (+ me) back so frequently. i think for me it’s because i’ve never encountered so many contradictions that can exist side-by-side so harmoniously. for example, my six foot frame can make me feel slightly uncomfortable when trying to navigate tiny izakayas, but equally i am reduced to a speck amongst a sea of people whenever i walk down the street in shibuya. it is a humbling experience. as a culture that values nature and tradition, they have found a way for it to work harmoniously with the neon-laden, concrete metropolises of tokyo + osaka. a culture of excess yet a tradition that values simplicity and the rules of nature (wabi-sabi).
it may seem strange, but one of my favourite things to do when i am visiting is to head to the cafe chain and indulge in a western breakfast, japanese style! this is white toast with butter, a boiled egg + a black coffee. tastes so great.
And in the spirit of nostalgia, here are some of my favourite snaps from my most recent visit to tokyo in june 2012:
of all the things i consume, i will never tire of the whimsical tales neatly packed into quarterly publication apartmento.
in particular i enjoy the short essays in the beginning of each issue, for their alternative musings of otherwise familiar daily spaces inject a refreshing new light i can use to shine on my own spaces. i have had mushroom theory tacked onto my bedroom wall for a while now. for me it serves to reduce the anguish i feel at the onset of a creative project – an anguish which i think is caused by a need to achieve perfection, which consequently leaves me paralysed + unable to progress for fear of letting the world see how imperfect i am. the idea that imperfection is found everywhere in nature brings me relief, since nature truly is the ultimate perfection.
(some snippets from) mushroom theory by jenna sutela
comparing food and architecture, [cedric] price is not the only important designer with culinary references. wasn’t it buckminster fuller who explained the chemical structure of the universe through pineapples? and another creative hero of mine, john cage, went mushrooming with music in mind.
‘much can be learned about music by devoting oneself to the mushroom.’ the amateur mycologist stated in a 1981 interview for the new york times.
coming from finland – a country where it’s possible to go on chanterelle outings in the central park of helsinki… it is easy to acknowledge the influence of the mushroom on local life, and even design. with so much wild nature around, it is for instance important to teach children to know a poisonous mushroom from edible ones starting with their first piece of furniture. And even the in-built ability to spot mushrooms everywhere in the surrounding environment, hunting and gathering all the time, must have an effect on how we experience life.
while all this might simply have to do with practicalities of life, or living where circumstances are somewhere in between urban and rural, i agree with cage that there is more to the mushroom when it comes to creative work.
representing a disordered freedom void of determination and meaning, escaping erudition, mushrooms inspired his compositions based on chance operations. similarly, almost any creation can learn from the life of fungi – their spontaneity as well as symbiotic relationship with the surrounding environment.
after al, what mushrooms actually are is reproductive structures interacting with other organisms through their mycelium, decaying logs or partnering living trees, and thus leading a long life. like good ideas, they appear haphasardly and sometimes overnight, able to live almost anywhere. mushrooms were not only the source of inspiration for tapio wirkkala’s classic kantarelli vase but also the motif on a daniel palillo fashion piece. they also frequently show up on my dinner table in various different colours, shapes and sizes.
mushrooms are a great reference point not only in size but also because of their mysterious propoerties. some mushrooms will kill you, while others, like the kombucha mushroom in tea, are considered an elixir of life comparable to the alchemical substances consumed by isaac newton and other 17th century inventors seeking longevity and ultimate wisdom.
like the future, mushrooms are hard to predict and their preparation takes a prior intelligence to master. maybe that is why so many interesting things are happening around them. preparing for the future – just as identifying mushrooms, picking and cooking them – the more love, energy and practice goes into the process the better the result. ‘it is the element of anticipation that connects cooking and working’ as cedric price put it.