Three Easy Tips for Living Sustainably

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Do what’s right because it’s right, not just because it’s easy. Pretty simple, right? But apparently not, because we know life gets in the way and when things are easy then we’re more likely to do them. Since this is the last piece in my “Sustainability Series” I thought I’d end it short and sweet with three easy ways you can help the earth.

In Jamaica recycling is more than just separating your plastics, paper and other waste before putting them out. It’s having to find a drop-off point that’s close enough to be convenient, and convenient enough that you actually drop them off. But it’s hard, and even when you look at this list of recycling outlets that Wisynco has put together, you’ll see it’s even harder if you don’t live in an urban area.

So how do you make this work? It’s not a foolproof solution, but here are some tips that might help you reduce waste and the need to recycle, and help you on your journey to sustainability.

  1. Aim for zero waste. Easier said than done, I know. But, even just by thinking that way you’ll probably start acting that way. BYOB (bring your own bags) when you shop, purchase things in bulk so you go through less packaging or bring your own coffee cup to your favourite cafe. All of those little things add up and have a positive impact.
  2. Try composting. Got a green thumb? I don’t, plants generally seem to do better when I leave them alone, but the way HGTV breaks down composting makes it sound easy enough that even I’ve decided to give it a try so I can fertilise the few plants I have. Basically just turn your organic trash into fertiliser by adding it to dirt and letting nature take its course.
  3. Make your own lunches. Assuming you have a five-day work week, and you buy lunch daily, that’s five days of lunch packaging being thrown away. If you can cook, with a little effort just a couple times a week you could have delicious lunches each day without the added waste. And to be honest, I’m always way more excited to eat lunch when it’s something I’ve made, plus…it takes the hassle out of having to decide what am I going to eat today.

If you read this and suddenly decide to go zero waste that’s great and this site, Going Zero Waste, has a lot of useful tips and articles. If you don’t suddenly decide to go zero waste just try to start somewhere. I know a lot of the time I let perfect be the enemy of good, and if I can’t do something perfectly then I won’t want to do it at all, but just start somewhere. It is a process, and the more you do and the less you consume is the more you contribute to making Jamaica and the world a better place.

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Vegan-ish?

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Now I know that there are a lot of strong feelings and stereotypes about veganism from both sides of the fence. Non-vegans think vegans are preachy and self-righteous…while vegans think non-vegans are cruel and self-centred. And maybe they both have a point.

If you follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you might have noticed that I’ve been posting recently about vegan/vegan-ish food I’ve tried out, and while I don’t know that I’d ever go full-on vegan, I do believe that a more compassionate lifestyle is the way to go. Based on the research I’ve been doing, veganism isn’t just about the food you eat…it’s also about the choices you make in how you go about your daily life. Hence, for me…vegan-ish.

So what are the choices I’m making in mine? Well, for starters, I’ve always been almost phobic of handling raw meat so whenever I would cook something with meat it was always a huge process for me to try and find a way to prepare it, without having to actually touch it (with or without gloves). Now, by using non-meat/animal product recipes, I rid myself of that problem.

Other choices I’ve been making include supporting the local thrifting industry, walking with my rainbow stainless steel cutlery, keeping a reusable water bottle on me most of the time, using a menstrual cup, making more mindful purchases which also includes doing research to see if the products I buy support a good cause and/or are sustainably made/cruelty-free, and saving my plastic bottles to take them to a recycling drop-off point. And, by being conscious about choices like these, things can start to change.

Last week Friday, I was at home sick and instead of going for junk I decided to try out Bella’s Vegan Eats for their Umami Black Bean Burger. Having made black bean sliders for lunch earlier in the week I was still on my black bean kick. I called my order in and told them what time to expect me. For JMD$1,200 I got the burger, sweet potato chips, side salad and some plantain…definitely a belly full! It was well seasoned and the flavours were good and I felt good eating it, it had that “healthy” taste to it. The only thing I’d say is that the black bean patty itself was soft, so if you’re used to a firmer patty then this might throw you off a bit, but it was delicious same way.

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Maybe one day I’ll be full-on vegan and maybe I won’t, but I think that by starting small the impact can potentially snowball into something bigger. So…on that note…non-vegans please don’t get angry when you see vegan recipes, and vegans, please don’t get angry when you see non-vegan recipes. There’s something here for everyone!

January Reading Round-Up

 

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I’m taking a break from the Sustainability Series so I can squeeze in my January Reading Round-Up. I decided that rather than trying to do a single post for each book I’ve read, I’d do a monthly recap with a brief review on each book I read the month before. Because I’ll likely have read a few books for the month, these posts might be a wee bit long even though I don’t plan on writing more than two paragraphs for each book. For the books that I think require more details, I’ll probably do a longer review on my Goodreads page (follow me there if you’re interested!).

January was a pretty piss poor start to the book year and I only managed to read two and a half books:

January 1, 2019 – The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom – 4/5

There’s a family debate about who actually owns this book, I think it’s mine and somehow ended up at my Uncle’s house, however my cousin thinks otherwise. Anyway, I came across the book there and on my cousin’s recommendation decided to give it a read, not that I needed much persuasion since I’m pretty sure I bought it to begin with.

That aside, the book tells the story of an Irish girl, Lavinia, who is orphaned on the journey with her family to the United States. She becomes the indentured servant on a tobacco plantation and is raised by an enslaved family, including the illegitimate daughter of the plantation master. While she bonds with her enslaved family, she is set apart by her whiteness and as she gets older she is adopted into the Big house. It was a riveting read, and the only time I put it down was when I was falling asleep. However, I think because of how much my cousin hyped it up, it wasn’t quite as great as I’d expected but the perspective of a white indentured servant during slavery was new to me, so seeing Lavinia’s take on things made for an interesting read.

January 26, 2019 – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – 5/5

Gosh…what a book. I don’t know if it’s for everyone but for me it was the kind of book that I was genuinely sad to be done with and will probably revisit periodically in the future. It’s all about Katey Kontent and New York in 1938. The Great Depression is winding down and World War II is winding up but on New Year’s Eve 1937 in New York City you’d never know.

Katey has no idea what’s coming for the next year, but having spent the night with her best friend and a handsome stranger in a Greenwich Village jazz bar, 1938 seems bound to be promising. With the pacing of the book it’s easy to forget that everything happens within the span of a year but Towles really conveys the sense that New York is the place to go if you want to reinvent yourself. Katey is the daughter of a Russian immigrant, but this doesn’t stop her from going after what she wants without being deceitful or manipulative. She’s full of common sense and a sense of ideals and is well-read with literary inclinations. With these skills she’s able to become accepted into the upper echelons of New York’s well-to-do.

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Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

January X, 2019 – Unstuff Your Life! Kick the Clutter Habit and Completely Organize Your Life for Good by Andrew J. Mellen – 1/5

To be 100% transparent this book put me through the wringer and I didn’t finish it. I bought it in October last year because I’m all about organisation and it sounded like it would make a good read. Fast forward to the beginning of 2019 and Putus and I were deep-cleaning my flat and I was inspired to pick it up and give it a read to see if it would be of any help in the process.

By January 31st I was only 45% complete. It’s only in times like these that I begin to regret being a finisher, because there were so many times that I just wanted to give up on this book and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. And then because I hadn’t finished this, I didn’t really want to start anything else. In this case though I think I’m going to have to give it up. It starts out very slowly but I plodded along and while most of it seemed like it was trying too hard, there were some good tips in there, but I just felt like the entire book could’ve been done as a one-pager document. The writing is supposed to come across as conversational, but in many cases it just felt condescending and overall I just don’t think it was very well done.

And here endeth the January Reading Round-Up. My favourite was definitely Rules of Civility because it was such a pleasant surprise. I don’t even know how long I’ve had this book, but it’s been on my shelf for ages, was published in 2011 and is currently yellowed and falling apart. This rediscovery has made me decide to spend 2019 reading the books I already own and have on my shelf. Here’s hoping I can put the compulsive book buying to rest!

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Hard Pass on Plastic

sustainability series

I’m back (like I never left) with part three of the Sustainability Series. Lately there’s been a lot more talk about plastics and how we care for our environment in Jamaica, especially with the recent implementation of the plastic ban. From last year there was talk of it and we knew that it was coming, but in true Jamaican fashion so many waited until the very last minute to think about what this really means.

I’ve overheard some really ignorant statements concerning the ban, from “Jamaicans love follow foreign too much” to “if Missa Chin nuh wah gimme a plastic bag I’m gonna go somewhere else and shop”, which make me realise that a lot of Jamaicans just don’t get it. They don’t get the importance of the ban and they don’t get what a significant impact it can make.

Every time it rains in St. Andrew, from my office on the waterfront of the Kingston Harbour a mass of garbage floats pass that’s primarily made of plastic products. I don’t mean a little cluster, I mean a mass stretching about 20 car lengths out into the harbour. In 2010, for my undergrad final research paper, I looked at Jamaica and the environment and one of the pieces I wrote explored Kingston Harbour and the problem of pollution (Harbour-ing Litter, Waste Disposal in Kingston Harbour), sadly things don’t seemed to have changed very much almost ten years later.

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Taken by Kingston Harbour on August 7, 2010. This photo was featured in my final year project on Jamaica and the environment. In the photo you can see the local children swimming in the polluted harbour while a pile of garbage burns on the shore.

Now that we know plastics are banned, but what does it all really mean?

  • Single use plastics at or below 24 x 24 inches are banned (typical scandal bags and smaller) but large garbage bags are still allowed
  • Plastic straws are banned (with exceptions for medical purposes and special needs)
  • The importation of expanded polystyrene foam (EPSfoam) food products is banned (basically what we call Styrofoam, but apparently it isn’t actually Styrofoam – Styrofoam is a brand and it’s generally used for construction and insulation, who knew?)

So what are the alternatives? Consider this your Eco Chic starter kit!

  • Those Creative People (TCP) “nuh inna di scandal” and have created cute and functional reusable totes to hold your shopping. Ayanna Dixon, otherwise known as @by.asd on Instagram, also has reusable bags that fold up into a cute little pouch that takes up next to no space in your everyday bag. It was definitely one of my favourite Christmas gifts to get this year!
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TCP and Denyque seh “Scandal Free Life” for 2019! (Photo: Contributed)

  • Call me shallow but cute water bottles are one of my favourite ways to make sure I stay hydrated. I have an insulated one that keeps my water cold that I use on the go, a regular one I keep by my bed, and a few other spare ones. Locally Fontana and Earth Elements always seem to have cute ones in stock.
  • Reusable cutlery in a purse friendly carrying case. Say no to plastic cutlery when you go out to eat and just whip this out instead. You can just take what you need from your house or order a full set on amazon. This rainbow stainless steel one is my favourites, but there’s also this stainless steel set or this bamboo set.
  • Reusable stainless steel or glass straws are also great to have on hand and unlike paper or cardboard, won’t get soggy if you’re like me and take forever to finish one drink. All the utensil sets I linked above come with one or two straws and, most importantly, a straw cleaner to get any gunk out.

I’ve been walking with my reusable bags and it’s so great to see that at my regular shopping spots others are doing it too! What’s been the experience in your area? Are people taking a hard pass on plastics?

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Every Mikkle Mek a Mukkle at Mukkle Thrift

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Last week to kick off the Sustainability Series we heard from Lindsey Lodenquai, head cook and bottle washer of New Wave, and she told us all about Celebrity Closet and how that came about.

This week I got to talking with Sarah Miles, one of the co-founders of Mukkle Thrift to see what she had to say about the burgeoning thrifting movement in Jamaica.

Gabbie: Hi Sarah! So tell me, why did you decide to do a pop-up thrift shop?

Sarah: Creating a modern, sustainable pop-up thrift shop for Jamaicans in the 21st century was a concept with great importance to us. While thrifting scenes are prominent across the globe, it seemed as if there was a void in Jamaica’s market. Thrifting is ‘shopping with a cause’, and is a small means towards tackling many issues which we face in our nation. It is a ‘Mikkle’ which has the potential to make a ‘Mukkle’.

Personally, we were frustrated by the lack of affordable shopping options in Jamaica. However, at Mukkle Thrift, all items are $1,500 JMD or less. Additionally, we have experienced stigmas surrounding ‘outfit repeating’ and ‘hand me down’ clothing. Through our pop-ups, we aimed to create a thrifting family where it felt like borrowing clothing from a sibling or friend.

‘Fast fashion’ affects us all detrimentally. Not only are we buying low quality items, but often disadvantaged persons work in poor conditions and the environment suffers. Through Mukkle Thrift, we wanted to combat this by extending the lifespan of our ‘pre-loved’ clothing. If it meant potentially prevent one item of clothing from ending up in one of our landfills, we were satisfied.

Most importantly, there was a conscious effort to ensure that Mukkle Thrift was a charitable organisation. To create an impact, our actions needed to go beyond the thrifting process. All proceeds of our shops are donated towards causes in need across the island. While our focus initially surrounded helping children’s homes, our donations have now assisted educational and environmental causes as well.

Gabbie: Those are all such great reasons! How long have you been doing your pop-up?

Sarah: It’s crazy to think that we’re almost two years old! While Mukkle Thrift was founded in March 2017, our first pop-up took place in December 2017. It took months of preparation, determination and hard work but it ultimately paid off in the end. We recently just had our third pop-up, on December 22nd, 2018, and are planning to grow in the new year.

Gabbie: Nice! You guys are on a roll with this thing. When is the next one being planned for?

Sarah: Currently, we host our pop-up shops semi-annually. Our next event can be expected this summer, in July. In the future, we hope to expand and host pop-ups more frequently across the island. Through constant support, our family and the demand for thrifting is continuously growing and we are immensely grateful.

gabbie - mukkle thrift crop top

Generally I hate crop tops, but after seeing this one (sorry the camera doesn’t do the colour justice) at Mukkle Thrift even I was convinced to give them a try.

Gabbie: There can be a bit of a stigma attached to thrifting, I know I’ve been guilty of it in the past. So what would you say to people who aren’t too convinced about the concept of thrifting?

Sarah: For those who aren’t completely sold on the idea of thrifting, I would recommend searching for inspiration from ‘thrifty’ Bloggers, YouTubers or Influencers. Many of their looks contain thrifted items, many of which are upcycled. Patrons have the power to get as innovative as possible and think outside the box with thrifted finds; the possibilities are endless. After all, many current trends are inspired by past decades so where else to look than clothes from the ‘past’?

Sometimes stigmas and ideologies feel innate, but they aren’t! Thrifting isn’t reserved for a certain economic group and it isn’t ‘old’ or ‘dirty’ clothing. In an age of growing sustainability, it’s a conscious practice that all should adopt in some form. We each have a responsibility to make Jamaica, and the world, a better place. After all, every Mikkle mek a Mukkle. If shopping is a form of doing so, count us in!

Still not inspired? Check out these links below for some more motivation!