27015056_Unknown.JPGWhat are my clothes made of? Which textiles should we avoid? What materials are derived from which products? It is no wonder that we are all getting overwhelmed with the jargon on our care labels.

I have created the below post to try to bust what the names mean, how sustainable they are, and most importantly, gives you the information to make your own decision when you’re next looking into the composition of materials in something.

Polyester:

One of the main players in our threads. A lightweight, and durable material that is cheap to produce. Polyester is actually derived from petroleum (crude oil), and is environmentally harmful as it is energy intensive to make and most polyester is not biodegradable. Polyester is also a plastic, that’s right a plastic. Synthetic materials like polyester are one of the main contributors to micro-plastics.  So, ideally you do not want polyester this in your clothing. However, there are lots of companies now using recycled polyester within their clothing, so look out for this.

 Cotton:

Cotton is a very thirsty crop which makes this natural material pretty water intensive. There is a lot of ethical considerations with cotton. There are huge issues with the use of pesticides around this crops and farmers dying from overuse of pesticides. The pesticides are also very damaging for the wildlife and soil. Always look out for organic cotton and for the Better Cotton Initiative (most clothing companies, if partnered with BCI will put this on their hangtags). You can also extend this to all your cotton materials; denim and bed linen for example.

 Linen:

Derived from flax plant. Linen is three times stronger than cotton and pretty durable, a nightmare to iron as it wrinkles easily. Look for organic linen. Linen uses less water than cotton, but look for organic linen to avoid the pesticides that are used in the process. On the whole, this material is more expensive due to the process being quite long to turn flax seed into linen, but the flax plant retains C02 (this is a good thing) and naturally produces soil quality.

Viscose

A semi-synthetic material also known as rayon. It feels a bit like silk, but slightly sturdier and is apparently derived from trees, the cellulose from these trees is combined with manmade chemicals to create the material. This manufacturing process is very pollutive and wastes 70% of the tree and the chemicals used are very harmful to textile workers. Viscose  is actually made on such mass (and very cheaply) today that it is not environmentally friendly.

Nylon

An entirely synthetic material (one of the first). The process to make nylon is very water intensive and creates nitrous oxide (terrible for the environment). It is very durable but unfortunately nylon is a plastic that made from crude oil and goes through an intensive production process. It has a very long life (as far as we know it is not biodegradable) so look for recycled nylons as an alternative or even better, check out Econyl .

 Leather

Leather is a tough cookie. From an ethical standpoint it is horrendous. Leather is also not always a byproduct of meat (there are lots of differing viewpoints around this). Leather usually comes from animals that are killed solely for their skins. It is probably more likely that meat would be a byproduct of the leather production. Farmers can make a lot more money from leather than they can meat. Because leather is “natural” it is biodegradable, but the processes to dye leather (tanning) are usually pretty chemical intensive.  The good news is that there are lots of great alternatives out there; Pinatax (pineapple leather) apple leather, rubber, tree bark leather. The list is endless. However, if you are looking for a vegan leather do your research first and make sure you are not just buying plastic. Or, of course one of the most sustainable things you can do is buy secondhand leather.

Silk

Silk is natural and biodegradable- it comes from the cocoon of silk worms but the process is cruel and sometimes involves boiling the worms inside their cocoon so as not to break the silk fibres. The production of silk is laborious and has been very strongly connected to child labour. As silk is mostly produced in China and India, it has probably had to travel quite some miles to reach you. There are, however some methods of silk which do not harm the silk moth/worm such as Peace Silk, but these are more expensive. There are now some vegan alternatives to silk such as Bolt Threads (silk made from yeast)  or Art Silk ( a silk made from bamboo).

Wool

Wool is another tricky one. A lot of vegans won’t touch it, as there is a lot of controversy around shearing animals and the treatment that these animals get when sheared. Wool is, however, biodegradable, durable, very warm and long-lasting. Cashmere wool has been condemned recently for the degradation caused to the land by rearing too many goats, the treatment of the goats and the pressure on the cashmere goat herders to produce the cashmere wool at a low price. When buying brand new woollen items, look out for standards on these wool items such as Responsible Wool Standard, ZQ Merino Standard and the Soil Association Organic Standards.

As always, for the more sustainable approach the best thing seems to be to scour vintage shops and buy secondhand. To me it seems like the obvious choice, we have enough clothes in the world now! I hope this guide has given you the information you need to make your own decision and just give you an idea of the components of the materials in your wardrobe.

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Whilst in Sri Lanka, the bombings of Easter Sunday took place. We were very fortunate to have left the area of this horrendous act by this time but it felt really weird to be continuing our holiday at this time. The reason I want to write this blog post is because it was still one of the best places I have ever been and such a wonderful country. I hope that you enjoy the blog post and that are able to visit Sri Lanka one day.

What a country. Such diverse landscape. From rolling green hills that remind me of Scotland to sandy, tropical beaches. This is the itinerary we took around the country. The only thing I would have changed is to have stayed in Dambulla for one night instead of two, and I feel like we managed to see a lot of the country lot without being overly exhausted or travelling too much.

Sri Lanka:

  • Population: 21 million
  • Language: Sinhala, Tamil and English
  • Capital: Columbo (commercial) & Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte,

What to pack (aside from the usual):

  • Take at least 2 clean t-shirts per day. Sri Lanka is a very hot very humid place and I have never sweated as much as I have during my time there, particularly if you are planning to do any trekking (which you should)
  • A warm jumper. I know it sounds crazy for a country that reaches 40 degrees celsius most year round,  but we were actually really cold in the mountainous area and our guesthouse even lit a fire in the evening
  • A couple of pairs of leggings/ and comfortable trainers and a sports bra (ladies) for the trekking
  • A thin waterproof. This country can be pretty rainy and when it rains, it pours but it is still warm
  • A more conservative swimsuit as well as a bikini (just incase you go swimming in a public area)

Flight time: Roughly 10 hours from Schipol airport. You do need a visa which can be purchased online.

Our first stop was Negombo. We wanted to relax for a couple of nights after the long flight. There are beaches here and whilst not as beautiful as in the South, they are worth a visit. We stayed in a small guesthouse called  Villa Dominikku which I would highly recommend. The owner Dulshan is wonderful and helped us to relax and properly plan our holiday. He also organised the local prices for tuktuks for us as opposed to the tourist price, which saved us a lot of money. For food try rice and curry at Sea View restaurant, samosas, coconut rotti and all the tropical fruit juices. Sonny’s restaurant was also VERY good for fresh and local fish and seafood. I heard great things about Mr Burger (not a burger joint but much more local fried snacks) but unfortunately it was not open when we were there due to the holidays.

 

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We then moved onto Dambulla for two nights. I do not recommend the hotel we stayed in, so I will not include it here and I also think you could spend one night in Dambulla as opposed to two if you wanted more time somewhere else. This area is close to Sigiriya which has a very famous rock that people climb. Try to go in the morning because it gets very hot and it is quite a tough climb. Wear trainers and take plenty of water. Our tuktuk driver actually took us to another rock opposite Sigiriya rock which was a quarter of the price, and was not nearly as crowded and meant we could still see Sigiriya. For food here we went for Sri Lankan curry buffet called Athula restaurant.

 

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Just the sweatiest we have ever been

We then spent 2 nights in Nuwara Eliya. One of my favourite places during the trip. The  verdant landscape is full of tea plantations. The town itself is a bit odd, the temperature is a lot cooler so during colonial times this was where the British liked to escape the heat. This is evident in the tudor-style housing, the British style parks and the post office that looks like it is straight out of a village from the English countryside. We stayed in Misty Mountain hotel, the Sri Lankan owner lives half the year in Australia and was a total dude. From here we hiked to the nearby mountain called leopard rock, and were told only afterwards that leopards still reside here, I tried to act casual about it. You can also do the Horton Plains trek from here but takes an hour in the car to get there. We decided against it as we had had a long car journey the day before. Take a long walk around Pedro’s tea plantations, and head up to Lover’s Leap waterfall. Afterwards, get a tour of the factory and a free cup of tea.  For food here you have to try Indian Summer restaurant, a bit more pricey than the average food in Sri Lanka, but the food was DELICIOUS, like Dishoom delicious.

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We took a wonderful (but cramped ) train journey to Ella that cost us about 70p each. The train goes through the tea plantations and you get the best views as you go through the mountains.

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Ella is a strange one. I recommend staying outside of the town, to avoid the backpackers delight that seems to have taken over the town. If you ignore the touristy town centre, there are some of the most amazing hikes here. We stayed at Lucky Star guesthouse and really enjoyed ourselves. From here you should definitely do the railway walk (it is a tough one so start early) and see the famous Nine Arches Bridge. Truly incredible. For food head to Rotti Hut for some delicious stuffed rotti.

 

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We then went to Udawalawe national park for a safari. We opted for this safari as opposed to Yala national park as we read that this safari was a bit smaller and less busy. We stayed at Sri Lanka has the highest number of wild elephants in the world as well as a number of other animals; mongoose, water buffalo, alligator and monkeys were all spotted on our safari trip (thanks to my incredible eye by the way). There is nothing like seeing an elephant in the wild tucking away a good bit of branch for lunch.

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Finally, we headed to the beaches to Tangalle. We spent four glorious nights here, doing almost nothing except swimming, eating, drinking margaritas and the occasional spa treatment. It was wonderful.

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We have been given enough warning signs and it is about is about time we all stepped up our sustainability game. This doesn’t necessarily mean we have to start living in a tent in the middle of the forest, but there are some seriously easy changes we should all be making that combined will make a difference.  I am a staunch believer that huge corporations need to drastically change their behaviors, but most of them will not do so out of the goodness of their heart. They need us, the consumer to demand these changes, something I believe we are well on our way to.

 

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Since moving towards a more conscious lifestyle, I have found myself consistently thinking of ways to reduce, to buy less, to choose package-free. I have also found that there are a lot of people who will expect you to be an all-or-nothing kind of eco warrior. Whatever little or large way that you are helping, never think it is insignificant, and support others to do the same. If you are just starting out and need a little nudge in the right direction then look no further my friend, and welcome aboard!

The first thing I would recommend is to start imagining if there was no bin in your house. Imagine if everything you threw away into your main non-recycling bin had to live in a corner of your house. I am pretty sure you would want to reduce that pile as much as you can. Start to police those recyclables and make sure everything is only going into your main bin as a very last resort. Think about what else you could use your throwaway items for. I started making bin bags out of old (giant) rice bags or clothing bags. Notice where your main waste is coming from. For me, it was pointless food packaging. Which brings me onto my first point:

  1. Start cooking from scratch. In fact, start making everything you can from scratch. Once I stopped buying oven chips and cutting up a potato (wow not rocket science Flora) I was removing plastic packaging. I have seen a lot of great recipes online of people making their own plant-based milk.
  2. Buy less animal products. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, while producing 1 pound of tofu only requires 244 gallons of water. Even if it is not possible to cut out animal products entirely, try to reduce your intake and buy quality over quantity.
  3. Buy from markets. Buying from your local market (if you’re lucky enough to have one) is a GREAT way to remove the packaging. I have found my vegetables go off a bit sooner from the market, so we do one shop from the market on Saturday’s and a top-up supermarket shop mid-week.
  4. Prepare your bags. If you are anything like me and often forget to take your reusable items with you, make sure you pack the bags you regularly use with a couple of tote bags, reusable cutlery, coffee cup and a cloth napkin. This is their new home and will only come out to be washed.
  5. Save your scraps. Can you compost the food scraps? Can you make a vegetable stock  from your cut-offs? Did you know you can freeze rice? Did you know you can use your egg shells on your plants?
  6. Buy in bulk. I have started to buy as much as possible in bulk. The plus side? It usually works out cheaper. The downside? I stubbornly cycled a 10 kilo bag of rice home and a ten minute journey took me half an hour.
  7. Prevent food waste. Use the whole broccoli stalk. Think of inventive ways to reuse your leftovers. Measure out your pasta/ spaghetti. Be realistic about how much you can eat. Take leftovers for lunch.
  8. Refill or choose plastic-free. If you are fortunate enough to live near a restock shop than refill your containers. Otherwise opt for the olive oil in the glass bottle (way easier to recycle and break down) and the loose fruits and veggies. Get the salt in a paper box and not in a single-use grinder. Swap your lighter for a box of matches.
  9. Swap your cling film for reusable options. There are some pretty great options out there; reusable wax wraps, silicone wraps or just good old sealable containers to keep your food in.
  10. Save your containers. Half of my favourite containers are old Bon Maman jars and coffee tubs. Save them, and ask the restaurant to use them when you next need to get something to takeaway.
  11.  Use less water and energy. Can your pasta water double up to steam your veggies in? Can you cook something else alongside your roaring oven? Put a lid on that pan of boiling water. These small changes will also save you money on your energy bill.
  12. Rethink your cloths. I have created a whole blog post on natural cleaning, but get rid of the kitchen towel. Use cloth napkins and cut up old t-shirts to make dusters or reusable kitchen towel. PHOTO-2019-04-07-09-00-46

 

 

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I have been dabbling lately with some homemade cleaning products, and thought I would share some of my success stories.

Firstly, I think it is good to explore the benefits of homemade cleaning products. I have been trying to use natural cleaning products to reduce my plastic consumption and move towards using more natural chemicals to clean with. On the whole they’re also much cheaper and you probably have most of the ingredients in your cupboard. There are still a couple  shop-bought versions I prefer; toilet bleach for instance. I do a toilet bleach once a week, but I have also been trying other methods to use bleach less often. Washing up liquid has also become a contentious subject in our house. I happy using castille soap to wash-up with (you do need a bit more soaking and elbow grease) but it drives Steve mad as it’s not quite as good as store-bought washing up liquid, so he buys his own. As always, find what works for you but I really encourage you to try making your own- you might be surprised!

Cleaning Utensils:

First up, your cleaning arsenal. Ditch the paper towel and use cloths instead. I made mine out of an old t-shirt that had holes in it. I also use microfiber clothes because they are the BEST. Can you recycle some old spray bottles? Use old newspaper or the paper stuffing from parcels to clean windows and glass, make bin liners out of old packaging (giant rice packets, clothes order bags). When you next need to buy a new washing-up brush, hunt out a wooden one. I found mine in Marqt in Amsterdam for a euro! Try to use as little water as possible when cleaning.

Glass Cleaner: 

I think we all know this one, but thought I would include it anyway. White vinegar and newspaper is all you need my friend.

Sink un-blocker:

  • 1/3 cup bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar (cheapest you can find!)
  • Boiling water

Mix the bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar over a sink in a mug, and then pour down the sink and leave to sit for a minimum of one hour maximum overnight. Flush through with boiling hot water.

All-purpose cleaner:

Version 1: I took this recipe from the yoga studio I used to work at, we used this to clean the yoga mats, and they always smelled brilliant! This version is especially good if you don’t like the smell of vinegar ( which I use in my other version)

  •  1 empty spray bottle, you can use an empty old one washed out
  • Cheapest vodka you can find
  • Tea tree and lavender essential oil
  • water

Fill  the spray bottle about half full with vodka and half full with water. Add about 8 drops of tea tree and lavender oil (or more if you want a stronger smell) mix together and voila!

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Version 2: This one is a little more pungent and takes a bit of time.

  • White vinegar
  • Air-tight jar
  • Old citrus peel

Put the old citrus peel in the air-tight jar and cover with white vinegar. Leave for 1 week to ferment. Open and use! I dilute mine with water and put into a spray bottle that my friend gave me when moving out.

Toilet cleaner:

I once listened to Radio 4 programme on which a butler shared his cleaning tips. He swore by the method of cleaning the toilet with a whole litre bottle of cheap coca cola (another reason not to drink Coke). I find this does leave my toilet bowl sparkling.  For me a once-a-week bleach is still necessary , but here is a non-toxic in-between toilet cleaning method:

  • 1 cup boiled and cooled water
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • roughly a handful of bicarb soda
  • essential oils for a nice smell

Mix the vinegar and essential oil into a spray bottle and spray around the bowl. Shake the bicarbonate  onto the toilet bowl and scrub with a toilet brush. Flush and wash away.

Washing-up liquid:

I haven’t yet found a homemade washing up liquid that really works. I have tried castille soap but unfortunately it just doesn’t cut through the pan grease, however I have recently been using used coffee grounds as a pan scrub to get the hardened on stains off. Alternatively, if you have a load of grease in your pan I really recommend giving a good sprinkling of bicarbonate of soda and then pouring on white vinegar and leaving to soak and do its magic.

Laundry:

Ecover is probably one of the best laundry detergents out their for the environment and you can refill your Ecover in the UK. Whatever laundry detergent you use, try to use a liquid version. I have written before about using a liquid as opposed to powder as this creates less friction and therefore less micro-plastics. Also fill your washing machine with as much washing as possible, and put it on a lower temperature.

I hope these work for you! I will keep experimenting and I would love to hear the methods of natural cleaning that you use!

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Have a great weekend!

Flora x x

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Photo by Veja and Marie Claire

Until recently, if you wanted to buy ethical or sustainable fashion you would find yourself trying on something akin to a hessian sack in a shop adorned with dream-catchers and smelling like incense, with a man called Nigel giving you an in-depth monologue about the women’s cooperative that had hand-weaved this garment from the surplus straw of their thatched roofs . After feeling morally obligated to pay a small fortune for the liberty of looking like a large sack of King Edwards, the garment would sit sulkily at the bottom of your wardrobe for the next few years.

Fortunately,  there are now a lot more choices for the “woke” spender . New companies are creating pieces that are both sustainable, ethical and aesthetically pleasing. It feels like even the big dogs, the larger corporations that have traditionally been the biggest offenders are wanting a slice of the sustainable pie.

These brands that have caught my eye in recent months have questioned the unethical and the unsustainable parts of the fashion value chain and are trying to change behaviours around consumption.

Everlane 

Transparency is at the core of Everlane’s business philosophy, so much so that they break down the costs and wages of each stage of the fashion value chain, right down to the transport or duty costs. They even have a “choose your cost” on their sale items. They reject trends and instead opt for longlasting timeless pieces that are well made. For an industry that has a reputation of being quite ambiguous with its sourcing, Everlane is a refreshingly honest success story. Whilst I would not say it is a budget option, Everlane clearly shows the true cost of making good quality garments.

Hurr Collective 

Rental is becoming a fantastic answer to those who want to buy less, own less but still want some variety within their wardrobe. I am not yet a member of Hurr Collective ( I am on a very long waitlist) but from what I can see from this recently launched UK rental service, the idea is akin to ebay but instead of buying you can rent. This is a great way of making a bit of cash on the side out of things you don’t wear very often, and reducing consumption. I am very interested to see how this takes off!

Native Shoes

I had a meeting with someone recently who spoke passionately about the sustainable mission of these shoes. It made me really happy that this is a story that influences the buying habits of different people. These shoes are vegan and made with materials that are easy to break down and recycle. They have launched a huge recycling campaign with the target to be 100% circular by 2023. With the materials from these recycled shoes,  they are hoping to provide matting for a new playground in the Vancouver area. A lot of their shoes are made with minimal or no waste in production and are definitely a shoe worth checking out.

Veja

On the subject of sneakers, the brand Veja make (really cool) sneakers from 100% recycled plastic bottles, and use another biodegradable material called C.W.L. C.W.L is a vegan and bio-sourced material made from corn waste from the food industry. They  also use recycled cotton and recycled polyester in some of their sneaker styles. One of their styles even uses fish-hides, a byproduct of the food industry. They use every surplus material they can to make their sneaker have as little environmental impact as possible.

Patagonia 

One that I am sure you have all heard of, but I had to include it in this list. Patagonia is a certified B Corp, meaning that they adhere to the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. Essentially they use their business as a force for good. They are pretty well covered on everything from releasing the first Fairtrade wetsuits to minimizing their carbon footprint through constant research for the best and most sustainable ways to produce their products. The most remarkable story of Patagonia is probably that the former CEO Kristine Tompkins bought 10,000 acres of land in Patagonia and gave it to the Chilean government as a conservation site, creating 5 new national parklands in Chile. In my mind, they are the pioneers of juxtaposing environmentalism within the fashion value chain.

Nudie Jeans

Organic cotton has so many benefits. Firstly, the pesticides used in non-organic cotton are very harmful for farmers as well as eventually for the consumer. Eliminating the use of these toxic pesticides makes a much healthier environment for the land, trees, and prevents water contamination. Nudie jeans uses 100% organic cotton, offers free repairs, and takes back old jeans to reuse and recycle. Needless to say, they are making waves in the world of water intensive denim.

 

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