1 Year On: North Face Duffel Bag

So I received this bag as a birthday present from my boyfriend last year. I researched a whole heap of brands and bags and decided that this one really suited my needs. I had travelled with only carry-on a few times up until this point, using a large rucksack which stuck out so far on my back I would accidentally take people out in stations and on the street (woops!) so it was about time I invested in something a little better. Other than that I wanted something waterproof and durable, and what I ended up with seems to be doing a good job!

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Price:

RRP is £95 but I shopped around in the January sales and got mine for approximately £60 which I think is fair for such a good quality bag. It is definitely possible to get a 50 litre bag or suitcase for cheaper, but like I said, I think it pays to spend a little more.

Durability:

A year on, and I must have used this bag at least once a month on average. It honestly looks identical to the day I got it (minus a few dirt marks). The material is so sturdy and strong that It could hold some seriously heavy weight and not struggle. Every part is working perfectly, reinforced, and made from indestructible stuff. Even down to the mesh pocket on the inside of the flap; I’ve ripped a few of those in my time, but this one’s going nowhere!

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Verdict:

Due to the tubular shape of this bag, I no longer turn around and nearly kill someone! I much prefer travelling with this bag to my previous turtle-like existence.. The padded backpack straps are comfortable and there are so many other little handles on it, for lifting it up and moving it around. It almost seems excessive, but they’re very useful! From reading reviews of previous versions of the base camp duffel bag, it sounds like they’ve listened to feedback and thought of everything. It’s a simple, practical design, but done well. I’m very glad I invested in this bag 🙂

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No Spend January | Week 2 round up.

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So this week 2 has been a considerably more pleasant experience! I mean it can only go up from forgetting that you’re actually doing a no spend challenge! Anyway, I’m letting go (if I say it that makes it true, right?!)

Saying that, it was my birthday on Wednesday (23, would you believe!) Obviously that meant a few presents. I got such practical but still fun gifts, thanks family! Sewing supplies from my siblings, a couple of basic tops from White T-shirt Co. from my parents, to replace the bobbly, rubbish ones from H&M I’ve had for years 🙂

Other than that, I’ve noticed myself feeling the urge to shop when feeling down. I’ll add that to the list of situations which seem to trigger my spending, like boredom, and being paid haha! Also, I think a social media + email purge is in order. Even just a few emails or Instagram adverts about January sales are enough to make me feel like I’m missing out on some mysterious bargain!

In more positive news, I’m feeling super satisfied with my wardrobe. I’ve pared it down to the perfect size and I love all my items. It’s taken me a good couple of years since I started this journey and without the temptation to buy anymore clothes, I’m getting the chance to really appreciate them! Nothing can seep into my consciousness if I can’t even see it 😉

Just a short post this week, but I’m feeling optimistic about the remainder of  January 🙂 Stay tuned for another post in the week!

No Spend January | Most treasured items.

I read this article from the Guardian that articulated something I hadn’t really thought about before. Materialism and Consumerism are so often used interchangeably but they are quite different. These days our society is dubbed more materialistic than ever, when actually the bigger issue is the excessive consumerism.

Materialism= preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations (link)

Consumerism= the fact or practice of an increasing consumption of goods (link)

Like the article says (better than me by the way) is that they are both linked and both relevant to the Western lifestyle, however consumerism has gotten to such a level that for most people the owning of an item almost means nothing after the novelty of the purchasing it has worn off. The fact that you can buy another [insert product here] means that the one you have always pales in comparison to the shiny advertised one.

Richard Denniss argues that we could do with a bit more materialism to be honest! (Or at least value of our belongings) That way we would seek to repair, maintain and use our things until the end of their lives before replacing them.

In light of this reading, I got to thinking about how my mindset is slowly shifting (although that damned consumerism still eats at my brain far too often). I wanted to share a handful of items with you all that I treasure dearly and intend to keep for as long as I can…

DSC01971.jpg1. Wool cardi– I bought this hand-knitted wool cardigan from one of my favourite vintage shops little over a year ago, and to be honest, I didn’t really realise how much I was going to love it. When I tried it on I loved how classic it looked and thought it would go with my wardrobe (all true) but the reasons I love it now, go so much beyond… It doesn’t have a label in it, so I’m inclined to think that someone hand-knitted it, which is a lovely thought. It is hands down THE WARMEST THING EVER and puts every other cardi I’ve ever owned to shame *AND* the buttons are made of wood which is both adorable and means that the whole thing is biodegradable. Need I go on?! (I’ll spare you)

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2. Fountain pen– I’d known of the brand, and whilst I’m not immune to branding, I had no real desire to own a Parker pen. I chanced upon a market stall one day selling new and used fountain pens, and explained to the man that I wanted one you could refill with ink from a bottle. He showed me a range, from about £20 to the one I eventually bought for £140. I sooo wasn’t planning on spending that kind of money on a pen (I have since had many a horrified look from friends and family upon hearing this) but I’m glad I invested in a good quality, good-looking and not plastic pen. I look forward to writing now and take more care when I do it, which for me has been a unforeseen bonus!

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3. Duffel bag– travel has been a regular and important occurrence for me for the last five years, and knowing your bag will stand the test of time makes me grateful. Mine is waterproof, worn like a backpack, the largest size you can take as your carry on with every airline and is made of sturdy stuff. It serves me well on any trip of any length for any purpose meaning it’s the only travel bag I need and there’s nothing I love more than simplicity 🙂

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4. Bike– as I type this, it’s been just over a week since I got hit by a car, meaning my bike has prematurely reached the end of its life.. I’m very sad, because my plan was to repair and replace parts as needed and not have to buy another one for a long time. This was my first adult bike, and I’ve ridden it practically every day for about 3 years. It represented my freedom and I loved it. It was secondhand when I bought it, so I expect it’s had a good run at least. Looks like I will have to replace it, but the point still stands that a bicycle is something I can’t see myself being able to live without, so it definitely deserves a special mention on this list.

No Spend January | Week 1 round up.

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So it’s been a week of not spending money on stuff + clothes. These diary entries kind of sum up what it’s been like so far…

03/01/2018, 11:00

So far it hasn’t been too hard. I’ve been busy with work all day, and I have also had some bits arriving in the post from purchases I made in late December (all sensible purchases, but exciting nonetheless).

I have felt the urge to browse internet shops a few times when bored in the evening- that’s my weak time- so I am going to try and introduce more activities into my evening so I have other ideas to turn to.

03/01/2018, 18:13

Damn it, I just failed and I didn’t even realise! A raincoat (I don’t really need it, just prefer it to the one I have) that I was watching on Ebay was ending today, and I got an email saying that bidding was over in a few minutes. The price was good and no one had bid yet, so I immediately went on and won it. It took me a further ten minutes to remember that I am not supposed to be buying stuff this month. Forget what I wrote this morning about it being easy, I obviously have a problem.

 

…So, yeah. It would seem that buying things and browsing shops online mindlessly is something that I do. This is gonna take some real effort to stop. In December when I decided to do this challenge I did not realise how far gone I was! I don’t think it sunk in until that second diary entry that things have regressed for me. Hopefully that slip up will be enough to make me remember that I’m actually doing this challenge! *facepalms*

I was that close to saying, ‘maybe January isn’t a good time to be doing this’. My birthday is coming up (which’ll mean more things) plus I’ve messed up already. But you know, if it was easy I wouldn’t need to do it. Even with my birthday and my accidental ebay purchase, I’m I’ll still find it hard enough!

Basically, I’m hanging in there. Stay tuned for updates 🙂

1 Year On: Klean Kanteen

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Happy New Year friends! Thought I’d go old school and do a ‘1 Year On’ review :)It’s actually been over 2 years that I’ve owned my Klean Kanteens, but for the sake of this series we’ll say it’s been a year 😉 These were some of very first purchases on my zero waste journey, and were somewhat of an impulse buy. I don’t recommend impulse buying, but occasionally it works out! Klean Kanteen bottles are quite popular in the zero waste community, because the classic style is made without a single piece of plastic in it (just a ring of silicone on in the lid as a seal). Most metal bottles will still have plastic somewhere on them…

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Price:

I went for one traditional wood-topped bottle and a sports cap bottle for versatility. They both cost about £20 each, which is as cheap as this brand gets, but is probably at the more expensive end of reusable bottles. However, you do get what you pay for, so I feel it was a good investment.

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Durability:

As I said, I think you really get what you pay for in terms of the quality of these bottles. I’ve had other stainless steel/aluminium bottles in the past that haven’t lasted too well, or leaked/broke. Two odd years since I bought mine, they still perform just as well as they initially did. I’ve even accidentally dropped them both on various occasions- full of water, which has broken many a bottle of mine- and they are a little dented on the bottom, but I’ve concluded that they’re virtually bulletproof now that they’ve passed the Lydia test! You’re welcome 😉

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Verdict:

One thing I would say is that I prefer the narrow necked ones to the sports tops, because it’s easier to drink quickly without spilling water all down yourself (by yourself I mean myself. Most people probably just drink sensibly). Also, you need to make sure the sports top is screwed on straight otherwise it’ll leak. So that’s not great. In terms of cleaning, I tend to only drink water from mine, and they’re constantly in use, so I don’t really wash them that often. But it is easier to wash the sports bottle because the opening is wider. Generally I use the sports one when I’m exercising, camping and potentially dirty places (?) then use the wood topped one around the house, in my bag and everywhere else.

I have no need or want to replace them; they last, they look good (especially the wooden lid, so elegant!) and water tastes so much better out of them than plastic, not to mention healthier!

 

 

 

No spend month – take 2

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I’m so smug about this photo!

So in October 2016 I challenged myself to spend no money on clothes or items (see here for details of the rules, and here for my reflection on how it went at the end). Just over a year later and I’m back again with another one! Generally I think I’m in a better situation in terms of resisting consumerism and owning less, however I have to recognise that this is something I have struggled with and continue to struggle with. A regular check and yearly challenge can only do me good!

This time, I figured it was necessary as I’ve felt the Christmas shopping madness seep into my consciousness and I’ve been indulging myself in the thrill of buying new things for myself a lot more than usual. I recently watched this video by Minimalist Ninja about relapsing from minimalism, and it’s inspired me not to beat myself up too much and to get back on the horse! (is that a phrase? I use it all the time, so I hope so…)

So for the entirety of January I’m going to do the challenge! My rules are quite simple:

SPEND: food, drink, experiences, absolutely necessary toiletries

NO SPEND: clothes, items

Unlike last time, I’m going to document my progress a lot better in January, posting updates and excerpts from a diary I’ll be keeping specifically for when I’m struggling with the challenge (which will be often I assure you!)

Hopefully I’ll get more out of it and I can move forward with this thing. Hopefully someone will find my observations helpful. Alright, that’s enough for today 🙂

5 Things this Monday…

Macaque Maintenance

  1. There’s a new documentary on Netflix advocating veganism and exploring the treatment of animals in farms- yes! Netflix is such a good source of documentaries and I can’t get enough of them 🙂 Check out the trailer here.
  2. The winners of the 2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest have been announced, and their pictures blew me away today. What better reason to want to save this beautiful planet…
  3. 10 ways to use a handkerchief! Tea towels and hankies are so useful for so many things! They really come into their own when you go zero waste, I love them.
  4. It’s probably too late for this year, but this article gives advice on what trees can be kept in pots outside then brought in for Christmas year after year, as well as tips on how to care for them. I’m definitely keeping this bookmarked.
  5. Buy Me Once has put together a review of reputable knife brands to find out which is the best. Could be a last minute gift idea or something to invest in with your Christmas money that’ll last a lifetime.

An Ethical Mobile Phone?

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I’ve been meaning to review my new smartphone for a few months now, but having read this article by the Guardian this morning on the conditions in Apple’s factories, I thought what better time than now..

I actually mentioned the Fairphone brand in my post on more environmentally-friendly technology, titled Green Your Tech. Today I’m going to cover the main advantages and disadvantages in more detail, as it’s been about 2 months since it arrived!

Ethical sourcing of materials + manufacturing

In my previous post, I talked about how Fairphone are the only phone manufacturer I am aware of that sources its materials fairly. Considering that the minerals used in phone manufacture are likely to be contributing to conflict in countries all over the planet (hence the term ‘conflict minerals’), this represents the only way to avoid profiting from and perpetuating that situation. Fairphone traces their materials every step of the way to ensure that they come from sources that are good for the planet and the people that collect them. For more information, see their policy here.

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Durability

Fairphones are modular and easy to take apart. The idea is that when one part of the phone reaches the end of it’s life or breaks, you can simply purchase the one faulty bit and replace it yourself, diverting a whole phone from landfill where it would usually end up. Normally when a phone breaks, it costs almost as much as the original purchase price to repair, or there is no option for repair and you have to buy new. Not only is there the option to repair a Fairphone, but because you can do it yourself, it ends up being quite cheap. What more incentive do you need! Considering the fact that I haven’t had a smartphone last longer than 2 years (due to the failure of one part or another), I’m optimistic about the Fairphone’s chances.

Usability

This is what probably most people have asked me: Does it perform to the standard of most smartphones these days? Before I discovered that an ethical phone was possible, I deemed it a necessary evil of modern living that I would have to buy a mobile made in questionable circumstances. My only real concern after that was how much quality I could get for my money. Being used to pretty good phones (my last 2 were a Galaxy Note 3 and a SONY Xperia Z2) I’m going to be honest and say that the Fairphone does feel like a downgrade. In most respects it performs like every other android I’ve had in the last few years (when I unlock my phone it is easy to forget that it isn’t any one of the previous 3 I’ve owned) except for in a few respects. You can tell by how light and toy-like (?) it feels to hold compared with ‘normal’ smartphones, that Fairphone aren’t equipped with the same resources available to their larger counterparts who would’ve been able to slim it down to about half it’s size and make it feel a little less like a toy or a prototype. This, and a few other minor luxuries, I can of course live without. My only real gripe is the terrible 12MP camera which doesn’t take any decent pictures of anything. I’m really hoping they come up with a better quality camera I can replace this one with in the future.

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Eco-credentials

Even before and during the buying process, I noticed some crucial differences in the way that Fairphone operates. Firstly, I was very pleased to learn that on their partner site The Phone Coop, there is an option to buy a refurbished Fairphone 2. Not only was I about to purchase the most ethical phone on earth, but I could get one that had already had some kind of life thus contributing to a circular economy, not to mention saving £80 off the RRP! Then, before adding the phone to your basket, they have an option to buy one with or without a charger. At this point, I was on another planet of happiness. The amount of times I’ve wished every new mobile didn’t have to arrive with those crummy earphones that break after a month or so and another charger for you to add to your collection I thought to myself as I clicked ‘Add to Basket’.

By the time my Fairphone arrived in ALL RECYCLABLE and NON PLASTIC packaging, it was like all my birthdays had come at once! Barring the screen protector film, all I was left with was a couple of bits of cardboard which I’m going to reuse and IT’S SO GOOD!

They even allow you to send your old phone back in for recycling, like, can it get any better than that?!

CONCLUSION

Fairphone have thought of everything. Here was me, patiently waiting for a phone that would either be modular, or come in recyclable packaging etc. and they’ve sorted pretty much everything! Literally the only drawback is that the camera is about five years in the past.

In terms of whether it’ll catch on, I think the standard and features of today’s smartphones are so high that it’d be difficult to convince someone to go backwards in that respect. However if you, like me, try to buy exclusively ethical and eco-friendly items and thought that a phone was one of those necessary evils then GUESS WHAT! This phone is for you! See the website and consider getting one when your current phone dies 🙂

Reaction to ‘Your convenience is irrelevant’

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So I saw this video come up on Gittemary Johansen’s Youtube Channel (great channel btw, do check it out for zero waste related awesomeness) and the title sounded provocative so I thought I’d write a quick commentary on the main points she covers..

 

“Everything worth doing is difficult” 

Agreed. Hands down.

 

“Convenience has become a really important value in our society” 

It’s so interesting that the concept of something being easier to get has grown into a virtue. Something being more easily available says nothing about the quality or ethics of its production, so it’s interesting that it has become in a lot of cases the ONLY guiding principle.

 

“Your time [has to] matter… all the time”

Convenience has a whole lot to do with time. Time has become its own currency in a way, and for many people, taking advantage of modern convenience is the only way to get everything done in the day. It will probably require you simplifying your life or prioritising zero waste over other areas if you want zero waste to work, or at least not feel like a mammoth task to you. (My review of In Praise of Slow is relevant here)

 

The difference between being wasteful and not, is a matter of “really small insignificant changes”

For the most part this is true. Most of the time it just means picking up a tote bag or a reusable bottle/cup etc. or buying a different brand/from a different shop. The harder part is changing your habits and going against the grain. It’s these two things (and particularly the latter) which make going zero waste more difficult to achieve. I suppose it still comes under the umbrella of convenience; it is socially inconvenient to have to explain yourself/argue with someone who is intent on giving you unnecessary disposable items. Preparation and repetition is key here.

 

“Those seconds… make the difference” 

I like this point that the video ends on: when it comes to making zero waste changes, we’re talking a matter of seconds or minutes difference. It is small, but they add up. Concentrating on the small changes one at a time stops you from being overwhelmed by the larger picture (I say as a reminder to myself as much as advice to anyone else!)

 

 

Thanks for reading!

5 Things this Monday

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Happy Monday folks!

  1. The Natural History Museum in London has committed to not selling plastic bottles, YESSS! Apparently the Oval Cricket Ground is to follow suit in the next few years, and it comes several months after Wetherspoons’ no straw decision. THE TIDE IS TURNING PEOPLE!
  2. This short article from Pebble gives tips on how to buy less and make more this Christmas. If, like me, you are tired of the consumer madness and fancy some Christmassy making sessions instead then take a read!
  3. I’d love to have a go at propagating mushrooms from the ends! It’s always fun to eat things you’ve grown yourself, and this is one I’ve yet to try.
  4. This letter from a mother to her vegan daughter made me think. For probably most vegans, it is difficult to stand by and watch people put their health at risk and contribute to animal cruelty etc. but the disintegration of a relationship like this is quite sad.
  5. It makes sense when you hear it aloud: Wasting time is psychologically important. It’s not healthy or conducive to productivity to always be doing ‘useful’ things. This article is well articulated.