Review: In Praise of Slow

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Wow. So edgy and original.

So I recently finished this amazing book. You know when you read or hear someone speak, and it puts into words all the fragmented thoughts you have about something and pieces them together, but even better than you could, ‘cause they have more information and understanding? Well this book did that to me.

Carl Honoré’s book follows him as he looks into ways that we can live more slowly, interviewing people and trying things out for himself to give his honest opinion. By slow, he doesn’t necessarily mean taking ages to do everything; he describes it more as a way of life, of making connections with people and what you’re doing. It’s about living at a pace that best serves the environment and us. I picked three sections of this movement that most stood out to me and commented on them…

 

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This is why I love market day.

FOOD:

Food plays an important role in the slow lifestyle. Looking at the current climate, it’s not difficult to see where we went wrong…

‘It is speed and convenience which have turned farming into the abusive, heartless place it is nowadays. Even plants are pumped with pesticides and synthetic fertilisers to boost and speed growth. Every scientific trick known to man has been deployed to cut costs, boost yields and make livestock and crops grow more quickly’

‘Produce is picked before it’s ripe, shipped in ice, then artificially ripened at the destination. This messes with the life-span, taste and quality of our food’

‘Two centuries ago, the average pig took five years to reach 130 pounds; today it hits 220 pounds after just six months and is slaughtered before it loses its baby teeth’

‘In 2003, researchers at Essex University calculated that British taxpayers spend up to £2.3 billion every year repairing the damage that industrial farming does to the environment and human health’

Reading this makes you realise that the rate at which food makes its way to our plates currently, is wreaking havoc on the planet, animals and our bodies. Buying and eating locally sourced food in season is part of living within nature’s speed and rejecting the constant availability of modern convenience. Investing in organic food and rejecting processed, GM food (as well as boycotting McDonalds and the like, who are known to fly in the face of efforts to responsibly produce food) are all massively important ways to vote with your money. Spending time waiting for the dishes to be prepared in the proper time it should take, enjoying the company, and not feeling rushed to leave a restaurant sounds amazing- it does require a mind shift however.

 

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Yep. Not relevant in any way. Just a picture of my cat.

WORK:

We are taught early on in life that time is money. Honoré writes that as soon as that link was made, a race was begun to maximise profit and cheat time. Ironically though, it does come with a cost. Many individuals and companies are learning that more time spent ‘working’ does not translate to better productivity. In fact, limiting working hours makes you more likely to be focused. The payoffs for working less hours include better wellbeing, more family time, freedom to commit to other interests, and time to reflect on work things so that you make better decisions when you are there. Coined downshifting, it is essentially about being ‘willing to forgo money in return for time and slowness’.

Small, local business ties in with this way of life. The larger the company, the more likely (generally) it is to become impersonal and strive for profit. With the world the way it is, it’s easy to forget or to downplay small business, but there is something to be said for being able to work at a manageable pace on a smaller scale, and still making enough to put dinner on the table.

‘Pleasure before profit, human beings before head office’

 

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That time I drew a robin.

LEISURE:

When it comes to free time, slow activities can reap a bunch of benefits. For instance, knitting is a personal hobby of mine and I’ve picked it up again recently with more determination than ever. I learned as a child to knit (thanks Mum!) but I have to say, I felt quite frustrated that my creations would never look very neat and that it took so long to see results. It’s tempting to only take up hobbies that yield instant results or that, to put it bluntly, aren’t very difficult. That way you can’t disappoint yourself and can create the illusion of being more productive. But the thing is, hobbies don’t need to be productive. What I now love about knitting is exactly what frustrated me about it as a child! I don’t stress about how long my projects are going to take, because I can enjoy the process and I know it’s going to take a while. The repetitive movement is therapeutic for me, and requires me to be absorbed in the process, allowing my subconscious to mull over anything I need to.

Reading is another gem of a practice to weave into your every day. Taking as little as 10 minutes to read a book can calm me a hundred times more than several hours of Netflix-watching could. It has made a huge difference to my wellbeing in recent months. Even reading In Praise of Slow and taking notes on it for this blog post has deepened my appreciation of the content. I was forced to stop and consider every section carefully which allowed me to reflect on the points, work out which ones resonated with me, and decide how i might make changes in my life.

That is by no means an exhaustive list of slow leisure activities- beit writing, exercising, gardening or sitting in cafes… whatever it is that makes you happy, that you can focus on, that you enjoy so much you don’t care how long it takes, sounds like a winner. You deserve to give yourself enough time to practice those hobbies, because they are just as important as your job.

 

MY CONCLUSIONS:

The main point I’ll be taking away from this book is that things take as long as they take; you just have to accept that. If it’s important enough, you will be able to ‘justify the time’ and won’t begrudge yourself those activities. As a consequence, I’m especially invigorated to spend more time in the kitchen preparing food, making and growing things myself. That way I can connect to my food, be healthier and appreciate the length of time it takes to grow things.

It’s also made me think about who I want to be, and what I’m going to have to compromise in order to achieve that life. I don’t want to be someone always thinking of buying things. I don’t want to be surrounded by stuff. I want to spend my money on food and experiences, and I want to have the option of working less hours because I would rather have more time than money. So that means I’m going to have to keep struggling with that constant itch to spend and consume.

Sorry this post was so long! This was the very edited-down version! As you can tell, I enjoyed it 😛 I would highly recommend In Praise of Slow, and would love to hear what you think about it, and what other areas struck a chord with you.

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Small efforts.

Sometimes taking steps for the environment seem like massive sacrifices. Sometimes we think it’s only worth it we make a big impact. Today I thought I’d share a few things I’m trying that still count towards my effort, however small they may be.

 

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Spring onions and a leek 🙂

The window sill shenanigans are starting again! I know it doesn’t really make a major difference to the amount of food I have in, but re-growing veg in water is the first step in what I hope will be the beginning of growing food. It’s pretty amazing watching things grow! In a week my spring onions went from an inch long to a foot long and I chopped them up to use in a curry (below); now the roots are back in water again! Next week I’ll find a use for my regrown leek, and I also want to get a lettuce growing. See here for all the veg you can regrow in water.

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‘curry’ made completely from scratch!

I was eating a peanut butter and jam sandwich for lunch today when I noticed the peanut butter has palm oil in it. It’s so annoying! Ever since I watched Before the Flood (see my review here) I’ve been super motivated not to endorse that industry, but I haven’t been too successful. It’s in so many things! However, the next time I buy peanut butter I’m hunting down one without palm oil.

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The debris from a paper cull I did recently…

In general I’m alright at avoiding printing. My train/plane/coach tickets are always on my phone, and other than that I have very few reasons to actually print anything… eeeexcept for uni. We get a lot of handouts, which there isn’t a lot I can do about, but I also have to do a lot of reading from online books. I used to print out the readings every week so that no matter where I was, I could get to them. A week ago, I decided to just try and read off the screen and take notes instead, then print if I really felt the need. I have yet to feel that need. I think I used to tell myself ‘it’s all very well trying to be better to the environment, but I NEED to print this stuff for my degree!‘ when actually it turned out not to be such a massive thing. Hoping to keep this not-printing thing up as much as possible going forward!

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Sneaky cinema shot!

Every Wednesday I go to the cinema on my own to watch a foreign film. It’s my me-time. Part of this mid-week treat is buying myself some popcorn. I could make it myself, but I don’t have that much time on a Wednesday, plus it’s nice to give back to the uni cinema whose prices are insanely cheap and staff are lovely. Since the beginning of the year I’ve been bringing back the same box that I bought popcorn in for the first film. They refill it and at the end of the film I pop it back in my bag for next week. The cardboard has softened a little but it works just fine, and I must’ve saved a good dozen other boxes from going in the recycling. It’s super simple and easy, but it all helps!

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GO WORMS GO!

I got a worm bin back in the Autumn, and whilst that has helped to absorb a bit of my food waste, they don’t eat quite fast enough at the moment to deal with everything I create (and then there’s the odd thing they can’t eat like onions and citrus). I resigned myself to the fact that I’d have to chuck that stuff in the general bin in the kitchen until it hit me recently that I could take it into uni where they have food waste bins. About once a week, when I have a decent amount of scraps, I’ll take them onto campus and put them in one of their bins. Landfill diverted again, woo!

 

 

1 year on: Ecoegg laundry egg

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(Source)

It’s been a while since I reviewed a green product, and this’ll be the first non-toiletry related ‘1 year on’ I’ve done too! Ecoegg is a replacement for washing detergent, and is a hollow egg shape filled with pellets. As your machine fills with water, the pellets release a natural foam and mild fragrance to make your washing clean and fresh. I bought my Ecoegg just before I moved to France, and it was super useful not to have to worry about buying washing powder/tabs/whatever at all during my time there. Here’s what I think after over a year of using this.

Price:

I bought mine on Ebay for £18, which is more or less retail price. As is the case for many of my other reviewed products, I did have to initially spend more than I usually would in one go, but when you consider that what I bought should last me approx. 720 washes, you can imagine the saving! (Ecoegg calculates their product to cost about 3p per wash)

Durability:

So how it works is that you buy the egg along with refill pellets (I bought 10 refills which you replace every 72 washes, hence it all lasting me 720 washes). The mineral pellets should wear down by 72 washes, so then you just top it up with another refill. After all my pellets have run out I simply have to buy more to refill my egg 🙂 The egg itself will last a lifetime- that’s as reusable as I could hope to be!

Verdict:

I appreciate the simplicity of the Ecoegg; now all I need to remember is that (and the clothes obviously hah) not to mention it makes travelling a doddle.  I can’t imagine having to even think about regularly buying detergent! They both go in the drum and no need to worry about fabric softener either! The pellets are made from natural minerals and are 100% hypoallergenic- so if you have sensitive skin or babies, no problem 🙂 My only gripe is that the pellet refills came portioned out in 10 small plastic wrappers. If it wasn’t for that, they would’ve been completely waste-free! ARGH! Even so, it’s less plastic than individually wrapped tablets or bottles of fabric softener. I will however be shooting them my feedback via email after this to see if something can be done about the wrappers 😉

Thoughts on Black Friday.

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Ooh, so artistic.

In the aftermath of this Black Friday weekend, I thought it’d be interesting to write about it this year. Partly because of the blogs and organisations I follow nowadays, and partly because many people are starting to wake up to the reality of marketing ploys, I’ve witnessed more anti-consumerist responses to Black Friday this time around.

The likes of Greenpeace, Buy Me Once and Balloons Blow all published alternatives to the craziness of the buying frenzy, and inspired me to recommit to my conscious spending aim. Here are some things to think about when faced not just with Black Friday, but sales in general…

A sale doesn’t mean you’re saving money. By this, I mean that every time you buy something- whether it’s been reduced or not- that company has succeeded in taking your money. It’s no coincidence that you saw that ad online for 50% off, it is not lucky that you happened to click on it and find a bargain; it’s exactly what they planned to happen. Sales are designed to play on that part of your our nature that scavenges and hoards to survive (or at least did in the past), but most of us could do without another top or necklace in our lives and be just fine. I find that the more aware I am of my feelings and temptations when it comes to shopping, the more likely I am to be able to challenge myself to resist.

Believe in what you buy. It is no secret that we buy and own way more than we did even 50 years ago. But it’s gotten to a point where the planet can’t handle our wasteful ways (see this video showing what happens to much of the West’s discarded clothing for example). The solution is two-fold; it involves buying less in the first place, and then when you do need to buy something, choosing good quality things. Researching items that are ethically made, made of natural ingredients/materials and that are minimally packaged is really important because every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the type of world you want to live in. If you care about the process and workmanship that went into making that product for you, you should be prepared to pay for it full price.

Forward planning when you’re low on funds. By all means, if you want or need something but you don’t have a whole heap of spare cash lying around, a sale can be a glorious thing. If you hang on long enough and look in the right places, you can find pretty much anything at a reduced price. The good thing about being patient is that you have the space to evaluate and reevaluate whether you want that item. By the time you come across a good deal, you will know clearly what you need and whether you’re going to make use of it. I suppose what I’m saying is that there’s nothing wrong with sales if you look at them differently. Instead of them influencing you to spend money when you didn’t even want or need anything, consider shopping around and waiting for the appropriate (and inevitable) sale to roll around to get a deal on something you know you need.

Those were just a few things that sprang to my mind during the weekend. Do you have any tips for not giving in to the spending frenzy?

Reflections on my no-spend October.

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Apologies for the delay folks! The last few weeks have been pretty crazy round here. I just wanted to do a quick round up of my no-spend October, the ups the downs and what I’ve learned.

Successes:

I managed to go without buying any new items for myself for the entirety of October. It was hard. But I proved to myself it was possible. I was aided by the fact that I have next to no money at the moment anyway, but still, I know I would’ve found some to spend if I hadn’t been doing this challenge. It is empowering to know that if you set your mind to something you can achieve it.

Downfalls:

In a way, this challenge has only been a plaster on a bigger wound. My problem with buying unnecessary things has by no means gone away. At the end of the day, I knew that if I wanted to buy something, I only needed to wait until October was over to do so (and I have since made a few purchases). Now that I’m through the other side, I have learned that this is an ongoing challenge that I have to commit and recommit to.

Take-away points:

I already own a lot of things to enjoy – for instance, there are books I heard about in October that I felt desperate to buy. I was impatient to get started on them right away, but instead I picked up a book that I bought almost a year ago that I never got round to starting and I’ve enjoyed it so much! I’ve also spent more time doing other things that I know I enjoy such as drawing and DIY, which I made time for by not researching things to buy all the time.

Take time to consider – on the one hand, there are items I wanted when I started my no spend month that I still wanted just as much by the end. However, more often than those cases were the ones where I thought I needed something only to realise later that I could do without (either for the time being, or forever). Now, I know it’s important where possible to have a consideration period before I make purchases.

Shopping makes me feel good – if I really want to make progress, I’m going to have to be honest about my relationship with shopping. It makes me feel good. It temporarily takes away my negative feelings and fills whatever void I’m trying to distract myself from. This month may have dulled that urge, but it’s still very much there. I have a long road ahead of me that is going to require forgiving myself for falling short of where I want to be, as well as pushing myself to explore and overcome this addiction.

So, in short, I did it. I learned about myself and I took a step in the right direction of rejecting pointless consumerism. That’s all I can ask of myself at the moment I think!

Packed lunch.

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In an attempt to save money and avoid the temptation of buying packaged things, I’ve been taking a proper packed lunch. A properly organised packed lunch! Me!

Lunch is my least favourite meal. I’ve got breakfast down, and it’s a chuck-it-all-in-the-bowl scenario so it’s easy. Dinner is the fun one, when I get to try out new things and invest my time and energy into making something I’m proud of. Lunch on the other hand… What even is lunch? Anyway, that’s a question for another time.

After working out a lunch that is sufficiently filling and easy/quick to prepare, this is my current set-up along with the products that help me avoid rubbish and plastic!

First up, I make a sandwich with the baguette I buy package-free at the market, and fill it with peanut butter and jam. I have this pouch from Keep Leaf which seals with velcro, then folds out to a handy mat so that I don’t leave crumbs wherever I’m eating (usually a desk or in the café). I normally just brush off the crumbs and wipe the inside down with a wet cloth when I get home and it’s good to go again! It can also go through the washing machine I believe. It’s a great alternative to foil/cling film/sandwich bags which all end up in landfill.

I buy dry goods package-free every two weeks and I tend to alternate between almonds, cashews and brazil nuts. So whichever of these I have in that week, I wrap up a handful in a hanky to take with me. To tie up the hanky you simply take opposite diagonal corners and knot them together so that the ends of are laying over the remaining two corners (top right picture above). Then you make a second knot with the remaining two corners. It works a treat!

 

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Finally an apple and an orange go in. I then put all of the bits in my Keep Leaf lunchbag. Keep Leaf specialises in using organic fabric to make eco-friendly products and I think it’s  awesome. The food pouch/mat is a particular favourite and comes in useful all the time! Lunch sorted.

Small steps.

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I am reluctant to even mention the word ‘gardening’ at all in this post, because what I’ve been doing feels pretty far from it in many ways, but it’s exciting and a small step in the direction of gardening!

I found out recently that you can grow certain vegetables (spring onions, leeks, lettuce etc.) from the root in just water. So in theory, if I planned it right, I wouldn’t need to buy any of these again! I started off with spring onions, saving about an inch off the bottom and submerging its root in some water in a jar. Just over two weeks later I have these babies!

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The longest one (which I’m assuming I planted first)  has had about 5 inches of regrowth! In the next few weeks I’m going to chop it up and see what it tastes like. In hindsight, I might still be buying spring onions in the future, as the yield I’m currently getting is considerably smaller than you would get if you bought them. However, I’ll add a shoot or two to the shop-bought onions I’m using, why not. Eventually when I have a nice big collection, it’ll pay off, especially when you consider that they are organic.

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several of my growing onions has started to sprout another stem!

I have enjoyed watching these little guys shoot up so quickly, and it’s nice to have something low-maintenance to look after to ease myself into it! This week I’m adding a leek root to see how that does alongside the spring onions on my windowsill. See this article for a list of veggies you can regrow from water with tips 🙂

 

No spend October

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Yeah… So this is happening.

Somewhat (read: very) reluctantly I have decided to tackle my spending habits head on. In September 2015 I vowed not to buy any more clothes for as long as I could, and with the exception of a coat (honestly a necessity) I lasted the all the way until April 2016. It actually became easy after a while, and I got to know my style- I even got rid of stuff! I’m not technically doing that ‘challenge’ anymore, but I still rarely buy clothes (and now I am far better at knowing whether it’s just an impulse buy to fill a void).

I have noticed however that over the summer, in my quest to build up my eco-friendly homeware collection, I may have just replaced one obsession (clothes and general stuff) with another (wooden stuff, stainless steel and jars). Yes, I may be buying almost exclusively secondhand, but having more than I need isn’t good for me or the planet.

You know you’re onto something when the thought of challenging a habit makes you feel nervous (me right now) whilst the feeling you get from buying yet another jar (I know, I’m sad!) gives me a buzz.

I’m going to start off with a realistic set of rules for this one month challenge, as I don’t want to be so restrictive that it changes the way I socialise, but here’s what I’ve come up with as an initial goal:

CAN SPEND MONEY ON:

  • food
  • drinks/food with friends
  • experiences

CAN’T SPEND MONEY ON:

  • clothes
  • items

My plan is to see how this goes, then feedback at the end of the month. In a weird way I’m both apprehensive and excited for the results!