Environmentalism · Minimalism · Politics · Veganism · Zero Waste

Why I am a Zero Waste Vegan | It Should Not Be Controversial to say that Your Convenience is not worth a Global Catastrophe.

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With the global stress-induced migraine that was 2017 closing in, and the New Year ahead, full of hope and promise, I have been reflecting on my resolutions for 2018. Oddly enough, this year has been quite successful for me and my personal progress, so, with the aim being to shed some residual resistance before January, I have decided to start as I mean to go on, and turn this photoblog into a functioning website. I should preface this article by stating clearly that I am just beginning my zero waste journey, so (much to my perfectionist regret) I can in no way pretend to be an expert on the subject. I tried to shoehorn a Brexit reference in here, but snappy wit has never been my forte, so I’ll just be direct about it.

I am perhaps what is best described as a zero waste toddler. It was not so long ago that I was happily buying sodas from vending machines, unthinkingly giving my money to corporations that hugely contribute to the environmental destruction of the planet, and undertake human rights abuses towards their workers. Now I have learnt the word ‘No’, and I intend to use it liberally and unashamedly. Furthermore, I am far from the first person to reference the fact that our planet simply cannot sustain the levels of consumption demanded by a small proportion of the world’s population. The conclusion I have come to – and it is far from original or radical, though others may dispute this – is that I believe veganism and zero waste are fundamentally interconnected lifestyles, and that the most important action an individual can take to preserve the planet’s resources – water, land, energy, fossil fuels, clean air, human health and animal welfare, and to protect the environment as a whole – is to stop consuming animal products entirely.

Whether one does it for health, environmental, or animal rights reasons, if one cares enough about any of these issues, one should at least consider how they can begin transitioning to a vegan diet. For reasons that I cannot quite understand beyond aversion to inconvenience (also known as the “but bacon!” excuse), that remains a controversial statement for some. But we must understand that it is not a radical theory or a snowflake’s opinion that our planet is warming, the sea levels are rising, species are dying out, coral is being bleached, plastic is being dumped into the ocean where it strangles seals, chokes turtles, breaks down into microplastics that are consumed by birds and fish (and, of course, fish-eating whales, dolphins, and humans). It is happening right now. Not in the future. Right now.

Human impact is to blame, and we have a responsibility to do something to change the established order of things if we intend to preserve this planet for future generations of all the animals (both human and non-human) that call Earth home. We have enough food to make sure no one in the world need starve to death, but not while a small proportion of the planet’s population maintain their demand for meat. The most common causes of death and disease in richer nations stem from poor diet choices. We have the ability, the opportunity, and the responsibility to make a change.

Clearly, living on Planet Earth means that one must consume some things. The point of zero waste is not to achieve an impossible standard of perfection, but to make as much of a positive impact to minimise waste as is possible. I have found Bea Johnson’s “5 R’s” of zero waste to provide an extremely helpful guide to the essentials of the movement:

  1. Reduce what you need (e.g. meat and animal products; new consumer purchases)
  2. Refuse what you do not need (e.g. single-use plastics including plastic bags, bottles and cups, paper napkins, flyers and tissues; consider shopping in bulk and bringing your own containers, or making your own cleaning products)
  3. Reuse what you already have (e.g. wear what you already own, rather than buying new clothes; worn-out old clothes can be cut up and used as cleaning rags)
  4. Recycle what can be recycled, learn and follow your local area’s recycling rules. Recycling is better than landfilling, but not a perfect solution. The aim is to have accumulated as few materials that need to be recycled as possible, since plastics can only be recycled a limited number of times before they are landfilled, and they will never disappear from the Earth, only break down into smaller microplastics that are consumed by other living things.
  5. Rot the rest (i.e. compost organic waste)

I am far from perfect, and I make mistakes constantly, but I am trying to see my transition to a zero waste lifestyle as a journey. I will be learning as I go, giving myself the grace to accept that I will struggle, and I will not be an expert right away, and recognising that I will never be perfect. Ultimately, though, I want to live lightly on the planet, and to not see the day when the animals I loved as a child die out, or when the beautiful coastlines of the countries I have called home – and the houses, businesses and lives that go with them – disappear under rising sea waters.

One thing I know for sure is that avoiding such a future is worth any amount of inconvenience to me. How about you?

References:

Day Trip · Japan · Kyoto · Nature · New Year's Resolutions · Overseas · Photography · Travelling

Kyoto, Japan.

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We saved the place I had been looking forward to visiting most in Japan until our last week before leaving to travel to Germany. Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, felt very different from Osaka. It was extremely cold, despite the blue skies and sunny weather, so the boulevards decorated with Christmas lights and wreaths felt very appropriate. We visited Gion, the traditional geisha area of the city, which is still full of old wooden houses, and explored temples and shrines lined with shops selling goods with ornate and intricate Japanese designs. I bought a traditional wooden Japanese comb, and a decorative hair tie, as my hair is now long enough to tie back again.

By next weekend, we will be flying into Germany to begin the next chapter of our lives in Berlin. We will not have internet access until early January, so Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from twosuitcaseseach, and, until next time, have a peaceful end to the year, and let’s see what 2018 brings.

Animals · Day Trip · Japan · Nara · Nature · Overseas · Photography · Travelling

Nara, Japan.

Earlier this week, we took the train to Nara to visit the famous bowing deer at Nara Park. We visited the shrines and explored the forest along a quiet and peaceful hiking trail. This was probably the most ‘touristy’ thing we have done since arriving in Japan. You can buy deer cookies to feed the deer, and we were there in time to see the autumn colours in Nara as well.

Animals · Day Trip · Japan · Nature · Osaka · Overseas · Photography · Shinto · Travelling

Minoo Park, Osaka.

Yesterday morning, Dillon and I took the train north from Umeda out into the rural, mountainous suburbs of Osaka. We hiked from Minoo Station along a trail past woodwork shops to a temple and then up to a viewing platform at the top of the forest. It was a crisp autumn day, the leaves were beginning to change colour, and the sound of running water and the fall of leaves could be heard everywhere. My favourite place in Japan so far!

We will go back to Minoo Park in late November to see the autumn colours at their peak, and to visit the insect museum and waterfall, which were closed due to it being a Tuesday, and damage caused by Typhoons Lam and Saola respectively.

Animals · Anxiety · Berlin · Decluttering · Fashion · Japan · Mental Illness · Minimalism · New Year's Resolutions · Osaka · Overseas · Recovery · Stress · Travelling · Veganism · Visas · Zero Waste

October ’17 Life Update: Lots has been going on!

I’ve let updating my blog slip, which I always hate. I’m one of those people who prefers to do something properly or not at all. I can’t stand the idea of having unfinished projects or loose ends still to be worked on, which means I often start something with a burst of energy and then get rid of it completely when I can’t keep up that level of commitment. I have high expectations of myself and I’m a perfectionist on top of that (“The perfectionist’s perfectionist” is how I described it to someone who asked recently). It’s a double-edged sword, because I am known to be efficient, effective and highly productive, but ultimately I can’t deny that it is driven by my faulty mental wiring that simply will not allow me to be anything other than that.

Sometimes that itch of feeling myself to be not being good enough makes me think that I would rather delete this blog entirely than allow myself a few weeks off before writing a new post. I have definitely deleted multiple blogs and archived posts when I used to be on social media, and even before then I used to rip up diaries a page at a time when I was in school, because I couldn’t bear the idea that I would have to keep something around me where I had made a mistake on one page. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a wasteful condition, not just environmentally but the amount of wasteful energy it forces one to waste on stress and anxiety about literally anything it can. So I’m not going to apologise for this lull, because I think instead I need to give myself a break (“give myself grace”, as one of my favourite YouTubers, Allyson Faber, likes to say), and just do the best that I can in the circumstances.

Here’s what has been going on with me lately:

We have now booked our flights to Germany. We will be leaving Osaka in mid-December, and I have decided to hand in my notice earlier than I had previously intended, so that we will have time in November to visit Kyoto and Nara, and so I can generally have a bit of a rest before I start my new job in Berlin in January. We have done a lot of the administrative work for our move now, and Dillon has received his visa, so all we need to do now is to organise our accommodation in Berlin, which we are planning to do over the coming week.

Dillon and I have been making real progress with our transition to zero waste. We have cut down on the amount of plastic we consume by cutting out plastic bottles as much as is possible, and buying fruit fresh rather than pre-cut. We have set up four recycling stations in our storage closet: plastic bottles, glass and metals; other plastics; paper and cardboard; and textile recycling. The only waste going into our kitchen bin now is food waste, as we are not currently in the position to set up a composting station. We are excited to begin vermicomposting in Berlin.

I am considering setting up a YouTube channel alongisde this blog, where I would focus on topics including minimalism, veganism, zero waste and sustainable living. I have an idea to adapt Courtney Carver’s Project 333 into something like a Project 12-21 as one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018, which I would like to revolve around long-term ethical choices and sustainable changes in my life. I have been learning a great deal about the fast fashion industry, and thinking about changes I want to make in order for my life to reflect my values towards these issues.

Something I did not expect when I read ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ by Marie Kondo, and then began listening to the weekly Minimalists podcast, was how open and flexible I would become to making significant and sustained change in my life. Minimalism led me to veganism, which got me interested in zero waste, which began forcing me to ask questions about sustainable consumption, and now I am learning more about environmental ethics and thinking about plans for the future that include some kind of project to help learning disabled children learn or traumatised children recover through learning centred around caring for animals.


I am glad to be moving to Germany soon so that we can be closer to our family. If you are inclined to do so, please keep my mum in your thoughts, as she is currently resting and recovering, and I hope I am able to talk to her on Skype soon xx

Anxiety · Japan · Minimalism · Osaka · Overseas · Photography · Stress · Travelling · Visas · Zero Waste

Umeda Sky Building, Grand Front Osaka, and Germany Update.

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Dillon and I visited Umeda Sky Building today, where I took this photo from the rooftop observatory. We were over 150m high and could see the whole city as well as the mountains that surround Osaka and out to the sea. We still have not visited Abeno Harukas, the tallest building in Japan at 300m tall, but we will go there in early December to visit an exhibition on Studio Ghibli, so hopefully we will get a chance to take some more photographs of Osaka from above then too. In the gift shop, I managed to find some beautiful handmade Japanese craft items, including some handkerchiefs, hand towels, and body towels, all with lovely traditional designs. I also bought a little pouch in the shape of a rabbit to keep the smaller items in, as well as a kanji keychain for us both. I have been looking for items to bring back from Japan, but I have some criteria that they must fit into first:

1) The item is light, and will not take up much room in our suitcases

2) The item is handmade in Japan, and meaningful to our experience in Japan

3) The item is something I have already been looking for because we need it

We also visited Grand Front Osaka, a huge shopping mall with a whole floor dedicated to gorgeous stationery and specialist stores. I have never seen anything like it, and I don’t think there is anything like it in the UK that I can think of. I often find it is too difficult to buy anything when I visit those places, because there is so much choice, and everything is so special, so I just enjoy walking around and looking at different things instead. It is giving me lots of ideas for nearer the time when we leave Japan and I will be looking for some gifts to get people, though.

Finally, an update on our move to Germany: after going back and forth trying to get the right documentation, I have managed to set up an account to transfer money from Japan to the UK, so we will be able to pay for things like our plane tickets and deposit on a new apartment now. Secondly, I have completed the work documentation necessary for me to begin working in Germany, and we are lucky enough that the relocation agency who are helping us to move have said they will organise all appointments needed and provide translation services whenever required as part of their service. Lastly, we have sent a copy of our marriage certificate to the UK to get an apostille, and once we have received that we will be able to continue with the visa process for Dillon. We are a lot further along now than we were two weeks ago, or even last weekend, so I am feeling more relaxed about the situation now.