Paris To Go

Zero Waste Bed


Whereas American mattress stores recommend replacing your mattress every seven or eight years, French mattresses age like a Big Mac, lasting a lifetime. After sleeping on a thinner, temperature regulating wool mattress for years, I don't understand America's obsession with overstuffed ones. It's crazy we have no clue what's inside, from largely unregulated chemical layers to dust mite / mice-attracting springs and flame retardants. Despite purported technological innovations (and high markups to match), most people buy the same mediocre mattresses they did twenty years ago, with only nominal differences. My family in Korea sleep on yo (shikibuton), and don't have snoring or sleep apnea or back or allergy problems, unlike my American family. When I found a kit online, I decided to make one myself and was immediately sold. Organic cotton, with pure wool and cotton filling, and six inches thick, I love my bed the way Scott loves Kourtney- in an unstable, yet enduring way. Unlike traditional mattresses, this has a life span of at least twenty years, I just need to air it in the sun occasionally and rotate it on the frame.

 

While I don't recommend making your own mattress (it's exasperating), you can buy a natural futon or wool mattress online. I like the concept and minimalist design of the Floyd bed, but since I didn't want to roll up my mattress everyday, I needed a frame it could breathe on. Years ago, I saw the Trestle CNC bedframe on Pinterest. Its sturdy slot together construction acts like a skeleton, requiring no tools or screws for assembly, and it's portable, packing flat (I can fit all the pieces for my queen size bed in my car- see my Instagram story highlights for video). To make one yourself, download and take to a makerspace, fab lab, or woodworking shop with a CNC big enough for a 4x8 sheet of plywood. 


 

My bed requires two sheets of 3/4 inch plywood, which run around $150 new at big box stores. Instead of FSC certified or formaldehyde free plywood such as PureBond, you can buy salvaged sheets at a Habitat Restore or something similar. In Cleveland, Metro Hardwoods mills lumber from fallen city trees. You'll probably have to purchase a membership at a makerspace or fab lab to rent time on the CNC machine. A month membership at the Columbus Idea Foundry, for instance, is $65. To rent the ShopBot, they require a $47 orientation class (this particular bedframe was cut with a Goliath CNC, which is easier). Renting the machine is then $25 an hour. At a minimum, then, a queen size bed frame would cost about $337, although mine was cheaper since it's made from cabinet grade plywood leftover from somebody else's project.

 

I use a white Fog Linen flat sheet and H&M linen duvet cover and pillowcases (secondhand from eBay), because I think fitted sheets are barbaric. My pillows are old cotton fill I took from my family, I just washed them in the machine and air dried in the sun. I bought my wool fill and organic cotton duvet in Paris at a mattress shop near Ledru Rollin, and I knew how the sheep were treated (they weren't castrated or killed or cut or anything, the couple that owned the shop were plant based and owned the farm where the sheep lived), although I don't need to justify myself. Synthetics are crueler to animals and people alike. 

 

It’s nice that the corners are rounded, because in Paris I was always stubbing my shins on the sharp corners of our Habitat bed. The platform leaves just enough room for a glass of water or book beside the mattress, and has plenty of storage space underneath. This frame is unfinished, but you can use linseed oil or Bio Poly Earthpaint to protect yours. Shikibuton and yo are pretty firm, so if that's not for you, the Futon Shop has more traditional mattresses, and on the higher end, Coco Mat or Avocado mattresses are eco-friendly options. I don't really know many sources for sustainable furniture, but West Elm and Ikea make relatively responsibly sourced materials widely available at accessible price points, and strive for minimal packaging (a presumable cost cutting measure).
Paris to Go

Zero Waste Wardrobe

   
   
   
  
   
   

If your entire wardrobe doesn't fit in a carry on, what are you even doing? I'm kidding, because numbers don't matter much. Everyone's ideal wardrobe size is different, and we need to step away from one size fits all approaches in favor of individualized ones. A person's wardrobe is one area where the paradox of choice and law of diminishing returns applies, however, so sticking to signature pieces (trench coat, sneakers, camel coat) and simple styles I love (bodysuits or scoop necks with a pair of jeans, tailored dresses) instead of always chasing the newest or latest is actually freeing. It also kept me creative, forcing me to figure out how to combine pieces in new ways (although all I really did was wear skirts over my dresses) and breathe life into old clothing. I learned how to shorten jeans while keeping the original hem, how to take in garments, darn socks, patch items, and knit in my quest for the perfect wardrobe. I think I can still express myself through my clothing because each piece shows that I value practicality and minimalism, but also that I live in the same city as Khloe Kardashian.

A well constructed closet is useless without proper foundations. I sold my Agent Provocateur sets because one day I looked in the mirror and was like, my Pansy sets are way cuter (FYI Agent Provocateur is something you buy for yourself, because men can't handle it). You can wear them with fully recyclable silicone Nippies to make them office appropriate. Most of my clothes are secondhand, but I like Pansy, Dôen, A Wool Story, Re/Done, and Reformation for new items because they're sustainable and ship plastic free. On Etsy, I like Rawson and Shopfuture. Poshmark is typically where I shop for brands like Re/Done and Reformation, but eBay is better for specific items, like my secondhand Dior Oui ring. Violette Leonie is pretty much the only place I ever bought clothes in Paris, apart from the long closed Vintage Bar, where I found my Louis Vuitton coat. Most of my Dior and Louis Vuitton items were from The Real Real, but I don’t recommend them anymore- their stuff is always dirty and they no longer ship plastic free. It's still better than Vestiaire Collective.


While buying secondhand seems like a no brainer, consuming too much of anything is never a good idea, and even donating responsibly sourced items can have far reaching impacts. Americans donate over 4.7 billion lbs of clothing each year, only about 1% of which is suitable for sale in thrift stores. The rest is sold to commercial used clothing dealers and textile recyclers for export. Thrift store clothing has a limited shelf life - about a month before being sent to clearance centers and exported. The influx of used clothing in destination countries impedes local industries and further burdens communities with the problem of disposal. To limit turnover in my wardrobe, I stick to shapes and colors I won't get sick of years from now, only replacing items as my size and lifestyle changes, which is why it took me all year to buy a second pair of jeans. 

  1. Levi's Wedgie high rise, Coyote Desert, 26 
  2. Levi's 646 bell bottoms, indigo wash (orange tab from the 70s), 26 in modern sizing
  3. Levi's Wedgie cuff shorts, size 25 
  4. Equipment cotton shirt (heavily tailored- cropped and taken in, it's still very loose and I might get rid of it idk. How do French girls wear such large shirts?) size XS petite 
  5. L'ecole des Femmes Oui shirt, sz M (similar)
  6. Black H&M tank top sz XS 
  7. Black Re/Done bodysuit sz S (very high cut- if you buy it new, buy from Barneys or the Outnet- they ship plastic free) 
  8. Reformation Lozita bodysuit navy sz SM 
  9. Reformation Piper top sz S
  10. Reformation Axel bodysuit sz S 
  11. Dior black dress sz 36 
  12. Dior navy dress sz 36 
  13. Dior gray dress sz 38, taken in 
  14. Louis Vuitton black wool skirt, 38, taken in 
  15. American Apparel grey henley dress 
  16. White American Apparel tank top 
  17. Salt Dôen Brigitte t-shirt, size S
  18. Tawny Dôen Brigitte t-shirt size S - these are the perfect t-shirts. The fabric will never get little holes and the colors don't fade. They're completely opaque, and hide my back fat  
  19. Louis Vuitton raincoat sz 40 
  20. Camel Dior coat sz S 36 (as you all know, I got this at a thrift store in NYC)
  21. A Wool Story socks, hat, and mittens 
  22. Nuria Couturiere espadrilles (I've had these for years- Sezane makes similar ones) 
  23. Pact Organic socks (purchased new... I hate them. Their branding and packaging are so obnoxious, but they were at Whole Foods so I thought, why not) 
  24. Christian Louboutin Simple pumps sz 37.5, 100 mm
  25. Ferragamo Vara sz 7C, stretched at the store, although now they're a little loose since I'm not walking all the time
  26. Stuart Weitzman boots sz 38 
  27. Nike Wedge Sky Hi's sz 37 
  28. Nike Air Force 1's flyknit sz 37 
  29. Longchamp Pliage- medium shopper in grey. These bags have a lifetime warranty, so if the corners wear out and the bag can no longer be repaired, they will replace it 
  30. American Apparel swimsuit XS 
  31. Gucci sunglasses and Rayban glasses for me to wear while looking at the computer at work 
  32. Dior ring sz 7 
  33. Pansy sets in rose and black (two bras plus enough briefs for the week- and these bras do work for larger than a D cup) 
  34. J Crew vintage cotton pajamas, secondhand. The reviews say they look like scrubs but frankly they're very cute on me 
I plan on buying leggings and a sports bra because I have to face facts and start working out, but I’m in no hurry. For the time being, I can just swim and hike and carry sheets of plywood around (and if you’ve followed me a while now, you know I mountain bike in my grey dress). Every season I wash my coats and sneakers with castile soap and air dry. This year I didn't need to take anything to the cobbler or tailor, but I let some seams out because of my new sedentary American lifestyle.

I tend to buy in store because of my strange body type, but not everyone has decent thrift stores in their area. Shopping online isn't necessarily worse for the environment- studies from MIT, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon indicate online shopping tends to have less environmental impact on its own. Brick and mortar facilities require energy, and driving to shops creates emissions, whereas delivery services have incentives to optimize and streamline routes for efficiency. Packaging accounts for 22% of emissions when buying online, whereas customer transportation accounts for 65% of emissions when buying in store, according to Carnegie Mellon.


This doesn't account for consumer behavior. People often supplement in store shopping with online shopping, and opt for faster shipping times or returns, resulting in increased emissions. So the best thing to do is buy less, plan ahead, and bundle shipments; research purchases to avoid mistake buys, refuse express shipping, and take public transport when shopping at stores whenever possible.
Paris to Go

Building a Zero Waste Pantry



It's hard to do a post on this because a sustainable diet depends so much on location, culture,  values, socioeconomic factors, and dietary restrictions. Not only can I not eat gluten, but I can't tolerate grains, soy, or too much sugar or caffeine. Plus the way I eat was shaped by growing up in a country where celiac disease was considered a fake psychosomatic thing. For half my life, gluten free options were virtually unheard of, and I got used to eating mostly whole foods without a lot of additives. I also happen to like Korean foods a lot (duh), or dishes I learned to cook on my travels, and some of the spices or ingredients essential to making these are imported (to hear more about this listen to the Live Planted podcast).

As I wrote on Instagram, where I live now, it’s difficult to get necessary nutrients while relying exclusively on local produce year-round. Food miles account for only a fraction of our carbon footprint, dwarfed by emissions resulting from food production. However, Mama Eats Plants inspired me to be more aware of the impact of imported foods (like the cacao nibs and shredded coconut I love), not just in terms of emissions, but other important issues like water usage, farmer rights, and cultural erasure. The social benefits of buying local can’t be overlooked, including supporting community cohesion and reinvesting in the local economy. So I try to source imported ingredients from companies that divert food waste, like Perfectly Imperfect Produce. That way I enjoy out of season produce without feeling deprived, and support a local female-owned business.

The foods listed below are ones I use most often. This changes based on where I'm living or my circumstances. Your list will be totally different, especially given my strange eating habits. Zero waste is highly individual, so these posts aren't prescriptive- I can only write about my own experiences, but hopefully the principles (not buying too much, eating plant based, using what I have) can be adapted to your situation.


Flours

  • Coconut- Fresh Thyme carries organic, GF coconut flour. I use one quart size jar every three months or so.
  • Almond- it's cheaper and easier to make this myself. Just put almonds in a food processor and pulse! It's so easy. I use this in smaller quantities- only about 1 pint size jar every three months. I try to limit almond usage because of the energy and resources required to produce it, and the way the bees are treated (almond milk is still a lot better than dairy, however)

Beans / Legumes

  • Quinoa- not either of these things, but I eat one quart maybe 3x a year for the protein. It is imported, but I don't want to eliminate this from my diet completely for fear I won't be able to tolerate it again.
  • Chickpeas-  I like having two types of beans on hand at all times. In Paris, I bought these fresh, but in the US, I generally go through 1-2 quarts bulk dried garbanzo beans per month. I always keep a few cans on hand, or buy canned if I can't find gluten free bulk. In my area, Whole Foods has BPA, BPF, BPS, nylon, and polyester free cans. Eden Organics is another good brand for oleoresin lined cans. Click here for a full chart of BPA-free cans.
  • Black or pinto beans- 1 quart per month. People find this gross but I typically use these instead of pasta, just pour sauce directly on cooked beans. I add beans to everything- salads, bowls, curries, soups. I try to buy kidney beans or navy beans when I find them, for variety, but they aren't always available gluten free in my area. 
  • Mung beans- I usually eat half a quart in a given month, and soak a little in water (like ten minutes), then pulse in a food processor, mixing with onions or sour kimchi for a savory pancake. No need for any other ingredients
  • Green or red lentils- it's hard finding these gluten free in the US; in France, it was easy finding locally grown lentils. We even had bulk lentil pasta. I'll stock up on bean pasta if I'm traveling and find it in store, or buy bean pasta in a cardboard box if I'm cooking for guests.

Nuts

  • Almonds- one small bento bag raw almonds per month (more if I'm eating almond flour tortillas, which is not often), for flour or snacking. I like these in a grain free granola with pecans, berries, seeds, and walnuts.
  • Pecans- these grow locally (well, in Southern Ohio), so I get one medium bento bag per every one to three months. 
  • Walnuts- also local, one small bento bag per month
  • Cashews- can only find these imported, I get one small bag per every 1-3 months for milk and cheese. I generally prefer making nut milks and alfredo type sauces from nut butters, so if Fresh Thyme has cashew butter, I stock up on that instead.
  • Peanuts- I buy these less often in the winter, since I only use them for pad thai and spring rolls and I mostly make these foods when it's warmer out, I can't explain why. I can't explain most things I do

Seeds and dried fruit 

  • Hemp- I get these at Fresh Thyme because the Whole Foods bin is generally contaminated, people are not careful! I go through one small bento bag raw hemp seeds per month (about half a quart size jar)
  • Sunflower / flax seeds, raw- one pint size jar of each lasts me six months, idk if it's ok to keep them that long but I haven't gotten sick yet
  • Pumpkin seeds, raw- Lately I've been buying one small bento bag every two weeks, but other people have been eating the burcha I pack so this might not accurately represent my rate of consumption. During the season, I didn't buy these at all and just ate them from pumpkins or squash 
  • Dried flaked coconut- one medium bento bag per every three months
  • Cacao nibs- one pint every three months 
  • Sesame seeds- one pint twice a year

Oils

  • Avocado- I buy this packaged, once every six months. I try to use sparingly 
  • Olive oil- one quart size jar every month
  • Coconut oil- (packaged) I mostly use this for my body, hair, and under my eyes, one pint size jar every month
  • Hemp oil- packaged in glass, I use this just for pesto or as a supplement

Sweeteners

  • Local Ohio maple syrup is all I use! Sugared and processed directly into my own jars (Fresh Thyme also carries this on tap). Six quart size jars last a year.
  • Ok, I use dates also, I forgot. I go through one pint every two months, I like to just eat them whole with almond butter and dipped in cacao powder, like Amanda from Mama Eats Plants.

Other

  • Tahini. I eat hummus every week, so I buy a giant glass jar (as big as my head, is the most accurate measurement I can give you) from the Middle Eastern store that lasts up to six months. I buy sesame seeds unpackaged (my quantities are irregular though) but I haven’t tried making tahini yet.
  • Vegan mayo- I can make this, but sometimes I really screw it up, aquafaba is so difficult for me. I buy one jar of Fabanaise every one to three months, for those times when my vegan mayo is inedible.
  • Cacao powder- one small bento bag lasts me, like, a year. You can buy organic cacao powder in bulk at Sprouts (throwing it back to when I was in Arizona) or Fresh Thyme, but next time I'll just buy fair trade in packaging.
  • Cashew, peanut, or almond butter- one jar per month or less, and I only have one jar of nut butter at a time. I use this in place of flours for pancakes and mug cakes or cookies, or to make nut milk / creamy sauces more easily (thank you Archana for the tip).
  • ACV- one quart jar every six months (on tap at Fresh Thyme, although you can make it at home)
  • Applesauce or pumpkin- I use this in place of eggs for baking, and make it myself
  • Coconut aminos- purchased in a glass bottle, once every six months or less
  • Activated charcoal- also in a glass bottle, I use this very infrequently, mostly just to whiten my teeth.
  • Xylitol- (packaged, one 1 kg bag per every two years) this is a sweetener but I don't want to scroll up. I really just use this to strengthen my enamel, I don't like it as a sweetener in food
  • Olives- from the salad bar, I go through like a jar a week, I think people would be grossed out by how many saturated fats I ingest in a day
  • Celery, garlic, mushrooms, and onion are staples of my cooking, as well as tomatoes. I eat tons of local greens and root vegetables in the winter, and berries and apples for fruits- but again, I like avocados, oranges, lemons, etc (a family friend just gave us some homegrown oranges, I never had oranges grown at this latitude before! They were delicious but had a lot of seeds). My family tried growing avocado here, the plant grows like crazy, but never produces any fruit.

Herbs / spices

  • Turmeric- the following applies to all my spices; I purchase these in very small quantities for freshness (like one Weck mini mold jar every three months). Mostly my friends from Sri Lanka and India bring back their homegrown spices, but they are stupid cheap at Whole Foods if you buy them unpackaged. In Cleveland, I like Chuppa's for bulk spices, and in Paris, Marche d'Aligre. 
  • Cinnamon
  • Whole black peppercorns (I like my friends to bring this, it's much spicier than the stuff I find in stores)
  • Basil (fresh, always, I soak this in olive oil for a nice dressing)
  • Chili (whole peppers usually)
  • Ginger
  • Clove
  • Nutmeg (whole)
  • Salt (I only buy finishing salt, a practice I picked up in France)
  • Oregano (fresh or dried, I always have oregano essential oil on hand for fighting colds but don't like it in food)
  • Rosemary
  • Cardamom
  • Gochujang- my grandma or her sisters bring this, organic, from Korea, in their own containers
I used to buy tea in bulk but I can't handle caffeine anymore, it makes me too wild. And I don't like cumin or curry much. For recipes, I usually like Detoxinista, Minimalist Baker, My New Roots, Mama Eats Plants, or Live Planted. I tend to use cauliflower and beans instead of rice and roast a lot of veggies and just heap hummus or guacamole or tomato sauce over everything, although I do get fancier for guests. 

When I go shopping, I only take one or two jars for wet items (olives, vinegar, oil) and bag the rest, transferring them later (transferring really doesn't bother me, it takes two seconds to pour everything into a jar). So it's not like I'm carrying around a ton of stuff with me all day. I have a car now, but in Paris I carried everything, and when I first started zero waste, I took a bus to go grocery shopping, which taught me to pack light. I always tare my jars at the store because the scales vary, and take a photo of the tare and PLU number so the cashier can subtract the weight at the register. I don't call the store ahead of time or wait to shop when they're not busy, because usually I can only shop on my lunch break, also who calls people on the phone? In eight years of zero waste, only once has anyone ever said no to putting something in my jar (ice cream at Amorino, and a week later they complied with my request). In fact, usually cashiers round up the tare weight of my jars, or they get sick of subtracting so they call the manager over to void transactions and give me a lot for free. Like, I think I've paid for olives only once since moving to the US.

Certain things are cheaper in bulk- tea, nut butters, beans, spices, cacao anything, coconut, seeds, and vinegar. Olives, oil, nuts, pasta, and flour are pricier (not almond flour), but it evens out because I'm not buying disposable or unnecessary items over and over again. In the Midwest, I prefer Fresh Thyme over Whole Foods for bulk because their bins are more likely to be gluten free (plus they have bulk nutritional yeast which I go through in quantities I’m not comfortable sharing here) and I generally stay away from the kind with a scoop, sticking to lever bins. I know Whole Foods is owned by Amazon, but... it's so cheap (cheaper than Fresh Thyme), so I continue shopping there, if only for things like unpackaged mushrooms, Fabanaise and salad bar falafel.
Paris to Go