What is Slow Living?
Slow Living looks different for every person who chooses to live this way. For some it might be taking part in the local slow food movement and only eating local organic produce. For others it might be slow fashion or going plastic free or making everything from scratch. Because it looks so different for each person I wanted to share our goals for transitioning to a slower lifestyle and what that means for us. Some of these goals we’re already living but many we are still working towards.
Many people are introduced to the “slow” movement through food. For me though the gateway was fashion. I’d always had a love of vintage clothing and admired the workmanship that goes into making clothes. I loved shopping for the seasons latest fashions but I was increasingly noticing that the quality was dropping. Seams were coming apart after only one or two wears and buttons were falling off my clothes constantly (and usually without a replacement).
One Sunday morning I read an article in the Sunday Life magazine that changed my whole outlook on clothing. It introduced me to slow fashion. To the concept of buying good quality clothing or vintage clothing. Of taking care of clothing and wearing a piece many many times. The idea was to buy pieces you really loved and that suited your figure, not just what was “in”.
I started wanting to make my own clothes but many of my attempts to teach myself apparel construction ended in ill fitting sacks. I could follow the patterns but I just couldn’t get the fit right. So I enrolled in a course in fashion design at West Valley College and there I was introduced to the documentary The True Cost.
The True Cost cemented my commitment to slow fashion. Seeing the appalling conditions many apparel workers worked in and the environmental impacts that the fashion industry was having slowed my fashion consumption down almost to a halt.
It’s been difficult to find a balance between not consuming too much and not looking like all my clothes are threadbare. I barely bought any clothing for three and a half years but I’m slowly starting to purchase again.
Slow fashion for me now is making careful choices in what I buy. It’s choosing clothes that won’t date after one season, usually by choosing pieces inspired by a vintage look. It’s been about spending more on good quality pieces but buying far less quantity. It’s been about buying from designers and manufacturers who have transparent supply chains and a commitment to the environment. Most of all it’s been about choosing pieces I truly love that I know I will wear over and over again. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most ethically sourced piece of clothing in the world, if you don’t wear it constantly it’s just adding to fashion’s waste problem.
We’ve been pretty slow getting on the slow food wagon. We don’t eat out a whole lot so we haven’t been to many slow food restaurants and due to the frequency with which we have been moving we’ve only ever really grown herbs.
Most of our interaction with slow food has been in the form of markets. When living on the Gold Coast, Australia, one of our favourite weekend activities was to go to the Village Markets for cold pressed juices and organic produce. It took us a little while to find markets in California but we got there eventually!
One of our favourite slow food experiences was signing up to a CSA Produce Box from JB Organics in Texas. By signing up for a box subscription farmers are able to plant crops knowing they have a guaranteed market. This was so fun for us as we never knew what seasonal veggies would arrive in our box each week. It was definitely a learning experience as we got to find new recipes and eat new veggies we’d never eaten before.
Our goal now is to start growing our own produce more seriously. As we’re still renting we’re looking at using container gardening and no dig garden beds. Reading David Holmgren’s Retrosuburbia has made us feel more empowered to grow our own food even though we’re renting.
We’re also really excited to divert our food scraps out of landfill and into worm farms and bokashi to produce nutrients for our plants. We’re also looking forward to cutting back on food waste as we learn to preserve more foods, make jams and also start brewing our own beer again with hops from our own garden.
Making is one of our major motivators in our move to a slower lifestyle. Josh and I both love to make things! For Josh that tends to be woodworking and for myself it’s textile based.
Moving around a lot has not been conducive to this. It’s been especially tricky for Josh’s woodworking as in the US we never lived anywhere Josh could use or keep tools. In Australia the options have been better with access to Men’s Sheds but in Melbourne they were only open on weekdays when Josh was at work.
For myself working in textiles it has meant I’ve been able to access a lot of great materials and see a lot of different artists working. But moving a lot has added a large cost to moving those materials. It’s also meant larger equipment such as looms and spinning wheels have been out of the question.
Making is a slow process we want to work towards for so many reasons. One of those is that we find it so rewarding to be able to say we made something ourselves. Another is that we like knowing how and where our possessions were made and making them ourselves gives us that knowledge. Mostly though it’s because we find the process itself to be so fulfilling. We both love learning new skills and ind the often repetitive processes in making to be really relaxing.
As we’ve learnt more about how our food is produced in large scale production, the often environmentally damaging practices employed and the health issues associated with things such as pesticides we’ve been keen to move towards the slower practice of growing our own food.
This slow practice extends beyond food though as we’d like to also grow plants for ink and dye production, plants for tea making and even to make our own beer.
For us we’ve decided that the best way to go slow and organic for us is by using permaculture design principles. We’ve been reading extensively on the subject but hope to take a permaculture design course together too. I’m also interested in learning more about horticulture.
Work is a huge part of our days, as it is for anyone but we wanted to see if we could take a slower approach here too. One step in slower living through work was to shorten or in Josh’s case entirely remove commuting times.
We’d been living in major cities since leaving high school and for a while believed the myth that living in the city was more convenient. In terms of consuming goods it’s definitely more convenient. We have had so much access to shopping, especially for fashion, then we had ever had in our home town.
But as we started to examine our patterns of travel we realized that a country or smaller city actually offered a lot more convenience. For Josh commuting to work took a minimum of forty minutes each day, whether by bike, tram and train or car. This forty minutes was rarely achieved though as so many factors usually pushed it up to over an hour.
For everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, a trip to the hardware store, a visit to the doctors we were looking at a minimum of fifteen minutes each way and again usually it was a lot more. Sometimes even a short drive of less than two km could take upwards of fifteen minutes if traffic was bad.
We compared this to our home town. In our home town we live approximately a one minute walk to the beach. And a trip into either of the near by towns to buy literally anything we could need? At maximum a drive of seven minutes!
By working remotely for Josh and finding work closer to home with no traffic for myself we have drastically freed up our time. Meaning we can live slower doing all the activities we like.
This is a big goal for us and one that will always be ongoing. For us living slow is being more conscious about our everyday actions and the impact we’re having on the environment. I’ll be the first to admit that we’re not always perfect here, but we’re working on it!
Seeing the ABC’s War on Waste really made us want to start taking action to change our habits no matter how small. One of our first changes was switching our weekend coffees to Keep Cups and making sure we actually remember to bring our reusable shopping bags. Another one was mending those reusable shopping bags when they break! This summer I’m hoping to make beeswax wraps to replace plastic wrap, currently we try to use storage containers instead of plastic wrap as much as possible.
Long term though we are hoping to either build our own house with sustainability in mind or to retrofit an older house to make it as effective at capturing as much solar energy and water as possible.
Finally, for us slow living is about mindfulness. It’s about taking the time to walk our dog together and eat meals together everyday so we have time to connect and talk. It’s about taking time to meditate and to practice gratitude. Mostly it’s about cultivating a Growth Mindset and constantly challenging ourselves to learn new things, to have new experiences and to be constantly growing.