Sorry for the Long Wait

It has been over a year since my last post. As an explanation, I was pregnant for most of that time and immediately following, adapting to being a new mother to a wonderful little babe.

For months I attempted to post, but accepted my inability to log in to WordPress as a sign that it wasn’t time yet, and enjoyed yet more cuddles from said babe. I have since fixed the issue and write now as she sleeps.

This will be a short update post with more detailed posts to follow. The short of it is that I practiced and taught yoga throughout my pregnancy (I taught until 38 weeks) and started a version of asana to heal and strengthen my body postpartum. I returned to teaching a regular weekly class three months after delivery with my schedule much smaller due to Covid (many classes never returned) and because – I’m a mom. I have also been gardening this year and continue my environmental journey which has had a new element of navigating a baby and sustainability. Posts on all of that and more to follow in time.

Time is precious and rigid these days with a six month old, it goes by incredibly fast and I have, of course, had to alter how I spend my time with the majority enjoyed with the wee one. That being said, posts will likely be few and far between until, and if, I can find a balance to prioritize writing and bulking up my thoughts.

Book Review – Breath by James Nestor

This post is somewhat of a book review as well as my lived experience while reading Breath, by James Nestor, a book made popular by Joe Rogan’s interview with the author (which is how I heard of it, via my  husband) and as the title might suggest is a good resource for any yoga student or teacher. 

The very broad gist – Nestor is an author who has written about breathing in another book of his about Free Diving, so he’s no breathing amateur which sounds like an oxymoron since we’ve all been breathing our whole lives, so we must all be experts, right?  Wrong.  As you know as someone reading a yoga blog, there’s the breathing that your body does in line at the grocery store and then there’s the breathing that your mind consciously trains your body to take and practices hour after hour over the course of any given week depending on the dedication of your yoga and pranayama practice. 

While reading Breath I haughtily assumed that I knew a thing or two about breathing and did it pretty well, although admittedly my pranayama practice is limited specifically to ujjayi and in fact I often struggle with other forms of pranayama as they make me feel short of breath.  

What I learned first from the interview with Rogan and then in the book is how important it is to breathe through the nose all of the time.  Research has proven that people who habitually breathe through the mouth suffer health issues such as sleep apnea. In order to increase my nose breathing in the past, my husband and I used first aid tape to tape our mouths shut at night as we slept.  As I read “Breath” I caught myself mouth-breathing now and again in the day (usually with my mask on) and have told myself to switch my breath to move in and out through my nose.  The same is true at night time when I often become congested, instead of relying on the tape, I have simply reminded myself to keep my mouth shut, and it has worked. Since reading “Breath” and concentrating daily and nightly on the way that I breathe I no longer wake up in the middle of the night in need of water because my mouth has been made dry from breathing. I now sleep through the night (I find sleeping my back makes nose breathing easier and is better for spinal alignment, as well.)

The book outlines the author’s ten year journey through varying breathing techniques many, if not arguably all, have roots in ancient, yogic breathing.  Towards the end of the book Nestor discusses prana and it’s prevalence in eastern cultures and practices of medicine. The yogis call it prana, the Chinese call it chi, however it is relatively new to western minds.  Prana for those of you who are unfamiliar is life force, or energy that is mindfully worked in practices such as pranayama in yoga, or breathing techniques.

“Yoga practices were never designed to cure problems, … they were created for healthy people to climb the next rung of potential, … control their nervous systems and hearts, and live longer and more vibrant lives”


My very favorite excerpt from the book is, “Yoga practices were never designed to cure problems, … they were created for healthy people to climb the next rung of potential, … control their nervous systems and hearts, and live longer and more vibrant lives” a quote from DeRosa, a breath and yoga instructor and author based in Sao Paolo.

The book ends by declaring that eastern practices such as yoga and breath work are aimed at maintaining a healthy lifestyle whereas western medicine is meant to fix major emergencies rather than milder chronic maladies.  For these sorts of issues a practice such as pranayama and physical asana might be a better route. 
The very last section of the book is an appendix that outlines breathing methods from nadi shodahana to basic yogic breathing (three part breath.) In his interview with Joe Rogan, Nestor says that just as diet and exercise, breathing should be a focus of a healthy lifestyle.

In the time of a respiratory pandemic, I’d say that bring more focus and awareness to the way that we breathe is a pretty good idea. If you’d like to read Nestor’s book, please consider buying a copy from your local independent bookstore instead of Amazon.

How are you breathing?

2020 Summer Garden In Review – The Good and The Bad

It’s early September and the garden has been in full swing for a while here in WNY where I live in Zone 5b.  This post is an update on what’s growing and thriving, but also a record of what didn’t work or was attacked by pesky pests, in hopes that these problems can be mitigated next year and hopefully you might find some advice from my garden experience.

The Good

Due to the pandemic, I was home a lot more than a normal spring and was able to start my starter plants indoors from seeds earlier than I ever had before.  I also have a lot more space this year since we moved from our one bedroom apartment into our house, which meant I had more space and windows to grow my seedlings in.

I started a variety of seeds in mid-March including but not limited to: arugala, lettuces, beans, radish, beets, kale, chard, tomatoes, peppers, etc.  Many of the colder weather, hardier plants could have been planted directly into the soil, but I thought I’d start them all indoors, I also direct sowed plants later in the season.  Important to note, I didn’t have soil to sow seeds in until my husband and I designed and built our raised beds.  Our front yard was just that, yard, compacted soil with thick grass.  
After the raised beds were built we had to wait weeks for topsoil since there was a hold up with the landscapers and their supplier.  In May there was a weekend of SNOW, around May 20th, so we had to cover our little babes with a covering and luckily they survived that terrible weekend.  It was only our first raised bed that had any plants in since we still didn’t have topsoil and I only put hardy plants in the ground early around May 3rd including radish, beets, borage, peas, kales. 

The Bad

Here are some of the issues we’ve dealt with this summer and that I am now hopeful I will be more prepared for next season. 

Japanese Beetles

These suckers were extremely prevalent this summer.  Luckily they mostly attacked an inedible plant that was on our property when we bought it, a rose bush, but they also enjoyed our healthiest basil plants.  

Our Organic Solution

After researching how to handle these pests I found that hand collecting in diluted dish soap and water was the best option for us since I had time to walk the garden twice a day and collect.  The beetles appeared in July and were heaviest around mid-month.  It wasn’t just our garden that these guys harbored at to turn leaves into lace, we noticed them all over the neighborhood when walking our dog.  They even entirely decimated a vine growing around a road sign.  By mid-August they were far less prevalent.  I had read that milky spores was good to spread on the ground to kill the larvae, but it is very expensive, so I’ll just keep my eyes out next season and do the same again.  A note that I did not get the bags as I have heard that they attract the little buggers.

Squash Stem Borers

I designed and built a keyhole hugelkulture for my squash plants so that they had as much space as they needed.  It is a beautiful garden that makes a lot of sense because it borders an existing circular flower garden around our well.  All was going well, my zucchini and summer squash plants had large, green leaves that reached towards the sky, but sometime in late July my friend was visiting and noticed some troubling signs that proved fatal for my plants – squash stem borers had entered into the stem of literally every plant as well as mold on the leaves.

Our Organic Solution

The next morning I tried to kill the larvae by hand, I was successful with a few, but it seemed futile.  I pulled off leaves that were dead and burned them to stop contamination.  For the mold I sprayed a dish soap solution in the mornings to not burn the leaves in the hot sun.  I have read that mulching more thoroughly around the base of the plants and stem as it grows is a good way to protect against the moths laying their eggs on the plant, this will be my game plan next season as well as relocating my squash plants. 

There have been other lessons along the way this growing season, but for the most part it has been a very successful year.  I have processed and have in stock a few pounds of a variety of the beans that we grew, tomatoes are processed, kale and swiss chard frozen and a lot of pesto.  From this year’s experience I also have a lot of ideas of how to improve our gardens next year. I hope that your growing season was a success as well, as I know many people started gardening during Covid to pass the time, learn new skills, and be self-sufficient. 

Going With the Times

This year would have been Jamestown’s fourth International Day of Yoga celebration and it was going to be bigger and better than ever.  My friend and fellow teacher and I were coordinating with a local non-profit nature preserve to host the event there complete with events for the kids so parents can do yoga and food trucks.  Because IDY falls on the Summer Solstice there were going to be meditation walks in the morning and for the late sunset, as well as a bonfire.  Alas, as you can well guess none of that is happening because we are in the midst of a global pandemic.  Most of us are having to accept that the big trips and events that we were excited for are not going to take place this year.


That’s not great, but it’s ok.  Hopefully we all still have our health which is the whole reason to social distance and cancel major events.  Acceptance is often a teaching of a yoga practice, now is a great real life lesson for all of us to practice acceptance of situations that we are unable to change and to warm heartedly stay home and social distance for the health of others.  Already, three months after quarantine, many places in the US and the world are loosening their quarantine rules, but if we have to go back to being safe, then I hope we will all try our best to do so kindly.

For us yoga teachers it has been a learning curve and a stressful time since classes can no longer go on, but it has also been a time for creativity and developing skills.  In terms of this year’s IDY 2020 in Jamestown, we did not want to completely cancel the event but rather to offer it in a virtual way.  Teachers will film their classes ahead of time to be released on June 20, 2020.  It would have been nice to have the celebration that we were planning, the biggest one this city has seen yet, but with time.

If you would like to practice with us teachers of Jamestown, NY & Samsara Yoga Center, then please visit the event page here and join us on the 20th of June.


Studio Review – School House Yoga, Erie, PA

This review has been spinning around in my head since I attended a lovely workshop with my twin sister who was visiting the area from DC for a week in August 2019. It wasn’t for a lack of inspiration that this post has not been written but rather simple procrastination, although that has nothing to do with the studio, it’s my own personal battle.
Schoolhouse Yoga in Erie, PA is located on the east side of the city in a renovated school building which also houses many other cool businesses and organizations. Having studied in Erie, I know that there is so much more of a need for a studio on the east side than the west side, so I was very happy when I realized where the studio is located.
The workshop that we attended was a Sound Bath and Yin class. It was relaxing calming. The studio is an old school room, rectangular in shape, so all of the instruments were in the center of the room while students bordered the old classroom, making for balanced acoustics for all.


Before I tell more about the workshop itself, I have to describe the studio which was simply gorgeous. I am biased because I have a deep love for history, but due to it’s corner location, there were two walls of windows letting in so much sunlight on that August morning, and a fresh breeze. The chalkboards were still on the walls, now adorned with yoga artwork. There’s even a coat room, necessary in our cold, winter climates and convenient to have separate space for students’ belongings to not clog up practice space.
The studio was full of props which were handy for the slow restorative/yin style practice that was taught during the sound bath. The teacher took her time walking from student to student to make sure that the props were in a good position to make the pose comfortable. The waves of sound from the gongs were just what we needed to kickstart a relaxing day at Presque Isle with our girlfriends, the workshop was a prelude to my sister’s Bachelorette Party and since we’re both yoga lovers, it was a good way to start.
The studio has a variety of teachers and classes that it offers. This studio has it’s classes arranged as sessions that last for eight weeks. Students are encourage to purchase a pass for the entire session and arrange enrollment through each individual teacher, contact information found on the website. Classes offered include: beginner, multi-level, chair, and interestingly, a class titled Energy Medicine Yoga.
Cost of class passes are: $10 for one class, $36 for four, and $64 for eight classes. The workshop that we attended was priced at a very reasonable $15.

Avoiding Plastic Tips 2.0

I am obsessed, I can hardly go a couple of hours without thinking about my plastic use, people’s use around me, and use as a community, nation, and global population. In all honesty, I don’t understand how people couldn’t think about it all the time considering that plastic surrounds us wherever we are pretty much every single day. Wherever you’re reading this from right now pause and consider what plastic is nearby you. Maybe it’s the bottle of water in your bag, the plastic casing of the device that you’re reading this from, or quite likely it is in your clothes and home items (curtains, carpet, upholstery, etc.)

As a 5 Gyres Ambassador I always make sure to say during every single one of my talks that I do not hate plastic, it saves lives in hospitals and via medical devices every day. I use plastic in ways listed in the intro paragraph in my home and when I drive my car (plastic dash and other parts) and work at my computer, but plastic production and consumption has really gotten out of control. Therefore, I always try to cut back on my use. I stopped drinking bottled water and other single use beverages a few years ago, I always refuse straws at restaurants, and take other such steps so that I personally do not contribute to plastic pollution. There are the well-known ways to cut back, refusing single use, but here are some larger ways to reduce your plastic dependence, because we all have it.

Shop Local

This is an obvious one, but it has many positive impacts. Ever since swapping to organic cotton produce bags I have bought more produce in bulk which means I waste less food (before shopping for a household of two would mean wasting a lot of food before we could ever get to it) and I also visit local produce stands more with my produce bags. When shopping at mainstream grocery stores the majority of the fresh section is sadly wrapped in thin plastic bags and if it doesn’t come that way then that’s how it ends up going home with shoppers from one of the giant rolls of flimsy plastic produce bags provided.

Shopping more locally and at a scale that’s better for a household of two means that the food that we eat travels less to our table and therefore maintains more of its nutrients once there. While visiting my in laws in France for an extended amount of time it was fascinating the market culture of the French – they shop frequently and eat fresh. I aim for that type of grocery shopping as much as I can now. Another added benefit is keeping money in the local economy and supporting a family run business.

Mend and Make Do

Modern American culture is extremely consumeristic, shopping has evolved into not just a hobby but into a frequent way of living for many, a lot of it to do with keeping up with the Jones’. It can take a lot of effort, but instead of allowing yourself to replace items when they break or when the newest must-have hits the store, ask yourself if you can repair, or if you know someone else who can repair for you if you lack the skills – Facebook and other social media outlets are a great place to ask such questions, and also ask yourself if you can get by without.

Clothes are the obvious example here. I have a bag set aside with my items that need mending and whenever a road trip comes up I try to remember to take my sewing for the passengers seat. It seems a really old fashioned thing to do, but it used to be the norm before fast fashion took over the world. Women mostly used to spend a large portion of their time mending the families clothing because clothes were either handmade and/or expensive to buy from a store.

IMG_4663The same goes for electronics. The hype around new iphones exemplify this. Not only does buying secondhand or getting your phone repaired if it bites the dust help keep plastic out of landfill, but it is also more ethical since in production and end of life our electronics are very polluting to those who mine for the metals that make them work and  those who ‘recycle’ our electronics by burning them whole (air pollution via burning plastics) in order to retrieve the wires again.


Surround Yourself with Nature

When shopping for items for your home or closet opt for natural fibers and materials. This is usually much more expensive, say to buy a wool rug instead of a synthetic fiber rug, but if you cut back spending in general over the long run spending more on fewer items may balance out if you follow a budget. Lately I have been buying a lot of baskets for organizing, they’re easy to find secondhand and they’re pleasing to look at and to touch, as opposed to a plastic organizer that is far more likely to break.

As with all plastics they are not just harmful at the end of life when they often end up polluting land, water, and air, but they are also detrimental from the beginning of production. Plastics are made from fossil fuels meaning they have a direct link to global warming, they also have been found to off gas when littered on land or sea contributing again to global warming and throughout the time that we use our plastic products, plastics release possibly dangerous chemicals. All around bad.



DIY More

This goes hand in hand with make do and mend, when something runs out do a google search to see if it can be made at home, saving you money but probably not time. Of course it will take more time and energy to do research and learn something new, but it is rewarding to realize how much you can do for yourself and your family. Say for example, laundry soap – I have two friends that make their own, it’s cheap and lasts a long time. I have yet to try their recipes, but did use soap nuts for a while years ago. Recently I was reminded of soap nuts on social media and think I’ll go back.

Other ideas for making for yourself include play dough for your kids, baking and making treats at home instead of buying processed, making your own skin care and cleaning products, and maybe try baking your dog treats. There are blogs and recipes galore on all of the ideas above and so many more to try.


These are just a few areas where you can cut back on plastic use if you’ve already mastered the refusing single use straws, cups, silverware, and more. Maybe you’re fresh on your plastic free life or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, aware of the negative side effects of plastic but still dependent, we all can do our part as the way we spend our dollars encourage companies to shift their packaging and production, so support less plastic production and packaging and be creative as you move away from this omnipresent material.


Studio Review – Evolution, Burlington, VT

It was a while ago that I visited Vermont for the first time on a work trip, but Evolution, the studio that an old friend took me to has stuck in my mind ever since the visit. Sure, it was only a little over two months ago, but I’ve been behind on the posting and have been formulating this post because there’s so much good to say about this studio.

I fell in love the instant I walked into the welcoming entryway which was warm and inviting with plenty of seating and a desk to sign in at. My fellow yoga trainee (we trained together in Nicaragua graduating with our 200 CYT,) a local of Burlington and also a former teacher at Evolution, got me signed in with the waiver and guided me around the studio. We dropped our belongings off in a back room where students stored yoga mats and where changing areas were located. I then headed to the restroom where, get this, there was a squatty potty. That might not seem like a big deal, but I was quite impressed, especially since I had never used one before, I’d only heard of them and their magic before. It was pretty magical, reminiscent of actual squatty potties in Asia.

It all makes sense when you learn that the owners of Evolution are physical therapists. That also explains all of the books for sale in the waiting room, many technical yoga books along with spiritual. Suffice it to say, it is my idea of a close to perfect yoga studio. When I dream of my future, commercial yoga space there’s always a library, I hadn’t dreamt as big as squatty potties, but they may have made it on to my list now.


The yoga class that we took on a Saturday morning was Vinyasa I/II, an hour and 15 minute class that was just what I needed after traveling and sleeping in hotels. The teacher taught what to me seemed to be a very traditional or Eastern style of vinyasa, it certainly was not power yoga, which I highly appreciated. There was more explanation, more description of alignment, and more guiding inwards instead of simply a physical practice. That’s not to say that it was easy, however. For my practice it was just right – steady yet full of flows to keep the heart rate up and build strength.

All sorts of styles and programs are offered at Evolution, likely because of the physical therapy background, the studio is more than a place to be guided through yoga poses strung together, it is a place to learn and, well, evolve. They even have a rope wall, which I sadly have never had the pleasure of using before and wish I had had time to attend a class.

The schedule at Evolution is full and classes are priced at $15 for a drop in, however there are multiple class passes that help students save. The studio offers yoga for families, prenatal, and kids yoga – information can be found here. Physical therapy sessions can be scheduled, massage, and they lead frequent continuing education for yoga teachers.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit Burlington, a city that I have had interest in visiting for a few years, to meet up with an old yoga friend, and grate to her for showing me such an impressive yoga studio. Evolution is everything in a yoga studio that I enjoy – community, healing, continuing education, and more. If you find yourself in Burlington and are itching for some yoga, then I highly encourage you to go no further than Evolution. The studio is located at 20 Kilburn St, Burlington, VT.



Shaun White & Instagram Inspiration

The 2018 Winter Olympics are in full swing in my second homeland of South Korea and watching expert athletes push themselves to their best has inspired me to push my physical yoga practice as of late. Shaun White especially inspired and impressed in his final run that won him gold in the men’s halfpipe finals.

Concurrently with the Olympics I have been taking part in my very first Instagram yoga challenge, which has turned out to be very beneficial to my yoga practice, keeping me constantly practicing and practicing poses that I generally shy away from.

Let me get back to Shaun White for a moment, though. Sexual harassment settlement aside, the man has skills. He performed a physical feat that most of us can hardly even comprehend. One of the most impressive things about Shaun’s performance is his age. He is one of the older Olympic athletes at 31, one of his biggest competitors was Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, aged 19. More than a decade separates these two, on paper the 19-year-old should have looked better based on youth, but Shaun gave one of the best runs of his life in his 30’s.

Just as Shaun White showed the world, ability is not solely determined by age however, great for us yoga students in or beyond the 30s Club. My good friend and international yoga teacher, Mindy Sisco is training her body, through a lot of hard work, to do yoga poses that she couldn’t do just a few years ago. I witnessed her transform her handstand practice in a matter of years to a point where she can now confidently lift up into a handstand and handstand straddle as if she was born doing it.

Mindy is the yoga teacher responsible for my first Instagram yoga challenge which just ended yesterday. I have seen these challenges before and the first thing I thought when invited to participate was – that looks like it takes up a lot of time – the reality being both yes and no.

Yes, to participate fully in an Instagram yoga challenge, which to clarify, is a predetermined list of poses, one for each day for every day of the challenge; yes it does take time and commitment, but yoga as a whole takes time and commitment. Mindy’s challenge took place over 16 days and included poses such as urdhva dhanurasana (full wheel) and adho mukha vrksasana (handstand). For each day of the challenge I had to prepare my body for the pose that was to be photographed. Many of the days involved backbending, which is a shape that does not come easily to me, and therefore, a shape which I do not much enjoy. That meant that I had to warm up and prepare my body more than I would have for a different type of pose that m body is prone to, such as a forward fold. I joked on my Instagram feed that I was annoyed by yet another backbend, but to be honest, I was partially annoyed and partially grateful, because in my own home practice I barely ever incorporate backbends, but this Instagram challenge forced me to practice them.


Yes, the challenges take commitment and time, but not a lot of it. I would say I averaged ten minutes of warming up and taking pictures. That’s not that much time. By completing the challenge I completed 16 days of challenging poses, the practice may have been short at times, but at least I got on my mat. I believe it is Jason Crandell that says, “Fifteen minutes of yoga is better than zero minutes of yoga.”

Shaun White and IG yoga challenges are two recent places where I have garnered inspiration from lately. It was exhilarating to watch all of the winter athletes display their skills in the Olympics, such precision and expertise which surely means a ton of conditioning, practice, and discipline. A good reminder that any type of practice is also a discipline. If you practice an instrument daily, then it is a discipline; if you practice an instrument every other month, then it is a waste of time and you will never see much improvement. Yoga is a practice that requires consistency and diversity in poses practiced.

What’s inspiring you these days?


You can find Mindy on Instagram at @kaizenkorea You can follow me with yoga, travel, and sustainability posts at @karabemisyoga

Peace, Love & Wellness, Warren, PA – Studio Review

This  is a bit overdue, but three months ago I visited a somewhat local yoga studio to attend my first gong bath at a wellness studio in Warren, Pennsylvania, which is a short drive from my home. Warren is an old oil town with monstrous Victorian homes and a little downtown area next to the river, which is where the yoga studio is located. To call Peace, Love & Wellness a yoga studio is a little bit of an understatement however, because the studio also has massage space, an inviting seating area, a sauna, and Kelly, the owner offers wellness coaching to individual and corporate clients. Peace, Love & Wellness is not a yoga studio, it is a well-rounded wellness studio.

Back to the gong bath, my only other experience with gongs in yoga had been at another local studio attending a Kundalini class with the same teacher offering the gong bath at Peace, Love & Wellness. My first experience was magical, the gong vibration flowed up and swirled around the room before crashing down on to me. That may sound hippy dippy, but try it for yourself. It feels great.

The gong bath class at Peace, Love & Wellness also involved some Kundalini kriyas, which can be more challenging than a vinyasa practice. A lot of dynamic endurance is required, as opposed to a still, static endurance for a yin practice. I have done Kundalini kriyas in which I swore that my arms were going to fall of. Luckily, difficulty did not reach that extent at the class in Warren before it was time for the gong bath. After some sun salutations we were brought down for relaxation. I layered up because I am always cold, and closed my eyes to absorb the gong. It was similar to my first experience except that this time the teacher had a second gong that offered a sharper sound, reminiscent of whale song, and it lasted for a longer time. I left the experience feeling relaxed and settled.

Classes at Peace, Love & Wellness are various and plentiful. Check out the schedule, here.  Yoga styles offered include hatha, buti, vinyasa, and kids yoga.  Classes can be bought as a part of a monthly or yearly package, which include massage and sauna services, or as drop in classes. The gong bath that my husband and I attended was reasonable at $15/person.

To get to the studio, go to downtown Warren, PA right on the Allegheny river and the studio is located at 338 Pennsylvania, Ave. You will see large letters spelling out YOGA in their second story front windows. The studio is located right above a lovely little cafe that I enjoy visiting when in Warren, the Arbor House Coffee House Cafe & Tea Room. Might I suggest that you make a day of your trip to historic Warren and visit the cafe after your yoga class, a plan for a fantastic day trip.


What I Would Have Said

I hosted a clothing swap this past weekend in Jamestown, NY. It was the third swap that I have hosted in the area and I was determined to speak at this one about the ethics behind the event. At the previous swaps that I hosted in Korea I spoke to attendees about my reasoning behind hosting, how I disagree with the modern, fast-fashion industry, and the primary problems with the industry in terms of labor and damage to the environment. However, back on U.S. soil in the small city near the small town where I reside and teach yoga, I could not give a similar speech.

Let me explain that technically I could have and the people attending would most certainly have been polite and receptive, but at each of the three swaps in the U.S. the time for speaking came and went. I felt that there weren’t enough people and if I spoke to a handful of swappers, then it would have felt too much like preaching. At this last one I even advertised that I was going to speak on the ethics, but as the clock ticked closer to my time to speak everyone seemed to funnel out of the door. Do I think that this was intentional? Maybe on a few accounts, or maybe they had elsewhere to be and had already done their swapping for the afternoon. There wasn’t a massive collection to browse, so this is a very feasible option. Whatever the reason, my audience left the room.

I was bummed, but upon reflection I realize that “preaching” to happy people swapping their clothes for others’ may not be the best way to go about it. Posting on my website might be a better way to share my views on fast fashion and why I avoid it. For if I were to have spoken to people who happily (and blindly) shop fast fashion then it may have been perceived more as an attack, like a vegan lecturing a gang of omnivores on the detriments of factory farming at a party, at a Korean BBQ restaurant.

There is also the sad truth that environmentalists can come off as being major Debbie Downers (I have been extremely guilty of this in the past) when they share how the world is slowly ending at the hands of consumers, also known as people. That last statement, was of course a cynical joke – mostly, but on a serious note, people having a good time may not want to hear about pollution and labor rights. But if you have made it this far into the post, then you may be curious enough reading about exactly those two things and more depressing facts of fast fashion, if so, then carry on reading.

Why I Host Swaps… My Unspoken Speech at My Most Recent Swap (altered slightly for word and general public, main ideas the same)

The reasons that I host swaps can be summed up in four words: labor rights and environmental degradation.  The fashion industry today looks completely foreign to how the garment industry of the last century looked. As recently as the 1990’s, 50% of clothes sold in the U.S. were made in the U.S. Thirty years prior to that in the 60’s, around 97% of clothes were made in the U.S. for a U.S. market.

Today? A measeley  TWO PERCENT or in numerical langauge – 2%. Two percent?!?! We went from almost 100% in my mother’s generation to almost 0% in mine. For the United States that is an entire industry nearly completely lost. Jobs lost. Skills lost. The reason being? Globalization.

The textile and sewing industries were shipped to developing nations where labor could be paid far less than an American worker. Where labor rights were skim, so workers could be forced to work 10 to 12 hr. days, for very little pay, and in unsafe conditions. My fashion revelation and shift in consumerism occurred as a result of learning about the tragedy at Rana Plaza in 2013. Rana Plaza was an eight story building that housed seamstresses in a shoddy building. In a day in April, 2013 the building collapsed killing 1,134 people.  Read more details here about Rana Plaza.

My other gripe with fast fashion is how utterly unsustainable it is. We do not need even a fraction of the amount of clothing that we buy these days and we certainly do not need close to the amount of clothes that companies and the media try to convince us that we need. Fashion trends come and go, and come and go, and come and go again and again and are so in our faces that we feel lesser-than if we don’t keep up. Luckily for us we can generally afford to keep up with the trends because clothes are becoming cheaper with the outsourcing of the work and lower grade fabrics. Clothes have become so cheap, that they are disposable.

We buy without limit. Sometimes we buy without even liking what we buy and definitely without knowing anything about the item. Without knowing that a lot of water, air, and soil pollution was created by production. By material being shipped around the world to be dyed, cut, sewn, and shipped to a shop near us. That those dyes are harmful to the communities that live near the factories that produce them. That most of the items at fast fashion shops are made of synthetics, many of which (polyester & acrylic I’m glaring at you) are plastic based – i.e. come from oil production.


[Sidenote – It is this sort of information that makes me feel slightly sheepish for sharing. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news, but isn’t it better to be aware of how our choices affect others half way across the world? Anyway, it’s about to get a little more positive.]

This is where the clothing industry has evolved to. It is totally different from the past when people used to make their own clothes or buy from a skilled, local tailor in their community. But we don’t have to shop fast fashion all the time. We have options that are more ethical that we can use to supplement our closets with.

A clothing swap is one, or second hand. Buying fair trade or organic is another way. Or simply getting by with what you have and ignoring the billboards of what’s new and desireable. Ask yourself when you shop: “Do I really need this? Do I have something in my closet already that fulfills this need? Is there a more sustainable way that I can obtain a similar item? Can I just borrow from a friend?” And hopefully by having that dialogue in your head you will realize that you can happily go without another polyester tank top in your closet.


That is roughly what I would have said if I had had an audience to say it to. Changing habits is hard, especially when the habit you are changing is one that brings you a lot of joy. Retail therapy, anyone? But you can still feel the buzzy high of finding a good find a thrift store, or a really well made top of environmentally friendly fabrics and made by fair trade labor. The shift may take some time, but it’s still fun and much more rewarding.