The ‘no 2nd hand shop’ guide to sustainable clothing

I am originally from Denmark, but have been living in New Delhi for the past 4 years. Ironically enough I work with development work, and in that connection with one of the biggest clothes recycling areas in Delhi, but can’t for the life of me find a second hand shop (at least not one that isn’t super pricy)! Now, it’s not that there isn’t markets that sell second hand clothing – but it’s usually one of those ‘messy’ markets, where you cant try out the clothes before buying it. There’s also a few websites that sell second hand clothes, but again, there’s no option of trying it before buying it. So, in my attempt to try to be as sustainable as possible when it comes to my clothing, I’ve learned a few ways to go about it. Here goes.

The Tradesman (Or Women)

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I got tired of my old dress, so traded it for this one.

This trick is my absolute favourite! Since I couldn’t find any second hand shops here in India, I started letting my friends know that if they had any clothes they could no longer fit – or just wanted to clean out their closet (like many girls like to do, so they can fill it up again), I’d love to take a look at it. At first I sometimes paid them for the clothes I took, but with time I simply showed my appreciation by contributing to their life in any way I could – I gave away homemade soaps as gifts, helped out with hair loss remedies and other things I do well. With friends that are interested I exchange clothes – which is pretty useful when I sometimes gain or loose weight. Actually me and my best friend, continuously exchange clothes, and often regain a piece of clothes we couldn’t fit some years back.

I must admit that in the pursuit of getting as much as possible of my clothes second hand, I’m not picky about what I wear – at least style wise. Which is always kind of funny, when people give me compliments on what I wear, because I get to say: “You’re really complimenting my friends taste, not mine”!

Buy Me Once

My father has taught me many things, and one of them is this: buy things of quality, and only buy it once in your life. There are some things I haven’t been able to wait around for one of my friends to have a spare of, in my size and of the quality level I needed. Such as for example hiking boots and a travelling purse. So whenever I have to buy anything new, that I know I will need for many years to come, I try to find high quality brands. A few brands even have life time warranty. It does take some research to find it, and at times a little manoeuvring to get my hands on it. But on the other hand, I only buy it once! The last three things I bought were:

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  • A handbag and shoes from Hide design. The bags are made completely from natural materials, and also run a range with lifetime guarantee. Though, even the ones that don’t will last a long time, if taken proper care of.

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  • Dr Martens for hiking. A bit on the expensive side, but even they are super solid and robust, and again have a range with life time guarantee.

For inspiration on quality purchases you can visit the website: Buy Me Once. If they don’t ship to your country, you can search the same items on amazon or other. Thats what I do!

The Ethical Brand

There are some items, that no matter what I do, wont ever last a lifetime. Items such as underwear, socks, jeans (at least mine) and t-shirts have to be exchanged from time to time. So if I can’t get it second hand, and I know I will have to buy it more than once – I try to buy from Organic and Ethical brands. The biggest downside to this is that the brands I trust are legitimately ethical, are also quite highly priced – but since it only happens rarely, it can also be a welcome treat. In India some examples are No NastiesPeople TreeSoma shop and Anokhi. The online shop Organic Shop (India only) has the biggest collection of different organic/natural brands and items I’ve found.

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A collection from the Indian based No Nasties – organic and ethical clothing

Know Your Fabrics

This is my third go to method of buying more sustainable clothes, if the two first aren’t an option. The trick is simple – go for natural fabrics such as cotton, hemp, silk, wool and bamboo, because they are biodegradable. Even if I buy something second hand, I will still try to go for natural fabrics. Examples of synthetic fabrics are polyester, nylon, acrylic and spandex. There’s a lot of information online, so in doubt I just google it.

Think Global, Act Local

Transport of goods has a very high co2 footprint, because of the use of fuel and energy – as well as possibly use of extensive packaging and other protection needed. So I try as much as I can to buy things produced here in India or neighbouring countries. If possible I try to buy directly from the producer, or NGO’s and other organisations linking villages to markets here in Delhi.

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Keep It Simple

This last trick, has in time become my first – I think many knows the feeling of having a closet full of clothes, and nothing to wear. So I try to keep my closet simply, with clothes that fit (get rid of those jeans you haven’t been able to fit for years) and that I love to wear. Whenever I get tired of wearing the same, I trade it for something new. That was it for now. Feel free to leave a comment with your own experiences, questions or anything really…

//Louise.

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The comeback of the indigenous cow

Disclaimer: this post is not sponsored, but has been written in collaboration between the co-founder of “Meri Gaiya” Rajesh Madan and myself. It is entirely our own personal perception of the matter at hand.

When I came to India, I discovered something about milk that I had never thought about – namely that there’s a big difference between pasteurised, homogenised and raw milk! Furthermore, organic and non-organic milk are two very different things too. Recently my understanding of milk deepened even more, when I found out milk from different breeds, contains different proteins, making them very different as well. So why does it matter if all these are different? From my own personal conclusion, I believe the kind of milk we drink has enormous implications for our health (as well as a number of other aspects – but that discussion is for another time). In this article I will focus on my new discovery, leading me to conclude – that we should all be drinking A2 milk over A1 milk. From here I will let Rajesh Madan explain:

A1 vs. A2

When Keith Woodford published the Groundbreaking Work “Devil in the Milk” in 2007, it put a stirrer in the world’s glass of milk, so to speak.

A professor of Farm Management and Agri Business at Lincoln University in in New Zealand, Woodford presents irrefutable evidence in his book that linked cow’s milk to numerous medical mysteries including diabetes and autism.

In “Devil in the Milk”, Keith Woodford brings together the evidence published in over 100 scientific papers. He examines the population studies that look at the link between consumption of A1 milk and the incidence of heart disease and Type 1 diabetes; he explains the science that underpins the A1/A2 hypothesis; and he examines the research undertaken with animals and humans. The evidence is compelling: WE SHOULD BE SWITCHING TO A2 MILK.

The book in itself is an amazing story of not just about the health issues surrounding A1 milk, but also about how scientific evidence can be molded and withheld by vested interests, and how consumer choices are influenced by the interests of corporate business.

So what exactly is A1 and A2 milk?

Originally, all animal milk was A2, including of course the cow milk. But then, a mutation occurs in the Bovine Population of Northern Europe and Voila! Cows started producing A1 milk.

India’s National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NABGR) had done a study in 2012 where they specified that the A1 and A2 variants differ at amino acid position 67 with Histidine in A1 and Proline in A2 variant. This polymorphism leads to a key change in the secondary structure of expressed β-casein protein. The variant A1 of β-casein has been suggested to be associated as a risk factor for the following diseases: Type 1 diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, arteriosclerosis, sudden infant death syndrome and neurological impairment including autistic and schizophrenic changes.

The Indian Village and the Cow

Needless to say, all indigenous breeds of cows in India produce only A2 milk.

The cow in fact had, and perhaps still has a central place in the Indian Rural Economy. The milk was treasured, the dung used as fertiliser to rejuvenate the soil, the dried dung cakes used as a cheap substitute for firewood, the male bullocks put to work in the fields, and then of course it fed the leather industry too. This bond of the farmer with the cow is so strong that the cow has came to be held as sacred in the Hindu way of living.

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This sacredness turned beef consumption into a contentious issue in India. The ancient ayurvedic texts supported eating of beef: “The flesh of the cow is beneficial for those suffering from the loss of flesh due to disorders caused by an excess of vayu, rhinitis, irregular fever, dry cough, fatigue, and also in cases of excessive appetite resulting from hard manual labour.” But over time, beef became a strict no-no in the diet of an Indian, except the lowest of the low classes of Hindus and those from other religions.

The invasion of the Western Cows

To increase the availability of milk for every Indian and also to increase the income of farmers, the Indian Government launched Operation Flood in 1970. The import of alien cow breeds like Jersey or Holstein Friesian was encouraged as they produce more milk.

That started the slow but steady downward slide for India’s 37 indigenous cow breeds. There was a relentless and reckless drive to cross breed the alien varieties with the indigenous ones.

In 2013, Jay Mazoomdar wrote in Tehelka, an Indian News Publication: India is the world’s largest producer of milk. But in 10 years, we will be forced to start importing it. And the Indian cow will no longer exist.

Today, according to one estimate, only 5% of the total cow population is of pure indigenous breeds. But the good news is that over the last few years, awareness has grown on the harmful effects of A1 milk and efforts have gathered steam to promote and increase the indigenous cow population.

The A2 Ambassadors

Unknown to most, Desi Ghee made from A2 milk is lighter than the ghee from other sources. It can prevent heart blockages, help cure gastric problems and headaches. It also combats Asthma and Insomnia, besides lowering blood cholesterol and recovery of wounds.

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Many ventures like ‘Meri Gaiya’ and ‘The Way We Were’ have come up in India which have taken it upon themselves to increase awareness about all the health benefits of cow ghee made from A2 milk and at the same time promote ethical dairy practices and conservation of indigenous breeds.

We felt passionately about our cause for the consumer’s health, farmers as well as cows. We put together a small capital to start our dairy last year with just 4 Desi A2 Cows. We made sure to feed them only with Organic feed and took care of them like part of our extended family. We now have 28 cows – Rajesh Madan

The fight to reclaim the health, community and environmental benefits of indigenous cow breeds and their milk products has begun in earnest. And in the years to come, it promises to gain momentum and turn things around.

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A big thank you to Rajesh for this inspiring information, and for inspiring others to get back to basics! Your ghee will from now on be a stabile on my kitchen counter. 

//Louise.

How to make two types of soap in one batch

The only downside of making soap at home, is that sometimes there’s just too many new (and expensive) things I want to try out – which is actually why I developed the trick I’m about to explain. In this post I will explain how you can make two or more types of soap in one go, in a way that’s simple enough for anyone with basic soap making skills to do so. If you want to see it live, you can check out my last post: Video tutorial: cold process soap making, where I make two types of soaps in one go. I will use the same soap as an example in this post.

Creating your base recipe – but mixing up the rest

I’m sure a lot of soapers can relate to having a ‘go to’ soap recipe, when it comes to the base oils (carrier oils). There might be smaller variations, but all of us have our favorites. I think this is for good reason, because when something works – why change it? But we still need the excitement of changing it up whenever we make soap, which is where the esthetic and experience of the soap comes into the picture – the shape, smell, look and feel can make two soaps seems completely different even if the base is the same. So to make two types of soap, you simply create a base recipe – but plan out different scents, additives and shapes for the two (or more soaps) you want to make. Here is an example of a two soaps in one:

Base recipe – 1000 grams:
  • 250 grams coconut oil
  • 200 grams olive oil
  • 150 grams mango butter
  • 200 grams canola oil
  • 100 grams castor oil
  • 100 grams sesame oil
  • Lye – 141.77 grams
  • Coconut milk – 425.30 grams
The two batches (separated after trace):

Batch 1 – around 800 grams:

This batch will be poured in a loaf mold in a simple swirl with the following ingredients:

  • 50 ml cedar wood oil
  • 25 ml lemon grass oil
  • Aronia berry powder

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Batch 2 – around 200 grams:

This batch will be poured in small muffin molds, unscented with the following one ingredient for color:

  • Paprika powder

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How to go about it

I’ve divided this part in three steps: Planning, Preparation & Timing. Here we go.

Planning

Once you’ve chosen your base recipe, plan out how the two soaps will be different, in a way you are sure you’ll be able to manage. For example if it’s the first time you try this out, start by only changing one element – such as shape or scent. If you’re more experienced you can plan out changing more elements, and even plan to make two different swirls in your two batches. Though whatever you plan, it’s important that it is completely clear before you make your soap. I usually spend some time visualizing my soap, and then write it down on a piece of paper with all the different components and details of each of the batches.

Preparation

Since you will be working with more components than normal, it’s important to prepare as much as you can before you start. Examples of ways to prepare are:

  • Set out as many bowls as you will be dividing the batter into (for two simple batches, prepare two bowls, for two batches with swirls prepare four bowls etc.)
  • Add the additives in the bowls at the preparation stage. If it’s powders, you can mix a little oil in it to make sure they don’t clump when the batter is added. You can either add the essential oil directly in the bowl at preparation, or put it next to to the bowl in a smaller container, so its ready to be added.
  • If you want to pour the soup in different molds, place them so you’ve got plenty of space to work. The batter might be hardening fast, and you wont have time to move things around when you are in the middle of the process.

Timing:

Anyone that has made soap before, knows it’s all about timing, and even more so when you are trying to make two different soaps in one go. The only thing I really do, is to separate the soap batter into the different bowls, a little before it really thickens (trace) and then use a hand whisk for the last thickening. In this way you gain some time to mix in the different additives before they become too thick. A useful pointer is the following: if one mold is a cavity mold, pour that one first. It’s really hard to scoop into a cavity mold (without spending too much time smoothing it out). On the other hand, if you plan a swirl in one of the soaps, pour that first – once it’s too solid, you wont be able to make certain swirls.

Now, that was all for now. Remember, practice makes perfect. I’ve only done this a few times, but I get better every time. And it really keep things interesting when you got the regular process down.

Video tutorial: cold process soap

This is my first attempt of making a video tutorial, so bare with me if some parts of it is explained too fast or I babble a little. Also, at the time of making the video I had been spending some time in Denmark, so my usual Indian accent is mixed with a danish accent.

Feel free to ask questions in the comment section if something is not clear from the tutorial. I will leave the recipe below for reference.

Base recipe – 1000 grams:

  • 250 grams coconut oil
  • 200 grams olive oil
  • 150 grams mango butter
  • 200 grams canola oil
  • 100 grams castor oil
  • 100 grams sesame oil

Lye & Coconut milk:

  • Lye – 141.77 grams
  • Coconut milk – 425.30 grams

Additives: 

Batch 1 – 800 grams – scented:

  • 50 ml cedar wood oil
  • 25 ml lemon grass oil
  • Aronia powder

Batch 2 – 200 grams – unscented:

  • Paprika powder

 

 

The best handwashing soap (with recipe)

There is a lot of misinformation out there on what it takes to keep your hands clean (and soft) – at least if you ask me. I’m not a professional in neither biology or any other science, so if I ever find sufficient (trustworthy) evidence to prove the contrary I will be the first to admit I was wrong. Though until then, I will insist that the very best thing to wash your hands with is plain old fashioned handmade soap! Actually I intentionally try to avoid any stronger stuff, such as commercial antibacterial soaps like Dettol. If you want to explore this topic further you can start by reading: Dangers of Antibacterial Soap (Dettol) and Commercial vs. Handmade soaps. This post though will focus on my own alternative to products like antibacterial soaps, including the recipe I use, so that you can make your own. If you have never made soap before you can read about the process here: How to make natural soap.

The soap I prefer to wash my hands with (and the star of this post) is pure coconut soap. First of all, using 100% coconut oil makes a rock solid bar of soap, which can withstand the moist environment in many bathrooms. Additionally coconut oil is a strong cleanser, perfect for hand washing. A very common misconception about coconut soap is that it dries out the skin, but there’s a very basic trick to solve this: super fat! Super fat is a soapers term describing leaving some of the oil in the soap, , without being saponified (made into soap). This adds extra moisture to the soap. A normal batch of soap will have a super fat of between 5% and 7%, since more might make the soap too soft, but since coconut oil makes a rock solid bar of soap it can have a super fat up to 30%.

The second secret to great hand soap is essential oils. Essential oils doesn’t only add scent to a soap, but also different properties, depending on the essential oil you use. Tea tree, cinnamon and sweet orange essential oil, amongst others have antibacterial properties, making them great ingridients for hand soap. In this soap I’ve added lemongrass and sweet essential oil – which also smells divine.

My mold is 900 grams, so this is the recipe I’ve used:

  • 900 grams of coconut oil
  • 342 grams of Water
  • 140 grams sodium hydroxide
  • 40 ml Lemon grass essential oil (optional)
  • 50 ml Sweet orange essential oil (optional)
  • 1 spoon Aloe vera gel (optional) – added in the lye

Suoerfat is at 15%

The last three ingredients are optional and can be exchanged or completely left out. I prefer to keep the essential oils at 10 ml per 100 grams of base oils (carrier oils), but many use less than that. If you want to make less or more than this recipe, simply run it through your preferred soap calculator,

//Louise

How to form a liquid soap recipe

When I started making natural liquid soap, I realized that there’s a lot less information on this process, than there is on solid soap making (both cold and hot process). This goes especially for info on how to combine oils in the right percentages to make a great liquid soap recipe. After a lot of searching and experimenting, I’ve gotten a basic idea on the things to consider when forming a liquid soap recipe. I would like to share what I’ve learned with you in this post, including a few examples of recipes I’ve used. If you have never made liquid soap, or would like to give it try, you can start out by reading: How to make natural liquid soap.

In the post How to form a soap recipe, I explain the process of forming a recipe for solid soap, and there’s a few things that are very different when forming a liquid soap recipe.

1. Liquid soap can contain high amounts of soft oils

Solid soap is all about making the bar hard and long lasting. This means that a lot of oils can’t be used in high quantities, because they make a soft and sticky bar of soap. These are called soft oils – meaning that they are fluid at all times (coconut, palm and mango butter are examples of hard oils, because they turn solid at certain temperatures). Liquid soap formulas on the other hand can easily contain high amounts of soft oils, since you don’t have to worry about the soap turning soft. Examples of soft oils are sunflower, sweet almond, avocado, safflower, sastor and canola oil.

2. Liquid soap needs high amounts of coconut oil

Coconut oil is a must in most soap formulations, because it gives great cleansing properties and abundant lather. Though in solid soap, coconut oil isn’t used above 30 percent, because it makes the soap drying (unless it’s super fatted properly. Read: 3 Coconut Soaps – for hair, body and clothes). Liquid soap on the other hand needs high amounts of coconut oil, to give proper lather and is often used between 60-90% of the total soap formulation. I’ve not experienced it to make the soap drying, properly because of the added water.

3. Liquid soap isn’t super fatted 

To Superfat a soap is to leave some of the oil ‘unsaponified’ in the soap, but since liquid soap has added water, the excess oil would just float on the top of the final soap. This means that it’s pointless superfatting liquid soap, the same way you would in solid. Though there’s two ways to do it, which is to add glycerin or sulfated castor oil, which are both water soluble.

4. Liquid soap gets cloudy if certain oils are used 

This is of absolutely no importance to me personally, but for many soapers it’s important to keep the liquid soap completely clear (not cloudy). Some oils make liquid soap cloudy because they contain high amounts of ‘unsaponifiables’ (oil that can’t be made into soap), and is therefore left as oil in the final soap, that creates cloudy masses. Examples of these are palm oil, lard, tallow and all types of butters (cocoa, mango, Shea etc.). It’s recommended only to add these at 5% of the total recipe, if you want to keep the soap clear.

Another way this is ensured is to make the soap with higher amounts of potassium hydroxide and then neutralizing the soap at the end. This won’t work though if there’s too much ‘unsaponifiables’ in the recipe, so either way first rule is key.

How to formulate a recipe

To make this guide more simple, I will write down a general guide and then mention the exceptions in the section with recipes. According to me there’s three parts to a great soap recipe, with the option of excluding the third category. These are:

1. Coconut oil – 60% to 90% of the recipe 

Coconut oil is a must, in any amount from 60% to 90%. I’ve tried all the ranges, and from what I can feel, the biggest change is how abundant the lather is. Though I would say the more sensitive your skin is, or if you want to make soap for children, the smaller amounts of coconut oil should be used. Baby soap is the only time I would add less than 50% coconut oil – and accept the soap will just lather less.

2. Soft oils – 10% to 40% of the recipe 

Soft oils serves to add moisture to your soap, and also to keep the price down. What’s great about liquid soap recipes, is that a lot of really cheap oil makes for great components in high quantities. These are for example sunflower, canola, safflower and castor oil. Other examples are sweet almond oil, avocado oil and apricot kernel. Olive oil isn’t technically a soft oil, but is also a very moisturizing oil. Therefore it can also be added to the recipe as a soft oil.

3. Hard oils – 5% of the recipe 

Hard oils can add some extra body to your soap, but needs to be added in less than 5% if you prefer an unclouded soap. Though, since I don’t care I’ve added up to 15% and loved the outcome. Examples are cocoa butter, shea butter, mango butter and kokum butter. Personally I don’t use palm oil, because of its environmental concerns but I’ve heard it’s great for liquid soap. Additionally are tallow and lard, which I also don’t use.

These three in combination will make a great recipe. Let’s take some examples.

Liquid soap recipies

1. The super lathering one 

  • 90% Coconut oil
  • 10% Castor oil

2. The cheap one 

  • 60% Coconut oil
  • 10% Castor oil
  • 30% Sunflower or Safflower oil

3. The Luxurious one 

  • 60% coconut oil
  • 10% castor
  • 25% sweet almond or avocado oil
  • 5% mango, kokum or shea Butter

Now to the exceptions:

3. The baby soap 

  • 100% olive oil

4. The cleaning soap (for a sparkling house or super clean laundry)

  • 100% coconut oil

I’m a bit apprehensive writing a baby soap recipe containing coconut oil, since I don’t have much experience with it. But from what I can deduct it could work with small amounts of coconut oil and high amounts of soft oil – if you want to avoid using olive oil.

This was all I could cook up for now. I’m not nearly as experienced in liquid soap as I am in cold process soap making, so feel free to write in the comment section if you disagree with something or have other input – I’d love to hear it!

//Louise

Breakfast waffles (gluten free & optionally dairy free)

The other day I found an old fashioned waffle iron in a second hand shop, and absolutely just had to have it! One thing I love about Denmark is the well organized, high quality but still cheap, second hand shops to be found in almost any town.

I’ve never really taken any sides in the ‘is gluten bad for you’ conversation, but I do acknowledge that a lot of gluten products are high in fast carbohydrates and starch – which can be unhealthy if eaten in excess. For that reason I’m always experimenting with gluten alternatives in my baking and cooking, and of course I wanted to try this out with my waffles as well. I also made them dairy free, since a family member is intolerant, but they will turn out just as great with milk. In case you don’t have a waffle iron, this can be made as pancakes as well. I made them with some creme fraise mixed with honey and vanilla powder, topped with blue berries.

Ingredients (4 waffles): 

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  • 4 dl oats
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 dl rice milk, almond milk, soya milk or regular milk
  • 1 banana (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla powder (optional)

How to make it: 

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a mixer or blender and blend till smooth
  2. Heat the waffle iron or pan on the stove
  3. Grease the iron with butter and let melt
  4. Make your waffles, greasing the waffle iron according to need (if using an old waffle iron you will need to turn it manually)

Since the waffles look like little hearts, they could make a pretty cute birthday breakfast or just as a Sunday surprise for a loved one. They can also be served with ice cream or whipped cream to make it more of a dessert, or even be made into food waffles – with some spices and herbs, but thats a project for next time.

Here’s the final result – and with that, I will end this post. Feel free to leave a comment or question below.

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