Sustainable is Attainable

The following is an article I wrote in Journalism class as part of a group project to create an original magazine. Since we chose minimalism as our theme, I decided to look at capsule wardrobe challenges and the emergence of eco-friendly clothing options in Winnipeg:


Photo taken at Modern Supply Co. in Winnipeg, MB.

Teresa Looy has no problem sharing the contents of her closet with a complete stranger.

After learning of Courtney Carver’s Project 333, a movement of wearing 33 items of clothing or less for three months, Looy decided to take part in her first minimalist fashion challenge.

Carver, who runs the blog “Be More with Less,” has over 38,000 followers on Instagram.

“There’s all kinds of minimalist fashion challenges in terms of capsule wardrobes, and Project 333 is just one way to do it,” Looy said. “Clothing is a great way to concentrate that simplicity because it’s something we don’t have much attachment to.”

Looy, who works at Winnipeg’s Green Action Centre, says the production, distribution and disposal of clothing makes up 10 per cent of global carbon emissions. After learning about the textile industry, she decided to pare down her clothing.

“It’s amazing how much easier it is to get ready in the morning and keep my room clean when I only have 33 items in my dresser,” Looy said.

According to a Huffington Post article titled “We Shouldn’t Be Filling Up Our Landfills with Clothing,” Canada produces enough textile waste in one year to create a mountain three times the size of Toronto’s Rogers Centre stadium.

Despite 85 per cent of Canada’s apparel ending up in landfills, no Canadian province or territory has a textile recycling program in place.

“I do my best to focus on eco-friendly,” Looy said. “It’s not everywhere yet, but I’ve been learning the principle of, ‘Buy nice, not twice.’ That’s something out there in the sustainable fashion community.”

But Looy’s experience went beyond decluttering her closet.

“Clothing wasn’t what it was about in the end,” Looy said. “It’s about who we are and who we want to be. Clothing should facilitate who we are, not be who we are.”

According to an article published by the peer-reviewed journal Fashion Theory titled “Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands,” ‘fast fashion’ describes low-cost attire made to mimic luxury brands. In what used to be a turnaround time of six months, clothing companies like Zara are now narrowing this period down to mere weeks.

While fast fashion may be the easier option, it’s not the environmentally friendly one. The manufacturing of cheap clothing leads to high consumption rates and the exploitation of factory workers.

But designers across Canada are beginning to turn to eco-friendly options, making it easier for consumers to shop consciously.

VOILÀ Designs, located in south Osborne, is one Winnipeg-based clothing store specializing in sustainable, slow fashion. Andréanne Dandeneau owns the Métis clothing label. In the back of the showroom, rows of fair trade, organic textiles rest on shelves between sewing machines and other equipment.

Dandeneau says the fabrics she uses are either bamboo-derived or organic cotton. They are also knit and dyed in Toronto before being shipped back to Winnipeg. Dandeneau’s seamstress then cuts and sews each piece in-store.

“Slow fashion is buying local,” Dandeneau said. “Some designers Winnipeg may not use organic cotton or bamboo, but producing small runs reduces their carbon footprints.”

Eco-friendly alternatives have been part of Dandeneau’s life since she was a child.

“I was brought up not buying a lot,” Dandeneau said. “My mom said, ‘If you’re going to want to do something with your life, make sure you help people.’ So I asked myself, ‘How do I help the world in a way that it’s okay to make more stuff?’ That’s how I decided to keep my line eco-friendly.”

Dandeneau isn’t sure if similar questions are asked of this generation, but talking about it may lead to more people listening.

“Conversations start and then you begin asking your own questions,” Dandeneau said.

With sustainable options becoming more popular and readily available, it’s clear the minimalist movement has begun to take over the wardrobe.


Life Lessons at the End of My First-Year of CreComm

Well, my first-year of CreComm has come to an end. I can’t get over how fast it went by. I also can’t get over how much I learned in eight short months. Here are five things I took away from this year:

1. Progress is not linear – In first semester, I found myself growing increasingly frustrated with my progress, specifically in journalism, because I knew it was what I wanted to major in. I thought it would be “easy” (ha!) and I would immediately catch on to how to write an awesome story (ha! x2). I still feel like I’m a terrible journalist, but I do know I’ve gotten better which, at the end of the day, is all that matters. Remember: you’re improving even when you don’t see it yourself.

2. Being pushed out of your comfort zone is so necessary – I was terrified for my first streeter. The idea of attending a Remembrance Day service and approaching two people for interviews also scared me so much I hardly slept the night before. Now? I love streeters. I love talking to strangers. I love hearing stories. Nothing is as scary as it may initially seem.

3. Writing is an ongoing process – I viewed myself as a “writer” prior to starting CreComm. It was something I always loved to do (and something I always wanted to do as a career). I thought I was good at it, but it wasn’t until after I started the program that I realized I had (and still have) so much room to improve. I also learned every piece of writing requires a lot of hard work and frustration to finish. And even then, the writing process is never truly “complete.”

4. Sometimes your mental health is more important – Shut your laptop, put aside the damn assignment and go to sleep.

5. I desperately want to be a real kickass journalist, and I will do everything to make that happen.

Book Review: “How to Murder Your Life” by Cat Marnell

I don’t read as much as I used to, which is shameful for an aspiring writer to admit. I used to devour a novel or two every week, but don’t anymore. This sad reality can probably be attributed to how busy I am with school. However, I’ve been trying to give myself time between deadlines and obligations to read for my own enjoyment again. The stack of books I’ve accumulate throughout the year is quite ridiculous, in all honesty. I have a long summer of reading ahead of me.

How to Murder Your Life, Cat Marnell’s debut memoir, is one of the books I recently finished that resonated with me more than others.

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I’ve been a fan of Marnell since I stumbled across her work a few years ago. She’s a former Condé Nast intern, editor at xoJane and wrote a column for VICE (called “Amphetamine Logic”). She’s also contributed to SELF, Nylon and Glamour, among other publications.

Needless to say, I pretty much ran to Chapters the day her book was released.

How to Murder Your Life is highly confessional, much like Marnell’s other work. Her weekly VICE column, for instance, chronicled her drug addiction. Her writing is gritty (in the best possible way) and HTMYL is narrated beautifully. The writing is simple and readable, but also poetic (which I think is always difficult to achieve, but especially when the subject matter is so serious). Admittedly, I didn’t have high hopes for Marnell’s first book. I read an absurd amount of memoirs and, when it comes to those focusing on mental health or addiction, I usually find writers covering the topic to come across as somewhat self-centred. I assumed HTMYL would be no exception. Despite the stark subject matter, Marnell is hilarious and I pretty much roared with laughter throughout the entirety of the book.

PS – If you’re into confessional narratives by badass women writers, I’d also recommend you check out So Sad Today: Personal Essays by Melissa Broder. I pretty much inhaled it.

Books I’ll Be Reading This Summer

One of my favourite parts about school coming to an end? I finally get to dive into the ridiculous amount of books I’ve accumulated throughout the semester (I suppose there are worse strategies to cope with stress than running to the bookstore and spending money you shouldn’t). Here are 10 I plan on demolishing when classes finish:


1. “The Elements of Journalism” by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel (because I actually am a total loser, in case you weren’t already aware).

2. “The Center of Winter” by Marya Hornbacher

3. “The Break” by Katherena Vermette

4. “Nausea” by Jean-Paul Sartre

5. “This Is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz

6. “The White Album” by Joan Didion

7. “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs” by Chuck Klosterman

8. “Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life” by Kim Addonizio

9. “A Self-Portrait in Letters” by Anne Sexton

10. “Infinite Jest” by David Foster Wallace (I vow this will be the summer I finally finish this 1000-page monster)


The Royal Manitoba Winter Fair


Quinn Derksen, 10, says if she could bring home any animal from the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair it would be a rabbit. /KELSEY JAMES

The air is filled with the mixed smell of barn animals and BeaverTails. Hay covers the ground of Brandon’s Keystone Centre while horses neigh from their stables. Children lean against metal fencing at the petting zoo and reach their arms toward goats and sheep.

Terrilyn Gerbrandt owns the mobile petting zoo, Rocklin Farm, that has been part of the fair for the past five years. Gerbrandt says they are the largest in Manitoba and have been doing events since 2008.

“We started having animals because we love raising them,” Gerbrandt says. “Then people just began asking us to bring them places because there weren’t many people at the time doing it. There still isn’t.”

Gerbrandt says kids aren’t learning enough about animals nowadays because they aren’t being raised with them.

“Most kids are raised in town and we’re finding more and more don’t know what animals are,” Gerbrandt says. “We had a young girl come here last summer, who was probably fifteen or sixteen, and asked one of my staff carrying a rabbit what kind of chicken it was.”

Vicki Derksen waits in line with her daughter and niece to spend five minutes in one of the petting zoo’s enclosed pens. Derksen has attended the fair with her family for the past three decades and says it’s a tradition she’s passing onto her daughter, Quinn.

“My siblings and I used to come with my grandparents when we were young,” Derksen says. “There’s thirteen grandchildren in my family now – my brother, sisters and I all have kids – so we just meet here every year. The kids love it and count down the days.”

While Derksen talks, her niece, Shelby, stands beside her holding a guinea pig.

“I wish I could take you home,” Shelby whispers to it before placing it down.

Quinn walks across the wood shavings and through the crowd of children playing with ducks, chickens and other small animals. She returns with a rabbit in her arms.

“I like the petting zoo and the Super Dogs,” Quinn says. She laughs as the rabbit nibbles at her finger. “If I could, I’d bring home a white, fluffy bunny.”

When their five minutes are up, Quinn gently puts the rabbit onto the ground. She heads toward the gate while a group of guinea pigs scurry past her feet. They’ll be back next year.

Book Review: A Deadly Wandering

A Deadly Wandering, by New York Times reporter Matt Richtel, is the multi-layered story of Reggie Shaw, a 19-year-old man who killed two rocket scientists, Keith O’Dell and Jim Furfaro, after swerving into traffic while texting on a rainy Utah highway. As the investigation into the incident continues, it becomes clear Shaw’s distracted driving caused the crash, not the slick roads he claimed did.

While much of the book emphasizes the emotional impacts the accident had on Reggie and the families of the men he killed, it also intertwines his legal case while illuminating the universal realities of distracted driving. Much of the story’s success, in my opinion, comes from Richtel’s ability to incorporate scientific research and statistics into the narrative. For instance, the limitations of our attention spans, and how technology further impedes it, is backed up by Richtel’s interviews with experts in the field. For examples, Dr. Adam Gazzley refers to the limitations of human attentions spans as the “Cocktail Party Effect.” Gazzley says “technology companies are trying to get more of our brains per unit time … the more engaged you are in what they create, the more successful they are” (Richtel 109). While this is only example of the studies offered in the chapters titled “The Neuroscientists,” had Richtel only relied on this information to discuss technology, attention and distracted driving, A Deadly Wandering wouldn’t have the same emotional impact.

Like all journalism, the human element is what makes Richtel’s writing so compelling. Colourful quotes aside, the lengths Richtel went to craft a well-rounded story is evident through range of characters used. Aside from Shaw, the inclusion of the scientists’ widows and children, the prosecutors, neuroscientists and Shaw’s advocate offer a generally objective view of the repercussions of the accident. Although I enjoyed this, Richtel’s choice to tailor each chapter around each character – “Reggie,” “The Neuroscientists,” “Terryl,” “Hunt for Justice,” etc – somewhat slowed down the pace of his writing and, ironically, distracted me.

Despite my initial reservations of Reggie and inclination he was hiding something, by the end of the book I began sympathizing with him and viewed the story’s arching theme to be of redemption. I also commend Richtel on his journalistic ability to illustrate Reggie’s emotional journey while also placing a strong focus on the grief the two scientists’ families experienced. Perhaps my favourite instances of Richtel’s ability to focus on the detail is when Jackie drives passed the site of Jim’s death in chapter 17. Richtel writes: “As Jackie drove that morning on their Christmas journey, the girls watching Disney, she tried to lose herself in the radio. She thought: If I get teary, my vision gets blurry and then it’ll be hard to drive and then I’ll have to explain to the kids why I’m stopping” (148). Similarly, I think Richtel’s choice to end the book with Reggie returning to the scene of the accident and gravesite of Keith O’Dell with his girlfriend, Britney, was made deliberately and tied the story together nicely. On page 363 he writes: “It was around ten a.m., the sun still coming up, the skies clear, not like the morning it happened. When they got there, Reggie, for the first time, walked through what he remembered had happened, and told Britney the details he remembered, showered her where his car wound up. He was crying, and she was not. ‘She was strong for me,’ he said. After a while, they drove to the cemetery where Keith O’Dell was buried. Reggie and Britney sat down near the headstone and didn’t talk.”

Overall, Richtel’s effort to craft such vivid imagery allowed the story to move from the personal to the universal and why we often choose being technologically connected at the expense of safety.