The Art of Balance #51 | Alessia Siligardi, where will you live?
The Rebirth/Third Paradise ambassadress is the 51st guest of the initiative “The Art of Balance / Pandemopraxy”, launched by Cittadellarte. Alessia Siligardi contributes with a text she wrote last April, in full pandemic, in which she explains how she is pursuing the balance inspired by the Third Paradise in her daily life. A process that applies to every aspect: from her choice of food and water to clothes, from the products she uses for her personal and domestic hygiene to the type of toys she buys for her son. Here is how this episode’s guest is bringing sustainability into her own life. “I think,” she said, “that balance is the result of carefully recapturing the past combining it with present and future innovations”.

Where will you live?
It’s Tuesday 14th April. A big storm is about to break and the wind is blowing hard.
We are all quarantined because of the Coronavirus and the first thing I think about is that unfortunately the violent Western machine of ‘progress’ – which is often a regression – hasn’t stopped, on the contrary it’s looking to taking advantage by raising the prices of protective gloves and masks, for example, which are now sold out everywhere. Some workers keep being exploited and some companies are rubbing their hands with glee at their expenses.

What will change in the post-pandemic?
I personally try to live in an ethical and sustainable way, compared to a past in which I was less sensitive to certain things. How? First of all I buy loose and locally sourced products whenever possible. It’s not always an option, but it is for most products. I also try to encourage other people to do the same, explaining them how to do it.

I’m very careful about what clothes I buy: what fibres have been used, where they have been made, and if their labelling guarantees a productive supply chain respectful of workers, of the environment and of the people who’ll wear them. And again, I encourage others to do the same.
Otherwise I buy vintage clothes, promoting reuse, or I have them made by friends, or I make them myself.

I give away or recycle clothes and things I don’t use. I’d like to start selling them at low price, I’ve actually been seriously thinking about it in the last few days. In any case, I very rarely throw something away. I teach fashion and I develop projects with students of ethical and sustainable fashion always mentioning the Third Paradise and Cittadellarte.

I’m careful in choosing toys for our son. I prefer natural materials, I pay attention to the dyes and I verify the whole productive supply chain the way I do for clothes and shoes. When I bought his cot, his playpen and everything else he needed for his infant years, I never chose them in plastic. For me it’s in fact important to try to use as little of it as possible. I use the ones I already have or that I’m given, but I almost never buy objects made of plastic, I’m always very conscious about it.
For years I’ve been saving scraps of materials of every kind for my workshops with both children and adults. I reuse and recycle.

I’ve also adopted a cocoa tree from TREEDOM and I’ve named it after our little dogs Simon and Yu, I’ve then created a forest dedicated to our son William where everybody can plant trees, helping me grow a larger one. I find this website really useful and exciting! Besides, it contributes to achieving the UN’s 17 global goals for sustainable development.

Said that, finding a balance, as the symbol of the Third Paradise teaches us, is certainly not easy. Especially in the family, where you’re always at risk of giving in to convenience… it’s too tempting.

Last year, my father was awarded with a trophy for his hard and constant work (unpaid, he only got a little discount on his bill) of retrieving material for a recycling centre. Apart from that, he started recycling when Italy wasn’t doing it yet. He never wastes anything, he never throws away anything. His power and heating consumption is reduced to a minimum, he doesn’t waste water, in an almost obsessive way. I’m more balanced: I’m careful but I don’t deprive myself of the comfort, for example, of keeping my home warm in the winter.

Talking about food instead, balance lies in alternating local and non-local, diversifying but still choosing carefully. I love Japanese food, for example. My balance was eating it once a week. Then I got pregnant and I couldn’t have it anymore. Now we seldom order it in because unfortunately there aren’t many good places left. Restaurants have lowered their quality offering all-you-can-eat deals.
For me, balance is not about being vegetarian or vegan, but about eating a bit of everything verifying the provenance of the food, the ethicality of the breeding farm, etc.

We don’t drink tap water because where we live it’s very hard, and in our place it’s not easy to install a purifier, so in the meantime we buy water in returnable glass bottles. When we are out we use water bottles instead of plastic ones as we used to do before.

As far as clothes are concerned, the dynamics of the fashion industry generates waste, with items used for only a few months, or a few weeks even, due to fast fashion, ending up being one of the most polluting industries in the world. Luckily, the notion of ethical and sustainable fashion has recently been (even if slowly) spreading.
How can we achieve balance in this case? It sometimes happens that some fleeting trends fully meet my taste, so I make purchases because I like the clothes, but I’ll be wearing them for a long time, not just for the current season. I prefer natural fibres and I look for certifications like Oeko-Tex, GOTS, FairTrade, Organic Content Standard, etc., which ensure ethicality and quality. I’m at last finding less-known fibres whose use is just spreading now, like bamboo, vegetable silk, eucalyptus. The same as with cotton, we should nonetheless look into the processes these fibres have undergone, their provenance and the respect for workers and land.
The balance is in the fact that occasionally I still wear what I already owned and doesn’t comply with these standards… as well as what has been or is given to me as a present, even if I’m very particular about what I buy and I promote the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion.

I’m keeping all my son’s stuff, besides a few things I’m already giving away; whether we’ll decide to have another child in the future or not, it’ll all be recycled, with the exception of a few mementos.

I’m designing party favours which I’ll hand make for his christening; to my ‘green’ joy I’ve found out that there are stoviglioteche (places where you can borrow tableware), and I hope to find one available for the event, or I could invest in buying tableware to reuse on all future occasions, so as to avoid using disposable products, especially in plastic.

I’ve always reused plastic creatively in my workshops, also to plant seeds. I’ve gone from reusing it to try not to use it at all.

Another form of balance: I initially used disposable (even if carefully selected) nappies for my son, and I’m now trying to switch to those in washable fabric that I had bought before he was born, but that I haven’t been using much because of the usual enticement of convenience.
Sometimes it’s hard work but it’s worth it!

I’ve also been buying beautiful washable sanitary pads from a girl living in nature with her family who has founded a small ‘green’ business. I’m always happy to buy from artisans working with creativity and passion and to pass their contacts on. At the beginning I used paper to clean our son on the changing table, but after a short while I’ve started using only fabric.
I’ve also always tried to use as few medicines as possible.

I’m also much more discerning when it comes to cleaning products.
I used to clean only with vinegar, now I’ve made some detergents myself and others I’ve bought making sure they were eco-labelled and their provenance was traceable, in addition to being organic: products to clean surfaces, for the washing machine, the dishwasher, etc.
I don’t use softener anymore, but citric acid (and not all the times). I’ve started using Marseille soap again. I can’t much bear chemical smells now!

Every day I find out new things, with which, with great enthusiasm, I replace the ones I would normally use like in the case of food wrappings, which are now reusable.

I’m transforming my whole home, starting from the bedroom, for which I’ve chosen a quilt in pure cotton made by a certified local company that has kept us warm all winter without making us sweat, in addition to being soft and beautiful.

Just the other day I bought wooden hangers for our clothes.

In the bathrooms, I’m replacing all the containers with glass ones, and choosing eco-sustainable soaps, bubble baths, shampoos and toothpastes. My brush and comb are made of wood, my toothbrush of bamboo, my makeup wipes are not disposable anymore, my cotton buds are biodegradable. Makeup and products for the baby’s hygiene are carefully selected. I use bicarbonate as deodorant.

In the kitchen too I only use glass containers, I’ve filled all the cupboards with reusable jars. I’m conscious when buying dish cloths, table cloths, pot holders and gloves.

I’m trying to have more plants and look after them, also because of the great help they provide in contrasting radiations in the house and purifying the air. I’m also gathering the necessary materials to create a small greenhouse with vegetables and aromatic herbs in the kitchen, since, unfortunately, I live in a flat. I’ve bought and we’ll start using a germinator too.

I hope these might all be useful suggestions so that we can make a difference through our small daily actions!

I think that balance is the result of carefully recapturing the past combining it with present and future innovations. The latter must not destroy the planet though. It’s down to us to actively commit not to let that happen. An ecologically and ethically sustainable future is possible.