Can we stop buying trash?

Every time over the last few years, since I moved to the US, I go shopping, especially for groceries, household cleaning supplies or beauty products I feel that I buy trash. Another plastic bottle of dish soap or shampoo, another pack of batteries for my daughter’s toys, dozens of packs of paper towels… and all of this pretty soon completes its life cycle and finds itself in the trash bucket. For our selfish (and yes! so comfortable and so needed in our busy lives) convenience modern industry offers disposable things for each our smallest move. Just think of a very existence of a disposable floss pick! Isn’t it crazy?

Every time I hear the word “disposable” in an ad of a product that is supposed to make my life better, I feel almost physical discomfort. Yes, we can’t really stop using diapers and feminine pads. Our parents at our age would be so jealous for us having these advances of civilization so easily accessible. But the industry of household products is making the most out of the disposable trend squeezing in disposable elements everywhere you could imagine. Swiffer keeps our houses clean, but what it does to our bigger universal house with its disposable mopping refills! This is the craziest irony I can think of in this regard.

San Francisco is doing a really good job giving us an opportunity to recycle a lot of things that could elsewhere find themselves in the landfill. I wish Moscow would give its residents the same freedom to add another reason to be proud of our beautiful city.

There are companies that inspire me with their mission to disrupt the harmful disposable trend, like Thinx or Zero Market. I would like these eco-friendly alternatives to become real and mainstream for mass audience, but not only for socially consious creative class!



My startup ideas. ReLife – new life of old goods

I have some business ideas, that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’d like to share them with you. This post will be about a sustainable project that promotes reusing goods instead of buying new ones, it has a working name “ReLife”.

ReLife is a service for selling and buying brand-name used goods. These goods come from big global retailers like IKEA, Target, Walmart and others that carry well-known brands of products which can be used and reused for years. I noticed that whenever I am looking for things on Craigslist, I’m often searching for specific brands and models that I already know, have used before and read reviews on Amazon. When I moved from Russia to the US, I obviously needed to buy a lot of household items and furniture. While shopping for them, I sometimes bought exactly the same goods from IKEA that I used to have back in Russia and would continue using, if only I could bring them with me on the plane. I couldn’t do so, so I bought them – sometimes new, sometimes used, if there was this option.

Interestingly, when I’m looking into buying something (for example, a scooter for my 2-year old daughter Alenka) and see some options available, the first thing I do is reading reviews. (By the way, there should be a special word for searching for reviews online, haha 😉 Like yelping for businesses and services and amazoning for products 😉 )

ReLife enables you search for a brand and specific model and then find same used products that people sell in your neighborhood. Data can be sourced from Craigslist, NextDoor and Facebook (buy and sell groups), as well as from offline thrift stores – in addition to user-generated content added by users seeking to sell things they don’t need any more. This will happen later, when the brand is big enough and well known. Potentially next to each item posted on big retailers’ online marketplaces, they could include a link to ReLife-power “used” version of the exact same product.

The main idea is to post products from specific products and specific brands, no no-name products will be allowed. The social mission of the project is huge: reusing things instead of buying new ones becomes a popular trend among millenials.

Staying in place or moving on?

In my life I was happy to meet very charismatic people that were truly devoted to their jobs, they stayed at the same company for years, putting all their heart and creativity into their work trying to make a difference. Career-oriented Western world taught us that it’s normal when people don’t stay at the same company for too long, rather they change jobs when feel stagnation and the flow of “fresh blood” often boost projects to the next level. And I admire the commitment of these people to improve their work environment, bring in new ideas and innovation into every project that are doing.

I also met very interesting people who changed jobs and projects every 2 or 3 years, who are very professional and successful. And every time their next assignment would challenge them to grow and build their strength, as any new job does.

Whenever I moved on with my my career and switched jobs, there were always people who stayed. Often years later these people got promoted, became heads of departments and brought positive change to the company. And even when from outside it looked like they are staying “on the same place”, in reality they weren’t, in most cases their commitment was rewarded.

Sometimes I ask myself: what is better: challenge yourself with new unknown projects or work hard to become the best expert in your assigned field?

Double standards

Today’s life is filled with double standards. Sometimes we don’t notice them in everyday life. It’s when people complain about Facebook on Facebook. Sounds familiar? 😉

Or when they announce on Facebook that they are starting a Facebook-detox and then share another post after it’s over how awesome it was 🙂

It’s when people get irritated by babies crying on the plane and then later, when they have their own kids, get irritated that other people are pissed off when their offspring is freaking out during take off.

It’s when people don’t want to follow the rules, while they want others to follow them.

Or when people in Russia complain about corruption and at the same time are trying to find easier, shorter and faster ways to get things done when dealing with public services, public records, healthcare or education institutions. Or course, it’s not double standards, it’s life, political reality of a state where corruption mechanisms are so deeply tied with law enforcement and nobody can really make head or tail of anything and public services aren’t provided by the state the way the law describes it. Often the wording of the law itself is allows multiple takes, which creates additional problems when it comes to its execution.

Are double standards engrained in human nature like instincts of self protection and reproduction? 🙂

It’s not Ok!

When I was pregnant, I noticed that during regular check-ups when a midwife or a nurse was asking different questions, she would always listen to my answers with the exact same polite expression of her face, nodding considerately and taking notes: “Ok… m-m-m-Okay!” as if she wouldn’t even care what exactly I was saying. Almost all the nurses I was seeing had this same expression. Non-judgmental. Free of any sign of disapproval. Neutrally welcoming.

I started thinking their barely perceptible polite smile would still be the same whatever i say. I’m wondering, if someone would tell them she’s smoking while being pregnant, would they still nod considerately with a gentle smile: “Okay… Just so you know, research has shown that smoking pregnant women have bigger risk… …” Of course it’s my guess, and I don’t want to blame anyone for something that don’t know. But it’s a fact that it’s part of the job of medical personnel to be non-judgmental. They never know who are they going to care for tomorrow: drug addicts, alcoholics or prostitutes… No judging. They just give us treatment options, no judging.

But sometimes it’s good to express one’s opinion on something. To say that something is not ok. To differentiate between good and bad things and to encourage the first while try to detract from the second. Not just provide evidence why something has bad consequences and leave it to the person to make his own choices, but express one’s opinion on different options. I encountered that a lot in doctors’ offices in the US. Yes, everyone should make their decisions and nobody should make them for you. But at the same time I feel that doctors should take a more proactive role in helping patients with decisions and even make sure they understand what is the wrong thing to do. Or course, this should only be driven by patient’s well being, health wise and financially.

However healthcare is business in the US and doctors are financially interested. A doctor acts like your personal adviser who helps to make the right decision. But you are the one who makes that decision. The first thing he asks you when you step into his office is “How can I help you?” Haha! As if I could probably say: “Let’s just talk about something!” I was used to think that doctors have no other job than to cure your health problem. Not give you painkillers that won’t cure you, but make your problem invisible for some time. I thought their job is to eliminate the cause, not hide its symptoms.

When I came to dentists in the US, they always gave me choices: from “doing nothing” to “doing everything” which wold imply making my teeth ideal health wise and aesthetically by investing tens of thousands of dollars. I bet that’s not most people want. They, me included, are searching for the fine line between “nothing” and “everything”. But firstly, they often aren’t knowledgeable enough to define what’s more urgent, that’s why they need expert guidance. Secondly, they are’t billionaires neither, and can’t go for the most lucrative option available. Unless they want to burden themselves with credit obligations for years )) And the guidance is often lacking.

Certain things shouldn’t be ok. For example, health problems shouldn’t be left untreated. And doctors should be clear about that. I’m not saying the society should start blaming people that differ from others, but I think that we would all benefit from setting some sort of emotional norms that would “guide” people towards more healthy choices.