What to wear at a conference

Next Saturday, I’m off to a meeting. During this meeting, I’ll present a poster (I didn’t get a talk! @#%$$#) and there’s going to be a wine & cheese party.

I decided a little while ago that I should start getting rid of the Disney shirts and old jeans, even though I still feel happiest in those. I found a lovely brand, PeopleTree, which sells fairtrade clothes. Just the thing I was looking for, as every time I buy something from H&M and the likes, I am reminded about this:

My solution has been simply not buying anything (I hate shopping anyway). However, last weekend I went home and my boyfriend asked me whether it wasn’t time to throw away the ragged thing I was wearing. Slightly more subtle, my mum asked me whether that was the same sweater I already owned in highly school. Ehm. Yes. So, PeopleTree it is!

But now I’m uncertain what I should wear at the conference. For the party, I thought about this dress I got last week from PeopleTree, maybe with a blazer.

And for something ordered online, it fits like a charm. But I feel so damn uncomfy wearing something like this… For me, this feels completely overdressed, but I guess it isn’t, right?!

For the poster session, I’ll definitely go for some semi-chique look with nice jeans or if I feel particularly daring a skirt, a non-Disney top and blazer.

It’s crazy, I’ve been thinking more about appearance than the actual science part of the meeting. But I’m not the only one worrying about what is okay, what is underdressed and what is overdressed, more information for example on TenureSheWrote and by the Cobb Lab. All this thinking about should-be-irrelevant stuff reminds me of this:

Which means that basically, I’d love to walk around in whatever I feel comfy in, but every now and then I think it is necessary to put that aside and dress to impress. In fare trade goods to ease my mind about buying new clothes…


Rethinking our way of living

This afternoon, I read an article about our nitrogen footprints. Most of us are aware of our carbon footprints by now, where our energy usage plays an important role. In addition to less climatizing of rooms, recycling is a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. But much more tips for a more sustainable lifestyle can be found elsewhere – go ahead and Google it.

Your nitrogen footprint, however, is mainly dependent on your eating habits. In modern agriculture, it has become common practice to use overloads of nitrogen fertilizer, which inevitably finds its way into surrounding waters, stimulating growth of algae leading to reduced biodiversity. This is what I learned in high school already, about 10 years ago. Apparently, atmospheric pollution is a problem as well.

I may now announce, very proudly, that my nitrogen footprint according to this program is “only” 14kg. How come?

I don’t eat any meat, no chicken, pig, cow, rabbit or the likes. I drink a glass of milk a day and every now and then an egg for the essential uptake of dairy protein but I don’t eat an excess of dairy products to compensate for the lack of meat. I compensate instead by eating more nuts, soy, tofu and the likes, and a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits. Those I buy at an organic farm in my city that uses responsible farming methods. Which also means that I spend most of the winter eating cabbage instead of long-distance imported better tasting foods. I never buy foods from outside of the EU – apart from things that really cannot be produced locally like bananas and pineapple. I never get the point of buying Australian red wine, when France is just around the corner… Or tomatoes in the middle of winter. I simply drink tap water (and a coffee every now and then..).

Furthermore I mostly get around on my bike instead of a car, have only LED lights and we don’t heat our apartment. If the temperature drops in winter, I just put on another hoodie or cuddle under a blanket while reading. The temperature in house never drops below around 16C anyway because it has been isolated very well. I still wear some of the clothes I already had in high-school. It doesn’t matter much what I wear in the lab, so why replace good stuff for clothes that happen to be following the current trend?

By buying seasonal vegetables, I cut on expenses. By not buying that many clothes too, and by not heating or not driving a car as well. Instead, I am buying fair-trade chocolate and coffee for example and donating money to Oxfam and the WWF. This might help protect biodiversity and hopefully also act against things like land grabbing. I know I alone cannot change the world, but if many more people join in, we can make a difference. Not only regarding carbon and nitrogen footprints. But there would be enough food for everyone if only we would distribute it more evenly. Animals wouldn’t have to suffer as they do now. Tropical forests could be saved. And so on.

You know, I used to have a lot of prejudices against these “eco”-types that I appear to have become myself. But I am perfectly happy with this way of living and really believe that together we can make a difference!

[Edit]: I noticed this Editorial in Nature just after I published this post. It points out that economic and environmental agendas should be merged for a sustainable future.