A Sustainable Life with Johanna Ljunggren of Detox Life
In this editorial we chat to Johanna of Detox Life all about what drives her to lead a conscious lifestyle, her natural beauty routine, daily sustainable rituals and lots more. Johanna also shares her book recommendations, a delicious breakfast recipe and favourite spots in Sweden!
‘Let’s be honest; we can not consume our way into sustainability. We can, however, make better choices and step out of our comfort zone. ’
First of all, what has driven you to live a more sustainable life?
Somehow it’s been part of my life since I was a kid. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed when we would pop our own popcorn and take it with us to entertainments and eating rye bread instead of white toast (rye bread in the 70s and 80s was not considered cool!).
When I became a yoga teacher 20 years ago, I downscaled even more – yoga became my life. And with that came a holistic approach to eating, interest in where my food came from, how it was produced and how products were made. But also how I consumed them. But it wasn’t until about the last seven years that I felt the urgency to deepen what I knew. Social media developed into what it is today, a tool on how to market and get people to consume more. Last year, I started to feel ill that so many were using the term sustainability without knowing the complexity surrounding it. Humans have a way of depleting natural resources and using essential phrases and words to greenwash that process. Let’s be honest; we can not consume our way into sustainability; we can, however, make better choices and step out of our comfort zone.
Active education is key, and I make it my mission to learn more and two years ago, I enrolled in an internship program at the media agency Havas in New York. There I worked closely with the C.O.O. Harry Bee for three months. I helped out in getting the Creative Consciousness program started in the agency. We brought in a farmers market meals every week for the 1400 employees, to show local food and inspire healthier eating habits in the media world. We had meditation teachers host weekly sessions to give alternative ways how to channel your creative powers without burning out. Some of my friends here in Sweden were a bit surprised that I, then 45 years old, would step down and become an intern. Honestly, I grew so much from that experience though, and Harry is still the only person I can call my mentor.
Last year I said to myself, if I am going to be putting stuff out there I need to learn more and enrolled to an online course at Cambridge to study Sustainability Leadership. Working as usual and studying at the same time took its toll on my health, but again WORTH IT. I am a high school drop out; I never found peace in the Swedish school system – it is very white and when I got into the fashion business at 17 I never went back.
This year I have enrolled in an open education program from organization The Slow Factory and “Equity-Centered Education for Black, Brown, Indigenous and minority ethnic communities taught by Black, Brown, Indigenous and minority ethnic scholars, thinkers and educators”. I still think a few companies see the connection between social injustices and sustainability. The education continues, we need to unlearn to relearn. I am so grateful for the opportunities to do this, and my curiosity, it is a privilege.
Where is home for you and can you tell us how you ended up there?
I was adopted from Ecuador as a baby; my father was working in Washington, DC and my parents had moved there from Sweden. From Ecuador, we moved to Iran, where we lived until the first Iran/Iraq war broke out. They adopted my brother from Tehran. We had a short stay in Sweden, where my mother gave birth to my brother, and then we moved to the Dominican Republic. I loved that country so much, and perhaps it was because I looked like everyone else there.
We moved to Sweden and here we stayed until my parents moved to Provence, but that was after I had already left home. My parents still live in France and we go there as often as we can. I stayed in Sweden and got married, gave birth to my daughter and then got divorced after nine years. Today I am remarried and have a life here; however, there are plans to relocate sometime in the future!
What are your favourite sustainable spots there?
Before COVID 19, the farmer’s markets, though sadly they are not open anymore. The flower gardens of Rosendhals trädgård, and vintage shops that sell tea dresses from the 1920-30s as I really love vintage.
Have you always been sustainably minded in the way you live your life, or is this something that has evolved for you?
In my first answer, you can get some insight into my history and how that has affected my way of life. I must admit, I had a period in my teens when I had a desire to own more and consumption was important. BUT I find it interesting that during that period my self-esteem was non-existent, and I lived with anorexia for ten years. I am certain that that affected me, allowing what wasn’t important became fake security for what I lacked inside.
What is your normal style mantra?
I really don’t have one – style is a mood for me, an emotion, it’s poetry, it’s music, art and today it is activism! My style is all over the place, but I find it fascinating that it is the first expression we can control as children. We can’t throw a tantrum, leave home and check into a hotel as a three-year-old. But we can refuse what to wear and not wear, just like with food. And most of us will use these expressions for the rest of our lives, those of fashion and food.
We’d love to know your three favourite pieces from Reve En Vert!
That’s hard! The Taiyo dress from The Wylde, makes my heart skip a beat. I think Cora was wearing a pair of jeans from E.L.V. Denim in a live, that looked amazing. Licia Florio nail polish is another favourite, the colours and packaging are beautiful.
Can you tell us a bit about your beauty routine and what you look for in terms of sustainability when it comes to your skincare and makeup?
I prefer a short but sweet everyday ritual. Starting with dry brushing my face, a cleanser, followed by a serum or essence and face oil. I discovered Vintner’s Daughter this year and LOVE the brand. Their essence is fantastic, and the fragrance of the oil serum is so precious.
In my cabinet is, of course, Björk & Berries, I do the P.R. for them here in Sweden. But I also love to make my own masks and face-tea steam baths. During the spring I did IG live sessions, sharing recipes and how to do spas at home. Face-tea steam with dried lemon balm, peppermint, calendula and rose is a favourite.
When I make my own kombucha and water kefir, I dry the fermented fruits and berries and mix into face powders. A Saturday favourite moment to myself is dry brushing, followed by a steam, a honey/oil/ and fermented powder scrub followed by The Blueberry and Blue Tansy face oil from B&B. I have my Gua Sha tools, but you can also use your hands and a regular spoon. Yes, I use products, but I have always been interested in using less and finding new ways to make my own products. The ritual of picking, drying and steaming the herbs gives as much glow as the serums.
‘Meditation is another favourite, even the days when it’s hard to focus. My mantra is; “a little yoga every other day goes on giving all the way”.’
How are you beginning the mornings to start the day off right at this time?
I wake up early, around 5am I have my morning coffee or tea whilst reading the news or a book. Followed by yoga or a fascia floss (a recent discovery). Facia flossing with Bonnie Crotzer is life-changing. Just like I am a mood dresser I am a mood eater, my breakfast can be elaborative or just a green juice and egg with herbal salt.
How do you inform yourself throughout the day? What are you listening to, watching, reading to inspire yourself?
Perhaps it’s my age, but I never got into the podcast thing, I am a radio girl. Swedish, British or French radio is frequently on in our apartment, I can put on on I.G. live and listen to it too as I love live sessions. They are instant, unpretentious and informative. You guys at REV have many great ones, and Cap Beauty Daily, I don’t like when content becomes too “branded” and prefer a person to profile approach. Just like with my fashion and food, I choose my books after that day’s emotion, so I end up reading a few simultaneously.
A few titles these past months have been: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, Memos The Vogue Years by Diana Vreeland, Brading Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmer.
I have become fond of fashion magazines again, as you can imagine, I completely cancelled them after growing tired of the colourless representation. We still have a long way to go in making media a platform for diversity. I try to remind people that we need to change the DNA within the companies to become more representable; otherwise, it will only be covergirls and window dressing that will stand out. But we have some very talented creatives working to make that shift, I am hopeful.
How do you incorporate movement into your day and what do you find the most useful in terms of exercise?
Yoga has been part of my life for the past 20 years. When I was teaching full time it was 24/7 Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga for 16 years and in the end, I had 17 classes a week, yoga retreats and one doing teacher training. The burnout was a fact; the quest to become a great teacher destroyed the passion. Although yoga is neutral, the yoga community can be very competitive, especially when it is your sole income.
Today I thrive for the slow flows, and less is more practice. My students ask for it, a shift from wanting to do handstands and deep backbends. Meditation is another favourite, even the days when it’s hard to focus. My mantra is; “a little yoga every other day goes on giving all the way”.
How do you incorporate a sustainable routine with your cooking?
I was always interested in food and cooking, and through yoga practice and living in different countries I have experimented with a lot of flavours, textures and ingredients and know how to make food tasty with very little. My husband and I try to buy locally produced food, in season, and I am lucky to count organic farmers as my friends. We make our own broths, smoothies and juice from the leftover scraps. I dry herbs to make teas, salt and sugars. I ferment and preserve, drinks and solids.
However, I am concerned that sustainable food is expensive and hard to find for most people, especially if they have a low-income and cannot afford it. Sustainability shouldn’t be a luxury; it should be a norm that everyone can afford and have time to make.
Do you have any personal life hacks for getting through the day in the most conscious way possible?
A good night’s sleep, going for a walk midday to get away from work talk, also you don’t have to be available all the time. I am allergic to work hard to play hard terminology, FOMO, and content never sleeps. When my husband and I first got together, he thought it was weird when I would take a moment and stare into the wall. But those moments of nothingness are crucial for our over productive minds. To be allowed to rest for the sake of relaxing and not to become more productive should be on your bucket list.
What are life’s small pleasures for you right now that are helping to keep you inspired and optimistic?
Nature, educating myself, my family, music, food there’s so much to love. Small pleasures are like a slower yoga practise; it goes a long way!
How are you winding down at the end of the day?
Well, with a home-cooked meal, perhaps a glass of natural wine or water kefir. I also love Aghata Christie T.V. series, Ms Marple and Poirot, popcorn with black pepper and salt and some mystery in the English countryside makes me very content.
What is your go-to to dinner recipe for eating well and with the environment in mind?
Save all the steams from broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and fennel dill. Make a vegetable broth adding spices, onion and garlic, if you like umami flavour add some mushrooms. Freeze in milk cartons to make room for more; squares are more manageable to freeze than bags.
For fermented buckwheat pancakes, you soak 1 cup of buckwheat groats overnight. Rinse and mix until smooth with 1/2 cup of water and two tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Heat oil in a pan and fry the batter, serve with berries or vegan caviar. Honestly the simplest and least expensive pancake I’ve made, sometimes I make waffles from the same batch. You can find recipes like this in my blog at Elle Sweden on the @detoxlife I.G. account.
‘It is brutal what is surfacing in the world today, but because of the urgency to act, we are witnessing a lot of people making massive changes. ’
What is making you feel optimistic at this time?
It is brutal what is surfacing in the world today, but because of the urgency to act, we are witnessing a lot of people making massive changes. I, for one, don’t want to go back to what we had 2019. The younger generations are speaking up, cultures we thought where significant is now questioned, and our scope is broadening.
It’s like we are entering a new age, the age of enlightenment, not in the understanding of religion but the knowledge of nature and human behaviour, the indigenous way of life. Add on modern technology, green tech, tech agriculture, and green banking we still have a chance to save what’s left of the world.
Finally, what does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability is; when our needs in the present will not compromise the coming generations way of life. We want to be remembered as good ancestors and not the generation that destroyed all prospect for a dignified life in the future.
Sustainability is how we manage natural, social and economic resources. There can be no sustainability unless we start to see how social structure affects how we can live. Sustainability can’t be bought, only lived!
Imagery from @detoxlife
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