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4 In FYI

What I Learned My First Year Blogging

1st Year Blogging Lessons: smelltheroses.com

Exactly one year ago, I took a big leap of faith and published my first blog post on smelltheroses.com (read it here). As I celebrate my blog’s birthday, I can’t help but reflect on everything that has happened over the past year. Being that I run this blog while trying to balance a full-time job and normal social life, I am quite proud of what I was able to accomplish. That being said, I have learned A LOT over the past year and thought it would be fun to write a post about the lessons I’ve learned during my first year of blogging. Hopefully, this post will help those of you who are considering starting a blog of your very own!

Here we go! 

1st Year Blogging Lessons: smelltheroses.com

Lesson #1: There is never going to be a perfect time to start, you have to just go for it!

I delayed launching my blog for months because I kept convincing myself I wasn’t ready yet. I had this false belief that one day I was going to wake up feeling super confident and ready to put myself out there. In reality, that day never came and I had to just pick a launch date and stick with it.

Lesson #2: Blogging takes more work than you think.

Before I started Smell the Roses, I never realized most of the bloggers I followed ran their blogs as their full-time jobs. I constantly compared myself to these super successful bloggers and couldn’t figure out how they made it all look so easy. The more I researched and the more I developed my own blog, the more I realized how involved blogging was.

For a typical blog post, one needs to come up with the idea, write the post (may also include setting up collabs with companies/other bloggers, researching your topic/product, making your post SEO friendly), either photograph or hire someone to photograph your content, edit your photos for each social media platform, and then finally share/advertise your post with the world.

Aside from that, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes such as learning how to operate your website, insert plugins, prevent/block spam, respond to emails, respond to comments on social media, and probably the most difficult, try to gain a following! I don’t write all of this to scare anyone, I write this so you will be informed and better prepared for what lies ahead in the blogging world. 😊

Lesson #2: Success is not instant or automatic.

A blogger’s biggest hope is that people will like his or her content and keep coming back for more. It was hard for me to realize not everyone who came across my blog was going to be interested in what I was writing about. This is what makes it so hard for a blogger to build a following in the beginning. I’ll be honest, the first few months I’m pretty sure the only people reading Smell the Roses were my family and friends! I’m glad I didn’t give up because I eventually found people in my target audience, it just took some time to find them!

Lesson #3: The key to a successful blog is consistent & original content.

If you want to gain a dedicated following, you need to be posting quality content on a consistent basis. While I feel each of my posts are high-quality, I struggle to keep up with a consistent post schedule. I believe this is partially due to the fact that I am not willing to post something just for the sake of having a new post up. I put a lot of time into each post and do everything myself so that slows down the process.

The most successful bloggers post on a weekly basis at MINIMUM so keep that in mind when analyzing the success of your blog (many of them also have people working with them behind the scenes). For me, I write Smell the Roses as a creative outlet/hobby so I don’t stress too much about my statistics. That doesn’t mean I don’t want my blog to be a legitimate blog, it just means I don’t get too hard on myself. However, I am working to increase the number of posts I write each week (so stay tuned!).

Lesson #5: Don’t be afraid to reach out to companies you want to feature!

Anytime I decided I wanted to write about a specific product, I made sure to email the company to see how we could collaborate on the blog post. Most often this resulted in me being able to offer my readers a giveaway or an exclusive coupon code. I was pleasantly surprised how almost every company I contacted was interested in working with me on some level, despite my blogs small size. For that reason, I urge you to reach out to your favorite companies or companies you have always wanted to try. You really have nothing to lose! I have met some amazing business owners and have discovered many of my favorite products this way!

Lesson #6: Be true to yourself 100% of the time.

If you take anything away from this post let it be this. As my blog has built up a following, I have been contacted by numerous companies asking if they can be featured on my blog. Typically the brand will offer to pay you for a review or send you free products. When I already know/love the brand and have used their products, it’s easy to say yes. However, most times I have never heard of the brand. In these cases, I always request detailed information about their products and conduct my own research into their brand. If I feel they do not align with my values, I decline their offer.

Bottomline: Do not accept anything from or feature a brand if you are not passionate about them. Your readers will either see through this or be mislead. Always remember why you started your blog in the first place and that your blog is a direct representation of you!

Lesson #7: Don’t forget to have fun!

Blogging can be an amazing hobby or job if you create a healthy work/life balance. I believe blogging should never feel like a chore! If it does, reconsider the content you’re writing about and go back to the drawing board.


I hope you have enjoyed this post. If you would like to see more posts about blogging please let me know in the comments or send me an email through my contact page. To those of you who have supported my blog at any point this year, I cannot thank you enough! 💕 Thank you for allowing one of my dreams to become a reality. I am so grateful for each and every one of you!

xoxo Caitlyn | smelltheroses.com

5 In FYI

All You Need to Know About Vegan Leather

vegan leather

So what do you do if you want to live a cruelty-free lifestyle but like the aesthetics of leather? Luckily, as with most animal derived products, there is a vegan option. Below is everything you need to know about vegan leather!

What is Vegan Leather?

Vegan leather refers to any material that was designed to look like leather without the use of animal products. In most cases, these materials are a form of thermoplastic, meaning they can be shaped/molded as a liquid but keep their shape as a solid. Such characteristics allow them to be molded, dyed and manipulated to feel and look like genuine leather.

Differences in Types of Vegan Leather:

MATERIAL

Over the years, many materials have been tested and used as forms of leather substitutes. Today, the most common versions of vegan leather are composed of either polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU). You may not realize it, but you already use these materials in one way or another. For instance:

  • polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
    • Third most common plastic in the world (aka “vinyl”)
    • Commonly used to make plumbing/pipes, window frames, IV tubing, credit cards, inflatable products, flooring, etc…
  • polyurethane (PU)
    • The #1 most common plastic in the world (you unavoidably come into contact with it daily!)
    • Commonly used to make plastic bags, plastic wrap, plastic cartons, straws, bulletproof vests, toys, etc…
    • Considered less harmful for the environment than PVC

Other materials not as commonly used are recycled nylon, cork, rubber, paper, kelp, cotton, cardboard, and tree bark!

QUALITY VARIES

Mimicking the texture, durability, and quality of genuine leather is not an easy task so there are differences in quality of vegan leather. Depending on the materials and methods used, the process can either be extremely cheap or extremely expensive. These factors are reflected in the final product:

  • “Cheap” Vegan Leather = can have a strong plastic smell, feel thin/flimsy, usually made from PVC, tend to be manufactured in sweat shops 🙁
  • “High Quality” Vegan Leather = hard to decipher from genuine leather, look and feel like the real thing, usually made from PU or other newer alternatives (i.e. nylon, cork, rubber, paper, kelp, cotton, cardboard, treebark, etc.), tend to be humanely manufactured

Advantages of Quality Vegan Leather:

A major advantage of vegan leather is that the items end up being extremely durable and water resistant. I have owned a few of my Matt & Nat vegan leather bags for several years and they look the same as the day I got them! They are easy to clean (wipe with a damp wet cloth) and you do not have to worry about them getting ruined in the rain! 🙂

Of course, the biggest advantage to vegan leather is that you get the aesthetics of real leather without the cost of an animal’s life.

Criticisms of Vegan Leather:

As functional as the materials PVC and PU may be, they do have their downsides. I’m sure you have heard of the negative environmental impact these and other plastics have since they are not naturally biodegradable and difficult to recycle. If untreated, these materials can remain in landfills for hundreds of years. Even worse, improperly disposed of PVC has been shown to leak toxins into landfills contaminating soil and water supplies.

Just because it’s vegan doesn’t automatically make it cruelty-free or ethical…

In this case, I am not applying the term “cruelty-free” to animals but instead to people. Yes, vegan leather does not harm animals but it can harm the humans who make it. During the manufacturing process, when thermoplastics are heated they release extremely toxic substances. If inhaled, these fumes can have serious health implications.

Because of the dangers of producing these plastics, they are often outsourced to factories overseas (most often China). While some factories are regularly inspected and audited to ensure safe working conditions, many slip under the radar. Without proper regulations, these workers are often overworked, underpaid, and forced to work in a dangerous environment.

We are ethically responsible to make an informed decision when purchasing products. I believe you should always ask yourself, who made this and where does it come from? This type of mindset will change the way you see the world and the products you buy.

How do I know if a vegan leather product was ethically made?

When looking to buy vegan leather, you have to do some research. Companies like Matt & Nat have strict guidelines in place for their factories and are passionate about their environmental footprint. For example, while the majority of Matt & Nat products are made from PU, they also utilize recycled materials in their line of products such as cork, nylon, and rubber. The majority of the linings in their handbags are made from recycled plastic bottles! They also require their factories be certified by the SA8000 standard, an auditable social certification for decent workplaces, and they perform random inspections to ensure these standards are a reality.

Ethically responsible companies will provide information about their manufacturing methods on their websites. If you still have questions, you can always send an email.

Some ethical vegan leather brands include: Matt & Nat | Angela RoiWillsOlsenhaus | Beyond Skin

If vegan leather is bad for the environment, shouldn’t we just stick to real leather?

To be honest, genuine leather is no better. You may not know, but animal leather has to go through a process known as “tanning”. This is a process in which animal skins are treated with chemicals to prevent them from breaking down and growing mold (after all, it is made of an animal that is supposed to decompose). These chemicals are highly carcinogenic to workers and tend to find their way into water sources.

Some eye-opening videos about the tanning process of animal-grade leather:

In addition, your leather products didn’t necessarily come from an animal someone ate. The leather and fur industry kill thousands of animals each year solely for the sake of fashion. This increases the livestock industry which is already responsible for over 50% of all greenhouse gas emission (I recommend watching Cowspiracy for more information).

What about the leather products you already own?

When switching to a cruelty-free lifestyle, you have to make some decisions regarding leather. Do you keep the leather items you already own or do you sell them/give them away? The answer to this question depends on what you’re comfortable with. I personally sold many of my leather items that were in good condition. Giving away your leather items means one less leather item will have to be purchased and maybe one more animal spared. I decided to keep one pair of leather boots that were already worn in. I figured I should get the most use out of them possible out of respect for the animal and replace them with a vegan option when the time comes.


My Favorite Ethical Vegan Leather Brands:

 


I hope you found this article informative and learned something new! Weighing the pros and cons, I am personally a fan of vegan leather and recommend you try it for yourself.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and/or experiences with vegan leather in the comments section below 🙂

Thanks for reading!

xo Caitlyn


Sources: Creative Mechanisms | Wise Geek | Study.com | Gizmodo

0 In Food/Supplements/ FYI/ How to.../ Wellness

How to Become a Vegetarian: A Step By Step Guide

How to Become a Vegetarian | smelltheroses.com

Switching to a plant-based diet is a decision that deserves a lot of thought. I thought about going vegetarian for a while before actually starting the lifestyle change. I have to admit, I gave more thought to WHY I should become one and not as much to HOW to (properly) become one. That being said, I am writing this post for any of you who have been considering it.

Before getting started, I want to make it known that I know not everyone wants to be a vegetarian and I don’t write this thinking everyone should be. It is a very personal decision and I respect that. 🙂 And remember, I ate meat for the first 23 years of my life so I would never judge someone for doing the same. This post is simply a resource for those interested that I wish I had before I made the switch!


How to Become a Vegetarian

Now, let’s get started.

1. Ask yourself WHY you want to switch to a plant-based diet. 

  • This is the most important step because your answer to “why” is what is going to guide you through the entire process. When it feels tough or you start having cravings, it is going to be what keeps you on track and motivated. I wrote an entire post on why I made the switch (read it here), but everyone has their own reasons. Do your research and be honest with yourself. If you are not passionate about this lifestyle then it will never work for you.

2. Pick what type of plant-based diet you want to follow.

  • Dependent on your reason(s) for going plant-based, you may want either more lenient or strict diet guidelines. In other words, you may want to remove all animal products from your diet or eliminate certain animal products. Read my post on types of plant-based diets to help decide which one fits your needs.

3. Map out your nutritional needs.

  • It is important to match your caloric and macronutrient needs (protein, fat, carbs) with your lifestyle.
  • Your nutritional needs will vary based on your gender, activity level, and personal philosophy. If you’re not sure what your target caloric intake and macronutrient ratios should be, I recommend starting with the presets on the My FitnessPal App (ComputeriPhone, iPad, Android). This app calculates each value based on your body mass index, activity level, and ideal weight. If you disagree with the app’s presets you can manually adjust them to fit your needs. Starting out, I logged all my meals/snacks on the app to ensure I was eating enough calories but also getting the right portions of macro/micro nutrients. (Side Note: For those of you who do not wish to switch to a plant-based diet, I still recommend this app. There is a misconception that by going vegetarian you will become malnourished but the average American’s diet is not properly managed.) 
  • As with any major dietary change, you should make sure you are following up with your doctor and getting annual physicals/blood work. If you have a complex medical history, I recommend consulting your doctor before changing your diet. 

|| Once you have completed these first three steps, I recommend one of two methods to start implementing this diet/lifestyle change. One doesn’t necessarily work more effectively than the other across the board; it all depends on the individual. Read both and see which one sounds more realistic for you. ||

4. Think gradual baby steps!

  • Unfortunately, it is not realistic to switch to vegetarianism overnight. Don’t get me wrong, I have heard of people who have done this but it is much easier said than done. Gradually changing your diet will make the change less noticeable and easier to make a permanent part of your life.
  • Option #1: Start by cutting out certain types of animal products at a time. I recommend eliminating red meat first (beef, pork, lamb, veal, etc). You can start by replacing these foods with chicken/turkey/fish alternatives if that makes the change less drastic for you. Next, gradually start eliminating chicken and turkey meat. Many believe this is the hardest step in the process since these meats are staples in most people’s diets. However, almost everything made with chicken can be made with an alternative (think eggplant, avocado, tofu, imitation meat – sounds gross but most are made from natural plant proteins & fibers, etc.). You will slowly redesign your favorite recipes to fit your new plant-based lifestyle. I can confidently say, there is a vegetarian version for just about every meat-based meal. Once you have reached this point, you can consider yourself a pescetarian (what I am although I follow a vegan diet most days). To be able to truly call yourself a vegetarian you must eliminate fish and seafood. If veganism is your ultimate goal, gradually eliminate eggs and dairy. The entire process can be as fast or slow as you like!
  • Option #2: Start by eliminating meat and/or animal products from your diet for one day of the week. You can eat meat as your normally would the other 6 days. Use those regular days to prepare for your plant-based day by writing out your meals and researching new recipes. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and unprepared. Gradually increase the number of meat-free days per week. Like option #1, this can be as gradual as you like. If you start feeling overwhelmed, slow down. There is no rush!

5. Always be prepared. 

  • More than likely, you aren’t going to be able to always prepare your own meals. Although restaurants and food stores are introducing more vegetarian options, there is still much progress to be made. Before going out to eat, I recommend looking up the restaurant’s menu. If you are going to a sports game or theme park, you will notice sometimes vegetarian options are so limited you have to choose between a hot pretzel and mozzarella sticks. In an effort to not eat like a picky 5-year-old, you have to plan accordingly. When vegetarian options are limited, try to eat something small before you go out (I suggest a protein shake) and have vegetarian-friendly snacks on hand.

6. No diet is perfect and mistakes can happen. 

  • Every vegetarian’s worst nightmare is the thought of accidentally eating meat (esp. if you went vegetarian for the animals). I will admit, it happened to me and I immediately felt sick to my stomach (I thought I bought tuna when it was actually chicken salad 🙁 ). A sudden rush of panic and immense guilt came over me and I felt like all my previous efforts were wasted. No one is perfect and mistakes happen. These mistakes are more likely to happen when eating out which is why I recommend cooking for yourself as much as possible. If it happens to you, think about what went wrong and make an effort to be more careful in the future. One mistake does not discredit the impact your previous efforts have had on the lives of animals!

I hope you have found this post helpful! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Leave them in the comments section or contact me directly by email.

Final thoughts: I am significantly happier living a plant-based lifestyle and think of food completely differently than I use to. This lifestyle’s benefits are truly endless.

Thank you for reading!