London Lifestyle – Sustainable Living

During quarantine many of us have picked up new hobbies – baking, drawing, Tik Toking – and habits – exercising outdoors, wearing pyjamas all day, binging Netflix. For me, one thing I wanted to focus more time and energy on was learning to live more sustainably. Without having to get dressed up and go out all the time, I found myself shopping less for clothes and shoes, moving towards slow fashion. I had more time to research brands, companies, and businesses that aligned more with the world I want to live in. Living sustainably is a journey and there are many ways you can make changes in your daily life. For example, I’ve been walking to places more now, rather than taking transportation or an Uber. I’ve also been shopping at small businesses for birthday presents and Christmas gifts (start early so you can shop small!). There are a ton of resources for small changes you can make, ones that don’t cost money and others that are worth the investment. In this post, I want to focus on a small start-up that is making living sustainably easy, convenient and cost-effective. You can help save the planet one fewer plastic item at a time.

RefillDrop is a local UK business that focuses on changing the way we consume daily products, like soap, laundry detergent, toilet paper, bin bags, cleaning sprays and more. They use a circular economy model – by providing products in reusable packaging that are delivered to your doorstep and collected when you’re done with them to then reuse again. They make it easy to reduce the amount of plastic you consume through everyday products, thus helping you help the planet. RefillDrop is your one stop shop for products from various sustainable businesses – Ecover, Fill, Ecoleaf, Who Gives A Crap, Faith in Nature, Scottish Fine Soaps, putting them all in one place to make it easy for you. What’s also amazing about this company is that their shipping from locally – no international shipping that basically negates any good you are doing by switching to these sustainable alternatives. As of right now, they operate in Kent, Battersea, Nine Elms, Hammersmith & Fulham, Chelsea & Kensington, Ashford,  Tenterden, and Maidstone.

Products are delivered to your doorstep by a friendly team member.

So far I have used six of their products and have loved every single one of them.

Eco Panda Bamboo Toothbrush – I have always wanted to switch to an alternative to plastic toothbrush and RefillDrop made it easy. I was able to bundle in the bamboo toothbrush with the other products which made more sense for me than buying a couple and having them ship from far and wide. Made from biodegradable bamboo with medium BPA-free nylon bristles, this sustainable toothbrush is durable and environmentally friendly. Bamboo is grown sustainably without using any harsh chemicals or pesticides, the fastest growing plant on earth, and incredibly abundant.

Fill’s cleaning spray, hand soap, dish soap and laundry detergent – I really enjoy this particular brand of household products. The cleaning spray and soaps smell amazing (they come in a few different scents) and work just as well as the stuff I was buying from Tesco. The bottles are glass and when I’m done with them, I can exchange them for refills – no waste created! The non-bio laundry detergent is biodegradable, dye-free, vegan and eco-friendly with no harsh chemicals. All of Fill’s products are made by a family run business in Northamptonshire! I love being able to support small local businesses, especially ones focused on creating products that help changes our lifestyles for the better.

Who Gives A Crap’s Recycled Toilet Paper – I have seen this product advertised to me on Facebook and Instagram so I’m excited to be trying it out. They came delivered in separate rolls, not packaged together with plastic. The toilet paper is made from recycled books and office paper. It actually comes out cheaper than most big brands, like the one I was buying from Tesco. Again, a cost-effective alternative and it’s good for the planet!

Whether you’ve been itching for a change or you’re not sure where to start, RefillDrop is a great resource. Their business and products make switching to a more sustainable lifestyle easy and convenient. Basically, it works in six easy steps:

  1. Place an order on, where you pay a small deposit for the containers on all the products you ordered.
  2. The products are delivered to your doorstep waste free (i.e. no stacks of cardboard boxes, ice packs or bubble-wrap).
  3. You enjoy your products and place a new order once they’re running low.
  4. When your new delivery arrives, we collect all your empty containers to reuse.
  5. Your deposits are refunded back to your account.
  6. Repeat steps 3 to 5 for a new lower waste life!

My favourite part about the company is that they are affordable. There have been so many times when I’ve wanted to switch to more sustainable products but the cost has been a huge barrier. The fact that most of the products are the same cost or cheaper than the ones I’m using right now is a huge reason I’ve switched over. And shipping is free if you sign up for the membership – only £6 a month! For less than what I pay for Netflix or Spotify, I’m able to make serious changes in my lifestyle to live more sustainably. Seems crazy, but this company has really nailed it.

For more information, check out their website or find them on Instagram and Facebook. They’ve also recently launched a B2B offering, more info here.

Dana’s Do’s:

  1. Check out RefillDrop if you want to start making changes to your lifestyle that can have a positive impact on our planet.
  2. Support local small businesses.
  3. Start your Christmas shopping early so you have time to support local small businesses!

This post is sponsored by RefillDrop.

4 Best Afternoon Tea Spots in London

I am a massive fan of afternoon tea – probably because it’s not something I grew up with in the states and who doesn’t love sitting around eating delicious food and drinking delicious tea! Since moving to the UK, I have had my fair share of afternoon teas, most of them good, some not so good and some that really hit it out of the park. Now that I’m more seasoned, I am pickier – usually basing my decision on a tea’s theme, a restaurant’s views, or some other unique aspect to make the most of the experience and the money spent. I can’t wait for the day I own enough tea cups to host my own afternoon tea, but until then, I here to share my top picks of London afternoon teas with you. Enjoy!

London Landmarks Afternoon Tea at The Kensington Hotel

I visited the Kensington Hotel with my parents for afternoon tea while they were in town for my graduation. I had read good reviews and I like a fun-themed tea, so this seemed perfect. The restaurant was relatively quiet – only three other tables full. It has beautiful decor with colorful velvet couches and chairs – it screams trendy millennial but classy. The entire experience was top notch – the menu had a map detailing different London landmarks and each dish corresponded to one of these landmarks. The waitress described each dish as it came out and what it represented. It was a fun way of getting to know London better as well. The food was delicious, the scones were warm and each dessert was mouth-watering. Truly this is one of the best afternoon teas I have ever experienced (which is why it sits at number one!). Located in South Kensington, it is also close to a couple big museums – the Science Museum, Natural History Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, making it an accessible afternoon activity.

Best For: Theme

Price: £42


Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea at the Sanderson

The Mad Hatter’s Tea is a close second to the best afternoon tea in London. Located at the Sanderson Hotel in Soho, it is as funky as you think it will be, but with a trendy feel. The tea is held on the outdoor terrace in a wonderfully calming garden. When I heard my best friend from university would be visiting London for the first time, I wanted to take her to a fun and memorable afternoon tea – this one did not disappoint. Every aspect of the tea is themed – from the plates to the food to the tea itself. The staff were attentive and brought as many pots of tea and however many types of tea we wanted. We were there for three hours! The food was just a delicious as it looks too. This tea is very popular so definitely book ahead – every table was filled with parties of two to ten.

Best For: Theme

Price: £48


OXO Tower Restaurant

As you probably know by now, I love a good afternoon tea, but Conor hasn’t been to any in London before (shocking I know!). I decided it was time and went on a search for an afternoon tea that was highly rated, had good views, wasn’t too expensive, and would be good for someone who was new to the idea of drinking tea for two hours and eating small portions of food items. I landed on OXO Tower on the south bank near Waterloo, overlooking the river with great views of St. Paul’s. I am a big fan of afternoon teas with a few extra savoury options like a mini Yorkshire pudding and a Scotch quail’s egg to give it something special. The desserts were delicious and the scones were warm. What made this tea stand out for me was the view overlooking the river, especially as the sun set over the London skyline.

Best For: Views

Price: £35


Thames River Cruise – City Cruises

This was the first afternoon tea I did in London with my parents in 2018 – and it’s still one of my favourite experiences. We cruised the length of the Thames, starting near the Tower of London. The boat is encased in glass, allowing you to see all of the sights while also not having to worry about the weather. If you book early enough in advance, you will be able to secure a window seat (it’s not worth it unless you do). It is a simpler afternoon tea, but the food was great quality nonetheless. I enjoyed the array of little desserts, enough variety that there is something for everyone. We had wine with our tea as well, but it’s not necessary. One thing to note – if you get seasick, this is not for you. While I didn’t notice the movement of the boat, it wouldn’t be enjoyable for anyone who is sensitive to the sea (or river in this case). As you can tell from the picture, it was a bit packed as its a popular option for afternoon tea, so if you’re looking for something quiet or intimate, move along. But overall, I really enjoyed experiencing London sightseeing from the water.

Best For: Views

Price: £32


Dana’s Do’s:

  1. Book in advance!
  2. Look for something unique to make the most of the experience.
  3. A great afternoon tea doesn’t have to be expensive, shop around.

How to Survive Living With Roommates in a Tiny Apartment

In September, I moved into a London flat with three people – two I knew from Cambridge, one I didn’t know (he’s friends with Lucy and graduated from Cambridge a year before I arrived). I have lived in flats with roommates before when I was at Ohio State, so I didn’t think this would be any different. And honestly, it really isn’t that different, except that my roommates are my favorite people I’ve lived with so far.

Finding a flat in London was itself a challenge, test of wills, and a strain on our relationships. Well, okay not that dramatic, but it was very different from any other flat hunting I have experienced. So much so it deserves its own blog post. But now that we have found an apartment, what is it like to live with three other people? In a relatively small apartment? Well, it takes some adjusting, communication, and understanding that not everyone thinks or lives the way you do (which is totally okay btw!). When we first moved, we all sat down together on the couch after a pub night and talked about things we wanted for the flat, ‘rules’, things we like and don’t like, work schedules, etc. We got everything out in the open up front which was super helpful for conversations down the road. Our takeaway from the whole conversation was just don’t take the piss and we’ll all be alright.

I think the biggest issue we ran into first was the room that the kitchen and living space is in is quite small. Not terribly cramped, but enough that it can become a problem if left alone for a few days. As in any home, people drop bags, jackets, and shoes in the living room when they get home. No biggie, until there’s four pairs of shoes scattered across the four square meters of space. Basically, cleaning was the first thing we addressed – and are still addressing as we settle into our routines and habits. We have a sort of cleaning rotation for the kitchen, bathroom (there’s only one), and living space. Sometimes it gets done once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I think this is the one area that we all can’t totally agree on and it takes reminding for people to wash up all their dishes before bed, or checking if food has gone off. In the end, all it takes is one message for it to get done – we all work fulltime and can get lazy or tired or forgetful, it’s not the end of the world. Like I said, it’s all about adjusting and being flexible with the people you live with. But, we all also agree that it’s better to say something than be passive aggressive or bottle up annoyance at others’ habits. That never helps anyone and only leads to problems down the road.

The next thing we had to think about was bills, how we would sign up for utilities and wifi, and how we would pay for them. For rent, it was important to communicate budgets before we agreed on a place and stick to it. The same applies for wifi, gas, and electricity. We did some shopping around for the best deals and talked it over before we signed up for anything. Communication and openness is important among roommates, especially when it comes to money. In this area as well, we are always reminding each other to pay bills on time or transfer to the person paying the bill. Team work makes the dream work.

One thing I was hoping for was two bathrooms for the four of us, but we don’t always get what we want. Seriously, that should be the poster slogan for London flat hunting. Because there is only one bathroom, we have all had to make adjustments. Luckily, Lucy and Dan are the only two that have to leave the flat early in the morning for work, which makes it easier on the shower schedule. Though I do sometimes wake up and have to wait ten minutes before I can go to the toilet. For the most part, we haven’t run into too many problems with four of us sharing one bathroom because our work schedules work well together. Though, none of us are concerned with knocking on the door if someone is taking too long in the shower.

With four people working full-time, the kitchen can feel a bit cramped around dinner time. Lucy and Dan don’t eat breakfast at home (work perks), so it’s only Owen and I in the morning. Usually, I’m the only one home for lunch. But, we all eat dinner at home, usually. Luckily, our different routines and habits also compliment each other at dinner time. I like to eat early, around 5:30/6pm whereas Owen and Dan tend to eat a bit later. Lucy falls in between depending on the day. This makes it a bit easier to handle everyone cooking their own meals and using the same three pots and pans that we have. There are nights when Owen and I make dinner together – we love fajita night! Those nights are really fun because we break out all the condiments and sides and make a feast of it. While the kitchen can feel cramped during the evening, it tends to feel more ‘cozy’, meaning it feels like a home when we’re all together. Dinner time is usually the most social time in the flat as well and it’s nice to catch up with everyone and joke around. That is until someone eats my last onion I was saving for my stir fry. We have a liberal approach with the fridge for certain items, particularly onions, peppers, mushrooms, and milk. Things that go off quickly and that you usually only use half of at any given time. As long as we all pitch in to stock up on them, we’ve found a good balance. This room is also where all the fun happens – the jokes, the accidental spills, and the movie nights. We elected one of the walls for tacky home decor after Dan insisted that we keep the paella pan (that none of us were going to use) and hung it on a left over nail in the wall to prove his point. It became endearing and we’ve since added to it – most recently the hanging wall decor pictured above.

For all the other things that can become annoying when living in a small apartment with three people, it’s all worth it when I think about the three best friends I’ve made living here. Living in a small space has forced us all to become close and aware of each other’s habits, likes, dislikes, and lives. Having thin walls can be a pro – I hear when Lucy is baking or when Dan gets home from a date that I want recap with him. Without sounding too cheesy (sorry Lucy), living with three people allowed me to have a second family here in England. Being far from home can be tough and there is a certain lonliness that comes along with living in a big city, but having Lucy, Dan, and Owen around means there’s always someone who knows where I am, always someone to go to the market with, drink tea with, and sometimes cry with. Next year, we are all going to be pulled in different directions, so we’re making the most of this year we have together in this tiny, but pretty great, apartment.

Dana’s Do’s:

  1. Communication is key, being passive aggressive is a no.
  2. Be ready to adapt your habits – everything is a compromise.
  3. Enjoy it while it lasts!

How to Find a Job in London as a US Expat

As a graduate student, knowing I wanted to start making money after I graduated, I began my job search about eight months before I could feasibly start. This might be a little early for some industries and late for others. I knew I wanted to work in museums or events, with marketing as my fall back, which meant most jobs I wouldn’t need to apply for more than four months out from my start date. However, there are some jobs, especially grad schemes, that require you to apply almost a year in advance. So this advice may not be for everyone, but I am hoping it can help some.

First, I narrowed down the career paths I would be happy with – museums and events, ideally events in museums. My two degrees also helped narrow down this field, but there are many people who get jobs in areas that have nothing to do with their college degrees, just depends. Once I had an idea of what type of jobs I wanted and companies I was interested in, I got on Indeed and LinkedIn for some cursory searches of jobs available and what I could be qualified for. I started this quite early, seeing what was coming up, how competitive jobs were, and thinking about the job titles I would be most interested in. Surprisingly, development positions in museums were what I ended up applying to most, which I wasn’t expecting when I first started my job search. Don’t be nervous to branch out and explore positions you hadn’t thought of before. Also, don’t narrow yourself too much too soon, since most industries are extremely competitive these days.

During my actual cycle of applications, I was pumping out at least five a day, and this was on top of classes and my dissertation. It was intense and my advisor said I spent too much time focusing on applications rather than my coursework. Well, I wanted to be employed by the time I graduated so 🙂 I sent a lot of applications through the easy apply features on LinkedIn and Indeed. I was rejected from every single one of those. BUT, they took less than a minute to complete so I figured I might as well throw as many fishhooks into the sea as I could. Most of my time was spent on online application portals, refilling all of my resume details into online systems (I basically have my resume memorized word for word now) and writing cover letters.

Ah yes, cover letters – everyone’s favorite part of applying for jobs. Cover letters can make or break you, especially if you’ve already met most of the qualifications listed on the job description. I spent a lot of time on cover letters for some jobs, and not so much on others. It all depends on the company and the position. However, I wrote a new cover letter for each job – always personalize! Of course, I copy and pasted a lot of the information about myself and my skills, but I specifically tailored my cover letters to the job description. I literally listed out the bullet point qualifications from the job description and then described my skills and experience under each one – that way they know I definitely meet the requirements. I also added in information about why I wanted the job with the specific company in a beginning or ending paragraph. This means research – reading the website, mission statements, past reports, and bios of people in the department you’re applying to. In all, a really good application could take me about two hours. In one day, I was able to do two, maybe three on the weekend, plus any new easy applies.

Additionally, I registered with a lot of graduate agencies. These are people who find jobs for you, which is dope. They took my resume and asked a few questions about what type of job I wanted, salary range, and location. If a job came across their desk that I was a good fit for, they would call me and see if I was interested. This was another easy way to be throwing as many fishhooks out as possible. And interesting enough, this is how I found my job.

Interviewing was a whole other beast that I will write a separate post on, but I will summarize here. Be proud of yourself for just getting an interview, even if you don’t get the job. There’s some statistic out there that most people interview twelve times before they get their first offer. So stay strong. And always ask for feedback! I interviewed at four different museums for similar positions. Each time I was rejected I asked for feedback. Most of the time, I just wasn’t as qualified, but there was one interviewer who emailed me a massive email about my interview and specific things I could do better, giving me links to the STAR method. It was really great advice and the next interview I had I used the feedback to do better. In the end, I got my first offer after my fourth interview. Doing serious prep for the interviews really helped me shine in the interviews. This means more research – going deeper on the goals and aims of the company overall (most have reports about this), knowing who is in the department, how your role fits into the company and its overall aims. As well, know your resume and know how to explain all the incredible things you have done. Then connect them to the skills needed for the position. How does your role as treasurer for your May Ball relate to the advertising position? Transferrable skills! It’s a lot to remember and get a handle on. It definitely took me a few interviews before I felt super confident in explaining how my experience would transfer to the role.

It is not an easy process and there were quite a few times I cried after getting the rejection email. The job market right now for graduating students is TOUGH. There aren’t enough jobs for the number of grads, and definitely not enough that pay well enough to sustain a living in cities like London. But there are jobs out there, so keep your head up!

Dana’s DOs:

  1. Keep a positive attitude and be proud of yourself for getting through!
  2. Always personalize the cover letter.
  3. Do serious prep for the interview, it pays off.

In the spirit of transparency and because money is never talked about enough with regards to jobs, my current role as Production Assistant pays 28k. I negotiated through the agency for this salary, so I can’t give advice about salary negotiation, but can advise that you do research about the average salary someone in that position would be making so you can negotiate with the stats to back you up. Glassdoor is one great website for this.