To listen to our full conversation with Sorina, click here.
Tell us about your roots.
I’m an artist, I am a professional designer and I'm passionate about gardens. I’m the founder of a brand new non-profit called Teapot. We’re opening up our backyard gardens and teaching people how to grow food and flowers, eventually leading to a public paradise tea garden.
What has guided you to be the person you are today?
Creation & inspiration. I’m always doing something with my hands, and when I'm not I’m in another culture or nature. I spent a lot of my early 20s traveling, not creating so much. Backpacking from country to country. My first boss said something along the lines of ‘Sorina if you stop traveling you’re going to do great work’ He was right, but I think I needed to spend a few years absorbing the world.
What originally inspired your interest in sustainability?
I love nature and I see what a threat humans are to it. I don’t think this planet was ever designed for humans and the industrial revolution. We are at capacity for waste and now we need to be very intentional about how we live on this planet. BUT it’s not doomsday, I would bet we can reverse climate change if most people started growing plants. Gardening, you see first hand what tending to the earth does - a backyard with zero life, zero bugs, can become a food paradise in 3-8 months!
What is your sustainability philosophy?
Moderation! No extremes with anything, no hard rules, and don’t feel guilty about everything. Remember, it has to be sustainable for you to keep practicing, forever.
Specifically, I think every household has the responsibility of inspecting their trash and seeing what’s in it. Is there something you’re constantly throwing away, and if so are there alternatives? Is it an item of convenience, or necessity? At this point, the market has provided us with so many alternatives, do we need this in our house?
What are your daily sustainability practices?
Not buying plastic, when I can.
Turning my trash into plants. This has been the most sustainable way for me to reduce my paper intake, and to not feel bad for my love of print. Not only does it help the planet, but it helps me create vessels for seedlings which is always needed here. I think part of sustainability is being a bit selfish, like asking yourself, how can I use this item to my advantage?
I separate my trash into kitchen scraps, recycling, and a super small bin for my landfill trash. It forces me to then think of an alternative place for the trash because it's often full.
I compost and have chickens. If you have a backyard with nothing going on, I strongly encourage you to garden and get silkie chickens!
What inspired you to begin gardening?
When I moved to LA 4 years ago, food was SO expensive to me. Everyone was talking my ear off about organic and gmos and I couldn’t brush it off any longer like I used to but I just couldn’t spend 3 dollars on an onion. So with everything in my life, if I can’t buy it i’ll make it! I had a sunny front yard and one day bought a raised bed on craigslist and it started from there!
How did you gain your knowledge within this space?
It began on Youtube, then learned by just doing. Googling any questions and plant needs. As I got deeper into the world I discovered Monty Don and Gardener's World. It’s this super nerdy British television show that dives DEEP into gardening and especially garden design. It was literally the only source of education I could find for garden design. Monty and the whole crew taught me how to grow flowers and make a beautiful garden.
What role does gardening play within sustainability?
It’s everything! You can reduce your waste SO much if you have a garden with a composting system. If you are specifically growing food, the greatest difference is not going to the grocery store. It’s crazy what they package food in, and I get why, but things like salad, everyone can grow in their space. No matter how big or small. Those containers are the worst!
What sustainable practices do you use within your garden?
I have this paper pot maker, it's kind of like a wooden mortar and pestle. You wrap the paper around the wood and then press it into the other piece and it makes a paper pot! This is great to start seeds in.
With tiny seeds/microgreens I like to re-use the styrofoam takeout containers that take 100 years to decompose. Unfortunately, so many mom & pop restaurants use these, but hey, at least they grow celery beautifully!
Instead of using roundup, try two layers of cardboard to kill weeds and grass. Just throw dirt on top with a wood border and you have a salad bed! This is called lasagna gardening or something. By the second season the cardboard has decomposed and you can grow tomatoes. It’s the laziest way to garden and I love it!
What wisdom would you provide to individuals who have never gardened before and would like to begin?
Monfefo bottles are amazing propagators. Fill them with water and take cuttings of herbs or some plants and you can make an exact copy of the mother. So much of my rosemary, sage, oregano, basil mint and thyme were made this way. Yogurt containers are another great vessel.
Soda bottles can be cut and turned upside down and woven together to become a vertical planting wall. Things like salad grow SO easy, cut and come again. These are the best plants. Things like kale, chard, salad, parsley etc.
Monfefo boxes or any box is a great way to start planting! They eventually get weak but you can start them in there, dig them into the ground, or put them into a basket or box eventually.