Getting a glimpse into Vienna based Amina Stella Steiner’s light flooded flat and conscious day to day life we can’t help but feel a little envy. Running the sustainability focused lifestyle blog Stellamina as well as working as a project manager in a digital agency, Amina not only is an expert when it comes to everything online, but also exactly knows how to embrace the complete opposite: nature and the environment. Be it homegrown vegetables, hand-sewn clothes, or a fair fashion guide, this creative thinker not only shows how easy a conscious and resourceful lifestyle can be, but also how meticulously stylish it can look at the same time. Luckily, Amina invited us into her green and glowing flat and world, sharing a few of her best tips for a sustainable lifestyle and showing the pieces most essential to her considerate possessions.
When and why did you start questioning your consumer and eating behavior?
It might sound like a cliché but it was a movie that kick-started my sustainability journey. The groundwork however has already been made by my parents. Local and quality products were always just as normal to me as going to the farmers market once a week. I of course had a small rebel phase of a few months, but when I saw the movie “We feed the world” at the age of fourteen I immediately stopped eating meat, finally understood my parents’ approach and started to re-think my decisions. I read and learned a lot in the following years. When knowing more about food production, agriculture and policies, becoming vegan was a logical step. From there the road led to other parts of life such as local production, fair fashion, and zero-waste. It was and is step-by-step learning and implementing.
What were the hardest steps to change your life for the purpose of sustainability?
To be honest, I never found it difficult but rather very exciting! Searching for alternatives awakens my creative and curious spirit. The only thing that sometimes is difficult is when other people feel restricted by my choices of living. I am probably the most uncomplicated person in regard to veganism and sustainability, never losing a word about it if not asked to and also allowing myself exceptions whenever I feel like it – but my lifestyle is of course a constant reminder to other people that some things could easily be changed in daily life. Some are thankful for my soft influence – others are not.
Is there one particular prejudice that you’re often confronted with when other people hear about your lifestyle?
I mostly get asked if this sort of life is extremely restrictive and difficult. Too much thinking – too little pleasure. But let’s be honest. How would my lifestyle prevent me from having fun, going out, and experiencing amazing moments? It’s true that there is a lot of research and information involved, but as with most things in life, it’s also about establishing habits which then make the whole thing very easy in the end. In fact, I find great joy in it, as being “restricted” also leads you to be more interested and go on a constant discovery hunt. Through this I got to know products but mainly also people and places I would have probably not discovered otherwise. When traveling for example I do not sit in the first coffee place I find but ask people for their special advice and discover many secret spots.
Health is another topic many conversations revolve around – and money. It is still believed that a vegan diet leads to the lack of vitamins & co. I do agree that one has to be very conscious about that and eat extremely well-balanced, yet after five years of a (nearly) vegan diet I still feel like a super energized quirky person – hitting the gym five times a week. Regional food can be shopped way less expensive than other food. I did an experiment on low-budget organic food shopping once. Sustainable products in terms of clothing, home, and stationary are indeed more expensive – but the past has also proven to me that those products have a very long lifetime and do fully pay off.
How do you buy new apparel or accessories? To what key factors do you attach great importance?
There is not much of a system behind of my purchases. Related to food I mainly watch out for regionality and little packaging. And I go to the farmers market once a week. Fashion and other products are mostly emotional purchases that meet my expectations of fair production and sustainable materials. Most of the things I own tell their personal story, either connected to their production or the place I get them at.
Are there any stores, restaurants, cafés, bars in your favorite districts of Vienna that you like going to and that fulfill your ethical standards?
I actually have three districts I move and life in. One of them being the fifth district where my flat is. The Budapest Bistro is like a second living room and family to me – serving good breakfast and wonderful Hungarian (also vegan) pastries. The owner of the coffee place probably knows as much about my relationships as my team does. The “Aromat” is my place to go when I want to go out and really talk to somebody. It is a super tiny French bistro offering crêpes and galettes and is not only amazingly stylish but also a calm and relaxing place. Other than that, the Zweitbester and Figar are always good for coffee and lunch. Longer nights might be spent at WerkzeugH. The seventh district has also literally been my second living room for the past two years, due to my work. There are many places to go, but you definitely shouldn’t miss out on the Wolfgang coffee and Tata restaurant as much as the second Figar in town.
My agency will move to the first district soon, the district where I’ve been working when I came to Vienna. I will have to discover places there but the Tian restaurant, my former working place, and the Miznon are must-visit places too – I just realize I should probably do district foodie tours.
When it comes to clothing I mostly shop when traveling, or online from labels I know. In Vienna I love the vintage shop at Burggasse24 and Kleider Machen Glücklich. Vienna is lacking multi-brand fair fashion shops though. I also leave quite some money at the Saint Charles pharmacy, where I get my fancy health supplies.
You were showing us around in your flat and we discovered quite a few DIY projects…
The whole flat is a constant DIY project of mine – but it has also been the DIY project of my uncle in earlier times. When he was studying architecture he rebuilt the apartment, and made all the floors, and constructions himself. This is also why I have such a strong connection to the place. It’s nearly entirely handmade, white and wooden and has beautiful light. When I moved in I tried to get rid of everything I do not need and found my own style trough minimalist colors and plants. Not because of Pinterest though, those things just crossed my way. So did the stands that I got from a museum stock cleaning and many other pieces. One can consider the naked man I drew a DIY, and also the kitchen shelf I built. Additionally, my sewing machine – as I do not only sew some of my clothing but also curtains, kitchen towels and so on.
Tell us more about your micro farming / urban gardening aspirations – do you have any tips?
I tried a lot and failed a lot. When I had to realize that growing veggies does not quite fit into my daily routine – poor strawberries – I decided to opt for the minimalist version – growing sprouts and micro veggies. Both of it is a very relaxing and beautiful process resulting in a glass of fresh veggies at the end of a week. Rather than food it is more of a healthy add-on and connection to food production for me. But I still have more projects planned – growing mushrooms on coffee ground and having my own compost, are up next!
What’s your favorite part of your flat?
My living room. Definitely. It is at the heart of my flat and the place to relax and unwind. It tells many stories and is yet calm and friendly. It’s the place for creativity, work and relaxation at the same time – yes, that’s possible.
What’s your favorite book at the moment?
I rarely have favorite books. It’s always the book I currently read that’s my favorite. But I do have book companions that I get back to again and again. One of them – “Komm, ich erzähle dir eine Geschichte”, by Jorge Bucay – was given to me a year ago by a friend. How to get along with the wirrwarr of life? With stories! Fairy tales from around the world, sufi-parables, zen wisdoms, antique sagas that we all can connect to, help to understand our problems, fears, and remind us of the essence of relationships and personal drive. “Tools of titans” was recommended to me by another friend. It collects life hacks from the most successful and interesting people around the world. Separated into the different areas of life like body and mind, it is the perfect book to randomly open on any page and get inspiration from. It’s also a bit dangerous because I tend to try everything I read – which led to a three-day fasting after one chapter and coffee with loads of coconut oil after another. “The 50 secrets of love,” by Elif Shafak is another beautiful book I’d highly recommend to read.
What piece you own has the most value to you?
Nearly every piece in my flat has its very own story and is very dear to me. My cushions and sofa cover for example have been custom made by a female entrepreneur in Ethiopia when I was visiting her for a project. The rugs are handmade from recycled yarn, the stands from a museum – and so on. One of my favorite pieces though is the make-up table – a heirloom of my grandma. It’s a bit of a paradox as I rarely put any make up on, but it is one of the very few things I have left from here and when I moved to this flat and saw the spot between the two windows, I knew it belonged right there. Another one is the Paul Flora drawing, another heirloom. And only recently it got a counterpart by a young Viennese artist, Frau Isa, which reminds me of being strong and following my path.
The most unexpected thing in your flat?
I guess that’s my toilet, which is outside of my flat. It’s a typically Viennese thing. But it might also be the fact that I only have one washbasin for my kitchen and bathroom.
Header Image by Saskia Stolzlechner