Conscious by Chloé

Chloé Lepeltier - Conscious By Chloé

Follow Chloé’s journey to a simpler, greener and happier life.

Plastic Free July

Shibori furoshiki by Conscious by Chloé

It's been a year and a half since I've jumped on the zero-waste bandwagon. I've been applying its principles even more seriously since I've moved to Portland exactly a year ago. But lately, I've been feeling like I've hit a plateau.

At the beginning of this year, I read a book that, once again, completely changed the way I approach the food I eat, the clothes I wear, and the objects I welcome into my home. It got me wanting to dive deeper into my habits as a consumer, especially for material belongings. This book is Plastic Free, by Beth Terry.

I thought I was doing pretty well, having reduced the number of times I have to take the trash out each year and having decluttered the house during our last move. But Beth's manifesto opened my eyes even more on the consequences of plastic on our health and on the environment.

I first thought that adding yet another rule to my consumer habits would lead to disenchantment. And I have to admit that, looking at all the plastic that surrounds us at home, I panicked a little. But I decided to take things slow and opted for a step-by-step process.

First, I realized that I could use it as a guide to help me solve the dilemmas I face whenever I need to make a purchase. Adding plastic in the list of noes made decisions simpler.

For example, we decided to get sporks for camping and were presented with 3 options: BPA-free plastic, bamboo or titanium. By eliminating plastic from the equation and choosing titanium for its durability over bamboo (which could be a great option, since it's biodegradable), the decision was made for us. Simpler, greener, happier.

Of course, there are different ways of looking at this. What is the carbon footprint of the production of each one of these 3 items? I don't know. In the end, the best solution in these cases is always to borrow or buy second hand in the first place.

For those of you who are curious to see why and how we could and should ditch plastic, this amazing plastics mindmap sums up part of what Beth explains in her book and makes for a great inspiration to reduce our plastic consumption.

Plastic Free July Plastics Mindmap for Conscious by Chloé

Observations

  • Plastic lasts forever
    Plastic cannot be recycled, it can only be down cycled, which means it will eventually end up in the landfill at best, or in our waterways.

  • Plastic kills animals
    Whoever has participated in a beach clean up will have seen how much plastic pollutes the ocean. Now you can imagine what percentage of it will make its way into the organism of innocent or confused sea creatures.

  • Plastic gets in the food chain and comes back to us
    If fish eat plastic and we eat fish, do we eat plastic? Also, BPA and phthalates are widely used in plastic bottles and food packaging, they can contaminate what they hold and interfere with human hormonal function.

Actions

I'm pretty happy with what we've been achieving at home since I finished reading Plastic Free. But, but I thought I would get a great boost by signing up for Plastic Free July and challenge myself to avoid all single-use plastic including the top 4 (straws, plastic bottles, plastic bags & coffee cup lids) for all of July.

Here are some aspects I'm going to focus on, based on our actual situation:

  • Ask for paper-only packaging
    When I need of something that is not available locally or second hand, I usually order it online and tend to forget to look and ask for eco-packaging.

  • Make our own tortillas
    Octave and I both work from home and cook all three meals every day. Tortillas entered our pantry since we moved to the US and are a great solution when we run out of inspiration. But the only ones we can find are wrapped in plastic. Octave is usually in charge of cooking and his first attempt was pretty successful. So we should just make a habit of it and prepare a big bunch of tortillas and freeze them so we always have a couple on hand when we're feeling lazy.

  • Buy cheese at the counter
    I recently found a great place in Portland which sells a lot of good fresh products at the counter and even has feta and mozzarella. It is located close to my CSA pickup so it saves me time and gas.

  • Start collecting produce stickers for Stickerman
    Instead of automatically putting produce stickers in the trashcan, I'm gonna attach a piece of paper at the back of a cupboard and stick them on it every time I'll buy fruit. I'll use it as a reminder to sign up for the fruit CSA next year instead of the veggie one (now that we have planted the prettiest veggie garden at home) and will send the sticker sheep to Barry Snyder so he can make more educational art.

  • Be more aware of the composition of the fabrics my clothes are made of.
    I'm planning on doing a lot of reading about fabric origin, composition, production and will simply continue de buy second hand and focus on natural fibers. I'll keep you updated if you will.

That's it for this month's challenge. If you need more inspiration, Beth also compiled a great list of 100 steps to a plastic free life on her website.

If you're interested in what I will be up to during this Plasic Free July, know that I'll be documenting my daily victories and failures on Snapchat. Just add me as your friend, my username is: chloelepeltier.


Has anyone signed up for the challenge yet? If so, let me know, we'll be challenge buddies! No pressure, it can be as simple as just deciding to order drinks without straws during a couple days this month. Come on, it will be fun. But watch out, once you start, you'll see plastic everywhere.

Hairpin Leg Bench DIY

Hairpin Leg Bench DIY by Conscious by Chloé

Last week-end was meant to take place a whole different way.

We had a whole road trip planned to the Northwest Overland Rally. But on the way there, Charlie (Octave's Land Cruiser) got a mechanical problem. So we drove back home to fix it.

I guess I must have had a premonition because I hadn't deleted all the events taking place in Portland on that week-end from my calendar. So I looked at the bright side and made the most of these 2 days in the city.

As some of you might have seen on Snapchat, I woke up early on Saturday morning for an outdoor yoga session followed by a (free) açai bowl for the one year anniversary of Carioca Bowls.

Later, I walked to the Woodlawn Farmers Market, which had reopened while I was in Europe, to get a little mint starter for my garden and some blueberries to snack on during the day.

After that, I rushed to one of my favorite shops in Portland, Johan, for its moving sale and splurged on ceramics. I also scored the vintage silk shirt I'm wearing on the picture and an amazing bodycon dress, made in the USA!

Ceramic cup found at Johan by Conscious by Chloé

Then I checked my phone and realized I had forgotten about the book launch of Becoming Minimalist's Joshua Becker. I was happy to see some friendly faces from the Portland Minimalists Group and get to meet Minimalist Baker Dana Shultz who was here on stage with Joshua.

Later in the day, I dragged Octave to Salvage Works to get some wood for a project I had in mind, and the main subject of today's article: a hairpin leg bench.

Hairpin Leg Bench DIY by Conscious by Chloé

So here's our little tutorial:


HAIRPIN LEG BENCH DIY

A hairpin leg bench is a pretty easy and inexpensive project that will immediately add style to any room in your home.

Active time: 1 hr
Total time: 2 hrs

Supplies

Tools

  • Hand file
  • Orbital sander + sandpaper
  • Drill
  • Screws

Instructions

  1. Carve the edges.
    We used the hand file and finished with 60 grit sandpaper.
  2. Sand the wood.
    We used the orbital sander starting with 60, then 160 and finally 220 grit.
  3. Seal the wood.
    We used a polycrylic spray we already had from a previous outdoor sign project. We sprayed 1 coat and sanded after.
  4. Attach the legs.
    We more or less eyeballed the leg placement, but you can definitely measure it properly, and even clamp the legs and flip the bench over to see how it will look.

Notes

You can try different ways to seal the wood. We used what we had on hand, but wood sealer and Danish oil may be better options.


Hairpin Leg Bench DIY by Conscious by Chloé

I love the idea of making something new out of something old. Of course, the project is not 100% made our of reused material, but I'm glad we decided to go to a local shop rather than the usual hardware store. This quick DIY, which happen on the very same week-end Rachel made hers definitely gave me more DIY envy.


What about you? What was your week-end like? Lazy? Productive? This one was definitely on the active side but I promise it's not always as busy or inspired. But my Pinterest inspiration boards are here, in case my hands are itching.

Grow your own avocado tree

How to grow an avocado tree tutorial by Conscious by Chloé

My goal in the new house was to have more plants.

In our former live/work space, we had a gigantic banana tree named Gustave (or was it Auguste?) that the landlord had planted right before we moved in. We took good care of it and it flourished, but I'd say it was rather due to the nutrients already contained in the hole it was planted in (our warehouse used to be a pot-growing factory) than to our green thumbs.

But, as I was saying, when we moved into our new house last summer, I wanted lots of plants. But plants can be expensive. So if, like me, you want to make things yourself, and experiment, why not start from the start, and grow your own tree from a seed?

As always, I browsed through Pinterest and ended up with a solution, the avocado tree. It looked simple enough a project for me. Let's see how I went about it.

How to grow an avocado tree tutorial by Conscious by Chloé

Here's How to grow an avocado tree:

What you'll need:

  • An avocado pit.

  • 3 toothpicks

  • A cup

  • Water

  • Patience (the only ingredient I might be lacking, but I'm working on it)

1. Differentiate the top and bottom of the pit

Cut your avocado in half and study the pit. Differentiate the top and bottom. This is important for the next steps. The top is usually pointier and the bottom flatter.

2. Remove and clean the pit

Remove the pit without cutting it, clean it with water only and try not to remove the brown skin.

3. Install the toothpicks

How to grow an avocado tree tutorial by Conscious by Chloé

Looking at the pit from above, with the bottom facing you and the top facing opposite from you, install three toothpicks horizontally with a slight downward angle (they will rest on the top of the cup).

4. Immerge half of the pit in water

How to grow an avocado tree tutorial by Conscious by Chloé

You want to keep the top part dry so it will sprout.

5. Put it on a windowsill and water it

Don't forget to add water as needed and eventually change it once a week to avoid mold and bacteria.

6. Be very patient and watch it sprout

It took quite a few weeks for my first avocado pit to sprout. It was winter, it was dark. I think it took way more than 8 weeks for the pit to crack and the roots and sprout to peek through.

7. Once the sprout is as long as your hand, pot it in soil

How to grow an avocado tree tutorial by Conscious by Chloé

Chose a big enough pot and leave the top half of the pit exposed.

8. Water it and watch it grow

Keep the soil moist at all times (water weekly). As you can see on the pictures, mine is still a baby so I haven't had to trim it yet, but I read that the top two leaves should be pinched out each time the plant grows another 6 inches.

How to grow an avocado tree tutorial by Conscious by Chloé


I've seen some of my neighbors constantly have new pits immersed in water on their window sill, so I think I'm gonna renew the experiment every time I eat an avocado (I might run out of glasses soon). What about you, do you have indoor gardening tips to share? What do you grow) What's your favorite plant? Monstera, anyone?

Shopping in bulk 101

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

Shopping in bulk for the very first time can be intimidating. This is the reason why I reached out to my local co-op to host "Bulk Shopping for Beginners" workshops. But I thought I could take advantage of this experience to share it with you here on the blog.

By now, faithful readers, you should know what to put in your shopping bag before leaving for the grocery shop, but let's repeat it here for the newcomers.

What to bring:

  • a tote bag

  • mason jars (for dry goods or even shampoo & body lotions)

  • glass bottles (for oils, kombucha)

  • bulk bags (for dry goods, vegetables)

  • a crayon or Sharpie to write the tare and PLU on your containers

[Most of these items can usually also be purchased at the co-op.]

  • your shopping list

  • your wallet/cash/card

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

How to buy bulk food

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

1. Identify a place to shop
Ask around, reach out to a zero waste blogger in your area or be patient and wait for the launch of Bea Johnson's app. I live in NE Portland and shop at the Alberta Cooperative Grocery, so this article is based on my experience and the products that are available there.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

2. Write your shopping list
Shopping in bulk makes things so easy. All you have to do is open your cupboards, your fridge or your pantry and identify which containers are empty.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

3. Get your shopping kit, put the empty jars in it, and head to your favorite shop

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

4. Weight your containers
Put them while still empty on the scale. You shouldn't have to touch any button, unless the screen shows a negative number before you put your containers on the scale, which means you should just press the "clear entry" or reset button.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

5. Write the tare and the PLU (item number) on the containers
I usually write them like this:
T = xxx
# = xxxx or PLU = xxx
Some people prefer to keep a list of tares and PLU on their phone and tell them at the attendant during check-out. Chose what you feel suits you best. There's (usually) no rule.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

6. Fill your containers with dry goods

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

7. Use your cloth bags for loose fruit and vegetables

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

8. Fill your bottles with oil, maple syrup, etc.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

9. Fill more containers with cosmetics

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

10. Cut your own soap
Then put it in a muslin bag and don't forget to write the PLU on it (or enter it in your phone and tell it to the attendant during check-out).

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

11. Bring your own egg cartons or use the ones provided by the coop
I now skip this part, since my hens started laying this spring!

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

12. Fill more bottles at the kombucha tap
This coop is pretty rad, but I'm sure you can fill your bottles at your local café. Also, bring a growler to your favorite brewery!

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

13. Check out!
If you haven't written the item numbers on the muslin bags, don't forget to tell them to the attendant. Same thing for the tare of the bags.

Shopping in bulk 101 by Conscious by Chloé

14. Put the jars, the rest of your items and your shopping kit back to where they belong.
There's no need to unpack items, transfer them into airtight containers, throw the packages in the trash. Shopping in bulk makes life so much easier!

This seems like a lot of work. And it is! But you don't have to do it all at once. Start with only a couple containers, shop with a friend, look for workshops at your local coop. Once you've done it once, you'll realize it's not that hard and will probably (I hope) want to go once step further. Watch out, it's addictive!


Have you ever shopped in bulk? How did it go? Where do you shop? Who do you shop with? I want to know everything! Pictures by Octave Zangs for Conscious by Chloé.

Leave no trace

Lake Twenty-two in the Snoqualmie National Forest WA by Conscious by Chloé

So Octave and I have this thing were we try to go sleep outside whenever we can, either because we need to slow down and disconnect or just because the opportunity arises, like a couple weeks ago, when we had to go to Seattle for an interesting partnership I'll share with you soon.

Spending time in nature is something that we love to do together: #couplegoals.

As some of you might have seen on Instagram, we car-camped in the Snoqualmie National Forest and chose to do something more before leaving, rather than just spending the night and taking off for our hike right away.

Camping in the Snoqualmie National Forest WA by Conscious by Chloé

We channeled our inner Baden-Powell and decided to clean our campsite from waste that was there before we arrived.

We usually have no use for a trash bag since we try to apply the zero-waste principle to our trips (the only waste we produced were banana peels which we put in the mason jar our soup was in to compost them back home), but I always bring one along just in case.

And I’m so glad I did. Aluminium cans, glass bottles, plastic jugs… condoms (!) were scattered all around. Don’t worry, the picture doesn’t show it but we protected our hands from all this nasty stuff.

Our bag was quickly filled up and we disposed of it in the appropriate bins at a parking area we stopped at on the way to our next hike.

Snoqualmie National Forest WA clean up by Conscious by Chloé

It’s a little thing to do, it took us less than 10-minutes, but it totally boosted our morale for the rest of the day.

Of course, we decided to focus on the positive side of our action and not the fact that careless and disrespectful people go up in the woods and throw stuff away or that more people will come and trash this place after us.

Snoqualmie National Forest WA clean up by Conscious by Chloé

The title of this article was inspired by The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics whose Seven Principles are the following:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare

  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  • Dispose of Waste Properly

  • Leave What You Find

  • Minimize Campfire Impacts

  • Respect Wildlife

  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors

I strongly encourage you to read them in details on the Leave No Trace website.


What’s your opinion on the matter of clean-ups? Pointless? Encouraging? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Pictures by Octave Zangs for Conscious by Chloé.