Conscious by Chloé

Chloé Lepeltier - Conscious By Chloé

Conscious by Chloé is a lifestyle blog focused on Zero Waste, Sustainable Living and Ethical Fashion written by Chloé Lepeltier.

3 Ways to Kickstart your Journey to Less Waste

DIY business cards by Conscious by Chloé

First, I'd like to thank you all for taking the time to fill out the Reader Survey. I'm taking good note of your comments and will hopefully move in the direction that you expect me to.

Unsurprisingly, zero waste is one of the main reasons why you come over here every week. I have to admit that I assumed the blogging world was already filled with talented bloggers who primarily focus on this subject (I'll share my favorites here soon) but I guess that we each have our own voice and that you want to hear mine too, so I'll try to post a little more about the nitty gritty of the zero waste lifestyle.

It seems like you just can't get enough zero waste tips and I'm really happy about it!

As the people who've met me for coffee after connecting with me on Instagram or had dinner with me and my friends know, I'm always eager to share my perspective on the implications of waste production and curious to know what other people have to say on the subject.

I'm usually not the one who introduces the subject. It usually comes up in the conversation when someone will mention that they read my blog, or when I make a specific demand with my order at the restaurant (no paper napkin, no straw). It's fascinating to me how universal the theme of protecting our environment is. Even the people you least expect to be interested in zero waste end up having very insightful opinions about it. Conversations have ranged from compostable plates, to meat consumption, to advocating for the destruction of dams, to living off the grid or starting a small ethical business.

To me, aiming for zero waste means more than not owning a trash can. It's about knowing what you put in your body and on your body, and measuring the impact that our actions have on our environment, and the environment. It can be both selfish (avoiding carcinogenic chemicals to live a better and longer life) and unselfish (taking care of the planet for future generations).

I actually don't love the term "zero waste" as it's pretty much an unrealistic goal but it's such a convenient way to summarize a certain lifestyle. Some might call it green living, others conscious living. I try to always specify that I tend to zero waste or that I am on a journey to zero waste. I mean, aiming for an ultimate goal makes one fell pretty good, right?

All in all, I'm very excited to dive into the process of starting a journey to zero waste again and share my insights, after having been working towards that goal for the past 3 years.

I'd love it if we took it from the beginning all together and share with each other the reasons why we're embarking on that adventure, the progress we make, and the obstacles we face along the way.

1. Take a moment to reflect on your motivations

To me, every single reason to start a journey to zero waste is as important as the next one. Whether you want to make a change for economic, health, environmental or aesthetic reasons (aren't this bulk pantries insanely beautiful?!), the only fact that you're taking a step back and reflecting on your lifestyle is already an accomplishment. Any reason to be more thoughtful about our consumption patterns is a valid one.

I personally started my journey for health reasons, wanting to make sure that I knew what I was putting in my body after moving to a country where I knew regulations might be different to Europe's.

2. Know where to start

The second important step to take is to identity where to start. My advice? Go dumpster diving. I'm only half kidding. Our trashcans are an unforgiving reflection of our consumption habits.

Seeing how much stuff I was putting in the trash within seconds after being back from the supermarket was bothering me the most. So I started by looking for bulk options in my neighborhood and slowly started my own containers to refill at the store. It instantly reduced the amount of trash we were producing weekly.

For those of you who did not take the Zero Waste Switch Challenge last year, here are 5 ways to kickstart your journey to zero waste:
1. Bring a reusable mug to your favorite coffee shop
2. Stop junk mail from invading your mailbox
3. Always have a tote bag with you
4. Try buying in bulk one item you usually buy package
5. Refuse the swag bag at the next event you attend

3. Take it slow

Lauren Singer, of Trash is for Tossers was recently interviewed on Garance Doré's podcast, and I totally agree with her approach. Start with one change, see if you can stick to it for 2 to 3 weeks and then add another one if you will, and so on.

Having recently moved and having minimal material possessions (shipping stuff across and ocean and a continent is pricey) made the lifestyle change easier as we had to set up new routines and form new buying habits in our new hometown/country).

But you can do it too, it might be a little harder in the beginning to forge a new habit, but the secret is to take small steps.

To me, the secret is to always be prepared. I have a zero waste kit in my car at all times. It contains a mug for coffee stops, a mason jar (to buy something in bulk, to pour wine in at a party where only plastic glasses are provided, to stuff leftover food in and avoid the only-commercially compostable to go box), a cloth napkin (to wipe my face, blow my nose, wrap a croissant - not all at the same time! I wash it fairly regularly).


Feel free to share your accomplishments, pitfalls or interrogations in the comments section. We all know that the journey to zero waste is paved with obstacles (and plastic wrapped temptations) but that it's also a very rewarding and learning experience.

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.

The Zero Waste Switch Challenge Recap

The Zero Waste Switch Challenge Recap by Conscious by Chloé

Last April, I launched the Zero Waste Switch Challenge.

Every week, for 10 weeks, I published a newsletter to help you conscious readers kickstart your journey to a greener life. The emails either contained recipes, DIYs, tips or products recommendations touching various aspects of our daily lives.

Close to 200 of you took part in it and some even shared their accomplishments on Instagram using the #ZWswitchallenge. I'm so proud of you all!

In case you did not get a chance to participate, I thought I'd compile a recap of the 10 challenges so you can catch up.

  1. Switch to a reusable bag

  2. Make your own toothpaste

  3. Bring a cloth napkin everywhere

  4. Make your own non-toxic cleaning products

  5. Bring a mug/canteen everywhere

  6. Switch to a menstrual cup/safety razor

  7. Make your own nut milk

  8. Prepare a to-go bag

  9. Make your own reusable food wrap

  10. Find a bulk shop in your area

This was a fun little project for me. I hope it was (or will be) for you as well. Don't hesitate to send recommendations or comments my way, I'm always open to (constructive) criticism.


Have you ever taken part in such challenges? Would you like me to organize more of these on the blog? In what areas (I'm thinking simplifying, decluttering, capsule wardrobes, etc)? What else would you like to see on the blog? I'd love to hear what you think!