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.

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!

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.