Fashionably Kind speaks to Claire Sancelot on the zero waste life
Human beings generate tons and tons of waste each year, some more so than others. I know I need to do more in the recycling department, especially when the facilities provided by the authorities are lacking. That aside, I believe there’s much we can still do to live more sustainably and less wastefully.
I spoke recently to Claire Sancelot, who’s a shining example of how sustainability can truly be integrated into our daily lives, even if we live in parts of the city (or country) that don’t have recycling facilities.
Sancelot, who is founder of the Zero Waste Kuala Lumpur movement, is also owner of The Hive, a neighbourhood co-operative in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, which sells all kinds of foods in bulk (as a lot of packaging ends up being waste), preloved clothes, as well as organic cosmetics (more on The Hive later in this article).
According to Sancelot, she has been living the zero waste lifestyle since 2010, when her first child was born. “My husband and I, we’ve always been kind of greenish in the sense we’re into recycling, refusing bottled water or shopping bags at the place we are shopping and all those things but we realised once you have a child, the amount of waste a tiny baby just a couple of days old is generating is actually unbelievable. So we were like, talking about, I don’t know, 10-15 diapers a day plus baby wipes, none of it is biodegradable. All heavily toxic, all going to the landfill.
“So this is when we realised we had to do this. I understand on planet Earth we have a lot of issues such as terrorism, war and all those things but I think the biggest fight will be environmental issues, climate change being a real threat to humanity. And so we decided the best thing we could do for our child was to reduce our waste,” she recalled.
Claire, who moved back to Kuala Lumpur from Hong Kong just last year, said that she created The Hive because she had always wanted to have a co-operative in her neighbourhood and just because there were none. “I was waiting for my work visa for a long time so I had time to think about where we wanted to do; one thing led to another and I created the co-operative myself.” (As of this interview, The Hive is a month old.)
“So it’s fairly new, you can buy all your cereals and seeds in bulk. Your sanitary pads, washable sanitary pads in bulk. That is a way to remove the waste, right? And to find a way to consume proper food, real food,” she emphasised.
She explained that buying in bulk can be up to 15 percent cheaper because people are not paying for packaging. “What people have to understand is that when they buy something, 15 percent of that cost is more or less just packaging and marketing. So it’s kind of really stupid to pay 15 percent more to something you’re going to throw away anyway,” she said.
Sancelot shared that The Hive recently set up a preloved closet, where one can leave preloved clothes at The Hive on consignment. The Hive takes a 20 percent commission for the clothes, she said.
“Because you’re in sustainable fashion, so you know we use only 20 percent of our closet. We’ve all made the mistake of buying something we actually will not wear. So it’s just making sure someone else is going to reuse that item.
“So the concept of The Hive is really a zero waste shop where you can get hopefully one day everything in a very ethical, sustainable way, I would say,” she added.
Sancelot also works with local organic farmers, who sell their vegetables at The Hive. One of them is Homegrown Farms Semenyih (run by my former schoolmate Ivy Sam). “So the money when you buy this is pretty good because we are a co-operative and so let’s say you pay RM60 for your basket of goods, 100 percent of that money goes straight to the farmer’s pocket,” she enthused.
The Hive also carries makeup and beauty products imported from New Zealand. “The lipsticks are 70 percent organic, which is very high standard and 100 percent natural. The blush is pretty similar. I do all kinds of brands, you can have 10 different kinds of lipstick, three different kinds of blush,” she explained. The Hive carries some beauty products, others are specially ordered in upon request from customers.
The Hive also sells washable, reusable sanitary pads for women. “I think every woman should have, washable sanitary pads. I have been using this brand, called Charlie Banana for 6 years. Once you have your 12 or whatever your need, as a woman, you are set for menopause or after, you will never finish with those,” Sancelot said.
“So it’s very sustainable, it’s a zero waste approach of this massively polluting industry which are the diapers for kids, for babies and sanitary pads for women,” she added.
I asked Sancelot what misconceptions people normally have concerning a zero waste lifestyle. “There’s this misconception as well that it costs money. And it’s not true. Actually, studies have shown that if you go zero waste, you save 20 to 40 percent, you’re going to save money. You know you got your budget altered by 20-30 percent.
“I haven’t done my budget because we are a growing family and we’ve never budgeted per se so I don’t know. But I believe it’s totally true because you don’t shop at all. All our clothes are second-hand, we have very little amount of clothes, really very few things. All the things we had that were excessive, we sold them. We sold everything that we didn’t need,” she said.
She added that once you choose to go zero waste, you tackle a lot. “You tackle nutrition, you tackle environmental cause, you tackle budget, and you tackle minimalism and lifestyle. What makes you happy? Going home to an empty space or going home to 50 pairs of shoes? You know what I mean? It’s that.”
The zero waste lifestyle has influenced the way she and her family eat as well. “We eat extremely simple food but it’s all healthy food. You know in my pantry you might need products that include condiments and everything. My farmer drops off my products once a week, I don’t even go out to shops you know for those. I just work with whatever he gives me. I already have all my cereals and seeds at home and we’re on a plant-based diet mainly so that’s that,” she explained.
For those aiming to embark on a zero waste lifestyle, Sancelot recommends that they read Bea Johnson’s best-selling book ‘Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste’. “It’s just a good reminder,” she said.
The Hive is located at 66, Lorong Maarof, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. For more information, log on to its Facebook page here.