Freelance Writer | Founder & Editor of Forage and Sustain
eco+amour: On your website Forage & Sustain, you mention that travel had a lot to do with why you started living a more eco-conscious lifestyle. Can you tell us about a specific destination or travel moment that sparked change?
Arti Jalan: I don’t have an exact moment of having noticed the need for sustainability when traveling, but having grown up going to India often (my parents are from there), it was always something that bothered me. I loved going there, but even as a kid, was disturbed by the poverty and the pollution. I think as I got older and lived in both India and China for work, the amount of waste and disregard for the planet that occurs in these countries became even more apparent to me. My trip to Bali last year was another eye-opener, where beautiful beaches were littered with lighters and plastic waste. So, it’s been more of an ongoing learning while having traveled, rather than an exact “aha” moment.
e+a: Sustainable living comes with challenges, and it's different for each of us. What are some of the challenges you personally face?
AJ: It definitely does come with challenges! While I’ve gotten really good at cutting down on my consumption (I shop only when I truly need something, and since I work from home, have the ability to make meals for myself instead of buying coffees and lunches in takeout containers), I struggle with maintaining my plastic-free and zero-waste lifestyle at all times because of the amount of packaging that exists in the world. I try to shop at bulk stores, but sometimes you need things that are only available pre-packed, and it can be hard to maintain the convenience we are so accustomed to alongside the desire to be zero-waste. I just ordered some daily essentials from Well.ca and each item came individually wrapped in plastic!
With traveling, I find it can be difficult too because some countries (my most recent trip to Malta comes to mind) don’t have proper drinking water, so we had no choice but to buy water in plastic bottles. Or there’s a language barrier and the server might not understand when you say you don’t want a straw in your drink. Little things like that add up, and can get frustrating when you’re trying to not only maintain your own way of living, but in influencing change as well. I try to keep in mind that we do the best that we can, and awareness and effort on any level is still a step in the right direction!
e+a: What are some of your favourite sustainable living items and/or habits?
AJ: I absolutely love my Keep Cup! It’s cute, it’s so easy to use and clean, and I carry it with me at all times! I also love my bamboo toothbrush, reusable water bottle (this is a staple that I’ve had with me for years, before I even cared about sustainability), beeswax food wraps and reusable paper towel. I’ve begun phasing out anything that isn’t sustainable, and am slowly adding to my reusable essentials list, but it’s definitely a process, and one that doesn’t happen overnight. I also always try to keep a tote bag on me for shopping, but if I’m caught without one, I’ll just stuff everything in my purse or carry it in my hands, haha!
e+a: As an influencer in the sustainable living space, you must have many brands offering you partnerships. How do you approach this seeing as you are trying to live a low impact lifestyle but you're also trying to grow your brand?
AJ: This is a great question! I really only say yes when it’s something that I know I will use or that I really believe in. Luckily (so far at least), almost all of the brands I’ve been approached by have products that I’m interested in and that are “consumable” (skincare products for example) so I’m not accumulating tons of products for no reason. If it’s something that I find I don’t necessarily need, I try to offer another way in which we can work together, rather than agreeing to getting the product, just because. I know traditionally, you see top influencers showing the boxes and boxes of products they receive, only to wear / use once for Instagram and then give away. I’m definitely mindful of this and am pretty stringent when it comes to who and what I work with.
e+a: What advice would you give someone just starting out in green + sustainable living? Do you have any books, blogs or podcasts to recommend?
AJ: My ethos has always been “progress over perfection”. There is a lot of work to be done in the sustainability realm, but instead of letting that intimidate you, take the baby steps needed to start making some progress. Start small, by changing the little things (invest in a Keep Cup to cut out single-use coffee cups for example, or refuse a plastic bag at the grocery store), and soon you’ll find yourself making conscious switches naturally.
I have a book list on my website, with topics covering sustainable fashion and conscious living. There are some great resources there! Here’s the link: https://forageandsustain.com/book-club/
In terms of blogs / Instagram accounts, I love The Good Trade, @renee.elizabethpeters, @jillematthews, the Good On You App, @kameachayne, @mrsclarepress, and Eco Age
e+a: Oh, and of course, we have to ask: where are you going to travel to next (or your dream vacation location)?
AJ: I actually don’t have any solid travel plans right now (crazy! lol), but I am dreaming of Japan (I love how intentionally they live and do things, as well as their minimalism and design), and Mexico! There’s so much culture there, and I want to really immerse myself and experience it all.