Quite a bitter pill to swallow, but the fast fashion industry, next to agriculture and oil, is the second largest pollutant of water and other natural resources. According to an article published by Independent, in order for fast fashion brands to keep up with their business model (which is to make us feel like we’re always out of trend), they have to churn out clothes in low cost and high volumes (for higher profit) wherein having to cut corners in terms of environmental and social responsibility is not even an issue anymore.
This means that our efforts to constantly chase after that off-the-runway look, despite the double taps that our #OOTDs get, is actually affecting the environment in ways that are beyond repair: the use of pesticides and insecticides in growing cotton is harmful for humans and animals; dyeing and softening fabric use tons of water and chemicals that affect bodies of water; factories and manufacturing plants, aside from the poor working conditions that their workers are facing, are also guilty of heavy carbon emissions; and lastly, when you throw out that three-month-old dress (because you already wore it in a number of Instagram posts), it ends up in a landfill where it would take 400 years to biodegrade.
Most of us might say “out of sight, out of mind.” Right? But one particular influencer is no longer having it. Kimi Juan, the bronzed beauty known for her love of the beach and enamoring travel photography, is taking a stand against how our mass consumption is affecting the environment by making adjustments in her lifestyle and using her platform to influence and teach others to do the same. Her opted solution is the Zero Waste Lifestyle, a movement that’s centered on reducing our waste by renouncing the consumption of single-use plastic, non-compostable and non-recyclable discards, and by making responsible and conscious choices influenced by the true cost of the way we live and consume.
Living a zero waste lifestyle demands understanding, dedication, patience, and having to remind yourself why you’re giving up shopping every week or why you’re lugging around that reusable tote and your own water bottle everywhere. So in order to shed more light on this movement, we talked to Kimi about how her life has been like since she started her advocacy over a year ago. Below, find out how Kimi lives her best Zero Waste life, and how she keeps herself looking stylish while doing so.
Let’s start from the beginning. What was that “aha” moment that made you realize that you had to make changes in your life that would contribute to the better state of the environment?
"As a travel photographer, I have the opportunity to travel to the most beautiful places around the world and photograph them, but at the same time I also see places that are polluted with trash. Growing up, I absolutely loved helping the environment and the outdoors, which was why I chose this career path, and as much as I was upset with the trash polluting the most beautiful beaches, mountains, and cities, I realized that I was one of the people who was contributing to this crisis. I used single use products and my house was filled with plastic and I didn't even realize it. I slowly started to eliminate plastic in my life by cutting down on plastic starting from water/juice bottles, plastic straws, and plastic bags until I was able to cut down plastic use by almost 80% in my lifestyle."
How did you come across the zero waste lifestyle? What were your initial reactions to the idea? What about zero waste spoke to you?
"I first saw a video of Lauren Singer, the founder of Trash Is for Tossers and Package Free shop, and thought I could do that, too. I thought it was an amazing idea to make a small effort to help the environment in my own way. Even if a single person started doing small changes, we can slowly influence others to do it, too; it’s like a chain reaction."
What has been the most difficult part of this change in your lifestyle? And what pushes you to keep going and seeing this through?
"The biggest problem for me is the accessibility of zero waste products in the Philippines. There is definitely a scarcity of zero waste businesses, but what keeps me going is the slow growth of online businesses that do produce different zero waste items, so I see hope for the future."
As a travel photographer and influencer, how does living a zero waste lifestyle affect your work, and in turn, how does your work affect your developing lifestyle? What does it mean to live zero waste as an influencer and as a traveler?
"It was a challenge with my work because I would reject projects that did not live up to my values. If I had to photograph or advertise a product that was not sustainable then I wouldn't have any part in it because I think its important to be able to really care about a cause or promote a cause that can better the world.
"I definitely had to accept the idea that I was limiting the number of paid collaborations I could get, but I didn't mind because I felt a lot more fulfilled promoting something I believe in. As a traveler, I'm able to be more conscious of my decisions and to be more aware of the environmental crisis that’s happening around the world and also help in my own way, like participating in beach cleanups or recycling projects and to be able to learn from people who lived the same values as I did."
We see that you share your zero waste journey with your audience. How has it been received so far? What have been the most interesting exchanges you’ve had with them on this?
"I didn't realize the impact of simply posting on Instagram Stories because I really just wanted to share how I was living my life [with] zero waste, but it was so amazing to see that people were inspired and curious. I get almost 100 messages on Instagram every day from followers asking me where I buy my products and [showing] me their zero waste swaps saying they were inspired with how I'm living my life. I was overwhelmed with how many people want to help in their own way, and of course it makes me so happy that my small efforts have come a long way."
Let’s talk about fashion. It’s been discussed that fashion is the second largest industry that pollutes the planet. How do you approach fashion now that you’re living zero waste? How did your style evolve from this?
"I'm more aware with the way I shop. The first step I took is to stop supporting fast fashion, and before I buy from a certain brand, I would do my research. I became more aware of sustainable fabrics like how 100% linen and 100% cotton are biodegradable fabrics and they decompose over time. I became more knowledgeable of non-sustainable fabrics as well. I was lucky because linen is my favorite fabric and considered it a win because I was purchasing something I really love and am also staying true to my values."
What practices do you take to ensure that you’re not contributing to the demise of the environment through fashion?
"Before I was living zero waste, I would shop for trendy pieces that lasted a month before I either sold them or gave them away, but now I really try to purchase classic pieces that I would never get tired of and pieces I could pair with anything. It’s really important to me to be able to use items until they can't be used anymore."
Now that you live zero waste, where and how do you shop?
"I shop from thrift stores or ukay-ukay (shopping secondhand not only eliminates plastic and fabric waste but it also prevents clothing items from going into the landfill) and from ethical fashion brands. My favorite sustainable brands are Reformation, Araw the Line, and Two-point-o; they make clothing in a sustainable way and have very ethical practices.
"For beauty brands, I love Lush Cosmetics because they sell many package-free items, and also their packaging is completely recyclable and you can return it in store. Tata Harper is also an amazing brand because of its ethical environmental practices and use of natural ingredients, and all their containers are made from glass, which makes it also 100% recyclable."
What piece of advice would you give to someone thinking of jumping the gun and living zero waste?
"I can tell you this, it will be a challenge and you have to make a huge effort, but do it slowly. You may not be able to completely cut off waste from your life but changes always start small. Cut out plastic bottles or straws and plastic bags to start, and it can all develop from there. Let's slowly do this together as a community and hopefully inspire more people."