Artist Stéphanie Kilgast: Rethink your life.

When Instagram’s post on artist Stéphanie Kilgast popped up on my feed, I instantly fell in love with her work. Her passion for environmental awareness is poured into every piece, using “trash and re-creating colorful ecosystems on top.” This bit from her #HiddenGem Instagram feature says it all-- “I hope that with my artwork...I touch people to the essential of life, which is biodiversity and nature, and everything that is growing; and I want to show that currently, we are destroying it. But I also think that we are capable of changing things. We have the intelligence to do so, we have the means to do so. So I kind of hope that people start to...rethink how they live.”

Read on as Stéphanie gets real about aiming for zero.


HOW DO YOU DEFINE “ZERO WASTE LIVING”?

I consider myself vegan-ish and zero waste-ish, and not perfect. I acknowledge my weaknesses; but don’t give up either just because I’m not as pure as others. For me, the zero waste movement is mostly about reducing (to the maximum) human-made waste, like plastic, as well as all kinds of packaging, cardboard, tin cans, and even glass. And to consume only what is essential to one’s life.

“I see the ‘zero waste’ movement more as an effort to produce a lot less waste when making daily decisions.”

I have to admit, I find the term “zero waste” a bit misleading. No matter how hard we try, we always end up creating waste. For instance, you might think that buying dry foods in bulk would be zero waste; but truthfully, it’s just less waste. Instead of having a plastic bag for your beans or rice of 500 g, you have a plastic bag of 1, 2 or 5 Kg. It is certainly better, but not zero waste per se. All of this to say that I see the “zero waste” movement more as an effort to produce a lot less waste when making daily decisions.


HOW DO YOU APPLY ZERO WASTE SOLUTIONS TO YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE?

The usual: buying in bulk, using my own fabric bags, having cutlery in my bag, drinking tap water, and getting most of my produce at my local farmer’s market (that is zero waste!).

Live more simply: less frills, no make-up (though truthfully, I never bothered much about that in the first place), cooking from scratch, minimal beauty products, olive oil for my skin, and soap and shampoo made from various Indian spices/powders.

“It is not the action of buying that is pleasurable, but rather the long-term use of the object you bought.”

I have become a bit of an anti-consumerist, so I hardly buy stuff anymore; but if I need new clothes because my old ones are beyond repair, I either buy secondhand or from very few select ethical brands.

As for electronic devices, I only get refurbished ones now (as in secondhand. Basically, the idea of consumption is not seen as a pleasure, but rather as a means to an end. What you buy can bring you pleasure, of course (hello there, art supplies!). It is not the action of buying that is pleasurable, but rather the long-term use of the object you bought.


WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH PEOPLE THAT WANT TO AIM FOR A ZERO WASTE LIFESTYLE?

In a nutshell: consume a lot less. Try, but don’t hate yourself if you can’t ditch plastic or packaging. It’s nearly impossible in our world. Look at your house— every item has some plastic in it.

I prefer buying local produce, but I live in France and that’s easy. We truly have all the food we need locally. 

Start bringing your own bags and containers everywhere you buy food. You might be surprised at how positive the reactions are.

“Rethink your life without consumption for the sake of it.”

Avoid buying anything other than food, unless necessary. Rethink your life without consumption for the sake of it. When you buy something non-essential, only do it if it has a strong meaning for you.

Basically, stop being a consumer and start being a human again. Remember to be kind to yourself. Living more simply is a journey, not a destination.


HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE ZERO WASTE SOLUTIONS INTO YOUR WORK?

In my art studio, I use fabric towels instead of paper towels, real palettes instead of those you throw away, and so on. I also upcycle some of my trash in my artwork, reusing empty bottles of acrylic paints as bases for sculptures. I also make my own packaging using cardboard I gather at a local grocery store.

“I upcycle some of my trash in my artwork, reusing empty bottles of acrylic paints as bases for sculptures.”

As an artist, it’s rather difficult to live zero waste, simply because art supplies are extremely wasteful in general. We are also dealing with supplies that are supposed to last for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. And…I sell stuff. Sadly ironic, but that’s reality.


WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ENTREPRENEURS, BUSINESSES, AND ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE AIMING FOR ZERO WASTE PRACTICES?

“The more we change, the better the chances of a fundamental change in society. “

Be creative about it, but don’t drive yourself insane. It is foolish to think one can attain a perfect zero waste lifestyle, so practice it as a journey where you better your practice daily. If you are trying, you will inspire others. The more we change, the better the chances of a fundamental change in society. 

We live in a consumerist world, so chances are you are going to sell something to people. As a general rule, when you do, ask yourself if society will benefit from this product or service.


Follow Stéphanie Kilgast on Instagram and visit her website at petitplat.fr.

aim for zero is a blog interview series featuring leading voices in the zero waste and low waste game. Read up on entrepreneurs, creatives, artists, and innovators who share honest perspectives on how to #aimforzero in life and business. Follow @aimforzero on Instagram.