Cynthia - Share, but be patient. People don’t need to be bullied.

Cynthia helps us all to consume consciously by encouraging people to make positive changes in their lives. 

Where are you from and what brought you to Shanghai?

I’m from France, but where exactly is a bit more complicated, I’ve lived everywhere. I grew up around Paris and studied in Nice, but now I don’t have a place to call home in France anymore. I came to Shanghai because I studied languages in Nice, but I wasn’t happy with my life. I wanted to change that, so I started taking better care of myself. I became vegan, started doing yoga and tried to reduce my waste, but I still wasn’t truly happy in myself. I needed a big change, so I decided to come to China. I studied Chinese for a semester at university and I didn’t want to go to an English speaking country, China seemed like a good option. I started out teaching French and working as an au pair in Shanghai.

What does sustainability mean to you?

We need to preserve everything in this world, cultures and traditions.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about travelling, ever since I was a child I’ve wanted to come to China. I had a dream to come to China, now I have a dream to go everywhere. I think I was born to travel, to meet new people, to live with people from different cultures and to understand the way they think. I love understanding what people like to do and what they think and then sharing that with my family and friends.

When did you become conscious of your consumption?

I started to become conscious of my consumption four years ago. I started to change for my health and well-being.

How do you do to consume consciously?

I started by using a menstrual cup. It wasn’t very common at the time and all my friends thought it was a bit strange. They wanted to know why I wanted to use something that was so different. I use it because then I don’t have to use a lot of plastic. I read articles about the dangers of tampons and just decide to completely stop using pads and tampons.

After that, I started using more natural products on my face. I started making products myself but I also wanted to finish the stuff I already had. After two years I realized that I was still creating a lot of waste. That’s when I started using coconut oil for everything. I also started to use an oriculi to clean my ears and bamboo rounds to clean my face. Eventually, I started to use lemon, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to clean my whole house and soap nuts to clean my clothes.

When I started this journey I got a lunch box, bottle and bags to go shopping with. I started taking empty bottles and bags to the grocery store. It was a bit hard when I first moved to Shanghai because I was living with a family who was using a lot of plastic. I taught the daughter not to use plastic and now she always asks her mom if she brought cotton bags when they go shopping. She’s so cute.

What else could you do to consume more consciously?

Instead of buying new things or giving away what I don't use, I'd love to learn how to give a second life to my clothing.

What’s the easiest part of consuming consciously?

The easiest part is when you’re around people who believe in the same things you do. People who understand and believe in your choices, people with the same values. It’s easy to be around open minded people, people who like to learn and would be willing to change. They want to do more. In Shanghai, I’ve met a lot of people who want to do more, so it’s easy to consume consciously around people who have the same values.

What’s the hardest part of consuming consciously?  

When you have friends who like to consume, who don’t have the same mindset, it’s very hard to explain what you believe in. It’s like talking to a wall sometimes. It’s really hard because they make you feel like you’re not even from the same planet. I try to get people to watch documentaries, but it’s so hard. They have their habits and they don’t want to change them, they live well. Perhaps they didn’t have it before but now they have money so they want to consume.  I don’t eat meat for example, and I don’t judge people for eating meat or tell them to stop. These people will always tell you they can’t live without meat, so it’s hard sometimes.

What are your top 3 practical changes

  • Eat fewer animal products, change your habits
  • Before you buy something, think about whether you need it or not
  • Carry your essentials with you

What are the biggest challenges we face today in our consumption?

When people buy food, for example, they always want to buy something perfect. Big red tomatoes, they don’t want to buy anything that isn’t perfect. So a lot of stores waste a lot of vegetables because they’re selling beautiful fruits and vegetables. To me, a tomato is a tomato. We want to eat things that are beautiful, not always things that are really healthy. We need to change our perception of what’s truly good for us and the planet, we need to change our perception of what we should eat. Do you want to eat something that’s good for you or beautiful?

In France we have an advertisement campaign, “Eat me even if I’m ugly, I’m good for you, I’m just ugly.” Buying these fruits and vegetables prevents a lot of food waste and people save money because these fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper. We live in a very superficial world. We want to take pictures of our branded coffee cups, with straws and a cardboard sleeve just for Instagram. It leads to a lot of waste for one drink. We really need to stop valuing superficial things.

If the whole world was listening, what would you say?

Share, but be patient. People don’t need to be bullied. Share what you know even if you’re not an expert. Be honest with people and try to show them what you like and do, but be patient. People will change with time and understanding. Do your best for yourself and when you want to, share what you’re doing, and wait for the movement, you don’t need to judge people, it’s something you have to do for yourself.

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Cornelia BlignautComment