Not nearly green, these Montrealers are close to self-sufficiency
Clélia Sève, her spouse Alex Lefrançois-Leduc, and their two children.
Self-sufficiency, zero waste movement: more and more people are adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle in the metropolitan area. But for some, the means to act are limitless… or almost. Portrait of down-to-earth people who have MUCH more than a green thumb.
Claudia, ultra green and even further
In the middle of an interview, Claudia Balsalobre interrupts, coughing and laughing lightly.
“It's very funny! It smells of alcohol, because I fermented cocoa beans for my chocolate”, launches the founder of the YouTube channel and the ecological site Homemade.
Fermentation no longer holds any secrets for those who have been working towards self-sufficiency and zero waste for several years.
“All my vegetables are fermented! I waste a lot less,” she says.
Claudia Balsalobre in a field near her house in the Laurentians. /Picture: Courtesy
It is that she dedicates herself to a mission: to respect nature and to find a use for all the waste (for the little she has of it).
She even has put a donation box in front of her house to collect waste or cardboard that people no longer want. But for her, these are above all matter. This is what inspires the artistic and meditative approach behind the creation of her jewelry.
“In 2004, I founded my company, Bijoutia, and started collecting computers to make recycled art and jewelry,” she says. With the pandemic, I lost a lot of points of sale and replaced my computer collection box with a material collection box.”
Apart from her shop and her advice blog, Claudia devotes the rest of her time to producing everything she needs to live: soap, food, clothes, and even her detergent, which she makes from a kind of potash made from hearth ashes.
“I grow all my vegetables that I freeze, I make my chicken broth and I also make my own toilet paper out of old school pajamas. children. I make my kefir and I make my cheeses with old-fashioned techniques,” she lists.
Riding a bike in Montreal, she doesn't allows the car only to go to the Laurentians to her second home, where she composts and gardens.
Flowers, vegetables, fruits, berries: everything grows there!
“I have three cherry trees, I have four apple trees, two pear trees, three hazel trees, I have a whole forest of blueberries, I have raspberries, I have haskap trees,” she reveals. I am picker in the summer: I pick a lot of herbal tea and I also give it to organizations, such as wintergreen, Labrador teas, bayberry, balsam fir.”
Eventually, she wishes to settle full-time in the Laurentians with her husband for their retirement. She dreams of owning goats or cows and becoming even more self-sufficient.
“I would like one day to have animals, little furry things that could give me my milk for my cheeses; that would be great,” she laughs.
Clélia, simply doing better
About ten years ago, suffering from eco-anxiety, Clélia Sève decided to become as ecological as possible. “When I was studying at university, I saw people from my philosophy program buying sweaters made in Mexico for a committee I was on and this trivial event made me realize that I had to change my way of life,” she confides.
The mother 32-year-old family has created two organizations in Montreal to protect the environment, in addition to Mères au front, a group of mothers campaigning for a greener future to bequeath to future generations.   ;
Her ecological involvement grew when she decided to go vegan at age 25 after being diagnosed with celiac disease.
“Eating gluten-free was quite an accomplishment , she says. […] My daughters were vegan, but here we are vegetarians. Getting a child to eat a balanced diet is very stressful. It's not always easy to combine my values with my contemporary life.”
Clélia Sève, her spouse and one of their children in the Sud-Ouest district of Montreal. The couple is also involved in the creation of two green alleys.
Vegans or vegetarians, the members of the family, who now live in the Sud-Ouest district, make several efforts to reduce their ecological footprint.
“We just buy organic and unprocessed, I have summer and winter baskets and we do business with Lufa. It's the basics of green people, so we do it,” says Clélia.
She also freezes a lot of vegetables so that they can be fed properly all winter long. And if there are any purchases to be made, it is only second-hand.
In addition to getting around by bike (they don't have a car), Clélia and her husband make all their household products at home, as well as certain natural remedies such as cough syrups.
“I almost eat my depilatory wax because it's actually candy!” It's simple to do. We don't buy any cosmetics,” she adds.
One of the hardest things for lovebirds to accept is cloth diapers. has developed a rather ingenious trick in order to avoid dealing with numbers 2 (and rest assured, it's not to make fertilizer).
“When we see that our child is going to poop, we take him directly to the top of the toilet and he poops thanks to an adapted seat. We save a washable diaper,” she exclaims.
Despite these domestic gymnastics on a daily basis, Clélia is delighted to live in osmosis with her values and cherishes these challenges that bring a lot of fun.
“I needed a challenge and something new,” she says. I like to learn. You just have to take it step by step and choose something [to master completely], like start by not buying any more household products.”
Not perfect, and that's normal
Of course, being 100% zero waste is very difficult, explains Clélia. That's why she doesn't put too much pressure on herself.
“We have a cat that eats meat, we take chicken rather than beef,” she says. We have no other solution than the plane to see my family in France once a year. It's our only sin.”
Same thing for Claudia, who refuses to put herself in a “Mason jar with too many constraints”, she says.
“It’s always progressive. You have to tame the thing a bit like the fox in The Little Prince. I am not into radical change. I do not judge the other, because if we judge, we lose the person”, she underlines.
Progressive is the key word here. For Claudia, what is most constraining in her way of life is the lack of time.
There is not a day when I do nothing. Many people throw away because they don't have time to recover what they buy. People live against time. But in self-sufficiency, you have to take the time to ask yourself: am I going to use everything I buy?
According to Nathalie Ainsley, in charge of press relations for the Quebec Zero Waste Association, it is not at all hypocritical to produce waste since the objective of the movement is above all to reduce the ecological footprint, according to her.   ;
So there's no need to be offended if you eat a bag of chips once in a while.
“We live by the term “zero waste” , we live with it because it's sexy, but we are not 100% zero waste. We are moving towards zero waste, she adds. We don't have a target to reach or a sheet that says the number of waste to reduce.”
She also believes that the movement is far from being a movement of suffering or deprivation: it is moreover the people who put too much pressure on themselves who will adapt the least well, according to her.
“It’s possible to have fun, see friends and cut down on your consumption,” she says. Each person has their limits. There are so many different gestures that are put forward: adopting a plant-based diet, changing transportation, buying fewer electronic devices, etc.”
And these gestures have many advantages according to her, and not just for the wallet.
“There are health benefits, but it's also that you're contributing to a cause that's bigger than yourself,” says Ms. Ainsley.
< strong>A fragile footprint
According to Fabien Durif, director of the Responsible Consumption Observatory at UQAM, the ecological footprint is more difficult to unbalance than it’ we don't believe it.
Even if every gesture is important, responsible consumption is also far from being well understood or applied in the same way by everyone.
“What we realize is that there is not a very good knowledge of the gestures that have the least impact on the environment and the gases greenhouse effect by the citizen, he explains. They'll think their moves are the best, but that's not always necessarily the case.”
At the end of the day, your T-bonebleeding or going to your bulk grocery store by car could tip the balance sheet of your footprint on the negative side, even if you are a fan of zero waste.
“If we take the average Quebec consumer, what reduces the most the footprint is automobile and air transport, he indicates. But not everyone can reduce this. The second is food, such as red meat.”
Added to this is also inflation at the grocery store, which can act as a brake when you want to pay more to buy local or more ethically.
“Even if people want consume less, they will go for the most affordable products possible, he laments. And there are not necessarily eco-designed products in this category. There must be investment from the authorities to make [responsible] consumption more accessible.”
That said, self-sufficiency or the zero waste movement makes people think about their consumption , which is a good thing, according to him.
Either way, the pride in the work done is well worth all the effort, according to Claudia. “After [becoming eco-responsible], we no longer eat the same way: I spend 12 months on cheese, I caress them, turn them over. We have an awareness of the work behind it. »
«It turns unpleasant things into pleasant things, adds Clélia. I think we are proud to cook local and organic products.”