Conscious Living with Kristen from @kristenleo

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I first started following Kristen a few years back on Youtube because of veganism. I think she had about 10 k followers back then, now she has almost 130 k! A little later Kristen started to make more videos about ethical and conscious fashion and she was one of the first people to introduce me to the problems with fast fashion. 

Kristen is one of the coolest people on social media. She's not scared to speak out for what's right and she really highlights important topics that we all should be talking about. It has been so inspiring to see this girl boss do her thing and do it so well. 

I'm super honoured to have Kristen featured on my blog today. We talk thrift shopping, zero waste and other things that Kristen has so many good things to say about. 

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Hi Kirsten, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I'm 25, half Greek and Portuguese living in Athens! I have a cat/child named Jiji and she's probably more interesting than me.  

 What does conscious living really mean to you?

Being aware of our actions and our purchases. Everything we do and buy has an impact on the world around us and shapes our present and future. If we truly want to create a better world, we can't do it by expecting everything to change but us. Most of us have the ability to make better choices when shopping for food, clothes, beauty products etc. supporting more brands that put people over profit and voicing our demands as consumers and voters to change the laws, policies and systems that contribute to the exploitation of workers, animals and the environment.

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I’m very inspired by all the work you put into spreading awareness around the dark side of fast fashion. How did you get into ethical fashion your self?

Thanks! I started fashion blogging right when I finished high school, fashion and style were always something I was drawn to but at the same time it always felt very superficial and meaningless. A few years ago my sister sent me a link of the docu-series Sweatshop and I was immediately obsessed with learning as much as I could about ethical fashion. I think the reason I'm so passionate about this is because there's so much more purpose and meaning in the ethical fashion industry. So many talented people that actually care about something more than making pretty clothes, they care about their workers, the environment, sustainability, animals and everyone is trying to make a small change in an otherwise corrupted and destructive fashion industry.  

What can someone who’s just starting their own journey towards shopping more ethically do?

I think the first step is education, watching documentaries like The True Cost, visiting fashionrevolution.org and I'm going to shamelessly promote myself now, but I have an ethical fashion playlist on my Youtube channel with a lot of information for beginners. Once you're educated is much easier to know what brands to avoid, what brands to support and even how to thrift. 

 You’re the queen of thrift shopping. Do you have any great tips when it comes to becoming good at thrift shopping? What are some of the best things you’ve thrifted yourself?

Oh my gosh thank you! I love thrifting, at first it's a bit tricky because if you haven't thrifted before you don't know where or how to thrift and it might feel overwhelming. It sounds basic but Google Maps really helped me with finding thrift stores, key words like "second hand clothes", "vintage clothes", "used clothes" in English or translated in your local language can help you score some great thrift stores, when shopping what helps me a lot is knowing what colors to look for, I ignore almost all colorful clothes or prints so that saves me some time from having to go through every single item of clothing. 

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Besides ethical fashion you also advocate for a zero waste lifestyle. When did you get interested in this subject? Why do you feel it’s it so important?

I used to think veganism was enough for me to be environmentally conscious but certain documentaries and experiences really challenged that belief, the last straw was when I traveled to Thailand and was shocked at the amount of trash getting washed up on the beaches. I was sharing photos and videos of me on that trip drinking smoothies from plastic cups and straws and a few people commented telling me I use too much plastic and that also pushed me to realize I was a big part of the problem as well. I'm definitely not 100% zero waste yet but I'm inspired by this movement to make as many changes as I can. I think it's important to mention though that it's a lifestyle that anyone can follow to a certain degree but there are many changes that some people can't afford or don't have access to or don't have the luxury of time to follow. 

Can you say five things everyone should do to reduce their own waste?

  1. Quit plastic bottles by getting a glass or metal reusable bottle.
  2. Refuse straws, they are honestly so unnecessary, we can all drink from the rim of a cup, it won't kill us.
  3. If you're into getting coffee or tea etc to-go then consider getting a reusable cup for that as well.
  4. USE REUSABLE TOTES INSTEAD IF PLASTIC BAGS, if you're gonna make one change, make sure it's this. Plastic bags are the worst, they are nasty, they pollute everything, they are killing sea life, they are evil incarnate, say no to all plastic bags I beg of you. 
  5. Replace disposable napkins and paper towels with reusable fabric cloths.
 
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It’s not easy to be a game changer. People always seem to be ready to bring one down and question what we are doing. How do you stay strong and motivated to keep spreading all of the important messages you stand for?

I try my hardest to stay up to date and educated on these issues. I also always add all my sources in my videos to articles from trustworthy news sites, people tend to really appreciate that since they know I'm not making up any claims without having the information and credible sources to back it up.

You’re also a very passionated vegan and that’s how I originally found you on Youtube a few years back. How did veganism change your life?

It's going to sound really dramatic but veganism changed my life in the most positive way. From helping me recover from my eating disorder to giving actual purpose to my life. Veganism helped me see beyond my trivial problems to acknowledge that my actions can have a positive or negative impact in the world and the lives of others. It was also the gateway for ethical fashion, zero waste living and meeting some incredible people around the world.

As you said you live in Athens, Greece. Do you have any places, shops, cafes or any other hidden gems in your local area that you would like to share?

I love doing outdoors-y activities, some of my favorites are walking in Tatoi (the now public estate of the former king of Greece) it's in the woods and you can spot a lot of abandoned cottages that used to be stables or even a royal cemetery. I also like taking the trail to Marathonas lake, it's so stunning there and for a quick bite in Athens I'm obsessed with Vegan Nation, just make sure to bring your own cutlery so you don't have to use their disposable plastic ones.

I want to finish this interview by saying that you are such an inspiring woman. Thank you for doing what you do! Where do you get your own inspiration from? Any other conscious bloggers out there that inspire you?

Thank you for asking me so many amazing questions! One of my biggest inspirations is Chere Di Boscio, Eluxe magazine's editor, she's passionate about ethical fashion and veganism and has done so much for this movement, I'm really lucky to call her my friend as well! A few others are @dariadaria on Instagram and @trashisfortossers and then on Youtube Kerry McCarpet for her thought provoking podcasts, Abantu May for educational videos on colonialism and it's effects on modern society and Russell Brand for great commentary and interviews on news and politics.

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Follow Kristen: 

Youtube: Kristen Leo

Instagram: @kristenleo

Blog: kristenleotsakou.blogspot.com

Lettering & Illustrations by me.