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Our3Q – The Sustainable Self, Thailand

Madeleine founder of The Sustainable Self, a company that provides consultations, workshops, talks, advice about how to make your life or the life of your company more sustainable. Madeleine, the founder, is a live example, she lives a “nearly” zero waste lifestyle in the context of Bangkok.


Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?

I think it is how the project started. It was a snowball effect. I started with one talk in a Dutch university and from that point it went rolling. It’s something I didn’t expect. Last year in general was about thinking what I want to do next. And I always wanted to go toward sustainability and consulting. And ever since I took a personal approach it’s taken off to the direction in which I’m saying: yeah, I can finally take my passion of how I live my personal life and turn it into a profession. Helping different organizations to turn into sustainable destination, helping people to find better way to live. We as individuals can have so much impact.  So it’s the way the project was growing and the community which I have around, that I really like. It’s people like me who are not just interested on how much money we earn at the end of the month but to have a better life in so many different ways. To appreciate small things, to meet more people really interested in having positive impact.


Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?

I have to say that since I started talking more about my own journey it’s not that challenging anymore. At the beginning I thought I will have a lot of problems with cultural differences as I’m not from Thailand, but I know how to speak Thai way, I don’t use a western approach, I don’t point the finger: this is the way you must do it.  I just tell people how I do it, how I live in a more sustainable way and I ask them: if you do something similar, how would you do it? And they really love to participate.  The most challenging for me right now is to find time to sit down and write my website. Just finding time because the actual process I enjoy. I see how receptive local people become. They want to learn more about what I do. This has been actually a very enriching experience for me. Living here for 3,5 years and learn how to speak up with them has opened many more doors for me than for others. Once you know how to work in the culture, it becomes a completely different experience. I wish I could speak the language like my husband does but if I don’t have time to write the website, how do I find it for that. Time is a factor. Nothing else. Maybe the frustration wishing there is more change, but Rome was not build in one day and I also have to think Thailand started developing 10, 15 years ago and the real development only happened recently so I have to give them time to go through at their own pace.


Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?

More time on my hands to really sit down and concentrate. But nothing else, because for now I really get so many projects that I feel excited about. And I think everything will fall in place when it is supposed to happen. That’s why I’m not even stressing myself too much. Next week I have a big talk and I wanted to make my website being ready that time, but I know it’s not gonna be possible. When I look at other people who have been successful, not everybody expects you to do everything perfectly. It will happen when it will happen. I’m taking Thai time, sabai, sabai. Nobody is stressing me any way. 


Would you like to add something more?

Bangkok gives me a new way of focusing, of reflecting on things, about how is my life going and what I want to do in the next 10 years. In here the impact of plastic pollution is probably worse than any other country I’ve been to and I traveled to more than 30 countries around the world. That’s why I decided that something needs to be done and I started with sustainability consultation for companies. Then I realized that for companies to understand what is sustainability or what it is to live a healthier lifestyle, you have to have impact on individuals. And that’s how I started to share how I live. I always lived kind of resourceful but last year I realized that cutting on plastic cups is not enough. I started to check my garbage through and see how much waste do I create. I started to really speak out on what can be done and how can we reduce it. It’s been an interesting journey and since January I was speaking in universities, schools and I’m starting with companies as well but on individual approach. Because all companies in their ethics have sustainability, but they don’t have employees on the board. They don’t understand what it means… it’s not only hotels not washing towels every day. It’s so much more. How much do you produce in every office, every months. I come and say what I do and what are the basic solutions. For people, they have expectation that tomorrow you need to be green. It’s impossible, we live in Bangkok, we have families, some have children. Start, every week give yourself a new challenge. Maybe you change tooth paste or you start facing things which you have at home. I help people with those small steps. I have a Facebook page and Instagram which is very active. I take pictures with lego people to raise awareness of what’s going on around beaches in Thailand. I’ve taken out pictures of several islands before beach clean ups, it catches the attention of people. 


The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.


Bangkok, Thailand, 9th June 2016

ID: 061/100


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