London to Brussels, for the latest episode of Talking Repairably, we caught up with one of the most inspiring and devoted environmental activists based in Europe. Not only is she coordinating the European campaign Right to Repair, she has also founded a sustainability education initiative and hosts her own podcast! Her name is Chloé Mikolajczak, and she manages to do it all just like that… Let’s find out more about her in this quick interview below.
How would you define your life philosophy in 1 phrase?
Oh, that is a tricky one. Mmm, it’s going to sound very cliché, but it is two things that are related. We have to stop seeing ourselves as consumers only because we are more than that. We are citizens, and that gives us the power to influence legislation and the decision-making process. Nobody is too small to do that, you know. Everybody could be a change-maker. That is probably it.
How would you describe the ideal world considering your activities?
In general, I’d say my ideal world would be a place where our relationship with nature and other people isn’t only based on exploitation. Because I feel like this is the case right now. We exploit people, we exploit nature, and this is what’s been leading us to where we are now. And a world where everybody’s voice is valued. And that is not just focused essentially on white privileged people, and maybe men… One of the most striking examples is that for years and years, we’ve been talking about climate, but we’ve never really heard anything from people who are actually the most affected by climate change. There wouldn’t be a place for this in my ideal world.
Which of your achievements you are most proud of?
With the R2R campaign it might be the fact we’ve been able to influence a very important vote in the European parliament, and able to safeguard some of the regulations that we’ve already been fighting for before. That was being watered down by the industry, and we’ve managed to save that. So, I think this was very important. And then, on a personal level, I’ve created a sustainability education charity here in Belgium. Being able to reach out to hundreds and hundreds of students every year across the country, is definitely a highlight.
What is your main professional goal for the future?
To ensure that sustainability policies at the EU level are radical and ambitious. And not just greenwashing. That’s my main goal. And to try to work towards more representativity in policymaking in Europe.
Is there someone in your sector who do you admire?
This is going to sound very cliché and cheesy, I think, but I really admire the two co-founders of the Restart Project, Hugo and Janet. They’ve been able to build something from the ground up, without ever compromising on their values. They have fairly radical viewpoints, which is something that can get lost even in the NGO and charity sector. I think this is really cool to witness on a day-to-day basis. And also, the Youth Climate activists from Global South have been doing an incredible job in the past years, even putting their lives in danger sometimes. Asking for a safe climate, asking for a safe environment, and all these things. Unfortunately, their voices aren’t as amplified in mainstream media as they should be.
What comes to your mind when you think of:
- waste: main symptom of our dysfunctional relationship with nature
- repairably: inspiring initiative
- plastic (as material): fascinating, but overused
- circular economy: greenwashed concept, which is interesting but unfortunately corrupted
- smartphone: essential, but short-lived (mainly linked to manufacturers’ decisions)
- your favourite kitchen appliance: blender
- your grandmother’s favourite kitchen appliance: microwave, because it was such a breakthrough in cooking for her
- best human invention: so many! Internet
- best invention of this century: social media, which is very useful in terms of activism (with all the caution around it though, because they can have a very negative impact as well)
R2R coordinator & campaigner; founder of Green Seeds Project