Paula Miquelis, Co-founder of the Conscious festival : "We can all take tiny green steps"

At 31 years of age, co-founder of the Conscious Festival, whose second Parisian edition was held at the Ground Control from September 30 to October 2, 2022, has already led several lives. She tells us about her vision of a joyful ecology in the fields of lifestyle and travel.

Young thirtysomething, Paula Miquelis did not waste any time. She saw herself as a dancer at the Crazy Horse, but was first caught up by the requirements of a certain idea of success.

Having just recently graduated from a prestigious business school, she quit her job as a management controller in an investment bank only one year after her debut and decided to start over.

With a master's degree in social entrepreneurship in hand, she looked for a more creative and meaningful way to find her path in Asia. She founded Green is the new black a media company focused on eco-responsibility, and co-founded the Conscious Festival, an "educational and festive" event on ecological transition and well-being.

Originally from Nice, she settled in Lisbon in front of the beach, where she enjoys surfing when her job and her baby of a few months leave her the time. Let's meet a hyperactive woman who only sees the defense of life as a joy.

How did you come up with the idea for the Conscious Festival? __

Paula Miquelis : One year after I started my professional life, I had an existential crisis, which hurt me a lot. I turned to techniques such as sophrology, which borrows from Eastern meditation and breathing techniques. In Asia, where I did a second master's degree, I discovered social entrepreneurship, which in France is called the Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE). The idea that, as a private organization, we can both generate profits and have a regenerative impact, for the benefit of people, communities, animals, nature and our survival on the planet, was a revolution for me. I joined an SSE company, which organized tours in Southeast Asia based on the notion of meaning, what the Anglo-Saxons call "purpose". It consisted in giving incredible experiences to employees, in making them meet NGOs. Behind our desks, it is sometimes difficult to be aware of the impacts and consequences of our actions.

In the early 2010s, I realized that there was nothing that corresponded to an optimistic and modern narrative of ecology: the discourse was essentially carried by alarmist, pessimistic activists and in a rather "old school" aesthetic. An Australian friend who grew up in Asia, Stephanie Dickson, had already started the Conscious Festival 3 years before. On my side, I had created the Green is the new black media comapny. We thought that it was possible to talk about ecology without it being a burden, without being labeled as the environmentalist of the day. We left our respective jobs to start a full-time job, with a tagline : "little greensteps"

What is the concept of the festival and the media?

With Green is the new black, we thought that we could bring together people who think like us, fashion brands, food brands and other lifestyle sectors, such as travel, who could preach the good word because it makes sense and makes them happy. The key word for us: that ecology is desirable. We have developed what was a blog by adding services, creating a directory of eco-responsible brands, a group of contributors able to make in-depth topics desirable and accessible. Ecology is very often related to science and reading an IPCC report for example, it is very easy to not understand anything.

Generally speaking, what we want is to use the communication and marketing codes of the big brands that do not necessarily do the planet any good, but for the benefit of ecology. By encouraging everyone to make efforts at their own level. We have been organizing the Conscious Festival since 2015 in Hong Kong, Singapore, London and now Paris. It offers 4 pillars of activities: conferences and workshops, art and music, performances and an eco-responsible fashion show. The general public day is not free, but it is free for students and people in need. We're ultra-inclusive.

Do you select the brands you work with based on their compatibility with sustainable development?

P.M.:__ We try to change the system from within, working with brands that are not perfect, but that are committed to transparency. There are some industries that we will never work with, like fast fashion, which in essence can never be eco-responsible, just like the oil industry or Amazon. But last year, we worked with Kering, which wants to go very far on the subject, while clearly admitting that it still has many flaws. So much for multi-nationals. Otherwise, we work with SSE companies, which are displaying more and more certifications, like B-Corp, labels like Nutriscore in the food industry, or with federations like the one for circular fashion. Fashion is preparing a label inspired by Nutriscore, but it's complicated to get everyone to agree!

What is your perception of the tourism sector in this area?

We have a "travel" tab on Green is the new black. We have already worked with many hotels, advising them on how to manage and implement actions that may seem small but that make a huge difference. We believe in the butterfly effect, in small changes that create waves of change. We have case studies of hotels that have done very simple things in the areas of waste management, energy, communication, sourcing and cooking, but without peremptory injunction. It is not a question of everyone becoming vegan, no longer taking a plane and living in the forest to meditate, but of everyone at their own level being able to implement actions in full consciousness that are in the direction of life.

What advice would you give to tourists to travel in a sustainable way?

I would say that every gesture counts. We sometimes hear that it would be up to governments and companies to act rather than individuals. Our position is that no, every action counts to reach a tipping point. But to convince, there must be joy. My advice would be to choose an area you like and see how you can act. In fashion, for example, there are lots of cool eco-responsible brands. You don't have to do everything at once and in every area, otherwise it's very stressful and you feel like you're doing everything wrong. You can find a whole series of advice on Green is the new black, like not to go where the tourists go in mass, to move as much as possible by bike, to do eco-tourism...

What are your favorite spots in France? __

I go to the South of France because I am originally from Nice. My grandparents have had a house for a long time in the hinterland, not far from Saint-Martin-Vésubie, the valley that was flooded. When you travel, you can also help the areas that have been affected, and be interested in ecology in rural areas: what is an eco-village, permaculture...

subject collected by Virginie Dennemont

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