Happy Earth Day 2020: Exclusive Interview with Jacqueline Wong of The Clean Attempt

As you read the article, admire these beautiful Earth-themed art by Mira Lou.

Future by Mira Lou: “Because the future lies in our hands. And the best way to shape our future is, together. Because we are better together.”

Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22 to show our support for environmental protection.

For some of us with hectic and demanding schedules, convenience can be a godsend. It is so easy to grab ready-to-eat meals off the shelves at convenience stores, or give in to our fast food and bubble tea cravings, or pick up disposable utensils for our takeaway meals. It takes practice (and discipline, I have learnt!) to embrace alternatives to a convenient lifestyle.

Social media makes it easier to share pictures and videos of pollution, melting glaciers, or plights of animals, which can overwhelm us into having eco-anxiety. There is no need to go into full Eco-Warrior Mode immediately! We can sanely take little steps, because every little step counts! In one way or another, all of us have made an effort to go eco: walking instead of driving, taking showers instead of baths, buying only what we need, or bringing our reusable cups for to-go coffees. And I respect that.

Since my 2018 Earth Day post, I have discovered 4 more R’s that I have remained mindful to live by:

My new aim for eco-living is going zero-waste. First, recognise what you need, versus what you want. Second, use what you already have before you borrow/swap/thrift/make or buy something new. Third, support local! The eggs and vegetables from your local market do not come wrapped in plastic; and there are Made-In-Singapore companies selling eco-friendly products that not only look aesthetically-pleasing, but also serves its purpose with the added benefit of using less waste. One such company is The Clean Attempt (TCA).

Me, and Carol (right)

I first came across TCA at a pop-up, and bought my first stainless steel straw from them. Then, I won a Dental Kit Giveaway! I fell in love with the tooth powder, and am impressed with their growing inventory which are lovingly homemade, and packaged minimally.

Jacqueline Wong founded The Clean Attempt, and is now running it together with her business partners Carol and her husband Steve.

Jacqueline, at a pop-up store

Jacqueline exudes warmth and humility. She has a down-to-earth demeanor, and I felt validated as we spoke about our journey towards zero-waste. TCA was born out of a passion to share an important truth—we need to protect our Earth—and also to support others on their own eco-journey by providing the access to high-quality, low-waste products without sacrificing aesthetics and function.
I am very thrilled to have this candid conversation with Jacqueline to find out more about TCA, and get tips to get started on a zero-waste journey (this phone interview has been edited for continuity and clarity):

TCA (Out)Standing Toothbrush and Tooth(Paste) Powder

How/Why did The Clean Attempt (TCA) get started?

I saw an advertisement on plastic toothbrushes: it simply stated that every toothbrush ever created is still around today—even the ones my great-grandmother used! That sounded implausible to me, and that threw me into endless research, which essentially launched my eco-journey.

I started an Instagram account to document my journey and share tips and tricks, and I had never intended it to be a business. Through my passion, friends started asking me for products, and eventually, placing orders for them. It then became clear to me that there are many people trying to go green; the problem was that they didn’t know where to find products to enable their journey. That was simply how The Clean Attempt came about as a business, and every day we strive to provide eco-warriors with the tools they need to kickstart or continue on their journey.

TCA Beeswax Wrap

What are your bestsellers?

So, our bestsellers are the beeswax wraps, and our Make-Up Remover Towels. We like to joke that our Make-Up Remover Towel is the product we’re most confident of, in that we are sure it will blow people away when we show them how it works.

I’ve seen how it works. How does it actually remove all the make-up?

Yeah, it is very interesting. These are microfibre cloths, made out of many tiny fibres. It’s these microfibres that get into the crevices of your skin and lift the make-up off your skin. It’s very natural; you only need to wet the towel with water and voilà!
Another of our best products is the Reusable Cotton Pads, which are all handmade by my Mum.

TCA Deodorant Cream

When TCA came up with the Deodorant Cream, I was like “YES! Finally!” I really like the deodorant because it works for me.

I have, for many years, made my own deodorant for personal use. To be honest, I didn’t plan for TCA to carry deodorant in our range of products. My aim for TCA has always been to fill in gaps in the market, and to provide customers with innovative products. We try to come up with products that we can’t find in Singapore, like our tooth powder, beeswax mending bar, hair rinse crystals, lotion bar and so on.

When I gave birth to my son and started breastfeeding, it became increasingly important to me to provide people, and mothers like myself, with natural products to use. For me, I wanted to make sure my baby isn’t ingesting or absorbing unnecessary toxins and chemicals.

TCA Lotion Bar

How would one determine which eco-friendly products are safe for us and for the environment?

I make a lot of things myself—from my own facial moisturiser to dishwashing powder—which really helps in ensuring that there are no nasty chemicals in what I put on and into my body. If you really do have to buy something off the shelves, do have a look at the ingredient list to make sure that they do not contain any one of the ‘Dirty Dozen’. Google it.

How long does it take for our body to transition from using personal care products with chemical additives, to more natural alternatives?

It depends on individuals and the products they were using before and after the switch. Bear in mind that there are also people with existing problems who need to use medicated products which help them, so not all chemicals are bad. Use what you need to use.

TCA Reusable Cotton Pads

What actions can we take, as individuals, to reduce our carbon footprint, and positively contribute to building a sustainable planet?

When it comes to actions, it goes back to the “clean attempt”. Realize that we don’t need it to be perfect every time, but do try (attempt). Strive for progress, not perfection. And while you’re at it, it is really important to put meaning and purpose into your attempts, so that it is well-intended, and habits can form naturally. It’s not about how many changes you make; it’s about how consistent your changes are.

** This is a helpful list compiled by CLEO of which beauty products you can and cannot recycle. **

Who is/are your favourite eco-warrior(s)?

Though there are many people that I do have tons of respect for in the eco-arena, I don’t have an idol or a favourite. And that lends itself into the very concept of the brand—that each journey is a personal one. Thus, I do not follow one eco-warrior more than the other, instead, I try to draw inspiration from everything that I do, see, hear and read.

If you could write a song/poem/jingle/slogan about saving Mother Earth, what would it say?

At the risk of sounding corny, I think the best ‘song’ one could listen to is the sound of nature. I live quite near the park and the condominium pool is right next to my bedroom. At night, it always soothes me to listen to the sound of crickets singing and water flowing—if that doesn’t make you appreciate nature and motivate you to save Mother Earth, I’m not sure what will 😉

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I hope you have been inspired by Jacqueline, as I have. She is a Wonder Woman in her own way, and you can be a superhero in your own journey towards zero-waste too! I shall leave you with this apt parting quote, the one that started it all:

The idea of zero waste living sounds like a huge lifestyle change and almost impossible. It doesn’t have to be that way—you don’t have to go from zero to zero-waste overnight or even ever. You don’t have to be an eco-warrior or a green guru.
Every little bit counts. A zero-waste lifestyle shouldn’t be a competition when it’s really just us doing what we can and what we are comfortable with. No pressure, just try.
— Jacqueline Wong, The Clean Attempt