Going Beyond Your Own Zero Waste
Updated: Mar 31
Get others to join your zero-waste bandwagon!
Ok, so you’ve done your personal waste audit, identified the problematic areas and pared down your outgoing trash to the minimum amount possible. You continue to improve on this as you go along, and feel like you’ve really done all you can. What’s next?
Pulling others in for the ride!
You can, of course, choose to stick to working on yourself, but do know that you can easily double and triple your positive impact by spreading the zero waste lifestyle to other people. In fact, after experiencing the benefits of going zero waste, and the shock and horror of the serious trash problem in the world, you may just be raring to recruit others!
Even if you’re nowhere near zero-waste, and even if you’re just starting out and are still struggling with it, you can still be in a position to bring others onboard. In fact, it may even be the best thing to bring others on this journey with you together, so you’re not struggling all by yourself!
So, gather up your closest humans, and kick-off a movement in your immediate circles. Here’s how you can start.
Set an example: show that it can be done, easily and even happily
The easiest and arguably best thing you can do as an individual is to be an example for others to follow. You don’t even need to go preaching and giving lectures, simply practice the zero waste habits in your daily life, and inevitably someone will get curious.
Most people are aware of the problem of trash pollution, but simply don’t know what they can do. If they do know what can be done, they may not be too sure of how doable and practical it is. By demonstrating that you’re able to do it is often times all the proof and motivation that they need. If you’re up for it, publicly share your zero waste efforts on social media so more people around you are aware of it!
Share your zero waste journey on social media!
I have had numerous emails and messages from friends and strangers telling me how they’ve been wanting to do such-and-such but just couldn’t figure out how, and shyly asking about my experience going zero waste and what are some tips they can implement to make that transition.
Take the time to explain and soothe their worries, and you will soon have a fellow zero-waster by your side. Remember how it was when you yourself first started, and how useful it was to have someone help you!
Buy them gifts from zero waste stores
Expose your family and friends to the concept of zero waste by buying them gifts from a zero waste store. It can be in the form of a reusable item, or a packaging-free product, or food in reusable or sustainable packaging.
When gifting, attach a pamphlet or note about what zero waste is, or simply give a quick explanation as you’re handing the gift over. Do so in a no-pressure manner - if they like the gift and are intrigued, great! If not, no worries, they can still enjoy the gift, or regift it with your permission to someone who will like it.
Just knowing that stores exist that actively try to combat the excessive packaging waste can be a catalyst for someone to change their shopping habits, and subsequently their waste-generation habits. They’ve just been waiting for a store that enables them to do so instead of resorting to the typical wasteful supermarket or mall. So introduce them to a zero-waste store, and let the store staffers do the rest!
Host exchanges or libraries
If you have a gaggle of friends with the same fashion style or set of hobbies, consider hosting an exchange or item swap, where all of you get together, and instead of shopping for new things, you simply exchange what you have with what your friends have. This is easily applicable to clothes and accessories, but can also be applied to art supplies, stationery items (like your ten thousand rolls of washi tapes and stickers) and books.
Speaking of books, if you are a proud owner of a large amount of books, consider hosting a library, where your friends and family can borrow (and even contribute!) to it. Other than books, you can also host a tools library, or a crafts library, or anything you can think of that garner shared interests amongst your circle.
Barnes & Nobles tells you how to host the perfect book swap event
If you are generous, consider opening up these exchanges and libraries to others outside your circle. If you are entrepreneurial, you can even make money from these things! The goal is to encourage people to share, rather than to purchase, but money on the side is great too!
Start a zero-waste week or no-buy month
To ease your family and friends into the zero waste lifestyle, make a challenge out of it! Start a zero-waste week or zero-waste month challenge with your friends, and keep each other on track. Put on hashtags and get others to join on social media.
Alternatively, start a no-buy week or no-buy month, where you commit to not buying any non-essential items for that entire period. You can’t throw out something you never bought, so it’s an automatic zero-waste effort!
Do it with a bunch of people, include some fun elements like zero-waste rewards and bragging rights, and get everyone to try the lifestyle out for a short period of time. If they like it, they can stick to it and even shoot for loftier goals. If they don’t, no worries - the next zero-waste or no-buy challenge will hopefully do the trick!
Write to companies and authorities about the issue
If you want to go even further and be more of an activist, pick up your pen or laptop and write a letter to companies and relevant authorities regarding the issue.
Write to the supermarkets you frequent and tell them to do better with all the waste they’re forcing on people. Write to your local councillors and propose a waste reduction program or community composting program. Write to specific companies that generate the most plastic pollution (*ahem* Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle *ahem*) and push them to take action and get their act together.
While you’re at it, provide suggestions and solutions. Look up examples of stores or companies that have successfully cut down on waste and share your findings in your letters. Greenpeace has also written an entire booklet for supermarkets as a guide, and this will serve as a useful attachment to your letter.
To walk my own talk, I myself will be taking on item number 5: Writing to companies and authorities about the issue, and I'd like it if you would join me too!
My 2020 Tell-Companies-To-Do-Better Campaign
Here's the plan:
1) Each month, for the rest of 2020, identify a supermarket company that carries excessive plastic packaging on the products they sell
2) Take photo evidence of the supermarket, noting time and date of visit, as well as location of the supermarket branch
3) Send out a letter/ an email / a text message to the company, depending on their preferred mode of communication with their customers.
I have written out a template of the letter/email/message, feel free to copy the template here: Letter to Supermarkets
You may also want to attach the Greenpeace booklet for zero waste supermarkets - get it here: The Smart Supermarket
Alternatively, you may want to start with restaurants that you frequent, rather than supermarkets. In that case, I have also written a template meant for F&B companies, copy the template here: Letter to Food & Beverage Companies
For your convenience, here is a list of the main supermarkets in Malaysia and their contact details.
Once you've sent it out, share about it on your respective social media pages - who knows, other people may be encouraged and spurred to do the same!
While this action may seem small, if done together and in mass, it will at the very least signal to the companies and authorities that we, as consumers, have certain preferences that we want catered to, especially when it comes to living more lightly on the planet and reducing our waste on it.