Global Warming is real. Climate change is real.
There have been too many heart breaking videos of animals forcibly being at the receiving end of our waste production. The worldwide Zero Waste movement has become an inspiration to those looking to be more environmentally conscious. Although it is understandable that realistically we all can’t be completely 100% zero waste, but we can always reflect on how we are handling and reducing the amount of waste we encounter on a day to day basis. Nobody is forcing this lifestyle on to you, but I think that it is important to be educated and to have knowledge on the impact we have on the environment.
Going “zero waste” is definitely an arduous transition for everyone, as we live and grow with plastic waste all around us. No one says you have to do it all at once, it takes small steps to allow the transition to flow more smoothly and intertwine with your daily lifestyle. Also, everyone makes mistakes, so don’t beat yourself up if you forget to bring your metal straw… just use it as motivation to continue your journey towards a zero waste lifestyle.
As we Malaysians say, sikit sikit jadi bukit. So here are 5 simple steps that we can take to be more conscious to Mother Nature.
1. Refuse plastic bags, bring your own.
You probably already know this and it is one of the basics when we start thinking of how much waste we let out into the world. Supermarkets here in Malaysia have implemented the 20 cents fee for every plastic bag you use, and are encouraging shoppers to bring their own bags, which is great! But despite these efforts, the supermarket is still a blackhole of endless plastic waste as that “extra cost” of 20 cents is not that great of a deterrent to repulse citizens from using plastic bags.
Many countries have started banning single-use plastic bags or have completely transitioned to using biodegradable plastic shopping bags. By the looks of it, no sizeable change will produce results without government support and enforcement.
One small change that the Malaysian government could do is ban the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags; this also includes bin liners and trash bags. “And what am I going to replace them with?” you may ask. Well, biodegradable trash bags might cost more but they actually breakdown after use as compared to regular trash bags which often, somehow, find their way to our oceans.
Even the small but thoughtful act of bringing extra bags to carry your groceries and refraining yourself from using stores’ plastic bags can lead to positive change. Personally I would applaud Cotton On for selling tote bags by the counter so customers don’t just have the option to buy a new tote bag for shopping at the mall but also for everyday needs.
2. Stop buying plastic water bottles, bring your own water bottle.
If you’re not already doing this, wyd? We all know by now that these plastic bottles are not sustainable, but do you know it is also bad for your health? MindBodyGreen wrote that although companies are using BPA-free plastic, there are other chemicals that can seep out and mix in with your H2O when exposed to heat or just by letting the water in the bottle sit around for a long time. So, I know you wanna do your part by re-using a plastic water bottle in an attempt to extend its life, but don’t, ’cause it’s at the detriment of your health.
There are numerous alternatives–personally, I prefer a flask–to store your drink and maintain its temperature. Having your own water bottle will motivate you to drink more water which is better for your overall health. Some people overlook the importance of drinking enough water throughout the day, so if you’re looking to check this New Year’s resolution off your list, here’s your chance.
3. Shop at local markets.
Malaysia is home to many wet markets, filled with locally-sourced fruits, vegetables and meat from local farmers. Not only will you be supporting our economy, but you will also be able to better manage and avoid the endless void of single-use plastic waste. Everything you will find at your local wet market will most definitely be fresh produce, nothing pre-packaged and most importantly: nothing wrapped in plastic.
Yes, stalls will provide plastic bags to help you carry your groceries, but since we’re all starting to be more environmentally-conscious, what are we going to be bringing instead? Yep, our own bags! Fresh produce + the absence of unnecessary single-use plastic waste, we’ve definitely hit the mother-load here.
4. Bring your own cups.
This one goes for all you coffee drinkers, especially. These disposable drinking cups are difficult to sort and recycle. Why? Even though they are made of paper, they are lined with plastic. Therefore their very existence on the planet is to end up rotting in the landfills. If you are an avid coffee drinker who just needs a cuppa joe to help you get through your day, every single day, just imagine how much waste you are producing.
Now imagine if you brought your own reusable cup–imagine how much impact this one small change would have on the amount of waste you produce. Some small changes in the grand scheme of things make the biggest difference.
It is understandable that different coffee, juice, bubble tea franchises will have varied sizes for their drinks so it can be tricky to find the ‘perfect cup’ that would suit all our different options. Since big franchises are now taking more accountability for their waste production (we’re looking at you Starbucks), banning straws might be the first step, but I hope that they will follow suit by promoting reusable cups.
5. Stop. Using. Plastic. Straws.
I’m sure by now we have all seen the video of the veterinarian pulling a plastic straw out of a turtle’s nose that has circulated all over the internet. Not only is it saddening but it is the perfect reality check for us and a more than perfect representation for how innocent wildlife are at the receiving end of our actions all in the name of convenience and modern-living. So, as I’ve reiterated throughout this article–every small change counts.
There has been criticism all over the internet of the legitimacy of how halting the use of straws would “actually make the difference.” Of course, just because one person doesn’t use a straw doesn’t mean that there are any less straws making their way towards the landfill. Why? The accessibility of plastic straws is too easy because of the inexpensiveness of it. A pack of 100 plastic straws is probably no more than RM5, whereas one metal straw could range from RM6-10. So when a big franchise such as Starbucks announces that they are going to start phasing out plastic straws and totally do away with them by 2020, it is a pivotal and monumental move.
We need more big franchises and even governments to recognise that the removal of these small trivial items can lead to positive lasting effects on the environment, and that they can be replaced and their sustainable alternatives should be more accessible.
Plus, metal straws are pretty cool and trendy 🤪 so if you haven’t hopped on that bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for? If you wanna snag yourself a metal straw (or a few) visit The Hive in Bangsar or visit their website.
In case you happen to be one of the few who haven’t seen this video, here it is and I hope this makes you sad and helps motivate you to become more environmentally conscious.
When you’re out and about being your best environmentally-friendly-self, whipping out your metal straws and tote bags filled with groceries, educate those who are curious on your endeavours. You never know, you could inspire them too.
Also, if you’re looking for some more inspiration on joining the movement as well as some tips and tricks to stay consistent, join the Zero Waste Malaysia Facebook page because there’s nothing better than having other people to support you on your journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Are you going to implement these 5 things into your lifestyle? Or are you already on your journey to Zero Waste? Let us know and share your progress and tips with us!