MINIMIZE Zero Waste: Former Business Lecturer Jayne Lee Puts Her Textbook Theories To The Real Test

If you like origin stories with twists and unexpected journeys coupled with some good ol’ sustainability, this one’s for you.

Jayne Lee started out her adult life rooted in education. From working at Kumon in her university days, to teaching at a Chinese independent school, and then a private college where she lectured on Business Management, it was all she was familiar with.

But now she owns a zero waste store located in SS14 which she started in the middle of a pandemic with her partner, Pei Yen.

How did she get here? Let’s dive in…

Source: Ray Tang

With a Communications degree and an unspoken ambition to be a psychologist, Jayne envisioned that by age 30, she should have a counselling practice, be married with 2 kids, and live happily in an apartment.

“But life took twists and turns. I never did Psychology. I was married by 23, working a HR job that had no career movement for 6 years with no prospects of anything changing,” she said.

“Then I hit 30. It was as though I woke up for the first time, looked back and realised that all my dreams never happened and I didn’t really recognise who I was.”

One existential crisis later, Jayne recognised that she needed to advocate for her self and no longer live to serve another person.

You go, girl!

“I now know that having a supportive partner is also very crucial to developing a better sense of self and growing as a person. Through a series of difficult conversations, I decided to file for a divorce.”

“I was severely depressed then, with suicidal ideation and going to work, engaging with students was the one thing I truly looked forward to,” reminisced Jayne, referring to her time as a lecturer.

Realising that life actually began at 30, she started exploring her own interests as she discovered new passions. During this period, she discovered the zero waste community!

“I was participating in a variety of workshops like tie dying, soap making, kombucha brewing etc, and came across zero waste which was awesome.”

 

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In that time, she was still teaching Business Management to Year 12 students, and everything was still theoretical and in textbooks.

When Jayne and Pei Yen were toying with the idea of running a zero waste business, they realised they could essentially continue their passion for teaching via a different platform.

“So from a lecturer in business, I am now putting theory into practice, running my own business. After all, how can I teach my students when I myself hadn’t tried out to see if the theories actually worked?”

And thus, MINIMIZE Zero Waste Store was born.

When you really think about it, adopting a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle isn’t anything new to us. Our parents and grandparents have been practicing waste reduction and reusing household items since time immemorial.

Look around the house, there’s always a pile of plastic bags and spare containers being reused. Even hand-me-down clothes exchanged amongst siblings are a form of choosing zero waste.

“The reason the term “zero waste” caught my attention was due to the ban of plastic bags in Selangor. I used to be oblivious to all of these things. But with the talk of global warming going around, in 2018 I discovered that zero waste stores existed and in Malaysia!”

Source: Ray Tang

After a few visits to some local zero waste stores, Jayne and Pei Yen made a few changes in their lifestyle: no more fast fashion, waiting until they absolutely need to buy groceries to avoid over-buying, and bringing in their own containers and plastic bags when making purchases.

“As time went on, one of the larger zero waste stores were looking for investment in their expansion plan. I put in some money there, but then Pei Yen suggested instead of just investing in someone else’s business, we could start our own zero waste store. And that was how the seed was planted back in 2018.”

“It took a lot of thinking, fear, planning, second-guessing, more fear and eventually burnout to realise hey, instead of investing time in another person’s dream, how about investing in my own dream and one that has some small impact in the world.”

A 2019 study commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) showed that Malaysia ranks second in Asia for annual per capita plastic use.

At 16.78kg per person, Malaysia outranks much larger nations including China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam in overall generated waste.

With over 1,300 plastic manufacturers, Malaysia is also one of the largest plastic production industries globally, exporting resins valued at RM30 billion in 2016 to plastic producers around the world.

Noticeably, packaging takes up the biggest market share of plastic at 40% in 2008 and steadily increased over a decade to an eye-watering 48% in 2018.

 

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Onto the business side of things, Jayne says that stocking out the store itself has not been an easy process, but she already had her own side hustle to get her going – her very own kombucha business!

“We wanted to ensure that our kombucha is affordable but also has a sustainable twist to it. We try to get all out ingredients locally where possible. Fruit skins that can be composted, we collect when possible to send to a local community garden that has composting bins.”

They’re especially thankful to USJ2 Kebun Komuniti for allowing them to drop off their food waste. They also have a bottle return policy whereby every returned bottle is entitled to RM1 cash back!

Source: Ray Tang

MINIMIZE Zero Waste store also wanted to ensure that they supported smaller local brands, such like the Breeze For You Menstrual Cup.

Designed and fully made in Malaysia, founder Alyssa Ng wanted to ensure its accessibility to all segments of society so this is the cheapest cup you can find in the market.

Source: Ray Tang

They’ve also partnered with a seed pop company, Poptanical, which is a new company but Jayne and Pei Yen loved the idea of making an edible garden so accessible.

“The zero waste community is such a supportive warm one. I’ve never felt or seen other stores as competitors. We are in this together, helping our local community with their zero waste choices. And the community’s enthusiasm is encouraging.”

 

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We also asked Jayne about any future plans she might have for the business, and she responded with, “We hope to bring this zero waste concept to the Subang Jaya community and also supporting more local brands where we can.”

“As the pandemic eases up, we hope later on to maybe use out space for workshops by local artist, zero waste advocates, skills trainers and maybe kombucha brewing. Using our space as not just a retail area but also to foster exchange of ideas and education.”

 

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Drive over to SS14 to check out their physical store, or shop online via their Shopee page.

For more updates, give their Instagram a follow, or click here to go to their website!