Here’s the opposite of a fun fact: people are throwing away 1.3 billion tonnes of trash every year. We all know how long it takes for plastic to break down (up to 1000 years), but it’s never too late to change the tide and start making better choices. Claire Sancelot is a social entrepreneur who is tackling the garbage problem head on in Malaysia, and hoping to lead the country to a cleaner, greener future.
Claire’s passion for going zero waste and making better choices was sparked while living in Hong Kong, a place known for being overcrowded with both people and trash. Almost everywhere in the city is polluted, inspiring Claire to start an advice blog documenting her zero waste journey. Zero waste doesn’t mean growing your own veggies and wearing the same clothes until they rot off your body, but rather making sure nothing you use goes to landfill. You buy your groceries from farmers markets, bring your own bags, recycle, compost and shop second hand where you can. It’s a movement that’s gaining momentum as we humans start to realise the impact of consuming single-use plastics.
It was a move to Malaysia that prompted Claire to take her blog from personal musings to a full-blown social enterprise co-op she named The Hive. The Hive has become an oasis in Malaysia’s plastic strewn capital Kuala Lumpur for zero-waste folk who want to live greener lives. Part recycling plant, part city garden and part co-working space, The Hive sources ethically produced foods, tools and products and then educates people in how to be less wasteful. From cooking classes to info nights, they hire employees and suppliers based on how they are contributing and empowering vulnerable people in society (such as women, migrants and disabled people). Not only do they get their zero-waste message across, they also give gainful employment to those who need it the most.
It’s a big mission to try and change the course of a countries waste problem, but Claire, who has been described as a “one-woman green revolution”, acknowledges she has to start somewhere and has been petitioning local authorities and government to get laws changed around waste. Her efforts aren’t going unnoticed, in fact she received an award by the United Nations for her contributions to the promotion of sustainability and Zero Waste in Malaysia recently. While describing the win as a surreal experience, Claire says she hopes the idea reaches more people: “I hope the win will inspire people to realise it’s not impossible to change the way we consume to a more sustainable lifestyle.”
Claire’s key message for the Malaysian population, and the world, is that it’s never too late to start living greener and that it’s a myth a zero-waste lifestyle that uses local and sustainable foods and products costs more. She recommends starting small rather than overhauling your life in one go. Bring a reusable bag to the supermarket, say no to plastic straws and use a reusable water bottle. You might also find your mindset changes as you consume less “It is extremely liberating,” Claire told Asian Correspondent about living zero-waste. So what are you waiting for?