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  • Writer's pictureAlizée CCM

5 Steps to a more Waste-Less and Sustainable Business/ Household/ Project

I was invited to talk at Boss Lady Breakfast Shanghai this morning at the lovely Egg Cafe on Xiangyang Road. Multiple women who own or are thinking of starting their own businesses are gathering every month for breakfast to hear the story of another fellow Boss Lady and discuss ideas and opinions on the matter.

I am sure it's no surprise that my topic was Zero Waste related... (duuhh... -_- ), so to make sure that this was going to be relevant for as many people as possible I tried coming up with 5 first steps to a more waste-less household, project, business, company, ... you name it!

I was asked to share it again after the talk so I figured... why not share it with everyone here as well? Here we go!

1. Start with a dumpster dive > Yes check what is in your garbage can!

" You can't manage what you don't measure..."

You might think you know what you throw away but unless you actually take it all out and take a closer look, your idea might be biased.

Look at everything and see what you can avoid easily, what type of waste you have, how much of every type etc.

This will be the foundation for the waste diversion opportunities later. You can then also prioritise the opportunities according what you found.

2. Don't take shortcuts

"Recycling won't save you money, but reducing and reusing will."

Recycling is not the solution*. Don't think about recycling before you have Refused, Reduced and Reused first

The 5R's are in a certain order and there's a reason for this. If you want to really have an impact, you need to tackle the problem at the root (over consumption and over cluttering and over owning... I know the struggles.. Believe me! I am still a taobao fan, but only if necessary).

Start by:

Refusing what you don't need,

Reducing what you do need,

Reusing what you already have,

Recycling if there's anything left, and

Rot your food scraps

* Did you know that worldwide only 5 items are 100% recyclable? Clear glass, white HDPE plastic, clear PET(E) plastic, metal and paper & cardboard.

3. Out with the disposables

“Small wins are a steady application of a small advantage.”

(Charles Duhigg)

Look at the disposables you use and find alternatives. Disposables might look like the easy and convenient solution, but they might be more costly on the long run.

It's not only about the price you see on the tag. Unfortunately the environment pays a much higher price for the production of a lot of the disposable items... and we, humans will be the one bearing the consequences on the long run.

4. Communicate about your 'green' efforts

"There's only so much you can learn or know of, other people are happy to fill the gaps when needed and possible."

Don't underestimate the power of sharing your ideas, and even more so in Shanghai. If you talk about what you are trying to achieve, people will share ideas, contacts, brainstorm with you, or help any other way they can. Even from the ones you didn't expect ...

- Family members: especially if you explain to kids why we have a compost bin, or why plastic is bad for turtles and fish in the ocean who eat and they have sick tummies... They will be powerful waste less advocates! Don't underestimate them ;-)

- Employees: If you are thinking of implementing this way of working in the office, you need to explain to the people who are working for you, why you are doing it. What are your motives, how does it benefit them, what can they get out of it, etc.

By doing so you will gather them around common values and hence create a nicer work environment.

- Clients and customers: if you tell your customers about the things you do to be waste less or more sustainable, you will create awareness not only on those topics but also around your brand. And some of them night even give you tips or help.

5. Create a system

“If you believe you can change - if you make it a habit - the change becomes real.”

(Charles Duhigg - The Power of Habit)

A waste less (or Zero Waste) lifestyle is a serious undertaking (I know .. shocker!), and for you not to get discouraged or to give up you need to create a system.

What I mean is that you have to (re) organise your life, your routine according to these new values and habits that you are about to implement.

If you don't change the system, you will feel annoyed and angry, rather than peaceful and relaxed ( which this lifestyle is all about).

I can't give explicit tips or know-how for this, because its such a personal thing. But to give you an idea of what I mean, I'll share some ideas:


- I have a small box for scraps that need to go in the compost bin conveniently located where I usually chop up the vegetables and cook. At the end of the day, it goes in my compost bin outside of the house.

- My cotton bag is hanging next to my door if I go out for grocery shopping with all the produce bags in there already.

- I keep my water bottle and container in my motorbike instead of my hand bag.


- Recycle bins easily accessible for all employees

- Non disposable coffee mugs next to the coffee machine, and trays on convenient locations to get the dirty mugs back

- Paper recycling station NEXT to the printer


- Separate container for used coffee grounds (Please please please restaurant owners... save those coffee grounds! - So much goodness in those)

- Sorting station for non disposable dishes

Anything I missed guys? Or anything else you'd like to know? Drop us a message :)


Alizee x


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