Living more sustainably

by Aparna Sharma and Helena Hoffmann
Living more sustainably

Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”
by Ryunosuke Saoro (Japanese philosopher and writer)

Expat Life team
Fiona Lemaire, Helena Hoffmann and Aparna Sharma

Expat Life in Thailand sat down with Fiona Lemaire (founder of Zero Waste Thailand).

We were reminded of this quote when we met Fiona from Zero Waste Thailand. She made us believe that each one of us has the potential to make a difference. Her story is extremely inspiring and her determination and belief that she could make a difference really touched us deeply.

We asked her if there was any particular incident which led her to build her company, Zero Waste Thailand. She told us that she loves the ocean and when she went diving a few years back in Phuket, she saw a huge amount of plastic floating around her and she literally saw the marine life suffering. Each time we use a single-use plastic item and throw it away, it is going into our oceans and landfills and it is harming and polluting our planet.

It was very disturbing to hear about her diving experience in Thailand and Bali; she saw more plastic than fish and she mentioned that it was extremely irritating to have her diving mask covered by the plastic bags floating in the ocean. The very thought of that sight was so difficult to comprehend, it must have been painful for her to witness all the beautiful corals suffering because of our actions.

She imagined the amount of plastic floating into the wide-open mouth of a manta ray. Her unforgettable diving experience made her really want to take responsible actions towards sustainable living and that is why she founded her company, Zero Waste Thailand. She said that she had absolutely no idea if it would succeed but she knew that she had to try and do something after witnessing those nightmare scenes underwater. When she started two years back, she produced 1,000 stainless steel reusable straws and she was unsure if they would sell but fortunately, they sold quickly which pushed her to produce more.

Today, her company sell many more sustainable and plastic-free items. Zero Waste Thailand supplies many restaurants, hotels, schools and even weddings in Bangkok with their plastic-free products. She mentioned that her margins are extremely low, so she does not supply to any of the supermarkets yet. (A shopping guide and places in Bangkok where you can find plastic-free products, sustainable service will be published online on our website).

She has also been focusing on making people aware of reducing plastic in their daily life’s or businesses and is a strong advocate on changing people through kindness and education. She has been trying to conduct various events and seminars to inform and share with people the importance of going sustainable over convenience. She was the main host of an event at K Village last August called “Zero Waste Weekend” together with other local companies to give options and ideas to consumers and business owners of eco-friendly products and packages.

She is visiting many international schools in Bangkok and offers seminars and talks to the children about being more mindful and aware of our daily habits in using plastic items. Definitely Zero Waste Thailand and their customers make quite an impact here in Thailand.

At the end of our interview, we were brainstorming on the little changes each one of us can make towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. Every effort to reduce wastefulness is important, therefore…

Go #PlasticFree as much as possible
Previous generations didn’t have single-use razors, forks, cups, bags and food storage containers, but these days, we can find a plastic version of almost every item and then just throw that object careless away after its use. Every item is nowadays available in plastic or is wrapped in plastic. Substitute and investigate in products which aren’t made of plastic e.g. bamboo toothbrushes, soap bars, bamboo cotton buds, cotton bags, glass storage containers in the kitchen or if it is reusable plastic it is okay, too.

Plastic never goes away. Every year thousands of seabirds, sea turtles, and other marine mammals suffer and die after ingesting plastic or getting tangled up in it. You can cut down with your plastic waste with just a few simple steps:

Minimise the single-use plastic bags.
Use reusable bags when you shop. There are many of these very small foldable bags which don’t take so much space in your handbag. Have some of them in your car trunk as well.

Avoid single-use water bottles, bags, cutlery and straws.
Replace disposables wherever you can. Use reusable water bottles and mugs, bags, stainless-steel or bamboo cutlery and straws. Invest in shops who support your sustainable effort and support them back. (Bring your personal cup and get 5B discount e.g. Be Organic. More will follow with this good example).

Avoid products packed in plastic whenever possible.
Take your own Tupperware or re-usable food/drink container from home with you when you go to work and stop at a street stall to buy your breakfast. Store some of your Tupperware or reusable container in your car trunk.

Cut down on online shopping and on home deliveries, especially when it comes wrapped heavily with plastic.
Shop local, carry your own bag with you and support local farmers and vendors.

Investigate in restaurants and companies that use eco friendly packages. Next time you buy at a place return your previous packages, save points and get some discounts. (e.g. Veggiology)

Buy fewer plastic toys, especially not the cheap ones from Chinatown, they don’t even last long. When you purchase item’s, consider their life expectancy.
Invest in wooden, textiles or other natural toys.

Don’t throw everything in one bin! Start separating dry and wet waste.
Even better: start separating your waste at home, in your apartment complex or in your compound. Ask your landlord to provide different waste bins, for paper and cardboard boxes, for glass, for plastic and for food waste. You will realise quickly you need less waste bin bags if you start separating. If you have an own garden, start composting.

Set goals – Reduce energy consumption

Turn off the AC more often.
Use more fans instead of the AC.
Open windows to allow a breeze.

Instead of using a tumble dryer.
Hang your clothes outside to dry.

Rely less on your car.
Car pool with your friends, your kids’ friends (to sport events) and colleagues.
Use more public transportation like BTS, MRT, busses and khlong boat. (Yes, the two last ones are questionable due to emitting heavily black fumes. Nevertheless, they can be used by many people and they are affordable for the majority of people with low income. It is still a better and safer than when everyone takes a motorsai or taxi and clog the streets.)

Walk more, not only good for the environment, probably for your physical wellbeing, too.

General changes
Think twice before shopping. Every product you purchase has an environmental footprint, therefore before you buy, ask yourself if you really need it.

  • Buy more used products possible, join secondhand book sales, flea markets.
  • Share with friends (books, magazines, games)
  • Resell or donate items (clothes, toys) to charity organisations.
  • Eat ice-cream out of cones instead of cups.
  • Refuse “free” promotional plastic products/giveaways.
  • Get your whole family involved by asking for specific changes in everyone’s habits.

Encourage people’s efforts. Not everyone is perfect or 100% sustainable, and that’s okay. Surely there are many more ways how we can live more sustainable and environmentally, but this is a beginning. Every single person who tries to make a serious effort in the direction of a more sustainable lifestyle is a win.

We know that not all suggestions and ideas suits everyone and that some find it hard to change. Giving up on habits or changing a convenient lifestyle completely is not easy. However, do you want to continue using more indestructible plastic items? Or do you care about the environment and the creatures living on it? What are the values you want to give your children?

Start today, change consciously one or two of your habits at a time. Don’t go from hundred to zero, that is neither realistic nor practicable.

Finally some practical help for you when you out in the streets. Let the local vendors know you don’t want and need the plastic stuff.

No plastic straw please. Thank you.
ไม่รับหลอดพลาสติก ขอบคุณ
Mai Rab Lod plastic (ka/krab).

No plastic bag please. Thank you.
ไม่รับถุงพลาสติก ขอบคุณ
Mai Rab Thuung plastic (ka/krab).

No plastic please. Thank you.
ไม่รับพลาสติก ขอบคุณ
Mai Rab plastic (ka/krab).

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