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Does it drive you nuts when you see people in your communities put trash in recycling or drink from plastic water bottles?
Do you want to lead a change in your community to help people properly dispose of waste and minimize consumption, but don’t know how to get started?
So did I. That’s why I chose to dedicate my life to waste management and the zero waste movement, taking up a job in rural India that turned into my baby, Hara House.
Hara House is a zero waste guesthouse and tourism organization run by youth. We are a social enterprise that uses 20% of profits to invest in community projects, such as our youth community hub where youth have access to social and environmental justice education and resources.
We’re inspiring communities to work together towards a sustainable hospitality and tourism industry that positively impacts people and the planet. It’s a challenge, especially in a completely different cultural context (not to mention the country, as I’m a Canadian gal!), but every day I wake up inspired to take on what’s next.
Conquering waste management is something that can be done on an individual level, or on a community level; by the community, I mean any ecosystem of people you thrive within – home, work, play, or travel. It’s a building block in helping us knock climate change right out of this atmosphere. It’s something we have complete control of but we have to put in the work to…well, make it work.
Our project wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our community. We gathered thousands of dollars in donations, worked with tons of organizations to help us launch, and hundreds of volunteer hours and drops of sweat went into making Hara House possible. We cultivated a community that believes in the power of youth empowerment and sustainable waste management to positively affect ecosystems worldwide.
So, why am I writing this?
I want to empower you with tips to get started on shifting how your community (maybe even communities?!) address consumption and waste management on local levels across the globe.
Here’s how to get started using the approaches and strategies I implemented to help make Hara House possible.
First off, create a strategic plan.
Does reading “strategic plan” already scare you?
Don’t be nervous. Your strategic plan doesn’t need to be professionally written and crafted to corporate perfection. The goal of your waste management strategic plan is to have an ongoing document where you can keep track of:
- Your overall objective
- Your community goals
- Who the key stakeholders are
- How you’ll measure the impact
- What needs to be done and by who
- And your timeline for accomplishing everything
This may involve some research, but researching something that is threatening our planet and YOU have total control of is actually pretty exciting and superhero-like.
If you’ve decided to conquer waste management in your residential community, take the lead on:
- understanding your region’s waste management system
- what items go into what bins (trash, recycling, compost, etc.)
- what resources are already accessible for you and the community
You’ll often find your local waste management organization, or pick-up program offers free workshops that provide you with a thorough understanding of how waste management works in your region.
If you are going to build a plan for your workspace:
- learn how your company currently disposes of waste (usually a third-party company so you’ll need to look into this)
- consider outdoor spaces for starting a compost and possible future permaculture projects
- get your higher-ups on board (possibly start an eco-warrior squad!)
Now, you need to practice active listening and communication.
Have you noticed that people talk the talk but don’t walk the walk when it comes to conscious living and waste management?
When solving global issues (and yes, waste management is a global issue), you need to approach the topic with compassion, empathy, and the ability to actively listen to the concerns of your community.
One of the biggest stigmas around sustainable waste management and minimizing consumption is that people don’t understand the problem, therefore they don’t know where to start.
It’s your job as a changemaker to scale your language to the level of those you are communicating with. This way information about the importance of waste management, and how to approach the daunting topic, is absorbed and understood.
The first step to this is to actively listen to your community and understand their concerns about the topic, what they may be fearful and unsure of, and their level of comfort in getting involved.
What is active listening?
It’s the ability to be present and fully take in everything the other person is saying and repeat it back to them in your own words so they know you’ve understood. This is a helpful life skill that comes in handy with whoever you may be communicating with on a personal or professional level. It truly is one of the biggest hurdles for approaching heavy topics such as environmental issues.
Once you’ve actively listened to someone’s concerns, you can start to come up with solutions that address their fears, and provide them with the information they need to move forward, including key goals and actions that you’ve established in your strategic plan.
Empower youth to lead the movement.
Have you ever spoken to your grandparents about waste management or various sustainable development topics and they just don’t get it?
Let’s face it, our older generations are stuck in their ways. They’ve lived their whole lives in a system that hasn’t put people and the planet first. Empowering youth to get involved in waste management and understanding the importance of conscious consumption is how you knock out climate change.
When taking on sustainable waste management in your community, talk to schools, youth programs, youth community spaces, and other places you’ll find youth who are interested in environmental justice. Put together workshops, presentations, and engaging activities that can help them understand why this is such an important cause in a fun and interactive way.
Maybe make it a competition between schools or youth communities! Imagine a fun little rivalry of who can minimize the most waste within 30 days. Get sponsors on board so the kids can be rewarded for their pledge to mother earth.
Youth below age 25 are most affected by climate change because they are the generation responsible for fixing it. Give them a platform to do good and you’ll be surprised how willing they are to take on such a challenge.
Provide your community with the resources to get started.
Sometimes those luxury zero waste products on the market aren’t actually that accessible for your community.
Minimizing your waste and the zero waste movement has become a trend that seems to be hitting people’s wallets pretty hard. Remember, in order to rally a community for such a cause, you need to make everything as accessible and affordable as possible.
One of the best resources you can give to your community is information on what products or packaging to avoid so that you can help close the loop on virgin plastic production, styrofoam, and other earth hating products that cause landfills to pile up. You can even go as far as providing them with information about where to donate or swap old clothes, and planning activities to keep people engaged.
My suggestion: develop programming to get people started by showing them how to upcycle old clothing into household knick-knacks, or make their own zero waste “starter kit”. Kits can include reusable products for when they’re on the go and homemade DIY solutions to things like laundry soap and cleaning supplies. Pinterest is a great (and affordable) tool for this!
Measure your impact.
You deserve to show off the impact you are making, so how do you keep track?
Simple – decide what you want to measure and create a realistic plan to make it happen.
Let’s say you want to measure how many KGs of waste you are diverting from landfills. Start measuring how much waste is going into your trash bins (if you are doing this at a household level, be sure to ask if people are comfortable doing this alone or if you can do it for them). Once changes have been implemented, immediately start collecting the data from each person involved. This can be as simple as providing all beneficiaries with a small scale to weigh their trash cans at the end of each week, or if the community you are working in is a little more complex, you can arrange volunteers to pick up the trash weekly to weight and deliver it to the right processing facility.
If you want to measure the lifestyle changes your community is making after engaging in the project, have them fill out 1 – 3 surveys throughout a 3 months period. This way you can track the shift your community is experiencing before, during and after accessing education about waste management and consumption, and their journey in becoming an active member in your impactful project.
Share your journey and inspire others.
By simply getting started, you can empower hundreds (maybe thousands!) of other people to take on the same challenge in their communities.
There is nothing more powerful and influential than seeing real change happening around the world when there is so much bad news out there. Engage your community to write about their experiences, what they’ve learned, and how implementing sustainable waste management has transformed their lifestyle for the better.
You, as the leader, should be sharing your journey as well. Think a blog, vlog, or simply IGTV segments about your progress, your challenges, and your successes.
Conquering waste management IS possible.
It starts with you – as cheesy as that sounds. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my decision to stand up and lead communities to make changes that positively impact every living creature on this planet. It’s work, but it’s worth it.
This isn’t just a movement, this is the future of how we need to work together in order to preserve mother earth.
Get on board, lead your revolution, and connect with me to ask questions, chat strategy, and to access a personal cheerleader.
I’m totally rooting for you!
Have you been thinking of starting a waste management program within your community? If you have questions, comments or thoughts please share them below as we’d love to give you our support!