Elsa - Every effort counts, be the change you want to see!

Elsa helps more people consume consciously by being an advocate for zero-waste in China. She shares her experience of leading a zero-waste lifestyle in Beijing on her blog and helps facilitate workshops and events in Beijing.


Where are you from and what brought you to Beijing?

My home town is in Anhui, but I studied and worked in Guangzhou for 15 years. We moved to Beijing when my husband got transferred two years ago. 

What does sustainability mean to you? 

To live with what I really need and love. To really understand who I am and what my ultimate needs are. To respect mother nature and be grateful for all the resources that are given to us.

What are you passionate about? 

I'm a zero waste advocate and I'm working to invite more people in China to experience a zero waste lifestyle.

How do you do to consume consciously? 

Being conscious of my daily waste helps me realize the environmental impact of my lifestyle. Guided by the 5R principles of zero waste, now I always think twice before consuming anything: Do I really need it? Can I find an alternative? Can I get it secondhand or from someone else? How was this product made - fair trade/environmentally friendly? Where will it end up after I finish using it?

What else could you do to consume more consciously?

I'd like to know more about the people who grow my food. I buy most of my food from farmers' markets in Beijing, where I get to know the farmers and talk to them. I hope to visit their farms more often to see how my food is grown. Or I'd like to get my hands dirty by working on the farms, that would be wonderful!

When did you become more conscious of your consumption? 

In Sep 2016, I came across an article about Lauren Singer and her little jar where she put 2 years of trash. That was the first time I heard about "Zero Waste". It was so mind-blowing that I started to think: where has my waste gone and what can I do to reduce it? After analyzing my own trash, I realized that my life was filled with single-use disposables which I thought were very "convenient". But I didn't see the cost of convenience - the cost of resources/pollution/health/etc. That's when I decided to change and give this "zero waste" thing a shot.

What’s the easiest part of consuming consciously: 

Say NO = Refuse (the 1st R of 5R principle). Say no to disposables. Say no to freebies. Say no to fast fashion, to over packaging, to food delivery, to all those things you think you need but you actually don't. Just say NO.

What’s the hardest part of consuming consciously: 

It's really hard to find eco-friendly products/alternatives to some single-use items.

What are your top 3 practical changes to consume more consciously?

  • Look at your trash and understand what kind of waste you’re creating. Find the categories that you see most
  • Refuse single use items, whatever it is in your life and find alternatives

  • Take your own reusable items with you every day, like a zero-waste kit

What are the biggest challenges we face today?

Even though we’re making changes as individuals, we need to see corporations and governments making changes. We need better recycling systems for example. We also don’t have much education in terms of our environmental impact. 

If the whole world was listening, what would you say?

Every effort counts, be the change you want to see!

What do you do?

I'm the founder of Go Zero Waste, which is dedicated to raising awareness and empowering people to take action on environmental issues through a series of events and workshops.

Cornelia BlignautComment