Approaching Sustainability with The Melting Pot, Edinburgh
Really excited to be partnering with The Melting Pot Edinburgh to deliver a 2 hour workshop on Zero Waste in the Workplace on January 29th 2020, in their marvellous event space on Rose Street.
As Scotland's Centre for Social Innovation, The Melting Pot (TMP) provides co-working space, event space, virtual offices, coworking accelerator, and support to social entrepreneurs in the form of the Good Ideas Programme, a fantastic Social Incubator programme that I was lucky enough to be accepted onto last year.
Ahead of our workshop, James Gray interviewed me for TMP's newsletter, and that interview appears below. You can find the original article here.
JG: What challenges did you face when you were converting to the zero waste lifestyle?
TH: Firstly, I’m not at zero yet myself; it’s an ongoing process that I’m still working on and like anyone, I have good days and bad days! But in the beginning, while some swaps and changes were easy, mostly I found myself going around in circles trying to work out which choices were better and how to measure different types of impacts. There didn’t seem to be many clear answers just a lot of frustration that I couldn’t find what I wanted. Society really isn’t set up to make something so important easy – or often even possible. There is so much info out there now and a lot of advice contradicts what’s already been said, so I was getting really confused about what I should actually be doing.
What is the biggest misconception about zero waste?
That every solution has to be perfectly zero waste or it’s not worth making a change. I still find myself falling into the trap of being very critical of any solution presented because it’s not perfect and maybe doesn’t solve every issue we have immediately. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s ok if we’re not quite there yet, it’s going to take a bit of time and any new product or process or solution just has to be better than what we’ve got now to be valuable. Being too critical is a huge problem because it stops us from taking action that will make a difference. This is not an all-or-nothing problem, this is one where every tiny little action will help. We really need to be taking every victory we can, no matter how small. As the saying goes: we don’t need one person doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions doing it imperfectly! So just start, and just try to make each new choice a little bit better than the last one.
Now that people are more aware of environmental issues and want to reduce their environmental footprint, what advice can you give them?
Just do the best you can, and keep going. It’s ok to go for the quick wins first, to do whatever you feel able to do or to take breaks for a moment to catch your breath. It’s a journey, you don’t have to tackle it all at once. You may tackle things in a different order to your friends or family or neighbours. But please just keep going with whatever you can, at whatever pace you feel able to.
Don’t be too critical of yourself or others, being supportive and encouraging is going to get us all much further overall, but do be critical of the system and keep pushing for system change, regulation and action. We can support individual journeys while still holding the systems and players to account.
What small changes can make a big impact?
In terms of tangible actions, here are some great moves for everyone to start with, that will drive some serious change.
Energy Definitely switch to a renewable energy company as soon as possible, and ask all of your friends and family to switch as well. There are some very competitive companies on the market now, so it’s no longer more expensive than the “Big Six” and I can’t overstate how important it is for us to stop using fossil fuels completely.
Trees Start planting trees or supporting organisations who do, the world desperately needs more trees and there are charities that will plant one tree for $1, so it’s very accessible. You can use a carbon calculator to work out how much impact your making.
Diet Reduce meat and dairy intake where you can, especially of red meat as that has the most significant impact. Not everyone is ready or able to go completely vegetarian or vegan, but if everyone cut meat from one meal a week it would still make a huge difference.
Single-use Try to avoid any kind of single-use-anything, it’s a huge waste of resources and creates enormous amounts of rubbish – the obvious ones are packaging, containers, bags, straws, coffee cups, water bottles, but there is also so much more. Wherever you can choose reusable instead.
Plastic Try to avoid plastic wherever you can, it does have advantages in some circumstances, but the world is drowning in it. We’re not even sure of the health impacts of the vast amount of microplastics we all have in our bodies now. If there’s ever a viable alternative, take that instead.
Transport Drive less, combine trips, share rides, take public transport, bike or walk where possible, and don’t fly if you can avoid it. Again, minimise whatever you can, every little bit helps.
To hear more about Zero Waste in the Workplace, please join us at The Melting Pot on Wednesday 29th January 2020 for a two hour workshop. More information and tickets can be found here.