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Going Green with ZeroWasteCutie

Words by Abi Scaife

Sustainability is on the rise - and we’ve never been so glad! But, let’s be honest, it can be a daunting world when you don’t know how to get started. Luckily, there are a whole host of influencers and social media users out there who are happy to give advice - and one of those is Elizabeth Teo, better known as ZeroWasteCutie.

Elizabeth uses her Instagram account to raise awareness about environmental issues, as well as educate people on how they can take care of our planet - without using shame or guilt tactics. 

Let’s be honest, we could all be a bit more eco-friendly - even the most committed of us -  and shame and guilt have never made anyone a better person!

Smiley News caught up with Elizabeth to see what inspires her zero-waste action, learn her favourite eco-friendly tips, and chat about what we can do to help our planet.

“I really struggled with what else I could do to keep our environment healthy besides the basics [like] voting, using a reusable water bottle, turning off the lights,” explains Elizabeth, who started her platform during University. “I felt called to do something more.”

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Elizabeth’s Instagram account is full of memes, adorable graphics, and inspiration to help encourage people to become - or continue being - zero-waste. 

Zero-waste, a term that is thrown around a lot by people who want to help the environment, really is as simple as it sounds. It’s all about reducing your impact on the world by getting your waste to zero - or as close to zero as possible.

While zero-waste isn’t the be-all and end-all of environmentalism, it really does play a part. By throwing away clothing, or other products that could be fixed, recycled, or turned into something else, you are contributing to landfills - which produce harmful gases that contribute to climate change.

Similarly, a lot of people talk about plastic as the enemy of the climate - while single-use plastics are harmful, it is so ingrained in our society that it can be hard to avoid.

“I still have plastic in my life from prescriptions and even my electric toothbrush,” admits Elizabeth. “Sustainability should be about doing what you can and trying your best. I’ve cut down waste in a lot of other ways.”

“There is also the bigger issue in which systemic change is needed. I don't think we need to gatekeep zero waste and sustainability by pretending we’re perfect.”

But you can’t have a conversation about climate change without talking about climate anxiety. It’s something that affects so many people around the world - and Elizabeth is no exception.

“It's hard not to [feel climate anxiety] when you hear all the news,” admits Elizabeth. “It all adds up and, yeah, it makes me depressed but I can choose to focus on the negative or muster up the strength to gather hope and do all that I can do for a better future.”

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Ultimately, Elizabeth’s ethos is that it is not about perfection, or single-handedly changing the world. It doesn’t come down to a few people being perfectly zero-waste, but instead many people coming together, and being as environmentally friendly as they can realistically be, with the time and resources that they have.

“I think there is a lot of pressure to be perfect as a public figure/advocate but that is not realistic and also takes away from the bigger picture of the environmental issues we are facing,” says Elizabeth. “We're talking about systemic change.” 

“Of course, individual change can lead to bigger change but focusing all your energy on your own mistakes instead of the bigger picture can be fatal.”

But how do we encourage people to make changes in their own lives, like Elizabeth has done? You start easy - start small, start simple. Elizabeth has some tips for people who are just getting started - and on ways, other than zero waste, to help yourself get started on a more eco-friendly journey.

“Give it a try! Even something as easy as carrying a water bottle around is a great first step but don't stop there! Keep going! And please do not get caught up in perfection!” she encourages. “Start a garden if you can, if you don't have the space join a community garden! I think it's important to learn how we can self-sustain ourselves and take care of our health through these hard times.”

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

The Climate Coalition. This is the UK's largest group of people dedicated to action against climate change. Find out more and support them here.

Climate Reframe.  Climate Reframe is committed to supporting the climate and environment movement in its transformation towards greater justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI). Find out more.

The Woodland Trust. This is the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, concerned with the creation, protection, and restoration of native woodland heritage. Support them here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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