Fri | Jul 23, 2021

Jerdayne Hayles | Ready. Set. Go: race to zero waste

Published:Sunday | June 13, 2021 | 12:13 AM

Climate change is a “hoax” and yet, this “hoax” has become a dangerous threat to the development and advancement of life on Earth. As populations increase, consumption and production surge to meet the up-trend in demand. This is often done with little or no thought to the environmental impact.

There is no doubt that activities from as early as the industrial era have resulted in the acceleration of climate change by disrupting normal climatic patterns and conditions. However, to mitigate these effects, we have adapted, which shows that there is hope for future generations.

Nevertheless, widespread lifestyle changes and collective activism are the biggest game changers for the climate discussion. Therefore, it is integral that we all play our part to reduce our carbon footprint.

Originating in the late 1900s, the zero-waste movement tackles the environmental issue of waste by focusing on minimalism. In a nutshell, minimalism is a process that aims to reduce waste sent to landfills as it emphasises recycling, reusing, and refusing products.

Zero-waste lifestyles are effective in reducing our energy consumption, carbon footprints, and plastic pollution. Some may question the practicality of applying this to our lifestyles, but simply adhering to some minimalist principles would go a long way towards achieving a sustainable society.


Regardless of our perception of insignificance, we are not too small to make a change. Here are some best practices you can adopt to play your part:

1. Purchase items in bulk

Purchasing in bulk drastically reduces weekly packaging and fuel taken for supermarket trips. It may be not practical for every Jamaican, but most items are packaged or come in some disposable container, so it is likely unavoidable.

Sourcing items directly at manufacturers or wholesale and retail stores is more effective in reducing packaging. This also a bonus for consumers as they get discounts for purchasing items in bulk. You can also take the opportunity to educate individuals and corner shop operators about the cause.

2. Carry your own boxes to restaurants

Opting to carry your own boxes is more environmentally friendly, and with enough support, restaurants will have no incentive to supply these. Additionally, preparing home- made meals is more considerate of the environment. Some plastics found in fast-food packaging never breakdown and tend to return as microplastics in food.

3.Buy second-hand items

It is not uncommon for persons during childhood to use second-hand items such as clothes. Fast fashion has become a lifestyle choice that sends millions of clothes to landfills annually. This has serious environmental consequences.

Unfortunately, the media have popularised the notion of being trendy and in style. However, buying second-hand drastically reduces the amount of clothing sent to landfills. Instead of purchasing that new brand-name romper, try navigating social media to find local thrift stores that might have a similar item at only a fraction of the cost. You can even up-cycle old clothes for new outfits as well to add that extra pizazz.

4. Recycle plastics

Despite providing designated containers for plastic bottles, approximately nine per cent of these bottles are recycled. Putting plastics in a special container does little for plastic usage and does not change consumption patterns. It is often an excuse for persons to mask their heavy usage.

Therefore, emphasis needs to be placed on reducing our plastic intake and identifying creative ways to up-cycle plastic. For example, we make home-made drinks in reusable containers instead of depending on plastic-bottled beverages. This could drastically reduce our plastic intake.

5. Education and promoting awareness

The saying “each one teach one” is applicable to the climate discussion and increases the likelihood for more collective action. There are many avenues for persons to learn more about environmental sustainability such as YouTube videos, national and regional fora, and social media. Participating in activities or joining groups such as the Jamaica Climate Change Youth Council or the Caribbean Youth Environment Network fosters community development for eco-conscious individuals.

Climate change can be reduced if we all play our part in the cause. Individual activism can only do so much and no more. It is imperative that the Government enforce stricter laws to prevent further degradation of the environment. Aside from that, we, as Jamaicans, can join the zero-waste movement in order to ensure that future generations are not jeopardised by our actions. The race to zero starts now.

- Jerdayne Hayles is an environmental enthusiast pursuing a BSc in Management Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and member of the Commonwealth Climate Youth Network. Send feedback to