GIN students become Zero Waste Masters

by Sophie Z, GIN Recycling team member & grade 12 student

Sustainability is a concept that is now being emphasized all around the world. While the idea of “living sustainably” sounds simple, it may be difficult to apply this idea to our lives. So, our GIN recycling team found ourselves questioning what sustainability truly is, and how we can embrace sustainability in our community. 

In order to answer these questions, the GIN Recycling team worked with Alizeé Buysschaert from an organization called Zero Waste Shanghai to host a PACE Masterclass, a series of three workshops in April where we learned about sustainability in a deep way.

The PACE Masterclass introduced students to the application of sustainable practices and the incorporation of the “circular economy” in companies and corporations. In the first lesson, we started with learning about sustainability and different sources of pollution. The definition of sustainability provided by Alizeé is “the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." In order to achieve this condition, we must first understand how companies are impacting the community. Among the different types of anthropogenic emissions, carbon emissions are “the primary driver of global climate change”. The waste that companies produce also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, as these waste materials will usually end up in landfills, which are large producers of methane gas.

In session two, Alizeé jumped into the circular economy and sustainable companies. A circular economy is one that aims to redesign materials and products so that “no resources will be lost in the making of this material”. The three principles of a circular economy are to eliminate waste and pollution, to loop products and materials into a circular cycle, and to regenerate natural systems. The five steps of a circular economy are redesign, reduce, reuse (repurpose), recycle and rot. Alizeé introduced us to multiple companies that have integrated the circular economy.

Some examples of sustainable companies include Patagonia, Mud Jeans, and Just Egg. Patagonia has a free re-wear program that encourages customers to send their gear back when it is damaged or when they want a new set. As for Mud Jeans, you do not own your jeans. Rather you pay a rental fee each month and, after a year, you may choose to keep or return your jeans for a new pair. Just Egg is a vegan egg product that can be a perfect substitute for real eggs, and is available for purchase in Shanghai.

In the last class, we were presented with the PACE process that helps companies redesign and reformat so that they can function more sustainably. Phase 1 of PACE is a waste audit and assessment, which is understanding what’s happening to the waste produced by the company. Phase 2 is creating a measurement system for this waste, and Phase 3 is the implementation of a roadmap that illustrates the steps that a company can take to building a circular economy. The first step is to redesign the product and determine the best use of each material to reduce waste production. Then companies aim to reduce the amount of materials used, such as paper for packaging. 

Our world is constantly being threatened by our actions, and it is up to us to make a change for the better. Starting with your own actions, you can aim to be more sustainable by reducing your consumption and making sustainable purchases (such as fair-trade certified chocolate and buying other products from sustainable companies). It will be our responsibility to bring sustainability and the circular economy into our communities and businesses to create a better future for us and for future generations.

Thanks to Alizeé for teaching all of this information in our zero waste master class! You can learn more about Zero Waste Shanghai here: https://www.zerowasteshanghai.com. Also, thanks to the Concordia Fund for financially supporting this master class.