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  • Jodie Harburt

Individual (Zero Waste) Action Counts!

It makes sense to start with doable actions on an individual scale.

I had the pleasure of hosting workshops/talks with a wonderful group of university students. The following is inspired by and is a follow up with links as promised for the students of Sustainability Development at MEF University Istanbul. I'm really appreciative that firstly the course exists (though it should be standard curriculum for all schools everywhere starting at primary ages!) and I'm happy to see that the students are familiar with the Sustainable Development Goals, fossil fuel impact and their own carbon footprints. The students at MEF are further advantaged as they have a wonderful tutor; Tycho (Robin Kosseff) who has a tangible positive relationship with the students that is a delight to behold.

Often when I speak about the need to become activated (in this case regarding single-use plastic and Zero Waste) people admit a sense of feeling overwhelmed by the task at hand. Many believe that their actions are meaningless while we are restricted by the present system and culture and when corporations and governments don't make the necessary changes.

One student ...Hi Alp :) was very eloquent about expressing his sense that Zero Waste efforts and similar are pointless within the bigger scale. He explained that he thinks the change must come from above and while I agree that a Top Down approach is an integral part of the solution, we, as the masses have a huge role to play in starting the Grass Roots movements that prompt legislation and systems change.

I make a point of stating this:

What matters is What MATTERS to you!

When we put our hearts into things and when we consider them from a point of curiosity and compassion we become better equipped to contribute to our world. When we care we have a much better chance of making a difference.

But having said that it is essential to have your head screwed on right before you can figure out what really matters. So we need a good:

Head to Heart Connection!

We get that connection when we spend time in nature and time talking with friends and practising meaningful conversation and deep listening (these are all subjects for another post)

I feel bad for the students and all young people. When I was young we were able to concentrate on the stuff of youth; long bike rides in nature, (even urban kids had access to wild places) we spent days with no one able to track us down, no phones and no other-people's-(fake)-lives-on-social-media distracting us from the here and now. We were simply happy when the sun came out rather than worrying about global warming! Life was about our first kisses, cassette players and cars and such.

I witnessed one of the students.. hi Kerem :) feeling fed up about something that none of my generation experienced at his age. He's studying engineering and loves cars and dreams of owning his own yet he knows in terms of sustainable urban mobility he should stick to public transport and for most of us a zero emission car is impossible to afford. His sense of frustration and the sense that "There is no point and where is the fun in anything anymore!?" is one that I feel all around.

Indeed it seems most unfair to suddenly grow up to find that we are heading off towards an apocalypse. Young people are expected to make radical lifestyle changes before they even got started on life.

And all the while the corporate consumer machine is churning out the Old Story, a story of competition, getting to the top, looking great and buying stuff to fill the void that a culture separated from nature has created. How can we not aspire to own loads of clothes, shoes, cars, new laptops and phones. How can we avoid the convenience of packaged immediate gratification. And how can we find a way to a deeper form of gratification when all the true forms have been lost to us? How can we care about a world that has shown us not to care?

And this is where Zero Waste comes in.

It's not even half sensible to expect us to manage the huge shift in consciousness to overcome that mountain of difficulties, but it is sensible to ask ourselves:

What does my Heart say?

What Matters to me?

What can I Do today?

Carrying your own water bottle and refilling at home and pressuring your University to install water fountains on campus are a simple one or two step activation towards empowerment.

Yes, you are right: you giving up on your one bottle a day habit wont break the back of the plastic bottle corporations and save the world, but your shift in perspective towards whole systems thinking just might!

The capability we hold as individuals when we unite should not be underestimated. We can shift the paradigm up a notch and create a new world by each of us taking a grip on our own actions today.

Some may call it the ripple or the butterfly effect, we can talk about raising the level of vibration and we can talk about conscious evolution, but in simple terms: we are each in charge of ourselves. the world has made us forget that. In remembering we take charge. not just of ourselves but of the world too!

So, if a clean world matters to you, if a nontoxic sea and not getting poisoned are things you care about then our plastic bottle habits matters to you, so think about what you want to do about it. Can you carry your own refillable bottle? Do you want to project a message that tilts the balance towards a culture that is aware of itself and the consequences of its actions.

We know that the small stuff counts.

So here is the proof: Or follow this link to the 3 minute film showing how one guy dancing in a field, when followed by just one person is then followed by more and a tipping point is reached creating a movement that everyone wants to be a part of. Being a part of the Zero Waste movement makes you both a local leader and the first follower pushing towards the all important tipping point.

I could suggest that if you prefer you can cut down on your meat intake(1) or some other action instead of worrying about single-use packaging however asides from the urgency to protect our world from the toxic effects of plastic and pollution there is a fact that Zero Waste efforts can be very visible and therefore likely to go viral.

The convenience of those water bottles can be replaced by the fun of having a personalised or trendy refillable one, Actively refusing single-use plastic gets you and your actions noticed. Thus you embody change and Conscious Living.

Once you get past step one on your list of Action Points you can consider more. You can:

- Refuse disposable coffee cups and cutlery

- Carry your own shopping bags

- Campaign to your local supermarket to drop unnecessary packaging

- Join others and campaign for local municipality to install drinking water everywhere (it need not even be free, though it should be!)

- etc.....

You will find that in becoming active regarding one or two things you will have started to create your own Manifesto for One. If you can combine multiple Action Points go ahead, but make sure whatever you are doing is visible and potentially contagious.

And if this doesn't inspire you let's look at some physics. As parts of the natural world it is fascinating to know that what we are and what we do is in alignment with all known and unknown scientific realities. You may be the tiniest of dominoes but your action (as proven here) can prompt that tipping point and topple the biggest of monoliths.

I have a viewpoint that sees you at the heart of a huge activation of conscious minded people.

The process can be as fun and gratifying as we make it, it is up to us to OWN IT!

It is not just your generation that has to change, we all need to to help, to disrupt, to turn up and to up turn and to rebel against what is(2). We can design what we want the future to be, we can make it about us and our friends and the issues we care about. The point is to disrupt with a conscience and to replace what doesn't work for us and our planet with ways that do work and will continue to evolve along with us.

Tycho thank you for giving me the opportunity to hang out with your class.

Students of MEF University Sustainable Development Module thank you all for being brilliant! I hope that you can see yourselves as an essential part of the puzzle that when fitted together will create a compassionate and Regenerative world(3).

You are all amazing. Keep up the good work!


Please feel free to contact me about any of this stuff plus I'd love to hear from you if you have any ideas that you'd like to share.

(1) If you can give up or cut down on eating meat or any other action that matters to you... go for it! (2) Be sure that all activities that you are involved with are safe and within the parameters of legal boundaries.

(3) See this link to Regenerative Wellbeing for a good description as to what Regeneration is about.


I had promised to provide links to various resources and organisations that may be useful and/or inspiring for you.

Eco / Zero Waste Facebook Groups:

Eco Istanbul / Çevreci Istanbul

turkiye'yi temizle/ tidy turkey

Conscious Living Blogs:

Multitude Of Ones (for both practical things you can do on a daily basis plus deeper pondering)

The Minimalists (for minimalist, meaningful living ideas)

Treading My Own Path (for Zero Waste living ideas)

RAW Foundation (who I collaborated with for the Zero Waste presentation)

Instagram :

MultitudeOfOnes (My Instagram of eclectic things that I care about)

SharkGirlMadison (I love this young woman! Her mission is sharks and she uses her skills and empathy to protect both the sharks and those who have a living from hunting them. She is raising awareness in 'whole systems' thinking and regenerative solutions in a local and inspirational way. .. also great photos!)

Things to be Aware of and Do:

Jodie Harburt: Create your own Manifesto ideas

About single use plastic and recycling:

An article that I'm extensively quoted in re Zero Waste in Turkey

The problem with palm oil.

My blog posts about:

-hosting a Conscientious Party

-homemade products like toothpaste

-gardening and eating your own produce.

Films that inspire the NEW Story

Trailers for:


Dr. Seuss' The Lorax (animation)

Moana (animation)

Things to Watch

Film by university students. (7 ways students can save the planet)

Before The Flood (Leo Di Caprio and the National Geographic) (The trailer on the Nat Geo website)

George Monbiot. Rewilding.

Dr. Stephan Harding - Gaia Theory & Deep Ecology.

Deepak Chopra. The Healing Self (Upon awareness and more)

Joe Brewer. Cultural Evolution

Further reading for deeper understanding:

The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)

A summary of the latest Climate Change Report from the IPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)

Daniel Christian Wahl (on regenerative whole systems design)

Jodie harburt: (Why and how women can stick up for each other and why that is important)

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