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Taking on a Zero Waste Challenge

Zero Waste Challenge

The project created by virtual YES Abroad participants and YES inbound finalists from North Macedonia, “Zero Waste Challenge”, was straightforward – all members aimed to generate as little waste as possible for one week. The group chose a zero-waste initiative in order to raise awareness about and engage with the problem of plastic pollution and excess waste. The group thought, “how much waste could we reduce is we were only conscious of it?” 

Over the course of the week, the participants had to limit their trash to a medium-sized trash bag.  At the end of the week, everyone took a photo of their trash bags. One group member separated out her collected food waste and learned about composting. Another swapped out plastic shopping bags with reusable totes. YES Abroad participant Misty reflected that the challenge she had to “overcome was keeping my trash. Automatically I would want to throw the trash in the nearest bin but then I would remember. Now, before I pick something up to eat I think of how much waste I am going to be making. Does the item have a wrapper or something that cannot be recycled?” For YES participant Borjan, “I really thought about the ‘ripple effect’ where just waste from one person can be terrible for the environment. The zero waste challenge has made me think twice about the waste I create, and is a wonderful experience and fun goal to try out.”  

The group learned how powerful teamwork, responsibility, accountability, and learning together can be to accomplish community engagement projects. For anyone thinking about carrying out a similar challenge, Borjan recommends, “having a mantra of some sort. For example, I said to myself: create little waste, in order to remember what my goal was. It definitely helped out with my project.” YES Abroad student Tara’s advice is to “ask yourself where the waste you’re making is coming from. For example, if it’s mostly plastic bags that hold snacks, you could easily switch those out for Tupperware containers, and you would be making a positive impact already.” For Misty, “this was a very positive and eye-opening experience. Having to always be conscious of what you are creating shows you how much of an impact only you make on a huge global problem. Most don't think of how much trash one produces but over time it can accumulate into a huge amount.”