When we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, a large, modern city, I wondered “are there any zero waste things happening here?”. It was mostly for self interest, I was in desperate need for some plastic-free supplies and wanted to see if anyone here could point me in the right direction. So one day I googled “zero waste Kuala Lumpur” and guess what?! There are indeed Zero Waste things happening here!
My search led me to Claire’s Facebook page. She’s originally from France but has been living in Asia with her Malaysian husband. Even though she’s been residing in this part of the world for some time she definitely still has that enviable French je ne sais quoi. They have 3 kids and a zero waste home! How amazing and inspiring is that!? They’ve actually just recently moved to KL from Hong Kong where she started Hong Kong Green Home. There’s this really cool feature video made by National Geographic about their zero waste apartment in HK, check it out here.
Around the same time I connected with Aurora via Instagram. Aurora is a sweet 28 year old Chinese -Malay journalist on a zero waste path! Three months ago after reading an article about Lauren Singer from Trash is for Tossers, she was inspired to do zero waste in this part of the world. And she’s doing an amazing job!
One thing led to another and soon all three of us were in a group chat making plans to meet up on the weekend. Claire and her husband offered to pick Fernando and me up outside the subway station that was closest to Kuala Lumpur’s Free Tree Society. Aurora and her husband met us there at 9am for some morning volunteer work.
The Free Tree Society is a wonderful green gem in the city. It was founded in 2012 with a simple mission: take seeds, sprout them, look after the seedlings, then give away healthy little plants to the public for free. A great way to bring more green to this concrete jungle. It’s a small, but beautifully lush space in the middle of a residential area. They are open for volunteering on Tuesdays and Saturdays, a great place for us to meet.
Aurora, Claire, myself and our respective partners got to know each other while flipping the compost, propagating plants, and fixing up the vegetable garden. Spending the morning in a green, eco friendly space with 2 amazing zero waste women was the definition of perfection!
Around noon, Claire and her husband had to go tend to parenting duties, so we said our goodbyes but I know we’ll keep in touch. Afterwards, the remaining four of us, and a new friend, YooYee went for lunch at a nearby vegetarian Indian food place. While having lunch, YooYee told us about her friend who is building an eco village here in Malaysia. One thing led to another and we’ll be volunteering with her this weekend. I love making connections and meeting like minded people.
After lunch we hopped into Aurora’s car to do some zero waste shopping. We went to a traditional Chinese store where we bought black beans, barley, and tea in bulk. There were many other grains and beans but since we almost never have a kitchen I figured it wasn’t a great idea to buy too much. Needless to say, I was a very happy shopper!
Finally, our day concluded with a cold glass of fresh soy milk from a street hawker. In a reusable glass and no straw of course.
Although I’m not able to be a zero waste traveler (I can’t compost half the time), I love the zero waste lifestyle and what it stands for. Many times, as I look around me I can’t help but feel hopeless for the future of our planet. I see a never ending stream of disposable plastics, mounds of trash, people littering, and the storm drains being used as a trash can on a daily basis. But then you realize you are not alone, there are indeed many other people out there who do care. And knowing that, and meeting them, gives me hope.