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Interview with Elsa, Go Zero Waste Founder from China!

Photo Credit: Go Zero Waste


December, 2017



Going zero waste? Yes, we heard that. How about going waste in China? Recently we had the fortune to interview one of the Chinese “pioneers” in zero waste, Elsa, the founder of Go Zero Waste(China). Her zero-waste stories have been featured in major Chinese online media such as Douban, 163, etc. reaching thousands of people. And at this moment she is establishing go-zero-waste “stations” in major cities in China to advocate the lifestyle of Zero Waste. Aren’t you at least a little bit curious about her journey? Please follow us through this interview.Seriously we were so inspired by this story and were full of positive energy afterwards. It was a kick!!! We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we have had! 

For anyone who is curious about the individual progress in sustainability in China, we hope this brings you some insights.

“I have so much passion for this that is incomparable to any job I have had. “

Photo Credit: Go Zero Waste


🐼:How have you started your journey of zero-waste? What lit the spark of inspiration?

The first time I heard the word, it was one and half year ago. I remembered vividly what I read about an article. The article was about one girl, Lauren, and her zero-trash life in New York. She has put all her trash of two years into a tiny can. Though it was shared by many, I was ridiculed by the idea: How is that ever possible!? I can fit my trash of two hours into the can… However after I read this article, I got to know about this lifestyle of zero-waste. It really impressed me but I immediately felt it would be very difficult to implement it in China. As waste management, water management, all these kind of urban systems in China are not as advanced as in the West. Then I reflected on my daily habits, I realised I had a lot to change. I figured that even though the external environment is very different, the things we can do ourselves to change are many. Therefore I started this lifestyle step by step .

🐼:That’s very impressive. So have you achieved zero waste now?

Of course not. When I advocate “zero-waste”, I tell others not to focus on the zero. The zero-waste lifestyle is about to minimize the waste as much as possible.

If we put too much emphasis on zero, we might be feeling discouraged as it can be very challenging to achieve the goal, taking consideration to external factors that we cannot change easily. Think about it, Chinese population is huge, if each of us uses one fewer plastic bag every day, it will be a phenomenal thing. To sum up, my perspective is that we can make a better choice, that is sustainable with given conditions.

Photo Credit: Go Zero Waste

The zero-waste lifestyle is about to minimize the waste as much as possible. not necessarily the zero “

How Elsa travels with minimalistic style. PC: Go Zero Waste (Elsa)


🐼:What has been the biggest challenge along the way? How have you kept yourself going?

I think there are two. The first one is people doubt your motivation. My article was featured at the front page of Douban. I was overwhelmed on the amount of comments below as well as their content. There is of course very positive energy, giving me encouragement. However, there is a lot of noise, some are even nagging for the sake of nagging (as if they had no better things to do). They just deny your motivation for the sake of denying. Secondly, they tell you what you do by yourself is not enough. They think that even though the plastic bags will be consumed less, it is still not enough as major measures to protect the environment should be taken by the government – particularly the waste by the individuals are not comparable with the company waste.

🐼:So how did you overcome this noise?

You cannot expect one role in the society to make a total change. Company plays certain role in the society as well as the government and individuals. We can all influence each other. So instead of complaining, what can we do in reality? There is one concept that I learned and have been trying to advocate: circle of concern and circle of influence. How can we put more focus on the circle of influence rather than circle of concern? That is a very important matter to think and apply. On the other hand, I realise consumers have a lot of power. So if we really make a change in our consumer behaviour, I believe the companies will change. I will give you an example. I often go to the farmers’ market in Beijing. I often see their products to be wrapped in plastics and I ask the farmers to get rid of them when I buy their produces. At first people will give you a strange eye as if you were sort of an alien. Gradually, after times of communication, they started to change.Then I ask myself this question: what if hundreds of people ask the farmers to do the same thing? Will the change be more accelerated?  It is true that some people will be the first to criticise you or leave you a cold shoulder, however there are people who are willing to listen if you are patient enough to stimulate the change. Now I just do not really care about what others say. I cannot change you, however I can change myself, my own  attitude and behaviour towards zero-waste and sustainability.

When you are doing the right thing for yourself, some opportunities are seeking for you, and presenting themselves to you as well

How Elsa travels with minimalistic style. PC: Go Zero Waste (Elsa)


🐼:During our encounter, you told me that this has become your career, am I correct? If so, do you have tips to share with our audience how you achieve this? I’m sure that it will give our audience the inspiration to follow their dreams in this path as well.

Yes I am doing it full time and all at voluntary base, meaning at this moment I am not having income yet for my organization. However I have nothing to complain. I am really happy at this moment to do this and the feeling or passion is not comparable with that when I worked. I was an employee for a long time. However I was never so driven as now. At this moment, I am still finding ways to make an income. However I am not very hurried as I am receiving a lot of requests (to do speeches etc.etc.).. I believe when you are doing the right thing for yourself, there will be opportunities seeking for you as well. Kind of like the law of the universe (laugh..). But yeah, you gotta take some actions before the opportunities land at your feet. Anyway, it has been a ride, and this year many things have happened I really could not explain. A bit magical I would say.

🐼: I am sure of that. Your articles are featured at the main media and you are receiving more and more opportunities. I really wish you the best, from the bottom of my heart. For the green entrepreneurs out there, I believe this is a great example of taking a risk to do what you love. We are happy to be sharing this moment with you. We will also follow up your updates.

Thank you!

🐼: Next question: Who has been your biggest inspiration on the path of zero-waste? I guess Lauren has been an influencer for you?

At first my inspiration is her, where I got to know the concept. Afterwards when I started browsing the Internet, I found there are so many zero-wasters abroad. Quite inspiring. However I really want to find out local ways to resolve waste, as there are many differences between China and countries in the West. For example the urban waste management system. As I walk on this path, the more I consciously learn from others, the more I discover people who inspire me. They are rather the low-key people who implement zero-waste in their daily life without making a sound (if you get what I mean). So now there are many people who reach me, telling me that they finally have found the “tribe”, the community, after all this time being alone. I am very touched by this kind of stories, as what I am doing is very trivial. So it is really give and take. I put out some energy doing this work, afterwards I receive so much in return. I am really happy to be on this path and grateful to meet inspirational people along the way.

I never felt so sure and safe with zero-waste, than any other jobs I have had.

We Belong Forum and impression of the programs. PC: Go Zero Waste (Elsa)


🐼:Wow, how nice. You have given me a nice picture to visualize.  Today’s also thanksgiving. Do you have exciting upcoming news to share with us?

We Belong Festival Forum this weekend, where I am a curator of a panel discussion (see the pictures above). This is really cool as they have invited some very cool people, such as the inventor of Bakey spoons/forks. There is also a zero-waste festival.

🐼:What has been the greatest reward in the pursuit of the sustainable lifestyle?

It is the passion. I have finally found something I really want to do. I have been looking for it for such a long time yet I did not succeed. When I started to walk on the path of zero-waste, I just have had the click.  This is The THING. It is an amazing feeling, which I do not want to give it up. I was working for a long time, and every time I was doubting or hesitating. However, zero-waste, I have never felt so sure. Moreover, I have met so many incredible energetic individuals making contribution to sustainability/environment/zero-waste. My life has changed.

🐼:What  is your future vision on sustainability in China?

I think China is ready for sustainability. For the past years, the economic growth has been tremendous, while the environment has suffered a lot. Many other countries have walked this path before.  As we can see there is a lot of attention for the Chinese environment inside and outside (of China). So, when I am advocating zero-waste, I know that people do not lack consciousness about protecting the environment. They lack execution and the know how. Thus I am sharing my experience on the practical steps to take towards a more sustainable “zero-waste” lifestyle. Personally I have heard about preserving environment for many years, but I did not know how. Whatever concept for environment was more as a buzzword for me. Now I just want to give people practicality! For example, how can you compost at home?… I am making these things as simple as possible. So people do not have time to complain or nag. They only have time to take actions. 😆

🐼:Do you have some tips to share with our Chinese audience how we can become more sustainable?

At this moment I am promoting a project called “ 21 days without waste” on my WeChat Channel. Everyday there will be practical tips on the channel. For instance, how can you buy and store rice with a zero-waste style?… Check out my WeChat Channel! 

🐼:What a great story! We definitely want to stay updated with your work and vision. Thank you for your time. How do our audience reach you?

For now: GO ZERO WASTE – WECHAT . I am quite open for anyone who is curious about zero-waste. So just contact me 😉 In the future I will also have a website. I will let you guys know. 


Go Zero Waste & Vegan Planet 素食星球

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