Cover Redza Shahid, co-founder of OiLilin and Grub Cycle

In the latest chapter of Sustainable Sunday, social entrepreneur Redza Shahid emphasises the importance of considering the environment in everyday decisions

When he started Grub Cycle in 2016, a social enterprise that allows consumers to buy surplus food from F&B establishments and supermarkets at accessible prices to reduce food waste, Redza learned about the importance of disposing used cooking oil properly. Every year, approximately 500,000 tonnes of used cooking oil in Malaysia makes its way back into the environment without adequate waste treatment, leading to clogged sewage pipes and the pollution of our lakes, rivers and oceans. 

That is why Redza banded together with his fellow Grub Cycle colleagues, Nina Alias and Ashaari Rahmat, to introduce OiLilin, an innovative solution that creates a win-win for all. This company recycles used cooking oil from restaurants in Malaysia and turns them into eco-friendly, non-toxic candles that smell of fig milk, blueberries, jasmine, cinnamon and more. 

OiLilin's candles create a calm and relaxing atmosphere at home, while benefitting local restauranteurs and most importantly, the environment. 

See also: Benjamin Swan Of Sustenir Agriculture Is Leading The Sustainable Food Revolution

"I'm always educating myself on how even the smallest actions can positively impact the environment," says Redza. That is why the social entrepreneur is always looking to reduce, reuse and recycle where he can. 

"For example, when I go to 'tapau' food, I always bring my own container," he says, adding that it was particularly helpful when buying food from the different stalls at the bazaar ramadan during the fasting month this year. 

And he encourages fellow Malaysians to do the same in their daily life. "By now, all of us should have lots of boxes and food containers lying around at home," he says, referring to the spike in food delivery orders during the Covid-19 lockdown. "If you're ever going to a restaurant to get takeaway, why not try to reuse them?" 

See also: The Husband-And-Wife Founders Of Comfort Works' Zero-Waste Journey

But when it comes to ordering takeaway, he also advocates conscious consumption. "It's always good to think about food portions. It's easy to order too much, especially if you are hungry! For me, I've started cooking more at home to reduce our food waste. It's also been great in helping my wife and I incorporate more vegetarian dishes into our everyday life. And I make sure not to throw the used cooking oil down the drain because it can be converted into candles."

OiLilin offers a quick DIY candle-making kit that can upcycle used cooking oil to make up to three scented candles for the home.

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Photo: Thomas Le/Unsplash
Above Photo: Thomas Le/Unsplash

Outside the home, Redza is naturally a big supporter of social enterprises, often purchasing from businesses that strive to make a positive impact to people and the environment. In fact, he is currently a programme coordinator at Buy For Impact, a movement to support social enterprises in Malaysia, with a vision for every business to be a force of good. 

However, the onus of protecting the environment should not be put solely on individuals' lifestyle changes. Redza underlines the importance for institutions to educate the public as well as implement—and more importantly, enforce—environmentally-friendly regulations.

Giving an example of separating waste from recyclables, he observes that these three factors worked in tandem to make the practice commonplace among the people in many countries, such as Sweden and Japan. Meanwhile, it has been difficult to fully replicate the scale of their success in Malaysia. 

Redza also adds that he hopes that the movement to reduce food waste will catch on in a bigger way in Malaysia.

"One of my dreams is for Malaysia to introduce legislation banning food waste, as they did in France and Italy. Instead of destroying unsold food products, they would be donated, which would reduce food waste and make a social impact at the same time!" 

See also: Chef Nikolaj Lenz On Being Eco-Conscious Outside The Kitchen