Kartigha Ayamany, Leanne Lim and Kerol Izwan attempted going #zerowaste for two weeks. We present their findings and discuss easing into a zero-waste lifestyle.

Recycling isn’t a definite solution to eliminating waste. Plastic, the most harmful of man-made goods, might be down-cycled (turned into lower-quality plastic goods), but that's where its shockingly brief 'lifespan' ends. Down-cycled plastic cannot be recycled a second time. The only sure-fire way to cutting down on pollution is to lead a zero waste lifestyle.

"Out of sight, out of mind," is our general attitude towards waste, which is what inspired this challenge in the first place. We dared three personalities from different industries—retail, F&B and publishing—to go zero waste for two weeks and to hang on to whatever waste they couldn't help picking up. More powerful than mere preaching, photographic evidence serves as a wake-up call to how much trash we produce in our day-to-day lives.

Hats off to the following personalities for putting themselves out there!

Making guilt-free picnicking a possibility, Fallaleaf by Jesa Enterprise Sdn Bhd produces sustainable servingware using fallen palm tree fronds—no trees were harmed in the process. The family business started small (with just Kartigha and her parents) but has gained momentum in Malaysia, Singapore, India, Thailand, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Dubai. Naturally, the company stocks its pantry with its own products for the benefit of employees and the environment. 

Kartigha, who was wonderfully enthusiastic to take on the challenge, was confident that her waste could be kept to a minimum. “I carry Fallaleaf products in addition to my tiffin box, my tumbler, and a cloth bag,” she said. What she didn’t account for was the struggle of seeking out sustainable toileteries and groceries. “Not to mention my cravings for chocolate and cakes!” she said. “Wanting to grab my favourite snacks and wishing they weren’t wrapped in plastic packaging was heart-breaking.” To rub salt into the wound, Kartigha suffered from the sniffles halfway through the challenge, which meant having to pick up plastic-wrapped medications.

“On a personal note, I am thinking of continuing this challenge for another 14 days or more to see where it gets me in the long term. Malaysia Tatler has definitely given me the idea to challenge our employees for that matter!”

Kartigha makes a conscious effort to carry plates and bowls from Fallaleaf as well as her own tiffin carrier and tumbler. Nevertheless, a bout of fever unearthed the following realisation: most prescribed medications are packaged in plastic, whether we like it or not.


  • Discover more local green brands and zero waste products such as bamboo stick cotton buds and reusable facial pads
  • Learn to shop at the wet market instead of supermarkets, which plastic-wrap almost everything
  • Bake one's own snacks and treats—not only does this cut down on plastic packaging; homemade goods are also free of preservatives

Essentially the right-hand woman to Darren Teoh, head chef of Dewakan, Leanne Lim is also a spokesperson for the restaurant’s values, which includes sustainability. As Dewakan’s fan base can tell you, nose-to-tail eating is encouraged by way of ingredients such as bee pulpa and lamb brains. What most customers do not realise is how much plastic it takes to keep a restaurant’s linens spotless.

“Managing the front of house (the dining area) has made me realise how much plastic we collect,” said Leanne. “The laundry department always returns our clean fabrics in plastic bags. So we try to do our part by sending in larger amounts, say 20 hand towels every three days instead of three per day. On the other hand, the back of house (kitchen) team tries to carry reusable bags when visiting the market.”

After a tough (but interesting) two weeks, Leanne revealed, “I thought it would be easy before I actually started the challenge. The plastic waste that I don’t notice in my day to day life actually piled up!”

Leanne sets an example as a responsible restaurant manager by ensuring green practices. She upholds effective communication, such as letting the restaurant's laundry department know to expect bigger batches of linen over prolonged periods of time.


  • Store ingredients in sturdy tupperware rather than single-use plastic
  • Repurpose plastic bags by using them to store bills and paperwork—nevermind the somewhat awkward appearance

The nature of Kerol’s work sees him spending just as much time in the skies as he does on land. But while some argue that it’s impossible to go green while traveling light, he seems to do a fine job of it. “I use my own cup for my daily coffee consumption and pack my toiletries in a fabric pouch,” said the creative, whose constant exposure to other countries made him realise: “Some nations are better at sustainability, which sets a great example for us, whereas others can definitely do better—which is why our role matters.”

The aficionado of architecture and interior design is instinctively drawn to natural materials in his own home (“Most of my furniture is crafted from wood, metal and glass. Plastic, not so”). At work, he utilises recycled packaging to ship his magazines.

His Achilles heel, however, is bottled water. “I drink a lot of water, so much so that my one-litre tumbler can’t accommodate my needs. I often find myself buying bottled water from convenience stores,” he admitted. “The least I can do is to dispose of them in the designated recycling bins—if there are any.”

Strangely enough, some might give you the ‘evil eye’ when you make your green practices known. “They think I’m trying to imply that my lifestyle is better than theirs,” opined Kerol. “Such judgement is but a small hiccup.”


  • Use larger water flasks
  • Use recycled paper despite its 'flawed' aesthetic

Think you're ready for the #zerowaste challenge? Follow the steps below:

1.    Glance through your calender and choose a two-week period (a month or longer, if you're feeling determined) to attempt the #zerowaste challenge.
2.    Avoid accumulating non-perishable trash (recyclable or not) throughout the predetermined period.
3.    If the task of avoiding rubbish becomes simply unavoidable, wash and store the said waste. 
4.    On the final day of your challenge, photograph your total accumulated trash. Spread the message and share your findings via social media. Don't forget to use the hashtag #zerowastechallenge!
5.    Maintain your eco-friendly habits. Remember, there is no Planet B.


Get inspired by these other stories on our site: United Nations awardee Claire Sancelot champions #zerowaste while Tengku Zatashah teaches us how to #sayno2plastic.

Makeup artists: Naoke Chu and Karen Leong from Lancôme

Hair stylist: Kay Tuan from Centro W Salon

Graphics: Allan Casal and Nurul Ain

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