Bad news for Malaysia and the environment. A 2015 study in Science Magazine reported that Malaysia was the eighth worst country in the world for plastic waste. Every Malaysian generates an average of 1.44kg of general waste every day, but 55% of that can actually be recycled.
It’s really tough being a parent, and let’s face it – it’s tough being a parent who is environmentally-friendly when having kids isn’t exactly the greenest lifestyle choice! But don’t beat yourself up about it. It is better to be an environmentally-conscious parent who tries one day at a time, rather than one who can’t be bothered at all.
So take heart, and here are some practical tips and helpful links (with Malaysian brands!) to help you and your family be kinder to the environment.
1. Refuse Things You Do Not Need
You have probably heard about the Tak Nak Straw campaign, which promotes an end to the use of straws. Millions of straws are thrown away every year, many ending up in the ocean where they can be eaten by wildlife. If you really need a straw, get a reusable one (stainless steel or bamboo) from zero waste shops we have listed below.
But think about other single use items you can refuse to use – plastic bags, plastic cutlery, cotton buds and stirrers. There are other alternatives to these things out there, and you can slowly cut these throwaway things out of your life. Also try to buy produce without the plastic and packaging that overwhelms our supermarkets. Try buying in bulk at zero waste stores, or purchase fresh produce from markets or farms.
Zero Waste / Bulk / Environmental Shops
This Bangsar-based bulk foods store with the tagline ‘Honey, We Don’t Waste’ stocks all kinds of food you need in your kitchen, and without all that distressing plastic packaging. From seeds and butters to rice and noodles (and everything in between), this groundbreaking store also serves as a platform for work that supports women and larger communities.
A Bit Less is a bulk grocery store in Kepong that aims to eliminate single-use plastic packaging and create a community that shops with minimum impact on the environment.
Brilliant. Bring your own bottles to this award-winning store (with several outlets in West and East Malaysia) and get your household detergents to clean your floor, clothes, kitchen, stoves and so on. Stop paying for plastic, and reuse the ones you already have!
2. Think Twice, Buy Well
Things breaking down often in your household? If you need to buy something for your family, it makes sense to pay a little more for a product that is reputable and will last for a very long time. Do you need to buy more clothes? Watch The True Cost, avoid fast fashion companies, buy less or buy well, and try to buy second hand.
Need furniture? Consider furniture that is secondhand, upcycled, restored or revived. Look for and support brands that care about the environment – they often practise fair trade and have a friendly-to-the-earth philosophy. Or try something even more dramatic but meaningful – try not to buy things if you don’t absolutely need them.
Try fixing things instead of buying new replacements. Ask family and friends if they have spares. Go secondhand, or ask for lends, shares and trades with like-minded groups like the Beli Nothing Project. Save more money for wonderful experiences with the family.
Ethically Made Brands And/Or Second-Hand Stores in Malaysia
A social enterprise that champions sustainable living and creative reuse of discarded materials, Biji-Biji makes functional and beautiful bags.
Ethically produced and 100% natural, these beautiful children’s clothes are made with heart and sustainability in mind – some of their clothes are made by refugees.
An offshoot of architecture studio Studio Bikin, this shop practise fairtrade and champions local and underprivileged artisans to create their line of furniture and homeware.
Recro gives new life to furniture – they recreate, restore and revive carefully curated, one-of-a-kind vintage items.
Elegant eco lifestyle products – throws, blankets, towels and clothing – that are made using natural cotton and bamboo fibre. This brand takes their eco credentials seriously – they use biodegradable packaging and only work with cotton farms if they are completely GMO free.
The Beli Nothing Project (Klang Valley)
In the spirit of reuse and recycling, members here support each other’s goals to buy nothing – there is plenty of giveaways and lending of things people do not want or need anymore!
3. Reuse As Much As Possible
The sky is the limit when it comes to reusing items in our everyday lives. Yes, diapers are a tough one – not all parents can afford to keep the upkeep and laundry needs of cloth diapers. But parents can certainly try! And if they are sinking from the guilt of using nappies, they can work on other things.
From shopping bags to food containers, and from shavers to women’s menstrual products, we can keep reusing one thing … instead of replacing plastic every day or week. Good for the environment, and certainly good for your pocket too.
- Use a reusable shopping bag – we love Rume and Envirosax Reusable Bags.
- If you love coffee or tea on the go – bring your own reusable cups like these.
- Bring your own water bottle – this is an easy one, and there are too many to pick from!
- Pack your own lunches in reusable containers, Tupperwares or tiffin carriers. Totally do-able.
Long time champions of eco-friendly products, this online eco baby shop stocks baby carriers, cloth diapers, baby clothing, feeding and nursing, toys and gifts to parents who are eco-conscious.
From safety razors in stainless steel to organic menstrual pads, Frangipani aims to provide the public with high quality products that are made to last. They are also shipped with sustainable packaging materials.
Founded by three girls with background in media studies, sociology and cultural studies, In Between Cultura focuses on handmade, organic and eco-friendly cloth pads and pantyliners.
4. Try Toys That Are Pre-Loved or Made From Other Materials
Is your house bursting with plastic, technicoloured toys? Opt for traditional wooden toys that will last a lifetime – they also look good! Gently request for family and friends to buy classic or wooden toys or books if they absolutely must buy presents for your little ones. What about some locally made and adorable crayons, or renting them?
And if you have plastic toys in your collection, try your very best to keep it all functioning and together in a set as best as you can. This way it can be gifted whole and complete to another family or orphanage, prolonging its use and joy in the world. When an assembled toy loses its parts, it sadly becomes junk. When it comes to toys, practise the hand-me-down philosophy and buy pre-loved baby goods!
Links and Ideas for Toys or Gifts for Children
A buy-and-sell page on Facebook that has plenty of preloved items such as infant wear, toys, strollers and car seats.
This social marketplace app is easy to navigate and allows you to earn some monetary profit with your old toys and other goods.
A proud Buatan Malysia, these handmade beeswax novelty crayon are non toxic, kids safe and environmentally-friendly. Also, super, super cute.
Remember when we used to play with just boxes? Well, now you can get cardboard playhouses for your kiddos! Sturdy and ideal for creative play, these cardboard creations are something different and definitely less of an eyesore than multi-coloured, plasticky play tents.
What greater gift can you give to kids than a regular supply of good children’s books? Not much!
5. Recyle, Recyle, Recycle
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Recycle what you can. Whether for cash, charity or just to put them to better use, check out the following organisations.
This recycling and waste management organisation deserves a salute and more. They collect things like paper, plastic, metal, electronics and electrical items, as well as old clothing, batteries and even furniture. It either recycles, resells, donates or discards (as a last resort) the items it collects.
Turns your unwanted or unused recyclable items into cash to help those in need. CRC has so far installed 179 bins around Klang Valley to encourage recycling activities. You have to contact them for the location of the bins or call 017-3638100 for a pick-up (large items only), but good news – they are said to be developing an app soon!
Whether it’s an old brickphone, outdated smartphone, media player or tablets, you can bring your electronics to Mobile e-Waste: Old Phone, New Life. They also accept old or spare batteries that are no longer in use (Conventional batteries such as AA and AAA are not acceptable), as well as chargers, earbuds, external storage cards and cables.
IPC offers cash for these items – cardboard, magazines, newspapers, plastic, tin/metals and aluminium (minimum 1 kg) , but please kindly segregate your recyclables prior to visit. It is also a collection point of your out-of-life mercury content light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and batteries.
P.A.S.S is a self-supporting non-governmental organisation that has over 300 orange coloured recycling bins in residential areas around the Klang Valley. They also provide a pick up service for bulky collections everyday, accepting all sorts of electrical, e-waste, and furniture, but the latter must be in a usable condition. Contact them directly or find their list of recycling bins locations here.
For everything else, check the Google Maps ‘Recycling Centres in Klang Valley‘ map!
6. Buy Organic, Buy Local or Grow Your Own!
It’s hard to buy food these days without an abundance of plastic wrapping – it’s mindblowing to think how we got this bad. How can you try to nourish your family without playing a part in this plastic nightmare? Try to shop at more markets and bring your own bag or basket.
While there are plenty of organic farms out there, this one – with produce grown on 100% virgin jungle land in Lipis and Bukit Tinggi, Pahang – takes pride in their box deliveries and bare minimum usage of plastic. They use recyclable cardboard boxes which you return. Plastic bags are used only when absolutely necessary to protect the produce and ensure maximum freshness.
BMS Organics has grown from a humble family business to a stalwart of healthy organic living in Malaysia. They only pack their products with biodegradable plastic bags and prioritise recycled materials. You can buy groceries and organic food boxes from their site.
A wonderful social enterprise that aims to reconnect urbanites with nature, via what they love most: food. They strongly believe that city folk need to know how to grow their own food in order to become a resilient community. From seeds to tutorials, they are the right people to approach if you’d like to learn how to grow your own food.
A group of volunteers who aim to green KL from their communal garden, this society arranges workshops on a range of subjects. From growing microgreens to lessons on gardening, they warmly welcome children and families too.
Other things you can do in your household:
- Avoid scrubs that have microbeads! Imagine millions of tiny plastic beads in our oceans and in our marine life – devastating.
- Avoid glitter. We know it’s really pretty – but it also has the same effect as microbeads.
- Follow groups like Zero Waste Malaysia and Sampah, Menyampah for more handy tips and inspiration.
- Understand your plastics – the categories, what can be recycled and what cannot.
- Sign this petition for a dedicated ministry for the Environment in Malaysia.
Remember – You can make a difference by choosing how you spend your money, mums and dads. Malaysian shoppers rank high in terms of shopping with a conscience, well ahead of developed countries like Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
According to a MasterCard survey on ethical spending, it showed that Malaysians were willing to pay more for items that were friendly to the environment (58%), based on fair trade principles (51%), or where a percentage of the item was donated to a good cause (55%). With more consumers exercising their choice and preference, hopefully brands and companies will make the shift to more green and sustainable practices.
There you go, parents. Hope that helps, and remember – Every Little Bit Counts!