(Almost) zero-waste life
Bangkok | Thailand
We met Madeleine Recknagel in M:aD Club for Better Society, in the middle of Bangkok. Since the very first moment we could feel her amazing energy, positivity and huge will of sharing.
I grew up in East Germany. It was communist time, nothing in the shops, etc. I left Germany in 1995 and I became exactly the opposite: I was surrounded by consumerism, I suddenly had goods to buy. For many, many years I was consuming, travelling and not really thinking about the consequences. I lived in the USA for several years, in Switzerland, in Spain and now in Thailand. I’ve seen different kinds of political systems, I was working in the corporate world for 17 years and I started to be really tired of running in this wheel of making money. Bangkok gives me a new way of focusing, of reflecting on things, about how my life is going and what I want to do in the next 10 years. Here the impact of plastic pollution is probably worse than any other country I’ve been to and I traveled to more than 30 countries around the world. That’s why I decided that something needs to be done and I started with sustainability consultation for companies. Then, I realized that for companies to understand what sustainability is or what it is to live a healthier lifestyle, you have to have an impact on individuals. And that’s why I started to share how I live.
And Madeleine lives according to zero-waste philosophy, reducing the amount of rubbish she produces almost 100%.
I always lived resourceful but last year I realized that cutting on plastic cups is not enough. I started to check my garbage through and see how much waste I create. I decided to limit it. It was a step by step process. Today my only waste is a milk container, once every three months. A lot of things changed in my life. I have more time. It takes me 2 minutes to make my tooth paste. My baking soda I use also for cleaning. I need much less things, spend much less time on shopping. I make my own milk from almonds. As a vegetarian I don’t have meat. Cartons from eggs I use for compost. I have a special set with cutlery and glass straw so I don’t have to use plastic while eating out.
Madeleine’s personal experience became a huge inspiration for people around, her friends but not only.
I started to really speak out on what can be done and how we can reduce rubbish. It’s been an interesting journey and since January I was speaking in universities, schools and I’m starting with companies as well but on an individual approach. Because all companies in their ethics have sustainability, but they don’t have employees on the board. They don’t understand what it means… it’s not only hotels not washing towels every day. It’s so much more. How much do you produce in every office, every month. I come and say what I do and what are the basic solutions. People expect that tomorrow they need to be green. It’s impossible, we live in Bangkok, we have families, some have children. Start, every week give yourself a new challenge. Maybe you change toothpaste or you start facing things which you have at home. I help people with those small steps.
Madeleine also has her own website and FanPage. One of her most popular social campaigns is a series of photos with Lego figures in different spots of Thailand, full of rubbish.
I take pictures with Lego figures to raise awareness of what’s going on around beaches in Thailand. I’ve taken pictures of several islands before beach clean ups, it catches people’s attention. I don’t have specific goals. I feel that what I’m doing right now is what I'm supposed to do with my life. I look at the planet and what we’ve done. If we don’t start to focus more on that, there will be nothing left. Access to water, climate change, refugees. We already don’t know how to deal with refugees, what happens when climate change refugees come? I feel it’s more important than thinking how much money I have on my account.
And since Madeleine decided to change her life everything became so much easier. Not only does she have more time for valuable experiences, but even the word “challenge” disappeared from her vocabulary.
I have to say that since I started talking more about my own journey it’s not that challenging anymore. At the beginning I thought I would have a lot of problems with cultural differences as I’m not from Thailand. But I know how to speak Thai way, I don’t use a western approach, I don’t point the finger: this is the way you must do it. I just tell people how I do it, how I live in a more sustainable way and I ask them: if you do something similar, how would you do it? And they really love to participate.
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