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Real insight start with real people: a zero waste person

How managing zero waste can be lived as a thrilling life.

Photo of Ana Coelho
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I interviewed Ana who lives trying to reach Zero waste. Ana Milhazes Martins is a 32 years old woman in love with the Portuguese city of Porto and the Portuguese region of Alentejo, author of the blog “Go Slowly” (, founder of Lixo Zero Portugal and ambassador of Zero Waste Portugal movement, lives with the daily mission of doing as little waste as possible, sharing the challenges it faces and inspiring change.

We met at the “Toca do Granel” (Burrow of Bulk), a bulk organic store, a journey of discovery of incredible flavours of the burrow, sustainable consumption in practice, without the use of packaging. We were greeted by the sympathy of the siblings Carlos and Lídia. During our very pleasant conversation Ana answered a few questions I posed.

What is the biggest challenge in giving up packaged products?
To stop buying packaged products as a priority, I think the biggest challenge will be to live without consuming certain types of products that we are accustomed to, or simply have to reduce the use of these products. Unfortunately there are some products that we can’t find without packaging (many liquids such as olive oil, vinegar, rice jelly, soy sauce, milks). In many cases we can make some of these products at home, but there has to be a greater availability on our part and I think that here is another great challenge, because with the rush of society in which we live, buying ready to consume products is much more practical.

Will the solution also be in cork utensils like the “cocho” (half bowl-half spoon made of cork used in the Portuguese regions Alentejo and Beira Baixa by shepherds to drink water)?

No doubt. We have seen lots of utensils or products from our grandparents' times being back in fashion, and we have a lot to learn from them. Although there was no environmental concern at the time, due to the circumstances of life (monetary and others) people were forced to save and many to invent practical and economic solutions. We can take advantage of the example of the “cocho” and make water sources available in various parts of our cities. After all, what is the need to continue buying bottled water? Is everyone aware of the amount of plastic that goes to the oceans and that even we consume plastic because of it? We do not need to reinvent the wheel, we have a lot to learn from our ancestors.

Do you find it possible to turn these utensils to be used utensils today?

Yes, although some may have to undergo some changes. In the case of “cocho”, for hygienic reasons we couldn’t have one in each well or fountain, but we could, for example, have one that always walked with us and when we wanted to drink water we used it. As I mentioned earlier, I believe that there is great wealth in this type of tool, not only at a historical and cultural level but also in view of its usefulness. Many of them are undoubtedly totally ecological, as the case of cocho due to what is made of (cork) and also by its purpose.

What is your opinion on packaging? 

I really wish it to reduce to the maximum, at least those that are packed in plastic. I stand for a revolution in packaging! I think there should be a huge legislation change for brands/producers to be obliged to use recycled and/or biodegradable materials and also to return to the concept of recoverable tare (for products like olive oil, wine) I think it would be relatively simple to apply. There should also be legislation in terms of fines for the amount of packaging a particular product has, numerous times we see products that are packaged 2 and 3 times. If it is for the sake of protection while they are being transported, then I think reusable boxes used for that purpose alone could be a solution. Without legislation that really stands for our planet, I think consumers can have an important voice in this matter, simply by not buying products that are too wrapped or packed in plastic, always prefer glass, paper or metal or, better yet, buying in bulk.

Why does buying bulk make you happier?
First of all I feel that I am helping the planet, which for me is extremely important, it is my mission that has been with me since I was a child, and then I find it wonderful to go into bulk stores instead of the big commercial establishments and talk to the merchants, talk about products, ask questions. It is also a way to pause in our daily lives, to breathe and slow down, making shopping a moment of pleasure and happiness and not simply another task to scratch our to-do list. I feel much happier by bulk buying, no doubt.

How to get people to buy bulk products?

By making these products cheaper and showing the advantages of the bulk (we can only buy the amount we want to try something new or to make a recipe, we don’t need to separate packages for recycling and then have the worry to put that garbage out. And we are helping our planet by avoiding the production of more materials as well as saving on the expenses necessary to recycle those packages). I think that here too legislation could play an important role by taxing all packaged products, thus leading consumers to opt for the bulk.

Let's all give it a try!


How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

This is an interview of an example of a zero waste consumer. The objective was to understand what drives this change. In the Use Cases, as well as in our current linear economy, consumers aren't totally aware of the material diversity of our waste and what it means when discarded and produced. Models and adopters can help other users make environmentally-friendly decisions regarding waste.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

That successful adoption is possible despite lack or excess of certain norms (legislation), but it can have a big impact on our sustainability (social, economic and environmental).

Tell us about yourself

Ana Coelho, member of Circular Economy Portugal ( I combine training and teaching with blogging ( I’m truly passionate about Circular Economy issues and believe it has the potential to be a changing agent for real sustainability.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Wow Ana these are great insights!

In this interview, did you discuss any best practices to motivate others to adopt a reduced plastic lifestyle?

Our ideas phase of the challenge launches in 2 days time. Super excited to see this research translated into a contribution.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Photo of Ana Coelho

Hi! Ana Milhazes is a real inspiration. Her daily routine gives a huge amount of insights on how to reduce waste.

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