Interview with Ana Milhazes, Founder of Lixo Zero Portugal (Zero Waste)

2019.04.30

Ana Milhazes, pioneer in the zero waste movement of Portugal

How did the idea of ​​Lixo Zero Portugal come about?
At the beginning of 2016 I literally looked at my dustbin and thought, "How is it possible for a person who is concerned about the environment to produce so much garbage?" I had a lot of undifferentiated trash and plastic packaging. I started looking for information on the internet and discovered Bea Johnson's blog "Zero Waste Home." I bought her book and started to implement all the tips in the various areas of my home and in my daily life. As I was not talking about the subject in Portugal at the time, I decided to start talking about it on my blog and tried to create a Zero Waste community to unite all the people who were trying to live the same way as I was. That's the way the facebook group with the same name was born. At the time I also contacted several stores to see where I could start shopping in bulk.This information then gave origin to the site www.agranel.pt where it is possible to check all the bulk stores in Portugal and also add new stores. (Photo: Tiago Martins)

What exactly is Zero Waste Portugal?
It is the movement that aims to spread the zero waste lifestyle, based on 5 principles, inspired by Bea Johnson and that follow exactly this order: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and decompose (rot) that is composting. It is intended to reduce as much as possible the amount of garbage we produce, especially that which ends up in the landfill or is incinerated. 

Ana Milhazes educating how to avoid plasticDo you live 100% free of plastic? If so, since when?
No, because that would not be possible. The plastic is everywhere, in the houses, in the car, in the hospitals, etc. I do not consider plastic to be a target. The problem is in the way we use plastic. Due to the consumerism and the low price of plastic, all the plastic began to be used as if it were disposable. For convenience we started to buy everything packed! It is this plastic that we must eliminate from our lives!

I tried to eliminate all the disposable plastic of my life and replaced by reusable versions, the case of the bags, cutlery, plastic cups, among others. I still have to use some plastic such as the packaging of contact lenses and liquid to hydrate the contact lenses. All I can replace with other alternatives, I substitute. And I started to do all my food shopping in bulk stores, where I use my own tissue bags and glass jars. (Photo: José Coelho/Lusa)

Ana Milhazes educating how to avoid plasticDo you think people are becoming more and more aware about life and free plastic shopping?
I think so. The media have contributed a lot to this, because of all the news they publish about the impact of plastic. As more and more people are aware of this problem, more and more people are sharing tips on a more sustainable lifestyle in social networks. In this way, it is possible to realize that it is quite simple to adopt more sustainable practices in our day-to-day life. We do not need to be radical. The most important thing is to continue to use what we already have, we do not need to buy new sustainable things just because we now want to have a more sustainable lifestyle. We should rather extend the useful life of all things we already have, even if they are plastic. (Photo: José Coelho/Lusa)

You also created a blog called Ana Go Slowly. Can you tell us more about this?
I created the blog Ana, Go Slowly in 2012, a year after I started living a minimalist lifestyle. In 2011, I realized that I was not happy, despite having everything that was supposed to make me happy. I loved my house, my job, my friends and family, but I felt that the days were running and that they repeated ... I decided to start looking for information about organization, how to simplify my life ... until I discovered a blog about minimalism. I realized that the minimalists were much happier people, with less things and less worries. I realized I wanted the same for me! I started with my clothes and shoes, because I had too many things. I gave and sold a lot. By the time I had already environmental concerns and tried to give away to who really needed it. I went afterwards to other areas of my house and the rule was always the same: to stay with only what was essential, with what I used and really needed! I then went on to do the same for the appointments and even the people who were in my life. I started to be just with who I really liked and to do what was really best for me. A year later I decided to create the blog precisely to share all the good changes that I was living. I decided to give the name "Ana, Go Slowly" inspired by the phrase of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh "Smile, breathe and go slowly." Because I always liked to make everything fast and I needed to slow down, to live slower and with more quality. It was also on this path that I discovered yoga and meditation.

Ana Milhazes educating alternatives for less plastic useWhat is your personal desire for the future on our planet?
I wish that all people defend the planet Earth as if it were their home because in fact it is! But we still do not realize that. We live too concentrated in our lives and we do not realize that we are part of the whole! We are all one and we are all part of planet Earth. If we realize this I am sure we will all contribute to making the planet a better place.

We know you give yoga and meditation classes, do you use support materials in those classes?
I always use the blocks to sit. Sometimes we work with rubber bands as well.Sometimes I like to take books with texts that I read during relaxation or at the end of class, as something that stays in the air for students to reflect on the subject.

Do you share / introduce the connection of yoga and sustainability / awareness in your lessons?
Yes, whenever I can. I think the two are connected. When we begin to practice yoga, we begin to realize that we are part of something greater and in this sense we want to protect this whole of which we are part. (Photo: Ana Milhazes)