Zero waste lifestyle, a perspective from Eunice Maia

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

Challenge Zero - A practical guide to reduce waste, inside and outside your home.

Eunice Maia is the founder of Maria Granel (2015), the first zero waste store and organic grocery store in Portugal and was also the pioneer to bring the zero waste concept applied to consumption and lifestyle in the country. She shared her knowledge in the last two events that we, Zero Waste Youth International, organized, and now is the author of the book she just released, called "Challenge Zero - A practical guide to reduce waste, inside and outside your home."

Although she grew up in a place surrounded with nature and simplicity, just like many of us, Eunice took a while to realize that her acts were not leading the world to a prosperous future. She was consuming and producing a lot. It was when she got to know the work of two incredible women that the big turning point happened in her life, Bea Johnson and Ana Pêgo.

Bea Johnson: The founder and spokesperson of the zero waste international movement. Her journey begins in 2006 when her family moves to a smaller apartment and is forced to store a lot of their goods. She also has a book, Zero Waste Home, where she shares a lot of changes that she made it in her life towards a zero waste life, serving as a guide and inspiration to many people.  

Ana Pêgo: Marine biologist, researcher in the areas of the ocean, artvist and author of the book Plasticus Maritimus: An invasive species. Works with an educational project with the same name since 2012, and dedicates her time with environmental education and conservation of the oceans, reconciling science and art. She is also a beachcomber. 

Refuse what you don't need; reduce what you need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you can't refuse; reduce or reuse; and compost everything else. - Johnson, Bea. 

The first time that Eunice noticed the power of the zero waste community was when she participated as a speaker at the IV Zero Waste Youth International Meeting, in 2017, in Brazil. In that week, she saw that zero waste empower and unites all for a common good. "I felt it too, more than anywhere else, that residues are life, which is a valuable resource." 

The book brings in a really happy and optimistic way how we can adapt our routine and daily life towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Eunice divides in 3 parts: Reducing inside your home, outside your home and in the community. In all the chapters it brings recipes, strategies and data for you to understand more about the subject, and see what it fits into your own life. Zero waste as something joyful and not a burden. 

As a teacher, Eunice draws attention to how important is the role of the schools in creating an ecosystem where the youth can learn what is happening with our planet and ways that they can help change this reality. An environment that prepares the students to leave empowered and committed to changing the world. Not only teach, but also be an example of it, where the school works following the principles of circular economy, reducing waste, creating projects involving the theme, cultivating gardens.. Valuing being over having. 

Inside the book, Eunice brings some inspirations of projects that work around this theme:

Plasticus Maritimus; Marlisco Project; Zero Waste Schools; The circular classroom; Zero Waste Classroom; Plastic Free July.

The best of all, is that the book gives us a guide / action plan on how to apply and transform a school near you, into zero waste. See it below: 


  • Reduce used materials. 

  • Reuse, instead of buying.

  • Separate and recycle the residues used. 

  • Compost the organic residues valuing them and turning them into fertilizer to be returned to the soil. 

  • Reduce, in long-term, the residues generated as an institution. 


Before doing anything, is important for you to map everything and everyone that is involved with the process, who collects the garbage, in which days, where it goes, what containers are used and if it has any organic garden around you. 

Announce, with a campaign, the purpose of transforming the school in a zero waste institution and call volunteers from all the educational community. Is really important to have representatives from all areas along the process: employees, teachers, students, families, kitchen, cleaning, etc. 

Schedule the first meeting with the volunteers to define the audit: 

  • Ask volunteers to gather to discuss the main problems and critical areas from the school when we talk about residues. Invite to present their conclusions about it. 

  • Check and point out, thoroughly, in the school map, where the places that produce residues stays. Equally register the location of the trash containers. 

Action plan

Gather all the volunteers (ensure the presence of representatives from all areas) to define together: 

  • Chart:  

  • Elect the coordinator of sustainability (teacher); the ecogroup (students) and the ecodelegates (representatives from students, family, kitchen, employees and cleaning). 

  • Stipulate tasks (do a checklist) and the responsible from different areas. 

  • Location of the recycling stations in all schools. Remembering that those stations need to stay in strategic places, where are the focus of waste generation.