Zero Waste Europe is happy to introduce the blog series “Meet our members”. Through this series of monthly interviews, we want to give you a chance to get to know our members and the work they are doing.
Meet Szabó György from Humusz Waste Prevention Alliance, Hungary
Hi György, can you give us a brief introduction to Humusz Waste Prevention Alliance’s focus?
When Humusz Waste Prevention Alliance was established 25 years ago, it was based on an ongoing waste working group of several environmental NGOs. The idea was to have a separate organisation working mainly on waste issues – though we know there is no such thing as a “just waste problem”. From the very beginning, there has been a focus on sustainable production, conscious consumption, the question of advertisements and their influence, community-based solutions, and everyday zero waste practices. We work together with the civil society, teachers, municipalities, and businesses to reach as many people in as many sectors/fields as possible.
We believe that we can live a wholesome, prosperous life without burdening our ecosystems with waste.
How long have you been in the field and what got you into (zero) waste?
I joined the organisation as an employee not too long ago, in April 2020, but I’ve been helping the team since 2016 as a volunteer. After my university years, I was looking for a job and someone recommended to give Humusz a try . They could not hire me at the time, but they told me that, after a small training, I could join them as a volunteer. And so I did, and the rest is history. 🙂
What is your current role in the organisation?
Since our team has only 3 members at the moment, I’ve various tasks to do. I’m working now as a ‘Zero Waste Programme Manager’, coordinating national and international projects. I’m currently responsible for our Erasmus+ project’s internal management, and for the organisations’ international relations as well. I’m also involved in the organisation of various events (conferences, training, awareness-raising programmes, webinars, etc.). And, of course, there are a zillion other tasks to do every day, so I haven’t had a lot of time to chill in the last couple of months.
Tell us more about one ongoing campaign/activity you’re working on?
We are currently working on a series of 6 presentations (from late October until late November) on different topics concerning environmentally conscious housekeeping. Several experts talk about topics like the zero waste lifestyle, sustainable fashion, etc.
In the beginning, we were able to host the experts and some guests at Humusz, but due to the new COVID-19 regulations we had to re-organise the events and make them completely online. At the beginning, it has been challenging, but we were very happy to see that a lot of people are following the presentations via live streaming , while many viewers watch the videos later. This way, the zero waste message reaches a lot more people than it could have reached originally.
If there was one thing that you would like your organisation to be known for, what would it be?
We are very proud of our education programme. From the very beginning, Humusz has worked together with teachers and institutions to help raise awareness among future generations. There has always been a special focus on training educators so that they can integrate zero waste philosophy in their classes and projects. Humusz has also founded the Compost Day in Hungary (celebrated every year on 10th October) together with other organisations; and for 10 years now, we have invited kindergartens and schools to start composting in their institutions. The office of Humusz is also an environmental education center where we host training.
How would you describe the growth of the Zero Waste movement in your country? What is your perspective for the future?
In the last couple of years the topic of zero waste has become quite popular, as we can see by the number of bloggers and vloggers changing their lifestyle to minimise waste. Also, webshops selling zero waste products have increasingly shown that there is interest in eco-friendly alternatives. Packaging-free shops are opening not only in Budapest, but also in other towns, and we hope they are here to stay. We can see that people are thirsty for change, but only time can tell if the movement is here to stay for good and how many people will be actually affected. Unfortunately, we don’t really see top-down support.
How is the current COVID-19 pandemic impacting your work?
As with most organisations, the pandemic has had a huge negative impact on Humusz. First of all, we had to cancel all our programmes, including the Zero Waste Conference for our 25th anniversary. In the end, we organised it online in September, but it wasn’t the same: we prefer personal connections and meetings with our members and participants. Moreover, one of the organisation’s main income sources comes from our social entrepreneur services: office greening programmes, attending events, giving presentations, etc. Due to the pandemic, all events and CSR programmes had been cancelled, and with them all our potential revenues. Last but not least, the general conversation has shifted from environmental issues to the pandemic, and it is more difficult to reach out to people and engage them.
You can find more about Humusz and their work here.