Hi folks! I’m Spiffy, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth, back with a new guest. Sanae Ziadi is the founder of BalaWaste and a 2020 Millennium Fellow, committed to making a difference in the world. Let’s see how she’s doing it!
Spiffy: Welcome Sanae! It’s great to be here in Lebanon with you. Can you tell me what challenges you’re addressing?
Sanae: Thanks for visiting, Spiffy! You probably know that tons of waste are produced worldwide every day. To preserve our dear Earth, essential measures must be taken. People often ignore the impact of their consumption on their environment, but really, everyone, at his or her own level, can have a positive impact. BalaWaste is here to educate youth about UN SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production. The main goal of BalaWaste is to promote waste reduction, reuse, and recycling amongst young people through an awareness-raising campaign aiming to inform, educate, and motivate. The project aims to bring about notable changes in perceptions, awareness, and habits of the general public and targeted groups.
Spiffy: I see! So it’s more than waste management. What motivated you to tackle this important issue?
Sanae: Given the acute household waste crisis in Lebanon, what naturally motivates and fuels my work is my desire to protect the environment and overcome the state institutions’ slow pace that paralyze any initiative. Obviously, environmental protection is directly linked to the production of waste on a daily basis. However, the biggest obstacle is not knowing where to start. BalaWaste is attempting to create an independent community that will be able to manage its own waste and influence other young people to follow its own model. People would be surprised by how much they can avoid sending out as waste!
Spiffy: How is BalaWaste working to make life more equitable for people?
Sanae: Through BalaWaste, I am working on promoting behavioral change. Through live discussions, social media posts, webinars, and school awareness campaigns, I am trying to acquaint my peers on the reduction of waste and food spoilage, recycling, and composting. The objective is to normalize decentralized waste management, since people are accustomed to conveniences. The end goal is to move away from dumping waste into the landfill and managing it as close to the source as possible. I recently conducted some research, and assessed things like the community's plastic needs, the main steps of waste sorting in the city, and the recycling rate of plastics. This study could serve as a platform for establishing a communication plan, alongside other NGOs.
Spiffy: Well done, Sanae! Can you tell me about a recent milestone that you and BalaWaste have reached?
Sanae: Sure, Spiffy! Being part of the Millennium Fellowship opened up new horizons for BalaWaste. Our achievements wouldn't have seen the light if it weren’t for Millennium Fellowship. The global webinars, SDG conversation hours, and training sessions were very helpful as we learned how to develop partnerships, how to pitch our project, and how to set our smart goals. Joining this wonderful community of like-minded students was undoubtedly very rewarding as we learned from each other's experiences. We want to create and foster social impact, and inspire fellow students to undertake social initiatives.
Sanae Ziadi and other Millennium Fellowship participants in a virtual session to discuss how to build a social impact career. (Image courtesy of Sanae Ziadi)
Spiffy: I’m curious if you’ve ever experienced failure, and if you learned anything significant from it?
Sanae: The health crisis (Covid-19) situation was a big hurdle in launching the project. As a matter of fact, the pandemic and its consequences have made the activity obsolete or unsuitable; there was no choice but to change. The multiple lockdowns and health restrictions made it difficult to meet with beneficiaries or host face-to-face events. So BalaWaste moved to online platforms, though it wasn't the initial plan. In fact, I am setting up live sessions to assist people in changing their habits, holding webinars with expert guest speakers, using social media to spread awareness, and contacting schools to let them know about the project.
Spiffy: That sounds like the perfect pivot, Sanae! I’m excited about all the work you’re doing with BalaWaste. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. It’s been an honor!
Sanae Ziadi is the founder of BalaWaste, and a student at the Lebanese American University, majoring in political science and international affairs. She strives to make a change in her community through active engagement and dedication. Sanae is passionate about addressing pressing issues and raising awareness, mostly through creative writing. (Nominated by Millennium Campus Network)