Thoughts From Our Founder, Coral Ruz
Balancing Act: Discover the origin of Zero Waste Berlin Festival and the planning, preparation and experience that goes into the event.
We sat down with Coral Ruz, founder and CEO of Zero Waste Berlin Festival. We got her take on sustainability and how and why she started ZWBF. Coral also shares with us how she decided on the festival format and what she hopes people take away from it.
Previously Coral worked in marketing, communications, PR and event management—you name it! She believes having this background helped crystalize and understand her role at Zero Waste Berlin Festival.
- What are your sustainability zero waste hacks?
I would say my first zero-waste hack is the way I normally do my grocery shopping. It’s something that, once I started, I could commit to every day because it’s where I believe I can have the most impact in my day-to-day. For example, I’ve been vegetarian for the last one-and-a-half years. Each and every time I go shopping, I bring my reusable bag. Although it sounds quite simple, from my experience people often forget and end up purchasing either paper or plastic bags which adds up after a while. Additionally, I have also cut out buying pre-packaged and plastic goods from my shopping list.
My second hack is my water bottle. I drink a lot of water throughout the day and some years ago I realized I was buying a lot of plastic bottles out of convenience. Around 6 years ago, I decided to travel to Asia. It was the first time I brought a reusable bottle around with me and I realized just how much it reduced my plastic usage. Since then it’s something I take everywhere, it just shows that even such a small thing done regularly can actually have a long-lasting impact on one’s own consumption. I couldn’t dream of going back to buying bottled water.
- What got you personally interested in sustainability and grassroots movements and activism?
I remember when I was 7-8 years old, there was a campaign in my school to try and encourage students to recycle and learn about plastics and general waste. I recall myself seeing the waste campaigns in the streets and being inspired by the municipality government’s initiative to give out trash bins to each home in order for them to separate out their waste. Since then, I’ve always tried to push my family and friends into taking waste separation and recycling seriously.
Additionally, in 2018, I read about a project called zero waste daniel from New York. It was the first time I had heard about the concept of zero waste. This guy was going to local factories, taking leftovers from the clothes factory production and fashioning new clothing from them. I found it fascinating and asked myself “why is this not happening more?” Since then I began reading a lot about the concept of zero waste and realized just how many ways one can implement sustainability into their lives. It inspired me to commit to recycling, but even then 3 years ago, I knew that this by itself just wasn’t enough. That was the moment I realized that I could make a real impact with my actions.
- Looking at your past positions, do you feel that any one in particular pushed you to found ZWBF, or was it a combination of things?
I think the most important experience was during the 4 years I was involved in the Spanish Film Festival here in Berlin. It ran for a few years and I really enjoyed it—I loved being able to spread culture through the medium of cinema and I really like the experience of the festival format. I knew this was the right format for our project and I gained a ton of experience from my time there. I believe a festival is the easiest and most effective way to connect with people and allow us to promote our message in a fun, informative environment. I like the idea of people with common interests meeting together, connecting and learning things from each. This is what I’m looking to achieve at Zero Waste Berlin Festival.
- What are the most important things you’ve learned from your time here at ZWBF?
I think it allowed me to lean more into the zero waste and sustainability side of things. I’ve gotten the opportunity to learn and experience topics related to sustainability, and introduce myself to concepts that I could not have imagined previously such as logistics, regulations and European laws. I’ve been studying these topics for just over 3 years, it’s also a way that I get to meet people who want to be part of sustainability.
Then of course on the entrepreneurial side of things, it’s the first time I’m founding a project by myself, I have the experience of being a project manager and a team leader but here you need to be active in every single position; it’s good to know a bit of everything. It can get a bit hectic at times but it’s worth the experience—to learn how to build something up from an idea and make it into a reality.
- For any operation like this, finding and working with the right people is key. What qualities do you look for when searching for a partner, volunteer, or sponsor?
Firstly, it’s the person or partner’s motivation and their interest in the topic of sustainability.
We need to see whether their values and goals are aligned because, even with one topic, many might look at it from various different perspectives. Since we started as a team of individuals with the same vision, we made the important decision to look at being sustainable as an organisation before profit. In regards to team members (organisations and other companies), skills and knowledge are things that can always be built upon later on. They usually always fall into place in the future.
- What are some of the things that worked at last year’s event?
I’m proud of what we achieved last year considering our resources, the size of the team and the challenge of Covid-19. This year we are preparing for these challenges in advance. We’re always learning and improving our process but we need time for that, these things only come with time and experience. One thing we need to repeat this year is diversity in regards to the people within the team—the more perspectives we get, the better, because it allows us to look at things from a different point of view. I also think diversity in the programme as well as with the speakers and the types of organisations we work with allow the attendees to share these different perspectives too.
- You wear multiple hats at ZWBF, are there any day-to-day tasks that you particularly enjoy jumping into?
I like the aspect of sharing ideas, working on strategies and figuring out how we can reach people in different formats. As with any job there are things like paperwork that you don’t really enjoy but you’ve got to do. Having said that, I really enjoy having meetings with people and as there’s no events to network much or networking areas currently, you need to meet everyone online and schedule calls if you want to get in touch.
- At the forefront of ZWBF is giving people the opportunity to discover a community and build a network of changemakers. Do you feel that these days we’re isolated from each other more than ever? Not only because of COVID-19 but 21st-century life in general?
I think, on a personal level, we are more connected with people that we don’t see too often. As everything is online now, it’s much easier to keep in touch with friends that are far and wide but it might be that we’re isolated in other ways. I think once this is over, people are really looking to become part of a community again. We’ve seen how many activities and events are now happening online, however not everything that was offline can be fully replicated online. I guess it’s human nature but I hope that when we’re able to meet up again, we’ll see people eager to get back to meeting. This is why we really want to create this space in the summer, to make people feel like they’re part of something, a movement whilst having fun at the same time.
- If there’s one thing you want people to take away from the festival what would it be?
Hope. It might sound quite broad or (rather) spiritual but more like a hope that we can do something positive, that there are solutions. I hope that we can learn how to improve things and connect with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and hope that we can reverse the current situation and lead a more sustainable lifestyle and system. I want us to look towards the future and see how we can shape it together and what actions we can take at this stage.
It’s in everyone’s hands—the companies, politicians and the citizens. I believe at this festival everybody will be able to find something that suits them and discover what steps they can make in their life towards sustainability afterwards. The idea is that they will leave with the knowledge and resources in order to make changes in their lives as either citizens or entrepreneurs.