I was recently connected to Radim through a mutual friend in the city of Brno, Czech Republic, where Content Pathway was based from October 2017 to October 2018.
Having exchanged a couple of emails and seen the great concept of his zero waste online store, I was excited to meet. Radim invited me to his office in Brno’s Impact Hub, a wonderful coworking space, incubator, and growth accelerator for more than 600 digital minds.
I was expecting a 40-something guy with a beard and long hair, hemp trousers, and a nose ring, I certainly did not expect to meet a 23-year old clean cut eco-visionary in smart office clothes. One of the first things we joked about was that we are cleaning up the image of stereotypical environmentalists. Sandals and dreadlocks are no longer requirements.
For the next two hours, we had one of the best chats I’ve had in years on the topics of zero waste, sustainability, supply chains, recycling systems, resource efficiency, packaging, circular economy and so much more. I wish I’d had a recording device, I would happily have transcribed the whole thing for your enjoyment, or released it as a podcast.
Instead, I’ve asked Radim for a second chance to pick his brains, for the benefit of my wonderful audience both here on the Content Pathway website, and for my amazing audience of 5,500+ on LinkedIn. Please make a coffee, get comfortable, and enjoy reading the thoughts of one of the Czech Republic’s leading minds in the zero waste field.
Hello again Radim, I’ve kinda missed you since our last chat. How are things, what have you been working on?
Hi Joseph, things are really great at the moment. We’ve taken the last couple of weeks to improve our website: zerowastelife.cz and have been working hard on the blog and our marketing. We’re planning to launch a huge zero waste Christmas campaign as Christmas is the time of the year when people produce huge amounts of waste. Our goal is to change that and offer some good zero waste solutions for Christmas, such as cloth gift wraps and a Christmas tree that can be returned after the winter holiday is over. Also, we are currently launching a pilot zero waste consultation for a local company. If it turns out well, we will be ready to offer zero waste consultations to households, companies, and the state sector at the beginning of 2019. Apart from that, my girlfriend and I have been working on our second project – R21, a real estate brokerage agency which is trying to change the real estate industry in the Czech Republic. This project also aims to be as zero waste as possible so we sign our contracts electronically and have a special kind of eco-friendly business cards, etc.
Where did this whole zero waste journey begin?
The whole journey began with me following: Tomas Hajzler – the Czech propagator of freedom at work, publisher and distributor of the book Zero waste home. He has been a huge inspiration for my projects for several years. My first activity in the Zero waste field was launching the first packaging-free store in Brno.
Most of my readers are from the UK or US, what can you tell them about the Czech waste system?
All of the towns and villages in the Czech Republic have municipal waste management that includes bins and containers that are emptied on a regular basis. Also, in basically every single village you can find blue, yellow and green recycling containers for paper, plastic and glass. The only problem with this solution is, that the people are not really motivated to recycle or lower the amount of waste they’re producing and thus don’t do it much. The most progressive towns have implemented a system for their residents to motivate them – every household gets their own blue, yellow and green bins or bags with a barcode on them, as well as a general waste bin with a barcode. Then, when the garbage trucks come, the crew scans the barcode of the general waste bin and decides whether it is 25, 50, 75 or 100 % full. The fuller the bin is, the more “negative points” you get. Every once in a while a different truck comes and picks up the blue, yellow and green bags or bins, scans the barcodes once again and, if done properly, you get “positive points” for recycling well. At the end of the year, the local municipality calculates your total “score” and you’re charged the “waste fee” based on how well you’ve been recycling. I hope my description is not too complicated!
You pioneered a landmark supermarket in the Czech Republic, how did that come about?
For me, that was one of the best ways to spread the idea in Brno. My girlfriend and I founded the very first packaging-free store in Brno, the third one in the Czech Republic at the time. I wouldn’t call it a supermarket as it only had about 20m2, but we had all kinds of dry goods (pasta, rice, sugar, spice, nuts), oils, fresh pastry, fruits and vegetables and other household products.
Do you think zero waste ideas are catching on, or is it too late? We spoke for hours about potential solutions to current problems, but we agreed that education is really the answer to everything. How would you educate the next generation?
I think it is catching on very well. The education is one of the biggest goals for our Zerowastelife.cz project – to show people that it is not complicated to live a zero waste (or at least close to zero waste) life. I think we need to start talking about the topic out loud and show that buying the latest version of a car, smartphone or fashion isn’t going to get us very far. We need to implement simple solutions such as “free water taps” around the cities so that we no longer have to buy bottled water, returnable food containers in supermarkets (they’re already doing it in German supermarkets so it can’t be that difficult), and so on.
Most ocean plastic comes from Asia, how do you think we can educate them about the dangers of polluting the ocean, which doubles as a major food source?
I think we should all take responsibility for the pollution we have in our oceans. It was the west that started the huge demand for cheap Asian products. Again, I think we should start talking about the problem, and everyone of us can do something.
You’re working with your girlfriend on these projects, right? What does she think about zero waste, sustainability etc – do your views clash on anything?
Correct, we’re working on everything together. We’ve had this kind of problem at first, because it was me who brought the zero waste and eco ideas into our lives and I think she faced more challenges in changing things, but from my point of view, she caught on very quickly.
I personally think our biggest threat is air pollution before ocean plastics destroy our seafood or the oil runs out. What do you think is the biggest environmental threat to humans?
What I consider to be the biggest threat to our living is drinking water pollution. They did a study a few months ago in the Czech Republic and have found out, that 53% of the drinking water sources in our country were contaminated. Not only do we use preposterous amounts of water for washing our cars, watering our lawns and golf courses, but we also use pesticides and other types of chemicals on our land which then contaminate the water. That right there is, in my opinion, is the biggest threat to the human race at the moment.
Five years down the line, you’re still a new age eco-warrior businessman like myself. What do you want to be doing, in an ideal situation?
In an ideal situation, at the end of the year of 2023, I would like to have R21 real estate agency in all major towns and cities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Also, I would like to have Zerowastelife.cz grown to the biggest Zero Waste portal in central Europe. I would like to have at least 30 houses or flats built (as I am doing housing development as a part of my real estate business as well) and I would love to have a child!
You’re selling zero waste products, please tell me what you’re selling and why these items and materials appealed to you?
We mainly sell cloth, metal, wooden, glass and paper products such as drinking straws, shopping bags and totes, drinking bottles and stuff. What I like about these materials is that they last forever and can be recycled again and again (except for paper that can only be recycled 7 times before it has to be composted).
There are a few companies I don’t really like because of their absolute wastefulness – do any businesses spring to mind for you?
Well, you’ve mentioned Nespresso already, capsule coffee is a huge problem, but basically, any seller of beverages in plastic bottles is a big problem for our planet.
It’s 2050, we are nearly 60 years old. How do you think the world will look?
I’m an optimist so I believe we’ll have switched to renewable energy, electric cars and public transportation. Also, I believe there will be enough drinking water sources in every single village, town or city we’ll not need to use ANY plastic bottles whatsoever. The goods that will be sold will only be made from eco-friendly materials and mainly upcycled (as we already have more stuff in the landfill than we’ll ever be able to use), every clothing company will not only sell new stuff but also repair everything they have previously sold… I could go on but I think you can see my point.
Final question. Who is your hero or idol in the business world? Who would you like to emanate?
For me, it has always been, and I believe will always be, Steve Jobs. To me, he represented the most beautiful connection between technology lover and innovator with the balanced and mindful life of a human.
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