Chiang Mai is the most populated city in Northern Thailand: 1.6 million inhabitants, and the second largest urban area in Thailand after Bangkok. This city is a very attractive economic and cultural center. Thousands tourists and active foreigners come every year in Chiang Mai. The city is like at the bottom of a bowl, surrounded by mountains cover by jungle. That is why there is often air pollution issues because of traffic.
In 2017, a government investment of more than 36 millions Bahts (1 million USD) was decided to develop Chiang Mai into a sustainable & innovation driven “smart city”. Waste management is one of the targeted challenge. From the beginning of this plan, Chiang Mai Universities remained very active and implemented for example a waste management system to produce energy.
Some citizens initiatives came out also to reduce waste consumption and clean the lush nature around. That is how we met Pooh, the founder of Trash Hero Chiang Mai, in her eco-friendly coffee.
Trash Hero Chiang Mai is part of the worldwide community: Trash Hero World. This global movement was created in 2013 by a group of Thai people and a Swiss to fight trash spreading in a small island in Southern Thailand and received in 2014 the Thailand Green Excellence Award UK. Today, this non-profit organization is presented in 11 countries and gathers more than 140.000 volunteers worldwide. The community organized more than 3600 clean-up events and removed almost 597 tons of garbage from beaches and cities.
The main mission is to bring communities together to clean and reduce waste. The first way to achieve this goal is the organization of clean up events, where people can see the volunteers picking up wastes, and so raise awareness. Education is also a large part of their actions, with hands-on experiences for kids and adults. They also create long-term programs to help communities to better manage their waste strategy. The philosophy is clearly to spread positive messages to encourage little steps and remove the barriers to change: “Anyone can be a hero!”.
Thailand, mother land of Trash Hero global movement, has lot of Trash Hero communities in different cities of the country. Trash Hero Chiang Mai was initiated by Pooh and created 3 years ago. Today, this local community is known by more than 1.7K potential volunteers.
The implementation of a worldwide known community in a new location is always a delicate operation. The new structure has to find a balance between adaptation to the new environment and conservation of the original identity. That is why Pooh established a 3 years plan.
In 2016, first year of Trash Hero in Chiang Mai, aimed to make known the movement to local people and already committed actors. The creation of a Facebook page was a key way to promote the organization. During the second year, pick-up events increased. Every month, the community cleaned some areas around Chiang Mai and recruit new volunteers. Today, Trash Hero Chiang Mai also interacts with schools, providing educational materials on waste management.
The community in Chiang Mai also develop a bottle refill program in the city, that allows saving thousands of single use plastic bottles from being thrown away.
WHAT NOW ?
The constant mission remains to extend the community in Chiang Mai, inspire and motivate more and more people to become Trash Heroes in their everyday lives. By multiplying clean up events, the movement can impact on long term people’s behaviors.
Another challenge Trash Hero Thailand could take is the way of valorizing recyclable waste. Indeed, there is no efficient sorting and recycling system in Thailand, and almost all waste is landfilled. To take full advantage of the work achieved by Trash Heroes, the organization could act as a lobby, or the direct actor, to fill a missing link in the waste recycling system.
Thanks to its connections and support from the worldwide Trash Hero community, Trash Hero Chiang Mai has already more than several thousands potentials volunteers and implements some sustainable programs. The declination of a global movement on a local scale, with benefits of its reputation and support, seems to be an effective solution for optimizing means, recruitment and involvement of the volunteers. We also observed that environmental commitment is often closely linked with the nature proximity. This city surrounded by deep jungle and mountains checks again that statement.