Why I gave up my Big 4 auditor job to join an environmental NGO
I was an auditor working in Singapore. Big company, good pay, stable career progression. Everything was perfect, but deep down inside me, I felt empty and unfulfilled. Since young, I have always wanted to do something purposeful to make the world a better place to live in. Not feeling congruent with my auditor career, I then left my job in Singapore and came back to Malaysia. During my unemployed days, I stumbled upon a landfill video produced by Zero Waste Malaysia. It stirred something in me.
“This marks the beginning of my zero waste journey.”
I joined Zero Waste Malaysia – an environmental NGO shortly after coming back to Malaysia. As my previous background and life experiences have little to do with sustainability and environmental space, I felt that I just discovered a whole new world that didn’t exist before.
“I learned that in Malaysia, only 10 out of the 167 landfills are sanitary landfills with proper waste treatment systems to prevent toxins from entering the soil and environment (KPKT, 2012).”
How about the remaining 157 landfills? Those are simply ‘legal open dumping sites’ aka the cheapest ways of managing waste. Not only that, Malaysia seems to be top of many things. Malaysia ranks No.2 in Asia in generating the most plastic waste whereby an average Malaysian produces 16kg of plastic waste every year (WWF,2019). The situation is even worse coupled with the fact that our country is also one of the top international destinations for plastic waste dumping. What a way to say #MalaysiaBoleh.
While the facts may be disheartening, I knew I could do something about it.
“I started to live a low waste lifestyle.”
From switching to a menstrual cup, bringing my containers for takeaways to setting up a composting bin for food scraps, I adjusted my lifestyle to produce as little waste as possible. I also work at Zero Waste Malaysia to raise environmental awareness while advocating for sustainable living.
While the story seems magical and inspiring, I had my fair share of risks and challenges. I took a huge risk to switch my career from auditing to sustainability. Everything was new to me. My job scope was nothing I’ve done before. I risked my chartered accountant background and started a new path completely afresh.
Working at a non-profit organization is neither smooth sailing. Resources were an issue. It was difficult to build sustainable funding. The situation is neither optimistic with the fact of low awareness and little urgency among Malaysians when it comes to the environment and sustainability. Even I had a hard time educating my own family members to live zero waste.
“Every achievement starts with a decision to try.”
I am not perfect, but I give my best.
I believe that change starts with individuals, one step at a time. Every one of us is capable to make a difference in the world. Even by just doing a simple act of saying ‘no’ to a plastic straw, we are saving 1 trash from entering landfills, preventing 1 plastic waste from entering the oceans, and more. Imagine if every Malaysian just takes 1 zero waste action every day, it’s 32 million green actions to the environment every day. Isn’t that amazing?
The rains are getting heavier than usual. The floods are happening more frequently than ever. Tornadoes happened right before the Lunar New year and left hundreds of homes roofless. Malaysians need to wake up. There’s no time to wait. We’re in a race with climate change and global warming before irreversible climate disasters hit us.