This month, we’ve seen the backend of summer and festivals and the start of a new academic year for many students. We wanted to showcase ‘Sustainability September’ and how we, as students, can make more of an effort to be sustainable this year. We were lucky enough to speak to Harriet Noy, Birmingham University Student that set up her own company ‘Hazaar’, a student zero waste marketplace which also discusses student sustainability, both on and off campus.
Hi Harriet, it’s great to talk to you. To start with, could you tell us a bit about Hazaar?
H: So Hazaar is a zero-waste marketplace app for students. Students can buy and sell anything from clothes, costumes, textbooks, and household items. Our main point of difference is that we’ve completely cut out postage because at universities often there can be thousands and thousands of students that often live within a mile radius. Consequently, I felt that there was no need for postage. We cut that step out and eliminated any travel miles. We started off on Facebook marketplace and then we started our own Facebook group for University of Birmingham students. By the end of last academic year, we had Facebook marketplaces at 37 different unis with a total of 13,000 students involved. For our next step as a brand, we’re getting ready to launch our app very soon!
What was it that inspired to you create Hazaar and why are you so passionate about it?
So, during my second year at Uni, my friend Sarah and I set up a plastic free society called ‘Plastic Free UoB’. This idea came about as we used to walk around where we lived and saw single use plastic everywhere. We highlighted areas on campus where there was a significant problem with single use plastic and then suggested alternative ways that the University could solve them.
So that was where my interest in sustainability sparked. Then, at the time I was living in a house of 10 girls all part of different sport societies. Sport socials every week required different costumes, usually ordered the day before on Amazon Prime or bought from Primark only to never be worn again. This inspired us to create a Facebook Marketplace for students to buy and sell the costumes that were worn once for a social. None of my mates from other uni’s had anything similar, which is why I expanded Hazaar to as many uni’s as possible, giving every uni their own sustainable online marketplace.
Recently, Hazaar has shouted about ‘Secondhand September’, encouraging more students to be conscious of their sustainability during September. We’d love for you to tell us more!
In a nutshell, it’s a movement to try and encourage as many people as possible to not buy anything first-hand in September. If you want to buy anything, consciously ask yourself “Do I need this?”. Then, hopefully after a month of sustainable shopping they’ll think, “OK if I can do it for September, I can do it for future months ahead.
Unfortunately, summer is pretty much over. But during the season there was a lot of amazing festivals happening up and down the country. Despite everyone having an incredible time together since lockdown, the media was flooded with photos of the aftermath of festivals with many festivalgoers leaving their rubbish behind. Hazaar also worked with Plastic Freedom at Boardmasters’ festival, how was Boardmasters different to other festivals when it came to the sustainability aspect?
Plastic Freedom is an incredible store that sell items to help people on their journey to be more plastic free. At Boardmasters, they had a rubbish and litter charge where everyone was charged £10 on top of their festival tickets and then, if at some point of the festival a person filled up a whole litter bag then they got £10 back. It was such as good incentive and it worked so well. There was still a lot of litter leftover at the end, but I remember on day two everyone had gotten involved and there was literally no litter anywhere. There was definitely a lot less litter throughout the festival than previous years which I think is a really good thing and this makes me hopeful.
What do you think could be done on behalf of advertisers and organisers to tackle this issue?
I think incentives like the litter pick at Boardmaster’s in exchange for cash is a really good way to tackle the issue and get more people on board. Who wouldn’t pick up a bag of litter for two free pints? I think that it’s really important that we de-normalise littering at festival, as it’s become so common. Having designated spots to dispose of tents which are often donated to homeless charities is also a good idea that I hope more festivals will catch on to. Finally, MORE BINS!
Why do you think it’s so important that students take an interest in sustainability on campus?
We’re going to be the ones that suffer from the consequences if we aren’t actually proactive to educate ourselves more on sustainability. Student voices are so loud and we can really inspire change.
Additionally, whilst at uni, I learnt that universities operated like businesses. So, we’re the customers of the university. Therefore, we have to be the ones demanding that universities become more sustainable for them to then make the change ’cause they’re not going to do it unless they’re forced, basically.
What are your top 3 tips for students to become more sustainable?
I’d say the first one would just be a bit more mindful when you’re buying something. For example, if you’re going to get a coffee and you forgot your reusable cup, just think do I really need this, or can I just get one when I go home?
My second tip is something I’ve been trying to do more recently. I’ll only buy something if I genuinely think that I’ll wear it 30 times.
Third tip is to just look into more plastic free alternatives. There’s so much these days that is plastic free. Plastic Freedom is a really good place to start! Also, there’s so many zero waste shops, so stocking up like replenishing stuff you’ve already got rather than having to buy new all the time. Just start by looking into sustainable alternatives!