A pioneer in the zero waste movement born and raised in West Hollywood, Sofia Ractovich finds creative ways to get even the least enthused people interested in minimizing their waste footprint.  She is the founder of Zero Waste Company, a business that focuses on organizing zero waste events. She also recently created her own Zero Waste Life Hacks podcast!

AAW: What sparked your interest in zero waste?

Sofia: I’ve always loved natural, wild places. My first memory of sustainability was actually when I was very young. If you can believe it, it was a  McDonald's Happy Meal toy that was a mini greenhouse “seed kit”. This was right around the time that WeHo (West Hollywood) first started using Blue Bins for recyclables and giving out brochures. I would translate them from English to Spanish for my parents, so ended up learning a lot. From there, I started a recycling program at my school and was convinced I wanted to be an environmental lawyer, but it was when I had my first son at age 23 that my “No turning back” moment came. As a mom, I had to be more aware.

AAW: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced toward zero waste?

Sofia: It comes down to guilt- you want to be accessible to people and not intimidate them, and accept that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and you have to make whatever decision that is right for you. Sometimes for instance I have to choose between making the most environmentally conscious decision, and being a fun, cool mom. I have to ask myself: Is it worth it for my kids to enjoy this time of happiness or do I constantly deny them what they want?

AAW: How do you see yourself best contributing to the zero waste movement, and how can others best elevate the movement?

Sofia: I try to relate to people- see how it can be difficult and try to find a solution. Not all options are accessible and inclusive for families that can’t afford them. Showing people that there’s more than one way to do it, you just have to learn and make the better choice whenever you can. You’re not always going to remember your reusable bag or be perfect, but it’s important not to shame others when they mess up, but instead encourage them and share your own tips!

AAW: What are some of your interests outside of the Zero Waste world?

Sofia: I love mixing music and dancing! Music has so much power to control your emotions in an instant. I love the idea that one simple change can make a radical difference. All it takes is one little tweak. This applies to my zero waste lifestyle, too. I want to use that power to keep people positive and creative.  I want it to flow naturally out of people and for them to get excited about it! I don’t want it to come from a place of guilt or shame or fear. Humans are uniquely capable of taking vision and dreams and displaying them outwardly for others to be inspired by, and there’s something so amazing about that.  


AAW: If you could tell everyone on the planet one thing, what would it be?

Sofia: Learn more about what interests you. Every invention came from an interest and passion to pursue the idea. So many things will be obsolete soon, so how can we use what we currently know to improve systems in a way that is radically transformative. I’m looking forward to a future when we realize that some things we have created are just not relevant to our society- we tried them and they didn't work and we can move on. Like DDT, or straws! I’m excited to see how we can influence that.

AAW: Any last words?

Sofia: I am excited to see this field grow, especially with more women. Women are great at understanding systems and are necessary for this hands-on, “dirty” work to share our perspective, as a community. And as a supportive sisterhood, we can do this together!

Denise Braun Ryan