Journey to Zero Waste

I've always considered myself an environmentally minded person.  When I was a kid I spent a weekend one summer building a hospital for butterflies after finding one who couldn't fly due to a damaged wing.  When I was in year 3, wanting extra work, I decided to do a project on green house gas.  Around the same time I knocked on all the neighbours doors (ok, we only really had to neightbours... country living and all that) asking for donations because I wanted to save the koalas.  Later, I made mum change her cleaning products to the ones with the sticker on them that said "dolphin friendly".

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I basically did nothing to actually change the state of our environment...

As I got older, despite considering myself "aware" and "environmentally conscious" I continued to do fuck all.

I mean, I used reusable bags for my shopping and I separated my recycling but I consumed as much as the next person and made as much trash as the next person because everything comes wrapped in plastic and you need a car to do all the things and fixing something is more expensive than replacing it these days and besides who has the time and, you know, coffee is life.

But then I moved to Raja Ampat.  Beautiful, beautiful Raja Ampat.

Have you been there before?  Or seen pictures?  No?  This is what it looks like.

Except it doesn't.  This is really what it looks like...

We lived on a teeny tiny island in West Waigeo.  We were 2 hours by speed boat from the nearest town.  That's 5-6 hours by local boat.  We really were in the middle of nowhere.  The environment out there in such remote reaches of the world, as untouched as it is, should be pristine.  But, as you can see, it isn't.

It was impossible not to be struck by the devastating volume of plastic waste.  

And worse?  There is nowhere for it to go.  Even if cleaning up all the plastic on all the beaches was possible, what would I have done with it?  We were hours away from the closest town - a town which doesn't even have a sustainable waste management system - a town where there is no recycling, and a landfill that blows its contents straight back into the sea.

The problem is overwhelming and after moving there I became hyper aware of the fact that everything I brought to the island had to be taken off, that everything I consume has an effect on the environment and that when I put my rubbish in the bin it doesn't just "go away".

In the developed world we've been recycling for years.  We all know that responsibly disposing of our trash is important.  But there,  the sheer volume of waste I saw on beaches made it abundantly clear that disposing of our waste responsibly simply isn't enough.  What we need to do is make less waste.

We need to start saying no to plastic.

I know this journey is easier for me than for some because I live away from the temptation of consumerism and in the face of the plastic tide - a steady reminder as to why this is important.

But we all need to be more mindful about the amount of waste - plastic and otherwise - we are churning out.  It's important for all of us to remember that when we put something in the bin it doesn't go "away".

I have been making attempts to cut single use items out of my life and reduce my overall consumption - of plastic, of clothes, of products.  If you have any tips or tricks to help me on my way I'd love to hear from you!

Let's do this together!


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