1. THE BAG IT MOVIE

It was about 7-8 years ago that I was invited to see ‘The Bag It’ movie/documentary with my housemate in Newcastle, presented by Tim  from Take 3 who was raising funds to explore more of the great ocean garbage patch. http://www.bagitmovie.com/

It showed me a side to our consuming ways which I had never considered before.  I was horrified! All the lies from the marketeers, all the ‘natural products’ that I was told were good for me, all the plastic toys and packaging we get automatically when we shop – it was unreal and endless.

2. SEEING IT FOR MYSELF

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After seeing ‘The Bag It’ movie it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a business on the Cocos Keeling Islands for years which is right in the middle of the Indian Ocean gyre and I had never considered the litter that was there before.

Sure, we used to have fun with all the washed up thongs; trying to find a pair to scramble over the coral to snorkel, or make beautiful artworks out of the ropes entangled in the old palm trees and around rocks floating shallow in the lagoon, but this was all fun and games until now.

A few months after seeing the movie I went back to the Cocos Islands with fresh eyes. I couldn’t believe it. I no longer could blame just the Asian countries for littering, there were items on the beach that we all have in our own households too.

3. CHANGING MY DIET FOR HEALTH REASONS.

Stress, anxiety, travel & partying too hard were all the things that lead me to re-assess my diet and it was not until I took a good look at the ingredients in our ‘food’ that I realised it was all pumped full of crap – preservatives, sugars, fats, stabilizers, gums, chemicals, flavours and a whole lot of fake stuff!

Over time I realised that the ‘Eat Healthy’ diet was pretty much all plastic-free.

I lost weight, my skin cleared up, I was doing regular poos each day and I was throwing away less single use plastic.

4. BEING A SURFER

MS_CKI13 (147)I spend a lot of the time in the ocean and these days it’s not uncommon for me to scoop up a floating lolly wrapper in the line-up and stuff it down my wetsuit. It’s the ocean and rivers that we see most of the rubbish. But the funny thing is, there is actually more under the sea than on top it it.

Imagine all the bottles with their lids off. Containers so heavy they sink or 1000’s of km’s of synthetic ropes cut free from fishing vessels.

Once it is there it’s too late. Cleaning up the rubbish is great… but where does it go then? Back to landfill, or the ocean. Its a viscous cycle that I hate the idea of being part of.

5. SEEING A TURTLE WITH A STRAW STUCK UP ITS NOSE

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Normally I can’t do it… watch animals suffer. But this time I sat through nearly 2 minutes of gut-wrenching footage to watch a turtle be relived of a plastic straw jammed right up its nose.

Now for me; it’s a matter of intercepting the café staff before they automatically assume I want a straw with my drink.

Watch for your chance to quit straws. 

6. IDENTIFYING ALL PLASTIC AS MY OWN

Just like the Buddhists see all animals and other humans as their re-incarnated dead relatives, I see all single use plastic (ready to be thrown away or already rubbish) as something I might have once consumed.

I never want to feel responsible for trashing our environment and once I saw it…

I could never un-see it.

7. DESIGNING HAPPY POLLUTION POSTERS

My friend once asked me to design a poster for the local Surfriders beach clean up day of the affects plastic rubbish had on the environment. The brief was…

“I’d like something other than dead or tortured animals because I think people are immune to that now and we need another way to educate them”

So I went the opposite way and had them celebrating, juxtaposed and enjoying there new fashion.

Funny enough though; once finished and presented, someone else asked me…

“Could you make the animals look a little sadder about it”

I Just can’t win!

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[ Meet all the gang in my campaigns page]

8. FINDING OUT THAT ‘RECYCLING’ IS NOT ACTUALLY A THING

I needed to know the facts if I was going to preach. I was sick of people saying – ‘yeah but I recycle my plastic’… but it just didn’t feel right.

As I dug deeper I found a report of the National Plastics Recycling Survey 2012-13 and as a studious sleuth, I uncovered some facts about our recycling habits and processes in Australia.

I found out that of all the ‘recycling’ (it’s actually re-processing or down-cycling) we put outside on our curb for collections that only 20% has the potential to be down-cycled.  That means the rest goes to land fill here in Australia or shipped to places like China for ‘re-processing’ (or dumping).

9. WORKING IN A KIDS CLOTHING & GIFT STORE

I couldn’t believe the amount plastic toys, clothes, bags, jewelry, packing boxes, tapes, strings and packers were used in retail.

Oh my God – it really was a shock!

EVERY piece of clothing or tiny nik-knack no matter how small was individually wrapped in plastic, mounted in plastic, packed in plastic, boxed together in plastic, had a plastic display mount and sent in plastic. It didn’t even matter if the toy was wood, bamboo, organic or promoted as ‘environmentally friendly’. This meant thousands of bin’s worth of waste was being thrown out even before the product was purchased.

Now when I want new clothes or ‘things’, I know they’ve arrived at the shop pre-packaged in bulk and quite often with single use plastic coat hangers to boot. So these days I really have to want it or spend the day op-shopping for clothes that don’t make me look like a flat-out hippy.

(FYI – it can be done).

10. I LOVE A GOOD CHALLENGE

There is nothing I love more than a challenge or an opportunity to better myself. These days my partner and I are constantly searching and finding new ways to be plastic free. Even competing with it sometimes.

Plastic Free July was a lot of fun last year when I challenged myself to purchase and ship to the Cocos Islands as little plastic as possible for my kite tours. I found this near on impossible, but I certainly gave myself a challenge that encouraged me to re-think what I bought and how to get it there.

Shopping in bulk, sourcing wholefood outlets, checking out the locals markets or purchasing good glass kitchenware to save food for longer once there were all the things I tried.

Its was fun and I think the guests all appreciated the healthy food and positive affect we were all trying to achieve.


What are some things that have made you reduce your use of throw-away plastics?

I’d love to hear from you.

Jen.