I wasn't always this aware of my impact on the Planet

creative activist ~ environmental servant

And still have so much more to learn. But even in the time I have lived a waste free existence I have seen enormous growth the culture surrounding “Zero Waste” or Waste Free Living. Even 5 or 6 years ago there was little information shared on the issue of waste and environmental living. It was odd to use a reusable container or ask for a straw-free drink.

I was raised to call myself an environmentalist. 'Eco Friendly'.  My family taught me to recycle, take 4 minute showers and avoid certain fast food chains. They spoke out for the environment, cared for wildlife and had a giant, steamy compost pile in the backyard. I remember my Mum wrote a song to stop the government from damming the Mary river that played on radio. 

I had a patchwork approach to my environmental efforts with an ocean of viewpoints and beliefs swirling in my mind. I had a strong stand on certain things, but half-cooked ideas on others. Living only by the ‘facts’ I was taught, it never dawned on me that these opinions weren’t my own, they were inherited from my parents and teachers. The ‘Environmental’ label blinded me from searching for the truth myself.

In Uni I began to see my flaws. I started to see the unsustainable ingredients I was consuming, the plastic I was using, the pointless things I was buying, the fossil fuel I was burning and the self-involved mentality I had been carrying my whole life. The way I thought life was, was just option A: the only option most of us are shown, giving the average person a happy life filled with convenience and material things, feeding consumer industries. The moment we look beyond ourselves, we see the destruction option A has caused. 

Jack Tran Photography

I stopped consuming single-serve packaged food and beverages; processed treats like protein bars, tinned foods, bottled juices, tofu and tubs of berries. I still bought packets of things like rice, oil and noodles. Then I discovered bulk stores and that none of my food needed to come in plastic.

My determination to cut waste skyrocketed. I rapidly acquired skills, knowledge and restraint; making things from scratch, cutting out long-standing favourites, finding unpackaged versions of my staples, and resisting the temptation of discounts. I was done with asking so much from the Planet. And I never looked back.

I have been through your challenges and understand the work involved in a lifestyle shift. At first it was frustrating and inconvenient. I knew no one else who lived this way, I felt isolated and found all the answers myself. I remember feeling like a burden when eating out; embarrassed to ask for things to be done differently or explain to friends why I'd do or not do something. It felt silly and pointless, especially when comparing my impact to the massive wastage of large companies. People saw me as this cute little dance student with a new hobby to live in an eco friendly way. And this depleted me further. My heart was breaking as I learnt more about the destruction of our planet and saw almost nobody doing anything about it.

Leslie Liu Photography

If I kept this mindset it would probably still be difficult for me to live like this now. The ‘work’ is mental; shifting your mindset, embodying compassion and remembering why you are doing this. This behavioural change is an end product of aligning to your values and realisating your consumer power. “It must be so hard to do that” ---hard? To live consciously, happily and simply without contributing to one of the most destructive issues our planet has ever faced? 

As I delved deeper, dissecting every element of how I lived, I removed everything that made me feel guilty. I broke things down into their simplest forms, always questioning what is necessary. I learned to see. For the first time.

Australia is moving quickly; integrating conscious practices amid so many industries. The growth of the Waste-Free Living movement means you are joining a supportive community of knowledge sharing and empowerment. My vision is to spread knowledge with others to inspire and evoke positive change. I am lucky to share this intention with my incredible partner, Ché, who lifts me up and walks alongside me in this quest to make the world a better place. This would not be what it is without him.