By Jenny Lindsay
I have to admit, I was a bit daunted, attending the Zero Waste Festival in Brunswick on 5 August. I’m so far from zero on my waste reduction journey, it’s not funny, and I only started making a dent in Plastic-Free July. But what a high-energy, positive crowd it was. Participants were generous with their ideas for how to consume more responsibly.
The event promised practical solutions to fight the war on waste, that could be taken into everyday lives, and did not disappoint. Even as I was just learning what the battlefields were, there were a lot of people around who were keen to share their tools for tackling this problem.
Changing the products we use/buy
Coffee lovers unite! If you’re concerned about millions of coffee pods going to landfill each day, then reusable coffee pods will be a welcome revelation. Along with keep cups, reusable water bottles and cloth nappies, it’s possible to keep doing what we’re doing in a more sustainable way. Changing the nature of the items we buy, from disposables to reusables, which are thoughtfully designed and high quality, will ensure they last longer, reduce waste, and in the long term save us money. Hooray!
Keeping things circulating in the community
Thanks to the convenience of cheap products in discount stores, we’re throwing things out at an amazing rate. If things break, who has the time or skill these days to repair them? Manufacturer servicing is expensive, may as well get a new one. So community Repair Cafés are valuable initiatives, sharing skills to keep the repair knowledge alive, and saving waste from landfill. Even more than saving money, volunteer fixers are reclaiming valuable treasures held onto for generations. The panel discussion by regional Repair Cafe Coordinators revealed great insight into the challenges and rewards of establishing a Repair Cafe in their communities. With the support of local community centres or neighbourhood houses providing a venue, setting up a repair centre can be relatively easy.
"In Conversation with the Growing Repair Movement" panel discussion at the Zero Waste Festival (Left to right: Marie Beale, Ringwood Repair Café; Elsie L’Huillier, Bendigo Repair Cafe; Sarah Race, Southern Peninsula Repair Cafe; David Clarey, Seymour Repair Café; Michelle Fisher, Melbourne Repair Café; Erin Rhoads, Zero Waste Victoria)
Tool libraries and toy libraries enable people to access things on a loan basis that they would otherwise need to buy and then are left under-utilised, cluttering the home. Clothes swaps are a wonderful way of re-using what we have. (The unclaimed clothes on the day went on to do more good at Fitted for Work, an organisation helping women with pre- and post-employment programs).
Moving on from this idea of keeping things circulating in the community instead of more purchasing, Sharing Shed Melbourne aims to share a library of things (tools, toys, recreation equipment, home appliances etc) plus sharing skills and knowledge through workshops. Watch this space for progress on planning for this initiative. Community support is welcomed - people and organisations who might be able to contribute skills, materials or other resources can reach out to the team here.
Upcycling, recycling, and more “closing the loop” ideas
“Everything old is new again” didn’t make sense to me until looking into upcycling activities. Rescuing items before they’re sent to landfill, and making something new, is an amazing skill that I appreciate all the more because I don’t have it. Our friends at Boomerang Bags do, taking fabric scraps and creating striking new reusable bags – brightening my day with happy colours, plus saving me from that awful dilemma of what to do at the grocers or supermarket checkout! Using food leftovers was also covered at the festival, although I wish I’d taken more time to learn these tips. I’m alarmed at how much I throw out sometimes, and I’d love some creative ideas for how to up-cycle bits and pieces into new meals at the end of the week’s groceries! Next time, . .
For those paying attention, there are countless ways to improve our consumption habits, whether changing our purchasing choices or using what we have differently. Adopting some changes one at a time can end up saving money and the planet. And that’s a Zero Waste target worth fighting for.
These were my highlights, and information about all the Zero Waste exhibitors can be found here: http://zerowastevictoria.org/zero-waste-festival/
If you are in a position to support Zero Waste Victoria's endeavours to tackle waste through education, workshops and advocacy, get in touch with the team at http://zerowastevictoria.org or join the discussion on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ZeroWasteVictoria/.
Michelle Fisher is the founder and coordinator of the Melbourne Repair Cafe (Inner West). She is more comfortable wielding pens than tools and welcomes contributions from those who can wield one or the other or both! Please send submissions to the Melbourne Repair Cafe's email address..
Jenny Lindsay is a seeker of sustainable lifestyle solutions who regularly helps out on the Repair Café registration desk. Jenny is the founder of Connectjen virtual assistant which offers copywriting, marketing and admin support for businesses committed to challenging the status quo.