TRASH TRIBE: Cape York, 2015

In 2015, we took a group of young designers, artists, musicians and environmentalists to remote Chilli Beach in Cape York to conduct a massive beach clean up.

The days were long and hot, the rubbish heavy, and the remote location meant that showers weren’t an option. But despite all this, the crew had an amazing time — sharing laughs, smiles and impromptu dance breaks for six days straight. In total the group removed 3.1 tonnes of marine debris, including 48,674 plastic fragments, 15,267 bottle lids, 2,305 thongs, 2,004 plastic bottles, 1,563 metres of rope, and 1 playground slide. Each item removed was sorted and recorded for the Australian Marine Debris Database, so we can learn where this rubbish is coming from and develop policies to stop the flow of plastics into our oceans.

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Hi Lex, tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where do you call home now, and what do you love doing?

Well, I grew up in Virginia Beach, a city on the East Coast of the US with a long surfing history but lack of quality waves. So as soon as I could I was off searching for waves everywhere from Puerto Rico to Hawaii to Florida. I studied graphic design at Uni, and started an amazing career in visual merchandising but the 9-5 lifestyle really got to me. That’s when this whole journey began; about 4 years ago when I quit my job in Florida, sold all my belongings and took off to see the world and pursue a career in styling. I did a few weeks in Tahiti, a month in Bali and then Byron Bay with the intention to keep going. But (as many do) when I got to Byron I fell in love, so I stuck around and started my blog, documenting my surf adventures and styling portfolio. Now I’m mostly just styling myself on the road and writing my travel stories as that’s been the most fulfilling and the part my followers connect with the most — living a minimalist lifestyle filled with experiences not things, and embracing different cultures while discovering beautiful waves around the globe. I’ve kind of become a surf glamping expert I suppose 🙂 Now I split my time between Byron Bay, LA, and wherever else I may be traveling.

We’ve followed you on Instagram for years for your style in the water and out, and recently we’ve been noticing your snapchats about trying to live plastic-free. What prompted you to start cutting out plastics from your lifestyle?

Thank you so much for the support 🙂 As a surfer I’ve always felt incredibly connected to the ocean and nature and always make any effort I can, no matter how small, to live a less convenient lifestyle in hopes to make a smaller environmental impact. Over the years I’ve noticed an increase in plastic EVERYWHERE, and on a recent trip to Samoa, I had the incredible opportunity to visit a completely uninhabited island, surrounded by crystal clear blue water and sky high palms. When I arrived I was horrified at the infestation of plastic that had washed up onto the shores of this isle in paradise. Actually seeing the span of bottles and wrappers spread across the pristine, white sand was what really hit home for me that I needed to make a more conscious effort than ever.

What has been the hardest part of trying to go plastic-free?

Travel. Sometimes when I’m in a third world country I have to drink bottled water so as not to get sick, or buy snacks with excess packaging or use takeaway cutlery. When resources are limited it’s much harder to minimise without access to the luxuries and stabilities at home. But I always try to be as prepared as possible and think of progress not perfection, making even the smallest efforts while on the road.

One thing we always succumb to is delicious cheeses wrapped in plastic – is there one plastic item or product that you just can’t seem to resist?

Hummus!! I don’t even have a kitchen much less a blender to make my own but I feel so guilty every time I buy it. It’s terrible! I always try to buy the biggest size possible so as to reduce the number of times I buy it… but man, that gets me every time haha.

What’s your one (or two) big tips for people who want to start ditching plastics?

1. Shop at Farmers Markets. Already you’re accomplishing two goals with that – reducing plastics as most things are left unwrapped AND supporting local agriculture and your community. We all wash our veggies before we eat them anyway, so just make the committed to NEVER buy another cucumber wrapped in that suctioned plastic wrap. I have to go with sometimes and it drives me crazy (I am obsessed with cucumber) but I do it because it’s a small sacrifice for me and, in conjunction with all the other sacrificers out there, is making a huge difference.

2. Be prepared – carry with you al ALL times a large water bottle (I recommend Hydroflack or Mizu), a couple of mason jars (one small, one big) and some reusable bags. That way you have no excuse, even for those spontaneous trips to the store, to not be able to reduce the use of at lease one plastic container.

Many people think that you have to completely alter your lifestyle to start going plastic-free, do you feel like your lifestyle has changed much?

I wish I could say “No way! It’s super easy! You won’t even notice!” But the whole point is that we’ve become addicted to convenience, so yes, there are ways that my lifestyle has changed and that’s a GREAT thing! Choosing ethics over availability is a lifestyle change I am happy to embrace, but some people may not want to live without cucumber for a week (doubtful…I’m sure I’m the only weirdo in that category) or carry bags and jars around with them everywhere. But the point is also that ANY effort is a good one, no matter how big or small. So for someone who wants to take steps to integrate plastic-free techniques it’s definitely achievable on even the smallest scale. There are so many ways in which I can still make the right call when I’m unprepared or even just feeling lazy. Next time you’re at the store, ask yourself, is there a brand of chips that wraps in paper rather than plastic? Buy that. (And the answer is yes, it’s Mission and they’re organic and only use 3 ingredients 😉 If you’re out and about and are desperate for water buy VOSS or San Pellegrino which use glass bottles. It’s all about awareness and taking the time to look for alternatives.

You’re often travelling around the world, do you find it hard to integrate environmentally-conscious habits into your life when on the road?

Yeah, for sure. I often have to eat more foods in wrappers and bags and don’t always have access to clean water to fill up my bottle. But I still always bring them with me for the times I do, as well as reusable cutlery and I’m proud to say I’m living 100% straw free. Never touching one of those silly things again!

Are there any brands you love at the moment that are reducing plastic waste or doing something else to keep the planet happy and healthy?

Byron Bay based brand Afends is killing it with their warehouse shipp ing techniques. I’ve worked in fashion a long time and every brand has always sent their garments from the warehouse to the stockist wrapped in plastic. But Afends is now using a 100% biodegradable packaging made from cornstarch. It’s incredible! Also LA based brand GREENLEE Swim make killer swimwear from fabric made of 98% recycled water bottles. The styles are amazing for surfing and you’d be shocked at the quality. Finally, what’s your favourite natural part of the world that inspires you to live sustainably? The ocean, of course, is my biggest catalyst for action. She is truly a Mother I feel passionate about protecting, and the joy she brings me every single day is a gift I try to never take for granted. Also trees leave me inspired and enamoured. The multiple functions of a left alone – providing shade, nourishment, water capture, food for its inhabitants – gives me hope that as humans we can learn from these multidimensional resources and create our own that contribute to the planet, not abuse it.


Follow Lex on snapchat for coastal adventures and plastic-free tips: lex_weinstein
Instagram: @lexweinstein_