Are Plastic Straw Bans Creating More Harm Than Good?

If you’ve found yourself on our website, undoubtedly, you want to help create a world with clean oceans and waterways. Like us, you want our global community to stop treating plastic, a highly durable material, as something that is ‘disposable’. You want a society that is conscious of its impact on this planet, and acts accordingly.

We want that too.

Like the rest of the community fighting to rid out world of plastic pollution, we agree that plastic straws are, for the most part, unnecessary and incredibly harmful to our planet. Over the past four years, we’ve collected thousands of straws on Australian beaches. We’ve ‘strawkled’ with Operation Straw in Manly Harbour. We’ve even created our own reusable straws to help individuals and businesses move away from plastic straws.

‘Just ban them already!’ were words that frequently left our lips, and to us it was as simple as that. But when we learned that proposed plastic straw bans were a cause for concern for those in our community living with disability, or recovering from injury, we realised we had been inadvertently approaching this issue from a very ‘ableist’ perspective.

Fortunately, recent Trash Tribe volunteer and Founder of Nature Freedom, Mathew Townsend opened our eyes to how outright bans on plastic straws will exclude individuals who suffer from a wide-range of disabilities and rely on the use of plastic straws to eat, drink, and live independently.

Why Plastic?

For people living with disability or recovering from injury, the flexibility, low cost, and accessibility of plastic straws, makes them the number one choice in comparison to today’s more sustainable alternatives.

In other words, with paper straws becoming soggy and a potential chocking hazard, metal and bamboo straws being rigid and hazardous for individuals who have mobility issues or difficulty controlling their bite, and biodegradable straws being deemed unsuitable for beverages over 37 degrees celsius, plastic straws remain the only practical solution for people with disabilities.

Therefore, banning plastic straws from restaurants, bars and cafes, without an interchangeable alternative already in place, would lead to unintended consequences and additional hardships and costs for members of the disabled community.

Have we been unintentionally excluding people by helping hospitality venues ditch plastic straws? Not exactly the conscious and caring world we had been striving to create.

What can we do?

Disability advocates aren’t calling for us to keep plastic straws around forever. Instead, groups around the world are challenging large businesses to invest in the research and development of a widely accessible and sustainable substitute that appeals to both the objective of the environmentalist and the necessity of those with disabilities. A straw that doesn’t exclude people, but also doesn’t damage the environment. Alternatively, instead of bans, they are calling for ‘straws on request’ programs to cut down on plastic straw usage in venues.

After all, when it’s all boiled down, large companies do have the power and means to create an inclusive community. This change merely comes down to a willingness to invest time and money into a more sustainable product.

Needless to say, we all need to continue to fight for a plastic-free future, however let’s not lose sight of the bigger picture in our campaigns and proposed solutions. While outright bans are the quickest way to force behavioural change, perhaps we need to take a slower route to ensure inclusivity.

If you’re joining us in our fight to protect the environment, I urge you to keep your eyes and ears open, be willing to listen to different perspectives, and be ready to change your idea of a solution. We need to fight to protect the environment for future generations, but let’s ensure that we’re also fighting to create a world that is inclusive of all people.

To learn more about this issue from people living with disabilities themselves, please read the articles below:


We would love to hear your thoughts and opinions on this issue!

Trash Tribe 2018: Chilli Beach

 

We cram in our vehicles and drive two days to Cape York, a large remote peninsula in far North Queensland.  The beaches are breathtaking and the water is crisp, but taking a closer look, the issue became clear; the largest unspoiled wilderness area in northern Australia is littered with plastic. Soon, that’s all you can see.

 

“Every direction you looked there was rubbish of every kind scattered…every piece of rubbish picked up revealed another. It was easy to spend 30-45 minutes sitting in the same spot, meticulously picking everything around you.” – Sam D.

 

Days were long but stoke was high. After a quick cup of coffee and group debrief, we take to the beach, splitting up into groups of “collectors” and “sorters”. With the help of our partner organisation, Tangaroa Blue, we begin collecting data on what types of plastics we are finding on this remote beach.

The final day of our trip, a storm hits Chilli Beach, bringing with it a large wave of new plastic littering our freshly cleaned beach. Whether brought by the ocean or hidden under the sand that got washed away with the tide, hearts are heavy as we realise the 3.6 tonnes of rubbish we had removed from the beach, was only a temporary fix. This storm is a harsh reality check, but only further fuels our desire to one day rid the ocean of plastic pollution.

 

“I think the largest impact the trip had on me was just how far ocean debris can travel before landing on the Australian coast. We were able to identify which country certain plastic bottles came from by the labels and markings still visible on the side. Some of the bottles and rubbish had come as far as Fiji and Indonesia…it highlights that ocean pollution is a world problem and not just about changing our own habits but for the world population to also look at re-education of what consumables we use and how we dispose of them.” – Sean W. 

 

We all came from diverse backgrounds, carrying our own frustrations regarding plastic pollution, and sharing a deeply rooted appreciation for nature. Although, recruiting like-minded individuals is the easy part. The real question is, how about those who have never had access to nature? How do we instill a love for and desire to protect the places that fail to hold significance for many individuals?

 

“It is definitely hard to explain to people…people are interested but they can’t really understand unless they’ve seen it. Also, all my friends here in Asia live in massive mega-cities where they have never seen a national park or a uncrowded beach, so it’s hard for them to understand the intrinsic value of and love for the environment… I think I will need to concentrate…on not getting bogged down by the scale of the problem and giving up, but staying motivated to inspire change in all factions of society.” – Ciara G. 

 

Speaking with our Trash Tribe post-trip, the final message is clear: we can’t just do cleanups and expect change.  All the plastic and rubbish we pick up today will simply be replaced by more tomorrow. Change has to come from the source. So don’t get discouraged! Focus on the small changes you can make, educate those around you who are willing to learn, take more people outside and allow them to fall in love with the places you want to protect. It’ll take time, but don’t worry, we’re already on our way to the #cleancoastlife.


Data Sample:

Total Weight: 3,646 Kilos

Plastic fragments: 57,185

Bottle lids: 12,763

Rubber thongs: 614

Plastic bottles: 1,965

Rope & Nets: 1,486


Want to get involved? Click here to learn more about our Application process! 

 

Huge thank you to Patagonia Byron Bay for funding this years exhibition through their Environmental Grants Program!

Photo: @hutchcroft
Photo: @hutchcroft
Photo: @hutchcroft
Photo: @woodchopwood
Photo: @ellerykr
Photo: @woodchopwood

 

Photo: @woodchopwood

 

Clean Coast Muse: Annabelle Noelle of Belle the Label

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

Hello! I am from a small town in Northern California named Mill Valley and I now reside in Santa Cruz, California. Surfing is one of my biggest passions and and I do it as often as possible. I also love taking film photos and videos, growing flowers and veggies, dancing, designing clothes, exploring my beautiful surroundings and connecting with like-minded individuals.

You’re a full time student, business owner, surfer, gardener, artist, lover, friend…the list goes on! What does a typical day look like for you balancing it all?

Ah, you know… it really isn’t perfected yet. Maybe from the outside it seems meticulously calculated and planned, but believe me it’s not. I’m a full time student and my classes and school schedule change quarterly, so time management is challenging. I use breaks in between classes to work on projects for my clothing company. Sometime during the day I try to get a surf in or some form of exercise and that keeps me healthy and grounded.  I love my job, so spending a lot of my downtime working on my company is fun and challenging, never a chore.

The projects I concentrate on everyday are variable, but I love planning out future photo shoots, scouting out locations and models, planning our Instagram posts and sketching out future designs. Whenever a new line is going to be released I do have to plan everything very precisely in advance like photoshoots, website design, social media marketing and then there will be new planning for the next line as soon as the current one drops! I try to do as much as I can, but sometimes I’m super overwhelmed especially if I have deadlines for work and school, but it is usually manageable.

Your line, Belle The Label, incorporates your California coastal roots and environmentally conscious lifestyle into a fashion line…what inspired you to start Belle and maintain sustainable and ethical practices?

The fashion industry and the immediate-gratification consumerist culture that accompanies it creates a marketplace that does not align with my ethics. Fast fashion is extremely bad for the environment, so when I made the decision that I wanted to be apart of this industry I really wanted to find a way that didn’t harm the earth. I wanted to make pieces that are inspired by the earth, made from organic materials like linen and cotton that are plant dyed and can biodegrade and use recycled materials and deadstock fabric. I am really inspired by the land that creates all of the materials that the clothing is made of. I want to learn everything about the process, kind of like farm to table for fashion. I am inspired to learn more about the whole process start to finish of how pieces are made, and how to make them in the least impactful way and teach others.

I started my company with my mom a few years ago with no background in business or knowledge of the fashion industry. I immersed myself in learning design and taught myself everything else I needed to know along the way. I just loved every aspect of it, so I never had any apprehension or fear of failing. I just looked at it as a creative and fun learning experience. I  guess starting out small and growing into my business helped to keep me centered too. I have always been an environmental advocate but going to University of Santa Cruz I have learned so much about sustainability and environmentalism that has inspired me to be very conscious in my business practices. Ultimately, I want to do no harm in my business and instead help and inspire.

I hope that my efforts in making my business sustainable will help lead other small businesses in the right direction. When I started out I would try to talk to other business owners, but not that many were helpful, forcing me to learn mostly everything on my own. Now that I have my own business I am very open to being transparent and sharing what I have learned along the way with other small brands that are trying to find their way.

It has been fun, I’ve talked with other small brands a lot about reducing our impact and sharing our methods and the  factories that we use. I think being secretive in the fashion world is pushing other businesses back, I’d rather be open and teach others to change fast fashion methods then being selfish and keeping my knowledge all to myself.

Can you give us some examples of how you and your line incorporate sustainable practices into everyday life?  

Currently our swim and surf wear are made in Bali using a fabric called Econyl which is made from post consumer recycled materials like fishing nets and plastic waste. It is so soft, thick, UV resistant, I wouldn’t use any other fabric now. This year our clothing is starting to be made from all organic materials like cotton, linen, bamboo and soon we will be transitioning to plant dying everything. Our pieces are made with a lot of attention to detail and care, intentionally constructing them with the idea that they will last for a lifetime. We want people to like their pieces so much that they don’t get rid of them after the trend season ends.

We have taken the time to get to know the people who make our goods, and we are proud to know that our factory and team maintains equal high standards of ethics and environmental responsibility that align with our brand. We love our manufacturers so much. It is a small team, only around fifteen people total, and they are one big family. The best part about is that they are transitioning into being zero waste! They take all of their fabric scraps and turn them into pillows and donate them to organizations throughout Indonesia. We are constantly collaborating and inspiring each other about sustainable methods in making garments, it is a really amazing set up.

What has been the biggest inspiration for you to begin cutting out plastics from your life?

There are a multitude of reasons that I am influenced by, but I was initially inspired by Lauren Singer’s “Trash is for Tossers” video where she shows how she reduced her waste to fit into a small mason jar over the course of a year. After viewing that I became extremely excited that there were so many simple things I could do to reduce my waste. Traveling and seeing the amount of trash around the world, completely infesting  the oceans that I cherish has had a tremendous impact on conscious consumerism as well. I want to tread lightly and treat the earth as gentle as I can, so I’ve started incorporating it into my everyday life to do my part.

I am not completely plastic free yet, but I am really striving because I deeply care about my impact on the environment and hope to inspire and show others how simple it can be to make the small changes to reduce your waste!

I think of Santa Cruz as a much colder, less tropical Byron Bay…with its beautiful coastline, long point break waves and untouched rolling hills. Has being surrounded by all of this natural goodness contributed to your desire to be environmentally conscious both in your own life and in your business?

Absolutely. Most of my inspiration stems from the raw beauty that surrounds me. I want to make sure I am not harming the beautiful land that is providing me with happiness, my food, all the resources I use daily, and the materials I make my clothing with.

What are the steps you’ve taken and the biggest challenges you have had to face with making the transition to a plastic-free lifestyle?

Here are some super easy and affordable steps I am taking to reduce my plastic intake & my carbon footprint in my personal life

  • Replacing plastic bottled water with a reusable water bottle that I take everywhere with me!
  • Shop at the farmers market to get delicious, organic, locally grown produce while reducing my carbon footprint & food miles
  • Grow your own food!
  • Take reusable bags to the market + grocery store
  • Don’t put your produce in plastic bags at the grocery store!
  • Ask for no plastic straws or cutlery when eating out and buying drinks
  • Carry around your own set of bamboo cutlery and straws to have on the go
  • Bring reusable thermal mug/cup for coffee or tea
  • Bring your own tupperware when you eat out
  • Try to avoid packaged food when grocery shopping and replace it with something you can make yourself!
  • Make your own cleaning supplies with ingredients you’ve purchased from bulk store like baking soda + vinegar
  • Invest in wash cloths and dish rags for cleaning that can be washed and reused instead of paper towels
  • Buy in bulk as much as you can! Try to find a local bulk food store and bring your own glass containers
    • This step can be challenging because a lot of my favorite foods are packaged like baked tofu, vegan field roast, protein bars, and bitchin’ sauce. So while I mostly only buy produce these are hard for me to replace, but I have given up a lot of my favorites and have started making my own sauces + cheeses.

You’re always planting and harvesting food and flowers in your backyard garden, which is a great way to get plastic free goods and connect you back to the earth! When did you become interested in growing your own food?

Realizing how easily I can grow an abundance of delicious, fresh, produce has catalyzed my interest in gardening. The last few years I have become obsessed with permaculture, I want to learn everything about it. The food you grow is special, it is your little dance with the earth. A small creation you feel proud of, something you created harmoniously with nature. It tastes better, it is more accessible, and so fun. I have always wanted my own farm.

You’re a uni student on a uni student’s budget, do you have any tips for others trying to reduce their impact while saving money?

Yes! I think if you make the initial investment in the tips I’ve listed above then everything after that should be relatively inexpensive.

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?

So many! Off the top of my head…

@trashisfortossers

@surfriderfoundation

@everlane

@the_wylde

@jessekamm

@patagonia

@psychadelic_honey

@kassiasurf

@lifewithoutplastic

 

See what else Annabelle & her label are up to on Instagram– 

@annabellenoelle 

@bellethelabel

And check out this video highlighting Belle The Label’s new ‘Poppy Surf Suit’ seen on surfer Sarah Brady in Fiji

 

Organic Crew: fashion that treads lightly

Introducing another partner for this year’s Trash Tribe expedition to Chilli Beach – the wonderful folk over at Organic Crew. You may have noticed our tribe rocking the beautiful organic cotton tees that Organic Crew created for the expedition. Read more about the brand below.

We love the story behind Organic Crew – can you tell us how you went from working in the corporate world to starting a sustainable, ethical and organic clothing brand?

The seed was planted when I was quite young and working at Esprit with a visionary leader who cared. His name was John Bell and he taught me that you had to be mindful of every part of the process and do as little harm as possible (to the environment, animals and people) whilst creating beautiful product.  More recently, I have worked for some larger corporates and seen firsthand the effects of fast fashion – I wanted to create a brand that manufactured the right way, stood for something, and inspired and educated.

Tell us why organic cotton is so important for the health of our planet and our bodies?

The way organic cotton is grown is better for the planet, the animals and the people who tend to the crops. The process uses way less water and the waste is clean. The effect of organic cotton on our bodies is non-toxic, which is so important as reducing the volume of toxins we are exposed to on a daily basis is important. You need to do what you can.

Do you think there is a trend towards more companies using organic textiles, or is there still a long way to go?

Prior to starting Organic Crew, I ran a cold pressed juice company and could see the growth of organic in the food industry. I think there is a movement happening where people now care about what goes into their food and onto their skin. So the movement has started with food, then moved to skincare and now clothing. The skin is the largest organ in the body and therefore can absorb the most chemicals. People are beginning to understand the differences and effects.

Melbourne was the original hub of Australian fashion, why was it so important for you to produce your garments in Melbourne rather than offshore?

It was very important as I needed to be able visit the factory and oversee what was happening at every point. We have just been accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia who have very strict guidelines on the use of labour and conditions. I wanted complete transparency and having a factory located in Melbourne made this possible. It was also so nice to go “old school” in our approach. I grew up working in fashion and to be able to give these local factories the work when so many go offshore felt so good. One of our garment workers has been sewing in our factory for 38 years! Plus the quality is amazing, you will see this in our garments, they are made with love!

What advice would you give to other brands wanting to start using more sustainable textiles or produce in Australia?

It is possible and there are so many options in terms of materials. The margins are obviously lower given the local production but the quality is amazing and the people are so great to work with. It is definitely a growth category and demand is rising. I know our factory makes many well known Australian brands with more coming on board every day.

Lastly, why did you want to support the Trash Tribe expedition as a brand partner?

We are passionate about the environment and making a small difference where we can. We heard about the Trash Tribe whilst on holiday in Byron Bay and wanted to help in any way we could. Our beaches are the best in the world and we all need to look after the country we are so blessed to live in. We are so grateful that we could contribute to this initiative and hope that education and awareness will lead to cleaner beaches in the future.

@mishkusk wearing @organic.crew at Chilli Beach, Cape York

Surf Collective: supporting independent labels

There was a time when the surf retail industry was dominated by the big name brands, but now we see more and more smaller independent brands emerging – brands that care for the environment, brands that are more interested in slow fashion, brands run by surfers like you and me!

We spoke to one of our partners, Surf Collective, about how they’re supporting small independent surf brands.

 

Firstly, can you share with us the inspiration and story behind Surf Collective?
We were inspired to launch Surf Collective with a very simple, clear ambition… to promote and support smaller, independent Aussie surf brands. Our purpose is to provide these brands a greater voice, by connecting them to each other in one place, so customers all over the world can more easily find them. We’d noticed a number of small surf brands at local markets with some really amazing products. And whilst most had their own website, they struggled to reach critical mass and move beyond being a side gig. So at the end of 2015 we launched with just 12 small brands and now, less than 2 years later, have over 75 brands on board – across fashion, art, jewellery and hardware.

There certainly seems to be more smaller independent surf brands on the scene these days – have you seen a shift in the surf industry with more of these brands emerging? Or are we just more aware of them now?

I believe there are more of these smaller independent surf brands these days and hopefully we are contributing to people being more aware of them too! Technology such as the web and e-commerce have certainly helped budding entrepreneurs cost effectively get their businesses off the ground and into distant markets. Culturally too, people have changed. There is increasing consumer interest in an organisation’s philosophy – where their products are made, what environmental impact they have, what the quality is like and how profits are utilised. You only have to look at the growing popularity of Farmers’ markets around Australia to see evidence of this.

Do you think the average surfer is increasingly looking to support and engage with smaller brands these days?

I do…though not necessarily because the brands are small but because of what they are motivated by. The ‘average surfer’, like most people, wants to feel engaged and enjoy an emotional connection with a brand. To feel appreciated as a customer and know there is an interesting story behind the brand…that they care not just about making a profit but in making a difference. As companies grow they often lose sight of why they started in the first place – though Patagonia is a powerful exception to the rule! We’d like to think that as our collective grows, we will remain true to our
original brand ambition.

Not only does Surf Collective support independent brands, but you’re also encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs – can you tell us about your high school initiative?

Sure. Last year we approached our local high school, Barrenjoey High, and proposed a way we could help bring a subject to life for their students. The school was very receptive to the idea and suggested the Year 10 Business Studies class would be ideal. So we had the kids develop ideas for a surf-related product together with a marketing and business plan, with $2,000 up for grabs for the winner, to help bring his/her product to market. Some worked in a group and others individually. I spent some time in a few of the classes providing feedback before we put the kids in front of our
very own ‘Shark-Tank’ – a few of our local brand guys – to pitch their ideas. The eventual winner presented a great idea to recycle unwanted skateboard decks and convert them into wax combs – clever and environmentally responsible! We’re going to promote her idea on our website and in our retail collab, the Sneaky Grind Café, in Avalon Beach. The winner plans to make other products under her company, ‘The Coastal Upcycling Co. The program was so successful in engaging the kids
in their studies that we’re going to be repeating it next year!

You recently partnered with us to help fund our recent expedition to Cape York to remove over 7 tonnes of marine debris off a remote beach – why did Surf Collective want to be involved in this trip?

We just love what you guys are doing and we want to support causes that are close to our hearts and aligned with our brand philosophy. You’ve done an amazing job and we know it’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potential you have for meaningful change.

What can we expect to see next with Surf Collective?

We will continue to provide an online platform and new ways to support and promote our collective of amazing, independent brands. Each has a great story with products uniquely different to the mainstream offering. Our aim is to make more people aware of these brands and provide an easy
way to discover them. We’ll be doing more markets and events this coming summer and we’re also looking into some pop-up stores!

You can explore Surf Collective’s range of independent surf brands on their website: www.surfcollective.com.au

Trash Tribe 2017: Chilli Beach

Returning to Chilli Beach two weeks ago, we were excited for another week spent cleaning one of our favourite beaches in Australia.

Chilli Beach is a special place – it’s where we took our first Trash Tribe in 2015, and also ecologically an incredibly unique place. Situated on the east coast of the Cape York Peninsula, Chilli Beach is nestled amongst the rainforest of the Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park, a small patch of rainforest abundant with wildlife found on in that one park and in Papua New Guinea.

In 2015, the Trash Tribe helped removed over 3.1 tonnes of marine debris off the 6.7km long Chilli Beach. With our new Tribe in tow this year, we were expecting to only remove 2 tonnes – how mistaken we were.

By Day 3 of our clean up we had already tipped the scales at 3 tonnes and were only halfway through cleaning the beach. Spirits were low for the first time on the trip, with many of us realising that perhaps we wouldn’t even clean the entire beach this year. Fortunately our Tribe of passionate movers and shakers shook off the bad vibes and stepped on to the beach for the final two days with even more determination to get the job done.

By the end of Day 5 we had removed 7 tonnes of debris and pollution from Chilli Beach – what a bittersweet moment that was. The ocean was 7 tonnes lighter, but what the hell was it doing there in the first place?!

Our partner organisation, Tangaroa Blue, who coordinate the Chilli Beach clean up suspect that unusual weather events and increased sand erosion explains the spike in the amount of debris we collected this year. Whatever the cause, our Tribe returned home this week with renewed enthusiasm to spread the message of plastic-free living and keeping our oceans clean.

We cannot wait to share with you what they all create!

Here are some of the final numbers from this year’s clean up:

  • 1009 cigarette lighters
  • 2279 toothbrushes/combs/razors
  • 3204 bleach bottles
  • 3325 plastic drink bottles
  • 5547 thongs

Images by Jemma Scott.

The 2017 Trash Tribe expedition was made possible by our brand partners – Earth Bottles, Organic Crew, Camp Cove Swim, OceanZen Swim, Surf Collective, ECO. Modern Essentials and Dumbo Feather.

The Chilli Beach clean up is coordinated by Tangaroa Blue.

ECO. Modern Essentials: Natural Beauty

We’re a big believer in treading lightly on this planet and creating a lifestyle that is healthy for you and the environment. Here we chat with ECO. Modern Essentials, another supporter of this year’s Trash Tribe Cape York Expedition about natural beauty.

 

Tell us about ECO. Modern Essentials and the vision behind the brand.

ECO. Modern Essentials are the specialist in natural and organic oil formulations for face, body and wellbeing. The ECO. brand embodies women who are engaged with their world; are active, healthy and love to look after themselves with natural, local and organic products. We understand the need for women to have products they can trust; simple, natural, effective skincare that can be easily tied into their busy routines. Our products range from healing face serums to nourishing body oils, to pure essential oils to a certified organic baby range. We’ve also recently expanded further into the wellbeing category with a series of superfood powders! We are constantly innovating and always looking for what else we can bring to our customers and to the industry.

ECO. embodies vibrant, active and healthy living, so the brand goes further than just skincare, we want our customers to use our products as one of the many cornerstones to leading a healthy and natural life. We know how busy the modern woman is as well, so the ECO. brand is all about simplifying skincare regimes with effective, accessible products you can trust.

 

What we put on the outside of our body absolutely effects the inside of our body.

 

It’s scary some of the chemicals used in cosmetic products, why is it so important to use natural and organic products on our skin?

What we put on the outside of our body absolutely effects the inside of our body. More and more we are becoming aware of the kinds of food we eat and where they come from, as we understand the correlation that has with our physical wellbeing. However, it works the same way for the products we use on and around our body as well. I don’t believe we fully understand the impact nasty chemicals and ingredients are having on our bodies yet, but we know it’s not good.

 

Do you think there is an increase in the number of consumers seeking all-natural and organic products?

Absolutely. We have seen a huge shift in the number of consumers beginning to become more conscious in their purchasing decisions when it comes to skincare. We have particularly noticed this in other countries around the world – export is a huge part of the ECO. brand and we have noticed this only continue to grow as more people around the world begin to look for safe, natural alternatives for their family.

 

Why is it important for ECO to produce their products in Australia?

Made in Australia has always been the heart of the ECO. brand – there’s never been a question about moving it elsewhere. Besides supporting our local businesses and industries, manufacturing in Australia also ensures the best possible quality for our products.

 

ECO. has had numerous environmental initiatives previously, and is now also a supporter of this year’s Trash Tribe expedition to Cape York – why is it important for ECO. to support environmental projects? What are some of the initiatives you’ve supported in the past?

ECO. focuses on natural and organic ingredients and products, so caring about the outcome of the environment has been very important to us. We launched the ECO. Clean Beach Initiative in 2013, a national campaign aimed at educating young people about the issues facing our oceans and how they can be a apart of positive solutions. We have worked closely with a number of local grassroots organisations to support environmental conservation efforts.

It also comes down to the small decisions we make every day and being aware of the impact we’re having. This might be purchasing bottles that are of the highest recyclable grade, or supporting local businesses wherever possible.

 

Hopefully as more and more businesses switch to more eco-friendly options, it becomes more financially viable for everyone.

 

What challenges do you see businesses face in shifting away from plastic packaging? 

As a company, less than 10% of the products we produce are bottled in plastic. In the 2016/17 financial year we shipped over 1 million products in glass bottles, and only 90,000 in plastic. The plastic we use is of the highest recyclable grade possible. We are working on a new product collection as we speak and ensuring we have the least amount of packaging possible is at the top of the priority list.

In terms of more businesses reducing their plastic usage, I think that will ultimately come down to it being good business. As mush as many people want to make the right choices by the environment, we’re all fighting every day to keep our businesses alive and to do well, so it needs to be smart business too. Hopefully as more and more businesses switch to more eco-friendly options, it becomes more financially viable for everyone.

 

What positive changes would ECO. like to see in the Australian and international wellbeing industry?

We would love to see the shift in consumers moving to natural alternatives continue to increase. We would also love to see the continued growth of the “indie beauty” movement. There are more and more consumers looking to smaller brands and start-ups for their skincare and beauty products, rather than huge international brands with multi-million dollar marketing budgets. The indie beauty movement is good for everyone – it drives innovation, encourages collaboration, and increase awareness for natural and organic products.

 

You can check out the ECO. range on their website: www.ecoaroma.com.au

Earth Bottles: Stopping Plastic Pollution At The Source

We love Earth Bottles and they have been big supporters of our clean up expeditions for a long time. This year, they’re a brand partner for our 2017 Cape York Trash Tribe expedition. We spoke to the creator of Earth Bottles, Danni Carr, on her vision and passion for our oceans.

 

Tell us what inspired Earth Bottles.

Initially the idea for doing water bottles came about after many trips to Bali – we are always down on the beach and I was continually appalled by the amount of plastic water bottles on the beach and in the waterways. At the same time, I was looking for more eco friendly products for Ash’s merchandise (my husband is a musician) and decided it would be a great idea to do a really good quality water bottle. So, after some research I found the bottles I liked and had Ash’s logo printed on them. They sold so well that we decided I should start my own company with my own logo – and that’s pretty much how it started!

 

Just last week, our clean up partner organisation Tangaroa Blue removed over 10,000 plastic water bottles from a beach on the west coast of Cape York – with so many plastic bottles polluting our oceans and waterways, what keeps you hopeful about the state of our oceans and planet?

10,000!!! That’s INSANE! I feel that the more educated people get about the plastic pollution problem, the more people will be aware and start to make changes. People like you guys (Clean Coast Collective) and other organisations, music festivals, touring acts, and some councils are helping to make people aware of the damage that all this plastic is causing, to make better choices and to clean up – I’m very hopeful.

I think every little change can make a difference. We had a big spike in sales last month and (we live in Bali but) I am told that there has been some really great documentaries screening in Australia about plastic pollution – this is great and will help to get the message across to the wider community. So we can see that from those docos, that there are people making changes, which is great!

 

As a company trying to rid the world of single-use plastic bottles, do you think there is a trend towards consumers using reusable bottles?

Absolutely! There are heaps of awesome water bottles and eco-friendly companies out there making lots of great alternatives available for people. I notice more and more these days when we travel that people have their reusable water bottles in hand or are carrying reusable bags, much more than ten years ago. I think it’s pretty uncool to be seen with a plastic water or plastic shopping bag these days.

 

Besides offering an alternative to single-use plastic bottles, Earth Bottles supports a number of social and environmental causes – can you share with us the causes your bottles support and why you chose each of them?

At Earth Bottles we support charities that are close to our own hearts, so we donate a percentage of profits to the Breast Cancer Network of Australia – my sister came through a long breast cancer battle and I know a lot of women still fighting and who have fought breast cancer. The work that BCNA do for those women and their families is amazing, so we brought in the pink bottles and we donate 25% of the sales of those bottles to the BCNA.

The same for Beyond Blue (with our turquoise bottle) who are an amazing resource for those suffering from mental illness. We also recently teamed up with 15 Trees, a really amazing organisation where anyone can buy credits to plant a tree. I think one tree costs around $4.50 to planet, so for each gift pack sold, we plant a tree. Recently we attended the Finders Keepers market in Melbourne and for each bottle we sold, we planted a tree.

We also support other small community charities and fundraisers when we can.

 

Corporate greed has done so much damage to our society, so to be a company that gives and is not just driven by profits makes me feel that, in a very small way, my little company is making a difference and that makes me happy.

 

Why is it important for Earth Bottles to give back as a brand?

It’s very important to me personally to give back to those who are also giving so much. It is really important to keep these organisations going and supported so they can continue the work they do. Corporate greed has done so much damage to our society, so to be a company that gives and is not just driven by profits makes me feel that, in a very small way, my little company is making a difference and that makes me happy.

 

It’s all about educating our kids and if their voices are loud enough the government and big corporations will have no choice but to be more ethical and more eco friendly.

 

As mothers, do you feel hopeful about where our world is headed and the state of the natural world?

Um… I AM hopeful. I am hopeful that we will ALL education our kids to make the right choices and to tread lightly on the planet. It’s all about educating our kids and if their voices are loud enough the government and big corporations will have no choice but to be more ethical and more eco friendly.

 

What does the future hold for Earth Bottles?

Well, we are starting to branch out into some different countries – Europe, Japan, New Zealand and the US. I am just trying to take it slowly as I’m still learning about this whole business caper. As long as it is still fun and a great environment to work in, then we will take each day as it comes and see where we end up!

 

Grab an Earth Bottle for yourself on their website: earthbottles.com.au

 

OceanZen: When Marine Science And Swimwear Combine

OceanZen is an Australian swimwear brand run by young female entrepreneur and Marine Scientist, Steph Gabriel. OceanZen is a supporter of this year’s Trash Tribe expedition to Cape York – we sat down with Steph to learn more about her ocean-saving bikinis!

 

Tell us about OceanZen – the inspiration and what you hope to achieve with it.

OceanZen was inspired from a raw and sincere passion for the ocean, and has been a whirlwind of an adventure since. We use a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets from the ocean, whilst following sustainable business practices and sharing a message for ocean conservation. I never predicted I would end up here though.

Travel is something that I truly believe every single person, especially women, should experience on their own at some point in their life- it completely opens your mind and soul in ways that can’t be described. In 2009 I left Sydney and embarked on a solo mission around the globe. No idea where I was going or for how long, I just left. I ended up floating around the globe for 3 years, and during that time I stumbled across a beautiful Caribbean island which I called home for a year. I can also safely say I had the best job in the entire world haha; handling wild Southern Atlantic stingrays, all day, everyday in the ocean. This was the chapter that determined my destiny, and little did I know at the time I would end up where I am now.

My time in the Caribbean allowed me to learn from marine life and learn about the ocean, in the ocean, an opportunity I had never experienced before. Although it was the best job in the world, I started to learn of the effects humans were having on the stingrays, and more so, I could see the damage from humanity on our oceans. I wanted to learn more, and more so learn how I could help, so I came back home and studied a degree in Environmental Science and Marine Ecology.

The inspiration for OceanZen was inspired from my time in the Caribbean, and the core values for OceanZen are to inspire change and help save our oceans, one bikini at a time.

So if you have a dream, hold on tight, ride the wave and when you finally hit that goal there’s nothing but pure smiles.

 

Last year, Oceanzen shifted to using recycled lycra fabrics, tell us about this fabric and why it was so important for you to start using it.

I was backpacking through Costa Rica in 2010 and was sitting around a campfire one night with a few people from all walks of life, chin wagging and telling tales, and this was when I first heard about a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets from the ocean. At this moment, I never in my wildest dreams thought twice about launching a sustainable swimwear brand. I was merely fascinated with the incredible possibility of a fabric saving our oceans. It was 3 years later when I was studying my degree that I wanted a voice for sustainability and wanted to combine both of my passions; marine conservation and bikinis together. I was so excited and I couldn’t wait to launch OceanZen, but I was studying full-time and working two jobs and sadly couldn’t afford the price tag of the fabric. So I eagerly launched OceanZen without the fabric, and although OceanZen had to wait patiently until I could afford it, the brand was still launched following sustainable business practices and has shared my values and awareness for our oceans from day dot. I had to wait two years until I could afford to import it and buy enough to sustain a full collection, and when I did, words don’t describe the excitement and the sense of achievement!

So if you have a dream, hold on tight, ride the wave and when you finally hit that goal there’s nothing but pure smiles.

 

Do you think there is an increasing trend of brands seeking out textiles that are made from recycled or sustainable fibres?

There is definitely a conscious shift happening where consumers and brands are learning of their impacts on the environment and wanting to contribute towards a positive movement. I actually frequently get asked for advice from people who are either wanting to switch to a more sustainable business or wanting to start their own sustainable bikini label. It is really amazing that people are wanting to support a happier earth, but it’s important to stay true to yourself and truly understand what it means to be sustainable.

 

As an Environmental Scientist, it must be quite disheartening to know the full magnitude of the negative impact that human society is having on our oceans – what brings you hope about the state of our ocean, coral reefs and marine wildlife?

It is really disheartening, and it can be very easy to sink into a black hole haha, but there is also a really amazing movement happening right now and I feel as though these next few years are going to go down in history! There’s a sea change and an incredible shift happening and there is SO MUCH awareness around plastic pollution these days and it’s inspiring businesses especially to go plastic free. I used to work in marine conservation education where we would go to school’s with small marine animals; sea cucumbers, sea stars, bamboo sharks, sea urchins etc and do live demonstrations for kids aged 2- 15. These kids would learn about the animals, sharks and plastic pollution and they would be amazed, devastated and completely moved. Although our generation is speaking up about environmental topics and creating the term change markers, these kids are the ones that are going to invent change.

 

And as an entrepreneur, what would be your advice to someone else wanting to start a new brand?

If you are truly passionate about something then go for it, start yesterday, but be prepared because it is a constant rollercoaster haha, ups and downs and highs and lows. Sometimes I feel like on the outside it might look easy, but it can be super challenging, and that’s why it’s really important to launch something you are passionate about because ultimately your passion is what will keep you hanging on by a thread sometimes when times are tough. It is really awesome though because more people are following their dream’s and breaking away from ‘the norm’ these days and there’s a whole community of change makers that will be ready to support your journey when you take the plunge!

 

Do you think businesses have a responsibility to care for the environment?

The world would be a completely different place if every single business had core environmental values. Each business has a network which they can potentially inspire sustainability to, and on that note, if every business followed eco-friendly practices perhaps our oceans and landfill would be filled with less branded marine debris items. It’s not just businesses though that have a responsibility, we all do. We all have a choice and we choose what we buy and where we buy from. It’s a continued domino effect going round in circles between consumer and business, and society ultimately decides who we support with our dollar and what we do with the product once finished with.

 

Besides supporting the Trash Tribe as a brand partner, you also successfully applied to join the expedition as a volunteer – what inspired you to apply to come and get your hands dirty in Cape York?

I love every core value of Clean Coast Collective, and fully believe in everything you are doing for sustainability and our oceans, and more so I want to support Clean Coast Collective! The Trash Tribe last year removed 3.1 tonnes of marine debris; that is bloody incredible! I remember seeing the experiences from everyone who participated on social media, and was completely wowed by your success! That’s thousands of marine creatures you directly saved, I want to help kick goals and remove more than that, and share your journey with the world as you save our seas, one trash tribe at a time.

OceanZen is branching out, it won’t ever just be a bikini label, the message is so much stronger than bikini’s and the world is full of oysters.

 

What’s next for OceanZen?

If I’m honest, I have no clue what’s around the corner haha. As an ‘entrepreneur’ everything is always so unpredictable as new ideas flourish. We have spent the last few years going to Tonga to swim with wild humpback whales and this year we launched the OceanZen eco-retreat where people can come and swim with the whales with us. It’s really exciting to bring together a group of ocean loving conservationists and to experience these magnificent creatures together. We are off in September for the experience of a lifetime! I can’t wait to see everyone’s smile’s when they first encounter the beauty of a whale underwater!! OceanZen is branching out, it won’t ever just be a bikini label, the message is so much stronger than bikini’s and the world is full of oysters.

 

Read more about OceanZen and see their full range of bikinis on their website: www.oceanzenbikini.com

Plastic Free July For Beginners

Plastic Free July. You may have heard those three little words being thrown around a lot lately – a whole month without plastic? Are they for real?! Yes, we are for real. But no, you won’t have to turf out every single plastic item in your house on 1 July (yes, your plastic TV can stay).

First things first, Plastic Free July is about going a month without generating any plastic landfill waste – of course, there are things in our world that need to be made from plastic, like medical equipment. So before you you start itemising your furniture based on material composition, perhaps it’s easier to think of this as ‘Disposable* Plastic’ Free July. This is about ridding your household wheelie bin of plastics (your plastic wheelie bin can stay too).

If this seems like the craziest, most impossible, task in the world, then read on, my friend – here is our quick-fire guide to attempting Plastic Free July for the very first time.

1. It’s time to think trashy thoughts

Before you set down this path to plastic freedom, you need to start taking note of what plastic waste you are currently creating. Ignorance is bliss, but right now you need to take stock of what ends up in your rubbish bin. Think about what you bought or consumed yesterday – was it packaged? Was the packaging recyclable? What do you remember putting in the bin yesterday? For the forgetful types, you might want to take a peek in your bin and see what plastics are clogging it up. Knowing what plastics you’re already sending to landfill will make you more aware of what you need to avoid during July.

2. Are you a bit-by-bit person, or more all-or-nothing?

We like to think of the plastic-free journey like a diet – for some, diving in full-hog is a sure-fire way to success, while for others small changes are the key to lifelong habits. So which approach do you think will work best for you? Decide if you want to accept the challenge to cut out all plastics from your life for a whole month, or if you feel more comfortable tackling a few select items. If you’re the latter you might want to focus on cutting out ‘the big 4’ – takeaway coffee cups, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bags and plastic drinking straws.

3. To jar or not to jar

If you’re feeling game, keep a jar of all your plastic mishaps during the month. Make it a competition between you and your housemates or colleagues, and see who has the least amount of plastic in their jar come 1 August. Keeping a mental note of any slip-ups is also fine if you’re shy about putting your trash on display.

4. Keeping clean without plastics

Let’s go through this room-by-room. Our bathrooms are full of plastics that we may, or most likely, may not, need. If your cupboards and drawers are brimming with plastic packaging, take a moment to see what you can go without. There are lots of plastic-free bathroom products available – swap your body soap and shampoos for bar alternatives (Ethique has some soap bars for every part of your bod); opt for a plastic-free deodorant (Ethique has some solid deodorant bars too, or try making your own with bicarb soda, arrowroot powder and coconut oil); give DIY toothpaste a whirl (bicarb soda, coconut oil and food-grade peppermint essential oil); and the easiest of all, switch to a bamboo toothbrush (check out our bamboo toothbrush sets here).

5. Cooking without plastics

This might seem like the most daunting part of all – how to stay fed and nourished without all the plastics and packaging. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds. The key to keeping plastics at bay in the kitchen is just a little bit of planning and preparation. Opt for the unpackaged fruit and vege at the supermarket – for loose leaf items, use the paper mushroom bags instead of the thin plastic bags. For your grains, nuts, spices, flours and other dry foods, your local bulk food store is your best ally – here you can buy your dry goods in paper bags, or take your empty jars and vessels to fill with your goodies. The best part about shopping in bulk is that you can buy as much, or as little, as you need. Check out The Source and Naked Foods for some stores near you. Get back to basics and cook with real produce and ingredients – skipping the processed treats are the easiest way to avoid plastics (remember, we said it was like a diet!).

6. Out and about

You can be on your best behaviour at home, but slip-ups are most likely to occur when you’re eating and drinking out on the town. Find your voice and get ready to pep up with a ‘No…, please’ at every encounter – ‘No straw, please’, ‘No bag, please’, ‘No plastic cutlery, please’. You might have to repeat yourself a few times too. If you’re out and have forgotten to bring your own coffee cup, cutlery, or straw, take the time out to eat-in. Remember, this is about slowing down and consciously consuming – you can spare the 5 minutes to drink your coffee sitting down in your favourite cafe, or eating your lunch at the restaurant rather than at your desk. Treat yourself!

7. get back on the horse

Lastly, this is a journey and on a journey we make mistakes, hit roadblocks, take the wrong turn and sometimes have to make a u-turn – if you slip up and find yourself lumped with some plastic, don’t beat yourself up. It happens to us all. Pick yourself (and the plastic) up, dust yourself off and get back on that horse. The longer you stay in this plastic-free journey, the easier it will become.

 

Don’t forget to register for Plastic Free July and feel free to share you own plastic-free tips and tricks in the comments below! Let’s learn from each other.

 

*P.S. While we say ‘disposable’ plastics, that really is a misnomer because no plastic is disposable – like diamonds, plastics are forever – but for the sake of this, let’s consider ‘disposable’ plastics as things you turf into the bin when you’re done with them.