The Builder shares his plastic-free and zero waste journey

27 October 2017
The Builder shares his plastic-free and zero waste journey

Late last year I was asked by a blog reader to share the Builder's journey to plastic-free and zero waste living. While I tried to give my best response on his behalf it did not feel right to tell his own story for him. I floated the idea for a interview style blog post on Instagram. It was met with a lot of enthusiasm and eager questions from you all. He said yes. We finished this blog post a day before our baby was due to arrive and has languished in my drafts folder ever since. Each of the questions below came from you, the readers. I was surprised to hear some of the responses from him.

For new readers, my husband is referred to as the Builder throughout the blog. This is his trade. He ticks some of the stereotypes us Aussies associate with tradies; drives a ute, wears flannel and loves the footy. Living a plastic-free and zero waste life is not something one would apply to a man working in the construction industry. Hopefully his story will prove there is no eco greenie stereotype. Because you would not catch my husband in the bush hugging some tree. At least not sober...

I'll pass it over to the Builder to answer your plastic-free and zero waste questions...

I completed my first Plastic-Free July in 2013. Two months later we moved in together. By this stage, I had decided to live plastic-free but had been doing it in my own home. What was it like at the start for you? Was my lifestyle change difficult for you to accept when I was living it under the same roof as you?

Do you want to know the truth? I thought this woman is crazy! Kidding. I thought it was OK, but it was a bit too much for me at the start. It felt like everything took so long. There was a bit of work involved, especially for someone who was not eco mined I suppose. It was a struggle. But once I had the habits and new systems in place it became much easier.

What was the catalyst that made you want to follow along? What clicked?
Like you, it was also a movie. You were settling in to watch the film 'Bag It' and asked if I’d like to watch it as the movie might give some perspective on why you became this crazy plastic-free person. I was alarmed by all the health concerns like BPA and what they could do. I had no idea these existed! A movie is a good way to help explain a big issue like how harmful plastic is.

Have you ever felt like I've forced any of my own changes on you? Does it feel like you've made decisions to reduce waste on your own or are you following what I do?
I don't feel like you have ever forced it on me. I've always had an option to say no and you made this clear from day one. At the start I followed your lead, but only because you were doing the research and could answer any questions I had. Now I have my own systems in place to suit me at home and on my worksite. When I got to the football, beer is served in a plastic cup and not once have you made me feel bad or guilty for purchasing them. They recycle the cup! But a beer at the footy is a vice and I choose it. I think you need to give each person their space and allow them to decide what they'll give up because it can be hard for some and easier for others.

What did you think of plastic-free living before you jumped on board?
I thought it would bottle-neck my life and slow it down, stopping me from getting stuff done. This might have been because you were still trying to figure out the whole plastic-free thing out too.

And now how do you feel about it?
The opposite. There has been a nice knock-on effect of positive benefits adding much more value to my life.

Like what?
Learning to question what I've been told I need, which has helped me step off the hamster wheel of mindless consumption. I feel I have more control. I learned to appreciate the finer things in life. These days I'd much rather be making memories than buying something. I also enjoy the connection to my community. Getting creative fixing things. All the same things as you.

What's the one plastic item you've given up you miss the most?
I do miss a Powerade. It's kind of hard to substitute that. I'd have a lot of Powerade during the week. Twix, chips. You know the same kind of junk food you sometimes miss. But then the whole palm oil stuff turns me off as well.

Would you continue to pursue a zero waste lifestyle if I was not around?
Yes, I would. But I will admit that you set up many of the processes in the beginning. I enjoy this lifestyle so it would be hard to want to go back, especially now I'm a dad.

You and I both loved second hand shopping years before we met. Buying second hand is part of the zero waste movement. Do you think your love for second hand shopping made it accessible?
Yes, I was a vintage shopper from way back. I didn't have any phobias buying second-hand. Some people do have and will look down on you. Second-hand shopping can be a challenge. You go in there and have to think outside the box. Sometimes you go into a second-hand store wanting to find something and you can't. But then an item surprises you. It kind of forces you to be creative which is something I like. I think that's why I like this lifestyle, it kind of makes you stop and think and get creative.

Quality of life is not measured by the things you buy, it’s measured by the moments you live.

What has been the hardest adjustment for you?
Probably my mates, who always have something to say about the way I live now. Their happy to provide their expertise in the area. They just think you have become this totally different person, but really I'm the same person only thinking somewhat differently now.

We have people in our lives that 'don't get it.' How do you deal with this? What are your tips for others?
Just don't bother getting into debates or force stuff onto other people. Some of my mates have come to respect that. They leave me to it and I leave them to their lifestyle but I’m not afraid to banter them when I see a disposable coffee cup in their hand. I'm not out to change anyone’s lives. Just because you don't live the same lifestyle, does not mean you can't still get along. Also don't waste your energy on the naysayers. It's easier for others to drain your energy, so you must step away and stop worrying about what they think of picking up rubbish or saying no to plastic bags.

You work in a very masculine industry, with its share of stereotypes. How do you deal with these and being a “greenie”? Do the people on site make fun of your choices. If so, how do you cope?
Yeah for sure they make fun of it. But I don't let it get to me. It's generally the people who are like that are the ones I find hard to manage. It's not their attitude about the environment, it's just their attitude in general. The industry does not encourage you to be eco on the job site, beyond energy ratings in the final build.

Do you have any advice for other people in similar positions? 
Do what you feel you can do at your job no matter where you work. Over time the majority of people will respect it. Sometimes you do feel like people are making fun of it but then you realise people will like you for who you are. People will make so many assumptions about the plastic-free or zero waste lifestyle, and sometimes it’s easier to let people just enjoy those assumptions. I find it simpler to just lead by example. Quality of life is not measured by the things you buy, it’s measured by the moments you live. When you change this focus you begin to enjoy the interaction life has to offer. Then you never fall victim to your previous lifestyle.

What advice would you give a couple who have different views?
Run in the opposite direction! Kidding!! That's a tough one. I think you need to be in a completely supportive relationship that allows each person the freedom to try stuff even if it's different. If you don't have a common ground then it’s going to be a struggle. I didn't give plastic-free a go for a couple months, but I supported you and I know you would have done the same if the tables were turned.

Lastly, what do you like most about living plastic-free and zero waste?
I like not having to go to Woolworths and Coles. Major supermarkets make me frustrated. They seem unethical, a contradiction and full of waste. It's nice spending my money somewhere that is more aligned with my values and supporting my community. Life is simple, happier. A healthy, kind lifestyle that makes you feel good.

If you have anymore questions, feel free to put them below and he'll answer them for you.

Upcycling twine success for the Zero Waste Victoria education stall

19 October 2017
Don't have rope? Heavily pregnant with a pile of cloth scraps and nothing to do? Make rope! Or stuff pillows! It's that easy. Remember in March when I shared my homemade twine? I had envisioned weaving the end product into a basket. This did not happen and the rope made its way to the Zero Waste Victoria’s stall the past two weekends where it was used to hang their information boards. I am still proud of my efforts to upcycled material despite not having the basket I had planned to make. The end product fits the stall perfectly.

A little background on the Zero Waste Victoria info stall. It grew from Zero Waste Victoria's Facebook group I'm part of. I didn't start the group originally but was asked to help out with admin as their numbers grew. I've enjoyed watching this Facebook community and many others expand and multiply across the country. In January I posted an idea to the Facebook group about running an info stall at Australia's Sustainable Living Festival as a means to educate others. The idea was met with a passionate response and soon enough we had not only put together our education stall, a website was born too. These past few weeks the stall has featured at Spring Into Gardening and Practically Green festivals, which have a focus on sustainable living. Below is a photo of us at Spring into Gardening.

November will see the education space set up at Burrinja Climate Change Biennale 2017 and Fair@Square Moral Fairground offering a beeswax wrap demonstration. If you would like to hire our stall for education workshops and talks, you can contact us through the website Once I wrap up my last workshops for the year (details on Facebook) I'll be turning my attention towards the Zero Waste Victoria website to see what we can do with the space. 

A Thank you to the business owners making low waste living easier

10 October 2017
A Thank you to the business owners making low waste living easier

How pretty are the flowers? These beauties were presented to me by Wendy, owner of The Source Bulk Foods Bowral after a talk I gave at her event. The handkerchief to the left was carefully wrapped around them, a thoughtful nod to my love of hankies. While it was lovely to receive these I felt like I should've passed them back to Wendy and her team! Truthfully my ability to reduce rubbish is made easier by people like Wendy. Running a small business is not easy, especially one that is in competition with the big supermarkets. I can only imagine it would take guts, passion and self belief to set store up against Coles and Woolworths, or whatever big supermarket chain it is in your country.

It's not just the Wendy's I'm grateful for. There are other small business owners, in brick and mortar stores and online, working their butts off making the reusable revolution accessible. There are so many of you out there. I was chatting with Zero Waste Victoria's awesome volunteers on accessibility and zero waste living. If there is no accessibility people won't be move towards it. I know there is a long way to go yet for making this lifestyle anywhere close to normal, but aren't we lucky to have pioneers willing to stick there necks out, setting up systems that will have a lasting positive impact on the environment and generations to come.

This is a just a little reminder for myself to thank the people opening these type of businesses that make it easier to choose and live sustainable, keeping it unpackaged and low waste. I really do appreciate it.

Well the blog has been a little quite lately. Due in part to Tifl becoming more active and wanting to play. He's sitting, rolling, dragging himself around the house, each development exciting and terrifying to witness. I've also spent the last few weeks working on secret projects while preparing for and running zero waste workshops. Anyway, a happy little email from Brooke McAlary of Slow Your Home bounced into my inbox last week about one of the secret projects, giving me the green light to share it with you. If you know the Slow Home Podcast then you can hedge a bet the project i'm about to talk about will be awesome. And yet somehow I was asked to be part of it.

Brooke and her partner Ben have put together Live Life Simply a six-week slow living retreat, and if you click through (which I hope you do) you'll see my face as one of the facilitators along with a host of talented people sharing wisdom on slow and simple living. The online course is for anyone wanting to realign their priorities in a fast paced world.

A six-week, all-access pass to more than 15 seminars by some of the leading experts in slow and simple living, where we focus on learning the essentials of meditation, mindfulness, simple productivity, low-waste living, easy whole foods, mindful money, slow yoga, low tox living, slow technology, bringing family members along for the journey, and how to create slow rituals on even the busiest of days.

You will also have access to videos, audio files, workbooks, playlists and questionnaires, all designed to help you slow down and simplify life not only over the six weeks of the retreat, but for the months and years that follow.

The retreat opens on October 23, 2017 and you will gain immediate access to everything and are free to work through each session at your own pace. Plus a private Facebook group to ask any questions and connect with like minded folk wanting to set the foundations to create a life lived simply.

Spaces are filling up fast so get in now to learn more and to reserve your spot today.

I'll be back to share more about the retreat this week on social media. But for now I have to practice a presentation I'm giving to Scouts Australia.

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