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Sarah Wilson On Tackling Our Huge Plastic Problem

Sarah Wilson
Ilona Marchetta

Sustainability & Home Editor

Sep 06, 2021

Sarah Wilson Urges Aussies To Take One Minute To Tackle Our Huge Plastic Problem, reports The Carousel’s Sustainability Editor Ilona Marchetta.

Take-away coffee cups, car use for short trips and food waste are among the list of things that drive eco-activist Sarah Wilson absolutely bonkers.

“The coffee cups in particular are a big one because they are such a visual totem,” Sarah told The Carousel. “Around 2.7 million takeaway coffee cups go to landfill every day in Australia alone, and people are just walking down the street with them.”

Sarah is fronting the new environmental campaign It Only Takes A Minute, named for the fact that it only takes about one minute for Australians to generate one tonne – or a shipping container – of plastic waste [1]. The campaign challenges Aussies to commit that minute instead to making small and easy changes that, collectively, will make a massive dent in the country’s contribution to one of the biggest environmental scourges of our time.  

The campaign is led by Resparkle, a waste-free eco-cleaning brand, and backed by 34 other Australian eco-brands of the same ilk.

Not sure where to start? If you sign the campaign’s petition for greater intervention by the Australian Federal Government to improve the country’s plastic recycling rates, you’ll receive an e-guide with a stack of suggestions along with useful information on how to properly recycle.

Sarah, who is quite vocal about not doing ambassadorships, sponsored socials and advertising, said this was one of the few campaigns she was happy to get behind.

“Consumption is not something I endorse generally,” she said. “However, my life’s work now is trying to shift the dial on the climate crisis, and I’m artfully working with brands and people who are doing it differently and finding solutions to things that we all need, like washing powder and soaps.”

How Sarah Wilson reduces her reliance on plastic

In Sarah’s own day she’s incredibly mindful about just about everything she does, from not owning a car, rarely peeling a fruit or vegetable, and finding second and third uses for every bit of plastic that rarely does find its way into the house.

“I’m still doing the same beauty regime I’ve always had, which is jojoba oil for cleansing and moisturising, and I buy in bulk from a friend who sells it in her naturopathic clinic,” she said. “I just take my own bottle and refill it. I also just add a few drops of it to my mascara when it starts to get gluggy, and I get another month or two out of it. Shampoo is also something I buy concentrated.” 

For anyone who thinks it sounds like a lot of work, she says: “It actually saves me time, and I’m extremely busy – I work on three charities, I have a foster child, I’ve got five massive projects on at the moment and I’m in the middle of selling my business. I’m not a lady of leisure. Yet my life is far more connected and in flow, living the way I live.

“I think everyone’s feeling a bit helpless. We’re sitting around waiting for government and industry to shift, but the way that the government and industry shift is when they see our behaviour change. So we’ve got to feel enabled. We’ve got to find ways to do things differently, with more creativity, more spark and more wildness.” 

Sarah Wilson will present her sustainability ideas on The Wild and Precious Tour later this year.

vegetables

Live more like Sarah Wilson with these small lifestyle choices that make a big environmental difference

  • Avoid shopping for the sake of shopping. “I gamify the process of using what I’ve already got,” Sarah said.  
  • Find reuse and refill cleaning and beauty products – and earn extra brownie points for buying concentrated solutions. 
  • Shop at bulk food stores and take your own bags
  • Get creative with reusing any plastic that comes your way.
  • Reduce your food waste by focusing on wholefoods and finding ways to consume the whole of the produce: “Food waste is the third biggest contributor to co2 emissions. It’s a no brainer, and don’t worry about vegan versus this versus that.”Plastic bottles, pollution, ocean

Quick stats to get you feeling motivated to make a change

    • By 2050, it is estimated that plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish [2].
    • While most of us think we’re doing enough recycling, we’re probably not; The country is still sending 40,560 rubbish trucks worth of recyclables to landfill every year and our recycling rate is only about 13% [3].
  • If you think it’s all too hard or believe that nothing you do will make a real difference anyway, you’re in the minority; A survey of 1000 people conducted by It Only Takes a Minute showed that 15% of respondents feared they couldn’t make a difference and only 10% felt it was “all too hard”.

 

  • Sarah Wilson
    Sarah Wilson. Photographer Rob Palmer.

About the Australian Government’s 2025 National Packaging Targets 

In 2018 Australia established these four ambitious targets to create a new sustainable pathway for the way we manage packaging in Australia:

  • 100% of packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025
  • 70% of plastic packaging being recycled or composted by 2025
  • 50% of average recycled content included in packaging by 2025
  • The phase out of problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025.

Since setting the targets, Australia’s recycling rate has improved by just 1.3% to 13% – that’s a long way off from the targeted 70% that we’re working toward with just over three years to go.

Sources:

  1. Resparkle, derived from ABS data: Waste Account, Australia, Experimental Estimates  
  2. Ellen McCarthur Foundation, “The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking The Future Of Plastics and Catalysing Action”

Australian Government, National Plastics Plan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

By Ilona Marchetta

Sustainability & Home Editor

Ilona Marchetta is The Carousel's Home and Sustainability Editor. She is a change manager and journalist specialising in sustainability. Ilona is passionate about slow and mindful living, from fashion to interiors to beauty and self care.

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