27 August 2021

The Zero Waste Festival is another COVID cancellation, but you can still start your journey

| Lottie Twyford
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Mia Swainson

Can you believe this is Mia’s entire family’s rubbish for a week? Photo: Mia Swainson.

There were big plans in place for the now postponed Zero Waste Festival, which had been scheduled to go ahead on Saturday, 11 September.

But the founder and chair of Canberra’s Zero Waste Revolution, Mia Swainson, is taking a positive approach to lockdown, encouraging families to start their own zero-waste journeys now.

After all, there’s no time like the present.

With many Canberrans coming in or out of quarantine and isolation, there’s a lot of online shopping happening, but instead of going through large stores, Mia suggests ordering through bulk food stores or farmers outlets which don’t use plastic packaging.

If you want to go a step further, “why not use the time at home to do a buy-nothing challenge, excluding groceries and medicine, obviously?”

For Mia, who says she always had an interest in sustainability, it was upon reading an article by Bea Johnson, who had successfully whittled down her family of four’s waste to the equivalent of one jar per year, that she was inspired to do more.

But the family went in with a pragmatic approach – seeing what little steps they could take to do better.

She initially took stock of what was going in the bin, which she encourages other families to do as well.

“Number one, we were already composting and had chickens, so no organic waste was going to landfill,” she said.

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Then, they took out soft plastics, which they started recycling through the RedCycle service.

“You might have seen the bins around at your local supermarket or, if not, you might just have to do a bit of super-sleuthing to find one near you,” she said.

Once the soft plastics and organics are out of the bin, Mia reckons it becomes much easier to analyse what you need to change next – whether that’s textiles, non-reusable plastics or shoes or whatever.

Then Mia and her family set themselves what some might call a pretty radical challenge. They set out to find out just how long they could last without buying anything at all.

Unsurprisingly, what eventually broke them was the urgent need for both of Mia’s children to get some new shoes. But they did last over six months, and Mia says once you do it, you begin to realise there are ways of surviving without buying everything.

“A funny setback along the way was that I realised I wouldn’t be able to purchase any more pens, which initially worried me.

“And then I went rummaging in the back of one of our cupboards and I found loads and loads of them. That was two years ago and I am still using up this collection.”

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When the urge comes to buy new clothes for herself, Mia counteracts it by attending a clothes swap.

“You really do have to start realising how much we buy and chuck away by having this break from consumerism for a while – you honestly realise what you can live without,” she said.

Mia accepts the difficulty of being completely waste-free, and while she’s pretty much there in the kitchen, she does acknowledge that toiletries are a lot more difficult to switch.

Now set to go ahead early next year, the Zero Waste Festival aims to inspire and educate the Canberra community to live with zero waste by making small changes.

Headlined by 16-year-old Solli Raphael, an award-winning poet and published author, the theme of this year’s festival is ‘One Person, a World of Difference’.

Topics explored at the festival will include home composting, recycling right, zero-waste businesses, collective community action and much more. There will even be a clothes swap, allowing people to take their first step into zero-waste fashion on the day.

For more information, visit Zero Waste Revolution.

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Capital Retro12:28 pm 30 Aug 21

If the Festival did proceed, were there going to be any garbage bins there?

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