Interview with Rachelle Strauss of My Zero Waste!
Rae Strauss a.k.a. Mrs Green writes at My Zero Waste and Little Green Blog and also runs National Zero Waste Week. She is an inspirational force in the field of rubbish reduction and I’ve been reading her blogs for a while now. I’ve asked her to tell us a bit more about herself.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about zero waste and being green?
My ‘green’ journey started when I was pregnant. I wanted a ‘non medicalised’ birth so felt I needed to take full responsibility for mine and my daughter’s health. I learned that 60% of what I put onto my skin could end up in my bloodstream, so took a good look at the toiletries I was using, learned to differentiate between healthy and not-so-healthy ingredients and changed to natural brands.
After my daughter was born we were on a family holiday in Boscastle when we were caught in flash floods. 100 people were airlifted out of the village. As I was standing with my daughter in my arms and rising flood water separating me and my husband I thought “Everything I’ve been reading about climate change is happening. Not in 50 years’ time, but NOW!” Whether that was right or wrong I don’t know, but it was a real wakeup call as to the fragility of our planet. Looking at my young daughter I vowed to become part of the solution, not part of the problem… In response I started a local Freecycle, an internet group that connects people with items to give away, rather than trash them.
A few years later I came across the Rubbish Diet and was inspired by Karen’s work, so in June 2008, I set up My Zero Waste. Our aim was to reduce our landfill waste as much as possible to have less impact on the environment and the blog was there as a personal record and to keep me accountable. Little did we know that the site would become popular, with people following our progress from across the world!
Do you have a day job as well as your online projects?
I do! I’m a web designer, social media manager and writer (and a Mum, wife and daughter), so I have a rich and fulfilling life!
Have you saved money by being eco-friendly/ reducing waste? Can you quantify your savings?
I reckon to save between £1000 and £2000 per year. You can read more about this here and more specifically about saving money on food here.
Do you keep track of how much rubbish do you throw away each year? Do you know how much you threw away last year?
I don’t keep track any more. During 2009 we accumulated just one dustbin of landfill waste. In 2010 it was slightly less. Since then we’ve relaxed our own rules and stepped into more of an advisory role. We probably throw away one black bag every few weeks now. We just live a ‘normal’ lifestyle and recycle as much as we can with local facilities, but don’t go to the nth degree. We’ve been there, done it, got the t-shirt but in all honesty I feel I can have more impact if I inspire everyone in the UK to recycle one more juice carton than we can as just one family doing everything.
What inspired you to start National Zero Waste Week and how did you get it off the ground?
In September 2008, Karen from The Rubbish Diet challenged us as a family to have our own “zero waste week “- the aim of which was to accumulate ZERO waste for landfill. We accepted the challenge, and decided to ask our readers to join in with us. Over 100 people took part and the feedback we had was staggering. Not only did people love the buzz of the week but they wanted to keep good habits in place once the week was over. From there, Zero Waste Week was born! Now in its seventh year, the week continues to go from strength to strength. Last year we had nearly 2000 people take part and this year we’re looking forward to seeing more people get involved.
How can and why should people get involved in Zero Waste Week?
It’s easy to sign up. Although the information needs updating for this year’s theme, people can get onto our mailing list on the home page of zerowasteweek.co.uk.
Why should people do it? Well it’s fun! It’s a great way to connect with others who want to do their bit, you’ll probably save some money and you’ll learn lots of new hints and tips. It’s not many places you’ll learn how to cook cuttlefish testicles…
What do you think are the first five changes someone who is seeking to become more eco-friendly and less wasteful should make?
- Take a bin audit – look at what you throw away and identify the top five offenders.
- Find out what can be recycled easily from your kerbside and at local bring banks.
- Set up a recycling area to keep things separate and easy to manage.
- Remove the kitchen bin! Make it easier to recycle that throw something away.
- BEFORE you get to the checkout ask yourself what you will do with the products and packaging you are buying when you’ve finished with them – perhaps there is a better choice you could make…
Do you have any recommended further reading/ viewing on how to reduce waste and on being eco-friendly e.g. blogs/ films/ books??
- Bea Johnson has written the Zero Waste Home about her experiences and writes a blog here.
- Dr Paul Connett has penned “The Zero Waste Solution” – an inspiring look at how we can reduce landfill waste across the world
- I was in ‘Trashed’ with Jeremy Irons which explores waste and sustainability
- One of the most inspiring films I’ve seen is ‘Garbage Warrior’ – it tells the story of the free spirited architect Michael Reynolds who lives in New Mexico. He takes ‘rubbish’ such as beer cans, car tyres and glass bottles and turns them into thermal mass and energy-independent housing.
- Jen and Grant’s “Clean Bin Project” is a fun look at reducing waste within a household
In an ideal world with access to unlimited time, resources and money, how would you focus your energies?
Wow, what a question! I’d probably buy a piece of land and get together with a group of people who wanted to build passiv houses – we’d live together in a self sufficient way using the principles of permaculture; producing our own energy and food. We’d run residential classes to inspire others to do the same and invite WOOFFers to stay. It would be an educational community and I’d probably spend a lot of time in a wood fired hot tub watching the sunset 😉
How would you describe yourself?
Described as “A practical visionary who inspires people to get off their butts and kick the rubbish habit” or more succinctly “Miss Whiplash of the landfill”, I sniff out dustbin demons and landfill layabouts and hold them up in a hall of shame. Other than that I like to bake, stroke the bunny and miaow at my daughter because we’re crazy like that.