In this episode of The Grown-Up Girls Report Podcast, Alex chats with Helen Barry from WOWW:War On Waste Weekly about a topic that’s long overdue on this podcast – our waste problem here in Australia. Helen was so affected by the ABC’s War on Waste in 2017 – in particular footage of a marine biologist trying to remove a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nose – that she became determined to do something to make it stop.

So, capitalising on her background as a journo and committed to helping the world wake up to our plastic problem, Helen started an eco-blog on Instagram that would detail her family’s journey on a Zero Waste Adventure with the very simple goal of going from average to eco, one week at a time over the course of a year.

The lovely Helen, a self described ‘accidental activist’

About Helen

Helen Barry is a Sydney-based writer and content creator on a zero-waste adventure! Editor of eco magazine War on Waste Weekly, Helen is also the mother of two mini waste warriors. In her previous life, Helen was a journalist at Bauer Media and worked on the Qantas Inflight Magazine.

She currently operates Words Plus Pictures, a social content agency for eco, ethical sustainable brands; is an ambassador for ClayCups Australia and has recently launched her own luxury eco soapmaking business.

About War on Waste Weekly (WOWW)

Helen’s Instagram soon evolved into something much bigger – the War on Waste Weekly – an online, collaborative community that she started for people who are making the change to a Zero Waste journey – at a sensible pace! She was determined to help the average family take small achievable steps, week by week, to reduce their waste and make a big difference to the environment and to have some fun along the way.

Our Waste Problem

According to Greenpeace, up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year – the equivalent of a truckload of plastic entering the ocean every minute.

Australians are some of the biggest waste producers in the world with the average Aussie producing 2.7 tonnes of waste per year, according to the National Waste Report in 2018.

The average Aussie family throws away about $3500 in food every year or about 1/5 of what we buy.*

Helen with Craig Reucassel from ABC’s War on Waste

6000kg of clothes are thrown out every 10 minutes in Australia.*

Close to a billion coffee cups are used in Australia every year and they can’t be recycled.*

*stats are from the ABC’s War on Waste

Stats are from war on waste in 2018

What Is The Zero Waste Philosophy?

The Zero Waste Philosophy was started by Bea Johnson, a French born American mum who inspired a global movement to reduce waste. Described by CNN as ‘the mother of the zero waste lifestyle movement’, Bea has been determined to re-educate the masses about that zero-waste living doesn’t need to be time consuming, costly or just for ‘hermits’.

Zero Waste is essentially a philosophy that if followed, means we send as little as possible to landfill. In summary, there are 5 R’s in the zero-waste philosophy: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot.

Helen’s Tips For Families Wanting To Start a Zero-Waste Journey

Many families find the concept of a zero-waste journey overwhelming so they don’t even bother to start. Many zero-waste warriors are all about fitting your entire waste into a small glass jar! Helen believes this is frightening to most people and actually unsustainable. Most people don’t want to go there and so they don’t even bother to start reducing their waste.

So, Helen is about keeping it real and making one change every, week or even fortnight. Helen believes that it’s better for more people to do Zero-Waste imperfectly than for fewer to do it perfectly.

Here are her top tips:

– Saying no to single-use plastics. Switching to reusables is the best option here. The Responsible Cafe Movement which developed after the War on Waste has saved hundreds of million of disposable cups

– Recycling soft plastics. Soft plastics are any plastic wrappings that are able to be scrunched in your hand eg the wrapping around bread and frozen vegies. These can be returned to your supermarket and recycled. Check out Redcycle to find your closest recycling depot.

– Buying things package-free in bulk. Why not investigate food co-ops where you can take your own containers and fill them directly? The Source Bulk Foods is a great Aussie retail chain that allows customers to bring their own containers.

– Shop your pantry. Meal planning is a great way of buying food you just don’t need. And if you have leftover food, consider pickling, fermenting or even freezing it to avoid waste. Better for the environment and better for you back pocket!

– Repairing broken items and ‘upcycling’. Before you throw something away, investigate whether it can be repaired.

WOWW Zero Waste Soap

Along her zero-waste journey, Helen discovered the joy of cold process soapmaking which is the traditional way to make soap without nasty detergents or synthetics. And it also means she was able to banish nasty plastic bottles from her house!

Helen now sells her handmade, small-batch palm-oil free soap through her online WOWW Zero Waste Shop and at local markets and eco-minded cafes and shops.

How To Find Helen and the War On Waste Weekly

In addition to her online site, The War On Waste Weekly, Helen also has an Instagram and Facebook page where she shares her tips and journey towards zero-waste. You can also find her beautiful WOWW Zero-Waste soaps here.

How To Listen To The Podcast

You can listen to Alex and Helen’s discussion via the link below, or via your favourite podcast app.

Happy Listening!

Alex xx