Four Questions with Rachelle Strauss

by Wendy Gabriel

Rachelle Strauss is a writer living in the UK with her husband, daughterRachelle Strauss and assorted four legged friends. Rachelle writes about environmental issues for a number of national and international magazines and is the author of two books.

During 2008, Rachelle and her family created My Zero Waste, which chronicles their journey towards reducing their landfill waste. They invite readers to join them as they endeavor to show how to reduce waste by making better consumer choices, choosing products with recyclable packaging, creative reuse of items and composting.

The environment needs to be saved, and together we can do it. ~Rachelle Strauss

How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?

I think the most important thing we do is to separate our needs from our wants where possible. BEFORE purchasing anything, we look at its end life and what will happen to it. We also ‘make do and mend’; salvaging things from unwanted materials for future reuse and ask ourselves if we really need something or whether we are being swayed by society / advertising. Subsequently we create less than 100gms per week of landfill waste.

In addition, we try and be respectful to the earth and to one another. We try not to be greedy or take more than we need. I’m not saying we achieve it, but having an awareness of this helps us to make better choices. I remember one of my own favourite mantras which is ‘co-operation is better than competition’ whenever I go about my day.

Then there are basic ‘green’ things we do like making our own toiletries and home cleaning products; or using eco friendly ones, eating local and organic food where possible, buying clothes from charity shops, switching things off standby and my husband is currently making LED light bulbs to run off a solar panel, which is really exciting!

You comment on your site that for years you, like many other households, have been throwing away one or two bins worth every week of rubbish, but in recent years you’ve become more aware of the impact this is having on our environment, wildlife and our health. What facilitated this awareness?

There are four main things that pulled together to facilitate this awareness.

First, giving birth to a child changed my perspective on life. No longer was it just about me; it became about the health, safety and future of my daughter and her children.

Second, we were involved in the flash flooding at Boscastle. Seeing people’s livelihoods washed out to see was devastating and had a profound impact on me. I realised the fragility of the things we deem as ‘important’ in our lives – namely, the acquisition of ‘stuff’ – and how it can be taken away in an instant. It puts into perspective the things that really matter. No one lost their life and that was the most crucial thing.

This event also bought it home to me that climate change might just be real and we have to do something about it.

Third, I was inspired by other people doing great things to reduce their waste such as Mrs Average over at the Rubbish Diet.

Finally, we read a piece about the effects of plastic on marine life. From that moment my husband declared ‘no more carrier bags’ and we were off on our zero waste journey!

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve encountered in your journey towards zero waste?

Maintaining a positive state of mind. It’s very hard when you feel you are swimming upstream. It’s very challenging when you are doing your bit and you look at the amount of stuff manufacturers are throwing into landfill. It’s difficult when checkout staff start packing your things into carrier bags without even thinking about what they are doing.

However, we have some wonderful support through our site and we believe that everyone doing their small bit adds up to significant change. We also believe that positive change is gathering momentum and more and more people are becoming aware of the impact they have on the environment.

95% of the time this holds true for me and I’m an optimist. But the other 5% when I’m having a bad day; is pretty tough going!

What has been the most gratifying part of your journey towards zero waste?

I think it has been the amazing amount of support and encouragement from our readers. These people, who were once strangers and have rapidly become friends, know how to reach out and make such a difference to me.

The beautiful thing is, I don’t expect one of them realises how much they have an impact on the things I do in my day to day life. I feel very blessed.

Also, knowing that our daughter is growing up with such an awareness is very humbling. This week she went out to pick litter from our road. In shops she’ll pick up things with more packaging than product to show me. She is making conscious choices, even as a young child and I’m so proud of her.

For more information about My Zero Waste visit their website. It is full of great information, here is an example: Reuse plastic bottles for slug collars (video)

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