I love how zero waste and sustainable living really do go hand in hand, and so does Tammy at Gippsland Unwrapped! Not only is she a Plastic Free July Ambassador, but she loves growing food, which is what we at The Tannehill Homestead are all about.
Tammy is also someone I consider to be resourceful, but in a unique way, which you will see in her responses to this 20 Questions Zero Waste Style Interview. I also love the grace she shares within all of her advice, and I believe, it is something we all should strive to have more in our lives as we navigate a simpler and sustainable lifestyle.
Now that you know a little about what to expect, let’s dive into Tammy’s responses!
1. Please introduce yourself & your blog.
My name is Tammy Logan and I live in rural Victoria, Australia. Through my blog, Gippsland Unwrapped, I share how my family has significantly reduced our waste and single-use plastic as well as other ways of living sustainably.
I hope our experiences help others make more sustainable decisions and I love to learn from the experience of others too.
Why the name Gippsland Unwrapped?
Well, local living and community are very important to me for environmental, social, and health reasons. Gippsland is my place. I’m connected to the people and environment here and so my blog name represents the importance of living locally to live sustainably. The ‘Unwrapped’ aspect of my blog name refers to avoiding packaging but also to revealing sustainable solutions.
2. How did you start your zero waste journey? How long ago was that?
I started my zero waste journey by first completing the Plastic Free July (PFJ) Challenge in 2015. The challenge is to refuse all single-use plastic for one month as a way of raising awareness about the amount of environmentally damaging single-use plastic in our lives.
I’d never heard of PFJ until the day I decided to do it, and I had no idea at the time that this decision would lead to so much more, but it did. Completing PFJ was exactly what I needed.
My craving to do more for the environment was satisfied, and my goal to establish environmentalism as a family value was bolstered. Importantly for me, I could achieve many waste reduction goals without financial investment and without taking time away from my family.
I finally realised I could do something about the waste problem that I had recognised for a very long time, but which I’d previously thought I couldn’t do anything about.
After focusing on reducing single-use plastic for a few weeks, I realised many of the solutions were actually ‘zero waste’ and so I started looking at everything in our lives more critically and thinking about its whole lifecycle.
3. Overall, how has your life changed since committing to a zero waste lifestyle?
I have experienced so many positive changes from pursuing a plastic free and zero waste lifestyle. Off the top of my head these include:
- Feeling good about doing less harm to the environment
- Saving money because we reuse and repurpose so much stuff and we buy less in the first place
- Less clutter for the same reasons as above
- More focus on experiences and fun times rather than things
- Eating healthier, knowing what’s in our food
- New skills and knowledge, being more creative
- Slowing down my life
- Connecting with like-minded people
- Standing up for what I believe in
- Being the person I want my children to be
I’m sure there are more, but that’s a pretty good list!
4. What is your favorite thing about the zero waste lifestyle?
This applies to sustainable living in general, but I feel a greater sense of empowerment and freedom because I feel more in control of how I live.
For example, I mentioned above that I recognised our society had a waste problem but I previously didn’t think there was much I could do about it. Not living in a way that matches your values is a very distressing feeling.
Now I feel I live much more in line with my values and it is very satisfying. I’ve also learned along the way that I can be very self-reliant and resilient in a changing world because of the skills and knowledge I have built up.
5. What is your least favorite thing about the zero waste lifestyle?
That some people narrowly define what it is to live a zero waste lifestyle and whether you are doing it perfectly or not. It is irritating because it doesn’t take into account the many circumstantial issues that impact access to things like bulk stores and the ability to pay the upfront cost of an expensive reusable item and so on.
I have learned this first hand as I live in a rural area but I have also moved house several times in recent years, and even moving only 10 minutes away from where you were can change things for the better or worse. Children also grow up and exert new demands on the family.
6. What challenges have you faced in your zero waste journey?
For me, the most challenging part about going zero waste is finding the time to cook more things for a family from scratch and finding meals and snacks that everyone enjoys.
I also find that because so much planning ahead is required to reduce food waste, get zero waste ingredients, and make zero waste food, that it can be quite stressful to host unexpected guests.
7. What has been the hardest thing to let go of and did you replace it with a zero waste option or give it up altogether?
Again, this has evolved over time. When we started this journey my main concerns were year round access to berries, giving up bottles of soda water, and the occasional chocolate bar. However, these all turned out to be quite easily solved.
We stocked up on berries at the berry farms when they were in season and froze them. I found homemade kombucha replaced the bubbly hit I was seeking from soda water and I found chocolate wrapped in compostable packaging, but I also found that my diet changed and I didn’t get craving so much anymore.
This is where I point out that we were living on a dairy farm and I had access to package free milk and could make my own yoghurt and cheeses. We’ve since moved away from the farm and I now buy those things in plastic packaging because we are not prepared to give them up.
The best I can do is reduce the amount we consume, reuse the packaging, or recycle it.
8. What are some of your favorite ways to avoid trash?
Growing, foraging, and preserving my own food would have to be some of the most satisfying things I do to avoid trash.
I also really enjoy finding ways to reuse things, or more accurately using things I already have to fulfill my needs.
I generally don’t look at things and think ‘what can I turn this into’, it’s more a case of going about my day to day and interest projects and then seeing what I already have to complete my tasks.
Learning how to repair and mend things is something else I really enjoy because it really adds to that sense of self-reliance and resilience.
9. What is the most creative thing you’ve done to reduce your waste?
When you start to see everything as a potential resource for meeting your needs and desires, rather than waste, you will amaze yourself with the sorts of things you can up with. Perhaps a good example of this creativity is when I turned old knee-high leather boots into a leather fly swat.
10. What are your zero waste essentials for on the go?
To be honest, not much because I live such a home-based life but I do make sure I always have a reusable cup, water bottle, and cutlery kept in the car.
11. What is a popular zero waste product that you don’t use and why?
Reusable straws. They seemed so cool back in the day but we never use them because we can drink pretty much anything with our lips.
12. Are there any zero waste myths you’d like to debunk?
One myth that I think prevails is that zero waste or plastic-free living is expensive. It can be that way if you are simply swapping consumption of cheap disposable plastic items for the consumption of expensive reusable glass or stainless steel but zero waste is so much more than that.
It’s about asking yourself if you really need something in the first place and reducing your overall consumption. It’s about reusing and repurposing what you already have to fill a need and it’s about choosing second hand when you can’t fill that need with what you have.
All of these approaches are often free or much cheaper than new ones. And when you do buy new reusable items and use them for their full lifespan you save money in the long term.
13. Do you believe a zero waste lifestyle is possible for anyone?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean we can all achieve a thimbleful of waste per year.
The zero waste movement focuses on maximising resources and minimising waste and is a way of changing attitudes towards consumerism and our shared resources to create a better system, for example, moving away from a linear (take, make, dump) economy to a circular economy where everything is a potential resource for something else, there is no waste.
It’s a protest against a throw-away society, a demonstration that we don’t have to tolerate mindless consumption or the environmental, health, and social ramifications that come with it.
This is something that everyone can be part of to some extent, and we must remember that everyone is at a different point in their journey which is heavily influenced by their skills, knowledge, circumstance, and privilege.
14. What do you think attracts people to a more sustainable lifestyle?
I think people are starting to realise that the sicker the planet gets the sicker people are and I think there’s a feeling that the way we live is quite dysfunctional and destructive to family and community relationships.
We are depriving ourselves of our basic human needs and people have had enough. It’s time for change.
15. I live in an area that doesn’t have bulk shopping or many recycling options. What tips would you provide me to help me avoid plastics or any other common waste? [I can recycle cans, glass, metals, paper, but that is about all.]
If you have difficulty avoiding packaging or other forms of waste then do the next best thing by following the waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose and so on. Can you repair that plastic toy with a special glue? Can you reuse any of those plastic tubs? If not, do you know someone else who can?
We actually need to view plastic as the valuable resource it is so that continues to get used in the productive economy rather than discarded after a single-use.
16. Where do you encourage people to start with living a zero waste lifestyle?
Garbage bin audits show that about 30-40% of most household rubbish is food waste, and of this nearly two thirds is avoidable!
Throwing out food that could have been eaten is a waste of money to households and councils, and food waste in landfill produces methane gas which is 25 times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, so the environmental cost is significant.
Therefore one of the best ways to reduce your waste is to start composting all your organic matter. Some people will be lucky enough to have a food and garden organics collection bin from their council but others should start home composting or worm farming to reduce their volume of rubbish by a third almost immediately.
It would also pay to make sure you are using up as much food as possible before it ends up in the bin.
17. For someone who has gone through the process of switching out all of their single-use items and is always prepared when they are out and about, what would you suggest they try next?
Look at other ways you can reduce your consumption, for instance, do you support fast fashion and could you reduce how much clothing you buy or learn to mend items so you can get more life out of them? Or maybe starting to grow your own food is more appropriate for you?
18. When you really want to open people’s eyes to the global crisis that is occurring, what do you usually share? Is it a stat, personal story, etc?
Because I am mostly talking to people about individual and household level changes to reduce waste, I usually start my presentations by letting people know that the average Australian individual produces approximately two tonnes of waste per year and the average family could fill a three bedroom house with the amount of rubbish they throw away each year!
This usually gets peoples’ attention as they try to imagine if that would actually be how much waste they produce in one year.
19. When it comes to resources, what are some of your favorites that keep you motivated or have helped you learn throughout your journey?
I struggle with this question a little bit because one of the reasons I started blogging was because (at the time) I couldn’t find anyone that I really connected with, and I didn’t see anyone else doing plastic free or zero waste who was very similar to me.
Gradually that has changed though and there are many others blogging about these things now. I’ve also gotten to know some people better. So in terms of bloggers, I enjoy the content of Treading My Own Path, The Rogue Ginger, and Spiral Garden.
Other resources include the Plastic Free July website and social media, the Gardening Australia content is always fabulous and gives me lots of ideas, I also think the book The Art of Frugal Hedonism is a great one for people who might need convincing that a frugal life is a fulfilling one. I’m probably forgetting some but that’s a good start.
20. What are you most excited about right now? Any fun projects you’d like to share with us?
This year is the 10 year anniversary of the Plastic Free July Challenge and I’m excited to say that the celebrations include the release of a book called Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters by the founders, which includes a snippet of my story.
I also have many gardening projects on the go at the moment which is always fulfilling to me.
I hope you learned as much from Tammy at Gippsland Unwrapped as I did! I’ve got a list of ideas to try to increase my efforts towards a zero waste lifestyle that I cannot wait to experiment with, starting with making kombucha!
Also, I think there is power in what Tammy said about viewing plastic as more valuable than what our society looks at it. While I do believe there are certain plastic items we shouldn’t use at all, there are some that shouldn’t be replaced simply due to being made of plastic. An example of this is a toilet bowl wand.
Use the all of the life your plastic items can offer, then at the end of their lives, replace them with sustainable options.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off on that tangent, but I loved this point that Tammy made and I wanted to add my personal thoughts to this discussion.
If you enjoyed Tammy at Gippsland Unwrapped, be sure to visit her blog and leave a comment below with your takeaways and questions!