By Tiani Dun

Gina at Chinaman’s Beach: Film by Tiani Dun

Meet Gina: A Marine Scientist and Plastic Waste Warrior, born in Germany but currently living in Townsville, Queensland where she is completing her Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology.

Gina lives in my house part-time, and spreads her message of environmental awareness through her cheerful demeanor and minimalistic lifestyle. In this article, she describes her journey towards environmental activism and how we should start by first looking at our own lifestyles.

“Just by doing one small thing each day, everyone can make a difference.” 

Gina Karnasch at a beach clean-up

It was on her exchange to the Galapagos islands when Gina’s eyes were opened to the pressing issue of our growing plastic wastes. Here, she found plastics accumulated around islands which were not even inhabited.

“It was sad because the island chains don’t necessarily use all that plastic but are the ones who reap all the effects from major producers, like Asia and the US.”

Often, due to the direction of the currents, the poorer countries are the ones that see the effects of our luxurious and unsustainable lifestyles.

“People think that when you throw it away it’s gone – it’s out of sight and out of mind. But it does accumulate. We just don’t see it – so we don’t think of the consequences.”

Each year, 381 million tonnes of waste is produced. 50% of this is in the form of single-use plastics, and only 9% of this has ever been recycled (2).

“It’s everywhere, we’re swimming in it, we’re eating it, people just don’t care because it doesn’t necessarily affect them. People think the ocean is a never-ending, bottomless pit.”

There has even been plastic found at the deepest point on earth –in the Mariana Trench –10km below the surface!

Deep Sea Debris: Source JAMSTEC

“Throughout our degree I’ve become more and more conscious of how much we use. Whether it was working in beach cleanups or diving after debris events, I’ve always been shocked to see how much plastic there is in our oceans,” Gina says.

We have an ethical responsibility to our planet to spread the message of conscious living. So here, Gina provides us with seven simple ways that everybody can make a change.

1. Be more active

When you can, try to walk or cycle rather than drive. You not only get exercise but you get to save the environment at the same time (so it’s a win-win, really). If you need to go somewhere far, see if it’s possible to car-pool with a friend.

Source: Bikeradar

2. Buy second hand

Each time you buy something brand new, think of whether you will actually use it or not. Check the tag –has it been ethically made? How long will it last you? Enough to justify the price you pay and perhaps the child labour required to make it?

Buying things new is feeding into the consumerism that drives our society today. Often, new clothes are overpriced and made unethically overseas. In order to reduce our footprints, Gina suggests heading to your local op shop for new wardrobe ideas instead. Often, op shops and second hand stores are filled with plethora of hidden treasures –and for less than half the price!

3. Reduce your meat intake

A largely vegetarian or vegan diet is not only better for your health, but will also have colossal environmental effects. In fact, scientists have calculated that just one meat patty requires over 2,400 litres of fresh water for irrigation and drinking purposes –and this doesn’t even take into consideration the feed, transport and land usage required for production (The Game Changers, 2018).

Meat production is the root cause of a large portion of the deleterious environmental effects we are seeing on our Earth today. If the world suddenly went vegetarian, food-related emissions would drop by up to 60%, while up to 80% of land used for agriculture could be restored to grasslands or forests. Further, worldwide vegetarianism would see a global mortality reduction of up to 10%, thanks to a reduction in coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers (Nuwer, 2016)

Making your own food is not only cheaper, but also much healthier. Check out some easy and cheap vegan recipes here!

4. Reuse everything!

Plastic, if one thing –is used as a convenience. Particularly in this time, plastic is used simply because we are often too lazy to think of other options. However, this sickness is easily curable with a little bit of awareness and a lot of commitment.

Gina advises us to be mindful of what we buy.  If there’s an option to buy something that isn’t wrapped in plastic, then take that one –it may be worth paying a couple of dollars to reduce your impact on the planet. Gina recommends buying fruits and veggies from our local markets (which are not wrapped in plastic), and shampoo in bars from stores like Lush. Make the switch to bamboo toothbrushes, hairbrushes and buy drinks in glass bottles rather than plastic when possible! When you do go shopping, bring your own mesh/tote bags and say no to plastic at the counter.

When out and about, it may be useful to have a set of cutlery, tupperware containers and coffee cups that live in your bag or car. Not only will you never need single-use plastics again, but reusing your items also ends up being cheaper in the long-run (at most coffee shops, you can get a discount on your coffees if you BYO cup)!

Further, Gina advises us to avoid eating takeaway foods –not only is cooking much cheaper, but takeaway options typically come in unnecessary plastic packaging.

5. Girls – switch to the menstrual cup

As a modern woman, it may be time to rethink your feminine care options.“Every single tampon is wrapped in plastic – that’s a lot of plastic used per year for one single woman,” Gina says.

One woman will use around 11,000 disposable pads or tampons in a lifetime. But today, there are new, eco-friendly alternatives to pads and tampons. Gina recommends trying out the menstrual cup -a reusable, sustainable option that lasts for years. So if you haven’t already, jump on the menstrual cup bandwagon and give one a try!

Source: OrganiCup

6. Start small

It may seem overwhelming, but the trick is to start small and improve over time. When focusing on minor aspects of your life, it becomes easy to find small changes you can make to your everyday habits. Perhaps begin with having a look in your pantry and seeing which items of plastic you could possibly reduce. Maybe you could buy certain things in bulk, or even head to the zero-waste store where you can bring your own jars.

Some people may think it’s too much of a hassle to live sustainably. It’s true –to live consciously isn’t an easy feat. It’s hard, and often our efforts go unrewarded or unnoticed.

Sometimes, you may find yourself unconsciously comparing yourself to others, thoughts like, “Why should I make such an effort when others don’t?” may pop into your mind.

I’m asking you to look beyond the selfish predispositions of your ego. Know that here lies a greater purpose, one which is beyond the individual and for the service of all living things.

It is our responsibility to change. If this resonates with you –if you’ve come this far reading this article –or if you care at all for the future of our planet and civilisation, then you now hold the power to contribute to our new earth.

“We have forgotten how to be good guests, how to walk lightly on the earth as its other creatures do.”
—Barbara Ward

We are at a crossroads: If we don’t do anything now it’ll only get worse, and soon we will exceed the point where we can ameliorate our dying world.

7. Share your knowledge

By simply telling your friends and family to change their ways, you are having a bigger effect than you can ever imagine. Lead by example –your conscious way of living will inspire those around you and have ripple effects on the people around you and your wider community.

Gina at Chinaman’s Beach: Film by Tiani Dun

Remember that education is key, and although you may sometimes feel like drowning in the abyss of mindless human consumption, know that people are awakening all over the planet. There are reasons to be positive –worldwide mindfulness is improving and a green revolution has begun. Remember that the core of it starts with you, and even the slightest changes you make will have an impact.

Clothing designer, environmental activist and founder of
Designs by NICHE.

By Tiani Dun

Nisha Goldsworthy wearing her original designs

I met Nisha while volunteering, and at every encounter since, this young earthling has provided me with her shining ray of inspiration. Nisha, currently mid-way through her Masters of Science by research, loves creatures of all shapes and sizes. In particular, she is currently conducting her research on small coral reef gobies of the genus Trimma -a feat that has even taken her across the seas to Kimbe Bay, PNG.

On the side and in her spare time, Nisha took her care for the environment along with her love for dressmaking and formed her own business. Designs by NICHE is founded by Nisha, where she creates ethical, handmake apparel from recycled fabrics.

Original Designs by NICHE
Original Designs by NICHE

Nisha describes her journey below:

“It all started when I was 9 years old – I got a knitting machine for my birthday and all my mum’s friends would buy my fluffy scarfs.”

Nisha used to hit up her local op shop regularly. She would buy her clothes second hand and alter them, so she always had her own, original wardrobe.

Hereafter, Nisha worked a regular job for a period of time, yet found she was treated unfairly at such a young age. She was sick of being disrespected, thus sought a new method of income. She found that by doing what she loved, she was able to work on her own schedule, and avoid the headache of her old part-time job.

So in 2016, Nisha founded Designs by NICHE with the idea to encourage others to invest in a sustainable wardrobe. Her advice is to: Buy less things, support local businesses, buy things that will last and to shop second hand.

Original Designs by NICHE
Original Designs by NICHE

Recycled materials are mostly one-off. Therefore, Nisha’s designs are groovy and rather unique. “Duvet covers, bedsheets, curtains, table cloths, scrap material. They can all be turned into something really cool.”

My name’s Nisha -so I’ll call it Niche. Designs by NICHE, it’s a pun on words but also describes the niche designs I make.

But slow fashion no easy feat -Nisha’s designs can take her hours to create. While studying full-time finding the time to trial, cut, sew, iron and label her designs can be difficult. Yet our sustainability guru always manages to find the time for her work, and she listens to audiobooks about world history while she creates.

Original Designs by NICHE
Original Designs by NICHE

In her work, Nisha strives to raise awareness of the injustices in the fashion supply chain. Many of our clothes are made by children or people paid so unfairly that they may as well be slaves. “You can’t compare the prices between something bought online and something made with care by hand. It’s not possible to have something so cheap with good quality and have people being paid fairly.”

If something’s not right I won’t sell it, I’ll fix it.

For Nisha, creating her designs therapeutic, and the results are the most satisfying. “It’s the most rewarding thing,” she says, “When I make something for somebody and they like it, that’s the best part for me.”

When entering into the science realm Nisha didn’t realise how much creativity and science could combine. “They actually link well together. You need creative minds to formulate new ideas -to think outside the box and come up with solutions for problems.”

Nisha believes that the most important way to make a difference in this world is through education. Whether it’s just small stuff -like making a better wardrobe, or whether it’s about wildlife, sustainability and the environment, Nisha will continue on her endeavours to inspire and improve the lives of those around her. But her double life is far from over -she will always find the time to express her creative side.

Nisha Goldsworthy wearing her original designs

Life isn’t all about the image -be comfortable in your own skin – wear what you want to wear! Don’t do it for other people, do it for yourself, do it because you like it.

Check out Nisha’s shop here or email nisha@designsbyniche.co.nz for enquires.

By Tiani Dun

Halifax falls on Film by Tiani Dun

What does the perfect world look like?

Renewable energy drives entire countries. Each and every car is powered by solar and battery. In fact, every roof of every house is coated with a solar-powered paint.

Our countries aren’t run by single individuals, who are likely to only be around (and thus plan and envision for) a few years. Instead, parliament is run by a group of diverse and educated young individuals, who work together to make decisions with the interest of the people and the earth first.  

Children are taught to garden, to build with wood and metals and to cook in schools. In universities (which are free), students work on real-life and relevant projects which make a difference in their local communities. Students are taught to ask questions, and to live consciously.

All toilets and irrigation systems now use recycled water instead of fresh water. Every person brings their own bags and containers to the supermarkets when they need to restock their kitchens. Street lamps turn on only when they sense you coming and are dimmed when they aren’t needed.

The thing is, we have all of the technologies and capabilities of making this world a reality -today. Why is it that we live in a country so rich, yet we are so behind in catching onto the ideologies of green lifestyles?

In Iceland, 99% of energy is produced by hydropower and geothermal energy. Norway is similarly run with 98% of production coming from hydropower, wind and thermal energy.

Australia, unfortunately, is lagging severely behind. Today, just over 25% of our energy comes from renewable sources, with the main contributor to our energy still being coal.

Why are we so behind? What is taking us so long?

With a plethora of land and sun, you would think we would cover more area with solar panels. With a coastline enveloped by the ocean, you would think that we would harness the energy from the waves and tides.

Some good news: The cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide are now transitioning to 100% renewable energy. The rest of Australia still has a long swim ahead.