My latest South African Zero Waste feature is on Karoline Hanks of Single Use Plastic Alternatives (SUPA). Karoline lives in Noordhoek with her boyfriend, her teenage son, 3 Ridgebacks and an Irish Terrier. Karoline is a Freelancer writer, editor, blogger and trail runner. Her passion lies in the problem with single-use plastics and finding ways to minimise our plastic footprint – globally as well as at the community and individual level.
Q & A with Karoline:
How did you find out about zero waste living?
Through various links on FaceBook and also driven by an inherent passion to live lightly. My real plastic journey started in 2013 when I started my crusade against the plastic sachets used to hydrate road runners in races. I wrote an article in the Cape Times shortly after the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon that year, and have been in negotiations with the OMTOM committee since. I am going to be part of a very exciting workshop/strategy session on the 1st September 2017 to which many big names in road running have been invited. Our mission is to seek plastic-free hydration solutions for road running events … watch this space!
When did you start your zero waste journey?
I managed the Noordhoek recycling depot for almost ten years and this got me super passionate about waste management and looking at ways to reduce household waste output. There are so many stories from this experience, not all positive, about how even “enlightened” folk in a semi-rural community can abuse a system.
I am involved in a number of community projects, street clean ups, ecobrick drives, a dog poo composting proposal using worms (to reduce plastic bag use and to compost poo), and a few others, including the Straws Suck campaign, which has just about eliminated plastic drinking straws from the Noordhoek farm village restaurant group.
What drives you to continue with this lifestyle?
A great sense of alarm at what is happening to our marine environment; coastal and deep oceans. We are drowning in plastic and one hears about the impacts of this daily. There is so much we do not know about and that terrifies me to my core.
Is everyone in your household on board and if not, how do you deal with this?
My son certainly is, my partner a little less so. He still insists on shopping at one of my least favorite retailers (no names mentioned!), so comes home with so much plastic packaging. I ecobrick almost all of it to offset his obscene plastic footprint. I have at least managed to “train” him to take re-usables to the shop, so he is doing his bit. He is also on board with me on my crusade against running plastic, so some battles have been won!
What is your biggest struggle with the lifestyle?
I am very far from being zero waste in that still not shopping as mindfully as one needs to (mainly since my partner insists on being the main shopper). I contribute in other ways; facilitating the making of fresh produce bags which I sell, and making beeswax fabric wraps at home also to sell as an alternative to clingwrap and tinfoil etc.
What would you say has been your best discovery thus far?
My trainee sewing group in Masi who are producing the fabric bags for me. I started making them on my own and could not keep up with orders! I really want to expand on this and have some ideas (all SUPA) in the pipeline. I love the synergy of training, job creation and plastic footprint reduction.
What advice would you give to someone who is on the zero waste journey and is feeling like giving up?
Never, ever give up. Take a walk on the beach (any beach, no matter how remote) and OPEN your eyes. Connect the dots and see that YOU can make a big difference. Get angry, get loud, make a noise, rattle cages and insist on changes, from restaurants to retailers to friends.
What packaged item/s are not worth sacrificing, for you?
Can’t answer this to be honest! I believe everything can be worked around and alternatives found!?
Do you have a tip you would like to share?
Use the power of social media to spread the message and change mindsets.
Where are the best spots to get package free goods in your town?
Food Lover’s Market in Noordhoek. I am hoping to get my bags into our local store. There are also two farm stalls where I like to buy my fresh produce all packaging free. A friend of mine is just about to open one of South Africa’s very first zero waste stores, The Package Free Food & Lifestyle Co-Op. Very excited about this.
This Midway video brings me to tears every time I watch it, and I think is one of the most moving accounts of our impact on this planet.
You can listen to my interview with Cape Talk’s Pippa Hudson which also summarises what I do.