• PLASTIC:Unwrapped

Accidental Activist, Anita Horan

At the end of last week, we were given a whole host of useful contacts to help us connect with as many people as possible before we leave Australia next week. One of these was the heart and soul behind the #PlasticFreeProduce Campaign here in Australia, Anita Horan, whom we had the pleasure of speaking to on Friday to hear all about her 'accidental activism'. Many of you will know that one of our most important aims on this journey is to highlight the importance of individual action when it comes to catalysing change in the world of sustainability. Within 5 minutes of speaking to Anita we realised that she is a prime example of one of these individuals; a regular person like you or I, who noticed a problem and decided she wanted to try and do something about it. Her tireless efforts in promoting awareness and evoking change within the world of plastic pollution and responsible consumerism are incredibly inspiring and we wanted to share three of our key take-home messages from our conversation with Anita.

1. “I saw the reality of our self-indulgent lifestyle.”

Excessive plastic packaging in our lives is one of the original drivers that led us to create PLASTIC: Unwrapped. We had wanted to live a ‘Plastic-Free November’ but quickly realised that with a student budget in the tiny town of St Andrews, it just wasn’t feasible. Anita’s story really resonated with us because from a small thought, a realisation, a desire to reduce plastic waste in her own lifestyle, came a huge movement that has gone on to influence large companies and allowed her to contribute to the recent ABC show, War on Waste.

This is why Anita describes herself an accidental activist, who is now invited to speak about excessive plastic packaging in schools and for environmental groups. It was a personal encounter in a supermarket, where items were bagged unnecessarily, that led to Anita becoming such an important driving force in the movement towards #NudeFood, #Plasticabuse and #PlasticFreeProduce. She realised that society has an addiction to excessive plastic food packaging and considered the self-indulgent nature of our habits and behaviours.

This is something that we regularly think about. Just last week we were asked by a 10-year old why plastic is bad when we need it in things like cars. Important question! The point is that unnecessary plastic is bad and that our behaviour is often such that we forget to question the necessity of our habits. Do we really need a plastic produce bag just because it’s been put there by the supermarket?

We were reminded by Anita to be brave enough to question our actions and to stand up to supermarkets who are endorsing environmentally-damaging, unnecessary behaviour.

2. “Please be our voice and our face.”

So often you see a problem and you think you are the only one who sees or acknowledges the problem. Consequently, feeling overwhelmed, insignificant and lonely can quickly overcome the original spark of passion. This wasn’t any different for Anita. Her motivation to continue pursuing her passion of relentlessly exploring the reasons why so much packaging still exists, despite fruits and vegetables evolving their 'natural packaging', was refuelled through various social media platforms. She quickly realised that there were so many passionate, like-minded individuals out there. Bouncing off people’s enthusiasm, Anita quickly became the face of the movement. In a situation where there is so much energy out there, it is so important to effectively harness communal energy and use that to propel action. Ever since, Anita has been a key figure in campaigning against plastic free packaging in fruits and vegetables. Working closely with governments, industry and the public, she is a key figure in spearheading change.

While change may be slow, it is happening. Unfortunately, some supermarkets are still looking for easy ways out and using greenwashing to their advantage. Instead of focusing on reducing plastic as a whole, they are exploring the avenues of how to lightweight or simply use a different type of plastic in the same way. Whilst this is very disheartening to witness, she has had hope as she has been seeing a shift in the public.

More people are rethinking their choices and at least attempting to opt for plastic free alternatives. Through her activism, Anita is helping individuals to rethink the accepted belief system of what requires plastic packaging and why it is often superfluous. She is showing people how it can be done.

3. “It’s a numbers game”

We were very keen to ask Anita what we (as well as you!) can do to help her achieve her goals and aims. Her answer was quite simple. The importance of keeping plastic trending is key in invoking change at a higher governmental level. To do this, we need to keep liking posts, sharing pages and building and expanding the network. All too often, so much effort and time may be spent on a post, a video or an image and the response it gets does not reflect it. We too have experienced this, and it was reassuring to hear Anita reiterate the same message.

It’s not about making us feel good by giving us a ‘like’ here or there, it’s about gaining momentum and working with social network algorithms to spread the word and get our message out there. You never know how far a simple share may take you, or who may be influenced by what we share. It is important to add, though, that while all the sharing and connecting is great, we must take the core messages on board rather than just using the post we’ve liked to tick off our ‘green deed for the day.’

Instead, let’s get reading, thinking, sharing and re-evaluating the societal norms that need remodelling. So next time you share something on social media, include the hashtag #PlasticFreeProduce, tag Anita’s social media links in your post to show that you believe in what she is working so hard to fight for, and finally, tag the corporate organisations that can make change happen from the top down. Supermarkets need nagging and we can be the ones to do that!

You can find more information on the awesome work that Anita is doing on her social media platforms and website below:

Anita is one of many individuals we’ve been given the opportunity of connecting with during our 7 weeks here in Australia and we can’t even begin to explain how helpful each and every person has been. Just a one-hour phone call can help us find our next contact, determine our next fundraising activity or simply continue to increase our knowledge of the plastic situation in each place we visit. So thank you, Anita, for taking the time to share your inspiring journey with us and stay tuned to see where it takes us over the remaining few months!