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The Simple Fulfilment of Conscious Living with Ethically Kate

 

Kate hall, otherwise known as Ethically Kate -  self-described as an educator, activist and blogger, who advocates for living and decision making that respects and protects people and the planet. If you read Kate's amazing website, www. ethicallykate.com,  she mentions she's a wife, a keeper of a gorgeous Cockatiel and professional Labradoodle belly rubber.

Kate endeavours to show others how simple and fulfilling it is to live consciously and hand on heart she is one of the most authentic, real living sustainable inspirations I've come across.

Good Change:

Kate, firstly, just tell us a little bit about your story. Where did you grow up? What was your home life made up of? Has the ethos you live and breathe these days been bred into you from childbirth or was there a light bulb moment or a turning point in your life where you decided to follow down this path?

Kate:

I grew up in a fairly conscious family. I didn't know that composting was not something that everyone did. I loved big bags of hand me downs and op shopping. That was something we did, but it wasn't until 2015 in August, I watched the documentary, The True Cost.

Sustainability obviously means something that can happen over and over again. It doesn't just mean environmental sustainability. It can be mental, emotional, and just being happy in your job. So I think, for me, hearing about the fashion industry and that I was contributing to an industry that exploits so many, that was a turning point. I will try not to be responsible for that.

Good Change:

So, what was the first change you made as the result of seeing that movie?

Kate:

The first thing, literally overnight, was fashion related. I decided to try my best to find out who made it and what materials it was made from. I needed a pair of jeans, and I went into Cotton On, and I was asking the shop assistant about where these are made and all of that type of thing and they couldn’t give me a direct answer.And that, I think, was my first kind of run with how difficult ethical fashion was going to be.

It's also about compromise too. I'm always learning and always kind of evolving where my values are and am happy to purchase and support, because I think where you spend your money is obviously what you support. That was the light bulb moment.

Good Change:

I think the common concern for most people is that living with less waste and trying to shop ethically is all just put into the ‘two hard basket’.  Life gets busy and chaotic. The biggest question for most people is where do I start? After you saw that movie, what was the first thing that you did from a sustainable clothing and fashion perspective? What would be one little tip that you could give people just to start off on their sustainable journey?

Kate:

One of the main things to do is get really aware of what you are currently doing because I could recommend a sustainably made dress to someone, or I could tell someone to go op shopping but its really size exclusive. That may not work for that particular person, or someone may not wear dresses as we're all so different.

Wherever you are, whatever you do, whoever you are, take stock of what your current waste streams are. Do a little waste audit. Keep your waste aside for a week, or maybe even two days choose something that suits you because often we just put it aside and put it in the rubbish bin. We don't think about it. Taking stock is kind of auditing, recording and writing down ‘how often am I shopping?’ What are the last 10 purchases I bought? How could I have avoided those? Because it's not just about swapping out your shopping habits for sustainable ones. It's actually about reducing what you purchase. Because consumerism and over consumerism is, arguably the biggest issue here. Taking stock and being really aware. You could have a two day rubbish audit. You've seen what you've produced and you could have avoided that. Have conversations with friends. You'd be surprised at ideas they may have. Just be inquisitive.

Starting by seeing and assessing your impact in your life changes your mindset. It is a privilege, I believe, to live fully to your values.

Good Change:

I feel like it's slowly changing. Over the last 100-200 years, capitalism seems to have molded the world into this whereby people are so into consuming stuff.

Do you think, with the whole sustainability journey and it becoming a more vocal topic, that purchasing is slowing down somewhat?

Kate:

Consumerism isn't slowing down. Unfortunately, I see that. So, there's different pockets and spaces. Potentially it is, but sometimes even to be honest in the sustainability world, you see encouragement for consumerism of sustainably made items that people don't actually need.

To answer your question bluntly. No, I don't see it slowing down. I heard the other day that the green movement, if you want to call it, is the biggest it's ever been. I don't think, until there is more change at the top from government, that we will actually change people loving stuff.

Good Change:

You must feel so proud that you're actually going out there and voicing all of this stuff to the wider community. If you could make small changes and impact people the way people operate in their day to day it's going to make a difference. And we always say at Good Change: It's not about making massive changes, just make one little incremental change and all of that powered up together can actually make a real difference.

Kate:

I do sometimes put my hands in my hair and go “Are we doing enough?” I think that personally, for me, my passion is to actually talk to people who don't care, who currently don't know about these issues who currently don't know that they have impact. If I can encourage lots and lots of people to do one thing. I often tell people to compost because approximately 50% of a household's waste is organic matter. That can be turned into lovely soil, and we need more good soil. When they start that, I know they're going to make more changes because they're going to be exposed to this awesome circular system of a compost.

 

Good Change:

Some people think composting is this a really scientific, complicated process. At our place (we live rurally) we just take our food scraps (we just have a bucket under the sink and pop all the scraps in there) and just dig it straight back into the garden. The soil is so fertile and so lovely. It’s easy and just a total no-brainer.

Kate:

When you are in a smaller space, you do have to think a little more around  smells etc. People always ask me what they can and can't compost? Technically you could compost anything that is an organic matter.

Good Change:

So as a consumer, how do you know when you go into a shop to buy something that you are buying something that is authentically a sustainable option? There are so many companies out there that are greenwashing. There are so many companies that are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon because they know that they actually have to, in this day and age, be seen to be sustainable.

The word sustainability is a trendy catch phrase. How do you know that you're actually buying a product that is authentically sustainable? Are there things that we should look out for?

Kate:

I look out for transparency and honesty and a company that's prepared to share everything to an extent that you don't have to demand too much.

There's obviously IP and stuff they can't share. But, I think there's lots of nuances depending on the product. What I would be comfortable buying may not be what someone else would be comfortable buying and that's fine. There's different lines. Someone may buy something that was completely ethically made overseas, natural dyes etc. Different people have their own different code of ethics and values. Thinking about those is really important before you shop. Transparency, I think is the big one.

Certifications are also helpful. However, I know lots of smaller brands who don't have the money to do the auditing and have the certification, but they may be even better. We're often passive consumers. We don't realize that we actually do have the right to ask these questions to companies if we're going to buy something.

Good Change:

You mentioned on your website, the idea of starting your reduction of waste with a waste audit of your rubbish bin is the great way to see what rubbish you produce hence you can make slow and strategic plans for reducing it. Can you tell us a bit more about this?

Kate:

I highly recommend anyone does a rubbish audit. Collect the rubbish, including the recyclable. Recyclable waste should still be avoided since I personally still think it's still rubbish because often a lot of things aren't recycled. All my rubbish is quite minimal, and it doesn't have smelly food waste on it, for I've been able to decompose that in my backyard and turn it in the soil.

When it's time to do the audit, I separate it into waste streams. I'll have my cardboard there, my wine bottles there with other glass things, soft plastics and all kind of miscellaneous. So, I sort it into different parts and if you weren't composting, you'd also have a little pile of your organic matter.

I weigh each of those things. And I write notes about each waste stream. So, when I looked at my waste, to be honest, the most weight and the biggest waste stream is actually wine bottles. I'm personally trying to sort that out at the moment and going to try and attempt to make my own wine.

Good Change:

We went along a really small stretch of river with the kids from a school recently that looked actually quite pristine when you were looking from a far, but once you got in there, the amount of rubbish was unbelievable. We picked up all the rubbish boxes and we separated it out.

We had the scales there and we weighed it. We separated the bottles, cans, clothing etc and then with the kids it was an exercise in maths for them adding up all of the different rubbish groups. What an eyeopener for the children to see how much rubbish is actually out there.

Kate:

I used to work in kindergartens and do a similar thing. Some would create 30 kilograms of waste in one day and that's 70 children (under five years old) and 20 adults. I think that's really confronting in a positive way. Now we know you could go back to that cleanup spot, do another audit and it could be less or it could be more. It just gives you more information.

The sustainability world can seem very open ended and ethereal and the concepts and the values that we talk about.

Practically, I hope that people feel empowered to actually take those steps. And then all those values and waffly concepts can really be grounded in action.

Good Change:

How do we help our children escape this fake world of consumerism? I call it the ‘plastic fantastic’. What would be your advice to parents bringing up kids in this really crazy fast paced consumer world?

Kate:

I think it just comes down to learning by watching. I really love to see families who have these values around caring for other people in the planet and open conversation about it because obviously currently those values are quite opposite to potentially what kids would hear at school and in the media.

Good Change:

Can you tell our readers three things that they could take away from the conversation today.

Kate:

I would say one of the key things is to:

  1. Communicate and talk to other people. I see a lot of our struggles and faults and how unhappy people are and how much rubbish we're consuming, all those types of things. You don't need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to sustainability. Talk to grandparents and parents. There's so much wisdom in other people and talking to people who are different to you. Expanding your views and just being inquisitive and open to other people's ideas, not staying in your little ‘eco chamber’ of only listening to people who agree with you. Broaden your mind.
  2. Think ‘less quantity and consciously’ when buying something. I always try to look around my own home first. There's a great book called Stuffocation, which is just on the money, just hits the nail on the head.
  3. Compost. Even nowadays you can compost in a one bedroom apartment in the city. There are options. There's little systems that can sit on your bench. There's places that will pick up your waste and take it to other sites. When you start composting, there's so much. Less smell for your rubbish bin and we're not throwing precious resources into the landfill.

 

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