"I haven’t completely solved the problem, but I have sparked changes in people’s mindsets, actions and habits - and that’s all it takes to reduce waste."
Sacha Winter, 17
What was Sacha’s motivation?
It was taking part in Plastic Free July in 2012 that made (a then) 11 year-old Sacha Winter realise that it was possible, and relatively easy, to cut waste. She was motivated by the drastic reduction she saw in her own household’s waste and it got her thinking about how, with a few tweaks to the way things were done, there was potential to create a big impact in the right setting.
Fast-forward a few years, and, as the newly elected Year 12 Environment Captain at Presbyterian Ladies College (PLC), she knew exactly what to do. She wanted to take the challenge her household had undertaken and scale it up – and in very little time the “Waste Free PLC” initiative was born.
How did Sacha motivate those around her?
Sacha embraced the opportunity to influence others within her school community, and together with staff or students looked at a range of areas where waste could be reduced. Keeping it simple and achievable in the early stages was key to helping to firstly change attitudes, and then change actions.
Some of the ideas she helped to introduce and implement were:
Eco catering and a waste-wise canteen – the school catering company now uses BioPak plant based packaging, paper straws and sells keep cups at the canteen with a discount incentive.
A waste audit and better recycling – taking a good look at what was being thrown out across the schools bins lead to the introduction of a paper recycling program and a central waste recycling station which includes a collection bin for old pens, pencils and markers (through TerraCycle) as well as batteries.
Education and behaviour change – Sacha used every opportunity she could - whole school presentations at assemblies, as well as articles and reminders in the school newsletter – to make sure people new about the new waste management strategies at PLC, and why they were so important.
Encouraging reuse, repair and repurposing – practical activities and workshops like making tote bags out of old t-shirts and creating newspaper pots for plant offcuts, were run. She also led a major fashion swap in celebration of Plastic Free July.
Waste free events – Sacha had a hand in transforming the school’s annual Farm2Fork gourmet food event into a zero waste event, providing left over food to OzHarvest.
What impact has Sacha Made?
BIG reductions to the school’s total waste generation, and improvements to recycling processes – a legacy that the school is committed to maintaining.
A single fashion-swap event saved 11 boxes and 2 clothing racks worth of clothes from landfill, giving them a second life instead.
Transforming Farm2Fork into a zero waste event prevented 250 people’s worth of waste
It’s hard to measure, but by educating others to own their impact (in little and big ways) each student and staff member who has taken on board one or all of Sacha’s initiatives has the potential to
Sacha may have graduated at the end of 2018, but we’re betting her impact won’t stop there.
Leaving her school community committed to doing more, Sacha is now in a position to tackle waste in her university environment, as well as in the community through volunteering opportunities.
HOW YOU CAN GET ON BOARD?
- Be the wave of change in your school or community – start conversations, ask questions, champion change – just because it’s the way things have always been done doesn’t mean it’s right!
- Do your own waste audit - it could be at home, at school or in the workplace. Understand the type of waste you are generating and look at how you might be able to reduce it, or prevent items going to landfill when they could be recycled.
- Familiarise yourself with those harder-to-recycle items that TerraCycle specialises in.
- Run your own clothing swap or MYO tote bag event, or find something happening near you.