Zero Waste Festival

The Zero Waste Revolution recently held their Zero Waste Festival in Canberra. The theme of the event was ‘One Person, a World of Difference’. Upon hearing about the festival, I was excited to book a ticket. The theme aligns nicely with the concept of my blog, in that I strongly believe individual sustainability action makes a difference.

The event featured panel discussions, workshops, a clothes swap and a range of exhibitors profiling local sustainability initiatives. I chose to attend the panel discussions and wandered around the exhibits. I found the event inspiring and it was great to see an array of initiatives happening in my community.

Below are some of the key themes and resources that I took away from the event. You may be able to find similar initiatives near you.

Panel discussions

The speakers and facilitators gave fascinating presentations. They had their own unique experiences and shared a range of practical ideas and information with attendees.

The most important message communicated during the panel sessions was that if an individual only makes one small change, no matter how insignificant it seems, it should be encouraged and celebrated. People should not be made to feel ashamed that they are not doing enough. They should feel proud that they have taken the step to make a change to live a little more sustainably. As my regular readers would attest, I always encourage people to pick something that works within their family situation. No matter how small, each action contributes to the bigger sustainability picture. Those that are congratulated and feel good about their sustainability successes are more likely to take further steps in the future.  

Across the three panels, there were key themes and questions arising including about soft plastic recycling, composting, fast fashion and overconsumption. Here are some of the key take away points:

  • Soft plastics

Soft plastics can be recycled through Red Cycle around Australia, however this does involve individuals collecting their soft plastics and taking them to a collection site, for example at Coles or Woolworths. Although this is achievable and many people successfully recycle their soft plastics in this manner, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could recycle them through our kerbside recycling bin? There was much discussion about this point. In fact, the ACT Conservation Council is campaigning for kerbside collection of soft plastics in the ACT. There were encouraging examples from councils in New South Wales that have successfully enabled residents to recycle their soft plastics in their kerbside recycling bins. Residents are required to place all soft plastics within a larger soft plastic bag, tie-up the bag and place this on top of the bin. The bags are then easily separated from the remaining recycling for processing. Let’s hope soft-plastic kerbside recycling becomes a reality for all in the near future!

  • Composting

Composting was a hot topic with several questions ranging from ‘do I need to turn my compost’ to ‘how can meat be composted’? In short, turning compost once a week is ideal (I need to lift my game!) and meat can be composted in Bokashi systems or in hot compost systems such as in FOGO (Food Organics and Garden Organics) programs. If you have a backyard, having a compost bin or worm farm is a great way to manage your food waste. This reduces methane gas emissions (a potent greenhouse gas) which are produced when food scraps and other organics decompose in landfill. Fortunately, if you don’t have the time or space to compost there are some great options:

  1. Capital Scraps Composting is a Canberra business who collect food scraps direct from your kerbside and compost them on your behalf. This business uses bikes to collect the scraps to ensure the transportation process is carbon neutral, and donates the resulting compost back into the community, which I really love.
  2. Check in with your neighbours or a local community garden on whether they have capacity to accept your food scraps. There is a great app called Share Waste that aims to connect you with neighbours who are looking for more food scraps for their compost heaps, worm farms or chickens.
  • Fashion

Fashion was another popular topic with discussions surrounding everything from working conditions for factory workers to fast fashion and how our consumer-focused society values owning the latest clothing trends. Panelists detailed the challenges consumers face in identifying the sustainability of different brands to make more informed choices. This is due to a number of factors to consider including the embodied energy (see my article on hidden energy) from the manufacturing, transportation and retail aspects of the supply chain, the resource use (e.g. water), types of materials used (e.g. plastic content) and the conditions of workers. It is complex to map these factors to produce a clear picture of the sustainability of your fashion choices.  

One of the easiest ways you can make a difference is to wear things until they wear out, rather than wearing the latest trends. Once your clothing wears out, recycle the items in preference to putting them into landfill. See my article on recycling for how to recycle your textiles. If you want to expand your wardrobe, opt for buying second-hand clothing. There are some amazing options to choose from and this gives you the pleasure of having something ‘new’ without impacting on our environment.    

  • Overconsumption

Overconsumption and consumerism were big themes. There was plenty of discussion about our societies need to buy, buy, buy to the detriment of our planet. This mindset is not sustainable as we simply cannot continue to deplete resources to meet our demand to own material possessions (see my article on overconsumption). There was positive discussion on how we can refocus our efforts to implement concepts such as the ‘Right to Repair’, changing our economies to ‘Circular’ models, demanding manufacturers design products to last for as long as possible, and ensuring parts are available to repair goods. You may be interested to read more about the Right to Repair movement in the Productivity Commission’s report on the Right to Repair, which was released in December 2021.    

There was an array of other important discussions at the festival. If you want to listen to the proceedings, recordings are available at Zero Waste Revolution. Overall, the panel discussions were insightful, and gave me hope that many people in my community care about the environment, and are making their own Local Impact.   

Resources and Initiatives

There were a multitude of resources and initiatives that are well worth a mention including:

Environmental Heroes Podcast

Hosts Julie Boulton and Ryan Lungu interview an array of local people who are doing amazing sustainability projects to help our community and planet. The podcast is inspirational and opens your eyes to some wonderful sustainability achievements. I am slowly making my way through each episode on my drive to work (while I have some time without kids’ music playing!)

Green Caffeen

This is a cool initiative that enables coffee drinkers to use a reusable ‘Green Caffeen’ cup at their favourite participating cafes in a swap-and-go style system. The reusable cups are made from recycled plastic as an added bonus. The program is free to join and you simply scan your cup out via an app and scan the cup back in once it is returned to the café for cleaning. Cafes can sign up to be a participating store for free. So if your local café is not yet a part of this brilliant scheme, encourage them to join so they can play their role in reducing the reliance on disposable coffee cups.  

Go Zero Waste App

The Go Zero Waste App was launched as part of the proceedings. It is a cool app that maps locations where you can buy plastic free or waste free items near you. It also has zero waste challenges to help you to reduce waste and plastic in your life. The challenges are practical and help to make reducing your waste manageable. It is well worth adding to your device!


GIVIT is a charity connecting donations with people or communities who need specific items. This aims to prevent overwhelming charities with items with no destined home, particularly during disaster events, and ultimately reduces items entering landfill. GIVIT lists what items are needed on their website, a description of the intended recipient and provides you with the option to donate an amount to cover the cost of the item or to arrange for delivery of an item you wish to give. I love this concept and recommend you look into this group the next time you have something to donate.

What’s next

I thoroughly enjoyed the event and have been inspired to add a few new sustainability initiatives to my repertoire including:

  1. Organising community litter picking events in my local area; I have made initial contact with my local government to understand any rules surrounding such events. My next step is to register the event with Clean Up Australia to contribute to their Citizen Science Project which tracks Australia’s litter problem. And finally pick up rubbish to clean up our local parks and waterways and meet more of our neighbours.
  2. Volunteer with the Tuggeranong Repair café to assist with their recycling hub; This is a fantastic local initiative where the community can bring items for repair for free and learn new skills to enable the repair of items around their homes. The café also hosts a recycling hub for the community to drop-off hard to recycle items that can’t go into kerbside recycling.     

I would love to hear your thoughts on the event or any of the resources in the comments below.

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3 thoughts on “Zero Waste Festival

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    1. Hi Amanda, for the swap, you could bring up to 5 items of good quality clothes and take home the same number that you contributed.

      The Tuggeranong See Change group (local community environment group) recently hosted a swap event too, where people could bring up to 10 items of clothes, books, toys or fresh produce and take home the same number that they contributed. People could also purchase items for a gold coin donation if they had nothing to swap. Was a great event and would be easy to replicate in your local community 🙂


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