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MEET JESS: Newcastle's Waste Free Warrior

by Lauren Branson

Local MEET JESS: Newcastle's Waste Free Warrior

We sat down with Jess from Zero-Waste Newcastle to talk about, conscious gifting, the importance of buying local and why Newcastle is the perfect place for waste-free warriors! 

 What brought you to Newcastle?

About 5 years ago I was living in Melbourne for uni and my boyfriend was living in Newcastle. We were dating long distance for a while, but every time I came to visit I fell in love with the city and decided to move here. I’m originally from a really small town in the Snowy Mountains, so the smaller city vibe that Newcastle has really appealed to me.


What inspires you day-to-day?

Newcastle as a beach city is very inspiring and motivating to reduce waste. There are lots of inspiring people in Newcastle working towards reducing waste in the region. Social media such as Instagram and Pinterest are good options for inspiration or getting new ideas. Reducing waste has also just become a day-to-day habit that I have built over time.

Zero waste Newcastle tips for reducing waste


Why do you shop with Your Food Collective?

 I love being able to shop locally and support small business and local producers. I find the convenience of Your Food Collective is awesome as I don’t always have time to go to the markets. Plus the food is so fresh and just tastes better than what you can get in the supermarkets! Eating seasonally is also important to me. I have bought the fruit and veg set boxes a few times and I love having a surprise for what is available at the time.

Local set boxes at Your Food Collective

Do you think the Newcastle community has affected your lifestyle and attitude towards waste? 

Definitely. The Newcastle community has a great attitude towards sustainability and reducing waste. I think people have a sense of pride and ownership of our beautiful natural surroundings and beaches and want to keep them that way.


What inspired you to commit to waste-free? Was there a defining moment?

I have been making small steps towards reducing waste over a about 5 or 6 years. I studied a Masters of International Urban and Environmental Management at uni and have always been interested in sustainability. I started with reusable shopping bags, a keep cup and reusable drink bottle, then I bought a bamboo toothbrush and it just snowballed from there! A couple of years ago I started doing some more research about single use plastic and how to avoid it. I found a couple of blogs Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson and Trash is for Tossers by Lauren Singer and they really inspired me to start moving towards a zero-waste lifestyle and demonstrated how easy it was for them. The really defining time for me was when I went on a big trip backpacking through the US and Central America for 5 months and witnessed huge amounts of plastic and rubbish everywhere we went - even washed up on a completely remote beach on the pacific coast of Panama. When I got home I decided to get more serious about reducing waste and share how I reduce waste in Newcastle on social media @zerowastenewcastle.

Ceramic keep cup  

 How have your friends and family reacted to your decision?

Everyone has been super positive! I often get asked for advice on waste-free alternatives and a lot of my friends and family send me pictures of their ‘zero waste wins’ which makes me super happy 

Can you share some personal tips on how we can all reduce waste this Christmas?

Plan your meals ahead, YFC pre-ordering and even plan some ideas for recipes with the leftovers (there are always leftovers). Eat lots of plant-based meals and try to buy things with less packaging from YFC and local bulk food stores. If you are catering for lots of people try buying reusable glassware/crockery etc from op shops rather than using disposable plastic cups and plates. You can always donate it back to the op shop for someone else to reuse later.


What about presents and wrapping?

Shop locally – there are so many small independent local businesses and makers doing great things in Newcastle. You could make something yourself - reusable shopping bags or a reusable cutlery set are really easy to make. Shop second hand or even give experience gifts rather than things. Be mindful of the gifts that you are giving and try to buy things that your friends and family need and are likely to use long term. In terms of wrapping, you can reuse old wrapping paper, newspaper or reusable fabric and get creative! I often buy scarves or nice fabric scraps from op shops throughout the year to use for wrapping. Check out Pinterest for ideas for zero waste wrapping.

Waste free wrapping for Christmas  

How do you keep yourself motivated?

A little walk along the beach and seeing all the plastic littered or washed up is very motivating to keep reducing waste! Meeting like-minded people and hearing about the way people reduce waste in their own lives is super motivating too. Waste Less Newy is a new collective I have started with the Lexi from @sustainabilityoverselfies and Carissa from @foodbythegallen where we organise small events for anyone interested in living with less waste can come together and connect. We held our first picnic and beach clean last weekend and it was awesome to meet new people and talk about our zero waste ideas or frustrations.

You can follow Jesse's waste-free journey by following her on Instagram @zerowastenewcastle. For more information on the next Waste Less Newy event check out @wastelessnewy

Local Lauren Branson
Lauren Branson

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