Photo: Menik Gooneratne and source www.greenchic.com.au
Can green really be Chic?
Carrie Sze, a sustainable blogger, from www.greenchic.com.au thinks green can be chic. We sat down in the trendy café Mazzitelli on Bridge Road, Richmond to talk about the green movement and our mutual passion for sustainability.
Carrie and I have much in common, the first being our love and connection with Cambodia from a life altering trip to South East Asia. Carrie was surprised at her initial reaction to Cambodia, a culture shock she wasn’t expecting. However, it was her time spent working at an orphanage and seeing the conditions that the people lived in, as she explained it opened her eyes to her own reality and not what the people of Cambodia were lacking. After the devastation of war and genocide in Khmer in 1975-79, “they realise that they don’t need to have much. They have family, they’re happy, they work, they meet people and they are really humble.” This is a very humbling experience and cultivated the same reaction for myself as it did for Carrie. As she eloquently said “I really have been living my life through rose-coloured glasses. I started thinking what is really important me?… what’s my purpose in life?” This was the same impact for me, so maybe there is something in the Cambodia way of life.
But it’s more than the people. Carrie reflects fondly on her time cycling around and “being a part of the critical mass”. It is a lifestyle that she brought back home with her and is a lifestyle that she is trying to extend through her blog Why Do You Ride? (http://whydoyouride.tumblr.com). This is a lifestyle that she would like Melbourne to adopt saying “So if we get everyone on bikes and then we get critical mass and then everyone will be happier. That’s the dream.” Continuing with “once they do that maybe they can start maybe taking a chance on things, being more honest (to themself).” She has come to realise that “a lot of people ride (bicycles) for the freedom. We talk about democracy and we talk about freedom. So riding gives you that, so why not do it?”
It was upon reflection of her reaction to her first few weeks in Cambodia that started her thinking of living a sustainable lifestyle. She was shocked that they didn’t recycle. Well not what we are accustomed to in Australia with our recycle wheelie-bin for collection every fortnight. However, Carrie witnessed the recycling of the Cambodian people “their garbage collection is an intersection of the road… that is (then) taken to landfill” and although shocking to us, Carrie saw people living and working at the “dumpsite” and expressed that the dumpsite is “actually where they do all their recycling and that’s how they make their money”. It is through the collection of items such as rice bags or bottles by the people that then gets recycled, up-cycled or repurposed. Which goes to show “it’s not about how glamorous your system is or what project you’re going to implement.” The important thing is that we do our own bit for the environment we live in.
Through her blogging Carrie shares her story with us of her journey to a sustainable lifestyle. Carrie shares her thoughts and experiences of her journey to living sustainably. Carrie explains that sustainability is an on-going process “Sustainability the word itself is an on-going process. You constantly adapt to the environment you’re given…it will set the future, how do you extend that future?” And we do need to change to see that future extended. Carrie revealed that if everyone lived like we do in Victoria we would need “3 or 4 planets” for landfill.
Instead of “green-bashing” Carrie believes in leading by example and making small changes at a time. Carrie admits “I don’t like being told what to do, so what makes me all high and mighty to tell someone what to do?” Instead she believes that the strength is in the knowledge and the sharing of information through conversation saying, “I think opening up that conversation is really important.”
Her advice to those who want to live sustainably is “set your priorities. What can you do first? Achieve little steps first… Then you can keep challenging yourself with more and more steps” as explained earlier “sustainability is an on-going thing, so you will just keep making small changes.” Being true and honest to you is the first place to search for the inspiration. Carrie believes that a quote from Fight Club outlines the behaviour of most consumers “we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like” said by Tyler Durden. This is shown by the statistic that “95% of clothes that we buy in the retail sector are imported. And all that goes to landfill.” Carrie expressed.
Through studying Masters of Sustainable Practices Carrie has been able to travel and see the developments of the “green-movement” world-wide. As she explained there is a new direction starting from Scandinavia in the form of Corporate Social Innovation (CSI). CSI looks at “The Triple Bottom Line; People, Planet and Profit. (This) motivates businesses to create new business models, new products and services that deliver lasting, financially viable solutions.” This is a new responsible direction for businesses that has veered away from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). While Carrie acknowledges that doing something is better than nothing, but further states that CSR “is kind of a cop-out and is a marketing idea to make a company look favourable.” A company could be donating money to a charity, but could be harming the environment in other practices under the CSR model.
When asked where Australia sits on this issue Carrie said “Australia has done the CSR… but now it is time for us to look at the triple bottom line and CSI”. Lamenting the vast advances of the Danes compared to Australia, but being somewhat hopeful, “we’ve got the people, we’ve got the motivation to go to the next step… Gen X and Gen Y we are thinking like this now.” We are ahead of China who is only now looking at CSR, but we do have the opportunities to catch up to Scandinavia by progressing and developing our CSI.