By Freya Wrigley

It is easy to view #PlasticFreeJuly as the experience of giving up plastic, a process that is inconvenient and challenging. Focused on the benefit it will bring to the planet, it is easy to miss other impacts closer to you. My conversation last week with Victorian educator and powerhouse Kirsty Costa gives a rich picture of the personal benefits of a plastic free lifestyle. In this article I will share the inspirational highlights of plastic free possibilities in community, family and wellbeing.

Family Foundations

As a kid Kirsty remembers going to the grocery store with her mum, big stripy cloth bags in hand. In the 80s, Kirsty assures me, taking your own bags to the shop was far less common than it is now. Fond memories of eating homemade ice-cream from paper containers gave Kirsty a keen awareness about her responsibility to be mindful of the impact of her actions on the planet. Now working as the Learning Innovation Leader at Zoo’s Victoria, Kirsty is thrilled by the increased conversation and momentum behind behaviour change towards plastic use.

Early adopter

By becoming plastic free we choose to step aside from the normative behaviour of others around us. For Kirsty this revealed a new network of passionate and thoughtful people. Instead of being isolated in her difference, Kirsty found like-minded people who supported each other in their mission to reduce their plastic waste. Some of whom include Victorian bloggers The Rogue Ginger, Gippsland Unwrapped and the founder of Plastic Free July in Perth.

Kirsty also has enjoyed the local community connections she has developed through pursuing plastic free produce and products. Being able to support small businesses such as the local baker, butcher and grocer is something that she values. She finds that they are more than willing to assist her in her plastic free needs and accept her BYO containers. The joy of interacting with people who are passionate about their produce, and creating a rapport enriches the weekly grocery shopping experience.

Challenges

Some things are just not easy to do plastic free. Some food ingredients are hard to come buy in bulk or not already packaged in plastic, particularly tofu and shiitake mushrooms that are required to cook the Asian dishes that Kirsty sometimes craves. This creates opportunity for learning new recipes, swapping out those hard to acquire items or just indulging in those meals at a restaurant. In the end, Kirsty admits, there are something that just have to be given up.

Bio: Kirsty Costa is an award-winning educator and change-maker. As Innovation Learning Leader at Zoos Victoria, she helps to design exciting conservation-inspired education programs for over 140,000 young Victorians each year.