Normal People Giving a Shit

Words by Kate Bowman
Art by Mei Kingwell

It’s easy to feel too small to make a difference. But in reality, it’s the conscious efforts of normal people caring that can make big changes. I asked four people two simple questions, “what are you doing to make a change and what drives you to do so?”. 


Personally, I stick to making small personal changes such as simply bringing my own keep cup and water bottle, and using cotton tote bags while shopping. On the weekends, Friends of Merri Creek organises a few tree-planting and nature clean-up sessions. If I want to stick close to home, I like to just compost and take a bit more time to properly recycle my waste. Behind my devotion to Frank Green cups and reusable contraptions, I am fuelled by fear and anxiety for the future. Like a lot of my peers and friends, we live in a culture of stress and uncertainty. Many of us don’t fully understand the extent of the damage of our predecessors. Evidence has unveiled swirling vortexes of plastic in the ocean, invading the natural habitat of now extinct marine species. Can you still plead ignorance? While fear can act as a spark for change, being fuelled by negativity is never a viable option and it can take an emotional toll. As a result, sustainability has become a community effort and it’s championed by many through encouragement and hope, even becoming a popular choice. However, unlike other fashion trends, it’s here to stay.


I guess I would just describe my efforts as conscious choices to increase my sustainability. I work for a company called ‘Crema Joe’ which sells reusable coffee pods for pod machines. All the packaging is made from upcycled and recycled materials to reduce packaging waste. It’s important for me because I’ve always loved nature, particularly the ocean. I want to protect what I love and make sure that others have the chance to fall in love with it too. I have a young nephew who has recently also become passionate about the ocean and sea creatures. I hope that he can grow up to enjoy and protect it too. Every little bit helps. The world is beautiful, and it would be nice if we could all strive to protect the beauty of it, however small that step is. 


I try to help the planet every day by making small conscious decisions to reduce my carbon footprint. I know the Earth won’t be saved by one person using a metal straw, but I believe any difference is a good difference. I carry a drink bottle and metal straw with me, go op shopping before opting for fast fashion, eat vegetarian or vegan wherever possible and never buy coffee if I forget my Keepcup. I work at the Melbourne Convention Exhibition Centre, which actively works to reduce their carbon footprint. I encourage customers to recycle correctly. It’s easy to do this because I’m shit scared of the future of our planet—I don’t want to raise children in a world that is literally burning. I believe we can fix our planet if we all actually try. So rather than moping about how useless a metal straw is, I want to go and speak to these corporations ruining our climate, influence parliamentary debate on laws, policies and restrictions on usage and consumption. I also believe it’s important to be educated on this, which is why I supported Damon Gameau’s documentary 2040, and signed up for many mailing lists, Facebook groups and rallies. Knowledge is power. All I hope is that people realise that the sentiment “one person can’t change the world” is bullshit—one person absolutely can and will. 


I grew up on a farm, where my parents were very aware of our environmental impacts, so I was always surrounded by this awareness. My dad is an electrician who is really interested in renewable energy, which further enhanced my knowledge. I have seen firsthand the impact humans have made on our earth. There’s a deserted beach at home where nobody visits, yet it’s always covered in litter and microplastics. University has also given me a new perspective on how truly screwed we are, and this new sense of fear and hope drives me to join marches and rallies. I’m trying to go plastic free but it’s so much harder than I thought. I purchase from local shops and the butcher, which reduces my plastic intake. I’m also reducing my fuel intake by riding my bike or taking the train. By surrounding myself with people who hold the same viewpoints, it has the potential for us to spread awareness and come up with solutions to reduce the impacts of climate change as much as we can.

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