Growing up, as I would prepare to go for a run or head to school, I would always see a man in a safari outfit picking up bottles and cans as he walked along the street…I must admit, I thought this was weird.

But fast forward many years, and I think this has stuck with me, because now I am the weird one and I have found myself picking up bottles, wrappers and many other items when out and about. After moving to Germany and getting involved in the Zero Waste Nuremberg group here from the NGO Bluepingu it has accelerated going deeper and finding even more ways to reduce my footprint in the world and motivate others, through different initiatives, to reduce theirs.

I also joined Run4Green which is a great group to help keep you fit, especially in colder months, and we also help to keep our green spaces clean. I have been active for many years now and will continue to be.

I often have great discussions with different people when out and about. Some ask me if I work for the city council, some tell me about the problems in their area, and others often share stories with me about neighbours who put electrical appliances in the yellow bin and the discussions they have about it.

We also take photos and videos which creates great awareness…I remember one time a lady stopped me and asked if she could take some items that we had picked up as she wanted to use them in the garden. I gave them to her and tried to explain a little bit about what we do and she said yes I know, I see the videos and photos that you guys put up all the time.

We have a great relationship with the city council and I think the impact of Run4Green and other groups can be supported with more fines for littering and sometimes just with simply changing the location of the bins. But every year the communication is getting better and quicker…the future looks bright.

I have made many changes over the years, and one is to use a reusable bag when buying bread. I always get strange looks when buying bread, especially at some of the discounter stores, but it’s encouraging to see Aldi stepping up and having this option now too…hopefully this will become the normal way for everyone. I also carry reusable forks and spoons in my bag so if needed they are available.

It’s great to see a lot of initiatives being done by city councils, and NGOs but also the increase in package free shops, food sharing, and food rescue groups. Change really needs to be driven by individuals which can be done by reducing one item at a time, such as starting to use a reusable water bottle, carry reusable cutlery, trying also to prepare food in advance for a trip instead of buying snacks from a shop. Another big area is food waste, if we can improve on this by buying food for cooking in a certain meal, not to simply fill the fridge with options…this will lead to less wastage of food and packaging.

I often discuss zero waste living with friends and family by focussing on the ways I have changed. I remember in Bali one trip we went out for dinner and my friend ordered some water but it came in a plastic bottle. I immediately said “what”…and pulled out my bottle from the side of my bag and said “why don’t you get one of these?”

Raising the issue can be sometimes difficult, like at kids sporting events. In the past every family would bring a bag of biscuits, chocolates or lollies to share afterwards and I would have chopped up apples and bananas. All the kids would have their hands full and be offered even more by the next person walking around. I was very annoyed by this, so I recommended trying only one family bring the reward each week instead of every family. This has cut down on plastic packaging and so many unhealthy sweets. When the week of the banana box comes around, some kids are a little disappointed…but I think in the long run they’ll realise it is really the best for all.

Run4green is a great community of like minded people who support each other. You will gain a good workout while also saving the environment and raising awareness at the same time.

Come join us at our next event.