Rachelle Strauss is founder of Zero Waste Week – an award-winning annual awareness campaign helping householders, businesses and community groups reduce landfill waste.
With a global reach of 56 million people, the campaign was put forward for an Early Day Motion in the Houses Of Parliament and Rachelle was voted Number 1 in Resource Magazine ‘Hot 100’ – celebrating the movers and shakers in the waste and resources industry.
Rachelle appeared with Jeremy Irons in “Trashed” – an environmental documentary film – which discusses the issues of waste and sustainability. Trashed premièred in Cannes in 2012, has been shown in over 40 countries and has won 8 awards.
As well as being a professional blogger, Rachelle has written for national and international magazines, and has published four books.
When she’s not busy cracking the whip on environmental issues, Rachelle enjoys creating meals from nothing, staring into the flames of the fire, thinking, dreaming, watching the sunrise, and turning up the music until the windows rattle.
She’s always in six minds about everything and according to her husband, even when she’s wrong, she’s right. When asked to describe her in three words he offered: eccentric, enigmatic and completely unreliable. Probably not what she was hoping to hear . . .
- What are you most passionate about?
Inspiring people to make a difference. Sometimes the issues we face can feel so overwhelming that we feel paralysed about doing something. I like to help people realise how powerful they are (after all, every time you purchase something you are voting with your money), and that if everyone changed just one thing, together we’d make massive collective impact.
I was recently referred to as “brilliantly unmilitant about waste reduction” by a journalist. That made my day, as often people expect me to be unforgiving, dogmatic and living in a different world to everyone else, yet nothing could be further from the truth. I’m all about celebrating the small, sustainable things we can do and I’m very much about ‘keeping it real’.
- What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I’m not really a risk taker but I guess, in hindsight, launching an awareness campaign, without any idea of how successful it would be, was a huge risk! Ten years ago 100 signed up to Zero Waste Week. Last year the hashtag reached 56 million impressions on Twitter and people signed up in 74 countries!
- What makes you angry?
Lack of political will in that it takes so long to bring in legislation which could preserve resources and the environment. I can campaign for ten years, yet one person in power can create more change with a flourish of their pen. Sadly there seems to be such reluctance to use that power!
Oh, and people who take a plastic carrier bag for one loaf of bread in the supermarket.
- If you inherited an acre of land what would you do with it?
I’d be very selfish. I’d build a passivhaus with all the latest ‘eco’ technology and be as self sufficient as possible. (Pending hiring a gardener!) I’d also create a small guest ‘eco lodge’ for people to come to get away from it all, learn how to make herbal remedies, basic cooking from scratch and their own cleaning products etc.
- Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?
- How many pairs of shoes do you own?
I have no idea but far too many as, let’s be honest, I can only wear one pair at once! I am, however, a stereotypical girl and I do love a good pair of shoes. See ‘gatherer’ above 😉
- If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?
Something seasonal, local and organic. I’m blessed to live close to a couple of organic farm shops; we grow a little food in the garden and I keep hens, so we always have fresh eggs. And I like variety, so it would probably be a kind of buffet style meal – something for everyone.
- How would people communicate in a perfect world?
I think loneliness is one of the biggest problems our society faces. The extended family is becoming an out-dated idea, we don’t know our neighbours and we are living in both virtual and isolated worlds. So I guess we’d get back to proper face-to-face conversation and we’d pass ideas through the oral tradition. A good chat around a campfire (or the kitchen table) is a lovely way to communicate – although I have to admit I’m an introverted person and need a lot of time alone to recharge!
- What do you work toward in your free time?
I try not to work towards anything. I’m practising ‘being’ more, as I’ve learned the hard way that being driven to ‘do’ and achieve all the time is not good for us.
- If you woke up and had 300 unread emails and could only answer 30 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer?
That’s something that happens most days! I’ll be honest and say I deal with the ones that will put money in my bank first and foremost, followed by the ones that touch me emotionally and I feel compelled to deal with. Other than that, I’m good friends with the delete key.
- Name 3 thing in nature you find most beautiful.
The blackbird singing at 4:45 in the morning and again at dusk, the way the moon rises over the hill at the back of my house and bees – bees are awesome and make me smile every time I see or hear them. I always stop what I’m doing and say hello as I feel so honoured they have taken time to visit me.
- Have you used plastic bags for your shopping in the last two weeks?
Not as a shopping bag, but I have bought things in plastic, yes.
- What would you say are some small steps that people can take to improve their relationship to the environment?
It must come from within the individual. I can make compelling arguments for improving their relationship to the planet as much as I like, but if they don’t care, nothing will change. The first step then is to investigate your ‘big why’. WHY do you want to improve your relationship to the environment?
It might be that you have children and you realise you need to preserve resources for future generations. Perhaps you want to save money.
Maybe you love animals and you’ve discovered that our actions are having devastating effects on wildlife. Maybe you’re spiritual or religious and feel that taking care of the environment is being a good custodian of God’s creation.
Discovering your fundamental motivation will be the fuel that enables you to make lifestyle changes moving forward.