Eco warrior Q&A: Jo Woodward

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Women Against Waste was started in 2017 as a simple swap meet initiative for women wanting to pass on their unwanted clothing and accessories.

Over the past three years it has quickly grown to host regular events that encompass five main components: swap, donate, recycle, mend and learn.

Event participants can have their damaged clothing mended, recycle unwanted household items, donate children’s and household items to charities in need, as well take part in workshops on recycling and sustainable living.

Jo Woodward is an ambassador for Women Against Waste, and alongside founder Tania Goranitis, runs the group’s biannual events in Bairnsdale, Victoria.

Today, Jo tells us more about this fantastic institutive, what the group’s plans are for the future and how you can get involved with Women Against Waste.

Talk us through how Women Against Waste began.

Women Against Waste evolved from small beginnings. It started primarily as the idea to hold a community clothes swap with all leftover items being donated to local op shops.

We soon realised that there was the potential to make it so much more, and introduced a ‘recycling station’ for items that people often don’t know what to do with, for example batteries, ink cartridges and old prescription glasses.

Our first few events took place in a local gym, the use of which was kindly donated by the owner. We were moving weights and equipment out of the way in order to fit our tables and equipment in!

We have since outgrown that venue, now hosting up to 100 participants plus volunteers, guest speakers and caterers.

Each time we run an event we learn how to improve it further; we now have dedicated clothing racks made by a local community group from recycled pallets, beautiful signage, a fantastic group of volunteers and environmentally-minded individuals, who come to speak and share their knowledge with others.

We work with a number of local, national and international charities, including local op shops, Mobile Muster, Share the Dignity, Lions Recycle for Sight and Sound programs, and Uplift (distributing bras to underprivileged countries), just to name a few.

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How can people get involved with Women Against Waste?

Women Against Waste events are arriving in different towns and suburbs throughout Victoria in 2019 and into the rest of Australia in 2020.

Jump onto the website and sign up to be notified when an event is near you. They are a lot of fun and you will get so much out of coming; some new pieces for your wardrobe, loads of information about making better changes for the planet, and best of all, the opportunity to chat with like-minded women from your community.

You can also follow us on Instagram and Facebook, and join the closed female-only Facebook Group Women Against Waste Tribe. It’s where you will find some great information and tips about living a more sustainable life, and get a taste for what WAW events are like. It’s where we love to have conversations in between events, and how we reach areas of Australia where events haven’t yet landed.

Anyone who would like to become an Ambassador and bring this event to their area please visit the website and check out the Become an Ambassador page.

We are on the lookout for passionate and driven women who can help us spread our message and enable others to make changes in their own lives, and would love to hear from anyone who thinks they might be a good fit.

What are the plans for Women Against Waste in the future?

We’re hoping to expand further throughout Victoria later this year, and hopefully nationally in 2020.

Other event types – ones that also include men – are also in discussions, but it’s early days, so watch this space.

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What’s your ultimate, number one eco-friendly tip?

Just start somewhere! Take small steps and make small changes – that way it will be sustainable for you in the long run.

Make it relevant to your life and what’s important to you, and what you feel you can actually achieve. And don’t let others diminish the efforts you’re making – we can only do what we can do and some change is better than none.

Has there been a book or documentary that’s inspired you along your journey to living more sustainably?

Anita Vandyke’s ‘A Zero Waste Life: In Thirty Days’ and Erin Rhoads’ ‘Waste Not’ have both been fantastic books to help encourage me to make changes and live more sustainably.

They are both full of really practical advice and very easy to digest. I read the entire ‘A Zero Waste Life’ during my toddler’s afternoon nap one day!

‘The True Cost’ – a documentary about the impact clothing manufacture is having on our world – really opened my eyes to the types of retailers I was buying from and the hidden impacts of fast fashion.

It has changed the way I approach purchasing clothing, shoes and accessories, and made me more mindful about what I actually purchase.