When I first met Georgia Took she had an immediate impact on me, but not through anything she said.
Georgia Took spent her 30th birthday picking up rubbish. This was the same day she started her blog theoceanandme.com and created the ‘Walk the Earth’ concept. It was a challenge she set herself to do that entailed walking the equivalent of the earth’s circumference (40,000km) over a span of a decade, picking up rubbish. It works out to be 11km (approximately 6.84 miles) and 110 pieces per day.
I’m talking with Georgia over Skype from a cafe in my suburb of Sydney. She is in Merida, Yucatan in Mexico.
Jasmin Choice: Where are you at with it now?
Georgia Took: So far I’ve walked well over 1000km, and collected 10,000 pieces of rubbish.
(Author’s note: That’s further than walking from Wollongong to Brisbane, San Francisco to Portland, Paris to Madrid – you get the picture.)
JC: What has the response been to your project?
GT: Very positive. Although some are skeptical that it’s a viable project. And for good reason! I’ve found that the two aims are counterproductive. I have to dedicate three hours a day to the challenge to keep on track. It’s a long time walking and picking up rubbish makes it longer. I’ve also moved back to Mexico where the heat and humidity are stifling and there’s so much rubbish it’s depressing. So I’m focussing more effort on environmental consciousness so people don’t create the rubbish in the first place – I’m starting by holding workshops here in Merida.
JC: How did this all begin? When did you start your sustainable journey?
GT: Three years ago, I made the trip up to New York City for the weekend to see my brother’s band. I was in a smoothie shop reading an article about the impacts of animal agriculture in a PETA magazine. I’d never heard of it before. The next month I adopted a pescatarian diet. The next big step was seeing the YouTube video of The Story of Stuff which explains how the current economy works. Then there’s the Take Make Waste Philosophy – which made me conscious of all the resources that go into each product before it goes on the shelves. I really got to thinking about my consumption habits. From there I found the Zero Waste concept and since then – almost three years ago – I’ve been working towards creating as little waste as possible.
JC: Whats your diet like these days?
GT: 100% plant-based. I hesitate to use vegan because of negative connotations – but also because I have to choose between zero waste and vegan. If there is half of a muffin leftover somewhere – I’ll eat it so it’s not thrown out, even if it has dairy and eggs. I’ll only purchase plant-based though.
JC: Is there any one thing that springs to mind that you find is often completely overlooked when it comes to making sustainable choices?
GT: It might seem like a small thing, but whenever I go to an Asian restaurant I bring reusable chopsticks. Another handy thing I do is carry a takeaway container with me everywhere I go.
JC: People often say they need plastic bags from the shops so they can use them for their garbage, what do you do?
GT: Well because my family are at different stages and mum still insists on buying the rocket lettuce that comes in a plastic bag even though there are loads of zero waste options. It would take me a very long time to fill that bag with rubbish. But without that, I use newspaper. I make a bag with old newspaper (from a cafe). Because no wet waste goes in to the bin anyway.
JC: What items actually go in your bin?
GT: Fruit and veg stickers, the wire piece that holds a bunch of spinach together and receipts. Here in Mexico I also have the plastic packaging of a brand of tostadas that I love.
JC: I remember you would personally collect the soft plastic that was generated at work and take it to the REDcycle bin. I also noticed at a work dinner you very kindly made sure the waiter didn’t supply you with a napkin when he was resetting the table. You lead by example, but how else do you encourage others without fear of feeling preachy?
GT: I do hope, number one, that I lead by example. I am hesitant to push it on to anyone else because people’s first reaction is resistance. If they’re interested – something in their face looks curious – then I give them a simple one line statement about something. Each person will come to it in their own time!
It would have felt awkward walking home after interviewing Georgia and not picking up any rubbish, so I did, but while I don’t see myself picking up 110 pieces of rubbish a day and walking across the earth in this lifetime, I can definitely take 3 for the sea.
Want to keep track of Georgia Took as she ‘Walks the Earth’? Make sure to follow her on Instagram.