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Transcript: Climate Activism and Zero Waste Awareness with Mariska Nell of Mama Earth Talk

Transcript: Climate Activism and Zero Waste Awareness with Mariska Nell of Mama Earth Talk

SEE THE SHOW NOTES AND LISTEN AT: Climate Activism and Zero Waste Awareness with Mariska Nell of Mama Earth Talk

Katherine Whalen [00:00:03] Hey there, Getting in the Loop listeners. Ever wondered what can be done in your industry to help create a more circular economy? To mark the one year anniversary of the Getting in the Loop Podcast, I've put together a short e-book to help you navigate key circular trends in textiles and apparel, ICT and electronics and packaging. And it includes links to related reports as well as relevant Getting in the Loop podcast episodes. It's yours to receive when you join up to our podcast newsletter at CircularSectors.GettingInTheLoopPodcast.com. So head over to our website to get your copy of the Circular Sectors Navigator. That's again, CircularSectors.GettingInTheLoopPodcast.com. 

[00:00:52] Hi, I'm Katie Whalen, and join me each week as I talk with experts around the globe about Circular economy. You'll find out what's being done to make it a reality and if it can really solve the problems it promises. It's time for Getting in the Loop. 

[00:01:06] Welcome to the Getting in the Loop Podcast.  I'm Katie, and today I'm welcoming Mariska Nell, who is a climate activist, artist and host of the Mama Earth Talk podcast. Today, Mariska joins us on the Getting in the Loop Podcast to talk about zero waste, sustainability and, of course, circular economy. Mariska started experimenting with trash in her art and the curiosity of the medium had her researching how waste affects the environment. Since then, she has worked with many organizations globally to drive environmental and sustainable change and inspires change. Through her artwork, podcasting and public speaking, her artwork can be found in the collections of Trevor Noah, Adrian Grare, Chris Faid and Black Coffee  mason Plumlee. In this episode, Mariska tells us how she became interested in climate activism and the unique way she went about raising sustainability awareness in the UAE. You will also learn about her motivation to start the Mama Earth Talk podcast and what she has learned from talking with experts all over the world, having produced the podcast for over two years. So without further ado, welcome, Mariska to the podcast. 

[00:02:29] I'm so excited to have you on the Getting in the Loop Podcast today, Mariska. And yeah, I'm just really excited to dove into everything that we're going to talk about. 

Mariska Nell [00:02:39] Oh, well, thank you so much for having me. It's such a such a great honor to actually be on the podcast. So looking forward to all the questions. 

Katherine Whalen [00:02:48] Yeah, I know. I'm so excited. We have a lot to dive into. But before we do that, can you just tell us where you're calling from? 

Mariska Nell [00:02:58] Yeah. So at the moment I'm in Sunny Brizzi, Brisbane, Australia, and, yeah, that's currently where I'm at. 

Katherine Whalen [00:03:09] Yeah. I've never been to Australia but it's on my list of places to go. Who knows when that will happen though considering the state of the world right now. 

Mariska Nell [00:03:20] I know. I know I like traveling. At the moment, it's just super hard and hopefully in the next like year or two, we'll be able to travel a little bit more. But, yeah, I'm just so fortunate to be in such a beautiful country with such amazing greenery. And yes, I am just very fortunate and so happy to be in Australia at the moment. 

Katherine Whalen [00:03:45] Yeah, well, I am excited to hear a bit more about the work that you have been doing. And I wanted to start off with hearing a little bit more about your journey, your sustainability journey, because you worked on creating awareness and bring awareness to sustainability in a rather creative way. So just tell us about this. 

Mariska Nell [00:04:09] Yeah, so. So I actually studied interior design, so I practice as an interior designer. But I've always been, you know, love, I always loved to kind of do art work and to paint and just like be creative, you know. If there was something that I could do that was creative. I just loved it. So my sustainable journey kind of went that direction. I mean, it wasn't something that I planned to do. Like I could always remember. I mean, there was a time like play back when I was little. You know, that my my dad actually took me to a landfill to dump stuff. And I like I remember going back and I was like, wow, look at all these stuff. You know, I was picking up toys and, you know, trying to, like, tease each and every single things, like, you know, telling my dad, oh, we have to take this doll. Know I can fix this or we can clean this. And then that's never really, like, kind of stuck with me. But but like, kind of a few years back, I was making coffee and I was using these single use capsules. And I just remember it was that same kind of glimpse that I had when I was at that landfill where I was like looking down at these capsules. And I was just like, wow, they are gorgeous. Like these colors off nominal. They so bright. And. And I made the coffee. And at that point, the machine, the capsule that was full. And I looked at it and I had to make a choice. What am I going to do with it? And I just felt like, no, I can't put it in the bin. I don't want to recycle it because I just felt like there has to be more to these capsules than just ending some way, you know, crushed and broken. So then I started saving them and saving them. And as I was saving more of these capsules, I started learning more about, you know, how to recycle it. Why do we recycle it? What is the use of this specific material? And it was like kind of like almost like a rabbit hole, you know. But the deeper I got in, the more I just wanted to learn and know about it. And so I had all these capsules and my husband was like, what are you going to do with all these capsules? And at that point, we we needed a lab for our living room. So I decided to start making all these different flowers. I experimented with different shapes and designs and then offers first, like comfortable. Well, my first coffee addiction lab was born and then I just started experimenting with more and more materials in my artwork. So I had like different paintings that I did a combination like collage with paint as well as recycled materials or any any materials that would. That was kind of trash. It was seen as trash from people. And as I was digging more into these different medium. So, you know, it was like water bottles. I started researching and figuring out that we actually. One million plastic bottles are sold every single minute. So then I did a whole collection to kind of emphasize that, but also to educate people on how much waste we actually make. And yeah, and then I mean, I've done art pieces, withdrawals. I done I did a massive Glaube with about 60 thousand single use plastic straws that a company was phasing out. And they wanted to kind of, you know, also do an awareness campaign on why they doing this. And, you know, just to kind of also you sublets a stock instead of just, you know, putting it in landfill or just recycling it to kind of use it as a tool, which also HKT people. So that's kind of how my journey started in2 into this. And yeah, it's just grown from a lab to biggest stuff and it's just been a phenomenal journey. And it's amazing to kind of use my artwork in a way to also educate people about really kind of serious topics and and have people look at a piece. And a lot of the times people look at my artwork and they they don't know that it's actually a waste. You know, it would have been in the landfill. But instead of that, it's not actually a lovely art piece. So, yeah. So that's quite, quite exciting. Yeah. That's how it started. 

Katherine Whalen [00:09:01] Yeah. I love, you know, the upcycling of things that are seen as waste into something that is seen as beautiful and as you said, many people don't even realize that it actually is waste. That's super creative. And as you said, it's a serious topic that you're addressing in a in a creative way, which I'm all for. You know, I love games, so again, you know, finding ways to take topics that are serious than turning them into ways that people really kind of experience and experience them in different ways. So so I'm really excited to talk to you today. And and I feel we have a lot of things in common. You know, we've also been having podcasts about this topic. So we one of the things that I was really fascinated about and would love to hear you tell us more about is your wearing your trash project. I don't know if I'm calling it correctly, but could you tell us abot that. 

Mariska Nell [00:10:01] Yeah. So, yeah. So that project was done in two thousand and eighteen. So I was kind of like the art installation myself. So I got inspired by Rob Greenfield. And he wore his trash in New York for 30 days. And then Nina Frain decided to do something similar in the UAE, but to kind of represent both aspects. You know, I like that average person creating two to three kilograms of waste. And my friend Marissa was the opposite. So she was trying to make as little Weissert as possible. And throughout the 30 days, we were kind of, you know, like seeing how I was doing, how she was doing, and also educating people on the little switches back, know changes and habits that you can change to reduce that waste. So every single time I left the house, I wore this dress. So it was like a dress that was made from old kitchens that it had like recycled kind of bags that you could see through on it. And then I had a little trolley as well, because I can't remember which day I started using the trolley because the dress got quite heavy. I mean, yeah. On it on day 30, my dress and well all of the trash weighed about 65 kilos. And it was just amazing to see how much waste one person can make in 30 days. And I didn't live like the way that I would live normally. I definitely tried to be like the average person. So I would ask people as well, you know, what are you having for lunch and, you know, having whatever they had. And, you know, when people were buying stuff, I would buy what they would try to free, try and do that. And also sometimes especially with food waste, because we throw around 40 percent of our waste is food wise. So I would also ask people like, so typically how much of your hamburger would you eat? And they would be like, oh, only half the rest I would throw. 

[00:12:17] So they that would be kind of habits that I did during that 30 days. Even though was like my heart felt like breaking every single day to create all of this trash. But it it was definitely with seeing the end result. And just, you know, to see that the dress that I was wearing when people would stop me and like, you know, ask, what is it about? And some of the stuff that they saw in my dress, it they didn't just see it as, like kind of my trash. They were looking at it. And they're like, I use the soda. Like I use this. Like, how can I switch that? And so it it in a way became that person's as well. So it was a really interesting project and something that I learned a lot from. And that's a lot of the people in the UAE kind of learned a lot from as well. And they wanted to find answers and find better alternatives for the current wife's wasteful like habits as well. 

Katherine Whalen [00:13:23] Yeah, I'm sure the you got a lot of attention, especially as the 30 days progressed. I mean, what were people's reactions like? Did they just stop you in the street and be like, what are you what are you doing? Or did they immediately realize, like, oh, well, she's got a half eaten hamburger over here. 

Mariska Nell [00:13:41] Well, so the food waste, if I weighed out the food waste every night and replace that with rice, so I wasn't walking around with half eaten food. 

Katherine Whalen [00:13:52] That's all I ever thought are you just, you know, by the end of the 30 days where you have flies  like buzzing around, you know. 

Mariska Nell [00:14:01] So and also the trash was clean. So every night I would like, wash everything out, make sure they are. Cried and then I would put it in the seat the next morning. But yeah, I got so many different reactions. So, you know, some I wasn't allowed to go to some of the malls as I was a security risk. And I was like, no, this is fashion. But I think, you know, the latest trend in the beginning, I got away with it. I went to a few art exhibitions and people with thinking like, oh, my gosh, this lady is like so trendy. You know, I've got quite a lot of people that thought it was my clothes. But as I got bigger and had more trash, you know, people would look at me like, you know, what is this? I remember going to Comic-Con and there was so many little girls that came to me and little children. And they were like, oh, you do the trash lady. And I was like, yes, I'm the trash lady. And then they would bring me the trash. And I was like, oh, gosh, this is not really what I mean. Yes, the trash lady. And I also made like corridor from Game of Thrones. Euge gave up SPAD and they I was standing with my trash suits and I just like this guy looked at me and he's like a massive tall guy. And he was just staring at me and I kind of didn't know what to say. And as I came, Quarrie stuck as there was like all these photo ops. And he just looked at me and he's like, what the hell are you wearing? And so he's like, oh, my gosh, it's Comic-Con. Like, Ah, weird stuff. So then I just told him, you know, I'm wearing my trash 30 dice. And he was just like he was stunned. He like almost could and told CNN he was just like, wow. Like, why, why would you do that? So there was there was all sorts of like aspects. You know, some people would just like staring at me. And you could see like especially it's so funny when you would see, like adults with children, you would see the children is like looking at mom and dad and like, oh, what is she wearing? She's wearing trash. And then the parents just watch company talk school. So we had, like, all of that. And also add like the the schools. I visited a lot of schools. There was even some of the schools when they saw photos of me throughout my challenge. And I probably visited some of them when I was at about day twenty six or seven, I think. And so some of the children made they are little suit, so they kind of had plastic bags with like little strollers and they were like kind of like saying that they would jelly fish. And so it was it was just amazing. It was really a great experience and a great to see how the community comes together and how people really want to make changes as well. 

Katherine Whalen [00:17:07] I want to I want to ask you about, you know, if you've seen a shift in how sustainability has been addressed in the UAE, sort of what the aftermath was. But before I do something that when you were talking, I was picturing this and especially when you said the fact that the guy at Comic-Con, when you see everyone just dressed in crazy outfits, I mean, I've never been myself, but I imagine that's what that's what it is. And seeing the photos that you were really an attraction and making making a statement. So from a mental perspective, like how was how was that for you? I mean, I think I would be completely embarrassed. Especially since as you start getting bigger and bigger, you can't hide it. I understand that that's the point of this exercise, you know, of the object was to to make a statement. But did you notice your any, like, mental blockages or kind of how did you handle or handle this mentally or emotionally? 

Mariska Nell [00:18:08] Yes. So that's that's a very interesting question. So, like, ever since I was little, like I kind of, you know, try my best not to be bothered about what people think of me or say me. So I knew going into this challenge that I'm going to get different questions. I'm going to get different reactions. Some people might be grossed out. Some people might love it. Some people might learn from it. Some people might just think, you know, I'll never do something like that. So. So for me, I kind of went in with this mindset from day one that I'm just going to be confident in what I'm doing. And that's also what I would tell people when you want to go zero waste shopping and stuff like that. You know, like step into that and, you know, own it. And, you know, that's kind of what I did. Like the moment I wore that trashed suits, I became that trash lady and it was like my alter ego kind of. 

[00:19:09] And and that was it. You know, I kind of wore it as you would wear a nice fancy dress. And if people stared at you, I would just smile back at them. And, you know, sometimes I would see that they feel uncomfortable. They really want to know what this is about. But they didn't really want to talk. So I had like a website address and like the QR code and everything printed on on my arms and stuff. And I was just like, hey, I'm wearing my own trash for 30 guys. If you want to learn more about the project, you can check it out here. And then that would be like, oh, thank you. And check it out and maybe contact me in a few days or something. So, yeah. 

[00:19:53] So that that for me is there was some days when I'm just like, oh, I just need to go to the store for five minutes and I really don't feel like wearing the suit way. You know, you you kind of in a rush and then everyone wants to chat and you don't want to be rude but you like time to talk. The clock's ticking. And then I would typically also just like say to them, hey, guys, sorry, I don't have time to talk right now, but, you know, check out the project. And I would try to, like, get back to them. But it's it was kind of, you know, at some points it was kind of stressful and it was like, oh, you know, am I gonna get thrown out by security? You know, what's gonna happen? But. But I think, you know, because I had that mindset from the beginning and I knew it was 30 days and it was part of a bigger like kind of thing. And yeah, so I just kind of stepped into it and took everything that I got, whether it was good or bad. 

Katherine Whalen [00:20:54] Yeah, yeah. Okay. Thanks for indulging in my kind of my question about that. I just find it very, very interesting and from since noisome situations I've been in my life, I realize I guess it's kind of like you put the super duper trash lady suit on or something and you just become a different person. And you always have this greater purpose, though, that you're attached to it. So when you think about it like that and it's it's easy to power through those those hard days. So the aftermath of doing this, can you say a little bit about how you've seen shifts or what has happened since then?

Mariska Nell [00:21:44] Yeah. So I go to a lot of questions throughout this challenge. And I wanted to try and help as many people as possible to answer the questions. And also, I go to a lot of questions that I didn't know the answers to at that point. So that inspired me to start the podcast. The momma told Cost Way. I talk to guests from a life about sustainability. But that was, you know, also there was so many things, especially if we if we talk just about the UAE way the project was, you know, they was more and more people that was becoming aware of this. I mean, in the UAE, that was. Just about a year or two off to one of the big develop or a developer actually opened up the sustainable city, which is a sustainable city in the UAE or in Dubai. And so a lot of stuff kind of was happening. I mean, you had Expo 2020 that was being built. And they had like an entire well, it's going to be next year now because of it. But they've got it and tie it. Pavilion that is dedicated just to sustainability. So in the UAE at the moment, they are trying to do so much to, you know, make sure that we try at least to, you know, focus more on sustainability. They some plastic bands that's coming in. You're seeing more restaurants actually offering filtered, filtered tap water. And, you know, some restaurants are even banning straws now or, you know, say there's really this kind of movement that's happening. But, you know, when you look at the UAE as a whole, it's such a new country. I mean, it's it's only been the UAE for, you know, like just over 40 years now. So when you compare it to other countries, you know, they they still very new. They still figuring out recycling systems and how they need to do different things. But they are definitely becoming more awareness. And they some great organizations that stayed up and working with to kind of spreads spread more awareness and also just to educate children especially. And, you know, when they bring home that message and, you know, a moment that has to be sustainable now because, you know, we've learned it at school and just the way how how some some of the companies are now switching and also trying to have, like, you know, a net zero footprint as well so that they they can offset all the carbon as well. 

[00:24:36] So there's definitely been a change. And there's been many people that I've made like kind of on my journey as well that wasn't really aware of anything. I mean, typically the same way that I was a few years ago, you know, you you tried to do your bit, you know, about recycling paper and, you know, that's kind of it. And they might be one or two other things that you try to do. But once you start learning about these, you know, once you when she. You can't really unlearn stuff. Well, you can't unsee stuff. So once you know about certain aspects, it's like you want to make changes. And especially if you if you're someone that, you know, love to explore. You know, in nature or go to the beach and you go to a beach clean up and you see all of this trash just like on the beach, it really has an effect on you. And hopefully next time when you're at the grocery store and you need to purchase something, you can opt for something that is not so over package. So definitely at the moment, you know, I would say it is people are becoming more aware and people are definitely trying to make more changes. And also more stores are opting for refill options. So it's definitely starting. 

Katherine Whalen [00:26:03] Yeah. So when I was preparing for our interview, I was thinking a little bit about your background and my background, because a lot of work that I do is an circular economy.  And in a lot of what you're doing is more, you know, on sustainability and zero waste. So I thought I'd give you a tough question and ask you what you think is most important either. Zero waste circular economy or sustainability, and there's no right or wrong answer. It was more just I was having this these thoughts in my head and I thought, ask Mariska, how she sees this? And let's see how. 

Mariska Nell [00:26:45] Yeah, that's a tough one. Well, when you look for me, when you kind of have to define each each and every single one to actually find out which one. And for me, they are so interlinked that I can't say zero waste is better than Circular economy. Because if you look at zero waste and I just like wrote a whole blog post about it because I was getting like, what is zero waste and so zero waste. Short answer. We said nothing to landfill, but the kind of more intense onset is. And I'm putting it in a nutshell is that zero waste is actually like mimicking a circular economy. That's kind of what you're doing because you don't want to send anything to landfill. So how do you do that? You keep stuff in circulation, so they fill dois to you know, they they go hand in hand. And when you look at sustainability, you know, you have to look at all three pillars of sustainability. So you've got environmental, you've got social and you've got economical. And, you know, if you dig a little bit deeper, you would see that to be really actually sustainable. And, you know, if you look at the environmental aspects and everything. It all feeds back in to what is a circular economy and you know that. So. So for me, you can't really have one without the other. So, yeah, could I call an unfortunate consi, like, get out. This one's better than the other because, you know, we need all three in order to actually have a sustainable future. So, yeah. So that'll be the kind of short answer I can probably we can go on talking about this will hours. 

Katherine Whalen [00:28:40] Yeah. No, I mean I think that was a brilliant response. And I know it was a tricky kind of tricky question because I was thinking, how would I answer that? And I think, you know, you did a better job than I probably even would have been able to do. But I would have talked about that interlink with inter linkages between all of all of them. And I think a lot of times, maybe you can correct me as well with your your thoughts on this. But I was thinking a lot of times, like the zero waste. I see that as kind of the zero waste movement. And a lot of that has and maybe aimed more at consumers and individuals, whereas circular economy movement is more about businesses and kind of change at a systems level. And then you have kind of the overarching for me. I think it's about sustainability. And to me, I think Circular economy is one way to achieve a sustainable future. Because sometimes I get a bit frustrated with the circular economy discussions that we often talk that, oh, well, it will be good for society by just kind of default, by creating circular economy. But I get the feeling we often leave out some of the social aspects from discussions of Circular economy as well. 

Mariska Nell [00:30:00] Definitely. Yeah. I mean, these you know, when when you look at kind of circular economy and I think that one of the reasons why a lot of people are kind of confused with like zero waste and circular economy is just because zero waste is actually an industrial term. You know, it was a term that was used for the first time in like the 1970s by an American guy, Paul Polmar, I think. And so what he did is he kind of, you know, would buy chemicals from companies that no longer needed it. And he would sell it to companies that needed it to keep it in circulation and to make sure that it doesn't end up in some water stream, that people just dump it out or end up in a landfill. And then, you know, fast forward to like few years when Bill Johnson started the zero waste lifestyle. So she basically took this industrial tube and added to a lifestyle. And that's what we have now. Zero waste living. And that's why I think they staes always these confusion. But for me, I just feel like the two it's like almost the same. Like it is the same. But yeah, it's definitely how you Siwy like because it's more an industrial thing. It's definitely, you know, companies can close that for us. And that's why I absolutely love supporting companies that is doing that. You know, if you buy a pair of jeans from a company and they are taking responsibility for that product, you know, once you are done with this from your side, they would gladly take it off your hands and make sure it gets recycled responsibly or it gets fixed and it gets it goes back in into the economy and someone else uses it. 

Katherine Whalen [00:31:59] Exactly. Yeah, and I think that's that's for me least and how I see Circular economy, because I see it as incorporating the zero waste aspect into it, but kind of at the systems scale. And the crucial step is, you know, you as individuals have a responsibility for, you know, awareness of how you are being responsible on this earth. But also companies have to have a responsibility for this. And by kind of combining the two that we can we can help address some of the issues that we have related to climates and and material resource extraction.  

Mariska Nell [00:32:40] Yeah. And I mean this, more companies that's starting to offer take back programs or, you know, it just and it all starts with the way that they design their products. You know, so it is designed in such a way that they can do it. Whereas, you know, if we if we, for example, have to have some of these plastic manufacturers take responsibility for the products that, you know, that might not be as easy for them. So so I just love that we are seeing more and more companies doing it, whether it's new companies that starting or whether it's big corporations that's making the switch. And just like kind of owning up to the products and also making changes in they manufacturing in their materials to make sure that they can take responsibility at the end of life. Because, you know, at the moment, you know, wait, we're going through a bit of a move to a new house. And, you know, once you start realizing some of the stuff that you haven't used and, you know, it's it's broken, then, you know, you don't really know where to recycle it. 

[00:33:48] It's kind of your problem now. But, you know, if the company were to take it back, then that's a problem. They made it and they should take responsibility. Well, we should also take responsibility and not purchasing stuff that. No, you can't go the extra mile. Exactly. But but, you know, at the moment, and especially with zero waste, a lot of times it feels like, oh, my gosh, we need to do all the work. So we need to get companies to get on board as well and to kind of own up as well. 

Katherine Whalen [00:34:24] Yeah, this is fascinating. We don't have time to get into this right now because this is one of the things that I want to ask you about. But there's fascinating things that I've been meaning to check out, which is kind of the I think it was some marketing from the 80s where brands started shifting the responsibility of sustainability onto onto individual, onto consumers. And I believe it was because of the way there was there was a Coca-Cola ad having to do with the-- This is a tangent for another time, but we can take this up off line. But I think it's something, to summarize, it's something that I've been really interested in exploring further and kind of looking at, like how this has evolved. What I would love to hear from you about now is a little bit about your Momma Earth Talk, which is the podcast that you've been the host of for over two years now. And I think it's a good segue way because you mentioned, you know, there's a lot of great companies and a lot of some of them are big multinationals. Some of them are small startups. So I know on the podcast you do a mix of having some personal stories that you share, as well as some interviews with people who are parts of these types of organizations. So could you tell us about any inspiring stories that stand out from the last two years of having this podcast? 

Mariska Nell [00:35:52] Oh, yeah. I mean, so if you've got like a hundred and fifteen episodes as of now that's been published. And yeah, it's just been a been an amazing journey. I mean, I I've obviously started the podcast because I want to learn more and get more answers. I remember way back on Episode 20, I kind of recorded an episode with like saying that these people are my three sustainable superheroes and they would be Johnson, Catherine Kellock and Rob Greenfield and, you know, forceful. It's so many episodes now. And I actually interviewed all three of them on my podcast. So that was kind of amazing to me to get to talk to these people that I admired so much. And that's kind of how my journey and helped me grow along the way as well. And she's like every single guest I just learned so much from. And I mean, we we talk about all the different aspects of sustainability and, you know, some of some of the jeez, I can't even think about one that stands out is like they all just like, amazing. But some of the ones that I loved was when I interviewed Tim McCullom from Beyond Good. So I absolutely loved chocolate. And they it was just amazing to talk. Like for an hour about chocolate. And to learn that so much of a cow beans actually comes from Africa. And but so little gets produced in in Africa like the final product. So that was that was really interesting to see. I mean, one of the other things that was really inspiring for me is to have Rebecca Price roofs. I'm on my podcast, I think it was. So it's like seventy eight. And to kind of talk about hould journey from stocking plastic, free to lie and how it started with, you know, 10 years, a guy with a few people. And I can't remember what the final count was for this this year it was over three hundred million people that participated. So, you know, to kind of you hear that journey from these people. And it was phenomenal. And, you know, a lot of the times it's like, you know, what we've just mentioned previously? You know, we we sometimes forget the social aspect. And that's a really important aspect from sustainability. So a few months ago, I was fortunate enough to actually interview Gary Vaina, Chuck's chief heart officer, and to really talk about what it really takes, you know, from a social aspect to run a company and, you know, all all the different aspects, because that is something that, you know, has a knock on effect on so much and can have such a such a great impact. So, yeah, those of us just like some of the highlights. And again, you know, I can honestly talk for hours because every single guest that I've had on day has lift, lift and mock. And, you know, it was just such a joy to to talk and to learn from them as well. 

Katherine Whalen [00:39:18] Yeah. Well, I'll be sure to link the podcast, your podcast in the show notes so that listeners can, of course, go over and check out any of these episodes as well, the over 115.

Mariska Nell [00:39:32] Yeah. So maybe by the time this one comes up it should be added or maybe a 120 or something, but yeah. So weigh so much. And I mean I also have like a few like my top three recommendations. So if you're new to the podcast, you know, dig into those three and people can always like message me and be like, hey, you know, I would love to learn about this, and if I already covered the topic, I would just send them which episode. Otherwise, I try and get the one that I can hold to about that topic. 

Katherine Whalen [00:40:05] Yeah. Brilliant. Okay. So we're I want to be respectful of your time, but there's just two more things that I wanted to get to ask you, Mariska. 

Mariska Nell [00:40:16] No worries. 

Katherine Whalen [00:40:16] So you've done a lot, of course, we've been talking about what you've been doing with the podcast, with your artwork, with your wearing your trash, and I would love to hear maybe three things that you've learned about mobilizing people for sustainability, because I think a lot of the listeners of the In The Loop podcast are working in companies or they're, you know, now graduating and starting to join the workforce and they are trying to mobilize people around Circular economy. So what would be three tips you would give them? 

Mariska Nell [00:40:51] So when I started out, I was like, you know, so I was kind of, you know, you just like think the world's going to end and you need to act now, now, now, you know, you get so mad, you know, when someone's doing something wrong. So that will be one of the first things that I would kind of give advice to people. You know, every single person is on its own journey. I've been on this journey for some time. They might be someone else that just joined, you know, the party. So, you know, kind of be respectful to that. And, you know, lead rather lead by example, you know, do stuff that that you can. And, you know, if someone has questions, kind of have that, like relationship that, you know, they that if they want to ask you, they can. And, you know, try and give them tips along the way. But don't be preachy. Don't force your way onto them because that often has the opposite effect. So instead of them wanting to make these changes, they would just be like, hell, no, I'm not doing it because this woman just like, nah, it's not going to happen. And then the second one is to kind of type one habit at a time. You know, do one thing at a time. And, you know, I start with the easy things. I've also on my on my Web site is like a beginner's guide to waste free living that people can have a look at. And, you know, chick pick, if you don't know which one is easy for you. Have a look. Do a bean audit. Check it out. And, you know, start and just do one thing. One habit at a time. You don't have to go zero waste overnight or transform your entire company to be sustainable overnight. Take it one step at a time. And then the third thing. It's so important to do. And that is to celebrate your wins. You know, if today you did not take a single use cutlery from the salad bar because you brought your own, you know, that's a win. Like give yourself a pat on the back and just be like, you know, good on you. I did it. And, you know, if you if you standing in the line to get your coffee and you've got your reusable cup or, you know, you know, just the mere fact that you standing in that queue and you thinking about it, you know, it's progress. 

[00:43:20] So just award yourself with that. And like, celebrate even if it's the littlest in wins. And don't be, like, too hot on yourself when you start out, you know. So do all of that. And see how it goes. And just like take it as a journey, because that's what it is. 

Katherine Whalen [00:43:37] Yeah. So celebrate your wins. Focus on one thing at a time. And the one that really struck a chord in me was about the patients. Like because I think that and I first turn out to when I when I was studying and and finding out about Circular economy. I really like took it on myself that I had to solve this and I needed to be done yesterday. And that's not a very helpful attitude to have because you bring a lot of intensity to it, which is great. But then at some point, you are inevitably going to burn out and we can't have that. 

Mariska Nell [00:44:20] Yeah. And I mean, like especially now with Covid, you know, these days I definitely make a lot more waste now than what I would normally, just because the fact when I go to some of the places where I would normally buy package free, they now cannot sell me certain items package free. So now I need to go back and like, oh, do I really need it? Is it really-- you know, so you have to go back and forth a little. But, you know, again, patience. Take it one step at a time and just celebrate those wins. And just the fact that you're on this journey is already something to celebrate. 

Katherine Whalen [00:44:59] Yeah. It'll be interesting to see how this viewed sort of the long term impact of Covid on, for example, food systems and things like that, because just from, you know, event organization planning, if we ever do have events in the future, I highly doubt that people will be really into having a buffet style, for example. You know, and then it's about all of this individual packaging so that you can go take it over there and sit at your little table. Yeah. I don't know if you know of anyone who's been doing interesting work in that area, but I'm sure that there is going to be some interesting research coming out of it, I'm sure in the future. 

Mariska Nell [00:45:42] Yeah, definitely a night. And I think the way that we are going to do stuff for the future is definitely going to change. So, yeah, we're not going to return back to normal. We're gonna have a new normal. And hopefully that's better for the environment as well. 

Katherine Whalen [00:46:00] Yeah. We have to take responsibility in ensuring that it is. So the last question is a question that I ask all of the guests that come on the Getting in the Loop Podcast. And I'm excited to hear your answer. The event-- I'm getting ahead of myself. The question is about the In the Lloop game, which is a serious game that I created to create awareness about Circular economy and the way that we use materials. So the In The Loop game is a board game. It's a serious working where players take on the role of a product producing company and they have to travel around the board to collect the materials to make their products. And there are events that happen in the game every five minutes or so, and they change, you know, the market conditions or what's happening in the state of the world. They disrupt what's going on. Much like some of the real world events of 20 20, like the pandemic, and they they basically make the players think about how should they be responding? And a lot of the times the answer is that maybe it's better to go more secular in your strategies. So I always ask the guests that come on the podcast, what kind of event would you suggest for the In the Loop game? So more, Mariska, do you have a suggestion for an event that we can add? 

Mariska Nell [00:47:26] Okay, so mine is like more like awareness type of event and that would be I don't know what I would call it, but yeah, it would basically be the, the plastic has an effect on health. And I mean there's been so many studies now saying that, you know, they found plastic in all kidneys and  all organ, some organs. So my kind of thing would be, is that the companies need to have respond like a kind of responsibility. So if they manufacture something and it's made of plastic, then it's their responsibility to take up the cleaning off the items. So whether it's the recycling, whether it is into micro plastics, whether it goes into the ocean, and also if there's any health implications like, you know, fuel, plastic is leaching into the water that the boatel is housing and someone, you know, might get very sick, maybe get cancer from it, then, you know, that's kind of the responsibility of the company just so that they can also, again, go back to the drawing board and see with this material that they product is actually made of. That has a cheap price tag in the beginning. Now suddenly has a very expensive price tag because you've got all these extra extra stuff that's happening at the end of life to rethink, you know, whether that's the material that they would still use. 

Katherine Whalen [00:49:14] I love it.  Some sort of, like, extended producer responsibility. 

Mariska Nell [00:49:18] Yes. 

Katherine Whalen [00:49:19] Yeah. Brilliant. Well, I think we there are some events kind of similar to that in the game, but I think we can definitely work something more that has to do with health implications also into the game and maybe some future expansions. So thank you for that, Mariska. 

Mariska Nell [00:49:34] You're most welcome. 

Katherine Whalen [00:49:35] Well, it's been such a pleasure to to chat with you and I'm really grateful for this time that we got to-- that I got to spend with you and also the listeners will get to spend with you hearing about how you have been approaching sustainability and zero waste in a creative and playful educational way. So I really thank you for what you are doing in this and for coming on Getting in the Loop Podcast. 

Mariska Nell [00:50:03] Thank you so much. It was such a, such a great, great hatting with you. And yeah, I'm looking forward to actually hearing more about you and the podcast as well. And also your listeners to get them to say hi as well. 

Katherine Whalen [00:50:24] Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode. For show notes and the links, go to our website at GettingInTheLoopPodcast.com, and while you're there, subscribe to our mailing list to have new episodes delivered to your inbox every Monday. See you next week. 

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About the Show

Getting In the Loop is a weekly podcast dedicated to exploring how to transform to a more circular society. Join host Katie Whalen as she examines the challenges facing our current resource use and discovers alternatives to the ‘take, make, dispose’ way of doing things. Each week she interviews circular economy experts about what they’re doing and learning. Together we'll uncover what circular economy means in practice and find out what's being done to keep our resources in a loop rather than sent to waste.

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