#trashfreetuesdays: Laura challenges you to pick up trash from the streets every Tuesday
When you hear/think of the word 'influencer', you probably picture someone posting a #tbt of their last vacation in Greece, or someone promoting another tea that's supposed to help you lose weight. Not Laura (25) though, because she tries to make the world a better place by promoting a less wasteful lifestyle.
Interview by Eline Rymenans
HI LAURA, WHO ARE YOU AND HOW DID YOUR FASCINATION WITH ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION START?
I’m Laura Van De Woestyne AKA Laura From The Desert. I just had my first job experience working for the European Commission in Belgium. I have a masters degree in Business Administration/Marketing and I specialised in Digital Marketing and Communication afterwards.
It all started 3 years ago when I went on Erasmus to Taiwan. For the first time in my life, I got faced with this gigantic amount of trash in the beautiful nature of Asia. It was really confronting and shocking. When I got back to Belgium I came across Laura Singer or Trash Is For Tossers on Instagram. Her account introduced me to all these influencers advocating for the environment. I started watching all these documentaries and started really doing my research.
At first, the zero waste community seemed really intense to me. That’s why I started my journey step by step. I don’t believe that you can change your whole life from one day to the next. Everyone has their own pace.
WHAT'S THE GOAL OF YOUR INSTAGRAM PROFILE?
I believe in the power of “spreading the message”. With my posts, I want to make this lifestyle more accessible and attractive. We’re not all alternative hippies (laughs).
I’m not one to point fingers at people, instead, I like to encourage every change, no matter how small it may be. We’re only human, everyone makes mistakes but that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to a better world.
WHY DID YOU START THE HASHTAG #TRASHFREETUESDAYS?
Last year I went to Madagascar and pretty quickly came to the conclusion that they don’t have a waste management system over there. I’ve come to realise that social injustice and environmental issues go hand in hand. It’s such a privilege that we live in the western world and have a decent system. That’s why it’s extra frustrating for me to see people still throwing their trash on the ground over here. It’s easy for us to recycle our trash, so why not just do it?
WHAT ACTIONS CAN OUR GOVERNMENT TAKE?
To be honest, I’ve stayed away from politics for quite a while. It’s not as easy as saying “I want this and this to happen”, politics are way more complex than that.
The European climate targets are really promising, I think that Europe has good intentions in terms of climate actions and strategies for plastic reduction. But these goals are set for 2040, if we have to wait that long, nothing will get done. That’s why small individual changes are so important to me. All these small actions can lead to collective awareness.
DO YOU HAVE ANY EXAMPLES OF WHAT WE CAN DO OURSELVES?
I started my journey by making small steps. The first thing you can do is choosing reusable alternatives instead of plastic. For example using a water bottle, solid shampoo bars or bringing your own bags to the supermarket. Another thing I want to normalise is litter picking. I want to encourage people to pick up some trash from time to time. Why not do a beach clean-up while you're on vacation?
The meat industry has an enormous impact on climate change. Choosing to go veggie a couple of days in the week can already make a big difference. Another tip I have is to shop second hand or to invest in sustainable and ethical fashion.
And just as a reminder: nobody's perfect! No one expects you to suddenly change your whole life, that's not realistic. When you introduce small changes in your routine step by step, they soon will turn into habits.
ANY PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
I want to organise a big clean-up in Ghent. There are more things coming soon, but I can't speak about those yet. I'd really love to be an environmental activist, even more than I already am!