Written by: Isabel Varela & Ruby Bourke
Edited by: Taylor Engle
What is Minimalism? How can I become a Minimalist? These are questions that I hear more and more every day and I wanted to share someone that I believe will lead you in the right direction when it comes to the minimalist lifestyle!
With Green Stories, I want to share the stories of all the fantastic things people around the world are doing to make the world a better place!
MEET RUBY BOURKE!
1.Tell us about your background and what inspired you to dive more into minimalism.
Living in a sheltered neighborhood in the inner suburbs of Melbourne for the first 15 years of my life set the foundation for my unrest in the world of materialism. At 16, I decided I wanted to see more of the world, so I spent five months in the middle of Republican Michigan attending a public high school, totally exposed to what is known as the American way of living.
Soon after my return to Melbourne, my family made the spontaneous decision to move to Bali, Indonesia and attend Green School, destined to open my eyes to environmental problems that I’d managed to actively ignore for most of my life. In my first few weeks of Year 11, I was very comfortable in my new identity: a passionate youth environmentalist.
When I was asked to create a passion project to work on for my last year of school, I knew my purpose needed to be easily communicated to my peers back home and empower others to take action. At the same time, I had just watched Netflix’s “Minimalism” by Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields. The idea excited me. Minimalism challenged all of my previous beliefs and way of life, but it also promised to combat the insecurities I faced growing up in a materialist culture. I felt like there was nothing to lose, so I gave it a go! Soon after I found Lauren Singer and her “Trash is for Tossers” concept. She embodied all of my beliefs and showed me how to live zero-waste. The year of zero-waste/minimalism was then born!
- I love your product that you have created with the Think KIT. Can you tell us a little more about it and how you came up with the idea?
Thank you! It was an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to wrap up my year of blogging and conscious consumption with a physical product. The idea for the THINK kit was to be a sort of leeway for my audience to transition to zero-waste consumption. Although I am passionate about the project, I knew I couldn’t make the audience (of my Green Stone Talk) go home, start throwing things out of their wardrobe and quit plastic after one speech. Thus, the kit was born.
The THINK kit is made from local and upcycled materials around the island of Bali, and includes:
2 glass jars for bulk shops (trash, liquids, shampoo, flour, etc.)
2 drawstring produce bags made from upcycled curtains (an alternative to plastic produce bags)
2 beeswax wraps (alternative to plastic cling wrap)
1 TRI handkerchief (alternative to tissue) made from upcycled bed sheets.
1 THINK bag (a friendly conscious consumption reminder, shopping mate, and spacious grocery bag) made from upcycled rice bags and hessian.
Photo Credit: New York Magazine
- Our society is now seeing more information on zero-waste and minimalism. What are 5 tips that you can share with us that would be helpful for the consumer who is just starting out?
- Start small. Remove as little or as much as you want. Minimalism is not about how many t-shirts you have, or how white and empty your room looks. It’s up to you to figure out what works for you and what will bring more value into your life. For me, I keep the things I absolutely need and that are of personal value.
- Ask yourself: What brings value into my life? Asking that question is a never-ending process - you always learn something new. Check in with yourself and your space now and then to make sure you feel content with what you already have.
- Transition to secondhand shopping. Check out your local thrift stores, online retailers, borrow from your mates - even swap clothes! Nothing feels better than a good bargain.
- Say no to single-use plastics! You don’t need a plastic straw, nor plastic utensils. Say yes to bringing your own container for takeaways, order from eco-conscious restaurants, bring snacks wherever you go, shop at your local farmer's market and use your bags!
- Always track your waste — where is it going? How can you recycle what you use at home? Consider composting, or even pop it in a jar so you can see your progress!
As you start your journey, remember that guilt is your worst enemy. If you slip up, see it less as a mistake and more as a reason to continue making more conscious actions. Holding onto guilt will only disempower and prevent progress.
Photo Credit: Green School Bali
- Tell me more about your experience at the Green School in Bali.
They were the best two years of my life! The Green School is an alternative school in the middle of the Balinese jungle with a diverse community of international expats. We learned very hands-on, with a set of values to create a more sustainable future by collaborating with the local culture. The moment I set foot inside, I knew I belonged there. Every single person I met at Green School was and is entirely themselves: free to express and pursue any passion they want. There were no walls in our classrooms: it’s completely open to nature, no limit to what we can learn. There were permaculture gardens, chickens running wild and lots of solar panels!
As a student, I was offered multiple opportunities to travel to places such as Kalimantan, Borneo to see the devastation of palm oil plantations firsthand and collaborate with local activists. We were able to bring accounts of our travels to the United Nation’s COP (an annual conference on climate change) and receive school credit for it. Green School is the place where change can happen on a global scale from the comfort of a bamboo classroom.
- What are some key takeaways from the Green School that you can share with us?
My non-traditional learning experience in Bali has taught me to see learning as a lifelong journey. I’ve found my passion by surrounding myself with likeminded people who see students as equal collaborators, regardless of age or academic knowledge. Perhaps the biggest takeaway I got from the Green School: empowered youth have all the solutions! I guess that’s why I’m such a huge advocate for alternative learning environments. Traditional systems struggle to educate youth for the future we are facing. That is why we need ideas, empowerment, and collaboration in our classrooms!
- You also gave a TEDx talk in Melbourne! Can you tell us about that experience and what is next on your to-do list?
After stepping outside of the Green School ‘bamboo bubble,’ I was more than excited to return to Melbourne and share my experience with my peers. Giving my TEDx talk was hands-down the most intimidating experience of my life. It was a dream come true standing on the red carpet and addressing the Internet with a simple yet controversial idea: that minimalism and zero-waste living is the solution to society’s sustainability problems. I got up on that stage with my jar of trash and my hessian shopping bag, wearing a pair of well-worn dungarees. I completely blanked and ended up having to wing the entire talk. I was disappointed in myself for this slip-up, but I realized I still received so much positive feedback from my peers. I think the minimalist revolution is closer than we think.
Next on my list: Travel around the world with the THINK message!
- How can we stay up to date with your adventures and/or learn more about your products?
My blog has all the reflections, recipes, tips and advice from my year of conscious consumption. I am currently working on rebooting my social media channel as I begin to create a concrete vision of where the THINK kit will lead me next.
Leave me a message on social media or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting your hands on a THINK kit, or just simply want to learn more!