We can all do our bit and feel good too!
We interviewed the wonderful Rachel whose Instagram account @MakeLitterPickingCool, is doing just that! We discover how she got started on her journey to zero waste through this fantastic hobby. She tells us how it is not only a brilliant form of exercise, but it can be done by anyone and everyone, and most importantly it reconnects us with nature. It is becoming more and more popular within the Zero Waste movement with groups and individuals across the UK getting involved. Keep scrolling to find out more.
Rachel, we’d love to hear more about the woman behind Make Litter Picking Cool. What happened for you to start litter picking and how long you have been doing it for?
My name is Rachel, I’m 28, married, have two wonderful schnauzers and I work a full time office job which isn’t really linked to anything I’m really passionate about..! I’m not sure exactly what the thought process was that led me to pick up litter but for my first pick I went in hard. At my previous job and I cycled to work and back along the same road 4 times a day. There was so much litter and no bins in sight. I think I just realised nobody else was going to fix it so I should stop complaining and actually do something about it. So one Friday, in November 2017, I had a half day booked, my husband dropped me off at work in the morning and at lunch time I walked back while collecting litter. I took two Ikea bags and I hadn’t even got 5 minutes away from work before they were both full so I had to walk to the skip (which was luckily back towards the office) who emptied them for me and then I started again. Eventually I got home (took a few hours) with another two full bags and had very sore shoulders the next day!
Wow, it sounds like you collected a lot of rubbish if it gave you sore shoulders. Thank you for taking it upon yourself to clean up your area and on your afternoon off! I bet it must have had an impact on your own lifestyle from then on wards.
Yes, from then onward, I didn’t really stop picking up litter! I’d already been trying to cut down on plastic before then so I think in my head it just went hand in hand, I officially boarded the eco-bus. I litter pick when I walk my dogs in the morning, around Eastleigh in Hampshire. But I will pick up litter wherever I go, whatever town I’m in, any beach I’m on or mountain (or big hill) I’m up! There’s no holiday from litter!
That’s so wonderful. You really are making litter picking cool. What is your motto to inspire others?
Leave it better than you found it is a great mantra to live by.
That is a great motto to live by and can easily be adapted to everyone’s workplace, home town or places they visit. We absolutely love your Bingo games and general #plactivism which is how we found you via Instagram. What set you off on this path of documenting your litter picking?
Thank you!! I’m a bit odd where I like to have an Instagram account for any hobby I have. I found that I wanted to share so much more of my eco journey than I wanted to subject my family to. I think I’m also one of those people who does things better when nobody I know knows I’m doing it. When I can write what I like and not worry about people I know thinking ‘what is she doing now!?’, I guess it’s one of my insecurities. One of my friends or family always find out about it in the end, but I guess I find it easier to go for it in the beginning with a bit of anonymity! I also wanted to highlight an issue that I’d become really passionate about and wanted to share that and hopefully show others that it is an issue and it’s a really easy thing to do!
What’s the most unusual piece of litter you have ever found and where did you find it?
Haha, it’s a bit x-rated! I found a (scarily large!) penis ring in a place that I actually thought was rather posh! At first I didn’t know what it was, I thought maybe it was a kids teething thing, but yeah, I posted a pic of it and safe to say we were all shocked and horrified. It’s still on my feed if anyone is curious!
Wow that is a bizarre find, we’ll leave it to our readers to find the picture, if they want to see it with their own eyes!
SO WITH ALL THIS TALK OF LITTER, WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE DROP LITTER/FLY TIP?
I think it is pure laziness, ignorance and entitlement. People are too lazy to cross the road for the bin and too ignorant to understand how their actions impact the world they live in and too entitled to think it’s theirs to take responsibility of. I get the feeling from some of the litter I find that it’s also not happy people who litter. I find beer bottles and cans that appear during the day and feel like maybe it’s also people who are angry at the world perhaps, but that’s getting into the psychology analysis of a litterbug and I’m not qualified for that. I also think that there is still a thing about not caring being cool amongst teenagers, particularly where I live, it seems. That’s why I named my page Make Litter Picking Cool. There is a stigma that if you pick up litter, you’re either a council worker or on community service.
Yes, there does seem to be a lot of empty alcohol bottles and fizzy drinks containers found on your litter picks. Do you take part in any community clean up groups and if so, what is your lasting memory of them?
I’m mostly a solo picker because I’m terrible at sticking at time slots at the weekend, but I have done a small few. I’ve done two with @thelitterpickchicks which were awesome. It was really nice to meet someone in person who you follow in Instagram and discover they are just as awesome as you thought and you can just easily chat with them! Myself and Katrina, @treen_beachcleans are organising something exciting to keep your eyes peeled for that one!
A lot of our readers are avid litter pickers, as are all of the team at Society Zero. What are your 3 pieces of advice you would give to someone when it comes to litter picking?
1. When you get your confidence up, do it in front of as many people as possible! Don’t feel embarrassed about bending down to pick up a bottle or a can in a busy area or by a busy road. You might find that someone sees you and you plant a seed in their head that it’s a good thing they should also be doing!
2. Be careful with cans, you can’t tell if they’re full until you pick them up so turn them upside down and empty them before adding them to your bag. So many times I’ve been splashed with red bull because I just picked up the can and kept walking!
3. It’s okay to pessimistic about the amount of litter you think you’ll find. It’s already annoying to find it, so the best thing you can do is to expect the worst and then you can only be pleasantly surprised if there’s less!
Has there been anything unexpected that you have discovered about your local area?
It probably sounds bad but I was actually pleasantly surprised when I chatted to another dog walker to learn that he and his son picked up litter too! I thought I was the only one in my town who cared, judging by how many people ignored me when I picked, so to hear that someone else was also on the case was brilliant! I knew I had all my fellow Instagram litter pickers working their magic, but to find someone who picked up where I did was a great reassurance.
Yes, it’s a great feeling when someone comes up to you to say thank you or picks up rubbish to help. Even better when you find out someone else does it regularly too. Is there anything you have learned about the plastic pollution we are currently facing from your litter picks?
Convenience is a major issue in the fight against plastic. The majority of stuff I find is designed to be quick and efficient. Packaging that is discarded in two seconds but lasts a life time. Fast food is a major issue, meal deals are also bad. The bigger fast food chains luckily use a lot of cardboard but the straws are everywhere, smaller fast food places use those horrible polystyrene boxes, because it is cheaper than alternatives. Meal deals leave sandwich wrappers, crisp packets and drinks bottles behind, because even though it’s cheaper to make your own lunch, it’s quicker to pay more for it. We live in a society where we want something as quickly as possible. Which means most people won’t even question what packaging it comes in or whether their choices have a negative impact because it’s just second nature to them now!
Yes I’m sure our readers will agree that ‘convenience food’ is definitely a key factor in a lot of the litter we see discarded at sides of roads and in hedges. Is there are particular moment or memory that stands out for you since you began litter picking?
Becoming a Keep Britain Tidy Litter Hero Ambassador was wonderful. Not so much for the title but because it was so nice to be in a room with like minded people, and we met Wayne and Koda! Koda is the most placid fluff ball ever! The first time I stamped a box at my local Tesco was also good fun. I felt so sneaky and ridiculous! My husband is pretty good to put up with me although he does essentially have to abandon me to do the food shop while I go around stamping boxes . I like to think the message has hit a few shoppers and also gained a good amount of attention on social media and all I really want is to create awareness of the problem and sometimes to do that you have to throw caution to the veg aisle!
YOU HAVE DONE SO MUCH IN A YEAR! IS THERE AN ACHIEVEMENT OR CONTRIBUTION YOU ARE MOST PROUD OF?
I’m proud to be a Keep Britain Tidy Litter Hero Ambassador, although I didn’t feel like I was doing as much as others which is why I decided to do the Roller Blading Marathon.
Plogging (picking litter whilst jogging) seems to be all the rage at the moment but there are a few Pladers (picking up litter while blading) (shout out to @cupswitch!) so I wanted to do something to shout about that and raise litter instead of money. I’d attempted a roller marathon once before and only got to half way so I wasn’t sure how I’d cope. It’s quite hard to train for because it’s your feet and ankles that start hurting before you actually get physically exhausted! Then you’ve got to keep skating through the pain!
However I successfully roller bladed 15 laps of Castle Coombe Race Circuit which is actually slightly over a marathon at 27.75 miles and I completed it in just over 3 hours, with no breaks! It raised 120 bags of litter in total and that in itself is worth the incredible muscle pain I had in my inner thighs. My legs weren’t right for a good few weeks after and I still haven’t got back on skates (but that’s mostly because of the weather!). I’m so grateful to everyone who supported me and kept me going on the day too and picked litter for it.
One of the best parts was wearing my awesome litter outfit! @ceejaybythebeach. Christine made me an epic balloon cape which I wrote #BalloonsBlow on, I made a plastic bottle tutu, bottle top earrings and a crisp packet belt which I made by melting crisp packets in the oven (because they’re plastic!) and then attaching them to an old bike inner tube. I felt pretty cool and I made sure I overtook people so they could see my cape! It was great experience and a great challenge, and I’m so glad so many people sponsored me by picking up bags of litter. I’m not one to do marathons (I don’t run!) but anything on roller blades seems so much more fun. I’m tempted to even do it again…
I quite like a litter outfit and I’m doing the Floral Fringe Fair in West Sussex in June so I’m planning to make a steampunk outfit for that out of litter and I’ll also display the outfit I wore for the roller marathon. It’s great to get crafty while raising awareness.
Wow, we are in awe that not only you are literally wearing rubbish, but of how good you look in it! A roller balding marathon is no mean feat so thank you and well done! We’d love to hear if you do decide to do another one! Aside from wonderful marathon sponsored by litter, what’s the best Instagram challenge you’ve participated in?
I love @zedster57’s 2 minute beach clean up photo challenge! I used to have a book blog (still do but it’s inactive) and there were a lot of book challenges that produced wonderful content and this challenge reminds me of those but with litter instead of books! People get so creative and it’s amazing how many beautiful photos you can get when you consider that litter is the subject! I’m actually terrible at keeping up with it but I get excited when I find something that fits a day. I started a monthly litter picking bingo which was a way to get people litter picking for fun and rewarding them with a prize that also supported eco friendly businesses. So some of the prizes have included Beauty Kubes, a Refill Chilly’s bottle, Ecoffee cups, Ben’s Bee Bombs and other things. This month the prize is Activistickers which I’m really excited to give away, might even get some for myself!
WE LOVE YOUR PASSION FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND HOW IT HAS DEVELOPED IN SUCH A SHORT SPACE OF TIME, SINCE YOU BEGAN LITTER PICKING.
Finally, can you tell us about some of your zero waste swaps? Most difficult, easiest and your latest swap?
The most difficult was make-up – I don’t even do it well or wear much, but I make sure I go for cruelty free make up, but buying plastic free is much more expensive, so instead, I have just reduced the amount I use.
The easiest switch (which I thought would be the hardest), is my menstrual cup! It’s so good and makes my periods SO MUCH EASIER! I do yoga with zero worries! I thought it was disgusting at first and then a couple of months later I bought one and I’d never go back – they’re fab! Over a year and a half and no looking back.
My most recent switch is deodorant! I found Earth Conscious at a vegan festival and I absolutely love their stuff. No bad smell at all which is awesome, I was really thrilled with that!
THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO TALK US RACHEL. IT’S BEEN WONDERFUL TO HEAR YOUR INSIGHTS AND LEARN MORE ABOUT YOU AND HOW WE CAN ALL GO LITTER PICKING!
We hoped you enjoyed the insight into Rachel’s litter picking. If you would like see what other interesting things she gets up to, you can follow her on Instagram or visit her website. If you are a keen litter picker and want to get involved in our Clean Up next event you can find out more on our Facebook Event page: Team Up to Clean Up.
TAG US @SOCIETYZERO_CIC AND RACHEL @MAKELITTERPICKINGCOOL IN YOUR LITTER PICKING PICTURES USING THE HASHTAG #SZPICKUPLITTER