Interview| Jo Poulton Founder of Waste Not Bristol Charity Eco Kits

After embarking on their own low waste journey, Jo and her partner began to realise that the marketing around zero-waste, low impact and sustainable living isn't always relatable or accessible for less privileged people.
There are many ways we can all be sustainable by utilising what we already have and choosing eco-friendly options where we can. However, not everyone has the capital in the first place to be able to invest in re-usable and low impact products and as a result, they have to keep buying their cheaper, single-use counterparts instead. 
At Waste Not Bristol they believe that eco-friendly living should be made accessible to as many people as possible, from all walks of life. They have been working hard, collaborating with small, UK businesses and running their chuffed.org campaign to put together Eco Starter Kits which they have been distributing to local charities in the South West.
We're very grateful that Jo contacted us to be a part of such an important project, and are pleased to announce that these kits include our Activated Charcoal Toothpowder.
G: When did you start becoming interested in the environment and sustainability?
Jo: I have always been eco-conscious. One of my earliest memories (staggeringly at the age of 3!) was on a ferry heading to Amsterdam, I remember feeling sad for the fish that we were driving above and thinking how noisy it must be for them down there. This natural care and curiosity carried through to my school days where I headed up the eco-committee and played Snow White in our sixth form pantomime wearing a dress made entirely from recycled crisp packets.

 

G: What inspired your journey to living a more sustainable and low impact lifestyle?

Jo: My love of the natural world and distress at its destruction has always been there. When my partner and I moved onto a canal boat 3 years ago my yearning to make as little of an impact on our natural world really came to the forefront. We were hyper-aware that everything we put down our drains would end up in the waterways that we had grown to love, so I began only buying and using natural products. Then, after witnessing the abhorrent amount of single-use plastic and packaging washing up in the harbour every week - I began my journey to drastically reduce my own waste.

G: What were the first items you swapped after this realisation?

Jo: My aunt kickstarted the simple swaps by buying me a bamboo toothbrush 2 years ago (she's always been ahead of the curve). We then swapped to solid soap and shampoo and began refilling our washing up liquid using a reusable container. Before we knew it we were tooled up to tackle each day without obtaining single-use anything!

G: What inspired you to start your Instagram account @WasteNotBristol and what did you learn through doing so? 
Jo: Last year I set up an Instagram account called @wastenotbristol which I initially just wanted to use as a platform to explore and document everything environmentally conscious that I thought was worth sharing about. However, as I started following more and more accounts hashtagging #zerowaste I began to feel slightly off-put by influencers who were constantly promoting new products, encouraging people to buy new things as opposed to reusing what they already had. Many of these account holders came across as a lot more wealthy than which left me feeling discontent.  
G: What do you think about the accessibility of eco-living?
Jo: I am hugely privileged to be able to afford to save up for and buy a £30 stainless steel water bottle, but I am aware of how many people are not in the same privileged position. The same thing applies to tote bags. I'm fortunate to be able to buy one for £5 but to someone else that 5p plastic bag may be the only affordable way to get their shopping home today. Again with bamboo toothbrushes. All these amazing products that are making waves to curb plastic pollution are generally more expensive than plastic or synthetic chemical based products. As a result of many eco-products are inaccessible for hundreds and thousands of people in this country on price alone.
G: So what did you decide to do about it? 
Jo: I had seen online shops promoting eco 'starter kits' and I thought - that's it! What an amazing way to help people who may not have the initial funds to invest in the lower impact products. I decided that I wanted to raise money to create and donate similar eco kits and take them to a range of charities in the south-west - delivering talks on lower waste living as I go.
G: Were you worried that people may not be interested?
Jo: I wanted to test out the kits and see whether they were desirable so I did a trial run. With a small amount of savings and the help of lots of kind and caring shop owners/producers of natural products, I was able to compile 20 #accesskits at cost price. I took the 20 kits with me to an amazing local charity called RWoB (Refugee Women Of Bristol) where I delivered a small talk on how to save money whilst avoid using single-use plastic. I had no idea what the wonderful women there would make of my talk but I opened it up to questions and was inundated with queries about how they could get their hands on the items in my example kit! So I was thrilled to be able to hand out the 20 kits I had with me.
G: So what are your plans going forward? 
Jo: After the amazing response at RWoB I want to do it bigger and better - my aim is to raise £6500 which will directly help 400 people in Bristol start their lower waste lifestyles by funding 400 #accesskits that I will take with me to Bristol-based charities in 2019.
G: What products come in the kits?
Jo: Fabric Tote Bag: GSM Organic Cotton Tote Bags from Bristol-based InGreens
Toothbrush: Beautiful Bamboo toothbrushes from Devon-based Truthbrush.
Toothpaste: Amazing Activated Charcoal Toothpowder (that comes in a glass jar that can be reused) from Georganics.
Solid Soap: Natural solid soap (offcuts for ultimate zero waste) from Scottish based Balm of Gilead Skincare.
Reusable Water Bottle: City to Sea engraved stainless steel bottles from the amazing foundation teaching young people all about environmental activism called The Raw Foundation.
G: How can everyone get involved and help the cause?
Jo: I have launched the campaign here on chuffed.org and am asking for generous donations to help get as many kits in the hands of people who want them in the South West as possible. With the help of the kind producers - the discounted/cost price for one #accesskit is £17.50 so in order to raise enough for 400 kits I'm hoping to raise £7000. I truly believe sustainable lifestyles should be accessible to all despite varying economic backgrounds.
If you would like any more information or would like to recommend a charity who would benefit from receiving a Charity Eco Kit then get in touch with Jo at wastenotbristol@gmail.com.
You can donate here: https://chuffed.org/project/waste-not-bristol-charity-eco-kits
Follow Waste Not Bristol on Instagram at @wastenotbristol and spread the word to help them raise their goal of £7000 and distribute 400 kits to people who need them. 
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