This morning I felt quite unwell and scaled back my expectations of the day. But, I decided on a quiet stroll to the Farmers’ Market nearby as a pleasant undemanding outing. I’m blessed to love walking distance from this weekly market. I love that it sells local produce; I love that packaging is much less of a feature here than at a supermarket. I love that there are small organic producers selling here. It’s spring, and on the way I saw another woman walk up to a bottlebrush and run her hand over the flowers with evident pleasure–we had a lovely conversation about their beauty and she said she had seen streets full of jacaranda but never a whole street where the street trees are bottlebrush. A sister!
So I set out and decided to litter pick on my way. A few weeks back I bought three kilograms of rhubarb from the farm gate when I was out and about, and it came in three rhubarb–length bags with holes punched in them. They’ve gone to the litter picking bag stash rather than into the re-use for food stash because of the holes. One had already been used to pick litter when I was out on my bike. So I put the other two in a calico bag with my garden gloves and set out. I filled one bag on my way there. In my neighbourhood, I pick up a lot of cigarette butts, bottle lids of all kinds, advertising, confectionery packaging, fast food containers, straws, cable ties and tissues. The tissues make me want to continue with the [making and sharing] hanky project! On the way there I also picked up a beer bottle. In my experience it is always a mistake to leave a glass bottle on the street because the next time I see it, it is usually shattered. I arrived at the market, put my litter bag in the bin and the bottle in the recycling. I got a lovely smile from a woman pushing a child in a pram just as I arrived–looked to me as though she could see what I was doing and wanted to share her approval.
First stop, cheese. I ran into a friend and complimented him on his photos of the School Strike for Climate, which massive here as in so many parts of the world. The woman running the stall joined in the conversation, and when my friend said we just have to keep the momentum building, she said she thought there was an event coming Monday week–and what do you know? She was referring to one of the events for the Extinction Rebellion Spring Rebellion–which is a global week of action–and I’m part of the organising team for our city. As he stepped away, I told her I was an organiser and we had a chat about what she might do, and about the local group near where she lives. That was very cheering!
Next I bought some seeds for my spring garden and had a lovely chat with the seller who also had a gorgeous selection of flowers.
Then I decided on a treat from a stall that sells apples and delectables featuring apples and other home grown fruit. I have been bringing my own bag to this stall for years, and the couple who run it have always expressed their delight when I bring my own bag. When I buy a tart or brownie from them I bring my own container and they love that too! It’s so nice to have people respond positively, especially as some folks will refuse to co-operate in this strategy. Many will embrace it, however, and I now use it for sushi, cheese at the Central Market, one of the few places I can still find cheese being cut from a block and not pre-packaged, and all manner of things that need a container but don’t need a single use container. This stall provides paper bags, and has moved to cardboard trays for squishy fragile delectables, but clearly the owners are still hoping for a non-single-use strategy, so we talked over some of the possibilities, including just advertising that you can bring your own tub.
And then I walked home and filled another bag with litter. But I felt quite heartened by today’s chat. It made me think, yet again, that you do not know the ripples your efforts might have. I often think that individual efforts, while educational and ethically significant, are not especially impactful–and that is one reason I focus my effort on activism when I am able. Yet the apple-store woman said she had been prompted to go further in her quest for less waste by my bringing my own tub week in, week out. Our conversation held one new idea from me and one new idea from her own imagination. The cheese-store woman is one step closer to coming along to an Extinction Rebellion event because she has had a warm conversation with a customer. And the neighbourhood has less plastic going into the storm water system.
For those who don’t recognise it–the title of this post is a reference to “From Little Things, Big Things Grow” by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly, two giants of Australian songwriting. It is a tribute to the movement for Indigenous land rights in this country, and in particular to a key leader of the Gurindji: Vincent Lingiari, who led the walk off at Wave Hill, a key moment both for land rights and sovereignty. It was also a key moment for the right of Indigenous Australians to be paid equal wages in a period when some white landowners were still “paying” Indigenous Australians in rations–just one appalling practice in a lengthy history of exploitation which has continued into my lifetime.