“After watching the movie The True Cost about the ecological and social impact of the fast fashion industry, I vowed never to buy anything new again. That was over three years ago and since then, I haven’t bought any new clothing except for underwear, socks and swimwear. It has not only saved me a tonne of money, but I feel good knowing that I am part of the circular economy.”
Meet Anita Vandyke, a qualified rocket scientist and medical student who is currently pregnant with her first child. She’s just published a book on a topic which she’s deeply passionate about: A Zero Waste Life. We caught up with the mother-to-be to find out how we can all embrace minimalism and tips for a zero waste life. Want to know more? Read on and make sure you follow her over at @rocket_science.
Take us back to your 20s. You were a self-confessed ‘maximalist’. What was your mindset back then?
In my early twenties, I was a stiletto-shoe-wearing, designer-bag-chasing maximalist! I thought more was more. I lived a life of excess, thinking that material goods would lead to happiness. I wasn’t born with a hippie mother or a passion for the environment, I was just a person trying to find happiness in all the usual places – shoes, handbags and clothing. Despite my best efforts, I soon realised, nothing I that I bought could fill the insatiable emotional void inside me.
Talk us through your career path - from corporate to studying medicine to starting an Instagram account (@rocket_science). What was the turning point - what inspired the change to minimalism and zero waste inside you?
After years of climbing the corporate ladder, I realised that I needed a change. I was wasting away my life. My life had deviated so far from my core values that I no longer recognised myself. That’s when I found two movements that have changed my life – minimalism and zero waste living.
I started my Instagram account @rocket_science as just a visual diary of the changes I was making to transition towards a zero waste life. I was struck by the damage that plastic pollution was having in our oceans and I felt overwhelmed with scary climate change statistics. The easiest place was to start with my home, by starting small, I finally felt in control of these seemingly ‘out-of-control’ issues. I didn’t ever to expect it to grow so much, it started with some dimly lit photos of plastic containers and it has grown to 27K+ followers!
Minimalism and zero waste living transformed my life. After a couple of years of soul searching and stripping away the layers of excess, I have finally found work that is in alignment with my true self.
You were born in Guangzhou, China and raised in Australia - what do you remember most about your childhood? What values did your parents instil in you?
My parents lived in an age of frugality with an attitude of make do and mend, they taught:
1. Consume less – put yourself on a spending ban, see if you can go one week or one month without buying any clothing, beauty items or accessories. Realising that I have enough and not craving more has been the biggest lesson I’ve learnt in my minimalist life. Your clothing and beauty choices should not cost the earth – both literally and metaphorically.
2. Buy less but buy better – when you need to actually buy something (need not want) buy the best quality you can afford. Support second-hand retailers, support brands that are ethical, support local artisans.
You recently published your first book A Zero Waste Life: A Thirty-Day guide - can you tell us more about it?
A Zero Waste Life is the ultimate guide to radically reducing your waste, without losing your lifestyle. In her thirty–day challenge, I’ll provide you with the rules, tips and tricks you need to eliminate plastic and live a cleaner, kinder life.
This practical book is a call to action with a fresh ‘can do’ approach. Over thirty days you will learn how to make sustainable, ethical choices when it comes to shopping, eating, travel, beauty and so much more. Small changes can make a big difference, and by following these easy, creative steps we can all do more to save our world.
What are 3 things we will learn from your book?
I have three key tips:
1. Replace your disposables with reusables. Items such as paper napkins, plastic grocery bags, disposable coffee cups can be replaced with cloth napkins, reusable cloth grocery bags and Keep Cups (reusable coffee cups).
2. Make secondhand your first choice – whenever you need to buy something, try to see if you can buy it secondhand first. Look at local thrift stores, ask neighbours and friends, try eBay – make a good effort to try to buy secondhand before buying new.
3. Head outside! – Enjoy doing activities such as hiking, swimming or simply just sitting still and being with nature. By enjoying the outdoors and seeing how amazing mother nature is, I have come to appreciate that every step (no matter how small) is important in helping our planet.
What are your time management tips - how do you get it all done?
Self-care is the number one priority for me. I can’t care for my patients, care for my loved ones, or care for the environment if I don’t look after myself. I have a ‘joy list’ which are 5-10 things that give me pure joy. They involve going to yoga, having a morning to myself in a café, going thrift shopping by myself. Whenever I feel my energy waning or I am feeling a bit down, I turn to my joy list and do one of these activities.
How has your pregnancy been so far - what have been the highs and lows?
My pregnancy has been a ‘journey’. The first trimester was awful with all-day nausea that debilitated me. However, the second trimester has been smooth sailing so far – just very tired! But to be honest, the greatest lesson I’ve learnt is to SURRENDER. Be gentle and surrender to the experience. Listen to your body and be kind to yourself. Your body is going through so many changes and it takes a while to adjust – mentally, emotionally and physically.
What excites you most about being a mother?
I am excited about bringing another human being into the world who will teach me how to embrace kindness, gentility and slow living. Most importantly, I am excited to bring more love into the world.
What are you most nervous about?
I am most nervous about the birth – even though I am medically trained, I don’t think you can ever prepare for it!
Anita Vandyke is a qualified rocket scientist – she graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering, Aeronautical Space – and runs a successful Instagram account (@rocket_science) about zero waste living. She currently splits her time between studying medicine in Sydney and living with her husband in San Francisco. She regularly blogs about her passions of zero waste switches, minimalism, travel and all things green living at www.anitavandyke.com. Anita’s first book A Zero Waste Life: a thirty-day guide (Penguin, $19.99) is available in all good bookstores now.