The Recycled Interiors Podcast 005: Reducing Plastics in our Oceans with Little Acts of Kindness
Today’s episode is a magical and inspirational listen. Doing more for the oceans than most people, our guest is Lyn Wedd from Little Acts of Kindness, Artist and Anti Plastic Ambassador. She and her husband Brendan are based on the Mornington Peninsula. They have a deep passion for practicing—as the name suggests—little acts of kindness, by rescuing unwanted materials and reimagining them into gorgeous artistic furnishings for inside your home with upcycled wood designs.
They also recently launched their ‘Kindness Bags’—gorgeous boutique style reusable bags, lovingly hand painted by Lyn, with $1 from every bag going toward adopting dolphins. Lyn and Brendan rescue materials from demolished homes, such as floor boards loaded with character from churches, driftwood, gorgeous fallen tree limbs, scrap metal and FSC-approved timbers to create their beautiful work. Lyn describes herself and Brendan as ‘dreamers, makers, signers, lovers of life, adventurers and weavers of beautiful handmade creations’. They have twenty-three fruit trees in their normal-sized backyard, with a wish list of about eight more. They are really passionate about growing their own fruit and veggies, as well. Lyn says that life hasn’t gifted the couple any children to nurture, so they believe they are here to nurture the earth and speak up for those who can’t.
Listen up, learn and be inspired.
Dolphins are close to Lyn’s heart, especially the Burrunan dolphin – a species of bottlenose dolphin found exclusively in Port Phillip Bay and The Gippsland Lake. To date they have not been found anywhere else in the world, with only about 150 mammals discovered. Sadly, one was discovered washed up with plastic bags in its stomach, which is why Lyn created the Kindness Bags. Plastic strangles, suffocates and chokes up to one million sea birds, one hundred thousand sea mammals and countless fish each year, according to cleanup.org. This statistic tears at Lyn’s heart. ‘I simply can’t live this life not helping in some little way to prevent this from occurring.’
Lyn was diagnosed six years ago with hemiplegic migraines, which mimic strokes, including full left-sided paralysis affecting her arm, hand, leg, foot, face, and many times her tongue, and she has no ability to speak and ask for help. These migraines last anywhere between 10 and 90 minutes, then movement slowly returns, but weakness can last for days. ‘It’s like part of the brain forgets how to function and I become a prisoner trapped inside, which is extremely confronting,’ explains Lyn. Sadly, two years ago they became chronic. The worst month was twenty-three days of hemiplegia.
Slowly, slowly she is getting them managed; that is, if you can manage hormones—which are the trigger—at that time of your life, and she is limited with medication and treatment because of side effects and the probability of causing a stroke. One day, Lyn was out on her daily walk along the beach and found herself paralysed on the sand for about forty minutes. All she could do was focus around her when she noticed, glistening in the sunlight, numerous bright colours, which turned out to be microplastics. That’s when she realised that the huge rubbish dumps that are out in the middle of the ocean are right here on our local beaches, and the majority of it is plastic. As she lay there, unable to move or speak, she saw parallels with humanity being paralysed towards our actions, and the impact it has upon our environment—much like the paralysis she was experiencing and the impact it has on her own personal environment. She is unable to ask for help and neither can animals and our environment.
Lyn knew immediately it wasn’t a coincidence she was experiencing paralysis on the beach: it was life saying please use your voice, speak up. She really felt the environment as an extension of her body; something was moving her. She knew from that moment she would create home and garden furnishings from unloved and ethically sourced materials, as well as Kindness bags.
It totally unlocked a door in her heart that she had slammed shut many years ago, after having her designs stolen by a large Australian discount chain. At the time she was designing and creating, and had a really successful retail outlet, when her work was reproduced overseas, all but destroying their business overnight. A two-year legal case unfolded, and in a David and Goliath-style battle, she won. To say Lyn was a little apprehensive about putting her work back out there is an understatement. ‘Getting over myself is exactly what I’ve had to do. Not allowing my past to determine my future!’
The deal was sealed when, following this event, she experienced a second episode of paralysis on the beach and was unable to finish collecting all the plastic, which she began to do quite often after that first incident. The guilt for not collecting all the rubbish bothered her all day. It got the better of her and she grabbed her backpack and went back. By the time she got to the beach she was totally exhausted, which really pushed the anger button. She was flooded with anger at the thought of pushing herself, literally dragging her left foot because it was still weak, to pick up disrespectful people’s rubbish!
At that point, Lyn says she sat down, grabbed her journal and wrote why? Immediately the response was, because I care. For some reason she looked up and noticed something in the water: a dolphin, right there in front of her. She burst into tears and immediately was no longer moved to pick up from disrespectful people. She was now moved to prevent dolphins, birds and all marine animals from dying from the plastic and rubbish she was collecting, and her heart changed entirely. Instead of becoming angry about collecting people’s rubbish, she has turned this into an opportunity to make a difference for the creature she is so passionate about. Like many of us, Lyn says she has always been passionate about the environment, but hadn’t really given any thought to where the garbage truck takes our rubbish. The truck just deals with it, right? But now landfill horrifies her.
In Lyn’s artistic life, she loves combining textures—steel, stone and timber. She is thrilled by painting the Kindness Bags, as she spends all day painting love hearts and filling the bags with invisible love. Her episodes of paralysis are her biggest challenge, as they can present right in the middle of a carving, when she is totally in her zone doing her thing. They can knock her for a couple of days (which is very inconsiderate of them!) and this leads to a lack of freedom to go out alone whenever she feels like it to source materials.
When it comes to your home and how to be more sustainable, Lyn suggests you go out and plant a tree or six, and ask yourself, does your home truly reflect everything you stand for? Check in with your values and consider the manufacturing process of everything you purchase as best as you can, and ask, does this reflect what I stand for? During a session with me around her business goals, Lyn says she felt something deep inside her heart shift: a realisation that there was something deeper she was holding onto—a deeper longing to do something even more meaningful.
With every piece she collects, she now swears she can hear our planet whispering to her, please respect me, plastic is polluting me with toxins, it suffocates me, it strangles & entangles turtles, birds, seals, dolphins & more who also call the earth home. You are all the same, yet shaped differently. You depend on me for life. Please be kind to me!
A search online uncovered some seriously alarming stats:
- There is an estimated 4000 tiny pieces of plastic per every square kilometre of Australian sea surface water;
- Up to 1400 seals are dying each year from entanglement in Victoria alone;
- Box tape (plastic strapping for boxes) is the worst offender, but there is also risk from hats, fishing line—any item that encircles;
- By the year 2020, 90% of our sea birds will have ingested plastic;
- Plastic has been detected in zooplankton (bottom of the marine food chain);
- Australians spend more than $500 million a year on water bottles;
- Less than 40% of water bottles are recycled;
- It takes 450-1000 years for a plastic bottle to break down;
- 10 million new plastic bags are used every day in Australia.
With those statistics tearing at Lyn’s heart it sealed the deal for what she would do from here. ‘Harm is not the way of a nature-lover. Even if we’re not responsible for dropping the water bottle, we have eco-responsibilities to care for our environment, to pick up the bottle and bin it,’ she says. Our land and oceans worldwide need ambassadors everywhere: in every home, in every workplace, along every coastline and in all areas in between to embrace our eco-responsibilities, to be the Change-Makers who inspire the momentum for change in others.
Lyn’s Ways of Kindness
- Reduce your use of single-use plastics as best you can
- Recycle, recycle, recycle
- Use reusable coffee cups
- Always use reusable shopping bags
- Buy larger sizes of products, or buy in bulk, to reduce packaging
- Throw stray plastics into the bin
- Grow your own veggies
- Refuse bottled water
- Get involved with the Street to Beach litter audit.
All of her sculptures, including the Kindness Bags, now feature plastic she has rescued from the coast. Lyn soaks, scrubs and sorts the plastic into colours, which makes it much easier to work with. Some pieces are so tiny, it’s not surprising they’ve infiltrated the food chain! The rope requires soaking over numerous days, then a good old scrub to clean it. She loves incorporating unloved steel, wire, and stone, along with driftwood, fallen limbs, plant fibres & recycled timbers—materials considered as trash and yet, with love, each piece evolves into something beautiful and unique.
“I have a process of surrender when I design: I surrender to love and ask to be shown a beautiful new creation. I must say I do the same when I rescue along the beach; I give thanks for the experience and ask to be guided to that which I need to see. Sometimes it’s as simple as seaweed draped over driftwood, which is the inspiration for a new piece; other times it’s an isolated tiny piece of plastic. It’s the most amazing feeling, knowing a beautiful piece of art is also helping save the lives of our sea birds & marine life”.
Links you will want to check out
You can visit Lyn and her work on her website at http://www.littleactsofkindness.com.au/
You can read her full story in my book – Healthy Planet, Healthy People, Healthy Home
Find redcycle here for the scrunchy plastics http://redcycle.net.au/redcycle/
Planet Ark has multiple resources here http://planetark.org/
Clean Up Australia http://www.cleanup.org.au/au/
More about those gyres http://www.5gyres.org/
If you loved this episode please leave a review on itunes or stitcher and be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes as they go to air!
What one step are you going to take when it comes to single use plastics in your life? Stay tuned for more on Lyn’s plans to get rid of 1 billion plastic bags!
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