"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have decide what kind of difference you want to make". Jane Goodall.
Hi Tessa! How have you been during these unusual times, that seem to have swallowed up 2020?
For sure, the ocean has always been a huge part of my life and I'm so thankful for that. Growing up in North Narrabeen there's a such a strong surfing community, it seemed normal to spend every morning/arvo/weekend in the ocean. For me starting so young I just fell head over heels obsessed with surfing, and I still am to be honest. But it's amazing how you don't even have to grow up by the beach to have a special connection with our oceans. The oceans are calming, and cleansing, and humbling....so many things, for so many people. Nature is so generous like that.
What is one positive moment that is of significance to you so far this year?
That's a hard one with so many big issues swirling around. In terms of the Black Lives Matter movement, here and in the U.S. I think it's great to see the tough conversations are being had, resources are being shared, and with all this down time self-education is on the rise. I've enjoyed the quieter pace for that reason, and lately have been reading up on Intersectional Environmentalism, which acknowledges the link between the injustices towards marginalised communities and the environment. Heaps more info and resources available here.
Small actions make a difference. What advice can you give those who may not understand that we need to be reducing our consumption, and living a little more consciously.
Don’t let your dream just be dreams and don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do.- Anita Ghise
Photography by Daisy Bradford
Anita! Tell us a little about your background?
I was born in Romania into a communist dictatorship. My parents were in their early twenties when they had me – I was born in their student room on campus- they were both just finishing their degree as engineers.
It was tough times in Romania and my parents decided to escape to Germany with me and my brothers when we were still kids. We moved around Germany- the first year we lived in refugee housing but luckily my dad found a job in his profession quickly and we became citizens.
I would lie if I said it was easy – my parents started from scratch in a foreign country with three kids and no support net of relatives or friends around. My mum was working all kinds of jobs from scrubbing floors to kitchen hand in restaurants and so on – although she is engineer and spoke German fluently (She now works an engineer too, I am incredibly proud of her!)
Regardless of all the obstacles my parents made sure there was always enough for us and we learned from a young age to work for things we want in life.
We moved around a lot and I never felt home in Germany so I tried to live with my aunt in the states when I was sixteen, moved back and finished high school.
That’s when I first came to Australia – 11 years ago. I knew I was going to live in Byron, but my journey took me around the globe to Argentina for a number of years. The reason was a boy. I’ve studied fashion at Uni there and moved back Australia by myself six years ago. To make a long story short – it’s my home now and I couldn’t be happier. I met boyfriend over five years ago and recently have added a little street kitten to our household.
How long have you been dressmaking for and what's your personal style like?
I love creating - I'm a dreamer and a maker, and always have been. From a little girl, when we escaped Romania and into a better future for us kids, all I did was disappear into the world of books and I loved dressing like my favourite characters.
I had my grandma help me make the clothes that I was inspired to design from the characters in my books. From Frill dresses with aprons to hand knitted sets and jumpers. Later on I was scoping out flee markets and altering what I could find to dress like the Spice Girls or other stars I've adored. I was selling my pre-loved stuff there to buy something new to create- not much has changed, haha.
We didn't have school uniforms, so the dressing was an important way of expressing myself. Trust me I went all out some days and it wasn't seen as the most desirable from peers in the early years. Later those skills came in handy with girlfriends and after finishing my Degree in Fashion at Uni in Argentina. I always knew that there was no other path than creating. And without planning or even considering something like that - Instagram came along and created opportunities I could only dream of for me.
My personal style is probably best described as eclectic – I don’t like stereotypes. I wear what I feel like wearing or I choose the clothes by how they make me feel.
You can find me at home covered in threads sewing in a beautiful gown or wearing my boyfriend’s shirt to a party – or vice versa. Never know. I like to surprise myself.
Are you a conscious shopper? What are some things you look out for before you make a purchase?
One thing is certain – I look for quality and versatility in whatever I buy. Well made pieces that I want to wear over and over again for years to come.
I love vintage – pieces that have ‘lived’ for generations and have a story to tell.
With my background dressmaker I’m super conscious about how the garments are sewn together and which fabrics have been used. I’m not a fan of overlocked seams or threads that are unravelling in the first wear.
I would lie if I said that all the pieces I own are sustainably made – but I am making a conscious effort to support brands that are working towards a sustainable future. I know how difficult it is to opt for sustainably and ethically accredited options as a brand.
What do you love most about the Australian fashion industry and do you see light at the end of the tunnel for the industry?
I love that many brands are looking into sustainable alternatives in fibres, fabrics and in energy used in their factories. As well as making sure to produce ethically. I love the idea of No- seasons and just releasing small drops of pieces or made to order in Australia. In our times where everything is so short lived it is even more important to understand that waiting and saving up for something that you really like increases its value and makes it so much more fun.
What has been one of your favourite activities during Iso days?
What keeps me sane is my daily yoga hour and cardio, I’ve been loving all the online classes. Favs are Hustle and Creature Yoga. As well I’ve started going for walks just around Bangalow the little hinterland town I live in. My absolute favourite part is spending all day with our kitty Mr Myagi.
Dana! We'd love to hear a little about yourself?!
My name is Dana Lopez, I am originally from Argentina but I’ve being in Australia for about 4 years now. I am a model, Educator and environmentalist. Ive being a model for about 11 years now and I about a year ago I started working with Take 3 for the Sea as a volunteer and Educator.
I like that I can combine the two and start conversations about plastic pollution within the industry I am working on, which I believe has a long way to go in terms of sustainability. That’s why I love Shapes in the Sand's concept and we definitely need more brands like you guys!
I love the ocean and I think is key to protect it and preserve the way it is. The ocean gives us so much, so we need to do as much as we can to give that love back to it. I am not afraid of talking about this problem and I take every opportunity I get I try and spread that message out there.
I think in another life I was a dolphin or at least I wish I was. :)
What are you enjoying the most at the moment about staying home during this crazy time in the world? What is one thing you miss about normal life.
It's nice to take a moment, sit back and look back at life and reflect where I am but at the same times it's hard to have everything on pause. Hopefully we come out of this learning that we need to change things. I must say that the only thing keeping me sane is the ocean and my daily swims.
I have been so excited to hear about your latest little endeavour to the Whitsundays as an educator and volunteer for Take 3 for the Sea. Tell us about the journey, what you were up to and some highlights.
The expedition was amazing, we spend a week sailing around the Whitsundays with a group of Scientists, trawling and sampling the sea surface for micro plastics, we used a trawl on the back of the boat for 30 minutes each time, size of 0.3 mm, so we were able to sample particles in the same size range as plankton.
Was surprising that we did not find that much visible plastic in the ocean, which is definitely a positive but we are still waiting for the samples to be analyse in the lab and see the results. It was a super cool experience to learn from expertise on Micro plastics and be able to see the science behind it all.
Corona virus was just starting so had to cut the trip short which was sad but we still manage to have a great time. The company organising the trip, Sail and explore are planning to come back next year and do another trip, so I will be definitely joining them again.
Being a Take 3 educator, what are some facts you've learn't that we should all know?
There are a few numbers and statistics that have really stuck in my mind. Scientists estimates that there are between 93 to 286 kilotons of micro plastic particles floating in our oceans.
There are an estimated 46,000 pieces of marine litter floating on every square mile of ocean. I found it crazy that we, humans, did this, so we have to change that!
What are your top 3 future hopes and dreams?
I will have to say that a dream would be to get people to understand how much damage we are making to the planet and we need to change that. I think making a difference and provoking change is my biggest hope/ dream.
A quote or phrase that is special to you?
Every small action, will bring us a big action ;) I often remind myself of this, when things get a bit much and I feel unmotivated. No matter how small the action is, it's contributing to a bigger action from everyone and that makes you feel like you are making a difference.
"Who you are, how you think, what you do, and how you react
– all of these things are all up to you."
Jack River! Where did the inspiration for the name come from?
When I was 16 my two best friends and I made up pirate names, mine was Jack River. The others are Simon Woodpecker and John Scarlett. We still use these names when we’re hanging out, though the others didn’t exactly decide to name their whole professional career after a pirate name.
We’d love to hear about your recent and ongoing involvement with School Strike for Climate and what it means to you being part of this movement?
It is the most important and largest movement in the world. Since I was very young I have been passionate about the environment, and then grew up to understand the incredibly urgent position we are in as a human race. The movement is being run and co-ordinated by young people, this is extremely important as they are the custodians of tomorrow, but even more significantly – they have been the most effective group in making a global impact with their voices.
Not only does backing this movement mean that I believe that we must listen to the world’s leading scientists, divest from fossil fuel based economy and make rapid changes in relation to our country’s current emissions – at the heart of it, I want my listeners to know how much I care about their own views, their families and their futures.
I believe that we’re all able to do our part for a cleaner and brighter future. Little actions make a big difference! What are your personal contributions towards a green future, that we can take on board?
Being an Artist (currently), all of my income streams from touring, in fact I am writing from a plane right now. I take an awfully huge amount of flights and I drive a lot (living in the country). Foremostly I want to let people know I am not perfect at all, and I believe we must all act – but we can’t cripple ourselves with the thought of perfection otherwise we will paralyse ourselves!
Little things I do include – limiting plastic and packaging wherever I go. I eat 95% vegetarian, and buy only local meat and fish when I know where it has come from. I try to source clothes that are made and grown in Australia, or use sustainable fabrics – not perfect here either, and still looking for an alternative to sequins! At home we have a worm farm, herb garden, almost a veggie garden and obviously a rain water tank – I wish we were further along but it’s a start!
On a broader level though, I am spending A LOT of time having meetings with all different people within culture, politics and the movement toward a green future, to understand how I can play the most effective role. This is something we can all do, no matter what industry we are in. It is a process and I don’t have the answers, but every conversation counts and builds toward the right course of action.
If you cant do the above (though everyone can haha), find your local go-getter and support them somehow. There is someone in every community in Australia that is driving this movement and this shift, like Shapes In The Sand, we just got to find them.
Growing up on the Mid-north coast, did you spend a lot of time outdoors? If so, did this give you a special appreciation for nature?
Yep, I spent most of my time outdoors. The ocean is my safe place, my daily go to, and I feel very strange if I have to go days without it. I appreciate nature’s seasons, the constant regeneration, the chaotic system that just looks after itself, the mess and order all at once. I have thought more about nature and her patterns than anything else. We as humans are also part of that – even though we feel so foreign sometimes (or maybe we are aliens), and I marvel at our own selves all day long too. Our eyes, our brain, babies growing inside my friends. It’s all incredibly magic.
The preview of your new EP ‘Stranger Heart’ has us all excited for its official launch on Feb 14. How long have you been working on this one, and can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind it? A few little hints?!
I have been working on this for quite some time, amongst the touring of Sugar Mountain and across a very full on few years. This EP for me is a kind of mark of lyrical and sonic authenticity. Even if I am the only one that understands, I needed to let myself know after a really busy few years that it’s ok to feel chaotic – have lots of different feelings happening at once, lots of different themes, and different sounds in my head. That they all fit together to be authentically me. This EP bends from death to love to #metoo, it ranges from slow folk to racing alt pop.. All in all, it is my stranger heart.
Whats one thing you love doing when you’re at home and not writing music?
I love taking my dog to the beach and literally swimming and playing around with sticks and just marvelling at tiny things on the beach or the movement of waves.
2020 feels like its going to be an exciting year for many of us. Whats next for Jack River in the new decade?
Yep it’s a big one! I want to make a completely self sustainable home, with a green house for veggie growing, solar panels and an electric car, find my role in the movement toward combatting climate change here in Australia, spend way more time with my friends and family, make my next album, write a book and keep understanding how to be a better human being haha.
We were so lucky to have you as one of our 2017 Nature Girls. We learn't a little about you and your love for the ocean, conservation and living a sustainable life. What have been some new practices you’ve added to your sustainability bandwagon since our last interview?
I have learnt so much since our interview in 2017! In 2017 I had a big focus on beach clean ups and the removal of waste, which is still very important to me. Recently I have been focusing my energy on what I can do personally to live in equilibrium with the earth, always putting back what we take out. 2019 has been a busy year of working out all the creative ways I can eliminate unnatural waste from my own cycles. There have been many successes, especially in the kitchen. I love spending time working out how I can make something for myself without waste and heavy carbon loads. Sustainability to me means using your time and focus in a meaningful way, and for me this has been eliminating some of the peskiest everyday plastics from my life. I also have a newfound love for bamboo and hemp materials. One of my biggest successes over the last two years has definitely been waste free periods. For women who bleed I cannot recommend Modi Bodi period undies and moon cups highly enough!
What has been one of your biggest accomplishments this year?
My job as an educator with Take 3 For the Sea has easily been the most challenging and rewarding experience. When I was approached earlier on in the year to apply for the position, I knew this was something that I had to apply for. Working for Take 3 had been a dream of mine since I first found out about them in 2015! Through my work with their amazing team I have run educational seminars and workshops about sustainability in primary and high schools, as well as leading beach clean ups with schools and corporate groups. I am also very proud of how fast my professional diving is developing and am eternally grateful for my mentors.
What’s something you’ve learn’t about life in 2019 that has allowed you to further grow into the person you want to be?
Knowing the value of your own energy! The busier I get with uni and work commitments, the more I have come to understand how important it is to use your energy in positive ways. I have realised that you cannot force people to see things the way that you do, all that you can do is lead by example and not lay blame. Everyone is doing their best, and it makes so much more sense to encourage sustainable behaviours rather than shaming bad ones. We’re all learning new things every day, for me this has been 6 years of learning and I still discover new things every day! Supporting one another is the way to a more sustainable world.
Where’s one place you’ve been to this year that gave you the most incredible experience?
In July this year I went on a research trip with Humpback’s & Highrises to the Gold Coast Bay where we had the most surreal interaction with a sub adult humpback whale. This individual was interacting with our research team for over 40 minutes. We fondly named him ‘Nigel’ as he had no companions in sight. He would curiously spy hop, inspecting our vessel and then would roll to his side looking straight at us with his beautiful eyes. Staring into the eye of a whale is one of the most humbling experiences and I will never forget this special day on our research trip.
2020 so so soon! How do you plan to begin this brand-new decade and do you believe in new year’s resolutions? If so whats one of yours?
I’ve never been very good at New Year’s resolutions and haven’t set one for the past few years. I usually just set my intentions and do my best to implement my values into every aspect of my life. 2020 is going to be a huge year for me, filled with diving and research. I’ve never been so excited to start the next uni semester! In mid-January I will be jetting off to the Gili Islands for 6 weeks of elasmobranch research, reef life surveys and coral restoration. I’m so excited to work alongside and learn from experienced Marine Scientists. I will also be finishing my Dive Master and Scientistic Diver Training while I am there
I also have two Field Trips to Vanuatu where we will be working on IDing coral species and conducting surveys in July, as well as developing my own mini thesis and taking this project back over in December.
What does being #yourshapeinthesand mean to you?
Your shapes in the sand means to honour yourself. We should all have the utmost respect for our bodies, they support us every single day! When we start to thank our bodies and be grateful for them it becomes a natural cycle to want to nourish and care for ourselves. We should all be thankful for our shapes because we get to experience magic every day!
We can all be better humans in 2020 by.....
Supporting each other! Encourage your friends and let them know how proud of them you are when they make good choices. If our good choices are acknowledged and we feel support, it’s much more likely that we will keep up these sustainable practices. We’re so much more powerful if we just support each
Tell us a little about what your background and what your lifestyle is like?
I am Filippino Australian raised in a country town in the Macleay Valley, NSW. My work with Halfcut is as co-founder and full time volunteer, my very busy schedule can at times be both demanding and stressful. Given this, I strive to achieve a balanced lifestyle and whenever possible I love spending time with family, friends, and my ‘fur-babies’. Connecting with the natural environment is my ‘happy place’ - soaking up the sun at the beach and going for bush walks. Eating healthily, sustainably and cruelty free are also priorities for me - one day I would love to own my own small plot and grow my own food.
We love all that you and your partner Jimmy are doing, protecting what’s left of our precious rainforests through Halfcut, your not-for profit. Tell us how it all began, your journey and adding Halfbraid for the ladies!
It all started around eight years ago in 2011, when James and I set off to South America. We both shared a passion for the environment and wildlife so we decided to do volunteer conservation work in the Amazon Basin Bolivia, Serene Reserve. Seeing the continued destruction of the environment and wildlife, as well as the impacts of wholesale illegal logging and animal agriculture on local communities was devastating. It was then we both knew it was important that we create awareness and raise funds to support conservation. Whilst travelling, James had grown a large beard that invariably drew attention from other tourists, everywhere we went we got shout-outs of “Nice beard!” His beard became the catalyst for conversations with total strangers, so I started to respond with “It’s for conservation”. We were genuinely shocked by the number of people who did not know what conservation was, so we decided to incorporate the importance of conservation into any conversation we had about his beard.
On returning to Australia, we started off with two campaigns - BeardsOn and BraidsOn. During one of our many brainstorming sessions, we decided we needed to reach as many people as possible and have all ages to take part in the challenge - not just guys with beards. So we merged both campaigns into HalfCut allowing anyone and everyone to be involved - taking part, their way, in a fun way. We wanted to be more inclusive of all ages and have options for those people who wanted to get onboard, but who did not feel comfortable shaving off half their hair. So for example; half braid, half make-up, half styled clothing and colouring half their hair, which still created a platform for discussion.
What can you tell us about the importance of our forests and the connection they have to the rest of the planet?
Every minute, almost 50 acres of rainforest are lost forever and critically endangered species face loss of habitat. Every single day, more of our planet’s ecosystems are being destroyed and the climate crisis worsens. This is heart-breaking. There will come a time when every human will ask themselves why they didn't do more? When for just $2.50 (half the price of coffee) we could have collectively saved something precious OUR planet.
According to National Geographic New Science “Land conservation must double by 2030, to prevent dangerous warming and unravelling of ecosystems”. Deforestation is a significant contributor to climate change causing greenhouse gases. Studies indicate that tropical deforestation accounts for up to 15% of net global carbon emissions each year. That’s about the same as every car, truck, bus, plane, ship and train on the planet combined.That’s because nearly 70,000 acres of tropical forest are lost every day. But if you prevent deforestation, all that carbon remains safely stored away in the forests (Source: Rainforest Trust 2019).
Furthermore, not only do forests provide vital organic infrastructure for some of the planet's most diverse collections of life, rainforests are also vital resources for medicines.Today, 1% of the worlds tropical forest plants have been tested for pharmaceutical properties, yet a quarter of all modern medicines came originally from rainforests. The real tragedy here is, that many, many more species are yet to be discovered and their vital medicinal properties not even known.
It’s fantastic news to hear half cut raised over $200,000, protecting 85,431 acres of rainforest this year. What’s next for Halfcut? I bet 2020 is going to be bigger than ever!
Naturally, we are ecstatic with the amount of money raised! It just shows if we all get together we can make a difference! Our ambassadors, participants and donors who took part are the real stars! They have done an outstanding job raising awareness of the need for conservation, not only within their immediate circle of friends and family but also among their communities.
Our partner’s Rainforest Trust, are on the front line of conservation with traditional owners (Rainforests worldwide are home to an estimated 60 million indigenous people) saving acres of rainforest through land purchases and designations that have been identified as crucial to preserving critical habitat for endangered species. in conjunction with our partners, 98.2% of all donations go to protecting the last remaining rainforests for threatened and endangered species. We look forward to continuing this association throughout 2020 and years to come.
We are super pumped for next year having new ambassadors and ethical businesses joining us in securing their own rainforest acre counter to save the last remaining rainforests.
I invite you to sign up next year in August and go HalfCut on August 31st - National HalfCut Day or if you are a business wishing to secure your own rainforest acre counter be positive carbon neutral hit us up! See other great business leading - www.halfcutalliances.raisely.com
I can imagine you have visited some of the worlds most diverse forests. What does spending time in nature mean to you?
Spending time in nature is hugely important to me, especially being raised in a small country town I was very lucky to have the best of both worlds - beautiful bushland and the ocean. Living in the heart of Sydney, it can be difficult to escape and reconnect. But when I do, I feel more relaxed and rejuvenated. Increasingly, the science of the healing power of nature is being better understood, good for the heart, good for the head, good for the soul and good for general health. During my own struggles recovering from a traumatic head injury, through the pain and darker times has allowed me to relax, recover and focus on listening to my body. I truly believe by reconnecting with nature, we reconnect with our true self.
As well as supporting HalfCut what are some other ways we can help protect our rainforests?
There are many ways to help protect our rainforests:
1.Choose environmentally sustainable products: AVOID PALM OIL - make sure you read your food and product labels carefully, as lots of products contain palm oil.
2.Reduce your meat intake, ideally eat a plant based diet. Everything has a carbon footprint - so it’s up to us to minimise it.
3.Try to buy only recycled, up-cycled furniture - visit Op shops and garage sales.
Logging companies are cutting down some of the most endangered forests on the planet to make wood and paper products.
4. Buy from ethical businesses with sustainable values. There are so many great businesses out there that are giving back and making the world a better place. Like this fantastic swimwear by - Shapes in the Sand
5. Reconnect with nature - show love and compassion to Mother Earth and ALL her creatures.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” -Greek Proverb. This is a kinder, less selfish, more generous world we should all aspire to be part of.
Location: Hat Head, NSW Mid North Coast
Captured at Castles Beach, Kailua Oahu, Hawaii
wearing the Coral Garden Print Story
Tell us about where you’re from and the work you do as a scientist?
I live on the island of Oahu in Hawaii, but I’m originally from Arizona. I moved out here to gain my Master’s of Science in Marine Science a few years ago and began working on a number of research projects. These projects involved the research of marine mammals- mostly cetaceans. I’ve collated published research on humpback whales to inform species management plans, processed drone images of baleen whales to help determine how healthy they are, and created maps of stranding patterns in multiple species of cetaceans. However, the most meaningful work I’ve done has been conducting necropsies on stranding cetaceans to try and determine cause of death, which gives valuable information on what is threatening species in the wild. The science done in this lab is at the forefront of cetacean research in Hawaii. The work I do now, separate from the stranding lab, helps to preserve species like sea turtles, seabirds, and seals in Hawaii, but is mostly focused on education and species recovery.
What has been one of your most incredible experiences with marine life?
I was kayaking with a few friends (and a golden retriever) far offshore during Humpback whale season on Oahu this past winter. We were free diving, listening to whale songs underwater, and enjoying the ocean. We saw a blow coming right for us, about 100 meters away. We waited in the water as it came closer like it was going to pass us. Three of us were staring at the blue, nervous and waiting. As it moved into vision, I noticed it was not one but THREE humpback whales, with numerous bottlenose dolphins all around them. I froze with excitement and a little bit of fear as I realised how absolutely gigantic they are. I was barely bigger than its eye. They cruised passed, slowly, and I made eye contact with the one closest to me. I couldn’t move. The encounter probably lasted 3 minutes. Once they moved on, I jumped on the kayak to gather myself. I noticed the two bottlenose dolphins were checking out my friends, right out of their field of vision! They were so curious! It was the single best ocean experience of my life. I have no idea how anything could top it.
Tell us about your blog; The Conservationist Collective?
I started The Conservationist Collective in January 2019 because I wanted science and sustainability to be communicated simply to the general public and outline easy steps they can do to help. Most people don’t understand what’s really facing our oceans, the severity of it, or what they can do. Climate change and plastic pollution often seem like too large a problem to fix. I write on here about the topics I care about including zero waste living, whales, and plastic. Some of these articles highlight brands and businesses that are paving the way for sustainable economy and products. By outlining easy steps each person can take, I hope to inspire small changes that add up to a big difference.
How long have you been surfing for? What’s some to those girls out there who want to learn?!
I’ve actually only been surfing for about a year, I’m just completely addicted. The advice I have is get a foam top to learn, no matter what. It is so much easier to learn to balance, catch the wave, and turn on that before moving upward. Also, don’t get discouraged! Beginning to learn to surf can be so challenging, but it will pay off! Everyone is bad at something before they are good. Once you learn to stand up on the board and catch your first wave going straight, it will all be worth it. Surfing teaches you to be patient, test yourself, not to panic, and connect with the ocean in a different way. Whenever I get a bit too confident, the ocean is there to humble me and show me it’s in charge.
What message do you have for those who might not understand the effects humanity are having on the planet?
The one message I would have is to stop and think about the basic things we need to live: oxygen, food, fresh water, and community. All of these things are threatened by what we are doing each day to the planet. If you don’t care about the planet, you are threatening your own survival. The effect of humanity on our earth is complex, so I understand why it's difficult to comprehend. I would say if you don’t understand, reach out to people and look it up. Watch videos, read books, and message conservationists. Each person can make a huge impact on healing the planet, but they need the information first.
We are all loved for for our unique attributes, what’s one thing others appreciate about you?
I’m quite terrible at accepting compliments, but I have been told that my best qualities are my authenticity and my ability to bring people together. I hope that by always following my own passion and creating my own path, I can inspire others to do the same.
A quote that resonates with you?
“Never doubt that a small, dedicated group of people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead. This quote is what I try to remember when I feel like I’m not being heard, or not seeing the change I want as quickly as I think it is needed. Ocean conservation is a tricky field, but the passion I see in people is what gives me hope. This group of people will make change, and I’m sure of that.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
Tell us where you’re from and what you do for fun!
I am from Miami, Florida. I have lived here for about a year now and absolutely love it!
For fun I love to spend time with my husband at the beach looking for ocean creatures, swimming, and picking up trash. A lot of people think I am weird for liking picking up trash, but for me it is like a meditation. It is calming to me to pick up trash and listen to the waves. My husband actually proposed to me while we were picking up trash on the beach!
Being a Marine Biologist what area do you work in and what do you love most about your job?
I would like to say I work in education and conservation. To me those are one in the same. You can’t have conservation without education. I recently worked as an educator for a marine biology summer camp, where I taught children the importance of Biscayne Bay National Park. I also worked for a little bit helping rehabilitate injured, sick, and orphaned manatees. My role in helping with the manatees wasn’t just to provide care for them but to also educate people in the importance of protecting them. For me the best part of my job is seeing how what I have taught someone leads to them loving and wanting to help protect the ocean.
What qualities define the Nature Girl in you?
A Nature Girl is passionate about saving the planet. Someone who puts their heart and soul into what they believe in. I live and breathe the ocean. It is my life and has been a huge influence ever since I was a little girl. All I have ever wanted was to protect and save the ocean and the animals that live there.
How long have you been vegan for? We’d love to find out your absolute favourite vegan breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or dessert!
I have been vegan for 4 years now! My favourite breakfast food would have to be my husband’s waffles! He makes the best ones! They aren’t overly sweet, and they are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside! Honestly, I have no idea how he makes them so good! My favourite dinner is defiantly homemade pizza! Even though I can’t have cheese, we still manage to make super yummy pizza! If I had to pick a favourite food, it would be pizza!
How has your Plastic Free July been so far? What’s a challenge you’ve faced this time round?
Its been great! This is my first year doing it! I had already been trying to eliminate plastics from my home, so this challenge pushed me to working even harder! I started to look more closely at the foods I buy and how they are packaged. Every item I threw away that was plastic I made note of. I started to notice certain things that are hard to avoid and others that I could find replacements for. It's all about buying smart. The hardest challenge that I faced was the lack of plastic free places to shop and the cost of trying to purchase plastic free alternatives.
What are your tips to being kinder to our oceans?
The easiest way to be kinder would be to refuse single use plastics. There are so many alternatives out there, you just have to be willing to make the switch. Another way to be kinder is to pick up a few pieces of trash every time you go to the beach. Even picking up 10 items can make a difference!
Describe yourself in a sentence.
A down to earth and fun loving gal who craves being immersed in nature and doing what she can to conserve and protect it.
What qualities define the Nature Girl in you?
Unfortunately my little Honey didn't get to go on many trips with me before I had an accident in her which has now ended her life (hopefully temporarily) but, a four day trip down to Margaret River, WA was definitely the best of the few she got to experience. We camped on the beach down at Joeys Nose and Honey didn't let me down once!
We understand that Plastic Free July is not only about minimising plastic use, it’s about learning, teaching and realising plastic consumption in our society. During this years Plastic Free July, what is one way that you’ve been minimising your plastic use.
Tara's quote that means something to her;
"Most of us have forgotten that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, it means we have lost our connection to ourselves."
Captured by @maggiemeronea
The Royal National Park - NSW
Lara is a friend who I had the privilege of meeting a little while ago. Since then Lara has been on a journey of growth, travelling and finding happiness in expressing herself creatively. She's compassionate, helping others achieve their goals and she's our May Nature Girl.
Lara, Tell us about yourself?!
I'm 24 and I work in mental health services where I help my clients get through their day to day activities and also help them achieve some greater goals. I have a creative soul where I love to express myself in all sorts of ways, through art making, dancing, flow sports and fire twirling, the way I dress, how I look and present myself to the world. I am very much a free spirit and have a desire to push myself in order to grow. I move around a lot and I am always experimenting with new ideas and hobbies.
It seems like forever since we last connected! What have you been up to over the past year?!
The last year I have been settling back into Sydney after a 7 month trip around South America. Other than finding my groove in this fast paced city lifestyle, I have been working towards some epic work goals. Implementing sustainability into each site that I work at and taking clients on travel trips. I have also immersed myself into creative arts, currently playing around with abstract portraiture using alcohol inks and Posca pens as well as designing tattoos. I have also been experimenting with circus arts and aerial silks which has been a new found passion of staying fit and expressing myself.
Bush doofs /camping festivals are a way of immersing yourself in nature with friends and good music, Do you have a favourite?
This is a hard one because personally festivals are majorly influenced on your experience that you have had there. So going off this, it would have to be Dragon Dreaming and Earth Frequency.
What's your style of music?
I am a sucker for drum and bass... I will most likely drop everything I am doing to lose myself in it no matter how far afar. I also love live music, reggae, funk, disco & jazz bands... and of course, psytrance. Psytrance is a genre of music that transformed my life so I will always pay my respects to the psytrance community.
I’ve noticed many festivals are implementing sustainable strategies into their events to ensure less plastic is used, there's more recycling and most patrons are cleaning up after themselves. At the end of the day it's up to the patrons and I believe there is still a long way to go here. With the festivals you’ve been to this year, have you seen much change?
This is hard to answer exactly because I spent so much time abroad and not attending Australian festivals so to reflect on the progress of where its at now and the change that has occurred, there is a big gap missing from when I was overseas. However it ranges with a huge influence of various factors. The atmosphere and intention of each festival, location & facilities, amount of patrons and so on. It seems the bigger festivals fall short in more ways however other strategies have been implemented to help this. For example I have noticed that there are cafe/food tents that offer free coffees if you return with a bag of rubbish, where bins are everywhere with simple instructions on WHERE to put your rubbish. Also, during sets at certain intervals they stop the music and have a sustainability 'green' crew come on stage and rap about 'putting our rubbish in the bin'. So for 5-10 minutes patrons will clean the dance floor before continuing to party. Recyclable cardboard tents have recently been introduced to help tackle the amount of tents/mattresses/other plastic waste left at sites. Also... Edible plates and cutlery that are made out of corn and potato, that’s epic! There are also a number of educational workshops at every festival that target sustainability and how you can implement this into your lifestyle. Festivals like Regrowth target regeneration where they encourage everyone to plant a tree. There are also the more simple strategies such as everyone having their own cups, water bottles, personal plates and cutlery that you can simply lend, wash and re use.
Sustainability is very much a hot topic and I’ve noticed a lot more conversations generated around this. Majority of the patrons that attend these festivals are very much aware of the importance of respecting our earth, so sometimes all it takes is a conversation and a few words that resonate to take part and make your own action. It's the simple exposure of these basic methods that triggers minds to be more conscious about what you are buying, using and what you are choosing to do with it after.
How do you stay sustainable in this plastic orientated world?
I try stay sustainable as best I can. I have had my own keep cups/bottles for years and am always encouraging others to do the same. I only buy clothes from op shops or second hand recycling stores/markets. If I have plastic I will always re use it. I haven't lived in the one place for a while now so to grow my own fruit/veg/herbs has been impossible, however I try my best to shop at weekend food markets and local organic food stores.
As I mentioned before implementing these methods into my workplace has been very rewarding. All of my clients have their own keep cups, bottles, lunch boxes colour coordinated to their towels and bedding so its all very simple and user friendly for both clients and other staff to follow. I have also started educating my clients on growing veggies/herbs and then teaching them how to cook with them. I am excited to join the greens team in my workplace once I return from my next trip to keep this ball rolling!
A quote that means something to you?
I have so many quotes that I love. But for this exact moment it will have to be 'raise your standards and the universe will meet you there'.
This is a reminder of your self-worth and self-integrity and the importance to check in with yourself. If you are feeling a certain way and recognising that something is no longer serving you then it is important to let go and release. Once you are truthful with yourself and realise what is directly lifting you up or pulling you down, you have no option but to step into a higher version of yourself.
"Always do what your heart feels”
Photography by Alice Wint -shecriedwolf
Location - Byron Bay
Wearing Shapes in the Sand
There have been so many different paths that have brought me to Australia and I am very grateful to be here and call this place home. I grew up in Russia and started modelling when I was 13. I went to NYC at that age and since then I've never stopped travelling. I’ve never been a “party” person even though I grew up in the city. I have been with animals all my life and have done a lot of volunteering on farms around the world. I came to Australia for a shoot and met my love here. I took a break from modelling for a while and have been working a lot with Australian wildlife-mainly wallabies and now snakes. I’ve always been looking for a place with a good balance of nature and good people and I feel I finally found it.
I see you are quite the snake charmer! How did you become so involved in rescuing wildlife, particularly snakes and what do you love about them?
Snake charmer sounds good! I’ve never been afraid of snakes or any other reptiles so I decided that I wanted to learn how to handle them, especially if they're venomous. I've always found they are fascinating creatures. Snakes are feared because most of them produce venom but I find that most of us don’t know much about them or what to do if you get bitten etc. Whenever I tell someone that you can survive for up to 48 hours after a brown snake bite by holding a pressure bandage and not moving, people don’t believe me. You have to be in charge of your heartbeat because thats when venom spreads fast into lymphatic system. By putting a pressure bandage on, calling emergency and not moving at all not even your fingertips, could save your life!
Because I am a WIRES Wildlife Rescue member I was able to join and complete a venomous snake course. It was quite an experience as we started to practice straight away with an Eastern Brown Snake. We had most of the venomous snakes of Australia there and by the end of the course I felt very confident. But I've never worked with an Inland Taipan and would love to rescue it one day.
Do you own or care for snakes too? Whats that like?
At the moment I am caring for a Python but only until May. He was someones pet so he won’t survive in the wild. I had 2 corn snakes when I was a kid (I don’t really support wild animals as pets but at that time I didn’t think about it).
What do you love most about spending time in nature? Do you have a favourite place where you like to go for time out?
I can’t imagine myself living in a city anymore. I love everything about being in nature. It makes me feel happy and feel alive. One day when I was feeling very sad I decided to be alone for a while and walk across Iceland on my own, that was one special experience for me. It took 70 days and since then I love being in the wild even more. I love being spontaneous on where I’m going so I have many favourite places to go to. Living in Byron bay is special. Here there is so much to explore. On a weekends me and my partner love going to swim in creeks, waterfalls and tea tree lakes.
Do you live a conscious life? What kinds of sustainable practices do you implement into your daily life?
I would say I do. I always do what feels right for me. I love to cook so much and do it with love- its like my little meditation. Both my partner and I are vegan. We are trying our best to live plastic free life. Always bringing reusable bags with me, even little things like taking plastic away from the beach every time I see it I believe makes a bit of difference. It makes me happy that there are so many people who care about making a change. We should treat our planet with lots more love and give more than we take.
What’s a phrase that means something to you?
"делай то что чувствует сердце” - "Always do what your heart feels” (my mum)
What are two of your most memorable experiences diving/swimming with sharks?