Interview with Anita Vandyke
Anita Vandyke is a qualified rocket scientist and medicine student, best known for being the person behind the successful Instagram account @rocket_science - which is dedicated to zero waste and minimalistic living and has more than 30 000 followers. You will either find her studying in Sydney or living with her husband in San Francisco - as well as documenting her passions on Instagram and her blog. Anita also recently published her very first book “A Zero Waste Life: a thirty day guide” that got published by Penguin Random House.
We wanted to do this interview because we believe that Anita has a very refreshing and creative approach when it comes to sustainable living. This is why the interview is focused on tips on how to stay motivated, her personal favorite zero waste swaps and of course some personal details about her own green journey.
Let’s start off easy with a few quick fire questions, to get to know Anita a bit…
☜ Describe yourself only using 3 words.
A real go-getter.
♺ Your favorite zero waste swap at the moment?
Plastic water bottles are replaced with a stainless steel bottle!
✌ When do you feel most like yourself?
When I am in nature.
✍ Do you have a favorite hashtag in the zero waste community?
Give us a brief story of your journey. - Was there a specific moment in your life that sparked your interest in environmental issues?
My zero waste lifestyle started in July 2015 when I was going through a 'quarter-life' crisis, I had climbed up the corporate ladder and was a successful Engineering Manager, however despite the monetary success I was not truly happy. I was stagnating in my personal growth and I realised I needed to align to my core values. I turned towards minimalism and zero waste living from people such as The Minimalists and Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home.
Do you believe that studying rocket science and medicine has affected your worldview in any way?
Working in both these industries has shown me the importance of self-care. 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 and 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.
Your top three zero waste tips, that you believe has made the biggest difference in regards of the environment?
I have three 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! - head outdoors and enjoy doing activities such as hiking, swimming or simply just sitting still and being with nature. By enjoying the 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.
How would you define the word “minimalism”?
Simply apply the principle – “less is more”.
Name both the hardest and best part of the transition from being a maximalist to a minimalist?
I used to be a maximalist in every sense of the word. More was more – I had a new outfit every weekend. 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.
One thing to keep in mind for people who are just stepping into a more conscious lifestyle?
One word – authenticity. I am a strong believer in the phrase ‘You do you’. There’s no need to imitate anyone else, just be yourself. Most of my campaigns, I’ve thought of the hashtags myself, because I believe in the power of the written word. In this political climate, we have to recognise that words matter and social media matters – we should use it as a tool for positive change.
What do you believe are some of the most important changes we can make to battle climate change?
I started Instagram account, it started 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.
Do you ever feel unmotivated or overwhelmed due to collective inaction, while global warming is worsening?
I am a climate optimist, I just believe in doing the best you can. The biggest challenge is that I can no longer be blind to plastic pollution, rubbish everywhere and how consumerism has invaded every part of our culture. As they say, ignorance is bliss, but since I’ve educated myself on these important environmental issues, I can no longer ignore the state of our planet. It is empowering really.
Tell us about your book “A zero waste 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.
Do you have a motto or something that you like to remind yourself of on this journey?
I am a strong believer in the saying ‘We all have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyoncé’. There’s no need to wish there are more hours in the day, we have just got to get better at giving time towards things that truly matter.