Sasha Mainsbridge was named NSW Local Woman of the Year for the Ballina electorate on International Women’s Day (IWD) for her work in spearheading local waste reduction campaigns in and around Mullumbimby.
‘Sasha has been a driving force behind many local campaigns including Zero Emissions Byron, Plastic Free Byron and Plastic Free July in Mullumbimby where she helped the Mullum IGA phase out its plastic disposable shopping bags,’ said Tamara Smith, Member for Ballina.
‘Sasha is also involved with the Mullumbimby Masterplan Guidance Group and Mullumbimby Chamber of Commerce. Sasha is a great networker and communicator and really encouraging of people and businesses to take small steps that bring about major changes to benefit the whole community.’
Sasha first visited the area in 1998 when she came to the Blues Festival and has always loved the area.
An Inconvenient Truth
‘It was the year Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth that I realised that humans were having a horrendous, on going impact and it doesn’t have to be this way,’ said Sasha.
‘On Gardening Australia in 2014 Mullum won the Australian community garden of the year and I started seeing all these things about the area like Enova Community Energy and Byron has a reputation for being green.’
So she decided to move here with her two children and use her skills from the corporate world to create change.
Research has shown that small and medium businesses are the hardest section to engage in changing their business practices said Sasha. ‘So that’s where I decided my skills would be best used.’
Starting Mullum Cares as a business coaching and community organising service Sasha approached Mullumbimby’s IGA and other local businesses with the idea of creating a Mullumbimby plastic free July in 2016.
‘Mullum IGA was supplying around 150,000 free plastic bags a year to customers.’
The IGA came on board and have never looked back.
‘The customer feedback and support was so tremendous, everyone really got behind us,’ said IGA manager Daniel Tiffin.
‘We save around $7000 a year just on plastic bags and there are other savings such as reduced cardboard waste due to customers using the boxes.
‘I would like to thank Sasha Mainsbridge and the Mullum Cares group for their overwhelming support and guidance. It feels great to make a change.’
Sasha has about eight projects on the go and Mullum Cares has now become a not-for-profit organisation under the auspices of Mullum Seed.
‘I have a passion to relocalise and implement circular economies,’ continued Sasha.
‘It’s all about the story of stuff -– we can’t just keep pulling it out of the earth using it for five minutes and re-burying it.’
Loving festivals Sasha is now working to bring together local festival holders and council to look at how they can reduce waste.
‘My belief is that a coordinated approach will accelerate the effectiveness.
‘I have been to the local festivals and have identified a number of opportunities for waste reduction. I am working with the Byron spirit festival to run a small pilot project for R&D.
‘Having festival organisers at the table rather than working in competitive silos will help reduce the waste management costs. These are not simple solutions.’