'I’m not going to make a new alternative to plastic, but I’m going to hopefully help a few people realise what’s happened, and just change their habits and then maybe they’ll tell someone else!'
Just before Christmas Meg Ojari, a BA Illustration Level 6 student sat down with the Students’ Union to discuss sustainability and Meg's illustrative strategy to tackle her own waste consumption.
Students' Union [SU]: So it’s your dissertation that is dealing with sustainability, can you tell me a bit about it?
Meg Ojari [MO]: So in my practice I really, really love making packaging, like I’ve got an obsession about it, but then I hate how wasteful it is. So I’m looking at how the sustainability of packaging impacts on consumer choice. But then, what I’ve found a lot is people don’t really care about the sustainability, they just want it to look nice, and if you’re marketing something, the sustainability kind of needs to be a secondary aspect to it, so that they just buy it because they like it and then they find out it’s sustainable. I think the hard core sustainable people aren’t the people that you are targeting, because they are conscious of it.
SU: So were there any companies that you looked at and were really interested in how they were doing it?
MO: Yeah, there is a company called Package Free, it was created by this man called Zero Waste Daniel, and this woman Laura Singer, and she looked at all of her waste over the past five years. So her and Zero Waste Daniel, he gets all of these scraps from fabrics and sews them together to make t-shirts , and they’ve made Package Free together, and I think that’s kind of where I got my basis from, because everything is as packaging free as it can be, but then there are somethings that need packaging like deodorant, because you obviously can’t just hold it in your hand. So you do need some packaging, and that just made it all sustainable, and more recyclable. So I think it’s finding a balance of where you can have packaging, so not completely cutting it out, but using it where it’s appropriate.
SU: That’s really interesting, have you done any practical work that goes along with this?
MO: Yeah, I’m in the middle of the final design stage for it, I’m going to try and make little kits for packaging, so like one for the kitchen. They’re all going to be prints that are genuine things you would have in the kitchen but more abstract, like jars and bottles and things you put them in, in the aim that you take these to a store and fill them up. And then I’m going to have a packed lunch kit as well, that’s got reusable cutlery in a roll, jars and beeswax wraps.
I’ve also been documenting my packaging waste [see image above], and it’s actually really good, because I’ve found that it made me use less. I’ll be in the shop and think I won’t buy that, because it’s covered in plastic, and I’m actually conscious of what I’m throwing away. And I’ve got like a shame pencil, that’s the one I use for plastic, and I hate getting it out!
SU: You have a shame pencil! That’s so brilliant!
MO: But I also think it’s good because in a way, I’ve not been like oh I just won’t have it all, I’ll just be responsible with it, and I really like it on days where I’ve had nothing, or just things that are tin.
SU: You’re right, this brings awareness to what you are using, because we don’t think about it a lot.
MO: I’m always at bars like, no don’t give me a straw, and as soon as I put it down, because as soon as I touch it, they’re not allowed to take it back.
SU: So, what does sustainability mean to you?
MO: I think it’s about, a little bit, being sensible. And in a way, it’s a little bit of a compromise. It’s not saying you can’t have that, it’s just about being responsible and sensible about what we’re using, so that you’re not just creating loads of waste for no reason. So yeah, just being sensible about what you use and looking after the environment for the future, because it could be really bad.
SU: Yeah, it can be quite scary to look at, which I think is why it can be so overwhelming for people. To read what they say is going to happen in 50 years, is so scary that’s it’s almost like, ahhh just forget about it and go on with my life!
MO: Yeah. A good thing recently I’ve seen in Blue Planet II. There were little bits about plastic in the ocean, which I think was good, because even my housemates were like ‘oh my god, I didn’t know that happened.’
SU: So where do you think students fit into sustainability as a topic. Do you think it’s important for students to be working with it?
MO: Yeah, definitely, I don’t think students understand how much impact they can have on it. And even if it’s just for yourself, like this project has helped me loads with thinking about alternatives, and things like just buying a reusable water bottle, that’s again not plastic, or just bringing reusable boxes to Uni for food, just being more aware of it for yourself. But I don’t think they realise the impact their work has on the broader community. If you go Instagram and hash tag Leeds, loads of people will see it. And even if only one person sees it and thinks ‘oh actually, that’s a good idea, I’ll look at how to be more sustainable, that does have a big impact.
SU:So you are a believer that one person can have a big impact?
MO: Yeah, even if it’s just in your own personal life, you just cut back on things even a little bit, it does actually help.
SU: As a young illustrator, what do you think is your responsibility going out into the working world? Do you feel like you have any?
MO: I think I always try to be conscious to what I put out there because you don’t know who’s going to see it, and react to it, and I’d like to make a difference, but it seems like it’s so difficult. But I’m quite optimistic about it, because even if it is just through helping one enterprise or one person, it does have a big affect. And I do event management and that kind of stuff as well, so I imagine I’d be able to help with events that raise awareness of it. Even if it’s art workshops that have an underlying message that teaches about sustainability, I think that’s something that would be really good so I want to try lots of different things, and even if they are just small little effects, it does help a lot. I’m not going to make a new alternative to plastic, but I’m going to hopefully help a few people realise what’s happened, and just change their habits and then maybe they’ll tell someone else!
Thank you so much Meg for sharing with us, your optimism is contagious!
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