Shark Bay's War on Waste

Quietly tucked away at the end of the main drag in Denham sits a special little thrift store. If you’re in the mood to find some hidden treasure, look for the rainbow pinwheel taped to the charming chalkboard sign and take a dive inside.


Chris and Josie welcomed us into their opportunity shop with cheery smiles and a quick introduction on the War on Waste mission. A few years ago, the Australian government shared images of how much ocean pollution comes from citizens’ waste output, and the coastal community quickly took action. Shark Bay’s War on Waste campaign was born on the simple plan to reduce ocean pollution by reducing waste production.

“We want to protect the natural beauty of our home. We love this place because of the ocean. People come here for the ocean,” explained Josie. It makes sense - marine ecosystems are such a part of the Shark Bay identity, so the community is keen to protect them. 

Thrift stores are a great way to encourage communities to reuse old materials instead of letting them go to waste. So WOW put out a few donation boxes around town and started their shop.

The campaign also passed a local ban on plastic bags. Sea turtles often mistake floating bags for jellyfish, one of their preferred food options. Once ingested, a plastic bag inhibits digestion and will usually kill a turtle. All the stores in Denham have stopped providing plastic bags and instead require a 10-cent donation to the War on Waste campaign if you want one.


But 10 cents isn’t quite breaking the bank, so they took it one step further and offered a creative alternative. They took tank tops from the donation boxes and designed a no-sew reusable bag to disperse around town!

Not only does this take an article of clothing out of the waste stream, but it also reduces plastic consumption at the same time! It’s a win-win. Chris and Josie excitedly explained how they got the community involved at an annual festival. Their booth featured a hands-on workshop to show folks how to make their own no-sew grocery bags and engage with environmental protection from home.


After teaching a visiting school teacher how to make the crafty bags, she brought the project back to her classroom in Perth as an activity to engage kids with sustainability. Not long after, a group of her students were awarded with a certificate of excellence from the Mayor for convincing three shops in town to stop using plastic bags.

“Environmentalism is a domino effect - it starts here, but it keeps spreading!” Josie was proudly grinning ear-to-ear.

Not long after the shop opened, they were making enough to hire a full-time overseer to keep their hours consistent. They were thriving. Their profits even covered a new sewing machine, which quickly changed the game.


No-sew bags were soon accompanied by campy tote bags sewn from colorful linen donations. Eventually they started holding sewing workshops to teach others how to make things out of old cloth instead of adding it to the waste stream.

Chris stressed the importance of grassroots community campaigns, “you can’t wait for the big corporations to do it.”

Now, the shop proceeds go back into the community. WOW donates to local emergency medical volunteers, search and rescue teams, and local scuba divers. By providing the funds for oxygen tanks, WOW gives divers the opportunity to do ocean cleanups. They’ve created a campaign that interjects at each point of the cycle, from waste reduction to recovery.

Since the plastic bag ban, WOW has expanded to other waste reduction initiatives. Nowadays, if you bring your own reusable mug to any of the shops in Denham, you can save 50 cents on a coffee! There's also a local student working on a design for reusable titanium straws as an alternative to the harmful plastic ones.

Denham’s War on Waste is an exceptional example of how community-driven campaigns can make a big difference for environmental protection. Lifestyle changes are the best way for people to make a difference without waiting for political action. Chris and Josie explained how easy it is to create a holistic approach to saving our oceans. It all starts with initiative.


When we walked in, they told us that they had so many donations that everything in the shop was only $1. Needless to say, we scored some sweet finds.

Napier, New Zealand

Never try to plan your birthday when you’re on the road…


I had the perfect plan for my 22nd birthday: 

We would wake up early and spend a full, fabulous Tuesday on the world-famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing. I would finally be able to knock it off my bucket list after leaving it behind last time I was in New Zealand. Sunshine and smiles for year twenty-two.

Except that’s not what the weather forecast was thinking. Not only would my birthday bring rain to Tongariro, but being that it’s still kind of winter, there were also warnings for a dangerous cornice [kor-nes • an overhanging mass of windblown snow or ice usually on a ridge], making the already expert-level adventure too treacherous for us to pursue. Though disappointed, I agreed that we would have to pass on the crossing this time around. If I have made it across the Pacific three times already, what’s a fourth? This just gives me one more reason to come back to the great NZ - to finally do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing once and for all. 

Alas, we suddenly had an extra three days to fill and the world right in front of us!!!!!! So we spent the day in Taupo hashing out the details for a suitable backup plan. How about instead, we plan a road trip and drive the East Coast Road like the nice guy on Mount Maunganui recommended? We could go all the way to Gisborne, and then spend two days hiking one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, Lake Whakaremoana! I’d still be able to wake up on a trail for my birthday - another perfect plan! 


And yet, our plans were foiled again. We were to hit the trailhead early after spending the night in Gisborne, but against my will, my body had decided to shut down. I woke up with excruciating stomach pains and body aches - thank you jet lag, exhaustion, and dehydration. While my will power told me to do the hike anyway, uncontrollably crying into a cup of tea told me that I would have to take another pass. Time to take a rest day.

We grabbed a “world-famous” pie from Osler’s bakery on our way out of town, and headed straight for Napier. Neither of us knew anything of the place, but it was the nearest city en route to our next destination in Wellington. We arrived midday and splurged for a private room. If we were going to be taking a rest day for my birthday, we were damn sure on getting the optimal amount of rest possible. I literally slept the day away.

So finally, we woke up on my birthday with one last perfect plan. We would take a walk down the beach and spend the day at the National New Zealand Aquarium. How could we go wrong? 


Needless to say, it went swimmingly.

I love aquariums. They had an interactive seashell display. They had a coloring station (thank you Kim for the beautiful birthday card). They even had a TUNNEL through one of the tanks. A TUNNEL.


As if the day could even get any better, we went to a killer restaurant for dinner. We got all dressed up - lipstick, heels, and I even straightened my hair. All I have to say is that if I dedicated space to it in my pack, I better be using it.


Napier is apparently known as an art deco capital of the world, so we made a reservation at Masonic Hotel’s 1930s themed restaurant called The Emporium Eatery & Bar - the only place in New Zealand to have made it on the world’s 100 best bars!


They make a mean Old Cuban. AND WE EVEN FOUND PIZZA.


After a delightful birthday dinner, we strolled back to our 2-bed private for dessert: that apple, pineapple, passionfruit pie from the cafe of tears the day before. Kim even got some candles :)


The next morning, on our way out of town, I found an intriguing brochure. Not just any brochure though, a treasure map to murals around the city. Each mural spoke to a different theme of ocean conservation, featuring larger-than-life paintings of marine creatures crawling around urban community spaces. For more information, click on the following image!

Marine conservation + art + urban community planning = literally the coolest thing ever. 

So of course, I dragged Kim around the city for another two hours while I gawked at paintings of seabirds, turtles, fish, whales, sharks, and even penguins. 

I wouldn’t have been able to come up with a more suitable birthday surprise than an urban treasure hunt for ocean conservation themed murals. Good thing we ended up in Napier.