5 quick questions with Eva Mackinley

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The Environmental Film Festival Australia and City of Stonnington will be partnering on World Environment Day - Tuesday June 5 - to host a screening of the award-winning documentary The Clean Bin Project.

After the film audiences will hear from a panel of local zero-waste experts, including the Rogue Ginger (aka Erin Rhoads), Eva Mackinley (founder of The Last Straw) and social entrepreneur Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald. 

We sat down (virtually, at out computers) for five quick questions with Eva Mackinley, founder of The Last Straw

Hi! Can you tell our readers a little bit about who you are and what you do? 

My name is Eva and I'm a young woman from Tasmania who has adopted Melbourne as my home. I run a national campaign called The Last Straw, an effort to end the use of plastic straws in venues around Australia. We work with businesses and communities to reduce the overall amount of straws being used, the transition to a (preferably) reusable alternative. 

Can you remember a specific moment that really got you interested in sustainability? 

I work in hospitality too, and I remember one night throwing out just handfuls and handfuls of straws after a busy Saturday service and had a bit of an ah-ha moment. When I did a bit more research I found some pretty staggering statistics around disposable plastic waste and decide to try and find a solution given my background in the industry and in campaigning. So the idea for The Last Straw was born. It's one of those things where you can't un-know about birds dying with bellies full of plastic they thought was food, or just the volume of plastic sitting in our beautiful oceans. Once you know it's hard not to try and do something.

If a friend starting to think about how they personally could lessen their impact on the planet and asked you for advice, what sorts of actions would you kick them off with? 

First of all their personal relationship with disposable plastics - all the usuals - bring a keep cup or sit in for coffee, opt for a paper bag where available if you need to get a take-away, byo straw and cutlery and water bottle with you, and try to be conscious of choosing to buy things that have minimal plastic packaging.

This is really about changing the attitude of convenience we have all grown to depend on. It just takes some small adjustments to your day to really make a difference. I'd also advocate for having conversations with people in your favourite local venues, your council, or even your local MP. We're seeing a groundswell of people powered change in terms of levels of government committing to change their processes around single use plastics. Even one conversation can make a difference. It's important to think macro scale but it's also important to act on the micro scale.

Why do you think storytelling / film has the ability to change people’s minds about environmental, social or political issues? 

Because it gives you a view into a world that doesn't necessarily exist in your day to day. I had SO much resistance to The Last Straw until that video of the turtle with the straw stuck up its nose went viral. I really think that was the point that people actually saw the impact that plastic can have after you throw it away, that it doesn't just disappear and that it does cause damage on the other side. In this way, video can help us see another perspective and another way of thinking. It elicits an emotional response that just telling someone doesn't. 

What’s your favourite environmental film, documentary or otherwise? 

The most recent one that has stuck in my mind is A Plastic Ocean. The breadth and depth of research done on that film, especially tracking plastics to where they end up- whether it be dozens of dead birds on a small island or micro plastics in the fish on our dinners tables- that was a real eye opener for how plastic doesn't just affect the area you're in - it's much bigger than that. 

Thank you Eva!

To hear more from Eva and our other fantastic speakers, after a screening of The Clean Bin Project, book your tickets now.