Dialog Box

Arts | Community | Education | Environment | Health & Wellbeing
Waste Not - Mash It Up!


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WASTE NOT Mash It Up! is a documentary film project inspiring high school students to create a waste free world. It's like the EuroVision Song Contest for garbage! taking information about the impacts of waste out of the lecture theatre and onto the catwalk. By using the two topics that teenagers are obsessed with – food and fashion – Mash It Up! is raising a new generation of "conscious consumers" who are fully awake to their eco-footprints, and the power of their choices. We follow as students from competing schools begin the WASTE NOT journey, from not knowing/not caring to actively engaged in planet friendly choices. Learning from cool role models they can relate to (a swim wear designer, a film props-maker, an avant gard hair stylist) our students spend 3 months researching and fashioning a parade of “trashion” couture. Because most of the pollution in our oceans and river systems comes from packaging waste, microfibres and ghost net they focus on these materials – creating fashion statements that really mean something. By presenting their creations at school, they reach out to their peers. They craft powerful digital messages to talk back to the advertisers who have bombarded them since they were born. They study supply chains, research sustainable brands, change they way they look at the world.Finally they compete at the Sydney Olympic Park’s annual Youth Eco Summit for secondary schools. Who will win Best Messaging, Most Resourceful, Best Trashion or Best YouTube video? One school has 7 teachers and dancing girls to throw at the judges, while another is just the tiny student sustainability team and one teacher. Will using glitter disqualify the dancing girls, and what of the hazard suits and gas masks worn by the other team? Where did they come from? Do the students really think they can save the planet, or are they secretly in despair? If these teenagers can learn new ways to use old stuff instead of throwing it into landfill, can they build careers in the circular economy and create a bright green world? Can they become conscious consumers before wages and advertising pull them into the toxic cycles of desire and dispose? WASTE NOT Mash It Up! is all about imagination, hope, and the fact that waste isn’t garbage, it’s gold!

How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?

Teenagers know the planet is in trouble - it's all over the internet and across the news. We created this project to help them face the future with optimism not fear. It teaches vital communications skills and collaborative team work, bringing together diverse groups of students who would never normally have anything in common. The competition is open to interpretation from any teen niche, genre or gender - emo, punk, rock, jazz, queer, trans, greenie or budding entrepreneur. It has a humanist and environmental goal - to equip the next generation to build a greener fairer world and preserve our precious ecosystems, but without preaching.
Aims & Objectives

What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?

We aim to create a new generation of "conscious consumers" before they get caught up in the cycles of consume and waste which are destroying the planet. The 2018 Pilot Project has proved that Mash It Up! ticks all the boxes. The creative fun engaged the students in topics they might be inclined to shy from - dying wildlife, polluted rivers and oceans, boring recycling protocols. Lost skills such as crochet and knitting were resurrected, and the artists who conducted workshops proved inspirational, in terms of illustrating craft and career opportunities. The impact on staff room and playground culture was reported as extensive - initiatives to ban straws, plastic bags and coffee cup lids from the schools were put in place, teachers cleaned out their staff rooms to contribute materials, and the impetus to re-use and repurpose instead of tossing became infectious. The bonding of the teams was remarked upon by all the educators (eg shy designers formed bonds with extrovert performers), as well as a new sense of optimism around inheriting many of the environment challenges facing this generation. The communications skills needed to embed strong messaging in the trashion parades could be enhanced in future with more video and public relations workshops to empower the students to both document and promote their projects more thoroughly. More big brand involvement to showcase businesses already engaging in sustainable practices would further enhance the goals of the project. A program of internships connecting Mash It Up! alumni would increase the practical benefits, while the YouTube videos created by the schools to gain entry to the finals would have nationwide if not international potential given the global nature of the YouTube audience. When we add the Mash it Up Kitchen to the project in 2020 we'll be promoting planet friendly cuisine and inspiring teen chefs to create cooking segments with waste free recipes for Performance Boosting Snacks, Mum's Night Off, and Saturday Night With Your Mates. Educational resources created from the documentation process, webisodes covering specific topics, and the YouTube videos themselves will populate the Mash It Up! website creating a unique user experience as well as inspiring a generation of eco warriors. 

What is your education and outreach strategy?

Teenagers are highly resistant to to boring lectures about which bin to put their rubbish in. Yet they are extremely media savvy, idealistic and brand aware. Study guides, learning activities and even documentary films, only reach the teachers and students who are already open to the ideas they espouse. Our ambition is to reach thousands of high school students, not hundreds, by engaging them in a creative process that changes the way they see and interact with their environment. By teaming with the Sydney Olympic Park Authority's annual Youth Eco Summit, which engages with hundreds of student leaders, our project is impacting school playground and staff room cultures more efficiently than any study guide. The competition aspect attracts aspirational students and staff keen to promote their schools, while the process itself is educational and engages with each school’s local community. Having completed the pilot project in 2018, we are taking mash It Up! Australia-wide. The documentary film will be edited and completed in 2019, and made available as a motivation tool to schools via the Waste Not website, along with supplementary educational materials, first person narratives, links to youtube videos, and other creative outcomes (apps, etc). With funding we'll develop specific curriculum matched learning activities for the website, and create NESA accredited professional development workshops for teaching staff interested in working the project. We've already found staff, parents and families engaging in the project. Local businesses as well as big brands that believe in sustainability will come on board. Mash It Up! is contagious.
Ruth Hessey
Susan Schmidt, Ruth Hessey
Total budget
60 Minutes