The Day I Became a Fuckgiver

Having a chilled-out and downright gnarly friend who also happens to be a Certified Sustainability Ninja is a beautiful thing – especially when you’re itching to ‘make change’, aren’t really sure where to start, and you need someone to pull the starter pistol trigger to kick you into gear.

Not too long ago, Sara Rickards nudged me into action in a wave of glorious cuss-filled motivation. In early June, we learnt that her birthday was coming up but alas, she wasn’t going to be in Sydney to celebrate with all her friends. (We should’ve guessed she’d be in Brazil at a Design Disruptors Fellowship, or some such gnarly change-the-world kinda thing.) So instead of ‘getting together and getting sloshed’, Sara had another idea…

Using Facebook, she called on all her friends worldwide to give her a unique kind of birthday present – an act of #fuckgiving. This altruistic act was to be nothing major or grand, just something you can do on your own to make a difference in the world, like donating to a worthy cause, givin an old lady a hug and a half hour of your time, picking up litter…anything really. It just had to show that you ‘gave a fuck’. We would all be #fuckgivers, doing awesome things under ‘Mother Fuckgiver Rickards’ tutelage.

Awesome.

Mother Fuckgiver Rickards in her Brazilian change-making habita

Mother Fuckgiver Rickards in her Brazilian change-making habita

For my act of #fuckgiving, I did what I always do – I collected plastic waste from my local beach, because I HATE marine plastic and beach litter. I set out with my rubbish bag on a rainy day just after some big storms had passed. The wild weather worked a treat as everything was washed onshore, ripe for the picking. My plan was to do my usual thing, take a picture, and upload it to Sara’s birthday event page and collect my 100 Feelgood® Points. Easy.

When I got down to the beach, I decided to set myself a challenge: “How much can you pick up in 10 minutes?”. This is more fun. So, I set the alarm on my phone and bolted when the ‘starter pistol’ went GO!

Nearing the end of the first minute… “What the hell is with all these car parts?” Shards of car lights, rubber inserts, even a torn piece of a car-seat cover. Practically a whole car. This was getting weird. Should I call the cops?

5 minutes in, I’m now the proud hoarder of 52 cable ties, a significant pile of broken takeaway containers and cups, and enough hair ties to practically tie pigtails in every girl’s hair in the primary school up the road.

8 minutes in and my bag is chockers with a truly random and sickening amount of plastic. I’m now an eagle eye, possessed, spotting black straws in clumps of black seaweed, and I’m a bowerbird with all the blue plastic pieces I’ve coveted.

The last 30 seconds has me racing around grabbing handfuls of plastic indiscriminately, just hoping to get as much as I possibly could.

Ding! Time’s up. I’m amazed at the amount of plastic. As a data nerd, the curiosity was killing me…how much did I collect? I lug the rubbish back to my driveway, up-end the bag and start counting, also logging what each piece came from and what type of plastic it was.

282...283...284. 284 pieces of plastic and sharp metal. Each piece capable of injuring or killing an animal if they had ingested it.

Let that sink in.

1 person. 1 beach. 10 minutes. 50 metres.

284 pieces of plastic and sharp metal found.

                                                           Indeed

                                                           Indeed

It was alarming, thinking nearly 300 animals could die as a direct result of these pieces. Hundreds more would’ve also faced harm as the fish, bellies full of plastic, headed up the food chain.

It floored me, but more importantly it inspired me to do more with my #fuckgiving venture than just throw the bag away. I set up my camera and got creative. I fashioned an artwork out of plastic – a massive GIVE A FUCK. I photographed it. I photoshopped it and set up the final art.

I drew on my experience working in an exhibition gallery to turn that telling data into an artist label, conveniently listing each piece so others could also wonder about the tens of cable ties and, maybe, someone would realise where their car went!

printed the poster and took to the main street. I admit I giggled a bit at the thought of reactions to my rubbish art screaming ‘GIVE A FUCK’ in A2 size. (Sorry Nannas.) Soon though, the reaction was priceless, really interested, and not an offended soul in sight.

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The best part of change-making is watching that moment when someone has become enlightened about the problem. Seeing them read and react, lean in closer, and share the information with those around them is just amazing. You can almost see the issue sink in, and becomes a part of them too. Onwards, a community is brought up to speed, and collectively, habits change and ecosystems are saved from ignorance.

This poster is first of a GIVE A FUCK series I plan on creating. The #fuckgiving continues! Join in with your own fuckgiving actions using the hashtag on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, and leave a note in the comments below.

It would make my day seeing You be a #fuckgiver too!

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Sara Rickards