German sustainability activist Manuel Bergmann went to Bali on vacation and never looked back. As we are a holistic wellness podcast, we recognize the need to focus on environmental wellness, which is why we brought Manuel on our show. He is a coordinator for the NGO Bye Bye Plastics and can be found on his Instagram engaging in sustainable practices, picking up trash, and being an optimistic and motivating activist. Although this episode is not healthcare related, it speaks to conscious living, holistic wellness, and living in a more sustainable world- something that benefits us and our planet! Listen to this conversation with Manuel as he breaks down practical strategies you can implement to practice environmental wellness in your life.

Here are takeaways from our conversation:

IT WAS SUSTAINABILITY AT FIRST SIGHT

Originally from Munich, Germany, Manuel went to Bali on vacation and received an introduction to sustainability at a workshop at The Green School, a holistic environmental school in Bali focused on teaching kids problem-solving skills for the environment. Manuel had the opportunity to do an internship there in 2018 which transformed his life. He met with the founders of Bye Bye Plastic Bags and the rest was history!

Manuel did not grow up with sustainability in his life. His passion growing up included American football and had a big dream to play in the NFL. After experiencing a devastating injury, he left his athletic path. Once he got to Bali, he found his passion for environmentalism and sustainability took over and felt in his heart this was the right choice for him.

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THE PROBLEM WITH PLASTIC

What surprised Manuel the most about his move to Bali were all the problems humans have created about waste, especially plastic. He pointed out the differences between where he grew up in Germany, where he shared that there is more order and cleanliness, whereas in Bali he was taken aback by all the waste and garbage lying around in the city and near the ocean.  

Working with Bye Bye Plastics, Manuel coordinates global projects for the youth-driven NGO inspired by creating solutions around environmental issues. Manuel shares how high consumption behaviors negatively impacts the global community. One straw per person really adds up to billions of plastic straws left on this plastic. Being more conscious of our decisions can be broken down into these steps:

  1. Buying only what is necessary
  2. Repair old things before you buy new things
  3. Go to a second hand store to shop
  4. Use reusable products (i.e. bag, silverware, bottle)
  5. Minimize your food waste
  6. Reduce or eliminate your meat intake
  7. Use public transportation or car pooling
  8. Embark on a zero-waste lifestyle

You can make a difference. You can create change in your daily life and it will spread to others.

Manuel Bergmann, Sustainability Activist

CREATE A CONVERSATION AROUND SUSTAINABILITY

If you think it’s ‘extra’ to bring a reusable bottle to Starbucks, think again. Manuel encourages you to practice sustainable practices because not only are you making a change, but that change can have a positive ripple effect and inspire others around you to take action. Imagine if you went to Starbucks and took your reusable mug and metal straw for that iced coffee. The person behind you in line asks you about your bottle and you start a conversation about why it’s important to have a reusable bottle and straw. You can inspire that person to make a change, and that person can inspire others to make a change too! Don’t underestimate your power to make a difference.  

EDUCATION IS KEY

Manuel reveals there is no waste management system in Bali. To make matters worse, the general public don’t have the education in order to know how to appropriately manage waste. Manuel noticed that when there is a large accumulation of trash, most people in Bali opt to burn their trash (#yikes). Manuel practices a zero waste lifestyle, meaning he does not create any waste as much as possible. Manuel encourages you to throw away (pun intended) the mentality of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ with trash and to become familiar and get real with yourself about how much trash you are creating. Manuel goes to local schools with shares these booklets from Bye Bye Plastics with kids to provide education on sustainability practices.

In order to make change, Manuel encourages you to do the following:

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CHALLENGE YOURSELF TO PRACTICE ZERO WASTE

Manuel challenges you to a month of collecting your plastic waste- your water bottles, coffee mugs, straws, etc. You may be shocked to see how much you consume in a month. He then challenges you to go the next 21 days to avoid consuming plastic entirely. Ultimately, zero waste living is a journey and not a destination. Manuel talks about how throughout this journey you may ‘fail’ at times, but keep in mind it’s always a learning process. Observe your own habits and be mindful of your consumption.

Be part of the solution and know that your actions that you take contribute to the solution. Manuel chooses to be optimistic about the future despite the grave consequences that our consumption is having on the environment at the moment.

Connect with Manuel:

https://www.instagram.com/manuelbergmann/

Bye Bye Plastics NGO:

http://www.byebyeplasticbags.org/

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