Sash Milne is one bold lady; both in life and colour. She is the woman behind Inked in Colour, an online platform promoting simple living and connected communities for a sustainable future; and it comes from a super raw and humble place. Her stories and ideas are real. She knows what a lot of us are thinking and she's not afraid to write about it. And it's about time there was someone to do it on matters so real and human.
Sash understands that the relationship between food and communities is a sacred one. She wants us to wake up from a life of not only food privilege but a world of privilege that we take for granted. She wants us to reconnect back with life's simplicities, so she created the Nothing New project aimed at promoting life without material consumption. It's such a compelling concept she spoke at a TEDx event about it!
This week I had a chat to Sash about the Nothing New project, simple living and the power of food for social change. This woman gets it.
Tell me about you and your history with food?
I grew up in a home with a mother who was a self confessed disaster in the kitchen, we didn’t have a lot of money and we had a fair few mouths to feed. I learned to cook out of both necessity and creativity and over the years my love for food only grew. I spent much of my late teens and twenties travelling and I discovered the incredible relationship between food and communities. I learned to really respect the culture of food from standing knee deep in rice fields helping with the harvest, from sharing dinner with kids in orphanages, from being taught to cook by teenagers in slums in India. I learned to be simple and humble from living for years in rural Indonesia where there were no supermarkets or ovens or even kitchens really. There was nothing other than food grown or raised locally and small gas cookers and open fires. The market was a feast for the eyes and an absolute assault of the senses and to cook you had to learn the local ways, there was no easy way out… it was a beautiful gift.
What is the philosophy behind the Nothing New project?
The Nothing New project was born out of frustration of our western way of living. It was a kind of personal activism over what I saw as an incredible culture of waste and disconnection. Quite simply, I challenged myself to live twelve months without creating a consumer footprint by forging strong local relationships, by trading and foraging, by building community around myself and my family. Nothing New for twelve months, to prove not to anyone else but myself, that it could be done.
Did this apply to the way you ate too?
It did, but not quite to the same extent. I would have loved to challenge myself to only eat food that I could trade locally, but with a small child that wasn’t a commitment that I felt comfortable making. That being said however, we did a lot of trading with local growers, but we did also shop at farmers markets and purchase food items from local growers and artisans. We have always had a big commitment to reducing food waste and growing our own produce, so we continued doing that throughout the project and worked harder to make more sustainable relationships with growing groups and urban food growers locally - the networks that I made in this space have continued to be some of the most valuable, important and reciprocal relationships that we have in our regional town. Food truly does bring community together.
At what point in your life did you realise that you had to make a change, and why?
I’ve always been aware of the incredible waste and the often ludicrous push to buy in our western lifestyle, but it wasn’t until I really spent time living a different life that I realised that the only thing it takes to change the way you live is making a committed decision to do so. I lived for more than three years in a little village in Indonesia and when I returned to Australia I was able to see what we often consider as normal as being very wasteful and unnecessary. It was at that time that I really committed to making more sustainable changes in my own life and sharing those changes with people around me to help encourage others to make more conscious choices in their own lives too.
In what ways are we as a general population living in excess and how can we simplify it?
It’s a really complex issue I think but the answer is simple. The most subversive thing any of us can do to truly change the destructive path that is laid out before us with western consumerism is to become committed, invested and engaged members of our local community. I believe that it is our isolation and lack of community that encourages the capitalist machine to keep on turning and it isn’t something we can necessarily fight, but we can choose not to invest in it and instead to invest in relationships and people and commit to making a difference where we live. Sharing what we have with those around us, giving our time to our communities, building strong relationships with people instead of with things - is the very best place to start.
What power do you think food has in cultivating community?
The sharing of food is one of the most basic of human connections, to sit and break bread with other humans is a language all of its own. Food is the foundation of good strong communities, it’s both our history and our future and in a time of economic uncertainty and disconnection it will help us to find the way home again.
How do you think attitudes and behaviours towards food have changed in recent times?
There has been a quiet swell of change for a long time I think here in Australia, there have always been communities who value local produce and cultures of growing and back yard food production but I think it’s getting more and more prevalent as time goes on. We have better access to information now, people want to know where their food comes from, people care about the ethics of food production and people are getting a lot savvier with their choices. I think the rise in health food trends is doing damage to both local and international food systems as different food items are labelled as super foods and go in and out of trend… but even with this I think the shift is happening and it’s an easy one for us all to make. Eating food in its most natural form with as little processing as possible, supporting local farmers, growing your own food and being really aware of managing your household waste - if we all did that, imagine the change we could make as a whole, and how quickly!
How do you think food will affect change in the way we live in the future?
I think out of necessity food is going to be the driving force of a lot of social change as the world continues to shift. I think there is going to be a push towards seasonal produce and the grow-your-own model that we are already seeing in many communities in Australia. I have no doubt that there will be a push for families to return to the land and to live simpler and more connected to their communities. The road may be a difficult one, but I think the outcome will be overwhelmingly positive for human happiness, health and wellbeing.
What is the best piece of general life advice you could give?
To genuinely love other people and to never let a little thing like fear get in the way of doing something incredible. The very best things always happen just outside of your comfort zone.