Plastic Free Mermaid

Kate Nelson is one of those enigmatic people who ooze a kind of Wild magic only a real Mermaid could. She is an activist, yoga teacher, writer, and Plastic Free Mermaid. Kate's laugh is as infectious as her passionate living, and she makes quitting anything sound fun!

It was a sunny summers day when Kate Nelson, founder of I Quit Plastics and I first met at Wategos beach four years ago. She was on the road with a group of interesting musicians, activists, and a Nat Geo TV presenter, visiting festivals and promoting recycled plastic water-bottle yoga apparel. We connected instantly, and stayed in contact though the years. Salty serendipity interlaced our paths many a time and I have very much enjoyed following Kate's journeys online and in person.

Kate is always on the move, organizing festivals, leading community events, traveling, surfing and teaching... it is a wonder how she creates time to write ebooks, and facilitate Yoga Retreats. On top of all she does, Kate truly inspires me with her being, daily acts of random kindness and brave living. We caught up between Fluro Friday and the Byron Spirit Festival about Kate's origins, how she came to quit plastics and her latest projects. Links to her website, instagram and Free Ebook below.  Thank you so much for your time and energy Kate, It is with gratitude, delight and sincere stoke that I share this interview with you all, in joy and feel do to comment below I love hearing from you.


Name: Kate Nelson
Location: Byron Bay
Instagram: @plasticfreemermaid

Chrystal: Please tell us about where your from and how you got to Australia?

Kate: I grew up in Minnesota, a state rich with forests and lakes and a surprisingly progressive metropolis, considering it's location. The best part of my youth was spent as a camp counselor in the boundary waters between the US and Canada on canoe trips and junior life-guarding in San Diego. I went to college in California where I fell in love with the ocean. I devoted my life to conservation, which led me to working in the marine debris department of a non-profit in San Diego. I met an Australian boy in the surf there, who convinced me to venture over and explore the coast of Australia. I was straightaway smitten. For all the right reasons.

Chrystal: You are very passionate about caring for our oceans, and recycling, when did you decide to become an activist?

Kate: I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa where our landlords happened to be Scuba Instructors. They took us diving every weekend. I was ecstatic to discover the vastly diverse underwater world. I came back to the states and began volunteering for Jean Michel Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society for a scientist who explained to me that plastic never biodegrades and that it was wreaking havoc from the microscopic base of the food chain. I was horrified. I assessed my resources and being fresh out of college, all I had was a posse of charismatic friends, a loud voice, and a big smile. I created a presentation and began touring City Councils, businesses, and schools. My friends got on board and we started to make a difference in our community. We contributed to banning plastic bags in our town, in LA, and then the state passed a ban.  I had unending energy for the work. I still feel that way. It's amazing.


 Chrystal: Why and how did you quit Plastics?

Kate: It was dejecting work being a young, eager mermaid trying to save the world from it's mega plastic addiction. The politicians would dodge us and big business out-resourced us every time. I realized I may not be able to flick the plastic consumption switch overnight, but I could absolutely eliminate the plastic created from my personal existence. It was not easy, I was raised on Doritos and Diet Coke! I smashed the plastics all through college. I really had to think of the dolphins as I ungracefully taught myself a totally new way of living. Fortunately, as I got more hardcore about plastics, my life actually got sweeter! I had less trash to deal with, I saved money being a more conscious consumer, I used more natural and organic products, I learned to grow food, I had to shop at the farmer's markets and experiment more in the kitchen. I am so much happier and healthier now.

Chrystal: You are now taking Plastic free initiatives to the streets, can you tell us about Plastic Free Byron Bay?

Kate: Plastic Free Byron is an initiative to help our gorgeous, sea-centric town reduce the disposable plastics provided in her streets. Due to the constant tourism frenzy, the local businesses find their transient, traveling customers to lack the eco ethos the locals hold dear. Thus, there are much too many single-use plastics being handed out--such as straws, plastic bags, and coffee cup lids. Our campaign will work block by block through town to assess the single-use plastics at each business and present the owner with a reasonable list of alternatives to plastics. We will be supporting the businesses willing to make the switch, as we know it is an increased expense in an already expensive town. We hope that through our community support, the businesses will feel it is worth joining the Plastic Free movement.

Kate at a Plastic Free Byron Ban the Bag rally photo by Lockie Marley

Kate at a Plastic Free Byron Ban the Bag rally photo by Lockie Marley


Chrystal: As well as your life as an activist, and writer you also an amazing Yoga practitioner, how are you weaving your passions of living plastic free into your Yoga practice/teaching?

Kate: I am so grounded by my yoga practice. It reminds me to stay out of my head and relax into the flow of life. It has given me stillness of mind and taught me to trust to my intuition, which has guided me on this beautiful, passion-led adventure of a life. This is why I am finding myself guiding retreats. Sharing conservation activities of cleaning beaches and assessing reef health with sailing, snorkeling, and doing yoga. This is how I have lived the past decade, exploring the world and discovering how far reaching this plastic issue truly is. Now I aim to return with friends and the women ready to do some cleaning up. People seem to travel far and wide to do yoga, and now I'm finding they are willing to led a hand and make a difference whilst also having a beautiful adventure. Perfect! Next retreat is Sailing Fiji 9-15 July 2017

If you're in Byron, I teach twice weekly just for donations. I feel so happy to offer something that all people can access and afford! Tuesday and Thursday 6:30-7:30 am at Suffolk Park Community Hall.

Chrystal: If people can't make it to your retreats, or weekly classes, how else can they find out about how to quit plastics?

Kate: My instagram (@plasticfreemermaid ) is a pretty solid reflection of what I'm up to and tips on how to reduce plastic use. I also have a website, where you can download my first mini e-book, "5 Easy Plastic Hacks." There are also a few recipes on there to help avoid plastic packaging, like raw vegan snickers and deodorant! 

Chrystal: What is one kind/piece of plastic we could all go without on a regular basis?

Kate: It's hard to know the plastic habits of who might be reading this to make one, super helpful recommendation. I suppose the plastic bag is the most devastating disposable item, due to it's resemblance to a jelly fish in the water. It has been showing up in autopsies of dead whales across the globe, so avoid them at all costs! In the produce section, use the paper mushroom bag. At the checkout, bring your own bag! Or ask the staff for a cardboard box that would have contained some foods being sold at the store. Or use your shirt as a pouch! Get creative and save the whales.


*all photos provided by Kate Nelson