Ash Grunwald is going through an incredible time of personal transformation. Half way through a year of sobriety and with a renewed focus on the joy of making music – and a return to the blues which catalysed his career to boot – he’s managed to launch a number of new projects and invest time in some older ones.
As well as a new single and album in the works, plus a book and a podcast, he’s also spending more time on the business he runs with his wife Danni Carr. And that business is on a mission to educate and motivate people to ditch single-use plastic for good.
Earth Bottles is Danni’s brainchild – coming from a need for new merchandise for Ash.
“We got that out there and they sold pretty well,” Ash said. “Then she ended up creating the brand Earth Bottles, we put a bit more into it and let it grow and now three years later it’s a massive company.”
“It’s gone huge and she’s done really well with it. I’m a director of it, but it’s really her thing,” he said.
Earth Bottles does more than just water bottles too. The brand has developed its own drinking straws and coffee cups… “all the basic stuff to avoid single-use plastic,” Ash adds.
“I think the way to make money moving forward is to help the world,” he said.
This isn’t Ash’s first foray into the sustainability and conservation space. Fans and activists would know he’s been a passionate advocate against coal seam gas lending his voice and his time to back campaigners in regional Queensland. But the thing with coal seam gas is that taking actions is largely out of the hands of the average person. Avoiding single-use plastic is something every consumer has 100% control over.
“There’s a lot of education that’s required to know how big the problem is,” Ash said.
And given that Ash and Danni and their two kids now call Bali home, the problem is in their face constantly.
“In Bali, single use plastic is massive,” he said. “So we’ve kind of been treading that path too, where we’re like trying to help educate locals but not sound like imperial colonialists.”
“The simple fact is that single-use plastic has arrived for them really quickly – you can still get bungkus wrapped in a banana leaf – still to this day sometimes, so they’re just coming off the back of that but then they’ve also had all this plastic given to them and they’re not even thinking about it.”
Ash says it’s an interesting space because things move so quickly in Bali, rice paddies are disappearing, villas are being built and cafes are popping up all over the place. And fast.
“That’s the intoxicating magic of Bali,” Ash said, “that things move so quickly and I would say – and Danni was saying this too – that we could imagine a time maybe just two years from now where plastic just isn’t an issue in Bali.”
“Bali can just move so quick – much quicker than we can in Australia. It’s this place where there’s no safety net and the locals just do things really quickly as do the bules (expats). So it’s a really good testing bed – the problem’s bigger there.”
“Actually I don’t know if it’s bigger but it’s more in your face. We hide it better [in Australia] because we have the resources and education to do so.”
Just like coal seam gas though, Ash admits that major change with single-use plastic needs to come at a policy level and also just like coal seam gas there are petroleum companies lobbying pretty hard to keep their plastic products in play.
“You know, honestly, when you really stop and think about fossil fuels and you think that all plastic is made from them – it’s like, what, did the devil make fossil fuels,” Ash posits.
Ash – who’s about to publish a book about surfers who make music – is mates with Dave Rastovich. Dave is a tireless ocean activist and advocates a campaign to respect plastic and realise what an amazing product it is.
“The only problem is that it’s being used for shitty little things,” Ash said, “you know when it comes to many of the things we use, plastic is probably the best product and maybe we should wreck the environment just a little bit for a computer or a car or something, but it’s gotta be worth it.”
“We don’t need to wreck the environment for a Chinese takeaway container or straws or coffee cup lids that you don’t even need. We need to peel back the ridiculous stuff first,” he said.
Ash has a simple message for people wanting to change their behaviour when it comes to plastic.
“It’s really easy. We just need to see single use plastic as the enemy and get rid of all the stupid ones. Never use a plastic bag. Plastic straws? Never use them. Get yourself a good water bottle and get yourself a good coffee cup,” he said.
And he’s hoping people will take on these alternatives as part of their daily fashion ritual. As part of their vibe. And his own range of products, and indeed other suppliers in the industry are making it easier and easier for people to do just that. You can choose from steel or bamboo straws and a range of designs and colours for drink bottles and coffee cups.
“We’re stuck in a silly past,” he added. “Right now you can go into a fine dining restaurant and they’ll give you a plastic straw like you’re in Maccas,” he said. “The penny’s dropping, but more people need to jump on board.”
And Ash has a poignant message for the Gold Coast.
“People from the Goldie see themselves as good dinky-di Aussies. We need to get rid of that old-school view of the greenie and realise that you love the environment and the environment loves you because it allows you to exist. Don’t think it’s the problem of hippies and greenies to look after the environment. Everyone has to do it,” he said.
Check out Ash and Danni’s awesome range of earth bottles (which keep your drinks hot or cold) at earthbottles.com.au.