Rebel Stories

Phil Schlemme

Life-long dedication to self directed learning, political activist and satirist, paradigm change maker, connector and facilitator, creative being, design specialist (masters student), social entrepreneur, business strategists, DJ, vandal and superb cook.

What has been your most notable rebel accomplishment or experience?

As part of a much larger creative project for a Melbourne hair products manufacturer  I identified that the company was using 100% virgin plastics for all their packaging —  a terrible thing to be introducing so much petroleum-based plastic to the world. On a Monday we held discussions about moving to recycled plastic (which uses 70% less energy in the manufacture). There was great resistance from within along the lines of “too hard” and “can’t do it now, costs etc.”  I pressed my point that it was a little incongruous to have newly defined “vision, mission and values” only to reject movement towards a more sustainable future at the very first hurdle. A long conversation with the plastic bottle and tub manufacturer ensued and issues of supply and quality were raised.

But by Friday of that very same week we had working samples and a provisional agreement for supply of 100% recycled plastic pellets in the three plastics we needed and the change was made at no extra costs. The tool maker was also consulted to thin the walls of the packaging without affecting structural performance, thus saving more plastic. ONE WEEK to dramatically change the direction and performance of the company.

Subsequently, we won Gold at the Australian Packaging Awards in the Export Category for our commitment to the environment and were recognised by Sustainability Victoria. Further to that the business introduced 100% Green Power at their HQ and warehouse and worked with suppliers to introduce 20% Green Power through the supply chain. New organic shampoos and conditioners were introduced and a new hero product, Planet Rock, a styling putty with some funds from sale diverted to local paradigm changing social enterprise “Y-Generation against poverty” helping to fund projects with volunteers, building facilities in communities of disadvantage. A close-the-loop philosophy has been adopted with a program initiated in conjunction with a major retailer in 120 stores nationally for consumers to return any plastic packaging in return for discounts raising awareness of recycling rates in neglected bathrooms and a move towards ISO14001 accreditation. Export sales are expanding and new territories explored.

Change is often easier than you think. There’s often someone doing what you want to do already. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

When did you first realize that you are a rebel?

I was always encouraged by my parents to think for myself, applying my thoughts and opinions to a given situation. In primary school I was often told off for talking too much but this came with an admission from the teachers that what I had to say was interesting and of benefit to the class. Age seven we were asked “what we wish for” and I offered “peace between Iraq and Iran” with a drawing including their two flags. Most kids drew dolls and footballs. Perhaps it was with the help of my parents defending my right to not wear a school uniform in secondary school that clinched it, knowing it was OK to stand up to authority and think for yourself. I also learned about conciliation and pragmatism from my parents at this time as we agreed that I should to try and wear the school uniform jumper at least sometimes so as not to cause a stir.

What advice do you wish someone had given you earlier in your career?

There are no rules. Nobody knows what they are doing. A career is a myth. Be flexible and honest, work hard and always keep learning. We reinvent ourselves every day and people are constantly making things up as they go along.   Work environments can have a good or bad culture; make sure you leave if the culture is negative, if people aren’t nice, if you really don’t enjoy the work. Creative problem solving is one of the great things about work regardless of the field or industry. Whatever endeavour you find yourself involved with  try to find some passionate, interesting people who are friendly and empathetic. Remember there is no right and wrong, only good and bad environments in which to learn and thrive.

What is your favorite rebel characteristic?

Asking questions; being a little outspoken. If I don’t understand something or I can smell a lie or half truth, I’ll call it and the person into question. I don’t care if you don’t know, just say so…bullshit gets us nowhere.

What’s your favorite question?

What’s your raison d’être? What floats your boat, spins your wheels?  What is the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing? When you ask people for their motivation you learn more and understand them and their drive/passion/purpose better.

What one clue tells you you’re effecting positive change?

I’m part of a vibrant community of change makers based at Hub Melbourne which is an absolutely amazing place to go to work and be a part of all these different stories, motivations and new collaborations.

What do you think it’s most important for people to understand about rebels?

They’re often the good guys. I’ve heard artists described as the canaries in the coal mine for a society. If society is ill, profound art flourishes. Witness Picasso’s Guernica, voted the greatest artwork of the 20th century. Maintaining the status quo, particularly when life is a constant state of flux, seems not only ridiculous but it’s the surest way to lead to irrelevance, atrophy and death. If you want to stand still, time and life will pass you by.  Rebels are the outliers we need to bring about paradigm change. At some point the ideas on the fringe will become the mainstream (well not all of them I hope) and we’ll find ourselves in a better place. Society is in a constant sate of transformation and renewal, I find these incredibly exciting times, but there are great challenges clearly before us. The rebels will help drag, cajole, chastise and through their delinquency drive us to an ever fairer, more equitable, thriving society of abundance rather than decay, destruction, psychosis, depression, disparity and dysfunction.

What’s your one word piece of advice for rebels?

Avanti!

What’s your one word piece of advice for non-rebels?

Education

Where do you think rebels are most needed today?

In parliament. I’d love more politicians to say what they think and be motivated by altruistic notions of a better society rather than towing the party line, speaking in soundbites, fleecing the system and looking after their fat pensions.

Who is your favorite rebel from the past 100 years?

Rosa Parks

What’s the one thing you should never say to a rebel?

Conform!

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