Earth Day Spotlight: Emu Parade

Earth Day Spotlight: Emu Parade

Ashley van Raad

As we approach 22nd April, it’s time to gear up for the annual celebration of Earth Day. Commemorating the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970, Earth Day is a chance to honour our planet and all its natural wonders. This year's theme is Planet vs. Plastics. According to the official Earth Day 2024 webpage, the organisation is committed to helping to reduce global plastic production by 60% in time for 2040. In light of this great effort, we wanted to take the opportunity to spotlight someone in our local community, Roland Davies. ‘Roly’ is the man behind Emu Parade a not-for-profit with an appetite for change, caffeinated bribes and good times all in the name of the planet. We sat down with Roly to chat over a coffee next to his beloved truck, Trish. Here's how it went:  

Roly, Trish & Emu Parade 

Meet Roland Davies, an environmentalist and maker of great coffee. He is also the founder of Emu Parade, a registered non-profit organisation that facilitates beach and nature cleanups followed by a good cup of coffee. These cleanups are not only designed to get people outside picking up rubbish but also help foster positivity around climate conservation rather than feelings of anxiety or overwhelm. Emu Parade likes to focus on having a good time while caring about the environment.  

You may be wondering who Trish is. The answer is, she's a 30-year-old ex-RFS fire truck Roly bought online in all her original operational glory. Trish has since been upgraded in several ways; the most impressive being that she runs on used vegetable oil instead of diesel. Trish is also kitted out with an extensive battery system, which gets recharged by the truck being driven. The battery system then powers coffee machines that make your free cup of coffee.  


If you had to sum up Trish in one word? 

"Cute. Like a French Bulldog. Wait. Clickbait."  

Trish looks like she's going to be an environment destroyer when, in fact, she's the opposite. This makes Trish 3D clickbait, inviting people who may not have otherwise been interested to come and strike up a conversation about the environment. Together, Roly and Trish make up Emu Parade, and they are taking the Northern Beaches in Sydney by storm, one cleanup at a time.  


"What's an Emu Parade?"  

A stranger passing by the truck asks Roly.  

As he explains Emu Parade, Trish, and the movement behind it all, I ponder where the name came from as it turns out, it was what the teachers in Primary School called cleaning up the playground after recess. And so, it stuck.  

So, how does it work? And what's the catch? 

There isn't one. Attending a beach cleanup is as easy as showing up. Pick up some rubbish and then enjoy a free cup of coffee made by Roly himself. Buckets, grabber tools and sanitiser are all provided. If you want to find out when these cleanups are on, you can keep up to date via social media or the Emu Parade website, both of which are linked below:  

Instagram: @ep.cleanup 


What do you say to people who are ask what's the point? 

It will come as a shock to no one that some people may feel helpless when it comes to the state of the planet. Or feel as though their efforts alone aren't enough. According to Roly, while it might be true that one person's efforts aren't going to be the lightning rod that will 'fix' climate change, you will most definitely feel better by doing something rather than nothing.  

Many of the conversations Roly has with people about the environment lead to the discovery of passion and enthusiasm for it. Almost everyone has an appetite for change and wants better for the future or their children. Picking up rubbish is an obvious and easy thing to do, so why not?  

Obstacles and the motivation to keep going  

Getting Emu Parade and Trish to where they are today has been challenging. Roly faced several practical difficulties when it came to fitting out Trish with everything he needed to conduct the beach cleanups. Some of these troubles included the electrical system and the mechanics (so Trish could run on used vegetable oil). Given that Roly is not a mechanic nor an electrician, this proved challenging but simply meant wearing many hats. 


What provides you with the motivation to keep going? 

Positive feedback. Roly has experienced nothing but positive feedback from people, businesses, and other entities. A lot of people resonate with Emu Parade; it's encouraging. Roly can see his vision coming to life and working, which is enough proof to keep going.  


Passion for environmental causes  

According to Roly, his passion for the environment has always been there. "I always thought of myself as an environmentalist. Always loved nature and thought I understood what it meant to respect nature," he explains. Roly had some pretty huge moments of realisation about the state of the world and the urgency surrounding what we faced. This led him to discover he wasn't doing enough:. "Confessing that to myself, while it may have been uncomfortable, - I had to think about what I can do."  


Roly then went vegan for a while, wrote a blog, produced a podcast, and trialled different environmental initiatives in the cafe he was working in, like huge keep- cup discounts and sending out old coffee grounds to gardeners and compost heaps. He then sold his business and went to pick up rubbish on his own for a whole month. Noticing how good this made him feel, he knew that moving forward, whatever he did to support himself, an environmental philosophy would be incorporated.  

If any of these words resonate with you and you'd like to support Roly's vision, Emu Parade, and, of course, Trish, you can! You can see the upcoming Emu Parade Cleanups by clicking here. You can also visit the Emu Parade website and donate or subscribe..   

If you’re reading this and thinking you'd like to do something more to help, or if it strikes a chord, Roly doesn't hesitate when he says: "Do it". It's obvious how truly valuable this experience has been for him. "Combining something that upsets you the most about the world with something that you love the most about it; therey'll be something beautiful at the other end," he says.  


The highlight of running beach cleanups so far 

"Probably the proof that appetite for change exists and people care,." says Roland. Roly wasn't always 100% sure that this existed, but he always had hope that it would be the case. “I really hoped this would be the case, that everyone, the overwhelming majority, does care; they just need an excuse or an opportunity to express it. When people see Trish at an event at their local beach, they light up with enthusiasm, blurting out things about their own efforts and stories. Seeing their enthusiasm for the environment has been a highlight. 

How do you feel about gardening? 

I would love to do more gardening and grow things, but apartment living holds me back. With a new space available to me now, I look forward to getting something a bit more permanent set up.  

Still not convinced?  

Picking up rubbish is the first and easiest thing you can do, lets show respect and gratitude to our home planet. 

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