America's NOWRA Discovers TradeMutt

America's NOWRA Discovers TradeMutt

This article was originally published by Sara Heger on page 20 of the USA's National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA) Onsite Journal, Summer 2024 edition.

Find out more about NOWRA at their website.

TradeMutt — You'll Never Walk Alone

I was fortunate to travel to Australia in November of 2023 for septic system related work, including a tour of interesting onsite wastewater systems near Brisbane and Adelaide and to attend a related conference in Perth. Australia is a large and diverse country nearly the size of the continental U.S. One of our tour's stops included visiting the treatment system for the Woodford Folk Festival. This treatment system, designed by Arris, is quite unique as it was designed for up to 300,000 gallons per day when the festival is held between Christmas and New Years, with very little usage the rest of the year. To make this feasible they do not utilise the natural biological process most of our systems rely upon, because there is no time to get them up to speed. Instead, they rely upon settling, hydrogen peroxide, activated carbon, sand filtration, ion exchange filtration, and UV disinfection, before storing the treated wastewater on site for irrigation to grow bamboo used during the festival (more details about the system on page 14).

It was quite an impressive site to see but what really caught my eye during the tour was Ben Walk, managing director of Fluro Fab Pty Ltd, wearing the most colourful, cool, high-vis shirt you had ever seen. I went up to Ben to give him a compliment and got the full story on his shirt. He told me the shirt was made by TradeMutt and turned around to show me the text on the upper back: "THIS IS A CONVERSATION STARTER." Ben was true to the shirt, and we started a conversation and became friends, building a connection because we know we have shared values. By wearing this shirt and signaling to everyone around you that you are up for a conversation, you take on responsibility to act with authenticity and empathy, and to take a non-judgmental approach to conversation. Also, the TradeMutt shirts are not just eye-catching, they are also high quality and comfortable!

TradeMutt was started by two guys in Australia, Dan and Ed, who met working on a construction site in 2014. In 2015, Dan was devastated by the news that one of his best mates had tragically and unexpectedly taken his own life. This tragic event motivated them to create their company, aiming to make workers look and feel great at work, and in doing so, reduce the rate of blue-collar suicide. TradeMutt is a social enterprise workwear company by tradies for tradies. In Australia, the team "tradie" is used to describe anyone who works with their hands. 

They make funky, eye-catching workwear designed to start conversations about mental health, making the invisible impossible to ignore. The topic of mental health is a serious one and the tone of the conversation can often feel too heavy for some. These shirts help to reframe the conversation and hopefully make it more helpful and optimistic. Half of the profit generated by the sales of these shirts goes to support the services of TIACS, a free text and call counselling service for tradies, truck drivers, farmers, and blue collar workers.

Have a chat, flip the flap. Under the pocket flap of each shirt is a QR code that can be scanned to connect to mental health professionals for free. For many, seeking mental health support is costly and inaccessible. These shirts help to make the link between someone with a problem and an available free resource. And one of the best ways to help someone else is to open up first. TradeMutt's goal is to foster a culture where it is okay to discuss when you are having a bad day or might need help. Every conversation you have with another person is an opportunity to positively impact their life and possibly save a life.

TradeMutt has yet to expand to the U.S. market so there is not yet a U.S. QR code for shirts. There is still a huge benefit to the shirts as sometimes a coworkers may just need a friend to talk to. If they could benefit from professional support, you can recommend they call or text 988 to connect with Lifeline in the U.S which provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress. Arris and the Clearflow Group thought the shirts were so eye-catching and positive that they sported them at the 2024 WWETT show, where they were effective at getting attention and sparking conversations about mental health.

You can find Dan's TEDx Talk about the company came to be on their website.

Dr. Sara Heger is a researcher and instructor at the University of Minnesota in the Onsite Sewage Treatment Program where she is faculty in the Water Resources Science program. She is the past president of NOWRA.

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