What is an ‘activist’? and 5 ways to be an everyday eco-activist by Tash Gorst from Gather
‘Activist’. Who springs to mind when you hear that? Someone who attends marches? Glues themselves to roads? Throws paint in art galleries? I used to think so. Not anymore: there are so many decisions we make each day. And each one of those is a chance to do our bit to help the planet.
In social movements there are loads of roles, and we can all do something. You don’t have to be the one holding the placard if that’s not your gig. It’s the critical mass that brings about a shift.
Think of it as quiet activism. The garden-variety, everyday stuff. And why do your individual day-to-day actions matter? Because government and big business care when they see that you care, as a voter and consumer. If we want system change we’ve got to get their attention.
5 ways to be an everyday eco-activist
With that in mind, here are five planet-friendly swaps for the quiet activist in you. Some are easier than others. All have a big impact. Which can you try?
Before you jump in: be kind to yourself. It’s hard to change a habit, so tackle them one at a time. Forget ‘perfect’, it doesn’t exist – focus on what’ll work for you.
And when you do make a change, chat about it. We’re social creatures and we take our cues from those around us. If one other person follows your lead, you’ve doubled the impact. How great would that feel?
Move your money
Is yours propping up things you don’t agree with? Probably.
Start with your current account. Chances are it’s with a big high street bank – and most them fund fossil fuels. Yikes. Check yours at bank.green, read Ethical Consumer’s guide and if it doesn’t make the cut, find one that does. Once you’ve decided to switch, it’s so easy you can do it while the kettle’s boiling for a cuppa. Seven days later you’ll be set. A super simple action with a huge impact.
Next up, your pension. If you’ve got a workplace one, do you know where that money’s going? ShareAction has a fab guide to help you figure it out, and what you can do about it.
Change your diet
Most of us should eat more plants. There’s also more to it than that.
You likely know animal agriculture has a huge climate impact. If going vegan isn’t right for you, try this: buy less and better meat. How? Ditch the supermarket for your local butcher, who’ll know their farms better. (Online, try The Ethical Butcher; there are others too.) Look for pasture-fed or regenerative meat. Cheese lovers, beware: its carbon footprint is worse than some meats! Keep it a treat and opt for soft ones if you can (they use less milk).
Intensive crop farming since the 1960s has put our soil in peril – we need to do it differently. Pick organic or regeneratively-farmed fruit and veg, and eat what’s locally in season. (So in winter, go for Spanish tomatoes sent by sea vs. UK ones grown in a hothouse.) The easiest way? Get a veg box, like Riverford. And to go the extra mile, try UK pulses, grains and pasta.
Vote with your wallet for the kind of world you want to live in.
Rule of thumb: big corporations put profit first, over people and planet. They do what’s best for their shareholders. And it’s kinda inevitable that bigger business = bigger carbon impact.
Ditch them for small independent brands. Support your high street retailers. Spot business done better with the B Corp and social enterprise logos. Skip Amazon (here’s why) and give Social Supermarket, Ethical Superstore, Good Market and eBay for Change a whirl. By curating a bunch of great brands, they’ve done the hard work for you.
Might it take a smidge more time to find brands and products you love? To start with, yep. Is it worth it? Also yep. Better quality, top customer service and you’ll be doing good every time you buy something. Not bad, eh?
Plastic has its pros, but the single-use avoidable stuff is silly. For a start, most of it is made using fossil fuels. It takes years to break down (or it’s burned, causing air pollution) and it wrecks our environment in myriad ways. Does your fruit and veg need it?
Best way to avoid it: stock up at your local refill shop. It’s a myth that they’re expensive, plus by buying only what you need you’ll save money and food waste. You’ll often find a good range of plastic-free eco swaps, too. Think dish scrubbers, toothpaste, deodorant and wax food wraps.
(Don’t have a refill store nearby? Try Able + Cole’s Club Zero.)
Top tip: don’t switch out everything all at once. Start with one room in your home, or a product you use all the time. Find a better swap, get used to it, try another. Take it slow.
Keep it in the loop
Shock stat: humanity’s chomping through the resources of 1.75 Earths a year. Not ideal.
We love ‘stuff’. And all that ‘stuff’ takes planetary resources to make. When we’re done with it, it often ends up in the bin. That means the longer you can keep something in use, the smaller its environmental impact.
Clothing is huge, so it’s a great place to start. To cut the impact of yours, learn to repair, buy secondhand, rent (perfect for special occasions) or swap. Another big one is tech: try buying refurbished. For homewares, there’s Etsy, eBay, Gumtree… loads of options.
Buying preloved saves you money AND helps the planet. Why wouldn’t you?
Learn more about being a sustainable eco-activist:
Rewilding: The Importance of Local & Sustainable Food Choices by Lindsey Whistler
A Year of Healthy & Sustainable Living with Kat Farrants
Listen to this podcast with Kat and Rakhee on taking small steps to a healthier, happier and more sustainable life
Tash Gorst is an ecopreneur on a mission to tackle eco-overwhelm and help people live lower-impact. Prompted by having a kid and fretting about the planet, she set up Gather in July 2019 in Peckham, SE London. It’s a one-stop-shop for planet-friendly living: think plastic free refills, easy eco swaps, events and loads of helpful tips.
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