ANYONE can learn about sustainability
I studied Environmental Science at university, and even went on to complete a Masters in Environmental Management and this is where I learnt a lot about sustainability, the environment and the importance of protecting the planet. I knew that it was important before this, but understanding the horrific impacts of human activity on the planet didn’t come in detail until university. I find it curious however, how people who did not study in an environmental field discover sustainability in the first place. So this week I want to introduce you to a friend of mine, Nicolle.
Nicolle and I met working in an Oliver Bonas store, just two gals trying to make a living in order to pursue other interests. Nicolle is a fantastic photographer and super creative which immediately got us off to a great friendship – that along with us sharing the same sarcastic sense of humour. In the first few hours of working with Nicolle I found out that she was really into environmentally-friendly ways of living and was giving veganism a go. I’m always curious to find out how people learn about more sustainable living and the things they change about their lives because of it so I’m guessing perhaps some of you are too; if that’s you read on for Nicolle’s story to sustainability.
1. How did you get into the environmental/sustainability stuff?
Social media has a myriad of vegan activists spreading the message. I came across many people on Instagram and YouTube. That’s how I was first influenced and inspired. I always thought vegans were these extreme people who probably had some form of an eating disorder. After finally growing out of that naive stage that was my younger teen years, and actually experiencing severe mental health disorders myself, I realised that veganism was not extreme at all, but that the common western diet was. Through social media, I started to slowly educate myself by reading books by vegan doctors such as The China Study by Colin Campbell and How Not To Die by Dr Michael Greger and watching documentaries such as the famous Cowspiracyand many others. After becoming vegan, I was automatically a lot more aware of the environment and the things I could do to ensure my way of life was as ethical and sustainable as possible.
2. When we first met you were vegan, what made you try this? What’s your advice for people wanting to try veganism?
Thanks to the media, I educated myself about veganism before becoming completely vegan. Once I realised the cruelty involved within the meat and dairy industry; not just its impact on the animals, but also our extremely vulnerable planet. I started to slowly eliminate foods out of my diet. First transitioning milk to almond or soy milk and cheese to my favourite vegan Violife cheese. Then finally eliminating the meat and then the fish. It important to take it slowly, and to make sure you do all your research. You need to ensure that you’re not just eating ‘Quorn’ or ‘Linda McCartney’ sausages and chips every day, but actually cooking from scratch to get all the nutrients you need. The main ingredients you will need to stock up on are grains: chick peas, kidney beans, black beans, lentils, buckwheat, quinoa, etc. Those are your proteins. Then your dark leafy greens for those iron gains. You will not be nutrient deficient if you eat well! The World Health Organisation recommends around 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per day for every kilogram of body weight. That works out to be about 10% of your daily intake for someone who weighs an average of 55-70 kilos. Now, if you eat a normal western diet, you’ll be taking in around 40-50% of protein per day. Every heard the saying that “too much of anything is bad for you”? So, just take it slow, don’t pressure yourself and do your research first. That’s my advice.
3. What’s your favourite vegan recipe?
Mushroom Mac and Cheese, from Lucy Watson’s Feed Me Vegan book, YUM!!!
4. What kind of sustainable alternatives have you integrated into your daily life?
The main ones include: Making my own skincare, using reusable cups and mugs, carrying around my own cutlery and stainless-steel straws and ensuring I buy clothing and make-up from sustainable sources.
5. You’re really into making your own natural beauty products, DO they work better than drugstore products?
YES, YES AND YES!!! The beauty (no pun intended) of making my own products is that there are absolutely no chemicals involved. I’ve got to know my skin very well, so I only buy ingredients that I know my skin loves. There are hundreds of completely fair-trade, natural, organic, unrefined ingredients out there that you can use. My secret weapon is Vitamin E oil as it is a natural preservative, this ensures that my homemade skincare products can last for months in an air-tight glass jar! Plus Vitamin E is amazing for your skin, especially scars and stretch marks! My favourite ingredients include: aloe vera, shea butter, coconut oil, lavender oil, rock salt, coconut sugar, peppermint, and many more!
6. How does your view of sustainability impact your passion for photography? Is there such a thing as a sustainable photographer?
I have always had a passion for photography. But, when taking photos of nature and food, it just makes me appreciate our planet so much more now that I am aware of the impact we can have if we don’t lead a sustainable lifestyle. Whether there is such a thing as a sustainable photographer is an interesting question as I have only discovered all this very recently. I have started selling my photography prints online and again, after lots of research, I found some lovely packaging websites that sell biodegradable cellophane-type wallets for shipping. These are actually made out of potato starches and are so much smoother and less tough than normal cellophane wallets. As well as these, the backing, envelopes and branded stickers I use are all eco-friendly and biodegradable and you can find them on eco-craft.co.uk – #notsponsored just love them!
Nicolle’s story is perhaps like many others and I really do think it’s amazing that there are SO MANY resources out there to help you teach yourself. Social media can be an enemy sometimes, but it’s also a fantastic tool to help you learn and teach about things like sustainability, I certainly learn a lot of new things from people and brands I follow on Instagram.