As we continue to bring you interviews with some of the most inspiring names in ethical and sustainable living we are delighted to introduce the wonderful Francesca from The Ethical Unicorn. Read all about her lifestyle and sustainable living tips as part of our #StyleAndSubstance campaign.
When did you become interested in living more sustainably and what was it that prompted you to do so?
It's something that I've always been interested in from a early age, but when I was younger I felt like we were kind of victims to the world we were in. As I grew older I began to realise that my actions held more power than I realised, I came to realise this through my involvement with art and social justice movements, and as I grew in agency I realised the power of action when done in conjunction with a larger community. I found the ethical community through friends who were going zero waste, and realised that you don't have to be a victim of the status quo, you can choose something different. So I started changing!
Have you struggled with any aspects in particular or found challenges?
It's hard to avoid plastic sometimes, and plastic is my worst enemy. Like you'll buy some fruit and it will have a plastic label on it, or you'll get accidental waste when you forget, like you'll order a drink and it will just come with a plastic straw in, argh! Also sometimes people may give you funny looks for something you ask for or do, (like bringing your own reusable fruit and veg bags to the supermarket) but I'm kind of over that now.
What are the benefits of living sustainably?
The meaning of value changes a lot for you. The things you do own tend to be much higher quality and long lasting (and you feel better wearing them!) but you also remove yourself from the 'rat race' of consumerism in a way. It feels like you've taken the rose coloured glasses off, you don't have to be caught up in the constant 'buy buy buy' culture any more. I feel like I have so much more mental breathing space and what I value has moved to more rewarding things, like getting outside and spending time with people. It's a bit of a hippie answer but it's how I feel! Also, you'll make a bunch of new friends with similar interests to you.
Since you started the Ethical Unicorn blog what kind of response have you had and do you think that things are moving in the right direction?
I've seen a really positive response so far, which has definitely been encouraging. I'm really lucky that my corner of the internet is pretty hate free, because I don't think anyone wants to deliberately live an unethical or unsustainable life, they just don't realise there's other options outside of the norm. Sometimes it can feel like you're talking to a void, then you'll get a message that someone made or change or tried out something you talked about, and that is the best feeling! So I do think things are moving in that direction, it's just going to take some time.
We especially love your Zero Waste philosophy - do you think fashion brands should be doing more to reduce waste, if so what?
I definitely do, fashion is the second largest polluting industry in the world after all. I'd love to see more brands move to organic fabrics and natural dyes, but I've also encountered a lot of brands using fabric offcuts which is great for stopping fabric going to landfill. Ultimately though the problem is a larger one, big companies are just making more than anyone needs. I've seen the argument that natural dyes aren't feasible for the needs of mass consumerism, but we don't actually need mass consumerism. I'd like to see the fashion industry play its part in shaping a culture that buys less, more valuable and sustainable clothes.
Any simple tips for how to live more sustainably in your daily life for those just starting out on the journey?
I say this to everyone I meet - Start small, a huge life overhaul where you throw away everything and try to start again isn't very achievable or healthy. Instead keep it simple and build over time. What do you use the most that can be replaced with a more sustainable alternative? What small changes can you begin to implement? And go from there.
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