In the latest in our Life as I know it series, our Digital PR Manager Liz Wootton shares her journey in sustainability so far and the impact it has on her career and daily life.
Growing up in the verdant Yorkshire Dales with an environmentally-aware (and slightly hippie) family, I’ve always been a big lover of the outdoors and nature and aware of the ‘environment’ in a broad sense.
Whilst both my parents were always ‘eco-conscious’ to a degree – e.g. only buying organic fruit and veg, meat from the nearby farm and milk from the local milkman – it was always my dad who was particularly militant. From installing a timer in the shower, keeping a thermos flask next to the kettle (in case anyone committed the heinous crime of boiling more water than they really needed), to conducting routine inspections of the recycling to make sure it had been organised correctly and patrolling the house to make sure all the lights had been turned off, he fervently believed in doing his bit to protect the planet and, as annoying as my teenage self found it at the time, this is a belief I have come to strongly respect and emulate as an adult.
As a teen, my commitment to sustainability was pretty limited: I was aware of the kind of food I ate (I’ve nearly always been a vegetarian), would sort out the recycling at home and refused plastic bags in shops, but I’d never really considered the shocking impact of my own habits as a consumer. Although I was always a big fan of charity shops, diligently doing the rounds of the local ones at the weekend, I also enthusiastically shopped at places like Primark, spending my hard-earned cash from my weekend job on the latest (and in hindsight eye-wateringly gaudy) dresses and shoes and not really thinking about where they came from or how they could possibly be so cheap. I think a little voice in the back of my mind was always questioning it, but the rest of me didn’t want to pay attention – having new clothes for pretty much every party was the norm for me and my friends at that time and I didn’t want to miss out on that.
Over the past few years, my awareness of the urgent state our planet is in has been gradually increasing (thanks, Blue Planet II) and I am slowly, but surely, changing my habits and becoming more sustainable: swapping my plastic toothbrush for bamboo, cutting down on my dairy consumption (goodbye cheese **sob**), using shampoo bars and a konjac sponge instead of plastic encased alternatives, always taking public transport (okay, I may have never passed my driving test, but it does still count). The list stretches on, however, there are still plenty more areas left in which I need to improve.
This mindset has extended past my personal life and into my career. It has become increasingly important for me to work at a company with values similar to my own, and which is making a positive impact on the world. Finding such a company though, well that’s the difficult part. They do exist, but, unfortunately, at the moment they are few and far between. Luckily, one day I stumbled across Eco Age and was instantly inspired by the group of passionate and talented people behind the agency, who are all united by their shared vision of a better, more sustainable future. The great work happening at Eco Age gives me hope that tomorrow can always be made a little better and that the future will be a brighter, greener place.
My dad, on the other hand, has gone the opposite way. Disheartened by the distinct lack of care shown by the rest of the world, and especially the lukewarm response to the situation from governments and world leaders, he has given up in some ways and now no longer diligently inspects his recycling or lectures anyone he can find on the wide-ranging benefits of the low energy lightbulb. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t waste anything needlessly, still subscribes to the ‘mend and make do’ ethos and throwing away food is still the worst crime a person can commit in front of him, but he doesn’t have the same passion and energy for it that he used to, probably because over the past 20 years he simply hasn’t seen any change.
I understand this attitude, I really do, but the clock is ticking and it’s an outlook that we just can’t afford to take. The bottom line is that the planet is dying, and it’s happening really quickly. Unless we make drastic changes to the way we live now, then the environment will become increasingly uninhabitable and humanity increasingly under-resourced. I know this sounds dramatic, and even borders on the apocalyptic, but this is the stark reality of the future if we carry on behaving the way we are.
My parents had and continue to have their say, but now it’s also up to the next generation: we need to take some responsibility for our planet, because right now the future is looking pretty bleak. Wherever you are in your journey to sustainability, don’t give up or lose heart. The smallest changes can still make a difference, and if you’re not prepared to make them then why should anyone else? I’m in no way perfect, I’m still exploring the myriad ways in which I can become more sustainable and ethical in my consumption, but I’ve opened my eyes: I’m aware that big changes need to happen really, really soon. And awareness is the first step towards change.
I don’t think anyone can become sustainable overnight, but I do think that we can be brave and make changes, even though they might impact our lives e.g. trying to not eat cheese (still sobbing) or not buying the latest dress from Zara just because you want it. If everyone starts to become more aware and takes more responsibility for how they live their lives, then we may be in with a fighting chance to save this planet.