Momoko Hill has spent the last few years diving in to the depths of ocean conservation activism; organising beach cleans, working with Surfers Against Sewage and freelancing for the BBC and Wicked Healthy. She takes us on a journey from the beaches of Cornwall to navigating an ethical lifestyle in the city of London and her native Japan.
I was born in London, and by some miracle, my parents decided to move to St Ives, Cornwall when I was only two months old! Anyone who’s been there knows that it’s an idyllic and quaint fishing village, with 5 beautiful beaches and a very special atmosphere and light.! I was brought up a vegetarian (endlessly grateful for this) with a compassion for animals and spent a lot of time in nature with my dad who was a landscape gardener at the time, eating freshly picked peas and covering myself with snails! A country bumpkin dream!
My interest was definitely led by my love for and connection with the ocean. Once I began leading beach cleans in Cornwall in 2016 as a rep for Surfers Against Sewage (an outstanding marine conservation charity, based Cornwall), I realised how desperate the plastic pollution crisis was first-hand, which led me to wonder about plastic-free alternatives and living in a way that was kinder to our planet. But my eyes were really opened when I went vegan, around 5 years ago. When I started to align my actions with my beliefs, I found that a whole new world opened up, which made me feel more connected to our sacred earth and a desire to do what I could to protect it was born. With the day to day awareness and swaps, this was definitely kicked into gear by my housemates, 2 very cool eco conscious vegan girls that I’m so lucky to live with in North London.
It’s actually steered me away from a path that I was pursuing in crystal healing and selling crystals, which is a healing art that I am extremely connected to.I could not justify taking part in something that extracted crystals from our earth, in ways I couldn’t personally ensure were ethical, along with then shipping them to customers all over the world. When I was making a concerted effort to trace back the ethics of my purchases, from food to clothing, to products and services, I simply could not feel I had integrity carrying on and to me, integrity is everything. Not to mention the question marks around labour. I also stopped supporting the use of burning Palo Santo and Sage, two very popular Indigenous natural resources that have become popular in the Western World, due to the uncertainty of their sustainability, as well as the appropriation aspect.
Photo Credit: Jemima Marriott
My working background though, was in the music and festival industries. It was my big dream to move away from Cornwall and live it up in London. I realise now that this was largely my ego trying to validate itself and my vain attempt to find significance, I was looking for purpose in the wrong place. Once this mission was completed, I found myself miserable and unfufilled, staring at photos of the ocean under my desk and falling asleep to videos of waves lapping the shore of my favouirte beach, Porthminster. I swiftly quit that whole life moved back from Cornwall to re-calibrate and that’s when I started organising tons of beach cleans, I was a bit obsessed and did them at every opportunity!
Since then, I’ve found my way back to London (visiting Cornwall regularly of course!!) and have a lot of social media/online work, from MTV to the BBC and Wicked Healthy, the vegan range found at Tesco! My work for the BBC has encompassed many topics around representation, gender identity, race, LGBTQAB+, body image and mental health. I’ve found that this job has been an eye-opener with regards to making me see things clearer about privilege, being inclusive and intersectional with my activism with both veganism and ocean conservation, as well as learning to handle eco-anxiety. It can often be overlooked in the these spheres and being half Japanese, I especially want to bring inclusivity into the conversation, as many environmental events i’ve been to have been ectremely un-diverse.
Photo Credit: Jemima Marriott
I’m also a co-host on a vegan and animal rights podcast called ‘The ChickPeeps’. We are a friendly and educational pod, created by my wonderful friend, actor and activist Evanna Lynch and my fellow co-hosts are activist Tylor Starr and actor Robbie Jarvis. As the environment has entered the conversation in a big way of late, we have a lot more environmentally skewed episodes with fantastic guests in Season 2, much to my delight!
I have made a commitment to only buying new clothes with a view to last many years, or second hand – so it’s charity shop/depop/vintage from here, as well as renting for more fancy occasions!
Photo credit: Jemima Marriott
My current battle is with travel, I completely understand the consequences of flying on the environment, but can I completely break-up with travel and seeing my family in Japan? I’m just not sure yet. I think that is the one and only sacrifice I can’t make for the planet right now.
That being said, I cancelled 2 overseas trips this year and am intending on only travelling in 2020 and beyond when it’s to do something meaningful that has a positive knock-on effect for the planet. I have learnt a lot about effective activism through being vegan and always dub myself an ‘attractivist’ style activist, which essentially means you show people how lovely something can be, rather than provoking shame about what they’re already taking part in. Of course, sometimes the despair can overrule this, but it’s what’s at my core and I find it hugely effective as an approach! It worked on me!
A big part of my message is being kind to the planet, animals AND ourselves, which is something that I’ve found can be missed from the eco scene. I think self-compassion is hugely important.
I like to ask thought provoking questions on my instagram stories to encourage people to think in dififerent ways. I think there’s a fine line between education and shaming others, I like to maintain an air of curiosity around what I do and help others see that loads of others are making great choices for the environment. I think leading by example is the most powerful tool and sharing, sharing, sharing!
With the SAS team in London I’ve been lucky to speak to people about the oceans and using less plastic at the World Oceans Film Festival, and event we had with Finisterre (a great Cornish brand that makes beautiful clothing with an angle towards sustainability).
I have a tendency to want all the new cool sustainable ‘stuff’ that comes out, there so much of it now that I really need to hold myself back and question whether I actually need that new ethically made lunchbox. The concept of living minimally really resonates with me and has helped me cut back on unnecessary sustainable purchases. Such is life in our consumerist culture!
Hydroflask is my certified go-to for coffee cups. I LOVE mine.
I am loving Hurr Collective, a peer-to-peer luxury fashion rental platform. I really believe that ideas like this are the future! They have so many incredible pieces, I really don’t see the point in me buying a new fancy dress that I’ll barely wear, I love that it’s mainstream to rent now, I’ve been wishing for this for a while. I recently bought
The Guppy Friend bag, to cut down on the amount of microfibres (read: microplastic) I’m responsible for entering our waterways, when I wash my synthetic clothing. I’m also going to give the Cora Ball a spin (only available in America) to see how this compares. People are always shocked to know that, even if they aren’t throwing plastic into the sea, they’re contributing towards it throigh washing their clothes.
Wukawear period underwear are a personal favourite too, these have been a gamechanger for me, since the cups don’t get on with my body, sadly. Having found plenty of tampons and applicators at beach cleans, going plastic-free with periods is something I recommend everyone tries! I was very resistant to it for years, but once you go there, you will not go back 🙂
For self-care, I love West Apothecary, created by my great friend Harriet Coleman. She is a herbalist, who is incredibly connected to nature and creates wonderful zero waste, unisex, soaps, bath soaks, deodorant and lip balm in her apothecary in Cornwall, as well as making bespoke products. I love her fire and forest candle for when I need a grounding moment in London, I feel transported to a campfire in the heart of the woods, very hygge!
For anyone in Essex/London, check out my friend Jack. He has his own permaculture market garden in Upminster and has a seasonal veg box service. If you want to learn to grow your own, he is your guy. He’s taught me how important this is in a sustainable world and he’s helping me start growing in 2020! His produce is incredible and he’s a really inspiring guy.