In the latest in our Life as I know it series, our multimedia designer Sophie Parsons shares her journey in sustainability so far and the impact it has on her career and daily life.
Sustainability is something I came at through food, with veganism being my gateway into all thing’s climate change and environmentalism. This year marked my fourth year eating a plant-based diet, with my motives and inspiration having changed significantly since the beginning. Eating with a consideration for the environment is now very much at the focus of my dietary choices; swapping almond milk for oat, avoiding palm oil and saving avocadoes for occasional treats. I favour grocery shops over supermarkets and have just started a subscription to Oddbox in hopes of reducing my plastic even more. Don’t get me wrong, hummus and Oatly are still regulars in my shopping basket and I find it quite hard to resist coconut yoghurt, but I figure cutting out unnecessary plastic wrapped veg is a good way to start.
I’ve never been a massively outdoorsy person, especially not as a child. Instead, I would fill my days with scrapbooking, making collages out of old magazines and wrapping paper. I did, however, discover the world through my family’s love of travelling, having been fortunate enough to travel from a relatively young age. A couple of years ago, we spent four days trekking through the Andes Mountains on the Inca trail in pursuit of Machu Picchu, before then heading to the rainforest to stay in a hut in the middle of the Amazon. The two months I spent solo in Copenhagen showed me how the better half live, rediscovering the joy and ease of hopping on a bike rather than in a car, rather idealistically filling the basket with organic produce and Danish rye bread. These trips have given me such a deep appreciation of our planet – as well as an incurable case of wanderlust. Whilst I know travelling, especially by plane, is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions, I am a big advocate of how exploring the world can inspire a curiosity in how we are impacting our planet. Now, I make sure to do my bit when flying – offsetting my carbon and filling my hand luggage with my trusty orange Chilly’s bottle, reusable bags and beauty bottles.
Moving to university to study Graphic Communication meant the opportunity to combine my love for sustainability with creativity. Quickly, my work became focused on mindful eating, food waste and social documentation; my final year project being a study into the misconception surrounding food banks and how and why they are being used in my university city of Bath. Leaving university with the plan to freelance as an illustrator, I devised a list of dream companies, all with an ethical focus, and a commitment to only working with brands, magazines and companies that echo my own principles – a design job at Eco-Age essentially being the pinnacle of this! My drawings have quickly become more political, promoting sustainability and living consciously in a way that could be seen as softer than the shouting of opinions; illustrations of committed beach cleaners intrigued people in a way that describing my time volunteering perhaps would not.
Clothes have always been very important to me – my mum likes to joke about how I would cry as a young child when she’d put me in a dress. I’ve always known exactly what I like, which makes for a seemingly easy shopping experience. Living with three textile students at university, and attending art school, meant conscious consumption was a conversation that began to crop up more regularly. For a long time, I put off making any changes in my shopping habits, not quite ready to commit to charity shops and second hand. This was mostly out of laziness, but also a fear of not knowing how to shop for the clothes I loved in these environments, meaning I continued to shop fast fashion. I would watch documentaries, horrified at the state of the Aral sea or factory conditions, only to then venture onto the high street, falling in love with a pair of boots or a jumper and forget about everything I’d seen.
In the past year, I’ve found this a lot harder to ignore and so have been making steps to find a way to still find clothes I love – but sustainably. Depop is now my most used app and preferred shopping method. Not quite ready to give up my love for Scandinavian high street brands (& Other Stories is a saved search on the app), I have found peace with second-hand shopping. My best find and most loved piece is a second-hand daisy print Faithfull the Brand dress, costing almost half the retail price yet arriving with the tags still attached. I also have a long list of ethical fashion companies I really want to invest in, as and when I need something or can’t find it second-hand. I recently treated myself to a set of Girlfriend Collective activewear, insisting that these new, silky leggings made from recycled fishing nets would inspire my training for a 10-mile run I have in the Autumn.
(note the smile & the pink dress…clearly caught me on a good day)
Perfectionism is something that has caused its fair share of stress and anxiety in my life, a very unrealistic and unnecessary determination to get everything right. Living sustainably has fallen under this so many times, with fears of having to buy plastic bags or a water bottle leaving me thirsty and an arm full of shopping on more than one occasion. I’m learning not to worry too much about labels, instead focusing on making conscious decisions as much as possible and not berating myself if I can’t resist a plastic wrapped vegan Magnum every once and a while. The goals of zero-waste and plastic-free have now been swapped for low-waste and simply living more consciously. I will always want to travel the world, but if I can do beach cleans and eat locally and leave as little impact as possible when I’m there then that’s a balance I can live with.