A couple of weeks ago I spoke to Jo (@treesnpeace) about living a low waste lifestyle, climate change, advice for others and people power.
Hi Jo! Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me. Let’s start off with hearing a bit more about you
My name is Josephine Becker, I live in Dundee where I study Environmental Science and am extremely passionate about our wonderful planet. I consider myself an Active Citizen promoting a low-waste, low-emission, vegan lifestyle while being a climate activist. I live by the mantra:
You have two homes, the Earth and your body, take care of them.
So when do you think you started to live a more low waste/ sustainable lifestyle?
I have been passionate about sustainability all my life and knew I would end up working in this field, but about 4 years ago I started making really big switches in my life to fully embrace my ethics. It started with a month of collecting my waste, researching and then diving straight into a world of possibilities on how to reduce my waste. Ever since then, I have learned so much and it has been a great journey of learning.
A rubbish audit is a great way to start, it really helps you quickly pinpoint problem areas in your day to day life which are causing waste.
What do you think are the biggest changes you've made to your lifestyle since you started on this journey?
This lifestyle evolved over time which made all changes feel natural to me. Going vegan was a true catalyst of change for me, as it really opened my eyes and heart to the world and enabled me to extend my compassion beyond the human species. I suppose this was a big change, that helped me in shaping a sustainable lifestyle and also got me started in reducing my plastic-consumption.
Another big change was to vocalise my ethics, to myself and others. This includes everything from refusing a plastic bag, straw or non-vegan food to empower myself in rethinking consumer choices. It has overall opened a world to me of consuming less, consuming responsibly and making my own products.
A great example of how to start with small sustainable changes which can build up to a totally new way of living!
I noticed you also study environmental science. Do you believe there are any links between living a low waste lifestyle and climate change?
Yes, 100% !!
For example, plastic is a direct by-product of the fossil fuel industry and therefore any plastic product indirectly profits/promotes the fossil fuel industry which drives global warming.
By reducing plastic consumption, people take an active step away from this highly-polluting industry.
Especially in recent years, there has been a huge increase of awareness for our waste problem. Many people, from all backgrounds, are now aware of this issue. I think that is incredibly powerful, because it opens a window to gain more of the population’s interest in being concerned about the ecological crisis we are currently facing and to take active part in shaping a better future.
While climate change and its long-term impacts can be hard to comprehend for many people, particularly if we do not feel the immediate consequences right now, the plastic pollution issue is one way to visualise how poorly we are treating our planet.
Another example is food waste. Consumers in Northern America and Europe waste about 210-250lbs of food per year – a shocking figure when considering how many people across the globe struggle to put food on the table daily. And furthermore, this produces a huge amount of CO2, and therefore is a big contributor to climate change.
The list of examples goes on, but what I have experienced is that: living a low waste lifestyle opens many doors. Becoming conscious of what and how you consume is fundamental to the climate change debate and how to address it. These issues are more interlinked than we often think – and that is extremely powerful, because as soon as we question one consumer behaviour, we are close to discovering much more.
So do you think individuals can affect impact on the environment or do you believe it’s all down to big corporations and government?
Personally, I have learnt that corporations and governments currently determine the fate of the world. The issue is that they put profit over people and the planet. While guidelines (like the Paris Agreement) and even legal regulations exist, they are not enforced and therefore GHG keep rising and climate change accelerates.
100 of the biggest global companies cause 71% of GHG vs me refusing a straw – both sides are powerful, and yet a quick change that we need to stay within climate targets is beyond what an individual can do on his own!
People are incredibly powerful. When we come together over the same cause, we can change the world – and we have done so in the past: the civil rights movement, the suffrage movement, the Anti-Apartheid movement… now it is time for a climate movement. And it already has started! Many individuals use their voices every single day to demand and create a better future. This can be done through refusing plastic, eating vegan, cycling instead of driving, protesting… the list goes on. We need all of these things as they empower us individually and create ripple-effects of change in our communities. But we also need the government and big corporations to act on climate change before it is too late. Change must happen from all angles to create a diverse, safe and sustainable future.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to begin living a more sustainable lifestyle?
The information on living a sustainable lifestyle is unlimited – but don’t overwhelm yourself There is no quick fix for a sustainable lifestyle for everyone – as we are all different and have different consumer patterns and behaviours. Consider your own lifestyle, pick a battle and tackle it head first. My advice: Start today!. The sooner the better – we have no more time to waste.
“You cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good I can do” – Jana Stanfield.
Thanks Jo, you’ve really managed to summarise some complex thoughts really succinctly. Both Jo and I really hope this encourages more and more people to take on a low waste lifestyle in whatever way they can. Be it reducing food waste, plastic waste, textile waste and lowering their impact on the planet.
If you want to learn more tips about reducing your environmental impact follow Jo on Instagram @Treesnpeace. If you would like to be more actively involved in pushing our governments to do more to tackle climate change follow Extinction Rebellion. @XRScotland @Extinctionrebellion to find out how you can get involved.