I ‘met’ Francesca through the world of Instagram, coming upon her gorgeous art work that both captured me and challenged me in my journey with sustainable and conscious living. It’s clear Francesca has a heart for justice, people and this beautiful world. It shines through all that she does. I have been really inspired by the small steps Francesca has taken to live intentionally and consciously and I hope you will too.
It’s an honour to have her share her thoughts in this space.
I’m Francesca and I’m an artist, illustrator and maker. I share about my journey in living more sustainably and ethically, in the hope to encourage and inspire others. I try to produce my art in a way that reflects those values, and love to sew and make old things new!
How did your journey with zero waste and ethical shopping begin?
It’s a long story, and is still ongoing! I still find it crazy that I used to throw things in the bin without a single thought as to what would happen after. I knew landfill existed; but once rubbish isn’t visible to you anymore, it’s very easy not to give it a second thought, so I guess that’s how it was.
I’d cared about the environment long before, but I became increasingly aware of my waste during university after watching a TED Talk with Lauren Singer, founder of Trash Is For Tossers. She could fit all of her past few years waste in a single glass jar, and I couldn’t believe it. I began to observe the ways I produced waste and made my first few changes, starting with replacing bathroom products with things that were plastic-free. From then on it just became habit to think about where things I purchased came from, and where it would have to go once I was done.
When it come to clothes, I do understand the thrill of buying something new... I remember as a teenager, going to the local shopping centre and feeling sad if I didn’t come home with at least one thing. Then came internet shopping, and the happiness that came with the arrival of post. Bargains and short-lived trends galore... But it was all fine because you can just donate it to charity and buy more clothes, right? Well, I think that only 10-30% of charity shop donations actually being sold over the counter, and over 300,000 tonnes of clothing in landfill in the UK every year, are some figures that might say otherwise... (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30227025 + wrap.org.uk)
I begun to realise that where I spend my money as a consumer is powerful - that what I buy increases demand for certain practices. So when it comes to fashion, finding out about the conditions many garment workers have to deal with, the exploitation involved and the environmental implications, it simply wasn’t something I wanted to contribute to. I also found that in sewing things myself, I saw the detail and effort that goes into creating garments, and it made me appreciate my clothes so much more.
Most of my wardrobe is now made up of affordable secondhand pieces, and things I made. If I want something new, I try to save up and invest in a piece that was made ethically and built to last.
Why do you feel this is such an important issue for us? Do you think making these seemingly changes really helps individuals and the world we live in?
I think it’s clear to a lot of us now the extreme damage that we have made, and are still making. We are causing habitat degradation and loss - destroying nature, wiping out different species. It’s so very important we all make changes and work together to fight the climate crisis.
"It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies." (David Attenborough, ‘Climate Change - The Facts’)
What are some small changes we can start to make?
Toiletries are a good place to begin. Some examples of swaps are to trade soap in bottles for bars, plastic razors for safety razors. Baby wipes and cotton rounds can be replaced with reusable fabric rounds. Disposable tampons and pads can be swapped for cloth pads or a menstrual cup, and plastic toothbrushes with bamboo.
Cut down your intake of animal products - this is really important as animal agriculture is a huge contributor to CO2 emissions. Luckily there’s a lot of really great vegan meal inspiration out there today.
The app ‘Good On You’ is helpful as they review different brands and give them ratings on their ethics and sustainability, and offer alternative brands doing better things. Definitely shop secondhand before you try to find something new, though. Swap or borrow items, or look around charity shops, have a look on websites such as eBay, Gumtree and Depop.