Three Activist Books To Kickstart 2021

Education is a powerful tool for activism. When we educate ourselves on matters like the climate crisis, racial injustice, ableism, or other oppressive systems in society, we can make informed decisions on how to act and make the world a better place. You can educate yourself in many ways, from watching documentaries to going to (virtual) talks or even following activists on social media.

One of the ways I like to educate myself is by reading material which are either written by activists, touch on activist subjects, or generally make me think about society. In this article I wanted to share three of my favourite activist books which I think are an excellent way to start off 2021!

‘SOS – What you can do to reduce climate change, Simple actions that make a difference,’ by Seth Wynes

I’ve mentioned this book a few times before because it really is a fantastic read for anyone who wants to get involved in environmental activism. In this book Seth Wynes looks at the best possible things you can do to prevent climate change, along with why they’re the best, and how to do them.

Some books on climate change can be really daunting or contain a lot of scientific terminology, which although important, can be confusing. This book is written in a brilliantly concise and accessible way with a clear and moving introduction, and chapters covering each type of action you can take — from transportation to collective action. It ends with a chapter on how it all adds up and a tick-list where you can decide which eco-friendly steps you will be making this year.

I can’t recommend it enough, and at the moment you can buy a used copy for just a couple of pounds on Abe Books, so go for it!

‘Girl, Woman, Other,’ by Bernadine Evaristo

This book won the Booker Prize 2019 and was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020. It’s the only piece of fiction in this blog post, and it is a really compelling read. The novel explores the lives of twelve characters, mostly black British women, whose experiences are often intertwined. The book starts with Amma, a socialist lesbian playwright, and ends with her incredible performance at a London theatre, which a lot of the other characters attend. Themes include intersectional feminism, race, immigration, family relationships, LGBT+ rights and more. I love the way the book is written and how some of the stories are intergenerational — exploring different perceptions of shared experiences, from daughter to mother to grandmother.

Trigger Warning: it does discuss difficult topics like rape, abuse and manipulation. I usually struggle with these topics, but it was handled very well within the novel. Honestly, I found it hard to put this book down. It was an insight into lives very different from my own and an education on how black women, non binary-people, and immigrants are treated in the UK. Even though it is fiction, it’s written by literary activist, Bernadine Evaristo, who has talked about how her own experiences shaped the stories told within this novel.

It’s an incredibly important read and I hope you’ll add it to your TBR list this year. You can currently find it for £7.89 from Hive, who support independent bookshops.

‘Vegan Life – Cruelty-free Food, Fashion, Beauty and Home’ by Jo Peters

This book was a gift from my girlfriend this Christmas and I honestly love it! I’ve been a vegetarian for about five years now and I’m looking to transition into veganism, so I was overjoyed to find this under the Christmas tree. The book doesn’t try to push you into anything, but instead holds your hand while exploring a vegan way of life. Like SOS, it’s written in a very accessible way, with clear facts sprinkled throughout the book, along with lovely illustrations and photos which make it an easy read. I honestly love the aesthetic of this book.

It covers many topics in veganism from animal welfare to the best non-dairy milks, and it even goes beyond the topic of food to talk more widely about living an eco-friendly vegan lifestyle, with top tips on fashion, home, makeup and more.

I hope this book brings you a little joy like it’s brought me, and that maybe you’ll find it helpful too! You can currently buy it for about £5 on Abe Books.

So those are my book recommendations to start off your activism journey of 2021! I really want to expand on my own activist reading pool this year — so if you have any recommendations please comment down below!

P.S. All of these books are either available second-hand for good prices on Abe Books or from ethical sites like Hive. Check out the links below their descriptions. This post is not sponsored by Abe books or Hive.

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Inspiring Activists: Grace Kress

This week I’m very excited to be interviewing the incredible Grace Kress who is an artist using their creativity to campaign for revolution and social change. Grace runs SHELBY X Studios and has worked with groups such as Justice for Grenfell, Women Against Rape, the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Defence Campaign UK, and Sisters Uncut, as well as having run community arts programmes and painting murals across Europe. One of their core beliefs is that art can be used to bring communities together, make information accessible, inspire change, and above all spread positivity. 

In this article Grace talks about their journey into ‘Artivism’ and creating SHELBY X Studios, as well as how you can use your art as a powerful tool for change:

What made you want to be an activist? 

I was raised by activists in a communal house, so I was campaigning before I could walk. I was lucky enough to be encouraged to fight for social justice from an early age. Then, I lost my dad as a teenager, and whilst I was grieving that loss I found a lot of hope in reading liberation literature. This contributed to my political education because I was reading a lot of material written by the Black Panthers, so I have people like Angela Davis, Bobby Seale and Fred Hampton to thank for my understanding of the system. They put information across in a really relatable way and their minister of culture Emory Douglas had a big impact on my work, both as an activist and an artist.

My parents also lived in Philadelphia in the 1980s and met the MOVE family, a black liberation organisation. The state dropped a bomb on MOVE’s house, killing 11 people, including 5 children, and destroyed 61 homes. Having witnessed that and being involved in raising awareness of this horrific attack, my parents continued campaigning about what had happened to MOVE when they came back to London. Because of this link, I was involved in the campaign to free political prisoner and journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who is a huge supporter of MOVE and many other global cases of injustice. He’s been hugely motivational in my activism work.

Art by Shelby X Studios

Why did you want to use art as a form of activism? 

People like Emory Douglas, Frida Kahlo and Sylvia Pankhurst have had a huge influence on me and I was struck by the way they communicated through visuals and type. They have all been really impactful in generating recognisable revolutionary culture in the US, Mexico and the UK. I’m not sure art is a form of activism as a stand alone thing, but it can be a massively beneficial tool when used to support political work. Whilst working on the free Mumia Abu-Jamal campaign, we needed banners, flyers, event posters, things like that, so I kind of fell into the role of designer. I also volunteered as a designer at Women Against Rape whilst at college, working to communicate data and information in a visual way, which had an impact on the type of design I became drawn to. I’ve worked on a lot of visuals for a variety of projects for organisations and individuals. During each project, I’ve witnessed the power of art in engaging people. People seem to really respond to information presented through creative means, so they stop and think about the content more, which means they’re more likely to then act on the information.

Art by Shelby X Studios

Where did the idea for Shelby x studios come from? 

SHELBY x Studios is rooted in creating a legacy for my dad, who I lost to cancer as a teenager. He was an inspiring community activist who fought against police brutality, poor housing, and the hostile environment faced by refugees and migrants in Hackney, London. He took an educational and creative approach, bringing communities together to take collective action. The name for this project combines a family name from my dad’s side, Shelby, X which represents collaboration, and Studios, a space for creativity. 

Another catalyst for starting this platform was the fact that I manage chronic pain, which has made doing political work in the way that I used to pretty challenging. After speaking to other comrades and people doing social justice work, I recognised that there are lots of barriers to being politically active. Things like living in remote areas, raising children, working unsociable hours or just not knowing where to start. So a core goal of Shelby X Studios is to make activism more accessible to people. Burnout is really common for activists too, so I’m also focused on creating communities of growth and learning, that recognise collective care as key to our liberation. 

Your art covers many different topics, would you call yourself an intersectional activist? And why is it important to address so many issues in your activism? 

It’s true that I cover lots of different topics. That’s because I see the root cause of all these social injustices and layers of oppression stemming from the same place – racial Capitalism. I would call myself a revolutionary artist because that’s the goal – revolution. The current economic system is parasitic, that’s why I call it racial Capitalism – because it feeds off of the exploitation of the global South, both in terms of labour and resources, in order to function. So it’s important to draw the links and highlight the root cause of social injustice so that we can use art to imagine and create the kind of future that supports all life to thrive. Community care is an essential part of our liberation. My aim is to use art to help create communities of care.

Art by Shelby X Studios

What advice do you have for others who want to use their art for activism? 

All art is political so how we use our creative skills is important. My advice would be to spend time getting to know yourself and what your values are so that the artwork you create stays rooted in authenticity. Don’t be pulled into the social media whirl of comparison or working on issues just because they become popular. Stay true to yourself. Collaborate with other people. Keep social justice at the forefront.

Any advice for the activists who also want to make a living from their work?

This is a tough question because activists and artists share the experience of commonly being undervalued, especially financially. The majority of the activist work I do is unpaid to be honest so I’m not sure I’m best placed to answer this, but I do believe that if we value activists and their work, we should pay them. There is a lot of unpacking we need to do in terms of our relationship with money because it’s common for those interested in creating a better world to feel like money isn’t something they want to be associated with. I would ask people to consider what money narratives they’ve internalised and how they can combat some of that. If we don’t financially compensate people for their labour, what message does that perpetuate? It’s a complicated thing to be honest that I’m still navigating myself. 

How can other ‘artivists’ get involved with SHELBY X Studios? 

People can follow the SHELBY X Studios Instagram or sign up to the newsletter for all our upcoming news. I’ll be commissioning more artists for the zine in the new year. There’ll also be artivism prompts, calls for art and lots of other ways people can get involved. 

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? 

One thing?! Oh my days, there’s so much that needs to change! Can I escape that question a little and say abolition? Abolish the patriarchy, abolish Imperialism, abolish all the borders, abolish the prison industrial system, abolish the current Capitalist oppressive system. Abolition isn’t just about getting rid of things, it’s about creating the world we want and need. 

How can people support your work? 

There are three ways people can support: 1. Commission me to work on a graphic design, illustration or community arts project, to facilitate a workshop or hire me as a guest speaker. 2. Purchase merchandise, we’ve got a big range including tea towels, tshirts, enamel pins, stickers and screen printed artwork. 3. Subscribe to our new monthly e-zine which is launching in January 2021

Art by Shelby X Studios

Thank you so much Grace for answering these questions and for all the amazing work you do. Make sure to follow Grace’s ‘Artivism’ on Instagram and check out the SHELBY X Studios website

Do you know of any inspiring activists you’d like to see interviewed? I’d love to see your suggestions, comment down below!

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25 Eco-Friendly Tips For A Sustainable Christmas

Today is the first of December. It’s cold enough that I’ve pulled on my tomato-red Yule Cat jumper over my pyjamas, and this morning we opened our Russian Dwarf Hamster’s advent calendar for him (I think we were more excited about this than he was). This can only mean one thing… Christmas is coming.

Recently on Instagram I asked what content people would like to see, and one friend said they’d like eco-friendly Christmas tips. I could have thought of maybe a couple of tips, five would make a good article, but oh no, we are going all out this year. Here are TWENTY FIVE eco-friendly tips to make this year’s Christmas a sustainable one!

1.   A real tree is better for the environment than a fake one. If you haven’t gotten your Christmas tree yet, then I’d suggest getting a live tree this year. I’ve read a few articles on this, but the gist of the matter is that fake trees are made from plastic (from oil) which takes a lot of energy to produce and won’t decompose for hundreds of years. A real tree has about half the CO2 emissions as a fake one. And if you get a potted tree then that is even better for the environment. Me and my girlfriend got one from our local farmers-market and we can’t wait to see it grow with us for years to come.

2.     Have a plant based Christmas. In this guest post with Ellie talking about veganism, we already addressed how going plant based is a lot more eco-friendly than eating meat, so why not have a vegan Christmas dinner this year? If you don’t know where to start then you’re in luck because I’m going to be making a little blog post about plant-based Christmas meal ideas soon..

3.     Buy food locally or in season. Why not go a step further and buy food locally or look up what veg is in season? That way you can support local businesses as well as avoiding food air-miles.

4.     Give an eco-friendly book on Christmas Eve. I’m half-Icelandic but I only learned a couple of years ago about an amazing Icelandic tradition called Jolabokaflod where people give each other books on Christmas Eve. This way families can spend the night cosied up together with a new book to hand. I think this is such a nice tradition that anyone could get involved with – and why not make it extra eco-friendly… Firstly you could get a second-hand book from a charity shop or online at Abe Books to save paper, and secondly why not gift a book on an environmental topic that will make people feel good to read? I love ‘What you can do to reduce climate change’ by Seth Wynes, which has so many easy facts and solutions to follow. And I was so excited to get the Greta Thunberg book from my nan last Christmas – thanks Nan!

5.     Support Small Independent Businesses. Instead of funnelling your money to certain billionaires, why not buy your gifts from small businesses that do a happy dance with every purchase? I made this gift guide with some excellent suggestions (if I do say so myself).

6.     Buy second-hand from charity shops. If the pandemic isn’t too bad in your area, why not get your presents at a charity shop? You get second-hand items for affordable prices and all the money goes to a good cause – it’s a win win!

7.     Give eco-friendly gifts. Why not give someone gifts like shampoo bars, epic reusable water bottles or a soap dish to start them on their sustainable journey!

8.     Make the gifts yourself. Nothing says I love you like something you’ve put time and effort into, and by doing it yourself you’re cutting out all the emissions that mass production factories create. Ideas could be wax wraps, photo disks or home made decorations.

Photo by fotografierende on

9.     Give to charity on behalf of a loved one for Christmas. I know some people roll their eyes when Aunt Lindsey adopts a goat for them at Christmas, but I think that charity gifts are a great idea as it’s both anti-capitalist and your money is going to someone who really needs it. That makes both the giver and receiver feel good. Some charities I recommend are Choose Love and UNICEF as you can pick gifts for refugees, and your special someone can receive an e-card afterwards.

10.  If you love this idea, why not ask people to give to charity for you! There are a bunch of environmental charities you can ask them to donate to. One of my favourites is Amazon Watch that help indigenous people protect the Amazon Rainforest.

11.  Make your own decorations this year. Instead of buying lots of plastic crap, why not spend some cosy evenings crafting your own Christmas decorations? That makes them extra special.

Photo by Susanne Jutzeler on

12.  Get your festive decorations from charity shops. If you don’t have time for that then why not find some unique decorations in your local charity shop?

13.  Use recyclable gift wrap. 227,00 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away each year, which could really be avoided if we recycled instead. If you’re not sure if your gift wrap is recyclable, then try the scrunch up test. As a rule, shiny wrapping paper with foil, glitter or plastic generally isn’t recyclable. Some supermarkets let you know which of their rolls are recyclable on the labels! Or you can get some brown craft paper – you know where you stand with that stuff.

14.  Make your own gift tags! I like to cut up last year’s Christmas cards and re-use them as this year’s gift tags. You simply need some scissors and a hole punch, or even a pen if you don’t have the latter!

15.  Use Christmas dinner as an excuse to talk to your family about being the environment. If they argue that Christmas isn’t the time for politics, then why not remind them of the political messages in some of their favourite Christmas songs?

16.  Use your time off work to educate yourself on the climate crisis. You could read books, watch documentaries, Ted Talks, or even listen to podcasts to learn something important while hanging out at home.

17.  Swap your usual box of chocolates for vegan ones. Me and my family usually treat ourselves to a fancy box of chocolates at Christmas. This is usually Quality Street, but recently I found out they’re owned by Nestle (don’t even get me started on how unethical Nestle are). If this sounds like you, why not start a new tradition of getting a box of vegan chocolates instead? Most supermarkets have a great selection of vegan treats, or you can look online

18.  Use your leftovers! A lot of us over-cook for Christmas in anticipation for hungry guests and then find there’s a lot of food leftover at the end. (Or if you’re used to more guests than you’ll get because of the pandemic then it might be hard to size down.) If this is the case, why not avoid food waste and save the yummy leftovers for later? One of my favourite things about Christmas lunch is having leftovers for dinner and brunch the next day! 

19.  Re-purpose your Christmas jumpers. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has put on weight during the pandemic. Which is totally fine, our bodies are perfect whatever size we are. But it can still be upsetting to find out that your Christmas jumper doesn’t fit anymore (this happened to me a few days ago). Instead of getting upset, why not repurpose that jumper! You can make it into hand warmers or a pair of nifty mittens to gift someone this year. 

20.  Find “new” Christmas jumpers from charity shops or depop to avoid fast fashion.

21.  Go on a nature walk. Part of being a climate activist is respecting and appreciating nature. Me and my family go on a nature walk every Christmas and it’s one of my favourite traditions. Nature walks have been one of the ways I’ve stayed sane (-ish) in the worst of lockdown. It also reminds me what I’m fighting for. 

22.  Donate to food banks. Because of the pandemic, Brexit, and austerity, the UK’s economy isn’t doing too well. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their businesses have gone under, or they may have even ended up on the streets. Consider donating to food banks and homeless shelters this year. Even if you don’t have much, you might find there’s some tins right at the back of your cupboard that you’d like to declutter, and it might make the difference between someone going hungry or having a warm meal for Christmas. Often supermarkets have donation points, or you can look into local projects and homeless shelters near you. 

23.  If you are travelling home this Christmas, use the travel-time to listen to podcasts or ted talks about the climate crisis.

24.  Consider switching to a green energy supplier. Chances are you’ll be using more electricity around Christmas time, whether that’s caused by turning up the radiators because it’s cold, or lighting up the Christmas tree, so make sure you’re not contributing to the fossil fuel industry and instead swap to a green energy supplier like Bulb or SO energy.

25.  Rest and take care of yourself. This is my last tip and a really important one. Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many reasons. Some of us might be uncomfortable in family environments, or we might be spending Christmas alone for the first time because of the pandemic. Some of us may have suffered a bereavement this year. I understand that. My grandad died in April and it’ll be our first Christmas without him. So whatever you do, make sure you take some time to look after yourself and rest. Check in with your feelings and have some strategies in place for if you feel lonely or overwhelmed. Audre Lorde said that self care is an act of preservation so that you can be a better activist. Take care of yourself this Christmas. 

Have any more eco-friendly Christmas tips? Share them in the comments below!

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Guest Post: Ellie – My Journey to Veganism

Did you know that one of the best individual changes you can make to be more eco-friendly is to eat plant-based? When talking about food-caused emissions — the carbon footprint of a vegetarian is about half that of a meat-eater and vegans have the lowest carbon foot print of all. I’m a vegetarian who is slowly transitioning to vegan (rice milk is great with cereal FYI) and I’m really interested in how being a vegan is so good for the environment and animals alike. I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but as I’m not a full vegan yet I didn’t really feel like I could. Luckily, my good friend Ellie agreed to do a guest post for me where she writes about her own journey to Veganism:

(Trigger warning: this article mentions animal cruelty and abuse).

For as long as I remember, I have loved animals. When I five years old, I wanted to be a ‘lady farmer’ just like my favourite book character ‘Sophie’ from the Sophie book series by Dick King-Smith. I loved the idea of being surrounded by farm animals all day, caring for them and feeding them. When I got a bit older, I decided that I wanted to be a vet instead and care for sick or injured animals. This was until I found out that you couldn’t always make them better which made me really sad. If I’d known how much sadder the life of farm animals were, I’m sure I’d never have dreamed of having that job either.

It wasn’t until I was fifteen that I became a vegetarian. I suddenly realised that it didn’t make sense to eat meat, because I loved animals. Luckily, my mum was very understanding and supportive of my decision and began cooking vegetarian meals for me straight away, whilst the rest of my family continued to eat meat.

A year or so later, I began working as an Assistant Practitioner at my local theatre. We worked in the same pairs all year, so it wasn’t until the Christmas dinner party that I met a middle-aged lady who said she had been vegan for over twenty years. Being completely uneducated about veganism at the time, I remember I replied to her scornfully about how wrong I thought it was that people brought up their children vegan, as she had done. This moment often hangs over my head, and I wish more than anything that I could have been more educated about veganism at the time, or that I had been able to apologise for my response at a later date. Clearly I had gotten the idea that ‘vegans are extreme’ from someone as uneducated as myself, when in reality it is much more extreme to continuously molest animals and steal and murder their babies for milk.

Photo by on

I become more aware about plastic waste and fast fashion around the age of eighteen and began to make a conscious effort to live a more sustainable lifestyle. It was around this time that I realised that something didn’t sit right with me in terms of my diet. I began to cut down on milk and cheese and started following more eco-friendly people on Twitter. This led me to watching the documentaries ‘What the Health’ and ‘Cowspiracy’ on Netflix, and I cannot tell you how gut-wrenching it was, and still is, to see the abuse that animals suffer for the greed of humans. I was completely horrified. It was the final straw – seeing how abused these animals were, and the negative affect that it was having on our planet and our health, gave me the confirmation that I didn’t want to support such a horrific industry. I transitioned to veganism over the next few weeks and never looked back.

(TW: Please bear in mind that the documentaries mentioned above What the Health and Cowspiracy do contain scenes of animal cruelty that can be upsetting.)

The bad rep that vegans get is that they’re ‘preachy’ – but I think this stems from our compassion. Knowing what we now know, we find it impossible to believe that even half of people that consume meat and dairy could continue to do so had they seen the horrors that go on behind locked doors. The sad truth is that if people did know or had seen the harsh reality, they wouldn’t continue to support those industries, which is why the industries themselves keep it all out of the public eye.

Now, I know that we still have a long way to go. Every month or so I learn of yet more brands that I have supported over the years that aren’t vegan and I make more of an effort to support more sustainable and cruelty free businesses. However, the number of vegans in the UK has quadrupled over the last four years and countless fast food chains and restaurants are adding to their plant-based options every year. This progress is what gives me hope for a much brighter future, where animals aren’t senselessly exploited and murdered for the greed of human beings.

There are also many health benefits that you can get from a plant-based diet. Within four weeks of not eating dairy, the acne that I had been struggling with for years completely cleared up. I was previously unaware of the link between dairy and acne, so this was a huge confidence boost for me as my acne had had a profound effect on my self-esteem. Within a month or two, I also noticed that my hair and fingernails were growing a lot faster and my fingernails were much stronger than they previously had been. I looked into this and learnt that it was from the increase in silica and vitamin B7 in my diet from leafy greens, radish, mushrooms, legumes and spinach, which I found interesting. Overall I felt a lot happier, healthier and more energised.

Photo by Sam Lion on

If I’d have made the connection between animals, farmers and meat as a young child, I’m sure that myself and King-Smith’s ‘Sophie’ would have strived to rescue animals from farms and work at an animal sanctuary rather than become a farmer. Humans are born with compassion, and if children fully understood where their meals came from, I’m sure a lot less of them would want to eat meat and dairy.

If you only have five spare minutes today, I highly recommend watching ‘Dairy is scary’ on YouTube. It is truly eye-opening to the suffering that we humans inflict on these poor, defenceless animals. Together, we can fight for animal rights and truly make a difference.

If you’re more interested in veganism and want to know how to start and change your lifestyle, check out The Vegan Society. They have some super helpful resources and meal plans that can help you on your vegan journey.

Thank you for reading, best wishes!

Ellie Violet

About Ellie: My name is Ellie Violet and I recently graduated from Aberystwyth University with a First class degree in Creative Writing and Drama and Theatre studies. I’m currently on my gap year and I’m passionate about writing, sustainability, traveling and theatre. I also often write about LGBTQ+ and disability related topics, as I have Cystic Fibrosis and I identify as bisexual / queer. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with my adventures!

Do you have a story to tell which you haven’t yet seen covered on my blog? I’d love to hear from you, either comment below or email be at I’m especially interested to hear from disabled writers/ POC/ LGBT+ and fellow climate activists.

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Inspiring Activists: Shona Louise

The world may feel like a difficult place at the moment, but there are always people out there making good change. I’ve been interviewing some of these people to find out more about their activism journeys and how we can learn from them to make a positive impact on the world.

In this article I am interviewing one of my absolutely favourite disability activists: Shona Louise. Shona has been writing on her blog for years and she has used this platform to advocate for disabled rights. She has also spoken out on disability rights, accessibility and ableism on many platforms online, in print, via the radio and on TV. She has written for and worked on projects with Scope, The Guardian, Metro, Channel 4 and Channel 5 news and more. Shona is also a published author of an essay in Rife: 21 Stories from Britain’s Youth, talking about what it’s like growing up with a long term condition and being a young disabled adult. In this interview Shona talks about what it’s like to be a disability activist and how you can help amplify disabled voices:

What made you want to be an activist?

I think my activism came about simply because I was a disabled person trying to live the best life I could. When you’re disabled you almost don’t have a choice but to become an activist or have activism play a part in your life because despite the law saying we should be equal, we aren’t. If I wanted to live the same life as my peers, activism was the only way to make that happen. I wanted to change things for myself but also for the next generations. I didn’t want young disabled people growing up in an inaccessible world that values them less. Unfortunately disabled people’s rights and access to the world has only ever improved when we asked for more, when we’ve protested for more, pushing many disabled people to become activists.

How have you used your writing in activism?

For me, most of my activism is through writing. Since I was a child at school I’ve always been aware of how powerful writing could be and when I started sharing my experiences on my blog I saw that first hand. The fact that I can educate hundreds, and even thousands, of people through just one tweet is an incredible thing. Writing and social media allows me to reach a whole group of people that I would struggle otherwise to reach, it allows me to engage others in a way that doesn’t scream ‘activism’. When I’ve talked about issues like the plastic straw debate, access on public transport and in theatres I lose count of the replies and messages I receive from people saying ‘I had no idea this was happening’ and for me that’s the power of writing in activism, it is easier than ever before to inform people.

What has your activist journey been like?

It’s been a bumpy one! There have been so many ups and downs, it can be really tough being a disabled activist because the things you are campaigning on have such a direct impact on your life. The people campaigning against the disability benefit system in the UK are the same people that are affected by that system, being left in poverty and even dying as a result, and that can take a toll on you. It’s demoralising when you don’t see any change and quite often I’ll think ‘What’s the point? No one cares?’ but then the next day you’ll receive a message or have a conversation that gives you hope again. It’s a cycle of hope and disappointment but I would never stop. I definitely need to get better at stepping back and taking self care days — but my activism has gotten shops to install ramps, it’s opened people’s eyes about disabled people’s need for plastic straws, and it’s revealed ongoing issues of inaccessibility in the theatre industry that many of it’s employees weren’t even aware of. It’s those real world changes and gains that keep me going.

Why is it so important for able-bodied people to understand ableism and be a good ally?

I’m not a fan of this argument, despite it being true, but at the end of the day disabled people are the largest minority in the world and also a minority you can join at any time. Not only that but if we live well into old age then at some point you’re going to need some kind of help and support to live your life, and it will have been disabled people that campaigned for that support. If you’re not disabled yourself then you probably know someone disabled, and if you think you don’t then I guarantee you actually do, there are an endless list of invisible conditions out there. Disability rights and accessibility are good for everyone as well, at the end of the day if someone builds a ramp to access a building that ramp gives everyone access, not just disabled people. There are so many things in your everyday life that are helpful for disabled people, but also give access to everyone. Disability rights are human rights. Being an ally is vital as well because disabled people aren’t given a platform in traditional media, and when we do it’s to tell our ‘very sad stories’, so we need allies to help pass us the microphone. Don’t speak for us, but make room for us.

What would you like able-bodied readers to know?

I would like them to know that when I share my stories of negative access experiences or barriers I’m facing I’m not doing so to gain your pity or to share how awful my life is. I’m simply trying to demonstrate how difficult it can be to navigate this world when you’re disabled — and I’m showing you so you can help me change it. Disabled people don’t need your pity, we just need your support to change the world. Don’t think that this isn’t your problem to solve just because you’re non-disabled, because you or a loved one could become disabled at any time and if they do you will begin to see exactly what disabled people have been trying to tell you about for years. Don’t wait until that moment to care, start caring now.

Why is it so important for disabled voices to be heard?

Disabled people are the largest minority in the world, as such there are a lot of intersections which means disability rights weaves within all minorities. It impacts LGBT+ rights, black rights, women’s rights, it has an impact on everything because we are present in all those minorities. We have an attitude of assuming we know what disabled people need though, assuming that non-disabled people know best, and that’s how we end up with an inaccessible society. No one knows disabled people and disability rights as well as disabled people themselves, and if we were given a seat at the table then problems with accessibility and rights could be solved before they ever saw the light of day. For example, when a theatre renovates there is often opportunity to improve accessibility, but disabled people are barely present in the theatre industry in positions of power, or anywhere really, so these issues aren’t caught until the work has been done and it’s too late. Giving us a seat at the table would change that. Our voices must be respected.

If you could change the world in one way, what would you change?

I would make it so disabled people were simply listened to and our voices would be prioritised in conversations about us. The microphone wouldn’t just be handed to medical professionals, charities run by non-disabled people, or non-disabled parents of disabled children, it would be handed to those with a lived experience.

Who or what inspires you?

Disabled activists of past and present really inspire me in what I do. Stella Young coined the term ‘inspiration porn’ and gave disabled people the language we needed to call out representations of us across the media, and I really recommend everyone watch her TED talk about it! Frances Ryan is a disabled journalist in the UK who wrote an incredible book called ‘Crippled’ about how austerity in the UK has affected disabled people, building on her ongoing investigations into how disabled people have been affected by the UKs benefits system. And then I follow an endless amount of disabled activists across social media including people like Keah Brown, Alice Wong, Haben Girma, Annie Segarra and Jessica Kellgren-Fozard. The resilience of the disability community inspires me too, we are knocked down again and again but we somehow always find the energy to get back up again, and we support each other in that process.

How can people support your work?

Giving me on a follow over on Twitter and Instagram, @shonalouiseblog, and sharing my writing helps massively! Whether it be a blog post or a piece of freelance writing it really helps to support what I do. I’m also a theatre, events and portrait photographer, so check out my work at . I think generally supporting activists is about passing the microphone and lifting up different voices, so I really recommend you strive to do that in your everyday life and across your social media platforms.

Thank you so much Shona for your amazing answers and for all the great work that you do! Make sure to read Shona’s blog and follow her Instagram and Twitter too.

Do you know of any inspiring activists you’d like to see interviewed? I’d love to see your suggestions, comment down below!

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My Ethical Online Gift Guide

Christmas is coming around the corner, and now more than ever it’s important to get those gifts early! I usually find most of my presents at charity shops, since you can repurpose unique & affordable goodies with the money going to a good cause — however this year since a lot of us are in lockdown we can’t shop quite like usual. When shopping online, it’s important to support small-businesses who do a little happy dance when you buy from them.

With that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of beautifully ethical, eco-friendly and hand-made gifts that will be extra special for your loved ones this Christmas:

The New Haven Project

The New Haven Project are a family-run business who sit close to my heart. Tracey sold her house and bought land to rescue abused and ex-slaughterhouse animals so as to give them a home. All profits from her eco-friendly products go towards looking after the animals and expanding her work so she can welcome more furry friends. If you want to read more about their story you can read my article on them for Pebble Magazine. I have personally purchased multiple soy candles and shampoo bars from The New Haven Project and can guarantee that they are lovely.

Tori Tsui’s Handmade Earrings

Do you remember Tori Tsui from the inspiring activist interview I did with her? Well you might not have known that she also makes earrings! If you want to support a fellow climate activist then why not check out her Etsy shop. (Fun fact: something I love about Etsy is that they carbon offset their deliveries). Also, if you buy the earrings today then all the proceeds go to Tori’s Typhoon Ulysses and Hurricane Eta fundraiser.

Holmes and Hazell

Chrissy Hazel Holmes is another fellow Climate Activist who I found out about through her Instagram. She sells beautiful home-made prints and jewellery on her Etsy shop, plus some of the money goes towards the Avon Needs Trees Charity! How cool is that! Go check her out and give her some eco-friendly love.

Jules Perspective

Jules Perspective make ‘Sustainable and unique products with the environment in mind’. I love this shop and the cute Scandinavian inspired Christmas elves. This is definitely a gift to get the Christmas-loving activist in your life. Plus, the shop is ran by my friend’s mum! Shout out to Ellie’s mum for making such awesome eco things!

Choose Love

This one’s a bit different as it’s not a small business selling hand-made items. Instead, Choose Love are an amazing charity that support refugees. The items you buy directly go to the refugees to help make their lives a little better. You can even choose to get a Christmas e-card with your purchase so you can buy a gift in someone’s name and share the love. Of course they also have a line of T-Shirts too for something you can physically have that still supports an amazing cause.

Those are my top choices of ethical online gifts this Christmas! I absolutely love each of them and I hope you do too. But if you haven’t found quite the right things for you, then I’m also going to list a few more suggestions of online shops I love down below so you can find even more ethical/ eco-friendly/ small business things. Happy Holidays! – Eco Friendly Rock Gifts – Sustainable Living – Eco Friendly Punk Rock Gifts – Beautiful mountain-cabin kind of gifts – Vegan Lingerie – Eco Friendly Gifts – Gifts for book-lovers – Gifts for the activist in your life – Welsh gifts and cards – gorgeous Scottish vegan soaps and cosmetics

I’ll keep adding to this list as the season goes on so make sure to keep an eye on the blog!

Love how I wrapped the presents in the header image? If you want to know more about my eco-friendly Christmas habits then comment down below.

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Inspiring Activists: Tori Tsui

Sometimes the world seems like a grey and difficult place where only bad things happen. It is true that there’s a lot of horrible things going on which is caused by some really bad people. But there are also so many amazing people in the world creating change and making a difference, they’re just not reported on as much as the bad guys that make ‘interesting’ news. So I want to change that and interview some of the lovely people out there that are seeing the bad stuff and challenging it, opening conversations and creating a better world. This is where you can learn more about their work and feel inspired and empowered by what they do.

The first activist I’ve interviewed is one of my favourite climate activists: Tori Tsui. Tori is a brilliant intersectional climate activist and mental health advocate who has done many incredible things, like sailing to Latin America as a part of a think tank called ‘Sale to the COP’ for the 2019 UN Climate Conference. She regularly talks about issues on the climate crisis, race and mental health on her Instagram platform and the podcast she co-runs, the Bad Activist Podcast. I had the honour of asking her a few questions about her activism and here is what she said:

What made you want to be a climate activist? Like most people my activism has evolved and shifted. Initially my drive to become a climate activist was because I was so incredibly eco-anxious and felt disheartened by the lack of mobilisation around the climate crisis. Since then my worldview has expanded a lot and as an intersectional climate activist, I’ve learned that being a climate activist for me is so much more than advocating for the physical environment. Environments are also social and to negate how they have an impact on our planet and people is problematic. After all, so much of the climate crisis is owed to systems of oppression and how they harm marginalised people. I always ask myself, ‘if my activism only focuses on my surroundings, then who is my activism even for?’

What does activism mean to you?
Activism to me means being a disruptor. Disrupting systems which hopefully leads to change! Talking about ‘uncomfortable’ but very needed topics. Challenging the status quo. Being inclusive and collaborative. Having conversations but also knowing where to draw the line. Living sustainably through radical self-care and appreciation. 

What is an intersectional activist?
To understand intersectional activism you have to appreciate where intersectionality has come from. Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term and used it primarily to talk about intersectional feminism to describe how her experiences with racism as a Black woman heavily intertwined with her experiences as a woman. Crenshaw is not the only Black innovator to talk about intersectionality, much of Audre Lorde’s work spoke about the interplay of sexism, racism and homophobia, without terming it as such. Intersectionality invites us to understand how different systems of oppression interplay and further propagate one another. To be an intersectional activist means that you understand how social injustices play into climate injustice (in my instance). It means that you advocate for the justice of society’s most marginalised.

How did you start your journey into intersectional climate activism? 
It’s been a gradual process. I don’t deny that a lot of the stuff I talk about now has concerned me before, but a lot of understanding myself and my own struggles has played a role in being more intersectional. For instance, I never really understood what it meant to be a woman of colour myself living with chronic mental health conditions. I knew I held a lot of privilege, and I did whatever I could to assimilate, and failed quite a lot of the time. Until the past two years, I’ve never really appreciated how my identity plays into my activism. And through understanding myself and learning from fellow activists, I believe I’m more able to champion intersectionality in a way that makes sense to me.

Why is it important for discussions on the environment to include the topics of race and mental health? The climate crisis is ultimately built on racial injustice, and we see it today. In this hyper capitalistic system we see marginalised people continuously be exploited so that a lot of privileged white folks can line their pockets at the top. Meanwhile, it is those who are marginalised who will experience the brunt of the climate crisis despite causing the least amount of ‘damage’. Racism is also rooted in colonisation and it is no coincidence that the powers that be are the way they are due to exploitation of countries in the global south or the exploitation of indigenous peoples in what is now called the global north. All of these systems are heavily intertwined.

To be a climate justice advocate is to recognise these monstrosities of the past, present and sadly future. Similarly, mental health is something which is deeply personal to me. Not only due to my pre-existing mental health conditions but also realising that in this world, we do not advocate for the mental wellbeing of marginalised people. I always ask, who was the term ‘eco-anxiety’ designed for? Because it seems to be a conversation we’re having in the global north without actually truly acknowledging the effect that the climate crisis will have on marginalised people. We’re also not expanding eco-anxiety to include racial anxiety, sexism anxiety and more. Mental health simply cannot exist in boxes. We need to acknowledge that mental health needs to be intersectional. 

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? 
That’s a hard one but I guess for this world to be more compassionate. 

Any advice for other activists who struggle with mental health? 
Organise, mobilise, support one another. We must realise that we are in this together. Community can be very healing!

What is one thing readers can do that will make the biggest impact on the environment? 
I believe it’s listen to marginalised people and climate activists. We need to make sure these stories and perspectives are representative. We need to stop pinning our individualistic actions against each other as a way to solve the climate crisis. 

 If you could have a dinner party with any three people who would you choose and why?
My goodness this is a hard one because I keep wondering whether I’d so it for intellectual and personal indulgence or for the potential to make the most change. Probably a mix of both!  I think if I could I’d sit down with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Raoni Metuktire and Malala Yousafzai.

How can people support your work? I guess the first thing to plug is my social media – I’m @toritsui_ on Instagram. I also run a podcast with two other activists Julia Gentner (@jugentner) and Kisjonah Roos (@kisjonah) called Bad Activist Podcast. To support our work we have a Ko-fi page where you can contribute funds to the podcast’s maintenance and compensate guests! 

Thank you so much Tori for giving such amazing answers and for all the work that you do. Make sure to follow Tori on her social media and check out the podcast too.

I hope you guys feel as inspired as I do by all of Tori’s work. Just from following her Instagram page I’ve learned a lot about intersectional environmentalism, and her work has also helped me to recognise that real self care and taking care of your mental health is in itself a form of radical activism. Something as simple as opening these important conversations on social media can make a difference to so many people. You have the power to do that too.

Do you know of any inspiring activists you’d like to see interviewed? I’d love to see your suggestions, comment down below!

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How To Be A Climate Activist In Difficult Times

In September 2019, I was on a Climate Strike in Aberystwyth and I felt full of hope. A lot has changed since then. We are living in unprecedented times where doing anything feels harder than usual. I’ve found it really difficult to continue my Climate Activism in 2020. Most days I find myself looking away from the hard news and curling into a ball, hoping it will all go away. But a quote I learned a year ago, which still holds meaning to me, makes me want to keep going:

“Climate change defeatism is just as dangerous as denialism.”  


If we don’t try to make a difference in the world, then nothing will change and things will keep being bad. So we have to keep trying. But it is also essential that we look after ourselves and our needs so that we have the energy to make a difference. That is what being an activist is about.

What is a Climate Activist?

Whether you call yourself a Climate Activist, Eco Activist, or Environmental Activist, it’s all pretty similar – it means you are someone campaigning to have the issues that face our planet both recognised and acted on. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are standing in the streets with a sign every Friday. Activism looks different for different people.

I was at a brilliant event a couple of years ago about Feminism in Wales and one of the speakers was an openly autistic, transgender feminist activist who talked about how we are all neurologically diverse, and that our activism should suit our needs. So she didn’t take to the streets with a megaphone because that wasn’t how she worked best – instead she educated students on activist matters and got her message out that way. So your form of activism should be what works best for you, because ultimately if you are getting stressed out by being an activist then your willpower will run out quite soon.

Activism has to be something we are passionate about in our own unique way. Here are some of the ways you can try out being a Climate Activist, specifically in this difficult time:

Individual Changes

Photo by ready made on

One of the easiest things you can do is make individual changes to live a more sustainable life. Some people are unsure about how much we should be focusing our energy on changing our own lifestyles, because what effects the climate the most is big businesses, or industries like fashion and air travel, and politics – however, I think making changes on an individual level and living more sustainable is essential for a few reasons. Firstly, we will all need to change how society works and our own lifestyles, to hit that zero carbon target. Secondly, individual changes are great as it constantly reminds us to be more eco friendly.

Every time I use my re-usable water bottle, my shower bar, or vegan recipes book, it makes me think about being more sustainable and that in turns leads me to think about activism. Plus, humans are incredibly influential, and your actions could inspire your friends and family to be more eco friendly too. All of this makes us more conscious about the environment. So think of ways you can create less waste, use less plastic, eat more plant-based, and have fun with it.

Fridays For Future

Photo by Markus Spiske on

Greta Thunberg’s School Strikes for Climate, and the whole Fridays For Future movement, has changed the way we think about the Climate Crisis. In just a few years this sixteen year old girl has pushed governments, businesses, and people in general to think more about how we need to get to net zero carbon emissions or else our world will heat up with devastating effects. She has scared us, told us our house is on fire – but all of this has been important in getting us to act. If this sort of passionate environmental movement motivates you to act, then get more involved with it – join in with Friday Climate Strikes (digitally, if it’s not Covid-19 safe in your area), look up local School Strikes For Climate/ Fridays For Future/ Extinction Rebellion groups on social media and join in with their activities. This is the kind of activism people think about when they hear of a climate activists, and it certainly does make a difference, but it isn’t the only way to go about things if this isn’t for you.

Using Social Media

Photo by on

Social Media is an incredibly powerful tool to use for Climate Activism. The main thing about the climate crisis is that we can’t get complacent or forget that we need to act. So we can use Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to share this message in a multitude of ways. Share petitions to encourage the government to properly invest in a green new deal. Share posts about positive climate news to help inspire your friends about the impact of good change. Share your own feelings about the environment or your journey to become an activist/ to be vegetarian or vegan/ to go zero waste – and you might just influence someone else to do it too.

Educate Yourself

Education is essential. I started up the ‘Eco Education Society’ at my university because I wanted to learn more about the environment and help others educate themselves too. When we are informed about the issues, we know exactly how we need to change. There are so many ways you can educate yourself. You can read books like the one above. You can watch Ted Talks, or Greta Thunberg’s speeches on YouTube, sign up for newsletters, or you can follow activists on Instagram or bloggers (like me…) who post useful information regularly. It’s also incredibly important you educate yourself on intersectional environmentalism by following activists who talk about race, gender, disabilities, or reading books on these topics. Racial Justice is Climate Justice. We can’t face the climate crisis without also working on equality.

Look After Your Mental Health

Photo by Disha Sheta on

One of my favourite Climate Activists, Tori Tsui, talks about how looking after your mental health is a vital part of activism. Overworking yourself and ignoring your own needs is an idea perpetuated by capitalism. So look after yourself, make time for rest, take breaks from the news, find things you enjoy, get therapy or antidepressants or whatever you need to improve your mental health. This is important now more than ever. We are all finding the pandemic so hard and strange, learning new ways to live our life, so we need to be patient with ourselves and take things one step at a time. Even if you find it hard to do anything at the moment and you are doing the bare minimum, that is better than nothing. The world needs people like you in it. So please take care of yourself.

Go Into Nature

I find going on nature walks help me in so many ways. It’s good for my health, good for my mental health, and it reminds me of how we need to protect the environment. Even if you can only get out in nature for ten minutes, really be present in that time: be mindful of your surroundings, admire the shape and colour of the leaves, listen to the birds, breathe in the air, and reinstate that connection you have to mother earth. Remind yourself what we are fighting for.

Find Your Reason For Fighting

Sometime if you’re finding it hard to be motivated to be an activist, then you might just need to remind yourself of your reason for fighting.

For me, I have several reasons that I’m a Climate Activist. I first got into activism because I wanted to protect my future. I know this might seem ‘self-centred’, but that’s okay if your reason is personal to you, as long as it gives you that fighting spirit. Ever since I was a teenager fighting depression, I had the dream that one day I would escape to a beautiful house in the countryside and be a writer. Since my girlfriend came into that picture, my dream has expanded to wanting to create a family. I was set on this fantasy at the time I first heard about Greta Thunberg’s warnings and what could happen if we don’t act. I got terrified that my future was being taken away. I was paralysed with eco anxiety for a while, but then that changed into a desire to act. To find out what I could do to try and make a change.

The other reason I do it for is maybe a bit random. I do it for animals and plants. I became a vegetarian a few years ago, and I’m working on making more vegan choices because I love animals. I love the natural world and when I am out in the forest, listening to the birds, admiring butterflies or looking at old rugged trees, it makes me want to protect them. None of them have caused the Climate Crisis. When I hear about forest fires, especially the Australian ones earlier this year and how millions of animals were killed, it makes me so sad. I almost feel guilty for being human. But instead of getting bogged down in this I make an effort to help the environment. I make a monthly donation to the Woodland Trust. I have participated in beach cleans and I sign as many petitions as I can about stopping HS2 or doing conservation work.

You need to find a reason that is personal to you. Whatever the reason, big or small, ‘self-centred’ or about other people, use this to keep you going. And once you have this, try to keep positive. You are working towards something good. I read something recently that says to challenge your fears with imagining what is the best that could happen. That is what we are working towards. A better world for everyone. And no matter what way you do that, whether it’s big changes or small, if that is your goal then you are a Climate Activist. And you are amazing.

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There are other ways to be an activist too. Let me know how you practise your activism in the comments below.

Learn from my mistakes: Making vegetable scraps stock – Food waste mini-series #fail

Want to learn how to make vegetable stock from your kitchen scraps? Then don’t do what I did. In today’s article I’m going to look at what went wrong with my experiment, how to do it the right way, and how making mistakes is an important part of being an activist. (Right?)

I follow a lot of Eco Tips and Zero Waste pages on Instagram, and this summer I saw this post about making vegetable stock from kitchen scraps, which made me really excited. The idea of wanting to waste less food had already been bubbling through my mind, and whenever I was cooking it always made me sad throwing away the odds and ends of veggies that I felt must possibly have a use. So after weeks of saving up my scraps, I decided to give this DIY stock a go — only to find disastrous results.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

First, how do you make your own vegetable stock? According to what I’d read, you save your vegetable scraps (potato skins, bits of onion, carrot ends), freeze them until you have enough, and then boil them with water and strain them to make your very own vegetable stock. Seemed simple enough. I’d saved up for weeks, feeling a sense of excitement every time I set aside those rubbery bits of red onion, or big broccoli stalks, dreaming of the day I’d put them to good use. When that day came, it all looked good at first: I put my scraps in a big pot, along with some extra garlic, parsley, turmeric, and other spices to make it taste extra good.

But then I started boiling it, and wondered if I had gone wrong somewhere. The smell itself was pretty off-putting; it was like the whiff you get from opening your fridge which tells your sinking heart that something has gone very bad. I opened the window and carried on, not wanting to let weeks worth of saving go to waste.

Then the colour became kind of distinct… it went the same kind of brown you got as a kid when you mixed all your paints together to see what would happen. I hadn’t washed the veg before I stored it in the freezer, which I know seems crazy, but I figured I’d be boiling it anyway so it would be fine…

Then, as I poured the mixture into an ice cube tray to freeze and save, I thought maybe I should taste it, which was a BIG mistake. It tasted like a skunk had farted in my mouth. Worried this might be inedible, I brought my partner in to try it. After tasting it, even she was dubious about whether it was worth saving, and she hates wasting food. Feeling defeated, I looked up some articles on how other people had made this to see where I had gone wrong.

Firstly, you should always wash your vegetable scraps before you freeze them, otherwise it will make the stock go a bit, well, muddy. Secondly, although what I’ve read said you can pretty much save any scraps for the stock (as long as it isn’t mouldy), apparently some greens like kale or broccoli will make it taste kind of bad. I’m not sure why this is, I know broccoli is full of vitamins which is why I’d saved it, but that might have been what caused the skunk fart taste.

Also, maybe don’t go quite as overboard with the onions as I did. Me and my partner use red onions for everything, so I had saved up quite a lot of onion bits over time. This was probably was gave it such a strong smell and flavour.

But, defiantly, I did freeze some of the stock I made, and I do want to try and use it in a soup… one day. When my stomach is feeling extra strong. Stocks aren’t meant to be eaten alone anyway, maybe when it’s added to something else it will be… better? Even if this isn’t the case, I’m not giving up. I’ve started a new scraps bag in my freezer, knowing what to do now, and I’ve included some parsnip, carrot, and sweet potatoes skin to hopefully give it a sweeter flavour. Wish me luck on this attempt! If you want a good guide on how to make a vegetable scrap stock properly, this is the one I found helpful:

Finally, why did I include this failed experiment in my food-waste series? Honestly, I wasn’t sure I was going to, since the series is meant to be positive ways to encourage us to save food and be more eco-friendly. But, I decided to in the end, because I think the best way to be a Climate Activist is to do it imperfectly. Trying to do good in the world is always better than nothing. For example, being a flexitarian and eating mostly vegan stuff, even if you can’t quite manage to give up cheese, will still save a lot more animals than not trying at all. Posting about climate strikes, even if you can’t attend them, still raises awareness. And admitting as a human race that we have made some huge mistakes for the planet, and that we need to try and change society in order to fix them, is a big example of how we recognise and learn from our mistakes to do good. No one is perfect. You’ve just got to try your best. Even if it means making skunk-fart soup.

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DIY Natural fabric dyes – Food waste mini-series

In this article I’ll be looking at super easy ways to dye fabric with foraged blackberries, onion skins and turmeric. This is a super cosy autumnal activity that will leave you with a smile on your face.

It’s the second part of the food waste mini-series and I thought it’s time to get crafty. I love making things in Autumn — there’s something about creating in the cosiness of my own home that makes me really happy. And producing natural dyes from things I’ve foraged on my latest nature walk, or the scraps I gather in my kitchen after making a hot dinner, really makes the experience even more special. Plus, using botanicals to dye fabric means you’re not using any harsh chemicals, so this craft is Eco-friendly. As if you need any more convincing, let’s get into how to do it…

First, what will you need?

You can dye pretty much any materials made from natural resources. The twines pictured above are cotton, and I wasn’t sure what the second-hand cat fabric was made from (a bit of a risk) but this is what it all looked like before I dyed them, so you can see how the it goes. As well as your fabrics, for this craft you’ll need:

  • a cup
  • water
  • microwave
  • a mixing bowl
  • washing up liquid

And also blackberries, red onion skins, or tumeric, depending on which colour you want.

Blackberries – Purple

Photo by Pixabay on

Blackberries make a lovely purple dye, and the amazing thing about this season is you can get them for free! My great-grandmother used to say that ‘the devil lives in the blackberries come September’. And what I think she meant was, since it’s a little late in the season for this gorgeous fruit, they might be a bit off by now if you try to eat them. So if you’ve just spent your afternoon picking a bunch of blackberries only to find they taste bad, worry not, for instead of wasting them, you can dye them, with these super simple steps:

Step One – Gather and prepare your blackberries

Blackberries can usually be found all over the place in hedgerows. We have some in our back garden, but there are more in local parks and wild areas. Be careful when you pick them — 1. because they’re prickly and 2. because other animals also eat them. Whenever you’re foraging, remember to respect nature and leave some for local critters to enjoy. Once you’ve got about a cup full (or more if you’re planning to dye a lot of fabric) then you can wash them to get rid of all the dirt.

Step Two – Microwave them with water.

The guides I read suggested simmering the berries in a saucepan, but since I’m a bit lazy I decided to try and microwave mine to see what happened. And it worked! All you need to do is put your blackberries in a mug, fill it with water, and microwave it for a couple of minutes. When you take it out of the microwave, the water should look dark.

Step Three – Strain them

Use a sieve or colander to strain the blackberry juice from the pulp. I just used a little sieve and pressed the blackberries into it. The colour that comes from it is amazing.

Step Four – Add the dye to your materials.

I then put my twine in a glass and poured the blackberry juice over it while it was still warm. I left it to set for a couple of hours before taking it out.

Step Five – Wash the material

Now your material is it’s desired colour, you need to wash it. Since we’re using organic plant matter, we need to make sure it’s properly clean so that it doesn’t go mouldy. Pour some warm water into a mixing bowl with a squirt of washing up liquid and hand-wash your fabrics in this. You might want to do this a couple of times until the water is clear.

Last step – Drying them

Now you just need to leave your materials out to dry! I hung mine on the back of a chair for a day or so and it dried really well. Since I was using twine, I then wound up the string and admired the results!

Red onion skins – Pinky-purple

I had no idea that my food scraps could be used to create something like this, but with the beautiful pigment red onions have I guess it makes sense. I actually found this to be the hardest dye to make though, so it does take some patience, but in the end the sense of accomplishment of using something that would normally be thrown in the compost bin is pretty rewarding.

Step One – Save your red onion skins

When you’re cooking with red onions, save the skins that are leftover and keep them in the freezer until you have enough to use. It took me about a month to save all of this, but you’ll need less for less material.

Step Two – Microwave them

Like with the blackberries, all you need to do is microwave the onion skins with water for a few minutes. I used a huge mug for mine since I had saved so many skins, so I microwaved it in two minute intervals for about six minutes until the water had gone a reddish-purple.

Step Three – Put your material in the cup

I tried straining the skins, but the finishing product wasn’t as vivid as when I just put the materials straight in with the onions. So just put whatever you’re dying in with the warm onion skins in the water and leave overnight.

Step Four – wash your material

Now it’s time to separate your materials and clean them. Similarly to before, you just need to wash them with warm soapy water in a mixing bowl. If, when you’ve washed them, you’re not happy with the colour, then just put the material back in the onion skins cup, microwave for a few minutes, and leave it for longer before cleaning them again.

Step Five – Dry and admire the results.

As much effort as this took, I was quite pleased with the mellow pink and purple results. The cat fabric didn’t take quite as well, which probably meant it wasn’t made from all-natural materials, but since I had scrunched it up in the cup I liked the muted pink tie-dye look it came out as.

Turmeric – Yellow/ orange

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

Turmeric is a powerful natural dye, which you might have noticed if you’ve spilled some on your clothes before. (Like I have. Multiple times.) This is probably the easiest natural dye to make, and it creates a lovely bright yellow colour, or orange if you add bicarbonate of soda. I’m not going to explain these steps, as after reading the rest of this guide you’ll be a pro at making natural dyes now, and this one is especially straight forward:

Step One – Pour a few teaspoons of turmeric into a cup of water

Step Two – Microwave it for a couple of minutes

Step Four – Add your materials to the yellow water and leave it over night

Step Five – Wash the material in warm soapy water

Step Six – Leave to dry

I hope you enjoyed this guide. If you try any of these natural dyes and want to share the final product then please tag me on Instagram or Twitter so I can see!

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