Introducing Francesca from one of our favourite ethical and sustainable blogs, Ethical Unicorn. We asked Francesca 5 questions to help you get to know her a little better.
What was the inspiration behind starting your blog?
It’s such a funny story, because it was a really spur of the moment decision. I was already consuming fashion somewhat consciously, and then some friends of mine decided to try out zero waste living. As I followed their journey I had that lightbulb moment that a lot of things I did were just because I didn’t know there were alternatives, so I started making my own lifestyle adjustments. At the same time I had a good friend working in fashion and beauty PR who started representing cruelty free and vegan brands. I thought that was great, but started wondering about the human impact of companies too. At the time I couldn’t find a UK based blog that was looking at all these different aspects of our choices, so I just decided that maybe I should try and be that person. I had the idea on a Wednesday, called a few friends on Thursday to ask their opinion of it and help me pick a name, bought the domain on the Friday, wrote some posts and launched on a Monday. No business plan (no idea a blog could be a business actually!), no specific goal, just a lot of passion and an exciting outlet for my creativity. It somehow started growing and as I found my writers voice I started incorporating more stuff I knew about, such as the social justice content, and it became this big love in my life!
How long have you been consciously living a more sustainable life, and what prompted you to make changes to the way you were living before?
Some of it has been coincidental for the last ten years. When I was a young teenager I started getting really into charity and vintage shopping: Newcastle has such good options, it was really cheap and I really enjoyed experimenting with fashion and not looking like anyone else. Other changes came later as friends started to discover zero waste in 2016. I started actively trying to reduce my waste, I started looking for natural and non toxic products and, although it was rare for me to buy fast fashion anyway, I stopped going anywhere near it in that year. I think my story is the same as a lot of people, you start by trying to change in one area and then you keep learning, keep making changes, until you’re surprising yourself with what you know and how it has changed and shaped you over time.
My blog also has a focus on systemic social justice issues. This is an area I was always interested in, but I only really came into my own with that after doing a masters degree with a heavy focus on anthropology and cultural studies from 2014 – 2015, and working in art spaces from 2015 onwards which promoted and were run by diverse voices. I started more actively trying to unpack and understand my own privileges from about 2014 to see how I could try and use that to support marginalised people. When I felt more confident with my knowledge in those areas, I started including that on the blog too, which was really from the start of 2018.
What are your top tips for someone wanting to live more ethically and sustainably?
Take it step by step, and don’t throw things out and try and start all over again because something doesn’t fit with your new values, keep using what you already have for as long as you can first! If you try to do everything overnight you’re way more likely to get overwhelmed and not be able to keep things up long term, so go slow and steady and don’t be too hard on yourself. We’re all learning and it’s impossible to be perfect. I actually have a beginner’s guide on the blog which hopefully can be helpful!
Another thing I say on the blog a lot is that the best way to see change is to combine consumer choice, collective action and policy change. So beyond how we buy it’s about showing up for movements even if they may not affect us (for example Black Lives Matter) and advocating for better policies in government. For example it’s great to reduce our use of plastic, but do you know where your local representative stands on stricter regulations for the fishing industry, whose abandoned nets make up huge amounts of the plastic floating in our oceans? Why not try getting involved in local politics too: find out where your representative stands on environmental and social issues, if they see widespread support for better policies they’re more likely to try and make change. It all has to work together, but it’s much easier if we break it down to a local level.
Tell us one thing that our blog readers may not know about you…
I think a lot of my readers don’t realise I’m also an artist, even though I feel like I mention it a lot! I actually trained in contemporary dance at a conservatoire called Trinity Laban, and when I’m not writing I’m usually rolling around on the floor somewhere. I also think most people don’t realise I’m really short. I’m only 5 ft 2, and whenever I’ve met people in real life they’re always shocked that I’m tiny!
And finally, is there anything you would like to share with our readers?
I think I’d just want to say that I see you. Honestly I think it’s really hard at the moment for a lot of people. The news feels heavier every day, it can feel like nothing is getting better, and it can be rough to look after your mental health through all of that. But you aren’t alone, there is a community of people who are working to make things better, even if their voices are often drowned out by louder, more unreasonable people. I like to remember that bad things often happen in an instant, whereas positive change is incremental. We aren’t going to see reports on the news like ‘things got better by 0.1% today’ but it doesn’t mean nothing is happening. Keep going, be kind to yourself, and know that there are people out there who understand.
Francesca looks great in our organic cotton yoga top the supremely soft Sublime Sweatshirt.