Meet the lovely Francesca from Ethical Unicorn. Fran is an artist and writer based between Cornwall and London. She trained in contemporary dance, performance studies and cultural theory, and now balances performing with advocating for a kinder, slower world. She runs the blog Ethical Unicorn, which aims to take a holistic, fact-based approach to sustainable living and social justice by combining consumer choice, intersectional collective action and policy change.
We sat down with Fran to ask some of our burning questions about slow living, eco-friendly fashion and the importance of sustainability.
What does ‘sustainability’ mean to you?
Taking a holistic approach that’s willing to embrace that things are complex and interconnected. Trying to transform every aspect of modern society to reach a place that respects and reveres our planet, and actively looks out for the wellbeing of those that inhabit it.
Why is being eco-friendly so important to you?
I think once you become aware of the depth of the issues our planet faces, you feel you have to do everything in your power to change things. Even if you don’t care about the natural world, billions of human lives are also at risk due to our changing climate. When I reach the end of my life I want to look back and know that I did everything I possibly could to create change.
What was the turning point for you / when did you take action to live a more sustainable life and why?
I can’t really pinpoint a specific moment, like most people’s journey it was something that came over time. I was already consuming fashion fairly sustainably because I could only afford to get things from charity shops, then I had friends who decided to start lowering their waste so I joined in with that too, and it just grew from there in terms of what I was learning, how I was consuming and my perspective. In my academic life I was doing a lot of cultural studies and looking at systemic injustice, and as time went on I started to develop an approach that brought those things into the real world and looked for ways I could change things. It all happened really organically with time for me.
What’s the most important thing you have learnt from nature?
That it’s not something I’m ‘connected to’ but something that I am actively a part of. When we move away from seeing the world as a pyramid with humans on top, and towards seeing it as multiple interconnected webs of ecosystems and living organisms, then there’s more of an understanding that we need mutual respect and balance to co-exist.
What are the three things everyone should know about living a more sustainable life?
If you could get everyone in the world to do one thing to help decrease climate change what would it be and why?
Join a divestment movement. Take any and all of your personal assets out of the fossil fuel industry (switching to an ethical bank is a good place to start), and start pressuring institutions in your area to do the same.
What worries you most about the planet right now and why?
The fossil fuel industry and that policymakers aren’t doing enough, fast enough. We have the solutions and ability to turn things around, but not the urgent attitude we really need.
How can we help people to take climate change and sustainability seriously?
I think localising it and making the action seem more achievable really helps. When we think of climate change as this huge, overarching thing it feels impossible to do anything to make a difference. If we localise it and ask people to advocate for divestment in their local borough, rewilded land in their county, clean air in their cities, it becomes a lot more realistic to feel we can and should do something.
How can we encourage children and the younger generation to get involved with climate change and sustainability?
I think lots of the younger generation are already doing a good job with that. The Fridays For Future movement Greta Thunberg has started is incredible, so right now I think the best thing we can do is throw all our support behind these kids and stand alongside them wherever and whenever we can.
Apart from this, I think education is key. Bringing together the science and understanding of what is happening with an excitement and love for the natural world is always a winning combination.
How can we get bigger corporations and influencers to get on board with sustainability?
Corporations have the power and the money to make a huge impact if they chose to. I think we do need increased consumer demand for truly sustainable goals that are effective (this often looks like corporations partnering with outside organisations who already know what they’re doing, for example, IJM are great at helping companies clean up their supply chains from human exploitation, which is much harder to achieve in-house with people who’ve never done it before), and we need public policy that keeps corporations in check. Huge businesses can’t be allowed to get away with avoiding tax, honestly, we’d have a lot more money for green policies, our welfare state, and social justice if taxes were paid properly.
If you could fast forward to 2029 what would you like the world to look like?
I’d like us to have completely phased out fossil fuels, for the ultra-wealthy to be paying their taxes at a fair marginal tax rate, and for people to be aware of privilege and everyone actively working to change our current systems. Also, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is president.
How do you find out more about the latest in advances sustainability?
Being part of ethical writers and creatives brings a lot of news to me naturally, as people share interesting stories they come across, however, I also try and read from multiple sources of varying sizes. I actually wrote a whole blog post about understanding media better!
Are there any books documentaries you can recommend to our readers?
The True Cost and Before The Flood are both great documentaries. For books, I like This is a Good Guide and anything written by Roxane Gay or Ta-Nehisi Coates. I also think fiction is a really powerful tool that helps encourage empathy for people who aren’t like us. Honestly, please just read whatever connects with you. Reading is so powerful.
What is one product you are really excited about right now that is helping the planet?
I love Article 22. They support artisans in Laos who melt bomb shrapnel and turn it into beautiful jewellery. This doesn’t use any new resources, turns something horrible into something beautiful, provides a wage that is much higher than Laos’ minimum wage, and also gives funds to Mines Advisory Group to clear more land in Laos of landmines, which people can then use for farming. They’re wonderful.
If you could only live in one item of Asquith clothing what would it be and why?
Any of the bamboo yoga leggings! I’m in love.
Find out more about Fran on her blog, Ethical Unicorn here…