Sustainable living has been at the forefront of discussions for a while now. From veganism to slow fashion to climate change to single use plastics and beyond, sustainability is coming into question in most areas of life.
Whilst it is vital that these discussions take place and change happens, for many of us it can seem overwhelming.
Sustainable living enthusiast, nature-loving, vegan artist Holly is here to minimise the apprehension surrounding making these lifestyle changes. Holly’s aim is to show people that you do not have to overhaul your whole life to make a big difference.
Whereas some sustainability advocates represent a minimalist, stripped back kind of lifestyle, Holly is in no way like this. The house on the South Coast of England that she shares with her husband Tom is filled with second-hand treasures, art and craft materials, artwork and books. Holly’s social media shows a person living life to the full too, not someone limited by these lifestyle changes as some people worry.
I really hope this interview helps calm any anxieties and answer lots of questions you may have about incorporating a more sustainable lifestyle.
What made you decide to start living sustainably?
I have always been a bit of an ‘earth child’: picture flowery dresses, messy hair and muddy boots. Growing up I spent a lot of time in nature and I never wanted to live in a way that contributed to its destruction. I was also raised vegetarian which meant my sister and I were always aware that there were alternative choices to make away from the mainstream.
I decide to really focus on sustainable living because, like many people these days, I experience a lot of eco-anxiety. It can be difficult to know how we can make a difference so I’m passionate about finding small ways to drive positive change.
I’m trying to live in a way that aligns with my beliefs, to do no harm and live kindly.
Your childhood sounds like it was a great grounding for the lifestyle you live now! How difficult was it to make the transition to living a more sustainable lifestyle?
Firstly, it’s important to know that I do not do things perfectly. There are still a lot of improvements I am working on. It’s a slow transition but that’s what makes it attainable. The idea of completely switching your lifestyle overnight is terrifying! I would rather make small, positive choices every day because those choices really add up.
One thing I find helps this transition is remembering why you gave things up in the first place. It wasn’t because it wasn’t delicious, easy or fun; it’s because it doesn’t align with what’s important to you.
You became vegan in January 2018, something that is incredibly beneficial for the environment, but diet changes such as this can be met with apprehension. What is your experience with veganism?
Originally, I thought cooking vegan meals would be more difficult, but it can be so simple and is usually much healthier than a non-vegan alternative.
I’ve been surprised myself by my new enthusiasm for cooking since committing to veganism! I have always loved cooking and baking with my Mum (who is a fantastic cook) but since turning vegan I get even more pleasure from my own kitchen creations. Maybe it’s the challenge of making something that tastes amazing or knowing that my daily food choices are doing no harm to people, animals or the planet.
For those worried about getting nutrition from a vegan diet, I urge you to research plant-based nutrition. Calcium can be found in green vegetables, beans, almonds, sesame seeds, fortified cereals and plant milks. Iron can be found in beans, dark chocolate, rice and potato skins. You can get enough protein from lentils, vegetables, oats and nuts. These are just a few examples. By eating a balanced diet, you get everything you need apart from B12 which can be easily supplemented. A plant-based diet is only deficient in vital nutrition if it is unvaried and ill-considered, just the same as any diet.
In terms of missing foods I used to eat before, I like to figure out what it is I miss about it. That way, I can find something else that satisfies the same craving. For example, if I miss cheddar cheese then I’ll have Marmite and cashew cream cheese to give the same savoury, tangy flavour.
Choosing plant based food is one of the biggest things an individual can do to help the planet but if making the switch is too daunting, my advice would be to try choosing plant based when you can, maybe for one meal a day to start with.
That’s great advice! One area of veganism that might be of concern to some people is eating out. How have you found this?
Most places have caught onto the vegan movement and so many restaurants have a separate vegan menu. I get excited if somewhere unexpected has amazing vegan options!
I have been to one or two meals where there are no vegan options on the menu, but I have learned not to be embarrassed to ask the server for suggestions or just eat a plate of chips instead! Hopefully if enough people ask, restaurants will catch on. If you are worried about being judged by others, I’ve found that everyone is focussed on enjoying their own meal and don’t care what’s on your plate!
As well as veganism, another change you advocate is moving away from fast fashion. What is ‘slow fashion’?
Slow fashion is a reaction to the damaging effects of fast fashion. Textile production is one of the most polluting contributors to climate change as well as being the cause of human rights violations around the world. Slow fashion encourages investment in higher quality garments that can be worn for longer, choosing second-hand clothing over new as well as embracing the clothes you already own and mending them when needed.
Committing to slow fashion is one of the easiest changes to make – all it requires is a change in mindset. It’s so easy to go online and order a load of clothes but once you break the habit you can find a much greater value in the clothes you already own as well as the joy of finding something you love second hand.
How have you found shopping with a ‘slow fashion’ mindset?
I’ve always loved buying clothes, but I get so much more joy from finding something in a charity shop or embroidering over a hole in a beloved top than I would from an impulse buy in a high street store. The last new item of clothing I bought was a charity tshirt in 2019 and I really deliberated that purchase! Before that, it was my wedding dress in October 2018.
My advice would be if you need something you don’t already own, search charity shops and second-hand online stores like eBay and Depop for guilt-free shopping. You’ll save a load of cash too!
I know a lot of people want to live more sustainably but don’t know where to start. What things would you recommend?
The biggest difference you can make is a shift in your attitude – start to question if you can fix something before replacing it, if you can use something you already own before buying new, or borrow or buy second hand. Once you start thinking like this you cannot stop!
It’s so easy to feel daunted by all the choices out there and it’s hard to step away from the things we’ve always done. Once you are open minded to a different way of doing things, you’ll start to notice that there are lots of easy swaps you can make in your life, whether it’s going plant-based, buying cruelty-free beauty products or committing to slow fashion.
There are a handful of swaps that barely change your lifestyle but add up to make a big difference. Switching to a reusable water bottle, avoiding single-serve packaging where possible, investing in metal straws and using a reusable coffee cup are all easy to implement.
Your website and social media channels make these changes seem straightforward, easy to implement and actually quite fun. What do you hope people take from your page when they visit?
I really hope that people see that making sustainable changes does not have to be boring or scary. I hope I also show that it’s okay to be imperfect. Any positive choices you make are important. We don’t need one person doing things perfectly, we need lots of people doing things imperfectly to make a difference.
On top of your sustainable living advocacy, you also run a printmaking business. What does printmaking and working in a creative field bring to your life?
I have learned that to be happy and maintain good mental health, I need to spend regular time being creative. Printmaking for me is satisfying and soothing. I love it when people like what I have made. I love putting time and effort into something and then seeing the results.
During isolation, the world has turned to the arts, from watching TV to reading books to spending money on artwork for our homes, yet the arts are often massively underfunded. How do you hope this newfound appreciation for these industries carries on into the future?
I hope that it helps to highlight just how important creativity is to us as humans, to our mental health and to society. Creativity helps us to innovate, stay calm, be kind and stay passionate. Creativity is a quality we cannot afford to lose. I hope that those in power can recognise that and act accordingly.
If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?
Every positive decision is a step in the right direction. My family and I used to jokingly shout ‘make good choices!’ to one another but really that’s all it takes.
To see more of Holly’s amazing prints, click here