Introducing Marie Claire UK's Guest Editor: Bonnie Wright

To celebrate Earth Day, the actor, filmmaker and activist chats sustainability, intersectionality, and spending time on the Greenpeace boat

Bonnie Wright on sustainability, intersectionality, and spending time on the Greenpeace boat

This month marks Earth Month, an entire month dedicated to prioritising planet over profit. To mark the occasion, actor and activist Bonnie Wright, globally known for her activism and, of course, role in the Harry Potter franchise, leads a special guest edit.

Looking back, I think my passion for activism and physically ‘showing up’ started very young. I was that kid at school who wanted to do every after-school club and activity going - whether it was holding a cake sale or putting on pyjamas for Comic Relief. I’ve always loved participation and held that interest ever since I was a child. 

My interest in sustainability specifically - and becoming more aware of my environment - came about as a direct result of my upbringing. While I grew up in London, I spent a lot of my childhood on the south coast of England in East Sussex, where my parents have a cottage. Over time, I began to notice that more and more rubbish was ending up on this special beach I loved. I suppose I felt curious as to what was happening and why, which sparked an interest in trying to understand the system of waste. 

I’ve always been interested in how things work - or don’t work - which led me to research single-use plastics, pollution and how we can - in our own individual ways - mitigate and limit our use of plastics. Over time, I began to realise that we’re ultimately dealing with a broken system, heavily exacerbated by the fossil fuel industry. Peeling back those layers meant facing my own behavioural patterns, too - particularly around the convenience of using plastics - and prompted me to think about how quick I was to buy something without stopping to think about where it came from, or what the repercussions really were. 

Bonnie Wright

This sparked a bigger kind of curiosity, inspiring me to sign up to various newsletters and begin following different organisations on social media who were already working in this field. I think it helped me feel more connected to the sustainability movement, because when I first started doing the research I felt very small, insignificant and ultimately powerless. It was hearing other people speak that made me feel more galvanised, as if I could actually participate myself in some way and make a real difference. 

Another major turning point was spending time with Greenpeace on one of their ships, the Arctic Sunrise, on a trip down the Atlantic Coast in 2017. I joined for a couple of days with a group of campaigners and their knowledge and dedication was incredibly inspiring. While on board, we trawled for microplastics - putting a net down in the water and dragging it for an hour, before pulling it back up. On their month-long trip, there wasn't one instance that the tiny 10cm fishing net didn't bring up some type of plastic. 

Bonnie Wright

Bonnie Wright

Physically seeing that first-hand really helped make those far-off statistics feel very real. It was a big moment personally, both in terms of the individual changes I pledged to make at home but also the commitment to advocating for this issue and using the platform I already had - thanks to Harry Potter - to talk about it. It really consumed me and I came home from the trip thinking, ‘This needs to be my life.’

Those small, individual actions that I started taking as a result became the basis of my book, Go Gently and I realised that, actually, the smaller actions I was taking at home were just as important as signing petitions and advocating for things in a more public space. Looking back, my way ‘in’ to activism was a passion for a particular landscape and environment that I felt emotionally connected to. 

But everyone has something different - perhaps you might read a news article that touches you about how the refugee crisis has been affected by the climate changing. Someone else could be deeply connected to forests and be really interested in that landscape, while others might be drawn towards beauty products and what goes into ingredients. 

In terms of finding ways to support or start making change, my advice is to find that thing you are concerned, angry or worried by - and intersect that with an area in your life you’re already confident in or passionate about. Personally, I’ve always loved to cook, so that led me to exploring my use of single-use plastics in the kitchen, really breaking down how I could be more sustainable there specifically. Start in one small zone of your life or home - trying to overhaul an entire lifestyle immediately can feel impossible. 

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Bonnie Wright

Finally, I’d encourage anyone wanting to make a difference to find a group of like-minded people, whether that’s online or in person. Having physical events you can show up to - if you don’t know where to start but want to feel part of something - can be really effective in my experience (so can connecting via social media, too). That might be volunteer days, going with a group to a rally or just getting together with others and talking about what’s affecting your local community. I’ve found joining forces, sharing stories and resources to be incredibly empowering and powerful – I hope you do, too. 

Go Gently, 

bonnie Wirght

Earth Month

Bonnie Wright

Bonnie Wright is a British actor (best known for her role of Ginny Weasley in all eight of the Harry Potter films), director and a leading climate advocate and activist who serves as an ambassador for both Greenpeace and Rainforest Alliance. Bonnie's mission is to promote a sustainable lifestyle that can be obtainable and fun. She is committed to using her platform to further her own education around climate and humanitarian issues and communicate her findings in an engaging way with her followers.