The new face of a sustainability campaign, presenter Angela Scanlon talked to Andrea Thompson about eco anxiety, forming habits and the joy of cold showers.
What small steps can we take towards making our lives more sustainable? Presenter and Gumtree Ambassador Angela Scanlon talked to Andrea Thompson about eco anxiety, forming habits and the joy of cold showers.
Andrea: You’re part of a new campaign to encourage people to be more mindful of their impact on the environment. What does this mean in your own life?
Angela: I try to do my bit. I reuse cups and plastic bags – tiny little things that have become habitual for me, but also picking up litter on my daily walk. I’ve started doing that with my daughter and we’ve done it on beaches or on the way to nursery or to the shops. It doesn’t need to be about going fully organic or cost lots of money to do the ‘right’ thing. I buy local a bit more these days, shop in the local grocery shop, and use the stuff in the fridge.
Andrea: Would you say lockdown has impacted this shift?
Angela: Absolutely. Before lockdown when I was out and about more I would find I’d do a week’s shopping and at the end of the week I’d realise, I’ve got a full fridge of wasted food. So I have definitely become a bit more mindful of shopping as and when is needed. It would not have been unusual for me before lockdown to go out to work and get a coffee en route, have porridge from a café, then get lunch and eat out in the evening - it's totally unnecessary, over-the-top consumption. Now I make home made packed lunches. I’ve brought figs and blue cheese and crackers - a bit bouji - it's simple but feels a bit special in the middle of the day.
Andrea: When it comes to fashion consumption, is it a challenge to cut down when you're always on TV?
Angela: When working on shows, there is always an expectation that you have different outfits on, so I’ve pushed towards having second hand clothes. And that’s always been something that I’ve loved and gravitated towards, whether that’s online or charity shops. I like the idea of finding something with a history and if I do a shoot or filming, I to try include those things. Equally, sustainable labels. Previously I’ve said, ‘Oh no, I’ve already worn that coat once, I can’t wear it again’, but today I feel a slight responsibility to be seen to reuse and to re-wear. I think it is important that people see those things replicated and reused
Andrea: So when you have a clear-out, what do you do with your old stuff?
Angela: I have three sisters, so it's kind of a scavenger situation where I go, ‘Okay, here are the bags, each to their own.’ It's about supporting a circular economy - giving things a second life.
Andrea: A recent Gumtree survey* as part of their latest sustainability campaign showed that 63% of us want to do more for the environment but 47% didn’t know where to start. It can be very disempowering and overwhelming and leads to many of us doing nothing. How can people feel empowered rather than overwhelmed by eco anxiety?
Angela: It's about taking incremental small steps. It takes 20 days to form a habit so set a goal you can keep to. I walked my daughter to nursery this morning and part of me was like, ‘Shall we hop in the car? ’but then I thought – ‘No. We’re going to walk and we’re going to have a little chat along the way.’ But then she’s stopping and kissing flowers along the way, and I’m stressing about being late. It's tough but we have to try.
Andrea: Why did the Gumtree campaign resonate with you?
Angela: I’ve always been a fan of Gumtree. Over the years when we’ve moved house or flats, I’ve bought pieces of art or tables, and clothes. I like to find things that feel one-off and I feel some sort of connection too. But it's good to know there is a positive impact too. I have conversations all the time at the moment about the Attenborough documentaries and people are overwhelmed and panicked by the inevitable destruction of our planet. This campaign allows me to feel like I’m doing something and hopefully highlight for other people what they can do. Small changes we can make every single day that not only don’t cost us money, but save us money, and also just make you feel you’re contributing and taking a little bit of power back. Because there’s a mental impact as well – feeling like you’re helpless. And that’s something we can all relate to with the pandemic, but something we need to try to overcome if we can.
Andrea: - This has been a tough year on people’s mental health. Do you feel you’ve become more mindful or reflective?
Angela: The idea of mental health as something separate from health is odd to me because your health is generally something that ebbs and flows, and is good and then not so great and needs maintenance. Sometimes there’s an idea that you fix yourself and you’re done. But it's not like that. Personally I’m just trying to learn to be a bit more gentle with myself and be a bit more compassionate and have less expectation.
Andrea: What new habits have you introduced this year?
Angela: A little more discipline – which is hard with a two year old - but since the beginning of lockdown I'm doing cold showers and outdoor swimming- which started when I interviewed Wim Hof for my podcast.
He’s a wild character, but actually a lot of his principles are science-based. The cold water buzz becomes addictive and habitual as it's very quick –literally two minutes in the morning if you’re in the shower. The effect is incredible. So great that I now head to the lido and swim there too. And yes it's freezing. But when you get out you feel that if you have endured and managed to find some sense of stillness or peace in it, then whatever stressors you’re hit with during the day, you can manage. This works for me as I think there’s a kind of obsession with eliminating stress from our lives which is completely unachievable, but also underestimates what we’re able to cope with and prevents us from building resilience and resistance. The cold shower becomes this little nugget of, ‘well, I’ve done that, and that was quite a hard thing, so if I get a shitty email I can deal with that too’. It's about prioritising these small mindful changes and then over time understanding the impact that those small, incremental changes have in the long run.
Angela Scanlon is a Gumtree ambassador and championing their campaign. Join the Gumtree #20DaysToBetterWays challenge to see how making a small change to everyday choices can build a greener world and save money.
* Research carried out by Opinium on behalf of Gumtree on 2,000 UK adults between Tuesday 15 th September– Friday 17 th September 2020
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Andrea Thompson is Editor in Chief at Marie Claire UK and was recently named by We are the City as one of the UKs top 50 trailblazers for her work highlighting the impact of Covid on gender equality.
Andrea has worked as a senior journalist for a range of publications over her 20 year career including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, Channel 4, Glamour and Grazia. At Marie Claire Andrea is passionate about telling the stories of those often marginalised by the mainstream media and oversaw a feature about rape in the Congo that won the title an Amnesty Media Award. She also champions women's empowerment, sustainability and diversity and regularly chairs panels and speaks at events about these topics. She sits on the committee of the British Society of Magazine Editors where she acts as Vice Chair and looks after Diversity and Inclusion. She regularly mentors young women from under represented communities trying to break into the media industry.
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