Imperfect Environmentalism

By Elly Savva Coyle

Amongst the fear-inducing conversations about the looming climate crisis and the uncertain fate of the planet, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Next to the scale of the impact that the actions of governments and mass corporations can have, the individual can seem powerless – which makes it tempting to shy away from the truth. However, facing up to these realities and making changes is the only way to alter the path that we’re on.

One of the most inspiring yet reassuring quotes I have found about being more sustainable was shared on Ripple Living’s Instagram account (credit: @zerowastechef) https://www.instagram.com/p/BvgYcxXg8I7/

This quote really helped to alleviate the pressures I felt about trying to save the planet perfectly. The truth is that you can’t single-handedly turn back the clock and stop the crisis, but so much more of an impact can be made if we all make some alterations to our lives. You shouldn’t feel guilty about what you aren’t able to do, but instead feel positive about the decisions you do make. Mistakes will be made, emergency take-away coffees are sometimes essential, and not all of us can be perfect vegans.

In the spirit of this mindset, I have looked at four easy ways that us students can make changes to our lifestyles. These aren’t radical overhauls of our normal routines, but rather just small things we can all be doing imperfectly.


One really easy way of being kinder to the planet is by swapping single-use products for reusable ones. There is also a hidden bonus to this – by making these swaps you will also help your bank balance, as you end up spending less money on products in the long-term!

Things You Can Swap:

  • Coffee Cups – Bamboo reusable ones are especially great, a lot of places also offer a discount if you take your own cup to use too.
  • Straws – Investing in a metal straw instead only costs £2-£3 and makes your drink extra-chilled and refreshing.
  • Water Bottles – Metal water bottles have surged in popularity, as they are particularly durable and can keep your water cold for up to 24 hours.
  • Wet Wipes – Microfiber cloths can remove both eye and face make-up in one go and clean your face much better than wet wipes do. (If you do have to use a wet wipe make sure not to flush it, as even biodegradable ones can be damaging to marine life)
  • Sanitary Products – For more information on the benefits of switching to Mooncups, have a read of our previous article (https://cardiffstudentmedia.co.uk/quench/features/female-shame-periods-and-the-magic-of-menstrual-cups/). You can now also purchase absorbent ‘period pants’ or reusable cloth pads if this would work better for you.



Recently, a revolution has begun in the fashion industry as many people are waking up to the damage that the culture of so-called ‘fast fashion’ has created. Oxfam’s ‘Second-Hand September’ pledge has been encouraging consumers to only buy second-hand items for a whole 30 days. The charity claims that in just one month, the overall carbon footprint of new clothes purchased in the UK is bigger than flying a plane around the world 900 times. I spoke to Camille Stanley, founder of the @thewhybuymovement about the initiative that she’s created and why she’s transitioned to slow fashion.

Camille began her journey with a free online course ran by Fashion Revolution that taught her about the dark realities of the industry. Both the exploitation of workers (predominately females- which also makes this a feminist issue) and the environmental degradation behind the scenes caused her to rethink her shopping habits. For Camille, creating The Why Buy Movement was all about reminding herself about why she’s making these changes and encouraging others to find their passion for sustainable style. On the magic of buying second-hand, Camille explained:

“Shopping second hand or ‘thrifting’ is definitely not a new thing… but I always thought I just couldn’t find anything of any good… I think a lot of it is about putting the same energy you put into online shopping in the evening into taking the time to source some great gems from second-hand online and high street stores. Fashion is always coming back around so something that is in style now is likely to have been in style twenty years ago, and you’re likely to find an original item in a charity shop and feel the excitement that you have found something a little more unique than what is in every high street store.”



The tide is turning for plastic, particularly as people are waking up to the waste we have created in our oceans. In the UK, Blue Planet II’s final episode signaled the start of a cultural change in how we interact with the material. Anybody who grew up watching the show will remember how the Ocean used to be portrayed as an exciting infinity, but today we are haunted by the images of destruction caused by man-made waste.

Cutting down on single-use plastic is a really easy thing to do. By simply choosing a can over a bottle, or picking loose fruit and vegetables instead of packaged ones, you are making conscious choices to cut down on your usage. In Cardiff, we are really lucky to have Ripple Living – a zero-waste store based in Roath. At Ripple, you bring in containers such as jars or Tupperware, fill them with what you need and then simply pay by weight. Here is an example of some jars I took to Ripple and filled with essentials, which exemplifies how cutting down on waste can also be very cost-effective!

Other reusable non-plastic alternatives to keep in mind include:

  • Metal Razors
  • Soap Bars
  • Bamboo Toothbrushes


Although some may find it easy to turn vegetarian or vegan overnight, many others have individual struggles with food and diet– so eliminating large food groups isn’t necessarily an easy, sensible, or realistic choice for everyone. However, the truth is that our diets have become far too reliant on meat. According to the Worldwatch Institute, “Per-capita meat consumption has more than doubled in the past half-century, even as global population has continued to increase. As a result, the overall demand for meat has increased five-fold.” It is simply impossible for the world to keep up with this level of demand.

What is exciting about living in 2019 is all the amazing plant-based alternatives we have on offer. With Beyond Meat burgers taking over the world, oat milk available in most cafes, and Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream tasting so delicious, choosing other options has never been so easy. Instead of thinking about eliminating things – think about it as expanding your diet to include a huge variety of new flavours and experiences.

In Cardiff, check out the Greazy Vegan for plant-based twists on kebabs, cheeseburgers, chicken strips and much more! Showing that meat isn’t always necessary, even when enjoying your fast-food favourites.

 Instagram accounts to follow:

  • @accidentallyveganuk
  • @greazyvegan


Amongst all the bad news there is some good to be found – renewable energy is being set up faster than ever, single-use plastic bag sales have dropped by around 86% since the introduction of the 5p levy, and Greta Thunberg has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to spread her inspiring message to America. On Friday 20th September the global climate strike commences, with millions of people anticipated to join action across the globe and fight for a better future. By tackling this issue collectively and accepting our imperfections, we can all help to make a big impact.