A Sustainable Chat with Ellie Wyatt, Eco Action Families
Ellie Wyatt, Founder of Eco Action Families tells us what inspired her to start the UK collective which raises awareness of the climate and ecological emergency. Also, who is involved, their ambition and details about their latest campaign, Ripple Effect.
When did you start being involved with Eco Action?
I guess I have been involved in Eco Action since I turned vegetarian aged 12 after hearing about how meat production was destroying the Amazon. Sadly, 30 years on, things have got a whole lot worse. About 10 years ago fracking companies came to Sussex and I became seriously involved in activism. I couldn’t believe that our government was prepared to risk poisoning our water and air in order to make quick money from fossil fuel extraction. The more I learnt, the more corruption and disregard for our natural world revealed itself. I became a member of Frack Free Sussex, I did training with Friends of the Earth and I met many brilliant people, all dedicated to stopping the expansion of fossil fuels, not just in the UK but all over the world. My daughter was only tiny then and I started realising that the world she would be growing up in was going to be very different as the ecological crisis worsened. I spent hours educating myself, reading, watching films and attending courses, and that has continued for the last decade.
What sustainable lifestyle changes did you make?
As my campaigning was very focussed on fossil fuels my husband and I decided we must invest in clean energy and so we had solar panels installed about seven years ago, followed by a Tesla domestic battery to store our electricity. (My husband has written a blog about it.) I then made a decision to change my work life and stop taking regular flights to Europe. We became much more conscious of our own consumerism and tried to change the way we shop. When my daughter was little it was saying no to things like hammer beads, loom bands, balloons and magazines with plastic tat attached, and always passing on clothes and toys. In our day to day lives we get a local farm veg box, we go to the refill store, we’ve changed our bathroom items, we’ve switched our bank accounts…. but still there is so much more to do! I find it so depressing that food shopping is almost impossible without single use plastic and that shopping plastic free is a lot more expensive. At the moment it is a privileged position to make eco shopping choices, many people just can’t afford it.
What inspired you to start Eco Action Families?
Eco Action Families started as a group of parents wishing to support the Youth Climate Strikes in 2019. We set up a Facebook page and then started meeting each other at the youth strikes. It has grown organically since then with all of us inspiring each other. We realised that families have a role in supporting young people, advocating for change and engaging with our schools because schools have ready-made communities that are the perfect place to take eco action beyond the home. Also, as our kids realise they are facing an extremely uncertain future we want them to see us doing everything we can to be taking action on that knowledge. Our philosophy is rooted in the teachings of Joanna Macy, that we step away from despair, fear and depression when we step into action. We understand that there are numerous ways to take action but we broadly divide action into three categories – Holding action, regenerative action and transformative action. (You can read about these on our website or on our Instagram highlights.)
Can you tell me about Eco Action Families? Who is involved? What are your aims?
We are a community group with a core team around the UK, and also a larger group in Brighton, where I live. Our aim is to inspire action in our homes, schools, workplaces and wider communities through raising awareness of the climate and ecological emergency. We have some incredible people in our team, from Greg and Miri who are Marine conservation and shark experts, to Amanda who founded Just One Tree, to Pete who works for The Ecologist and Resurgence, to Hilary who is a retired head teacher and was arrested for extinction rebellion! You can read about all of us on our ‘Meet the team’ page and we welcome new people who would be interested in working with a collective of like-minded others. We give each other a lot of support as being environmentally aware can be frustrating, upsetting and lonely at times. Without education, behaviours won’t change so at the moment our Brighton group is working on an eco-education programme for secondary kids. We have a huge aim to embed some eco education for teenagers across the city and then hopefully beyond!
What is the Ripple Effect campaign?
What if you didn’t know your money was fuelling climate change and environmental destruction? What if you pay your bills in good faith and then discover your energy company is investing in coal mines? What if your bank could be investing in green solutions instead of dirty fossil fuels?
The concept of The Ripple Effect is simple:
You take three really important eco actions:
- Action 1 – Switch to a renewable energy provider!
- Action 2 – Switch to an ethical bank!
- Action 3 – Become an Earth Protector and support the campaign for International Ecocide law.
Then you pass it on to three friends and ask them to do the same. Our campaign video explains it all.
Moving our money away from fossil fuels is incredibly important as the industries destroying our natural world only think in terms of profit. Money talks, so it is essential to avoid contributing to the climate crisis with your hard earned money. We want to encourage as many people as possible to take these three essential eco actions. Each one is a hugely important step towards ending the age of fossil fuels and protecting the environment on which we all depend.
What advice do you have for people who want to live more sustainably and take more action to help protect the planet?
I would say learn as much as you can, there are so many inspiring books and movies out there… and it’s not all doom and gloom! A great place to start would be the film ‘2040’ which outlines 5 or 6 key areas for rethinking our futures. And then…. take action! Refill your shampoo bottles, move your money, join a community group, attend workshops, protest, talk to friends and family, stop eating meat and seafood, talk to your PTA about banning plastic tat at school, organise a Just One Tree day at your school, get rid of those coffee pods at work, fundraise, meet your MP, volunteer for a rewinding project, use the milkman, ask your neighbours to plant bee friendly flowers…. use your creativity to do whatever calls you! (and feel free to get in touch with us!)
Above all be brave. Connect with others. Know that you are not alone. I love this quote from Joanna Macy:
“If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear.”
To find out more about Eco Action Families and how to get involved, please visit their website https://www.ecoactionfamilies.life/