Live and Let Live: All you need to know about the Cambridge Eco Living Festival
Our home-grown Eco Living Festival this month is timely. What with Extinction Rebellion forcing the issue, Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunburg’s eloquent pleas to save the planet and UK government now committing to net-zero greenhouse gases by 2050, eco living is very much on the agenda.
Founder Caroline Shaheera Asante is impressive – she was on Velvet Magazine’s Power List earlier this year; the former BBC presenter, turned all-things eco communications expert with an MSc in Sustainability, launched the first Eco Living Festival in September last year.
“The concept for the festival happened organically. I had already become acutely aware of ocean plastic pollution having seen it first hand in 2014 while on a family reunion in the Caribbean,” says Caroline. “Plastic debris washed in from the ocean, landed everywhere. I don’t recall seeing vast quantities of plastic rubbish on the beaches as a child. As on many small islands around the world, Mangroves, which act as a type of natural coastal shield for many small islands, protecting the lands from floods, storms and even tsunamis, were dying and rotting in vast numbers.
“That trip was a big wake-up call for me. I felt compelled to move my life into a direction that had a bigger purpose. Closer to home, in 2017, I saw the same images of plastic debris washed up on the coast of Cornwall and on the banks of the River Thames in London.”
Plastic pollution is not a new environmental problem (it’s been around and ignored for decades) but the issue has attracted increasing concern of late. Public and media interest in ocean plastics peaked following the final episode of the Blue Planet II television series.
This shift of interest to a more sustainable and plastic-free lifestyle was the perfect backdrop to the inaugural Eco Living Festival that took place at the Lion Yard Shopping Centre and University of Cambridge David Attenborough Building in September last year. Focusing on single-use plastic and comprising workshops and talks around creating better consumer awareness, and how to reduce and eliminate single use plastics habits at home and in day-to day choices, the Festival was a huge hit.
“Being at Lion Yard was great for us because there were thousands of shoppers passing through making it the perfect place to flag up greener consumer choices. I'm very interested in behaviour change and how and what the general public need to do this. What we found from the feedback of our attendees is people want knowledge first and foremost, then they want easy choice and accessibility and to save money and save the planet at the same time,” says Caroline.
Lion Yard is the venue for this year’s Eco Living Festival that takes place on Saturday 6 July, where there will be a Pop-Up Eco Lifestyle Advice Centre. “I love eco design and with our very small team, we are creating a beautiful space using up-cycled materials and finds, to host a packed schedule of eco talks, workshops, demos.”
Looking ahead, Caroline has no shortage of ideas for future festivals. “The formula we have for the Eco Living Festival works very well and we will keep Cambridge and expand into other cities who have approached us to be there. I’m always open to new eco brand collaborations and ideas. All small steps lead to a giant green leap forward. Change in how the general population consume, use, re-use, recycle, up-cycle, dispose and re-use again is changing right now and it’s very exciting to be part of a global shift in this way.”
Caroline urges every one of us to do what we can. “Thinking 'sustainable' or 'eco' isn't enough. Action is required – understanding that there is a consequence to each choice we make.
“We have to wake up and realise that we did this to our planet. All of us. All generations, demographics and ethnicities. We are one human race, with one planet, one home, and we've taken her for granted. So now we have to shift and change our collective behaviour and consumption patterns to restore, replenish and heal what we've damaged.”
Cambridge Eco Living Festival, Saturday 6 July, 10am to 4pm, Lion Yard, Cambridge. See full programme for the Eco Living Festival at cambridgeecolivingfestival.uk and all the updates at Instagram/camecolivingfestival. Events are free but booking is required via Eventbrite (links on the website). Lion Yard Shopping Centre is co-sponsoring the Eco Living Festival with Anglian Water’s Keep It Clear campaign
Eco Living Festival events
Make your own fresh cleansers and kids bath bombs workshop in partnership with Lush, Lion Yard Shopping Centre
Anglian Water’s Keep It Clear campaign talk reveals the hidden plastic within toiletries
The Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) has the latest on eco-swap feminine hygiene products which save money and do not pollute rivers and oceans
Turn crisp packets, sweet wrappers and garden soil bags into eco bricks. Learn vintage zero waste kitchen skills by making reusable cloth food wraps and other items that preserve food without plastic
The Eco Living Festival Cambridge Ocean Waste Dresses Installation. In partnership with eco fashion designer Linda Thomas, who created the dresses curated for the installation.
Top eco-living tips from Caroline Shaheera Asante
1. Think first before you consume your next product. How it is packaged? How will I take it home with me? Is it an eco-friendly product or can I find an alternative (you probably can), and do I really need it?
2. Pick a habit that you know isn't the most sustainable and try a greener alternative.
3. Replace your next plastic toothbrush with a bamboo one with biodegradable bristles. Over 3 million toothbrushes end up in landfills every year left to not rot for 400 years.
Eco bricks photo by Tina Mcgrane
Ghost Net Dress photo by Linda Eco Design