For the series Good Folk on this blog I have sent interview questions to some really wonderful people who are either making things, running shops, or generally promoting sustainability. I think you will enjoy reading their answers as much as I have, and I hope they inspire us all with the knowledge that there are people doing good in the world!
This interview is with Bobbie, AKA @little_eco_lady. Bobbie began making eco swaps 7 years ago and hasn't looked back. What began as a journey to support her own body back to health has become a passion and a way of life, even influencing ways to fundraise for causes that are particularly important to her. She now also designs things such as digital greetings cards so as to not waste paper- she even plants a tree for every one sold.
How or why did you get started?
I originally started making swaps because I developed a rare migraine disorder about 7 years ago, which totally changed my life. I had started to research the nasty chemicals in products, and decided I didn’t want to use them in my home. I never really thought of myself as ‘eco at that point.
Then I ended up in a relationship with someone in Australia (I live in the UK!), I went to visit him and by chance saw a film viewing at a local yoga studio that I’d never been to. We booked a spot, and went and watch the documentary ‘blue’. That was the turning point for me, where I realised that I had to try and do something to make a difference
It just so happened that I was visiting during Plastic Free July, which originated from Australia – so it’s pretty huge out there...I’d never even heard of it! It was great, because I made an eco swap every day for a month. That was really the catalyst for changing how I saw the waste I was creating and starting my Little Eco Lady Instagram page.
This is so difficult to choose just one! I am currently litter picking 79 streets to raise money for charity. My dad was diagnosed with cancer last year, and they performed the surgery using a robot. He’s 79 years old (hence the number of streets) – but thanks to the keyhole surgery, he recovered really quickly. His surgeon is raising 1 million pounds to help fund robotic surgery advancements, as well as research for other therapies, for those not lucky enough to be suitable for surgery - so we decided to help as a way of saying thank you to her! We’ve raised £356.25 and done 28 of the 79 streets so far – so we still have a way to go!
What would be the top thing that you would change about the way we treat the planet if you could?
Since starting that, it’s made me much more aware of how much litter is around – especially when you see the photos of animals that are injured from it, or have stomachs full of plastic – it’s heart breaking. So definitely using less is a big passion of mine. We’ve been taking so much more from the planet than we give to it, and there’s only so long that can go on for.
What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
As I mentioned, I developed a rare condition about 7 years ago. Although it’s totally changed my life, on most days if you asked me I wouldn’t change it if I had the opportunity – because it’s taught me so much. I used to smoke at least twenty cigarettes a day, drink loads and eat rubbish. It wasn’t until my body stopped working, that I realised that without my body I have nothing. When I initially went to the doctors I was laid on the couch and she asked me to sit up and I couldn’t work out how to. It was so scary to wonder what on earth had happened to my brain. I couldn’t work for a year and a half. So I would definitely tell my younger self that my body is the most valuable thing that I have, and to make the most of every moment – because you never know what life has planned for you around the corner.
Tell me about the work that you do
I used to work as a drug and alcohol counsellor for children, but I was unable to do that any more because of my health. I was helped out by the universe because I found a job, where the owner had the same condition as me! If it wasn’t for that, it would have been much longer before I was able to go back to work – but it was amazing, because even though it was such a strange condition everyone at work understood.
I’m still only able to work part time, and as my memory is affected – I am pretty limited by what jobs I can do. That’s why I have started to create my own products, as it would make such a huge difference being able to work in a more flexible way.
Since starting my eco journey, I’ve realised that there are so many things that we do in our society that are unnecessarily wasteful. Greetings cards being one of them – I’m not even sure anyone really reads the card, but once they do they sit on the side for maybe a week and then they often end up in the bin. I looked for an alternative, and found digital greetings cards. I sent a seriously rubbish one to my brother in law (sorry!), so I decided to give digital cards a handmade makeover. I got myself an apple pencil, borrowed my mums ipad and created the collection that I have today. I’m still learning how to draw digitally, so they’re still evolving! I also plant a tree for every card sold – so not only are they not taking from the planet, but they’re giving to it instead. I chose to plant them in Australia, as I was so upset to see the aftermath of their bush fires and the animals left injured and homeless – it makes me so happy to think that there are trees growing on the other side of the world thanks to my drawings and my amazing customers. EDIT: I just discovered the company no longer lets me choose where the trees are planted. Instead it’s where they’re needed most, so customers can rest assured that their tree is making a positive difference.
I had some really dark days due to the condition that I have (and still do sometimes), which made me realise just HOW much a tiny act of kindness can mean to someone. It inspired me to create a ‘be kind’ clothing range. It’s all made from organic cotton, and printed in a factory powered by renewables resources – yay! It’s such a cool feeling to see people wearing something that you’ve designed.
What’s your favourite thing to do with your free time and why?
I loooove being out exploring nature, and taking a million photos whilst doing it! I decided to change to a vegan diet in January, and it’s given me a huge passion for cooking!
I also have another challenge called the 100 job challenge. I came up with the idea during the time I wasn’t able to work. I try a job for a day or two and then write a blog about each one, to raise money for a brain charity. I’ve done 41 so far, and raised £550.
Where can we find you on the internet, buy your work, or join in?
My website has gone live this week – woo! www.littleecolady.com
I’m also on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/little_eco_lady
My cards can be found here – https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LittleEcoLady
My ‘be kind’ clothing range – https://little-eco-lady.teemill.com/
If you’d like to donate to the cancer fundraiser - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Karen-Harrison-phipps1
So there’s lots of places to find me!