Hello! I am Phoebe and I am 15 years old. I am an environmental activist and vegan. I have been campaigning for a better future for all of us, but my lifestyle did not start off that way.
When I was in primary school, I felt utterly lost. I was wallowing in despair as I was going through some troubles with my friends which often made me feel like a third wheel and left behind. I often had that butterfly feeling in my stomach out of pure fear that another thing would go wrong. I did some charity work in my final year of primary school for the charity that helped children with my disability, hemiparesis, and I was on the Eco Committee and School Council, which gave me some hope that I may have some greater purpose.
When I reached secondary school, I was faced with a school more than double the size of my previous school, and an awful lot of waste. My Year 7 form room only had a general waste bin, so nothing was recycled in there, and my school still only recycles paper, so plenty of materials that could be used again are sent off to be burned for energy. I wrote an email for my Deputy-Headteacher but my fear held me back.
In Year 8, I decided that I wanted to go vegetarian. I had always had a very close bond with animals since a young age, and morally it felt wrong paying someone to kill one while I was cherishing another. I also rescued my first group of ex-battery hens from the British Hens Welfare Trust. When you receive them, they have large bald patches all over their bodies due to others pulling them out in the close conditions. Farmers take on these hens at around three months and dump them after around a year as they do not lay as often. These hens often only live for around three years, due to the strain their bodies have been under, when they could live double that if they were cared for properly. You can read more about them here:
By this time I was no longer oblivious to the waste my class was making, and I could just imagine it in landfill, polluting our oceans and land, being burned and contributing to the climate crisis. So, I took action. I began taking any recyclable items out of my form room bin, placing them in a reusable plastic bag, washing my hands, getting onto my bus and putting them in the recycling bin when I returned home. I continue to do this today and I will carry on doing this until nothing that can be reused is discarded. I have to be honest, I do get very strange looks from my peers, however it does not upset me anymore as I know that by doing this I may stop future generations from picking up more plastic or suffering more problems due to the climate crisis. We were also assigned to do a project at school about anything we wanted. I decided to do it on veganism and I won one of the prizes, which sparked my interest in taking my vegetarian lifestyle further.
At the start of Year 9, I began to have meetings with my headmaster about the improvements our school could make to become more sustainable. He was incredibly supportive, which I am very grateful for, but he only controlled so much of the goings-on within my school, which meant I had to speak to other members of senior staff to start making changes. I went to my first climate strike during this time, and it was so exhilarating seeing other people with the same passion for our planet that I had. My mum and I also joined Plastic Free Maidenhead at it's
beginning so that we could fight plastic in
our local community as well as in our home. Additionally, in Year 9 I was the student in my year chosen to be apart of a student exchange to South Africa to visit a sister school of my school. I stayed with the most wonderful family, and I am thankful for them catering to my vegetarian needs. Before I arrived, there was a large storm which swept tons of sea plastic onto the beaches and river banks. It was horrible to sea such a beautiful country covered in such waste. Of course, this plastic did not all come from South Africa. It would have come from all over the world, swept to these waters by currents. Therefore, this was not South Africa's fault, it was a universal fault. I picked up some plastic when I visited the beaches, and even though it was a small amount, I am glad I helped a little. After I returned, I went vegan. I knew that I could not rely on the dairy business to be sustainable and to treat their animals with the respect they deserve. There are farms that do love and take care of their animals, but there are also many that do not, and it is almost impossible to source the location and status of these farms. Also, animal agriculture contributes to 14.5% of global carbon emissions, and I knew that I wanted to give future generations the best chance of inheriting a habitable planet.
At the beginning of Year 10, I started my school's Eco Society with one of my teachers. My fellow members and I were working on achieving Surfers Against Sewage's Plastic Free School award before we had to leave. We will continue to try and obtain it when we return. This year I have a new headteacher as my previous headmaster left after 19 years in the role. My friend and I attempted to ask for permission to go on climate strike together, thinking that we would receive the same support I had before. However, she would not allow us to go due to her fear of everyone leaving to go on strike. Yet, at my school there are very few people that show an active interest in the climate crisis, so she seems to be fighting a dilemma that does not exist. She was also concerned for our safety, as any teacher would be, but our parents tried to reassure her that they would be with us, but to no avail. I hope that we can overcome our differences in the future and work together to fight the problem that is bigger than the both of us.
I am continuing to pursue my passions and I hope you will too, despite being in lockdown. I am living in an almost plastic-free home thanks to Filling Good and other refill shops. I plan to not travel by plane in the future, due to it having a large carbon footprint. I am enjoying the time I can spend with my animals around when I would normally be at school and I am watching plenty of Marvel films! I do miss my friends but hopefully we will soon go back to normal. I am enjoying the new-found time I have to myself. I hope that you, your families and friends are all well and are enjoying the sunny days we have been having!