We hear from Public Health Nutritionist and Climate Justice Advocate, Farihah about her journey to Sustainability
Farihah Choudhury, 23, Southampton, UK @easypeasysustainability
My interest in sustainability and planetary health might have stemmed from a number of sources, or a combination of these. Firstly, growing up, as a child of Bangladeshi immigrants with a small budget I would quietly observe my mother and her resourceful ways – buying rice in bulk, reusing old pickle jars to store lentils, being a dab-hand with fixing tears and rips with a needle and thread. Second, I discovered the importance of conservation, and preserving our world, as well as the science behind urgent global issues such as climate change, during my undergraduate BSc Biology degree. Third, and most fundamentally, I have an inherent, personal, almost urgent, sensitivity to the beauty of the world around me and the animals (including ourselves) who inhabit it.
In 2018, I started my Instagram blog as a way of sharing eco-friendly, thrifty tips. It started off as a hate page dedicated to the evils of single-use plastic, with some sustainable diet discourse peppered in, as I developed an interest in nutrition and healthy, sustainable diets. Eventually, I enrolled onto a Master’s course in Nutrition for Global Health which I completed earlier this year, and now I practise as a Public Health Nutritionist in the UK. During the MSc, I developed my understanding about how diets affect health but also ideas about intersectionality and climate equity, learning about how the actions of us in the West, disproportionately affect communities like my motherland in the Global South.
As a result of all of this, I’ve become a fierce advocate of system change to ensure climate justice for all – I’ve come a long way from tips about single use plastic use – though I still believe collective individual action is extremely important and necessary. My main interests within sustainability are ways in which we can develop a circular economy and reduce waste in general, fighting against fast, unfair fashion, and healthy sustainable diets.
What have been your biggest successes and learnings to date?
I think the biggest success for me has been less about external success with my platform or my work, and more about the personal growth I’ve felt – I have learned so much since becoming involved with the Instagram sustainability community.
Do you feel there is a stigma or lack of understanding of the climate crisis amongst South Asian communities? What do you believe the blockers to be and how would you go about solving the issues?
I could talk about this for ages but in short, yes, there is a stigma around environmentalism. I think there’s a conversation to be had about diaspora challenges and how our immigrant parents and grandparents sacrificed a lot in order to enter the ‘West’ and build a life here – part of this experience is suddenly being able to afford cars and nice clothes and eat lots of meat – which was not a privilege afforded to our ancestors a few generations ago – and so to advocate for reducing these behaviours is not well-received. I think solution to this thinking is taking it back to religious scripture (in Islam but I’m sure it would be the same in Hinduism, Buddhism etc.) which tells us it is sinful to waste food, or indulge in lavish luxuries – things that are obviously linked to environmental destruction. I also think it’s very much about baby steps and leading by example with families.
Being carbon conscious in a practical day-to-day sense can be quite costly – how can people easily and cost effectively make a difference? Do you think being sustainable is accessible to everyone?
The most sustainable lifestyle is the lifestyle which already only is able to buy one or two new items of clothing a year or not be able to afford to drive. So I think stripping it back to basics is how to think about it – everyone is completely able to contribute to this in some way.
Any advice for younger generations?
I think younger generations are part of the first generation where radical climate action is something people are finally taking notice of, despite scientists and environmental activists raving about its urgency for almost a century. It’s now or never and younger generations should be gently taught about the value of our planet, the importance of climate action, and positive climate solutions and how we can all play a part.
Tell us one life story which has deeply impacted you
Whilst it’s not something that affected me directly in any major way, I’ve noticed that we are receiving fewer and fewer fish from Bangladesh, many of which are part of national dishes that are enjoyed. This is a clear result of overfishing and climate change, and to me it is a real life reminder that time is running out to save the planet and that we need to act now.
You can find and follow Farihah for regular tips and information here: @easypeasysustainability