BY JASMINE TRIBE, CITY TO SEA’S CAMPAIGN MANAGER
HANDS UP IF YOU’VE EVER HEARD THE PHRASE ‘ARMCHAIR ACTIVISM’?
I’ve heard this used a lot, and it doesn’t sit quite right with me.
The urban dictionary definition of an ‘armchair activist’ is: “One who sits in their armchair or desk chair and blogs or posts about activist issues without ever really doing anything about said issues or exercising any form of activism (as it would require that person to actually leave the armchair).”
I totally understand the frustration that comes with a lack of action. But who gets to decide the definition of ‘action’? And can the “keyboard warriors*” and street protesters – who can sometimes be critical of those supporting from home – truly guarantee that their contributions are ‘bigger’ or ‘better’ than those they are demonising? Does it even matter as long as we are each doing what we can?
At this strange and pivotal moment in time, with most of the population home-bound in order to protect those who are most vulnerable in our societies, we’re all in a situation where armchair activism is our only form of activism. For those of us who usually spend lots of time outdoors, this can be really, really difficult. With this in mind, just imagine how hard it always is for the thousands of people who are stuck indoors permanently as a result of disability, mental health issues or oppressive forces. For these people, working from an armchair may be the only option (if it is one at all), and carrying out activism whilst in said armchair should be viewed with much respect and admiration!
HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS TO GET YOU STARTED
All we can ask is that we do our best with the resources we have. We may be geographically confined for a time, but we can still help to create the world we want to see once we re-emerge. It’s time for us to reclaim ‘armchair activism!’
1. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU FLUSH!
Believe it or not, just under 10% of the pollution washing up on our beaches, comes from our toilets! This is a super simple one to tackle – if you need to get rid of anything other than toilet paper, poo or pee, put it in the bin. Preventing flushed plastic pollution from wet wipes, cotton buds and period products is as simple as that! If your first bin starts to feel lonely, you could even add another bin companion to feed solely with your recyclable waste – that way you keep your recyclables clean.
2.JOIN THE #EVERYDAYPLASTIC CHALLENGE
The easiest way to start reducing single-use plastic, is to work out what you’re using. For one week, try keeping all of your plastic waste, making sure you rinse it out so that it doesn’t cover your carpet in baked-bean juice. “How would bean juice make its way onto my carpet?” you may ask! Because – at the end of the week you conduct a ‘waste audit’, emptying the rubbish onto the floor (ideally outside if you are lucky enough to have a backyard or a garden). Categorise the waste into recyclable plastic and non-recyclable plastic. Work out which items are the ‘worst offenders’ and the ‘low hanging fruit’ that you can either swap for an alternative or begin to wean yourself off. Repeat the waste audit in a couple of months and see if you’ve managed to cut down on the most common items you found.
3. SPREAD THE OCEAN-LOVE TO THE NEXT GENERATION
Parents and carers, the environmental movement has your back whilst schools are out! Take your little ones on an ocean adventure with Michelle Cassar’s gorgeous new book ‘Seb and Polly Planet’. Check out Lizzie Daly’s Earth Live Sessions for a 20 minute daily dose of science, conservation and wildlife film-making. Explore the magic world of manta rays with the Manta Trust Kids Club. And check out our Founder Nat’s ‘Wild Days’ vids with Earthwatch for home schooling! These are all amazing, and free ways to reach young minds and inspire the next generation.
4. SUPPORT LOCAL INDEPENDENT BUSINESSES AND GROWERS
Sign up for a local, organic fruit and veg box to be delivered right to your door (most have options for contact-less delivery if needed). This is a brilliant way to cut back on plastic and support local businesses at the same time! You can often add other kitchen staples like milk, bread and eggs so you don’t run low on supplies.
Periods don’t stop for a pandemic! Now’s the time to try that menstrual cup you’ve had at the back of your cupboard for months, or those period pants that your best friend won’t shut up about. Keep your eyes peeled for our upcoming #QuarantinePeriod campaign on social media. I’ll be exploring all the plastic-free period products in more depth, launching an online retailer guide and opening up for some juicy Q&A’s. If you’re a teacher or school nurse, you’ll be happy to hear that we’ve moved our Rethink Periods training online! Sign up here.
6. REBEL AGAINST THE ‘STOCKPILING’ MENTALITY
This one has four stages:
1. Have a rummage through your wardrobe and separate out any clothes that no longer fit you or bring you joy.
2. Divide these clothes into practical items (waterproofs, walking boots, jeans, jumpers, etc).
3. Donate the practical items to an organisation like Help Refugees or your local homeless shelter once we’re out of ‘lock-down’. Take the other items to a charity shop or get swapping at a clothes trading event.
4. For your remaining clothes – get hold of a Guppy Friend Bag. The Guppy Friend collects any microfibres that shed from your clothes in the washing machine, helping to protect our rivers and seas from plastic pollution. Microplastics are so out of fashion!
7. FILL YOUR MIND
Consider using this time at home to dream about the world you want to see when ‘lock-down’ is over. Feel inspired by Cal Major’s film ‘Vitamin Sea’ which explores mental health, plastic pollution and paddle-boarding. Get environmentally-educated whilst having a giggle, by reading our founders new book: How to Save the World for Free. Check out the Craftivist Collective and learn how art and crafts can really change the world.
While we’re not likely to be refilling on the go for a while, we can keep flying the flag for reusables at home. Through City to Sea’s Refill campaign we’ll be sharing our top tips on refill and reusing at home and you can join in to! Follow Refill on social media and share your tips and photos using #RefillAtHome.
TOGETHER WE CAN RE-IMAGINE WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN ACTIVIST.
Sometimes staying at home to protect the most vulnerable is an act of activism. Sometimes doing nothing and meditating is an act of activism against a capitalist system. Sometimes writing a blog is an act of activism – heck, whistle-blowing bloggers have even been arrested for it! Art, music, investments, research, acts of compassion, all can be forms of activism – ways of being that are designed to reshape the world we want to live in.
Maybe next we can begin to reclaim the term ‘keyboard warrior’* too, taking to our keyboards to spread gratitude, beauty and fun. What other derogatory phrases could we redefine whilst we’re reimagining the world that we want to emerge into? It’s all up for grabs.
Follow Jasmine Tribe on Instagram to see her Armchair Activism series, covering issues from food waste, to the refugee crisis, to transgender rights. And if you’re looking for more positive news or ideas for activities you can be supporting check out our latest Oceans of Optimism blog or our campaigns here.
*Definition of Keyboard Warrior
A Person who manifests their anger in the form of aggressive writing and comments online. The Keyboard Warrior would not be able to give form to these emotions in real life.