Tooting author on how small changes can help the environment

It was a balloon sailing up into the air which first triggered Tooting based Amy Charuy-Hughes’ intrigue into the environment. 

As it floated away she wondered where it would end up.

After doing some research, she found that the pressure causes the balloon to burst and fall back down to the land or into the sea as pieces of microplastic.  

String or ribbon attached to the balloons also run a risk of being ingested by animals after they fall. 

For Amy, this made her question her own impact on the environment and what she could do differently in her own life.

While she has always done her bit for the environment, by recycling and not littering, she reflected that she wouldn’t have thought twice about a short car journey between Tooting and Balham.

However, after the balloon incident she became increasingly aware of her impact especially as she was working on photoshoots in the fashion industry. 

It began to trouble her the amount of plastic used on shoots and how the industry is centred around encouraging people to buy things they don’t need. 

As her conversations, and sometimes frustrations, about the environment with friends and family grew it was a family friend who put her in touch with author and environmental activist Bernadette Valley. 

Amy said: “Bernadette called me and it was literally like catching up with an old friend. I couldn’t believe I was speaking to such a person who has done so much and is so inspiring.

“It was such a nice moment to feel that she had reached out to me and that was very warming as well.” 

Bernadette was keen to get a younger female environmentalist on board for a rewrite of a book she wrote 30 years ago.

YOUR PLANET NEEDS YOU: Amy Charuy-Hughes with the book she co-authored.
Credit: George Whale

The book, co-written with Bernadette and Bethan Stewart-James is called Your Planet Needs You!: An Everyday Guide To Saving The Earth.

It covers 200 environmental topics from air pollution to social issues to the human impact of the environment. 

Amy is keen to stress that we can all do our bit for the environment by buying less. 

Even though she runs an online shop selling sustainable goods she said that people should use what they have at home first before they buy more goods from her. 

She said: “All the time we are seeing there is a new phone out, people don’t think about how it is made. We create such a big demand and it’s having a bad impact on the environment and we know the world is warming.

“I think at the moment with Covid and lockdown we have seen nature returning as everyone else stayed indoors and it just proved that the human race is having such a bad impact on the environment.”

While environmental issues dominated the headlines for weeks at a time in 2019, largely due to Extinction Rebellion protests, the pandemic has meant the news since spring 2020 has focused on Covid-19. 

Amy was keen for the book to help restart discussions about the planet. 

She said: “We spoke about it as a team before publication day and we need to get the conversations back to talking about the environment.”

Tooting activist Hilary Jennings is part of Transition Town Tooting, a group which considers ways in which the local area can respond to climate change.

She agreed that it has been much more difficult to hold public events, however was keen to point out that there has been a lot going on behind the scenes. 

Hilary said: “It has been difficult for us as well because a lot of what we do is face to face.  

“There was a lot of regrouping that went on, possibly behind the scenes, so it might have looked like things were not happening but I was on a lot of conversations.

“And not just conversations in Tooting but conversations across the world.

“So there was this sudden explosion of communication with other groups because it was so easy to meet online.” 

Lockdown has also meant that more people are reconnecting with their area by shopping locally. 

Amy recently went on a mission to shop without single-use packaging in Tooting. 

Tooting traders BYO Tooting, The Lone Fisherman, Communion, Meza and Life of Fish all allowed reusable containers.

Even if you are acting more sustainably, it can be easy to become frustrated that things aren’t changing quickly enough. 

Amy said: “In the first wave of lockdown I stayed with my dad in Portsmouth and I went to the sea and it was full of rubbish and I just thought why have I bothered writing a book about saving the world when it looks like this.”

However, she said that we all need to realise if we are making small changes to buy more sustainably or bank with a green bank then that is a bigger way we can use our voice to create change. 

For Amy, what’s important is that we all start doing these small things. 

Whether that’s taking your reusable bags, avoiding single use plastic or avoiding those birthday balloons. 

You can find out more about Amy, visit her shop and buy the book here and you can find more information about Transition Town Tooting here.

You can also read about a pair of childhood friends from Tooting and Balham who wrote a children’s book about plastic pollution here.

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