Teenager fighting climate change hailed as UK's answer to Greta Thunberg

Teenager fighting climate change hailed as UK's answer to Greta Thunberg

Until Greta Thunberg inspired a generation to ‘School Strike for Climate’ in 2018, the average 12-year-old worried very little about heatwaves, wildfires and flooding.

But before then, Briton Amy Bray was ahead of the planet’s curve.

Bray, an aspiring marine biologist, read Ocean Of Life by marine conservationist Callum Roberts at the age of 12. The seminal book on humankind’s relationship with the sea opened Bray’s eyes to the extent of the threats our oceans face, from overfishing to rising sea levels.

‘It made me frightened,’ she says. ‘Frightened that the thing I wanted to study would no longer be there when I was able to do so.’

And so, like her Swedish counterpart, Bray did something about it. She went on marches, joined campaigns run by environmental charities, petitioned her MP and phoned supermarkets to ask them to ban microplastics.

Then, when she was 15, she realised something. While she was asking others to make changes, she was still using huge amounts of plastic in her everyday life and so she did what any other 15-year-old would do: challenge her entire family to go plastic free. How did they react?

‘They were open-minded,’ she says. ‘Four years ago, people weren’t as aware of plastic pollution as they are now, so we were the first family in our area to ask shops [environmental] questions — for our cheese to be put in our own special container, where we could buy plastic-free bread, that sort of thing.

Dad wasn’t very happy because he had to give up some of his favourite crisps. But because we did it as a family, it felt really empowering. It was a challenge but an adventure too.’

Over a nine-month period, the Brays achieved their goal — and in the coming years, the family would live in a more sustainable way in every aspect of life, from diet and travel to clothing.

Meanwhile, Bray had set up a marine conservation campaign, Devotion To Ocean; created a plastic-free tuck shop at school; and held an awareness assembly highlighting the issues of climate change.

A trip to Totnes in Devon, home to one of the country’s first zero-waste shops, coupled with an endless quest for loose lentils, led Bray to set up her own zero-waste shop, Another Weigh, in 2019, which doubles as a physical base for her conservation charity, Another Way, giving local people the opportunity to engage and act on their desire to help the environment.

Now 19, Bray studies marine biology at Exeter University and remains an active campaigner.

As well as helping to run a zero-waste shop and running a conservation charity and education programme, which has directly educated over 3,000 people about marine pollution and sustainability, she’s appearing in a new BBC series, The Regenerators, and has been selected for recognition as a climate leader in the prime minister’s Points Of Light awards scheme.

But the road to change is a bumpy one. That’s why she advocates gradual change, not sweeping dramatic gestures — what she calls a ripple effect. The idea is that if one person spreads a message to ten people, and those ten each spread that same message to ten more, the message soon travels around the world.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CQBiQ06nTgx/

That’s what her latest venture is all about: giving advice about finding another way to live through videos, detailed knowledge and checklists.

The easy-to-follow 30-step method to motivate people to change covers everything from switching to a bamboo toothbrush to planting more plants. And if Bray is compassionate towards the planet, she’s equally compassionate towards people too.

‘Behavioural change is something a lot of organisations avoid talking about because it’s so difficult to inspire someone to change their entire behaviour,’ she says. ‘We’re talking about huge lifestyle changes that can sometimes seem overwhelming.

‘It’s important to inspire people to make those changes but also to accept that they are difficult and challenging. I try to give advice to make that journey less daunting so they can take it step by step.’

Big planet, small steps

Want to do your part but unsure how? Climate change is a complex problem and, Bray argues, is a direct result of a lack of compassion.

‘We live so fast we don’t take time to stop and appreciate the world we share with so many other species,’ she says.

One easy step is to research environmental topics (shark slaughter, deforestation or soil degradation) and find something you’re passionate about and that you’ll be willing to campaign for.

‘All of these problems are interlinked,’ says Bray. ‘We can’t solve one without the other.’

In more practical terms, Bray says the key is to challenge yourself once a week to make a change. Buy your next item of clothing from a charity shop or a second-hand clothes seller, cook two vegetarian meals this week or only use reusable plastic containers.

‘If everyone changes their habits so that we live with compassion towards our planet, we will reduce our individual carbon footprint and that will add up to make the difference that we need.’

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