Photos shot by me, on 35 mm film
While back in Norway during the Christmas holiday, I grasped the opportunity to take some portraits and interview my dear friend, Green Peace employee and super woman Tale Ellingvåg. Not sure if you guys have noticed, but there is a spanking new section on the blog called `Sustainable Style´. My goal is to gradually offer a wide range of posts with tips, interviews etc. on how to approach a more environmental friendly lifestyle yet stay stylish. First post in this category starts with this interview.
So, who are you Tale? Tell us about yourself:
I am a 22 years old uneducated, organised activist. I’m from a small island on the South coast of Norway, a small community where everyone is dependent on working together to make the wheel turn. This, together with very engaged, aware parents thought me that a small group of dedicated people can make big things happen. Today I live in the capital (Oslo) where I work more than full-time with environmental and climate issues both as an elected volunteer in Natur og Ungdom (Young Friends Of the Earth Norway) and as an employee at Greenpeace Norway.
How and when did you get engaged with environmental protection?
Actually, I think I started with being engaged with more classic social problems, such as economical-, anti drugs- and anti war initiatives. Then, my best friend started a local group of Natur og Ungdom, and I kind of just went along with that. At that point, I was actually really obsessed with fashion! What made me stay at Natur og Ungdom for now 6 years, and take another environment-job, was when I discovered the social aspect of the environmental struggles. The ones affected by climate change are mainly poor, indigenous and other already “marginalised” groups. The ones affected by our government’s politics concerning fishery are the fishing communities in the north of Norway. What the world does today, is not to ruin “the earth” as such. The earth will live on. What we do is that we are changing it in such a way that we are undermining the survival chances for our own world upon it.
How does this affect your daily life?
My engagement with environmental protection is in, literally, everything I do. I applied for, and got my job because of it. I got a big share of my friends through it. The education I eventually will take I choose because of it. And, how I choose to live my life, concerning food, transportation, clothing etc. is rooted in it. Yes, it can sound overwhelming, and you do not have to go these lengths to be an “environmentalist”, but for me and myself it makes sense that I do it.
On an average basis, do you believe people think enough about their own impact on the climate?
This is an interesting question. Well, no, maybe people do not think enough about it. People could be greener. But a more important question, in my eyes, is this: Do I think people believe enough that they can make a difference? The answer is no. Yes, you can choose greener and make a difference, but more importantly – you can organise, put pressure on the right institutions and people and make a difference.
In terms of clothing consumption – what can people do to reduce their impact?The ground rule is that to reduce the impact you reduce the consumption. We should buy less stuff and less clothes. Secondly, the stuff we do buy should be as “good” as possible. By that, I mean that there is stuff we can think of when we buy clothes. Buy stuff of quality that lasts, get second hand stuff, recycle and upcycle, get stuff that is marked “sustainably produced” (but this is debated – sadly, those labels cannot always be trusted) and get stuff produced close by where you are that hasn’t travelled half the world.
But then again, I will stress that one of the most effective ways to reduce your impact is to push for it upwards. Organise, push the politicians who make regulations and push the companies who make products.
Who do you believe has to take the responsibility when it comes to pollution (caused by clothing production) – the industry or the consumers?
In my eyes this is a shared responsibility. The industry is dependent on the consumers. This gives the consumers a tremendous power do dedicate how the industry should be. At the same time, the industry are the ones developing the products and doing PR and adverts to make people wanting to buy their exact product. But I do not really believe the industry (or most politicians) will take that responsibility just out of good will. This means that we, normal people, have to take matter in our own hands and force it.
What is your best advice to fashion lovers who wish to take responsibility for their own clothing consumption and impact on the environment?
My best advice is, again, to organise. Here in Norway you are seeing plenty interest-based groups organising for climate and environment, such as “The authors’ climate action”, “Architects for climate”, “Concerned Artists Norway” and so on. There are also bigger, already working organisations and networks in all countries. If you do not want to organise, do stuff yourself. Write something and publish it at your blog or get it in the papers. Tweet. Make art (fashion is or can be art, remember) stating your concerns and believes.
It might seem like a big step to involve, but not all activism has to be making banners and involving a lot of people (even though it’s really fun and I recommend that as well). Oh – and buy (or do not buy) the right stuff.
At last, would you like to add something?
It seems like this is my mantra, but I’ll just underline this once again. Organise and speak up. I believe in people, not the corporations and usually not the politicians. They are not going to do much unless there is a movement of people demanding them to. They want to sell their stuff or be re-elected, and we have to show them that that is not going to happen unless they change the system of how things work. To do that, fashion lovers, carpenters, vets and the rest of us all have to speak up.