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A conversation with @lesswastelaura about hope

Ahead of COP27 in Egypt, Tearfund had a chat with Laura Young about the climate crisis, climate activism and hope.

Interview with Laura Young and Tarryn Pegna | 04 Nov 2022

A woman smiling

Laura Young is a Tearfund Ambassador. She’ll be in Egypt for COP27 this year. Photo credit: Will Chamberlin/Tearfund

There is hope for the climate crisis, but it’s going to take all of us. The good news is that all of us can do something. We spoke to climate activist, Christian and PhD researcher Laura Young (@lesswastelaura) about moments of awakening, causes for hope and the accessible ways we can all get involved in making a difference.
‘We know everything we need to do,’ says Laura, ‘we just need to do it!’ 

Right now, @lesswastelaura carries a lot of influence in the world of climate change conversations. She’s been interviewed about the topic by media outlets such as Sky, BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio Scotland and is also a Tearfund Ambassador – sharing our passion for climate-justice, creation-care and Christ. 

Her status may seem unattainable for many of us, paddling at the overwhelmed edges of a pool of ‘what-can-I-do-in-the-crisis?’, but Laura’s story is an encouraging one. It’s the story of an ordinary, relatable young woman, who took a family walk one New Year’s Day that started her on a giant journey that is making an extraordinary difference. 

The moment

At university, Laura studied geography and environmental science. She already had a love for the beautiful natural landscapes of Scotland where she and her family spent their holidays, and she remembers sitting in lectures and hearing about the pressure we’re putting on the planet’s resources and thinking, ‘Well, what are we supposed to do with this information? I can't learn that and then sit still and be happy with that knowledge!’ 

A defining moment came for Laura in the beginning of January 2018. She tells us, ‘My family and friends like to go on a New Year's Day walk every year, and we were on the east coast of Scotland, in a beautiful place called Elie. It's stunning. And I was on this walk, reflecting on 2017 and thinking about 2018, and people started speaking about New Year's resolutions. 

‘As we were on this walk along the coast – white sandy beaches, beautiful – we suddenly started to be surrounded by litter and waste. It was everything from packets of crisps to fishing waste, and tyres, and all this other stuff. We all felt like, “Oh, this lovely New Year's Day walk is being ruined by all this rubbish that's lying around!” And it made me think that what I should do for my New Year's resolution was to have a sustainable year – to challenge myself to think about what it means to be more sustainable.’

Even though Laura was used to hearing about climate devastation, she says, ‘it took me being faced with evidence of it – on a day that I was thinking about the loveliness of the new year – to think “This is just ruining it. It's ruining everything.”’

The beginning 

Laura came home from the trip and started by trying to avoid plastic. It was a small step – but a good one. Then, she started thinking about what else she might be able to do. 

‘If I can play my part,’ she thought, ‘that's enough.’ And so began a journey. As she spoke with the people around her about the changes she was making, Laura says they began asking her questions so that they too could make an effort to be more sustainable. 

‘It was halfway through January that I decided to make @lesswastelaura, the Instagram page, because I thought “so many people are asking me about this, I could just put it on an Instagram page. And then if people want to find the information, they can find it all there.”’ 

For Laura, making the connection between the way that each of us lives and the impact it has on people all around the world, changed the way she chose to do things. 

‘Over time,’ she says, ‘the more than you learn about the connectedness between the fashion choices that we make, the food that we eat, the way that we, as a nation, are heating our homes and all the rest of it, impacts people, that becomes a real catalyst for action.’ 

And it goes beyond that for Laura. She says, ‘A huge part of my journey was also connecting faith into it. My Christian faith was not where I started, but as I looked into it more and more, I realised we are called to kind of have this responsibility over creation. And so, for me, when all these things came together, it just became this really obvious thing that, of course, we should be doing something.’

Just one little bit

People come to the climate crisis differently, and have different ways of responding to it. Laura is keen to point out that each of us has something we can do right where we are. For her fashion blogger friend, it was a shift in buying patterns. For Laura’s mum, a GP, it was a decision to wear her scrubs to and from work each day to save on buying extra clothing. Laura’s dad chose to replace his daily lunchtime drive from the office to get food with a walk to fetch it instead.

Each of these things, though relatively small in a grand scheme, together make a significant difference. 

It doesn’t have to take an Instagram account and a public profile. It starts with all of us – right where we are – deciding to care. And then making the small changes that we can. Laura’s advice is: ‘just pick one thing and say, “How can I work into being more eco friendly, more ethical in that one area?”
‘I started my whole journey looking for alternatives to plastic shampoo bottles. That was literally where I started. I thought I don't want to tackle big injustices just yet. I just want to think slowly about it and take my time. Because that’s what you need to do – you need to go through a process and as you do, you become more competent and more literate with how to talk about these issues. And I think confidence is the biggest thing – the confidence that you don't need to know everything to talk about it.’

The biggest thing!

And that is one of the things we can all do. Talk about it. It’s the thing that Laura describes as ‘the biggest thing’. Whether that be with our families and friends, or in our churches or community groups, or even to businesses and MPs. 

If all of us care, make the small changes we can, and keep talking about the climate crisis situation, our collective voices and choices will create pressure that has the power to force big changes. 

Climate activism is simply taking an action that can make a change in the climate situation. It might even be as simple as finding a shampoo bottle that isn’t plastic.

Ultimate hope

‘We've got the solutions, we've got all the tech we need, we've got all this knowledge,’ says Laura. ‘Of course there's hope! We just need to get politicians putting in the right practices. We need businesses really honouring the Earth's resources. So, there's a hopefulness – that we know what we're doing, and we've got the solutions. But then, there's also the Christian hope. We know that we're not doing this in our own strength. And we know that we ultimately have hope in an eternal world.’
 

Pray with us

  • Laura Young will be at COP27 in Egypt, along with other Tearfund representatives like Jessica Bwali. Ask that their voices will be heard in places of influence.
  • Pray that wealthier countries will deliver the climate finance they have promised and make new commitments – and for this money to reach the communities that need it most.
  • Many people living in extreme poverty have done the least to contribute to climate change, but are already being most affected by it. Pray that God will provide for those facing hunger.

Interview with

Interview with  Laura Young and Tarryn Pegna


A woman in a yellow raincoat holding a heart shaped sign with the words "Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly"

Laura attended COP26 in Glasgow last year with Tearfund. Photo credit: Chris Hoskins/Tearfund 

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