The Strictly star, 32, on why these days you could well find her rummaging through a skip.
You call yourself an ‘environmental activist’ on your Instagram profile and post about sustainability. Why are you so passionate about living a more eco lifestyle?
“I think it’s just realising the urgency of it and how we need to act now. I started my journey learning about fast fashion, because I was a bit of a shopping addict and wanted to follow the latest trends. It’s too easy to just click a few buttons and purchases appear at your front door. There’s not enough information of its impact on the environment. I understand we want to look good, but there are much more sustainable ways of achieving that.”
You went a whole year without buying new clothes or shoes. How was the experience?
“I’m so glad I did it as I wanted to see how it would change my mindset. I now absolutely love shopping for second-hand clothes and I also reuse a lot of what’s in my wardrobe time and time again. I’ve learnt so much more because of my journey and now incorporate sustainability as much as possible within my everyday life. I’m really conscious of using less plastic, from taking my own shopping bags with me when I’m out and about, to choosing food that doesn’t come in plastic containers.”
What ways can people shop for clothes better?
“For a start you should think if you even need the item in the first place. Is there another piece in your wardrobe already that you can get creative with to make it look different? There are also so many companies where you can rent clothes or handbags for a special occasion – or why not share clothes with your friends?”
Would you say shopping second-hand is more exciting than buying new?
“Totally – you still get exactly the same buzz as you would if you picked a brand-new dress off the rails, as it’s still something you’ve never worn before. In fact, you get even more of a thrill as it will have cost you half the price as something new. Go check out your local charity shops and look at it as a little adventure – I promise you won’t be disappointed!”
What other ways can you help with sustainability?
“Don’t just buy pre-loved items – sell the items you no longer want as well. I’ve been selling a lot of my unwanted clothes so someone else can benefit. Be mindful of using less plastic by having reusable coffee and water cups – even small things like boiling a kettle for one cup of tea instead of filling the whole kettle really helps the environment. I’ve even got all my friends involved with trying to be more eco-conscious – it was my birthday recently and they all took a lot of care to think of a thoughtful gift that wouldn’t impact the planet.”
You’ve also discussed how many are confused by ‘best before’ and ‘use by dates’ on our food. What’s the difference?
“There is too much food waste because people don’t understand the terminology. Even if an item has a ‘sell by’ or ‘best before’, it’s still absolutely fine to eat under many circumstances. If you’re ever unsure you can always save food by freezing it, and you should also choose how to best buy groceries. I shop for my fruit and veg from Oddbox, a company that sells on produce the farmers either have too much of – or has been rejected by supermarkets for its appearance.”
Do you always shop with a list and know what to buy?
“It works best for me by shopping every few days – that way I tend to not have too much in my fridge. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but anything you can do will make an impact. Many people don’t realise that cling film can’t be recycled, and we use it so much of it in this country. I read a statistic that in the UK alone we get through enough to go around the circumference of the Earth 30 times over. Instead, just store your food or leftovers in a container, or use wax beads wraps instead.”
You’ve even been seen pulling items out of skips to upcycle. What’s the best item you’ve found so far?
“I love having a little peek in a skip to see what’s in there! I spotted a child’s chair in one recently, so knocked and asked if I could have it. My wardrobes were also looking a bit tired, so rather than buying new I got creative with a tin of paint! It’s great because you get to add your own character to items, and they also become unique pieces nobody else has.”
Strictly is back on our screens later on this year. Can you convince the wardrobe department to be more sustainable when it comes to their costumes?
“They are absolutely fantastic already! I don’t think a lot of people realise how much the team reuses. They alter items from previous series and I’m forever seeing them unpicking crystals and beading to use on something else. There’s also a big bank of clothes solely to get accessorised differently, plus they use costumes on other shows like Dancing with the Stars. They are so creative and clever at reusing the wardrobe and I think they deserve the utmost respect.”
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