Speak Up! by Smiley Movement is a series of roundtable discussions where we tackle some of the big issues in our world – and focus on the solutions.
We gather experts and people who are striving to make a difference to give them an opportunity to speak up and share their story. In our first episode, we gathered fashion experts to help us answer one question: what is the future of fashion?
18 creators. 18 different backgrounds. 1 goal: to save the planet.
Let’s be honest, your thoughts about TikTok are most likely to be about the collective hours you’ve wasted, rather than about how you could potentially use it to change the world.
But Sabrina Pare, 29, a founding member of EcoTok, wants to prove otherwise.
Cast your minds back to March 2020, when Covid took hold. With a lot of free time, Sabrina, from Detroit, started to get into sustainable living, sharing her finds on TikTok. “I made videos on sustainable swaps, living more sustainably, and people seemed to like them,” she tells us. “A couple went viral, so I continued, and really enjoyed making them.”
There were only a handful of environmentalists on TikTok at the time, says Sabrina, and they all knew each other, forming a group chat.
In June of the same year, the group – Abbie Richards, Alaina Wood, Alex Silva, and Sabrina Pare – came up with the idea of starting a group page on TikTok The name? EcoTok.
EcoTok is a collective of environmental educators and activists who use TikTok as a platform for good. They see climate change for what it is, a crisis, and they hope to empower younger generations to do something about it by teaching them about science, activism, and ways to make changes in their life.
At the time, there were 10 members. Now, there’s 18. Among them, you’ll find scientists, students, activists, environmental educators, and civil servants.
The group has gained traction on the platform, garnering nearly 120,000 followers and having more than two million likes on their videos. They range from anecdotal stories, responses to the news, life hacks to live better, the science behind the climate, and shine a light on the optimism we can hope for.
“In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of climate doom and people putting out negative, fear-driven messages,” says Sabrina, speaking about the need for EcoTok. “We are passionate about being more positive, spreading climate optimism.
“We tell people there is still hope and time to combat climate change – and I think that’s why people resonate with us.”
Their mission, she says, is quite simple: to educate and inspire people to take climate action.
More than just a platform to share ways people can take action, EcoTok has created real, in-person friendships.
“We’re all good friends!” says Sabrina, beaming. A lot of us met this summer, at the Hollywood Climate Summit – it was really cool to finally meet in person after two years. We’ve become really close, and we FaceTime each other!”
For the majority of the content creators, EcoTok is a passion project. A side hustle they do because they love inspiring the next generation. While some are still students in college, others – like Sabrina – do it alongside full-time jobs.
“It’s a lot of work,” she says, “making videos, doing emails, having meetings. It’s another 10 hours a week on top of my full-time role.” Outside of TikTok, Sabrina works as a benefits and wellness specialist.
But there are big plans for EcoTok. They currently have an executive board of four members, and are working on transforming it into a nonprofit. The extra workload is worth it, says Sabrina.
“Being a part of this, it’s really boosted my mood around the planet,” she says. “A lot of our members come from a science background, and I find it so helpful to get information from them. It’s a super helpful support group, and I’m so focused on being climate positive.”
Sabrina’s advice for those suffering from climate anxiety – something increasing numbers of Gen-Zers are feeling – is to follow more positive accounts. “Don’t get stuck doom scrolling,” she says, “seek out more positive information instead.
“Also, getting involved in your community and seeing how you can support it can really help. There are so many great organisations out there putting in the work that you can join.
We love to hear news about positivity, optimism and hope – so it’s always interesting to hear where the happiest places to live are.
Every year, RightMove asks people in Great Britain to tell them how they feel about where they live. “We ask people what they love about their local areas, and what makes a place really feel like home,” they say.
The annual survey is now in its 11th year, and this year they heard from more than 21,000 people living in towns, cities and villages up and down the nation.
Residents score their local areas on things like community spirit, and how much access they have to nature and green spaces, as well as artistic and cultural activities.
“Our Happy at Home survey really shows that the things that make people happy to live in their area are not so much the physical aspects of that area but more the personal aspects, such as our sense of belonging, the community and the people,” says our property expert, Tim Bannister.
“The last few months have undoubtedly been difficult for many, and as we learned during another difficult period in 2020, this is often when we look to our local area and community for support and happiness,” he adds.
So, which locations in Great Britain have been voted the happiest by the people that live in them?
From concert halls, to crowded living rooms or outdoor venues, people often bond through the music surrounding them. Yet still, there are barriers to entry. Classical music, in particular, is populated by elitism that makes it hard to break into and enjoy for the layman, even more if you’re in society’s margins.
Me2 started with one goal in mind: making classical music accessible, primarily by opening it up to people who are struggling with mental illness. The first conductor and co-founder, Ronald Braunstein, lost his previous role due to a bipolar episode he was experiencing.
“[Ronald] came to me one day and said, ‘I’m not going back into this the same old rat race, I’m not going to put myself in a position where I can be stigmatized and discriminated against because people expect me to fit into a certain mold as a conductor,’” the Executive Director and co-founder of Me2, Caroline Whiddon, tells Smiley News.
“‘My brain obviously doesn’t work that way. I need a safe space. So I want to create an orchestra for people like me.’”
Caroline and Ronald founded Me2 in 2011. “I started to Google and of course realized very quickly that there was no such thing like us, especially in the classical music world, it’s kind of like the antithesis of the way that we’re trained,” Caroline says.
“Ronald went to Julliard, I went to the Eastman School of Music. Any of these schools, they train you to show up, be prepared, play the notes, do your job, and it’s really stressful.
“[So he said]… I want to get together with people like me who may not be quite as consistent, who may need a little extra help getting to rehearsal functioning within the group.”
Attempting to break the formality that they were used to in the classical music world, Caroline and Ronald wanted to make Me2 – a registered nonprofit – accessible in ways that no other orchestra was.
They started off by adopting basic rules that have been maintained until today. The first is that there are no auditions, if someone is willing and able to play in the orchestra they are allowed to join. Next, there are no fees involved since they “didn’t want socio-economics to play into it.” And finally, no stigma is allowed.
“We’re just really trying to set the example, through our words, but also through our actions from the very beginning that everybody is welcome,” Caroline says, “and that if somebody’s having a bad day, that’s cool. That’s okay. We’re there for you.”
Beyond the acceptance that they wanted to foster, Me2 quickly became a safe place for a lot of the people in it. Whether struggling with incarceration, drug addiction, or many of life’s other maladies, Me2 stood available.
“We’re a once-a-week orchestra, and we’re a safe place and a place for people to be,” Caroline says. “We’re not therapists, and we’re not caretakers but what I’ve started to focus more on is making sure that we’re a safe place for people to land. So if somebody needs that time off, if somebody’s in the hospital or they are wrapped up.”
There’s no denying the festive season is full of products and single-use buys that aren’t exactly great for the planet… but the magic these bring can sometimes be hard to resist.
Take crackers, for example. The gorgeous-looking table decoration, the joy when you pull it alongside your loved ones, wearing the paper hats… it’s a staple festive tradition.
Lucy Ewles wanted to keep that tradition alive – but make it better for the planet. In 2020, she created Kaneo: beautiful, eco, reusable crackers for Christmas.
Named after the village she married her husband, Lucy came up with the business idea after Christmas 2019. “I had a big do and did fill-your-own crackers,” she says. “We had 22 people, I personalised them all and it was such a hit, but after, I felt awful.
“We had nearly 3 bin bags full of this rubbish. I wanted something that looks lovely on the table, but for it to go straight in the bin or recycling felt a bit wrong.”
Lucy started searching for reusable crackers that still had that “snap”, but couldn’t find any. So she tried herself. “I’m a crafty person, so I do enjoy things like that,” she says.
Working full-time as a teacher, she spent her evenings and weekends with her sewing machine and making prototypes. She managed to create crackers that were reusable, could “snap” when pulled, and looked good, too. Her friends loved them – and it spiralled from there.
Lucy found a manufacturer and decided to turn her reusable crafty crackers into a business, with 2021 being her first year of trading. She did a Hatch Enterprise cause that year for entrepreneurs who are looking to give back through their business idea – because she wanted to make sure they were crackers who did more.
“I always wanted to do something good with these,” says Lucy, “giving back is the side that is really interesting to me.
“I wanted it to be embedded within what the crackers were about. When I was looking at charities, the most iconic Christmas charity is the Salvation Army – they do so much around helping people with homelessness, providing hot dinners and places for people to stay.”
Lucy approached them and they agreed to be a partner. Now, 10% of all sales go to the charity.
You can buy a box of six crackers, which come with 18 sticky snap sticks for three parties – and refills are sold, too. “These are special snap sticks I invented,” says Lucy. “They’ve got a sticky bit at both ends, the cracker has got two tubes, and they slide apart when you pull. The snap goes around the outside once you’ve put gifts in.”
As the cost of living increases, people throughout the United States are stretched thinner by the day.
The housing crisis is already exacerbating the cost of living enough, and now people are struggling to make simple ends meet.
According to the USDA, in 2021, 13.5 million US households experienced food insecurity, meaning there were times when there wasn’t enough money to feed everyone in the family.
MARSH Grocery in St. Louis wants to make the growing prices more palatable for the everyday shopper. When you shop there, you can pay what you like.
Pay what you like?
It’s not as simple as paying a few cents for a whole cart of groceries, but the grocery store lets people pay up to 20 percent less or more on items than the listed price opening up an affordable, high-quality food option in the area.
Serving as a non-profit grocer, you might assume they struggle to break even – but apparently the option to pay more on grocery options nearly matches dollars lost making breaking even fairly easy.
“It feels like exactly what I hoped for, that we would create connections between relational economy, sustainability, climate resilience, community building, quality of life,” MARSH founder Beth Neff says.
“Even if we don’t yet sell enough food to say we made money at the end of the day, we’re certainly creating a foundation for those things.”
The world has their eyes glued to screens right now to watch the World Cup… football, that is.
But there’s a different World Cup Experience that has a sole aim of doing good in our world: The Beder World Cup.
The Beder World Cup Experience is an exhibition and experience, harnessing the power of football during the World Cup to raise awareness around mental health and suicide prevention.
What is Beder?
Beder is a charity taking a unique approach to raising awareness around mental health and suicide prevention through exciting events and initiatives.
It founded in November 2019 by Razzak Mirjan and his family following the loss of Beder Mirjan who sadly took his own life at the age of 18 in April 2017.
Beder FC is a football club open to all and one which intends to raise awareness around mental health and suicide prevention through playing football. It has grown quickly, despite only playing its first fixture in April 2021, and it has secured the support of leading players such as Harry Kane, Jack Grealish, Bruno Fernandes, Jordan Henderson, David De Gea, Wilfred Zaha and many more in addition to Nike and Pro Direct.
So, tell me about this ‘World Cup’ experience
The Beder World Cup Experience brings together the “beautiful” side of the game through The Beder FC Hall of Fame, The Beder Boot Room, The Beder Bar and Beder Fan Zone where you can watch the knockout stages of the World Cup live.
It’s held between 6-18 December 2022, at Noho Showrooms, 67 Great Titchfield Street, London.
The Beder FC Hall of Fame displays signed shirts by some of the world’s leading footballers who are supporting Beder FC in its work, through football, to keep opening up the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention.
The Beder Boot Room in partnership with Sokito contains hand painted football boots by leading artists with each piece of artwork inspired by the topics of mental health and suicide prevention.
There is also an auction, with all proceeds going to Beder.
Struggling to pick those last-minute gifts for your loved ones? Well, you’re not the only one.
As we open our advent calendars and pull out those dusty Christmas decs, it’s time to start thinking about presents. But for many this year – as the planet and the people on it is becoming increasingly important to society to protect – you may want to give gifts with meaning. Ones that aren’t full of plastic, or do good in the process.
We’ve put together a list of gifts you can buy for family and friends without the guilt, all while spreading a little Christmas cheer.
We no doubt all know someone who would love this gift! For the vintage lovers and secondhand shoppers among us, The Charity Shop Giftcard is a fantastic gift. You purchase and load it up with cash, just like any other giftcard, but the contents are redeemable at a variety of different charity shops across the country.
Participating stores includes places like Shelter, YMCA and TRAID, but the list is growing every single day. This gift does triple the good – you’re making a donation to charities, enabling people to shop secondhand and preventing waste, and you’re bringing a smile to your loved ones faces. What could be better?
Sick of giving the gift of stuff every year? For your loved one who has, well, everything, consider purchasing a Concern Gift, through Concern Worldwide.
On their website, you can choose from a bunch of different gifts, all of which are tailored to improve the lives of families in some of the world’s poorest countries. You can spend as little as £9 on a mosquito net, or as much as £1,180 on a village well – or buy livestock like chickens and cows so that families can eat, and sell produce for money.
Each gift comes with a personalised card you can send to your loved one, so they know where the money is going, and can see the difference it is making in someones life.
If you have a family member who loves a glass of wine at the end of a long week, then look no further. Sea Change Wine is a wine company dedicated to quality wine, and protecting our oceans.
The wines are eco friendly (meaning minimal packaging), and each 75cl bottle purchased results in a 25 euro cents donation to charity partners like the Olive Ridley Project and Sea-Changers. As an added bonus, all wines are suitable for vegetarians, and most are even vegan friendly.
#TOGETHERBAND is a fantastic store that prioritises sustainability above all else – but who says you can’t look good while saving the planet?
For the sustainable fashionista in your life, consider the carbon negative sunglassesmade from recycled CDs – for every pair sold £1 is donated to Sightsavers to help prevent blindness. Or maybe take a look at the bracelets made from ocean plastic with clasps made from surrendered firearms.
Whoever you’re buying for, #TOGETHER has a gift they’ll love, that allows you to give back at the same time.
Have a foodie friend who wants to make an impact? Look no further than the Sustainable Foodie Gift Box, where each and every item has made a difference, in its own special way.
From the apple crisps made from wonky apples that would otherwise go to the landfill, helping reduce food waste to the honey spiced nut mix that helps girls in Africa through the Empowering Girls Education Programme, the Sustainable Foodie Gift Box is a great choice for making a difference. One thing is for sure, this gift box will keep your loved ones happy in their souls, and their stomachs, long after Christmas has been and gone.