When the first lockdown hit Italy, Sasha Ozornin could no longer go to work, so decided to use her newfound spare time to create a TikTok account. Highlighting concerns about climate change, it suddenly took off more than she could ever have imagined and today her followers are fast approaching 300,000.
Choosing a climate-related theme seemed appropriate for Sasha, who has been environmentally conscious since childhood. This is thanks largely to her mother, a Soviet immigrant who grew up in one of the most polluted places in Russia, an industrial city called Chelyabinsk. As a result, she became extremely attentive to her own environmental impact.
“My mother doesn’t even buy laundry detergent or soap,” Sasha tells Smiley News. “To wash the dishes she uses all kinds of natural alternatives because she doesn’t want to use chemicals.”
Propelled by her upbringing, Sasha created a series on eco crimes to explore environmental stories she finds online.
Her early content quickly went viral, reaching millions of people, and she believes her videos are having a positive impact.
“A video I made about the Marshall Islands went viral, and I think because of this, it was very impactful,” she explains. It was shared by The National Nuclear Commission of the Republic of the Marshall Islands on its Facebook page, helping the content to receive nearly 3 million likes.
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Another of her posts from the eco crime series describes how a chemical plant is polluting beaches near the Tuscan tourist destination of Rosignano. Following the release of her video, a local Italian politician, Francesco Berti, reached out to her in support of her work and she realised she’d helped advance an important conversation.
Soon after, Vice magazine reported: “This summer, it looks like YouTubers and TikTokkers were more effective in raising awareness around the beach than traditional media.”
Sasha is not a scientist – in fact, she works in a restaurant – but she’s very clear about this in her videos.
“I can’t weigh in with an expert opinion on climate change or other topics, but I care about it very, very much and I like to talk about things that I care about,” she says.
Based on her experiences of social media, she is astounded by its potential to drive positive change. “It’s such a powerful tool,” she says. “I don’t have all the answers, unfortunately. But it blows my mind how I can use TikTok to highlight what used to be a very niche topic and it can suddenly become mainstream overnight. I think that’s incredible.”
Follow Sasha’s TikTok eco series at @ciaosasha.