INTERVIEW: Caroline Lucas talks green living and eco style
March 11, 2010 by George Walker
Green Party MEP for the South East, mother, President of the Animal Welfare Intergroup and a supporter of various ethical campaigns: Whatever your political allegiance, Caroline Lucas is proof that an ethical and stylish lifestyle can be tailored around even the most strenuous of timetables. But just how does she fit it all in? Just for you Greenmystyle.com readers, George Walker spoke to Caroline about her ethical style secrets, eco icons and dreams for the future.
Caroline Lucas has had a highly successful political career, not just as the leader of the Green Party, but also as a champion for charities and organisations promoting ethical campaigns. Politics has never been the most glamorous of professions, but Caroline has stood out in the political style stakes, showing politicians that green living can easily fit in to the lives of young professional families. George Walker speaks to Caroline Lucas about her hopes for a more ethical fashion industry, her natural beauty secrets and how she strives to live an ethical and stylish life.
George Walker: How important is fashion in your line of work? What ethical labels do you love?
Caroline Lucas: Fashion isn’t really important in politics, although people will always focus on your appearance when you’re in the public eye. So I guess I like to look stylish, but am in no way a label-junkie! I like independent shops and brands which achieve high ethical standards and keep prices reasonable for the shopper. The Gossypium boutique in The Lanes [Brighton], for example, is a striving independent enterprise employing local people and promoting strong green credentials at affordable prices. It even sells make-it-yourself kits using fair trade materials. The Brighton based Ecochicollection online shop is great for ethically made jewellery across all budgets. I also like People Tree, which manages to be both extremely stylish and very ethical. Vintage shops are good places to find chic secondhand clothes, and importantly, high street stores like M&S and Topshop have now started to sell increasing numbers of Fairtrade cotton pieces.
GW: Is there anyone that you think is a true stylish ethical icon?
CL: The late Brighton-born Anita Roddick was a true pioneer of ethical business practices at a time when it was unfashionable to talk about ‘being green’ – indeed, there’s now a blue plaque where her first shop was opened in Brighton. Safia Minney of People Tree is also a real icon; she has great personal style and has worked hard to establish a successful business based on a genuinely fair deal for workers and the environment.
GW: As for beauty products, how important are natural or organic ingredients to you? Any beauty ranges you can’t live without?
CL: I try to buy natural or organic products whenever I can, and always seek guarantees that none of the products I use are tested on animals. Certified organic skin care and hair care products are more available now than ever, and they’re better for your health and for the environment. I love the handmade cosmetics at Lush, a brand which has really succeeded in making being green fun and affordable. The Body Shop – especially its famous body butter, which uses cocoa butter made from cocoa beans from a fair trade co-operative in Ghana – is also a favourite, as is the all-natural Burts Bees range at Boots. Neal’s Yard Remedies and Dr Hauschka products are lovely for a special treat.
GW: How do you keep your home both eco-friendly and stylish?
CL: My home is a real sanctuary to escape to and put my feet up after a long and hectic day. So I like it to look warm, welcoming and lived-in, with lots of earthy colours and natural fabrics. I use eco-friendly cleaning products to try to reduce the amount of harmful chemicals in the house, as increasing amounts of research is pointing to serious health problems being caused by the many toxic chemicals that surround us. Needless to say, I also recycle whatever I can, buy recycled goods such as stationery for my office, and am always on the look out for more energy efficient appliances.
GW: What do you think can be done to make people realise that ethical living can be practical, stylish and rewarding?
CL: For a start, we need to have much better access to information about how and where our clothes are made – so that we can make more informed choices when we buy. Personally, I am always conscious of where my money is going when I pay for a product, and I want to know that I am investing in goods that are ecologically sound and providing a good deal for the people who made them. I think most consumers would be bothered by the knowledge that their money might pay for others to be exploited – or for the degradation of our natural world. Campaigns highlighting the poor labour practices and environmentally damaging methods employed by companies are crucial for raising public awareness of this individual responsibility to use consumer power for the good. In general, we need to see more affordable ranges of Fairtrade and organic products on the market, and a greater promotion of ethical services – such as ethical banking and investment.
CL: I would be a very boring mum if I spent all my time lecturing my sons on environmental and ethical issues, but I do make sure that they understand the real value of things – and think carefully about how their choices affect others.
GW: What are your main hopes for the future of fashion and design industries here in the UK?
CL: The really important thing is to bring high ethical standards much more into the mainstream, so that all brands become more ethical and affordable. Trade unions are doing some brilliant work in trying to make this happen. War on Want’s campaign against use of sweatshop labour in the production of cheap clothes for the UK high street is also doing a good job of making consumers more aware of the issues – and therefore more likely to demand better standards. It would be great to see more organic and Fairtrade materials being used as the norm – and I think the UK design industries have real potential to lead the way in creating innovative and sustainable products which reflect the need to make the transition to a greener future.
GW: Brighton is obviously a really fun city – what is it about Brighton that you love most?
CL: Brighton is a truly unique place which has, quite rightly, become famous for its rich and diverse culture. There are lots of things I love about the town – the beautiful seafront, the historic architecture and open green spaces, the Duke of York cinema, the many independent shops and cafes – but I think most of all, it’s the people who make Brighton what it is. People here have an open minded, progressive and dynamic approach to life, and there is a real spirit of independence that makes Brighton especially fun. It’s a hotbed of vibrant grass roots politics and community activism which really benefits from a bustling student population. And thanks to the strong values of its people, Brighton has become a place in which independent businesses can thrive; I believe it has massive potential to be a hub for innovative green business in the future.
For more info on the work of Caroline Lucas, head to her website.