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Going Green: Meet Inspirational Volunteer Zunaira

Here at Islamic Relief, we know all too well the devastating effects climate change are having on communities worldwide stricken by drought, famine and ongoing natural disaster. That’s why we work to protect both communities and the planet through our sustainable projects and campaigning work.

We’re also keen to develop fresh talent so we work with a great team of volunteers to help offer sector-based campaigning experience. So this Volunteer Week – and in line with World Environment Day – we reached out to one of our inspiring green fingered volunteers Zunaira to get her thoughts on her experience campaigning with us.

Championing climate change

I first started volunteering because I wanted to do something worthwhile with my time whilst I was at college. I was introduced to the exciting world of volunteering through a friend and I went on to meet a great group of interesting like-minded people.After college, I decided to not go to university and volunteering allowed me to explore my areas of interest. Studying geography at school and college had first sparked my interest in environmental and natural processes so the link between climate change and humanitarian issues was a clear one. Through volunteering, I was then able to learn more about the third sector and the humanitarian issues I’d learnt as a student.

From fundraising to campaigning

Over time, I became increasingly interested in the root causes of humanitarian issues. I wanted to do something about the terrible effects of climate change on the planet and was keen to explore these issues that I was becoming increasingly passionate about on a more active, engaged level. I found campaigning to be a great way of communicating these issues to others and the team at Islamic Relief gave me the tools I needed and freedom to be truly creative.

Throughout my time with Islamic Relief, I learnt more about the link between climate change and poverty and worked to raise awareness of key social and environmental issues. I attended key events such as the United Nations Climate Change conferences COP21 and COP22 and spoke on a variety of platforms including Islam Channel and BBC Asian Network.

This allowed me to represent Muslims in the environmental movement and network with campaigners on an international level.

As a non-graduate, the skills I gained through my experience with Islamic Relief helped me immensely. With bags full of passion and enthusiasm and the experience on my CV, I was able to land some key roles within a variety of environmental organisations. This is what I believe enabled me to pursue my current role in environmental education, working with young people for a very exciting charity Action for Conservation.

Top tips to go green!

Between all the chanting on the streets of London, Paris and Marrakesh, I’ve learnt a thing or two about being a more environmentally conscious citizen. So here’s a few tips I’d like to share to inspire you to go green!

1. Less is definitely more

Look inside your bin and make a mental note of the things you’re throwing away the most. These are the things you want to start swapping for more environmentally-friendly biodegradable and reusable alternatives to reduce waste.

You won’t switch overnight but every little change counts. Start with something easy such as buying a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, bag or lunch box. Next, look into bamboo toothbrushes and beeswax food wraps. If you’re throwing away lots of tissues then get yourself some good old reusable napkins! You’ll be surprised at how something as small as carrying a reusable water bottle can cut out a large amount of the plastic waste you’re producing! So next time you’re offered a carrier bag to carry that carton of milk back home from your local corner shop… politely decline!

2. Challenge yourself

I’ve found that doing challenges such as going vegetarian for the month, partaking in “Veganuary” or bathing with only one bucket of water for a week – whilst sharing social media updates to keep people updated – really helps me with addressing my consumption habits and motivates me to complete the challenge. For me, doing something like this allows me to discover what I could change if I just tried a little. Changing your habits permanently is a longer process but by testing yourself and realising what you can do in that short time, you’re planting the seeds for longer-term change because ultimately you know it’s possible!

3. Campaign for change

Sometimes the most environmentally-friendly option won’t be the cheapest or most accessible available. You shouldn’t have to put yourself in difficulty to get those eco credentials, so this is where campaigning comes in. You can demand better alternatives from the stores you shop at and write to your local politicians to demand change so that everyone can buy better. It can sometimes be as easy as signing an online petition!

4. Lead by friendly example

Most importantly, learn and teach others in a language they understand without being judgemental. Don’t judge those who can’t afford to environmentally friendly alternatives or those who are disinterested initially. This can be difficult especially when you’ve just learnt about how serious environmental issues are but remember that people have different motivations and interests and it’s about finding out what those are. Lead by example and be open to learning!

Now, who’s ready for Plastic Free July!

Thank you Zunaira. It’s great to hear about your fantastic experience at Islamic Relief and to get some fabulous eco-friendly advice! All the best for the future!

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