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Ashleigh Hodges on her sustainability journey

Ashleigh Hodges challenged herself to 12 months of sustainability in 2020 in an effort to counteract the pressures facing our planet in any way she could. To celebrate Earth Day 2021, her journey is the perfect reflection on how individual action as both freelancers and hairdressers cannot be underestimated

I signed up to be a member of Greenpeace at the age of 13. After seeing what we were doing to the natural world I wanted to be part of the change. While not old enough to go to the monthly meetings, I still enjoyed being involved, receiving emails and gaining knowledge on how to do better. Things seem very linear when you are a teenager; you can hear something that’s bad and instantly want to stop it. I blame the hormones. As we grow up, things become more complicated.

I left school, did my apprenticeship and got stuck into my career- that teen-saving-the-world mentality got forgotten for a bit. In my twenties I revisited that part of me and started ‘doing my bit’ where I could. I recycled and stopped buying fast fashion for a year, cut meat out of my diet along with other efforts. It wasn’t until I was totally freelance that I became truly aware of my own impact, and how one individual can make a difference. That’s why I love being freelance – it empowers you, as it’s so clear that what you do by yourself counts.

At the end of 2019 Trump was in power, Boris had just been elected and I had a very dark day. I couldn’t stop thinking about how these leaders weren’t taking climate change seriously. We don’t have much time to turn this around and they were dragging their feet; money was always more important. I cried a lot, feeling the heavy effects of such choices weighing on me – the fear, anger and sadness for the world and the next generations. So I decided to make real, active changes myself. You can’t change the whole world, but you can change yours.

In 2020 I did 12 months of sustainability. Each month I would focus on one thing in my life that could become more sustainable. I would spend that month learning about why it was important, why it was damaging our world, and then take actions to do better. From my purchasing habits – moving from our capitalistic society to a more circular economy, thinking about whether I ‘needed’ to buy something, could it be bought ethically and locally instead – to water usage, looking at where could I save water and recycle it… I reassessed everything I could.

By the six months mark sustainability became ingrained into every decision I was making. Not only was I well on my sustainability journey, but I was influencing others on theirs too. Clients, family and friends alike; talking about what I was doing made others think differently. We are in such a special position as hairdressers in that we connect to so many people, and the decisions we make can have a real influence on others.

Sustainability is a very big, very overwhelming subject to dive into. My advice is to take it step-by-step; focus on one area and work on that, learn about its importance, lean into it and then take action. If we try to do it all at once then we will crash and burn. Taking it on as a long-term journey will mean it’ll become ingrained into your life. Finally, it’s about going on this journey with no judgement. No judgement for yourself, the things you did when you didn’t know better, and no judgement for others. We are each on this journey at a different point and it’s important for us to teach each other and help others along it.

During lockdown I had the time to put this all down into a course – I felt it was important to talk as a hairdresser to other hairdressers about every layer of sustainability, and how each decision we make can make a difference. On the course you learn the 12 key steps you can take and why it’s vital for us to be doing it right now. It also includes a handbook with all the sustainability knowledge I’ve collated so you can reference back at any point. We are an industry that uses a lot of resources, from water to electricity to our landfill waste, so it’s vital for all our lives to be making these changes now before it’s too late. Together I really believe we can make a better world.

You can find information about Ashleigh’s 12 Steps to Sustainability course and when it is next running HERE.

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