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Advice from inspiring youth climate activists

Ready to act on the climate crisis and inspire others to do the same? You’re in luck. We asked two successful young activists what it takes to inspire people to change their attitudes and behaviour towards the environment.

Charlie Gill: Co-founder of Life Before Plastik and ICS Raleigh Nepal 2018 volunteer

Charlie Gill, co-founder of Life Before Plastik and ICS Raleigh Nepal 2018 volunteer
Charlie Gill

What is your project about?

I co-founded Life Before Plastik (LB4P), an online plastic-free supermarket helping thousands of people make eco-friendly choices by swapping out unsustainable everyday items for more environmentally friendly alternatives. I also offer advice and make how-to video guides to raise awareness of how easy it can be to change your lifestyle.

What was your motivation for setting up LB4P?

I first started making plastic-free changes in 2018, just before I travelled to Nepal with Raleigh ICS. I started small, trading a shampoo bottle for a shampoo bar.

Travelling to a country where waste management isn’t their primary concern opened my eyes to the scale of the problem. My host family in rural Nepal grew all their own vegetables, but that didn’t stop many people buying tiny plastic packets of shampoo, plastic packets of sweets, plastic biscuit packets. With nowhere to put the waste, much of it ends up in the cornfields, in the vegetable patches, on the roads and in the rivers.

My time in Nepal taught me two major things:

  1. Plastic waste is a bigger issue than I realised
  2. We all need to take action to live a simple, plastic-free life

Since returning, I’ve tried to remain an active citizen and make changes in my community.

What initially made you concerned about ocean plastic?

Every year 8 million tonnes of plastic enters our oceans through our rivers. But it’s not just our oceans, it’s all over our land, in our cities, our countryside, even in the world’s most remote places, like the Arctic. Plastic particles are washed out of our clothes, our toothpaste, and even from our car tyres into the food chain. It’s in our food, in our water and in the air that we breathe.

It’s been estimated that humans have roughly a credit card’s worth of plastic inside them. Did you hear about the whale found washed up with 40kg of plastic in its stomach in the Philippines? I don’t want that to be me.

Why did you decide this route – a business rather than campaigning?

I believe in playing to your strengths. I had experience of going plastic free and wanted to be able to share and enable easier journeys for others. I still campaign but rather than going to marches and delivering speeches, I use my social media platforms to encourage others to make changes. There are many causes I believe in but by focusing my attention on one part of the issue I feel I'll be able to make the biggest impact.

Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life below water

The global governments are trying to protect life on land and below water through the Sustainable Development Goals, but it’s not just up to them. If individuals, friendship groups, communities, cities make changes, there will be no need for global governance.

Every individual can make a difference, and it’s up to us to change what our future looks like. I hope it’s plastic-free.

What role do you see for young people in climate action?

Activism is all about youth. I think young people have something so important to bring to the table with ambition, strength and a sense of urgency that can often get lost elsewhere. Having people of all ages making decisions is exactly how the just ones are made, and young people leading in activism is key for raising the voice of the youth and ensuring we help bring about change.

How would you like to see the climate movement progress?

I'd like to see real, tangible steps taking place. The movement of young individuals is driving change but that needs to be met with governments and corporations working together to provide solutions and mitigation. I hope that young people will be able to take up seats with representatives from businesses and governments for those solutions to be developed together.

What advice do you have for our budding ICS activists?

It’s OK to change your opinion, but always remember your passion.
Charlie Gill

My advice for activists who are just starting out is to not be afraid to always keep learning. It’s OK to change your opinion, but always remember your passion. If I ever get led astray or forget myself, I come back to the issue I wanted to change: removing plastic from the ocean. You will get lost along the way and that’s OK, it’s a learning curve. Remember why you started the journey and you’ll stay true to the cause. 

What changes can someone make today? 

Start small, take it step-by-step, and think how you can swap out plastic in your home per room. For example, swap your toothbrush for a bamboo alternative, then your toothpaste and other bathroom items, before moving on to products in your kitchen.

Ayesha Farah: Send my Friend to School

Ayesha Farah
Ayesha Farah

What is your project about?

The Send my Friend to School campaign is a hosted organisation at Results UK, which brings together thousands of young voices from across the UK to speak up for the global right to education. 

What are you currently campaigning on?  

In my role as a Campaigns Officer, I'm currently working on the 'Right Climate to Learn' campaign, training 12 campaign champions on how climate change affects education both in the Global South and the UK. We look closely at how Sustainable Development Goals 13 (Climate action) and 4 (Quality education) are linked, and have been working towards COP26 (the UN Climate Change Conference). I've been working on getting more young people aware about and involved in this, not just tokenistically, but actually as part of the discussion at a local and global level. 

 What role do you see for young people in climate action? 

Climate change will mostly affect our generation and those after us. When you see the likes of Vanassa Nakate, Isra Hirsi and Zeena Abdulkareem - amongst many more young climate activists of colour - often taken out of the narrative and whose work you do not hear about, it's ironic, as people in the Global South often have to pay the greatest price for the environmental choices that we in the West make.

So, your voice matters, our choices matter and a sense of unified action is needed to combat this crisis, that often is not being treated like one. 

What advice do you have for our budding ICS activists?

My advice for activists is that there is no time like the present to get out and get your voices heard. To believe in the power of storytelling, to be their unapologetic self and to tell their story.

Be bold in your ideas, don't be afraid to be different.
Ayesha Farah

I created a training programme for young campaigners, which I divided into all the key aspects needed to campaign effectively. We looked at policy, lobbying and communicating with local government representatives, conveying your passion coherently in speech, digital campaigning, and the power of art, music, vlogging and film – and putting it into action. Be bold in your ideas, don't be afraid to be different.

How would you like to see the climate action movement progress, and the role of youth in it?

UN SDG 4: Quality education

There’s no handbook or guide to the role of the youth within climate action. It's an aspect that's being explored and changing day by day, particularly in this new decade. I do believe it's still a blank canvas and that we are often seeing young people across the world adapting to the changes we face and finding new ways of taking action. For instance, during this pandemic, Fridays for Future started a digital campaign to take effective climate action from home that garnered global attention.   

There's no doubt that youth need to be at the forefront of discussions. That means we need to be ready and looking for ways to get a seat at the table – and to demand that seat at the table. For far too long, the discussion around climate change has been happening without young people's voices. Too often it's because we ‘should’ have youth voices, as opposed to realising we need youth voices.

That's why we at Send My Friend are training and looking at ways to ensure our voice is heard, and to take the action needed. We're lobbying parliament, campaigning to introduce climate action as part of the national curriculum, looking at creative ways to promote change, and educating those around us.

Charlie and Ayesha both took part in our youth climate action solidarity call last week. To hear more about their work, visit and

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ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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