Former journalist launches centre to help fight eco crisis on local level

Local campaigners get together to fight climate change

Friday, 25th March — By Charlotte Chambers

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A FORMER fashion editor who turned her back on glitzy clothes and it-crowd parties has launched an eco-centre in the heart of Islington to fight climate change on a local level.

Bel Jacobs had been Metro newspaper’s fashion editor for 14 years when the Rana Plaza, a clothing factory in Bangladesh, collapsed in 2013, killing 1,134. For the fashion lover, it was a wake-up call to the realities of the industry.

“It went from being something quite innocent and fun to something we realised was very damaging to the environment and to the people who were making the clothes,” she said. “Its impact is out of all proportion to what it offers.”

She decided to quit her job, first going into sustainable fashion – which she warns also isn’t the answer – before settling on becoming an environmental activist. Now, Ms Jacobs is a member of Extinction Rebellion and followed the news closely as climate agreements came and went, seemingly without change. Feeling a lack of leadership from the top, she now wants individuals to act.

She said: “I went freelance and focused on sustainable fashion initiatives which at that point I thought were going to be the answer. I started to understand more and more about the climate emergency – we had all these reports coming out, like the 2015 Paris agreement and 2018 was the big IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report saying we’ve got so little time left to fix this.

“I joined Extinction Rebellion and I started to really understand through my involvement with them that ordinary people really had to take quite dramatic steps to address the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis.”

As part of the Paris agreement and the IPCC report, industrialised countries have committed to limiting the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees.

Ms Jacobs – alongside other environmental groups in the borough – launched the Islington Climate Centre, in Upper Street’s Angel Central shopping centre, on Saturday. It is part of a growing movement of climate emergency centres popping up across the country that focus on activism on a small scale.

Ms Jacobs said the centre will offer people support in living more sustainably, such as clothing “repair parties” and “Make and Mend festivals”, as well as giving workshops on how to live plastic-free. It also offers environmental groups already active in the borough a place to meet and operate from.

Ms Jacobs, who lives in Upper Street, said she wanted to open the centre to arm the “ordinary person in the street” with knowledge. While people are scared of climate change and want to “take action,” they don’t always know where to start and need practical solutions to help them make sustainable choices in life – but without being preached at.

She added: “We are very aware of the concerns of ordinary people and that we have to meet people where they are in their journey – this does not mean we’ll be ramming the climate crisis down people’s throats – ‘you’ve got to go vegan, you’ve got to stop shopping’. The plan is to showcase better alternatives for some of the destructive practices that we, almost without thought, engage in.”

But she said she could not pretend that hard choices would not be needed, from reducing our meat consumption to taking fewer flights and changing our fast-clothing habits. Instead, she believes, we must turn to a more old-fashioned way of life – known as the circular economy – where things are made to last and be mended, and shared and passed on when we no longer have use for them.

She added: “Sometimes it’s difficult for people to make the connection with the ordinary things they do and the impact it has on the rest of the world and potentially on their future and their children’s future. This is scary stuff and we don’t want to scare people but we do want to inspire action in people.”

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