Amy Bray - the Lake District’s inspirational young eco-campaigner
PUBLISHED: 00:00 11 June 2020
It took nine months for Amy Bray and her family to go 100 per cent plastic free – and now she’s helping the environment one tree at a time.
In less than a year, environment campaigner Amy Bray persuaded her family to completely change the way they lived. Single-use plastics were out of the window, they promised to eat only local and seasonal produce, and would never jump on a plane to jet off on holiday ever again. Amy vowed also to dress only in charity shop buys – and that was all before her 16th birthday.
Now, aged 17, she’s even more determined to make a change. ‘I’ve always wanted to be a marine biologist,’ Amy says. ‘When I learned about the threats our oceans are facing with plastic pollution and micro-plastics, I really wanted to try and change some of that because I was frightened the topic would no longer be here when it was my time to study.
‘Going plastic-free made me think about every aspect of how I lived. It was really difficult, so I decided to share my experiences on Instagram and set up a marine conservation campaign called Devotion to Ocean.’
As part of the campaign, Amy wrote to local MPs and companies, asking them to change unsustainable practices. She also met with school management teams to help reduce plastic waste, and ran a plastic-free shop at her school for charity.
‘I felt there weren’t many people in my school who cared much about the environment, and although I had verbal support, I didn’t have much active support,’ Amy says. ‘So I wanted to try to branch out further.’
With that came talks and awareness sessions in primary schools around plastic pollution in the oceans, and what they, as individuals, could do about it. Then, aged 16, Amy formalised her environment charity, Another Way, which is working to ‘give people the faith that voicing their opinions will make a difference’.
She says: ‘It took me quite a long time to realise that campaigning wasn’t just about emailing my MP and phoning companies, but also about what I could do in my own life as well. I realised we all have a responsibility for our future and it is going to take us all to change our actions quite significantly to reverse the climate crisis.’
One way to do that is to plant thousands of trees. Common Oak, Quickthorn, Hazel and Blackthorn trees are indigenous to the Matterdale valley, and with the help of a Tree Futures Grant from the Tree Council, Amy and a selection of local schools and scout groups planted 1,700 trees there.
‘It’s about the regeneration of habitat, ecology and biodiversity – we used no plastic guards, there were no straight lines, and instead we planted various heights and types of trees appropriate to the valley.’
The project was in collaboration with Ullswater Catchment Management CIC to mark the official start of the tree-planting season, during The Tree Council’s National Tree Week last November.
The community group is led by Danny Teasdale, who works closely with farmers and conservationists to plant trees. He’s so far planted about 30,000 trees in the Ullswater area.
‘We just wanted to help Danny out and bring school children into hands-on conservation,’ Amy says. ‘It was such a success to see everyone engaged with their environment. It is so important that they care about our future and what happens to it.’
Amy’s commitment lead to her being selected to be an ambassador for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs International Year of Plant Health for the 12 months from March this year.
The year will focus on raising awareness of how, by protecting plant health, the benefits of plants to people, wildlife, the environment and the economy, will be protected. And to add to its success story, Another Way planted another 1,000 trees in March this year after receiving a donation from an individual.
‘It was fabulous,’ Amy says. ‘As people hear more about our work and what we’re doing, they want to help. We have had so many volunteers ask if they can help plant trees or donate money, so we’ll definitely be extending our tree planting project in the next few years and hopefully working with organisations like The Tree Council to engage communities and schools in tree-planting.’
All trees at the moment are being planted in the Matterdale Valley, as part of the Ullswater Catchment Management project, where land has been donated by farmers or landowners specifically for trees.
‘It has been really positive seeing the involvement of farmers and conservationists together and bridging the traditional gap between them, working together to preserve our environment,’ Amy says. ‘That’s particularly salient with all the flooding that has happened in our area. The trees will hopefully, in a few years’ time, really help to prevent that.’
Amy is going to the University of Exeter in September to study marine biology.
To donate to Another Way or for more information, go online to another-way.org.uk.
The eco-shop making a difference
Amy found a kindred spirit in Zoe Hedges from Penrith and between them they created a zero-waste shop called Another Weigh.
The shop opened on Angel Lane, Penrith, in January 2019, and a second branch, in Blackhall Yard, Kendal, followed later in the year.
Customers can refill their own pre-used plastic containers or reusable storage with a wide variety of foods, toiletries and household cleaning products.
The idea is to help reduce the amount of packaging people use in their weekly shop. and all the profits made at the shops go towards supporting the work of Amy’s charity, Another Way.
‘By the time the shop was opening in Penrith, as a family we were in the process of being completely plastic-free,’ Amy says.
‘We had been to a zero-waste shop in Devon and I was really keen to have something similar nearer to home.
’Through finding Zoe, we managed to work together to set up Another Weigh. It has become a bit of a networking hotspot, for people who just want to come and chat to like-minded people who are doing similar things.’