My name is Sahara – I am 17 years old and I am a green-entrepreneur, earth warrior, activist, gardener, yogi, ‘Movnatter’ (you’ll understand more about that later on in the interview!), and overall lover of life!
I have grown up, home schooled, on the beautiful Garden Route, living on a smallholding living with my extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, cats, dogs, chickens, and the occasional bush pig!). My childhood was spent predominantly outdoors, building huts, making mudcakes, swimming in the dam and working on our ‘Earth Club’ with my younger sister and cousin. My love and passion for the planet was sparked young and I remember always feeling this great sense of responsibility for our Earth. I felt I needed to create a change and make a difference in our world, and that feeling has stayed with me throughout my life.
I used to have dreams of shouting in a megaphone, telling people to start caring for nature and start taking action. At the age of 8 years old I was determined to be president when I ‘grew up’, and went around telling everyone that I was going to change the world. Needless to say all my friends thought I was crazy, but I still thought it was perfectly normal.
The need to take action has led me to start my own campaign against plastic bags called ‘What the Bag?’. Based on using biomimicry principles of using waste as a resource, I take donated ‘waste’ fabric and sew shopping bags and produce bags. These bags I then hand out for free, and in return, one must pledge to use the bags and pay it forward: so tell one other person about the campaign and the message around plastic so that they too can come and receive a free set of bags and continue to spread the message and awareness, creating a ‘mushroom effect’ of connected change.
My journey, and starting ‘What the Bag?, has made me realise that you don’t need to be president or in a position of power to stand up and let your voice be heard – I mean heck, you don’t even need to be an adult!
What are you most passionate about?:
Is it okay to say the world?! My passions lie with a deep love for our planet and for life, and since all life is inter-connected, so are my passions. I believe people need to start realising we are all linked, and sharing knowledge and education are things I hold important. I am, of course, passionate about my campaign “What the Bag?” and I feel that the campaign really embodies what I stand for: taking action but also spreading education, caring and understanding for the planet.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?:
I can’t say I’ve ever had to take any serious risks that would result in any serious consequences, but there have been times where I have had to really push myself and be courageous and just trust that everything will work out as it should. I think that it can always be scary to put yourself out there and voice your thoughts and, especially being so young, many people (adults!) think they know better and try to push their opinions on you. So I have definitely learned to listen to my gut and stick with what I feel is right and what aligns with my values as that always seems to bring me to the right place that I need to be in.
What makes you angry?:
A lot of things! Peoples’ mistreatment, abuse and domination towards the planet. Any situation where a person dominates or bullies someone or something smaller or more vulnerable. Ungratefulness is another thing that really gets me, when someone is very self-entitled or self-absorbed I find it very hard to keep my cool! But I always try and focus on the positive things because focusing on the bad things in life won’t get us anywhere! My motto is “focus on the good and you will see more good!”.
If you inherited an acre of land what would you do with it?
I would live on the land and create a self-thriving farm! Growing fruits, vegetables, plants and trees, using permaculture and syntropic agricultural methods – basically just emulating nature and creating a system that is natural. It has always been my dream to set up my own farm, putting all my practices into place and creating a place where nature, including people, can thrive and then using the space as a platform for education, teaching and sharing my knowledge with others and maybe even setting up my own school!
Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?:
Food-wise? Definitely a gatherer (I’m vegan), I love harvesting fresh veggies from my garden! In terms of personality or work-wise, I think I consider myself a combination of both, though I can’t say I really like the word hunter…how about warrior?
How many pairs of shoes do you own?:
3 pairs, although my mom, sister and I are all pretty much the same size so we share a lot of our shoes!
If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?:
Ooh, I love this question! So definitely a vegan spread of some kind, maybe Mediterranean, think falafel, quinoa, hummus and lots of fresh garden veggies! I love cooking, baking and experimenting with different recipes in the kitchen, and also developing my own recipes. I definitely want to create my own cookbook someday soon!
How would people communicate in a perfect world?:
With respect and honesty. And no abbreviated text language, I never understand what people are saying when they use it!
What do you work towards in your free time:
Free time, what’s that? No, I’m kidding, although most of my day is spent “working” on my various projects, I enjoy what I do so much that it doesn’t feel like work! But some of the things I do for myself personally and that I am really passionate about is movement; getting stronger and being able to do all kinds of things with my body. I love Movnat, which if you don’t know what it is you should seriously check it out, its all about moving your body and building inner strength. I also love yoga and find it to be my special place when I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it always helps to centre and calm me.
If you woke up and had 300 unread emails, and could only answer 30, how would you choose which ones to answer?:
I would prioritise and answer the ones that are most important at that time.
Name 3 things you find most beautiful in nature:
Clear, sunny days when everything just sparkles, sunrises, and that moment when a seed just begins to sprout and poke its head out of the soil. Honestly, that was a really hard question because I think the whole of nature is just so intricately beautiful, but those are just the first things that popped into mind!
Have you used plastic bags for your shopping in the last 2 weeks?:
Nope, I haven’t touched a plastic bag in over 2 years! Some of the food my family buys does still come in plastic packaging but we get most of our food plastic free, thanks to the Wild Oats Market and a wonderful lady that supplies plastic free bulk pantry items!
What would you say are some small steps that people can take to improve their relationship to the environment?:
Start by just going out into nature and connecting with the planet. Take it all in and allow that love for the Earth to naturally kindle. I think that before one can start changing their habits and lifestyle they need to first understand why, otherwise whatever changes you make won’t stick. Once that care and understanding has ignited then start questioning and asking why. Start looking at your lifestyle, the waste you produce, the impact your actions and habits have on the environment and start changing those habits into positive ones. I feel like nowadays the go to answer for a question like this is to, a)use reusable shopping bags, b)ditch straws, and c)try to buy organic or do meatless Mondays, but people don’t really understand why or what that means. Its just “trendy” or the in thing right now to be a zero-waste minimalist. But the hard truth is that all that stuff won’t make a whole lot of difference if you are still consuming mindlessly and not seeing the bigger picture. Everything is connected and so just because you might say no to the straw that came with your drink, it won’t make much difference if you are still buying the drink that comes in a can or plastic bottle. Just like buying organic won’t do the planet, or you, any good if it still comes wrapped in plastic. And going meatless one day in the week won’t change the fact that every other day of the week you are still eating, buying and supporting the meat industry. I know that is sounds harsh, and of course everyone is at their own place in their journeys towards living more harmoniously with nature and its important to take it one step at a time and do what you can, but I don’t want to sugar coat it and say that by not using straws or plastic bags, or whatever, you’re going to change the world. Yes, it will have an impact but we really need to start seeing the bigger picture and connecting the dots so that our actions aren’t singular actions. They are connected just like nature and just like life.