I first heard about Nutritional Natasa after following her Instagram account and reading her vegan lifestyle blog. Natasa has already led a varied life. She grew up in Cyprus, went to University in Exeter and now resides in sunny Manchester, where I first met up with her.
I was so lucky as to get to spend the afternoon with her as we collaborated on a promo for a fashion brand whose ethics are second to none; Paguro Upcycle. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll already have read about this company. If you want to check out why they’re so awesome, please see my previous blog post HERE. The general gist is that they’re a vegan company with ethical values. They have scoured the globe to put together a collection of the best artistic creations using sustainable materials. Their products are all made from recycled truck tyres, inner tube, discarded barrels, army tents, and even skateboards! They source raw materials close to their workshop in Indonesia to reduce their Carbon footprint. They are breathing life into small communities giving opportunities to locals and follow fair trade principles. Their product packaging is also 100% recycleable. And their design pieces are exquisite. What more could you ask for?
I met up with Natasa so that we could showcase some of their products using her as a model. We met up for coffee first, where I got to interview her…
What was it that made you decide to become vegan?
Transitioning to a vegan lifestyle has definitely been a process over time and I’ve only recently managed to pinpoint the root of my transition. As with most beliefs that we have and decisions we make in life, there’s usually a deeper reasoning behind it, that’s not always obvious.
Ironically, for my 16th birthday, I really wanted to visit a dairy farm to milk a cow – the “traditional way.” My Grandad found a firm that permitted me go along for a visit. Little did I know that I wouldn’t be sat on a stool, in the middle of a field, milking a cow from her udder. Instead, I walked into a confined room, where cows were stacked up next to each-other, being milked from an electronically controlled device.
The factory was relatively small compared to what you’d see on animal rights documentaries, but it still portrayed the commodification and mistreatment of living beings. I remember leaving feeling quite disgusted and disappointed. All non-vegans know that when they’re eating a burger or a steak, it’s derived from an animal. But, visually seeing how different my perception of animal farming was, compared to the reality, was definitely another level of consciousness.
Despite not going vegan or cutting out any animal products immediately, I think the whole experience must’ve had a long term effect. About half a year later, I became quite passionate about human rights, which paralleled my support for the equal treatment of all living beings.
I came across Melanie Joy’s TedX talk one day: “Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows” and decided to adopt a vegan lifestyle immediately! 17-year-old me didn’t anticipate the controversy that this would bring, but after having countless discussions with family members, friends, teachers, coworkers, waitresses, even strangers on the internet… I’ve managed to help so many friends go vegan.
What has been the most positive effect of veganism for you, personally?
I truly believe that as human beings, we’re all capable of being compassionate, empathetic, and loving towards other sentient beings. Following a vegan lifestyle though is more of an explicit reminder of how important this compassion is and how positive it makes you feel. At the start, it felt amazing knowing that my dinner plate didn’t have any negative consequences on another being’s life, but over time, it’s just become second nature. I’ve been vegan for nearly 4 years now, and I think that over time I’ve definitely allowed myself to be more ‘in touch’ with my emotions and to be more kind towards others. We live in a society filled with stereotypes and preconceived ideas of who people are, but being vegan has helped me break through these social constructs as I’ve adopted a mindset that views others as kind and pure at heart.
Additionally, veganism has helped me to develop a more positive relationship with food. My diet consists of more whole foods, such as greens, fruits, and grains that keep me nurtured and energised. Anyone who follows my Instagram and who views my stories knows that I love a good #veganjunkfood feast, so it feels amazing knowing that I can have delicious meals without harming others.
What would you say were the most positive effects overall for the planet?
When I first went vegan, people around me would try to discourage me from following a vegan lifestyle by saying things like “you’re not going to change the world,” or “you’re just one person, you can’t change how animals are treated.” For the most part, they were, and still are, right. I am one person. I won’t single-handedly change how animals are treated. I can’t reverse the damaging effects animal agriculture has had on the environment. But, what I can do, is lead a life that’s kind to others and to the environment. Animal agriculture alone, is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the combined exhaust from all transportation. As a society, we’ve taken our consumerist habits to the extreme and we’ve quite literally ended up destroying the very land that gave us life. We can’t continue harming voiceless animals without taking responsibility of the consequences it has on our planet. Animals are crammed into confined farms all around the world and the volume of food required to feed animals that will end up being slaughtered to become food themselves, seems counter productive.
Do you think veganism ends at what’s on your dinner plate?
Veganism STARTS at what’s on your dinner plate. Food is something that we eat every day, at least three times a day; so by default, a vegan diet is usually the first (and the easiest) step towards a more ethical way of living. Choosing to not eat animal products is definitely crucial because food is so prominent in our daily routine. But, other purchases we make are just as important when seeking to reduce the overall harm we cause to animals. The fashion industry is a main contributor to animal cruelty, most of us buy new clothes a few times a year. With affordable, high street shops surrounding us, buying non-ethical clothing is an easy option, but it definitely isn’t the the only option, or the right one.
Additionally, veganism encompasses a love and protection towards the planet, which translates into an environmentally conscious outlook. Whether it’s walking instead of deriving, or taking public transport, or using reusable shopping bags when going to the supermarket, every little helps. As a vegan, I’m always on the lookout for how I can best reduce my Carbon footprint, whilst simultaneously being kind towards human and nonhuman beings.
What do you look for in a fashion brand?
Fast Fashion is becoming more exposed for its unethical practices in recent years. In light of numerous animal welfare campaigns from organisations such as PETA and FURFORANIMALS, the “luxurious fashion” statement of wearing fur has faded over the years. However, we still seem to see people wearing clothing made from fur in less explicit ways, such as Canada Goose coats and UGG boots, which are just as horrific. Similarly, the leather industry doesn’t seem to face half as much controversy as it should and people still seem to take pride in their ‘authentic’ leather boots, belts, bags, and so on. There is nothing luxurious about wearing an animal’s skin on your body, if anything, it’s rather barbaric. Whilst I’m in no way perfect and admittedly do own a handful of leather products myself that I purchased before going vegan, I am also pragmatic in acknowledging that we live in a predominantly non vegan world. I always try to make the most ethical choices when I’m equipped with the necessary knowledge and have the funds for it. However, I think it’s also important to remember that every little helps and that ethical fashion is more of a long term transition, compared to a vegan diet.
Similarly, as well as supporting brands that are kind to animals and to the environment, I find it just as important to support brands that have a fair wage policy. It’s not just about what products are made from, but how workers manufacturing the products are treated and what conditions they’re working under.
What is it about Paguro as a company that you like?
I absolutely love their drive for recycled materials, it’s
environmentally friendly and always an ideal way of not using up more resources. I always like hearing a company’s story and what inspired them to start off, and I absolutely loved reading up on Paguro’s humble beginnings. I’m confident in saying that our society is facing a serious backlash of over consumerism and excessive production, so the best way to combat that is to utilise materials that have already been created and to repurpose them as alternatives. I wouldn’t consider myself as the biggest ‘fashionista’ out there, but I must admit, I love how sleek and simple the Paguro handbag range is. With such versatility in design and endurance, It’s refreshing to see a brand that creates long lasting fashion statements that are representative of an ethical and kind message.
What advice would you give to fashionistas looking to shop more ethically?
I know I’m stating the obvious here, but educating yourself on the fashion industry is undoubtedly the first step towards making more ethical choices. Do some research on your favourite brands and find out if their pretty clothes are concealing an ugly manufacturing. I’m really happy to see that fast fashion is being exposed more in mainstream media and documentaries as its definitely making it easier for everyone to become more aware of what the consequences of their purchases are. Whilst vegan food is so readily available recently, I know that ethical clothing isn’t as easily accessible on the high street. However, by supporting brands that have a more ethical agenda, shopping from them, and raising awareness around the topic, we can hopefully bring ethical fashion brands to the forefront. On a similar note, cruelty-free makeup has gained much more momentum and by looking out for the little bunny, its so easy to know what makeup brands are vegan friendly.
What do you see for the future of veganism as a whole?
Call me over-ambitious, but I can only hope that the future of our society is veganism. I genuinely believe that deep down, we’re all kind, loving and compassionate; a combination of emotions that will drive us in that direction. Animal rights campaigns and activism are being taken more seriously each and every time, which gives me so much hope towards a more vegan future. We can’t blame people around us for following a non-vegan lifestyle, as most of us have been brought up on an ideology that we need meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and other animal products to survive. However, we’re breaking through these misconceptions thanks to the rise of scientific information, exposing the health effects of consuming animal products; and the rise of animal welfare activity, exposing the unethical side of consuming animal products.
If you would like to purchase ethical, vegan, cruelty-free items from the Paguro Upcycle range, they’re available on Amazon HERE.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links and if you purchase via these links, both Natasa and I will earn a small commission. So thank you if you choose to purchase through these links.