Yoga

Meet Helen from Green Heart Collective

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while now, you’ll know the name Helen Redfern. Former in-house writer at Yogamatters, Helen has contributed a great deal to our blog through interviews, articles and guided meditations. We were delighted when she agreed to interview Anna Ashby and Yvonne O’Garro for us recently and were intrigued to find out more about how her life has evolved since leaving the Yogamatters team.  

What have you been up to since leaving Yogamatters at the end of 2019? 

When I left Yogamatters, I was completely burnt out. My family situation had become very stressful and juggling working and caring for my three adopted children, now teenagers trying to find their place in a world not set up for individuals with additional needs, was taking its toll. I knew that I needed some time and space for myself and the only way I would get that was by giving up a job I loved. So initially, I closed down for a while, found a good counsellor, slept a lot – and then the pandemic caused the whole world to shut down with me! 

Unlike most other people, we had a house full during lockdown – four adults, two teenagers, one toddler and three dogs – as my son and his family were living with us at the time. Then I fell in love with an RSPCA rescue puppy called Custard and we added her into the mix! I remember 2020 as mainly spent managing anxiety – my own and that of my family. It was a steep learning curve. 

So how did you come to set up your own business Green Heart Collective? 

During 2020, I’d started sourcing secondhand clothes, upcycling them and selling them online. I’ve always had a passion for clothes but since understanding the true cost of fast fashion, I decided to never buy new clothes again. The next step was to persuade those around me to buy nothing new too, and I wanted to create a space where buying preloved would be attractive and bring joy. 

Green Heart Collective moved into new premises a year ago at the start of 2021, became a social enterprise, took on two part time members of staff, opened a curated retail space, developed a website and is moving forward in its mission to divert waste from landfill. Check out our website www.greenheartcollective.uk to find out more about us! 

Looking back on 2021, what have you learnt about yourself and running a business? 

Starting up a business is ridiculously hard, that’s the first lesson! If I didn’t have a passion for what I was doing, I would have given up long ago. There have been setbacks but lots of encouragement along the way too. As a completer/finisher, choosing what to focus on each day is hard and leaving at the end of the day knowing there is still so much to do does not feel rewarding. And yet I am so proud of what we have built and that we’ve survived the first year! We’ve created welcoming spaces online and in person for people to enjoy buying preloved and as a small dedicated team, we find something to celebrate every single day (with plenty of laughs along the way!) 

I have to admit though that working alongside my husband means it’s really hard to create boundaries around home life – we’re not good at this yet. I would have liked to spend more time with my family and friends this year, particularly my grandchildren and want to find a way to make that happen next year.  

Why does sustainable consumerism matter so much to you? 

I’ve always tried to make conscious and ethical decisions about what, where and how I buy ie. fair trade, organic cotton, eco-friendly cleaning products etc. However, as I became aware of the full extent of the climate disaster we’re heading towards, I realised that personal lifestyle changes like this were not enough and we needed societal changes on a big scale. Me not buying new clothes is not enough, but if enough others join me, then we can bring about an ethical consumer revolution and fast fashion will become a thing of the past. 

The climate emergency is the biggest crisis we are all facing, because it underpins everything else. The health of the planet is vital for the health and wellbeing for all the people and animals – all living beings – who live on it. 

So what is your response to the climate emergency? 

At the beginning of this year, I resolved to buy no new clothes, never fly again and become a vegan. Those for me are the three most effective things any individual can do that make a real difference. I’ve also become involved in climate activism with Extinction Rebellion. I’ve met the most amazing courageous and compassionate people who are prepared to make personal sacrifices for the sake of the world. 

On May 1st 2021, I sat down in front of a bus in Newcastle City Centre wearing a placard that read ‘I’m terrified for my granddaughters because of the climate crisis.’ I was arrested, handcuffed, put in the back of a police van and placed in a cell for five hours. Throughout the whole experience, I repeated the mantra ‘I am peaceful. I am powerful. I am brave.’ Many of my friends and family disapprove of what I am doing. I’ve had to accept that as part of the cost of what I am doing. I never feel more aligned with who I was created to be than when I am involved in civil disobedience and non-violent direct action. It feels like the only response to the crisis we are facing. It’s a scary path, especially with the prospect of the new Policing, Crime and Sentencing Bill that will make all protests illegal (how did we come to this and why aren’t we all horrified by it?), but I’m more terrified of doing nothing than taking action. 

We can do hard things. That’s what Glennon Doyle – the super inspiring woman who wrote ‘Untamed’, the book that changed my life, and who brings me joy through her twice weekly podcast – says on repeat. She’s right. We can. 

What does 2022 have in store for you and what are your New Year Resolutions? 

Three simple resolutions: no longer buy beef for my kids to eat, never visit MacDonald’s and never buy from Amazon.  

 Beyond that, I will continue to put all my energies into Green Heart Collective and climate activism. Green Heart Collective is always evolving and I’m excited to see where we are by this time next year. I don’t know where my activism journey will take me (I’ll definitely be facing trial next year), but I know I’ll have to find more courage and resolve than I ever have done before. How can I stop though when there is so much to be done? 

And when I say all my energies, I’m determined to get better at ringfencing more time to give full attention to my family, friends and my own self-care (which for me is yoga, dance, reading, writing and playing my violin). 

Glennon Doyle asks ‘What will you do with this one wild and precious life?’ Having lost a close friend this year and my remarkable mother-in-law, I know that life is short and I want to make it count. So I will continue to scream as I run into the sea on a Sunday morning, and hug my 20 year old autistic son as often as he’ll let me, and snuggle up on the sofa with my dogs, and hide plastic dinosaurs around the room for my granddaughter to find, and put spinach in pretty much every meal I cook…because this is who I am and all I am required to be is fully me. 

The post Meet Helen from Green Heart Collective appeared first on Yogamatters Blog.

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