Interview: Zara Williams, Sustainability Consultant

Inspiration: Zara Williams, Sustainability Consultant | Curiously Conscious

For this edition of my interview series, I’m really pleased to be speaking to Zara Williams, Sustainability Consultant at Eco Age and Founder of the Who Made My Activewear? Festival.

I first came across Zara through her event, which I attended earlier this year (and you can read more about here). Not only is she a Consultant, and Founder, but she’s also a Barre Instructor, and seems to have found the perfect intersection to work in, involving all her passions!

It’s this drive to tailor her career around what she truly cares about that has me inspired: finding that balance between finances and ethics is often hard, but Zara is absolutely nailing it!

I hope our interview will be as informative as it is inspiring, and also make you a fan of Zara too.

1. What first inspired you to live more sustainably, and later get involved with Sustainability Consultancy?

I studied Geography at University which taught me about pressing global issues and lead me to live a little more consciously. After graduating, I interned for the UK Charity CDP where I learnt more about what businesses were doing to tackle environmental and social issues. I wanted to facilitate further change in the private sector, encouraging companies big and small to lower their environmental impact and to support and empower the people throughout their supply chains, which lead me to sustainability consultancy.

I have worked in sustainability consultancy for two and a half years and I really love it. I’ve been able to work with a variety of companies across different industries, advising on a wide range of sustainability issues. I now work for the incredible sustainability and communications consultancy Eco-Age specialising in fashion, luxury and events.

2. You ran the brilliant Who Made My Activewear? Event for Fashion Revolution Week. What made you focus on activewear specifically?

Thank you! And thank you for attending, it was lovely to meet you there.

I freelance as a Barre (Ballet Fitness) Instructor outside of work, teaching weekly classes at the human-powered, environmentally-conscious gym Terra Hale and monthly events across London.

I’ve danced since the age of four, taking classes throughout school and university. After graduating I discovered barre, which I really enjoy as it combines ballet and pilates movements. I’d previously taught dance classes and so decided to become an instructor, training with the wonderful PT and instructor Chiara Pellegrino to teach her BarreBodyLondon method.

I wanted to combine my passion for movement and sustainability through the Who Made My Activewear? event. We’re seeing wonderful progress in the fashion industry but I don’t feel like that has filtered through to activewear yet. It think it’s really important to highlight the environmental and social issues throughout this industry as it’s rapidly expanding.

I wanted to encourage attendees to consider the wellbeing of the environment and of people throughout product supply chains, as well as their own. The event aimed to highlight more conscious consuming behaviours and share a handful of activewear brands that offer more sustainable pieces and business models.

3. Your blog documents the changes you’re making in your own life to live more sustainably. What are your best discoveries so far?

In term of quick and easy lifestyle changes, I have a reusable coffee cup from Frank Green which is spill-proof and so is perfect for carrying around in my bag.

I’m a subscriber to Freda for organic period products and recently purchased THINX period pants to limit my use of disposable period care. I’ve switched to eco-friendly cleaning products from Ecover and plastic-free recycled paper toilet roll from Who Gives A Crap.

I try to buy food with minimal packaging and as I’m lucky enough to work close to The Source Bulk Foods, a plastic-free shop in Turnham Green, I stock up on things like oats and nuts there. I also try to purchase beauty products with minimal packaging, like my Haeckles seaweed soap and refillable Kjaer Weis mascara, or those with natural and organic ingredients.

Similarly, I’ve tried to switch to more sustainable services. I now visit environmentally-conscious salon Ralph & Rice for my biannual hair cut. If I eat out, I always search for cafes and restaurants using local, seasonal or organic produce or those with social initiatives.

When it comes to fashion, I take the time to really consider my purchases. I love Livia Firth’s #30wears rule and always seek to buy pieces I will wear for many years to come. I shop largely second-hand or vintage, my favourite shop being Beyond Retro, but also try to support local brands and those with a purpose. I browse on sustainable fashion platforms like The Acey, Rêve En Vert and Gather & See to discover new conscious companies.

My favourite brands at the moment are AmaElla and Paloma Wool. I bought the navy floral underwear set from AmaElla last year and I adore it. It’s comfortable, elegant and sexy, as well as being mindfully manufactured in London and Portugal from GOTS certified organic cotton. I recently purchased two 100% linen outfits from Paloma Wool which I am completely obsessed with. They’re the most beautiful quality with timeless, artistic design. I get extremely excited when I find stylish brands that also care about sustainability and I love pieces with a meaningful story.

4. With such an active career and lifestyle, do you find any aspects of living greener difficult?

I think the most difficult part about trying to lead a more sustainable lifestyle is that there are so many different environment and social issues to consider. Products and services tackling one issue may not tackle another, so you have to work out what is most important to you. It can be really time consuming to research and read the latest studies and news reports to ensure you fully understand the issues and are aware of new innovations. However, it’s completely worthwhile when you find likeminded people and companies providing or sharing more sustainable options.

It can also be difficult to take time for yourself to relax and unwind on your own or with friends and family when in London, a crucial aspect of slow living. There is always a panel talk, pop-up shop, supper club or other activity of interest to go to. I’m slowly but surely getting better at being selective about the events I attend and making sure I keep a couple of evenings a week clear.

5. Finally, do you have any exciting things planned that you can share with us?

I have lots of ideas for my monthly barre events, a few of which I’m hoping will take off this year. I always try to combine a conscious or crafty activity with my barre class for these events, from beauty product making workshops to seasonal or veggie brunches, so keep an eye out for those! I’d also absolutely love to host or teach at a retreat encouraging sustainable behaviours in the future.

My fingers are crossed for you Zara!
You can keep up with Zara on Instagram, and on her blog.


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