In celebration of World Vegan Month, we talk to Leah Wood, the vegan artist, jewellery designer, activist & committed environmentalist.
Leah is the daughter of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, and his former wife, Jo Wood, and is herself a former musician and model. A long time environmentalist, she's an ambassador for the organisations Cool Earth and Project 0.
We caught up with Leah to talk about her rock-n-roll background, the environmental issues close to her heart, what changes we can all make, vegan food & fashion, plus her favourite products at Immaculate!
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about how you’ve been managing through the last few crazy months – and do you have any tools or tips you can share to staying physically and mentally healthy and happy?
I’ve had a pretty rough year this year, everything that could happen HAPPENED!! So I’ve had to really keep focused and keep as positive as possible. So with that in mind, I’ve been cooking a lot very healthy vegan food where possible, exercising online, meditating and listening to MUSIC!! One of my favourite things to do (and dance around the kitchen while doing the cooking) it’s fun!!! Walking outside with kids and dog is another way to get the steps in too, being with nature and maybe the occasional trip to the countryside!
You have a very rock-n’roll background – but was a love for nature and a concern for environmental issues part of your upbringing too? How has your background shaped your current activities and focus?
Yes, my background is very r’n’r but growing up I had a very organic way of life, with my mother bringing us up to know what organic food is and the ways in which it’s grown etc. I’ve always had a love for nature, when I was young we would take annual trips to Africa and go on Safari with the family, and seeing the animals in their natural habitats was such an eye opener for us all and such a grounding experience. It was the best thing for me as a person growing up in a crazy world to experience this, and is the foundation for the way I view the world! This shaped me as the person I am, and still has a strong influence over things I work on and do today.
You’re a committed environmentalist, a Cool Earth ambassador, and you support the ocean charity, Project 0. Can you tell us a bit about those organisations and what they do?
Cool Earth is a charity very close to my heart with a lot of good people involved. Cool Earth works with rainforest communities to stop deforestation and its impact on climate change! You can donate as much or as little as you want and with that all the money raised over the years goes straight to help in BIG ways. The rainforest is a very big part of all our lives – not only does it provide air, water, medicine, food and shelter to so many living things, it's also one of our best natural defences against climate change! We work with the indigenous communities to develop sustainable livelihoods and protect the rainforest from encroaching threats.
I also work with Project 0, another Charity that is doing it’s best to SAVE THE OCEANS from plastics and pollution. We managed to do a lot of raising awareness for this charity with events happening (before Covid hit) and now online where you can donate. It’s always good to just donate whatever you can to the charities which you believe in and know where your money is going (always make sure with charities that your money goes straight to the cause).
How do you choose which organisations to support?
I’m a firm believer in choosing the right charity that is personal to you, so if you love animals choose an animal saving charity. Again I’m with TUSK (on this specific one) as I have been to Africa many times and have seen the devastating results of poaching. So if you are choosing a charity make sure it’s something you believe in or feel strongly about!
For those of us who want to make a different difference in terms of environmental impact, but may find it overwhelming, what would your advice be? Where should we start?
When starting out to save the environment.... it’s a big job, but if one person can do something small and keep at it then there’s no reason why others can’t follow in your footsteps. Why not start with NO plastic straws, no plastic bags, carry your own material bag perhaps? Also when getting a coffee bring your own cup?!?!? Try riding a bicycle???? Go Vegan???? Once you start investigating HOW, then hopefully you will carry on... just keep at it... BE the CHANGE!!!
You’re an artist, and formerly a musician too, so creativity must run in your blood! How do you balance the environmental work you do with taking time for the creative work too?
The balance of environmental work and artistic development these days go hand in hand as I’ve just finished a body of work called Endangered In Plastic. Endangered animals in plastic basically, and in this day and age it really hits home! It’s been my inspiration for a while now. And now Cool Earth has asked me for the second year to design their Christmas card this year too!! So I’m very happy I can help wherever possible. The environment is massively important to me and it should be to you out there too!!
As a parent, how do you teach your children about environmental issues, and have they grown up as passionate about them as you are?
As a parent, I am lucky enough to be able to talk freely about the environment with my children. My eldest knows a lot about how the environment is suffering at the moment with climate change and global warming, my youngest is just starting to learn about it at school. I have the pleasure to help guide him through discussions about plastic straws and why they are so harmful to the ocean life and how he can make better choices to help, so Yes we do talk about it at home ,and hopefully they will be the best people they can be and help with the chain.
What are your thoughts about the planet we’re leaving our children – do you feel despairing, or hopeful?
I feel we need to do a LOT more!!! I feel hopeful that with the right knowledge and action we can all be better people. If everyone could be more mindful about our planet earth with the things we eat and do, there can be a silver lining and hope!!! Hope is good to have especially in this day and age when everything is so uncertain.
You spent some of your formative years as a model, and I know you love fashion too. What are your thoughts about the role fashion has to play in protecting the environment? And how does it need to change?
Fashion is a BIG deal to me as I love clothes!!!! So conscious buying is key at the moment as land fill is just too sad and the fashion industry needs to change the way it thinks... especially with each season and the clothes they waste each time! I think that's a waste we can’t afford at the moment. I think brands need to rethink the ways in which they produce their clothes and cleverness is needed!! Upcycling or recycling hand me downs, buying from second hand stores, I think something clever can be done! Just think!
Is change happening fast enough? What else do you think needs to happen?
With regards to the environment NO... change IS happening but not fast enough. Thanks to coronavirus, we’ve seen that big changes can happen very quickly over the course of months, so we know that can done... now we know we can change our patterns like that let’s make it change for good with the way we are... the way we can tackle the environment issues?!?!?!? I think we can do more change for The Good... let’s keep going.
What do you think of the ethical and sustainable fashion options that exist for consumers right now? And which are your favourite brands?
My favourite brands and places to shop right now include Immaculate Vegan, H&M Conscious, Vera Bradley, People Tree, Epoque Evolution, VIN and OMI just to name a few, and Stella McCartney is trying to change too which is great to see!
What's on your wishlist at Immaculate?
I carry a drink bottle with me everywhere, and these ones from Drink Big are super stylish.
Skincare is especially important over winter and for some all important self care during lockdown! I love these vegan pampering beauty products.
Syvende Swimwear – a girl can dream!
- I LOVE the candles, especialy these from Arokiyam.
You’re a dedicated vegan – has that always been the case? What’s your vegan story?
My Vegan story started 3 years ago. Why? Because I just wanted a change and I also watched a brilliant documentary called What The Health! Recommended by my brother, I watched it once and then watched it again the next day! It hit home so hard and I just made the change there and then. Mainly for the environment and the animals too!
I just haven’t looked back and I feel better in myself (though I do miss a roast chicken every so often) but that’s not to say I don’t cook them for the rest of the family. Because I do cook a mean roast chook!! But these days you can find an enormous array of great plant based meats which are tasty and just as good!!!! But you're just not killing anything to make your dinner.
For anyone that’s thinking of trying veganism – what tips would you give them?
Go slow at first and always read the ingredients, as sometimes there may be egg or milk as an ingredient (that’s what got me when I first started). Also prepare yourself for little snack times too, as I got hungry a lot and wouldn’t know quite what to eat sometimes!! Fresh juices are a great way to fill up.
What are your go-to vegan meals and snacks for every day?
My go to snacks would be LOVE CORN, lovely corn kernels with different flavours! Yum! Hummus and chips, vegan bacon tomato and lettuce sandwiches!! Yummy vegan homemade coconut curries!! And my favourite thing to eat when I come to London is go to Mildreds and have a chicken vegan burger!!! They are insane!!!! Fruit and veg as normal too.
You’re clearly into living an ethical and sustainable lifestyle as much as possible. Can you share with us what products you’ve been enjoying over the last few months? Anything you can’t live without?
Things I can’t live without being vegan would be: aloe vera toothpaste and my PLENISH nut milk!! I can’t live without my tea in the morning or my chai tea latte!!!
Who are your role models? And how have they changed over time?
David Attenborough: he has the best message of all, he has focused our attention on life and the planet itself over the years and has done the most extraordinary job doing so. Big shout out to him and all his work over the years!! I really love Barack and Michelle Obama and love anyone who inspires and holds onto whatever passions they have! Anyone who does good for the planet. My views and my role models have changed with knowledge and getting older. Naturally your views do change over time, especially becoming a Mum and when specific things happen in your world, your views change once again.... it’s constant and always evolving.
Tell us something about you that people might find surprising?
I’m really good at doing accents!! Lolz especially The Queen!!! #embarrassing
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
To have multiple Me’s..... so I could be in different places at the same time! To be able to do a lot more than just normal me.
What’s next for you?
More art work!! More jewellery / product designing, and today I really want to make silk quilts with my designs on them!! My new venture (let’s see how that goes).
You can follow Leah at @leahwoodofficial and @leahwoodartwork
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