Ola Czajkowska, a 26-year-old activist
Ola first came across the concept of zero waste approximately four years ago. And since then, she has been trying to implement eco solutions in her life. Since last year, she has been active on social media, including TikTok. Running social media on this topic allowed her to grow personally, to learn new things – by preparing content, she learns something new all the time.
“What touched me the most is that we are inundated with plastic from everywhere. It’s in the oceans, it’s on pavements, it’s in the stomachs of animals that people eat, and it’s even been detected in human blood! Everything in the shops is packaged in plastic. I realised that not using plastic isn’t that hard at all and I can do it here and now. And that’s how it started.”
Ola’s activism particularly focuses on zero waste, environmental protection and vegetarianism. As she points out, these three topics come hand in hand. Zero waste is a way of living without waste, with respect for the environment – we don’t generate rubbish, we use what we have, we make sure that the products we already have are recycled.
Ola Czajkowska at a strike
So is reducing meat consumption, because meat production is one of the main drivers of climate change. Ola is trying to tell people that it all comes together, like one big package: there are no isolated solutions to singular problems – they are all interconnected and can thus be tackled holistically.
Ola also mentioned that being vegan doesn’t have to be difficult, especially as we have more and more vegan restaurants and animal product substitutes in the shops.
“Many people say that being eco is expensive. Because they just imagine that if you are vegan you have to eat only vegan meat alternatives. That if you want to be eco, you have to buy metal straws, an expensive water bottle or ‘eco’ cleaning products. I also show these solutions, because they can make life easier in some situations. But at the same time, I want to encourage us to use the simple ways that our mothers or grandmothers remember. A nutritious vegan dinner can be made from legumes or porridge, and cleaning products can be made from products we find at home – baking soda or vinegar, for example.”
One of the channels on which Ola is actively involved is TikTok. In Poland, environmental education is at a very low level, in schools kids are hardly taught about climate change, its influences and how it can be prevented. Ola thus wanted to start reaching out on TikTok to precisely these younger people: school-age kids, and to teach them about ecology in a simple, accessible way.
And indeed, Ola sees that she has encouraged many young people to make eco changes in their lives, as well as encouraging other people to adopt eco-friendly habits.
“I started my first blog in 2004, when I was in primary school. Now blogs are more like portals than diaries. But also, a lot of people have moved away from blogging and moved to social media platforms, where you can run everything from your smartphone. I’m happy about the popularity of social media, because you can easily reach a huge amount of people, including with such environmental or scientific messages.”
Ola thinks her goal is a good future of the planet. Unfortunately, many people ignore climate change and our planet is in a worse and worse state. She would like everyone to take steps towards caring for the planet. It could be cutting down on meat consumption, it could be picking up litter while walking or getting involved as a volunteer in an environmental organisation – small steps that can have large impact.
“I would like to be able to enjoy what’s around me in these 30 years, to have a peaceful life and not have to fight for drinking water or food for my family. I hope that in the next few years I will still have the resources to act as much as I do now, or even more!”
Ola Czajkowska at Pride parade
One of the biggest challenges she faces as an activist in Poland is certainly that society needs to change its attitude towards ecology. People need to be educated, to make eco changes in their lives, and at the same time fight for systemic changes to happen, for them to vote in elections for parties that advocate fighting climate change as a priority and for politicians to finally make some decisions involving those issues.
In addition to her environmental activism, Ola has also been a proud ally of LGBTQ+ people in Poland for years. As she points out, just talking about it, declaring herself an ally, adding her pronouns in her bio profile – this is already part of that activism, once again highlighting how small steps can add up to make a big difference.
Despite the environmental themes of her channels, Ola tries to share initiatives in support of LGBTQ+ like petitions or donations. She also actively participates in pride parades every year.
Ola believes that what we can do here and now is to give up eating meat, not using a car as a main means of transportation, as well as reducing fast fashion and introducing real packaging recycling everywhere. These are things that we don’t have to wait for to be implemented systemically, and we can contribute as individuals – by going vegan, not buying new clothes, recycling or buying products without packaging.
“I encourage you to make at least one small eco change in your life. And then, in small steps, it will go from there! And don’t be discouraged if you slip up!”