My name is Samuel Awe. I like to say born in Lagos, made in Dublin. My parents migrated from Nigeria to Ireland when I was 7 years old. I’m 26 years old now so that was 19 years ago. I live in Tallaght, a suburb in Southwest Dublin. I’m a GIS Analyst. In short, I’m a geographer that reviews land use management with satellite and aerial imagery across Ireland to facilitate EU CAP payments. My company is a contractor for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine. This ensures sustainable development of Ireland’s rural areas and food security in Ireland by supporting the livelihoods of farmers.
What sparked your interest in sustainable living and where did you start?
It was a few things, kind of like a chain reaction. One thing led to another. Sharing lecturers with the Environmental Science students. Joining the Environmental Society as well. I was studying Natural Science in Trinity College Dublin at the time. The final push came when I watched a documentary by Leonardo Di Caprio called ‘Before the Flood’ in 2016. After that, I made it a commitment to tackle Climate Change. I decided that would be my life’s work, my contribution to humanity. I believe it to be the biggest challenge that affects us today, because it concerns everyone, regardless of race, religion, nationality, etc.
It affects everyone in various ways. I didn’t exactly know how but I sensed the urgency so I went straight back into college. I did my Master’s in Climate Change in Maynooth University.
What is a sustainable change you have made that makes you really happy?
My diet has made me the happiest. I’ve been vegetarian for the last 4 years, since 2017. I was searching for the optimum diet. I even did my undergraduate thesis on which was healthier between the English and Mediterranean diet. At the time, I was really into the gym and willing to try any diet that produced the results I wanted. Being vegetarian is great because I don’t have to be as conscious of getting 5 portions of fruit and vegetables in a day because I often eat them with meals or as snacks. My energy levels are higher and consistent. I get through my day easily without feeling tired in the middle of it. It boosted my metabolism as well. Whenever I took breaks from going to the gym by choice or due to injury, I still kept my physique. My body retained its weight and figure because my cells were getting good food regularly.
Now it’s just a habit, less thinking and more doing which I found ideal. A natural trading of bad eating habits for good ones that not only helps me, but also helps the environment. An almost seamless protest against the status quo. I believe you vote for the world you want with the things you buy/do.
Are you tackling any sustainable changes at the moment you’d like to share or are planning to?
Yes, I drive and I’m conscious of the carbon footprint of cars. From the outset, when I bought my first car, I stayed away from diesel. I opted for petrol instead, even though it may have been a little more expensive. Petrol is the lesser of two evils. Diesel is worse for the environment than petrol. I’m transitioning to an electric car soon, I’m still saving. The Irish government actually have an electric car grant at the moment with the SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland).
What would you like to see in a sustainable future?
Renewable energy in prominent use globally means less fossil fuels being emitted and curbs the effect of greenhouse gases.
Poverty alleviation; a lot of injustice stems from financial insecurity. Poor countries are now challenged to develop cleaner energy production after the richer countries have abused fossil fuel energy, which is unfair. Poverty reduction reduces the likelihood of climate migrants that leave their home. Better socioeconomic conditions, cleaner air and arable land gives people less reason to migrate. The young remain to till and work the land, rather than taking their talents to improve an already rich country’s GDP.
Healthier generations, for instance less men dying from heart disease. It’s the major cause of fatality in men despite being avoidable just by reducing your intake of meat and getting regular exercise. We eat too much meat in first world countries and less fortunate countries follow that example as it looks like a sign of affluence. If poor countries see a transition from a meat dense to a meat-managed diet in richer countries, they’re more likely to take it on board. Especially if it highlights a health benefit that translates to an environmental one.
Seeing those three things manifest would make me delighted!
If one of your friends told you they wanted to start living more sustainably, what would be your top tip to get started?
The journey isn’t easy so I’d tell them to start on a positive note. I’d recommend them getting educated in a way that won’t defeat their spirit so they can keep going. The Useless Project is a great Instagram page that is a fun and engaging way to interact with sustainable ideas.
I’d recommend making one change at time and see how they find it, e.g., a reusable bottle, bamboo toothbrush, shopping less or shopping sustainably via Depop or a Vintage shop like Tola Vintage, selling their clothes on Depop instead throwing them away and keep them away from landfill, using a tote bag to shop instead a plastic one, buying only the things you love and you’ll keep for a long time, ask yourself is there an environmental alternative before buying, and look for sustainable shops/groceries. I found a great place to get eco-friendly Christmas presents last year called AnniePooh. It’s a sustainable lifestyle shop owned by a really nice person and the customer service is fantastic.
Offline, there’s also ‘The Cool Planet Experience’ Climate Change Centre, in Powerscourt, Co. Wicklow. It is like a sustainable theme park with activities instead of rides. It’s situated in a lovely valley with a wonderful view. I went there for a field trip during my postgrad. It’s nice for a family day out or even a date. There’s games, food, and ice cream. You start by using a touchscreen computer that asks you questions about your lifestyle to calculate your carbon footprint. Then you do game exercises and quizzes as you ‘Race to 2050’ because that’s the goal for net zero carbon production. Then at the end, you make a pledge to reduce your climate impact. You also get a wristband with a number you can use to find your carbon stats and game scores on their website when you get home.
Once they are settled and won’t be too alarmed by facts, I’d suggest the following documentaries: ‘Before the Flood’, ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘Forks Over Knives’.
What keeps you motivated?
Change. It starts at an individual level, then it spreads to your closest community which is your friends and family. Afterwards, it’s your local area, county, province, nationwide, regionally (EU) and then globally. Every now and then, I notice more vegetarian options at grocery shops, bistros, restaurants, and delis. That shows me that the demand for veggie goods has increased to the extent that it can’t be ignored. It takes resolve to be consistent but it’s rewarding seeing your efforts, no matter how small, have an impact.
And For a bit of fun and… really find out about you…What was your first concert or your first CD/Tape/Record you owned?
My girlfriend got me a record player two years ago and it’s the best gift I’ve ever received. I’m obsessed with it. I have a burgeoning collection at the moment. She actually got me two vinyls along with the record player: ‘Astroworld’ by Travis Scott and ‘Nevermind’ by Nirvana. They’re my first records, two amazing albums on my all-time favourites list.
Connect with Sam!
Connect with Samuel on Instagram and Twitter @samo_awe
Thank you Sam!