No sustainability journey is linear — each one is incredibly different. And for Sean O'Callaghan, the creator behind @FatGayVegan, it's been heavily amplified by learning about the intersection of environmentalism and racism. We caught up with the London-based blogger via email, just in time for Earth Day.
He started out by telling us why living sustainably is personally important to him.
"My awareness of sustainability is inextricably linked to my understanding of the damaging forces of capitalism and colonialism," he explains. "As I became more aware of how humans impact the environment and the climate negatively, I became more aware of how profiteering at the expense of humans and animals is directly connected to climate change."
That said, he does everything he can to lower his impact.
"I know that the world will not successfully address the climate crisis without also addressing wealth inequity, poverty, racism, and white supremacy," he continues.
Keep reading for more wisdom from the plant-based social media icon.
When O'Callaghan learned about climate change, he immediately wanted to make a difference.
In 2006, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth made a huge impression on O'Callaghan.
"Like many people, I was primarily exposed to the concept of climate change by An Inconvenient Truth," he explains. "I also heard from a lot of climate experts and activists across the past two decades from watching and listening to Democracy Now. This news platform has been instrumental in raising my awareness of how catastrophic the climate crisis is for populations already at risk from war and poverty."
He started phasing out meat and animal byproducts, to lower his impact.
"My vegan journey began over 20 years ago as a natural progression of being vegetarian for a few years prior to that," O'Callaghan tells us. "I stopped eating meat because I started to understand the role I played as a consumer when it comes to animal suffering. It took me a little longer to see those same problems with egg and dairy industries. Once I had my eyes opened, I never went back."
O'Callaghan hopes @FatGayVegan highlights a responsible lifestyle and social justice issues.
While much of his feed consists of droolworthy food pics, O'Callaghan hopes his Instagram leaves a long-lasting impact.
"My Instagram account is a celebration of veganism and social justice," he tells us. "I want people to feel supported in their decision to expand their compassion and I don't want them to feel as though choosing kindness is a sacrifice. We can find satisfaction in doing better for people, animals, and the planet even if at first it feels like an insurmountable challenge."
And when posting photos of his travels, he wants to reiterate the importance of traveling responsibly.
"Be a responsible traveler," he tells his followers. "Be respectful, tread lightly, and give more to the communities and parts of the planet you visit than you take."
But beyond veganism, sustainability has influenced many other parts of his life.
Plant-based eating is only one aspect of a sustainable lifestyle — O'Callaghan tells us he does everything he can to limit his consumption in other ways, too.
"When I have lived in areas with low-waste grocery stores, I bought all of my weekly staples such as rice, pasta, and grains in plastic free or refillable containers. I buy my vegan shampoo, body wash, and hand soap in bulk directly from a local manufacturer," he explains.
"I shop for my vegan clothing and footwear from companies with sustainable initiatives such as The Third Estate vegan boutique in London and Will's Vegan Shoes available via mail order globally. I vote for politicians who offer climate solutions and listen to science."
And while Earth Day is a very important holiday to him, he tells us it's just another day of living an eco-conscious lifestyle.
"It will sound trite but Earth Day is every single day for me," he says. "If I can be making a positive contribution to my planet on Earth Day, I should be making it each and every day."
This article is part of Green Matters’ 2022 Earth Day programming, #EarthStories: A week-long series where we’re sharing environmental changemakers’ personal journeys to environmentalism. We hope that reading these stories inspires you to become more dedicated to climate action, sustainable living, and changing the world.