Two years on, she works as a full-time campaigner and has prompted three retailers to stop the production of their own-brand plastic tampon applicators, saving more than 17 tonnes of plastic per year.
Three more retailers have launched their own brand eco-friendly ranges. "The campaign tackles retailers and manufacturers at source. The focus and blame are commonly put on consumers by companies who do not want to take responsibility, but this is wrong. Change needs to happen from the top."
Alongside her campaign, she also started the Eco Period Box to fight period poverty. In the UK, one in ten women aged 14 to 21 can’t afford period products, according to a survey by Plan International UK. "The Eco Period Box is an initiative to encourage people to donate eco-friendly products to people living in poverty. I believe that whatever situation you’re in, you have a right to choice."
This year, she partnered with the Ethical Superstore to take the Eco Period Box online. In six weeks, customers donated £14,000 worth of eco-friendly period products, which were distributed through Changing Lives, a charity that helps protect people from domestic violence, addiction and homelessness.
Ethics at Starling
"I needed a bank that aligned with my values," says Ella, who opened her personal account with Starling this summer. As a digital, largely paperless bank with no branches, Starling has a lower carbon footprint than many high street banks.
Starling does not invest in or take investment from any fossil-fuel based energy companies, arms companies or tobacco companies, among others. All four of our offices run on renewable energy and our employees are committed to recycling where possible.
Our partnership with Trillion Trees, a joint venture between BirdLife International, Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF that aims to save, protect and re-grow one trillion trees by 2050, means that every time a Starling customer recommends us to someone new and they open an account, we plant a tree as a thank you.
"I’m thrilled that Starling is introducing a new referral programme that will plant a tree for every successful account opening. It’s fantastic to see them taking further positive steps for the future of the planet," she says.
"We need companies to be more transparent - that’s what I like about Starling. I also love the fact that I don’t get sent paper statements and that I can take a picture of a cheque and deposit it through the app - it’s so quick and easy to use. Everyone needs a bank - why not have an ethical bank?"
Advice for activists
"Don’t be afraid to send emails and ask questions, even if you don’t think you’ll get a response. You don’t lose anything by trying," she says. “Spend plenty of time researching your cause and add statistics that back up your argument."
The same goes for meeting people in-person. "When I meet retailers and manufacturers, they assume I am going to be an angry activist. I am hugely passionate about protecting the planet and it would be very easy to shout at them, but shouting at them won’t solve anything, it shuts the door and they won’t engage."
Ella’s proudest achievement so far is an agreement with the Welsh Government, which has decided that 50% of all period poverty funding in Wales must be spent on eco-friendly products. Some councils, including Caerphilly, Bridgend, Cardiff, and Monmouthshire have committed to spending 100% of funding on eco-friendly period products.
"As individuals we often think we can’t make a difference. Taking action and raising our voices for the issues we care about is powerful. It leads to conversations and change,” she says. “Passion and persistence pay off."
Starling Bank will make a donation to WWF-UK, a registered charity with charity registration number 1081247 in England and Wales and SC039593 in Scotland, of £3 for each bank account, which is successfully opened with Starling Bank as a result of a referral under this scheme.