Meet Kefeshe Bernard, a Cambridge fresher blogging about vegan and zero-waste living
From veganism to virtual learning, Kefeshe talks about her social media platform
Kefeshe Bernard, a first-year HSPS student at Jesus College, sat down with The Tab Cambridge to talk about veganism, a low-waste lifestyle, and how she’s found being a fresher in Cambridge this year. She runs two Instagram pages and a YouTube channel dedicated to veganism and low-waste living, and also vlogs her experiences at Cambridge so far, earning thousands of views.
‘I view my position on social media as being there to spark a conversation, whether it’s about low-waste, or veganism, or Cambridge, or being Black, or being a woman.’
Kefeshe talks about her love of food, saying that she decided to launch a separate Instagram page just to focus on recipes. On her YouTube channel, she talks about a mix of low-waste living, veganism, and academics. We asked her how on earth she keeps up with doing everything on top of her degree, and she said, “I’m an early bird, so I’ll usually get a bit of editing done in the morning and then focus on my uni work.” She explains how she tries to break things up, and is helped a lot by pre-scheduling uploads that she edited over the holidays.
On using social media as a means for change, she said, “I understand and value how powerful it can be and how influential it is,” but admits that this causes a bit of a love-hate relationship as she doesn’t enjoy spending tons of time on her phone. She says, “I view my position on social media as being there to spark a conversation, whether it’s about low-waste, or veganism, or Cambridge, or being Black, or being a woman.”
‘I feel so grateful every single time I buy or consume anything…it’s helped me mentally and spiritually.’
Kefeshe talks about how she first got interested in veganism, rooting her veganism in wanting to protect the environment and talking about how she, “went vegan pretty much the day I found out about how the animal agriculture industry has an impact on the environment.”
Now, she’s passionate about both the environmental and the animal rights sides of veganism, and celebrates how much more common veganism has become recently, with many meat and dairy alternatives available on the market.
If you’re interested in going vegan or low-waste, Kefeshe recommends restaurants like Thrive, Vetomeato, and Vegan Vice in Cambridge, and references Full Circle, a zero-waste shop across the road from The Grafton, as a great place for shopping. She also recommends Foodstuff, a food delivery service in Cambridge that operates entirely on bicycles, cutting down on carbon emissions.
Soon after going vegan, Kefeshe started to become interested in zero-waste living, citing the podcast Chickpeeps and a Ted Talk by Lauren Singer as inspirations. She describes herself as low-waste, making the decision to cut down on her waste at the beginning of 2020, and realised that going to university would be a perfect opportunity to put her philosophy into practice.
She describes how low-waste living has made shopping so much more personal, saying, “I feel so so grateful every single time I buy or consume anything…it’s helped me mentally and spiritually.”
‘I remember the spirit of so many people shouting as one…it was so moving and so powerful for me.’
Kefeshe has always been interested in activism, describing how she went to a climate protest in London when she was in Year Eight. “I remember the spirit of so many people shouting as one…it was so moving and so powerful for me,” she says, continuing by saying how she still remembers how much hope it inspired in her, feeling like it “lit a fire”. She thought, “I have to do this more, I have to speak my truth, I have to enter these spaces more,” and she’s been interested in activism ever since.
She stresses the importance of intersectional activism and how she enjoys speaking about her experience being Black, a woman, and a climate activist. We asked her about how she’s found the experience of being Black and from a state secondary school at Cambridge, and she explains how it felt daunting at first.
‘I only got the opportunities I got through school because I actively sought them out.’
Kefeshe says, “I definitely thought that being Black, being a woman, and being working-class, I wasn’t going to fit in here,” and describes how being state-educated meant that she never thought of herself as “smart” or of an “Oxbridge calibre”, and her teachers did not necessarily think of her in that way either.
“I only got the opportunities I got through school because I actively sought them out,” she says, and describes how being a part of Target Oxbridge helped her through the application process, both in figuring out details such as which college to apply to and how to actually complete the application and in deciding whether or not to apply to Cambridge in the first place. She says, “Target Oxbridge made it feel less like the burden was all on me.”
However, once she got to Cambridge, she found it to be “a pleasant surprise”, saying that “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.” Although sometimes she feels alienated, saying that she can feel uncomfortable walking down the street, as she found her hometown to be rather white Cambridge has actually been a nice change and she’s enjoyed finding friends who she can relate to.
‘I think it’s really affected my academic experience…online learning just doesn’t work for me at all.’
Kefeshe talks about how the pandemic has limited the opportunity to mix with people in her subject and college, saying, “I’ll go on a Zoom and think, ‘I’ve never seen you before’.”
On how much of a ‘typical freshers’ experience she’s missed, she jokes, “I feel so betrayed.” She talks about how she’s loved the opportunity to mix with other people from around her college and others – something a lot of freshers can definitely relate to.
“I’m quite an extroverted person – I like the energy of other people,” she says, and describes how online learning is made difficult because of this. She explains, “I think it’s really affected my academic experience…online learning just doesn’t work for me at all,” and talks about her hate for group Zooms.
Kefeshe is currently uploading on her YouTube channel, documenting her time here at Cambridge and posting about vegan and low-waste living on her Instagram pages. It’s clear how much her following is growing from the fact that she made it onto The Tab’s BNOC list, which she says “genuinely surprised” her. She encourages anyone who is interested in either to get in touch as she is always happy to chat!
Cover image credits: Kefeshe Bernard