15 Oct, 2019

An appetite for change: the power of 1 Million Women


Conservationist, activist and founder of 1 Million Women, Natalie Isaacs is proof that a single person can change the world. The former cosmetics manufacturer who started a global movement of women and girls after reducing her own electricity bill shared her story with Sunshine Coast changemakers at the second annual Spring into Sustainability lunch recently.

The afternoon was a degustation of sorts as Natalie, along with local sustainability champions Kelly Lavery from Strucket, Feda Adra from Comlink and other incredible in our community shared their innovative solutions to the challenges of our time.

After embarking on a journey from apathy to climate action, Natalie recognised her power as an individual and 1 Million Women has now empowered more than 940,000 people to act on climate change.

“I thought climate change was someone else’s issue. In the cosmetics industry, life was about overpackaging and being competitive. My thinking was that as one person I couldn’t do much,” Natalie said.

“What changed my life forever was getting our household electricity consumption down by 20%. When I saw the bill, and saw I had saved a heap of money and pollution, I realised I was actually really powerful.”

That achievement set off a chain reaction. Natalie moved onto waste, cutting food waste in her household by 70% and then stopped overconsuming, changes which completely transformed her lifestyle. She started to consider the potential impact of hundreds, thousands, even one million people taking the same actions.

Starting a movement

With women making up to 85 percent of consumer decisions that affect household carbon footprint, Natalie could see the enormous potential for change if more women took action and became involved with climate change in a policy context. She turned her back on the cosmetics industry and started a movement, launching 1 Million Women in 2006.

Now one of Australia’s largest networks acting on climate change, 1 Million Women supports and encourages people to change their lives by reducing “the stuff we buy, the food we consume, the energy that powers our homes and vehicles, and the waste and pollution we’re responsible for everyday”.

Natalie’s message is one of hope, positivity and empowerment, aiming to engage as many people as possible to participate in the conversation and take action. Her book Every Woman’s Guide to Saving the Planet is full of bite-sized chunks of achievable actions - there’s a checklist for cutting energy use, toolkits for planet-friendly bathrooms and kitchens, tips for cutting food waste and advice on how to make better choices when it comes to the clothes we wear.

1 Million Women has recently launched an app (available for Apple and Android) to make it easier to identify and commit to actions as well as view the collective impact of our actions in real time. If you’re keen to embrace a low-carbon life and don’t know where to start, the website and app are an ideal place to start.

Creative solutions from local changemakers

Here on the Sunshine Coast, the appetite for change is growing with an increasing number of women in our community acknowledging the issues and developing creative solutions. Our local changemakers are courageous and working collaboratively to transform our high consumption society.

ComLink CEO and Sunshine Coast Feda Adra is an award-winning leader, highly regarded for her innovative, progressive approach to aged and community care. Feda is constantly challenging the notion of ‘business as usual’, finding new ways to approach business that reduce ComLink’s environmental impact and contribute positively to the health and wellbeing of staff and customers.

Kelly Lavery’s search for a way to hygienically soak baby items has taken her from frustrated mum to award-winning innovator. Kelly’s Strucket is an ingenious strainer bucket that lets you soak, separate and drain without having to touch the residual dirty water. It’s a must-have for people who choose to reuse, ideal for dry pailing modern cloth nappies and soaking baby wipes, bibs, soiled clothing, reusable menstrual products - the uses are endless! To find out more, check out Strucket: the innovative household product that helps you reuse

Ten Little Pieces was founded by Alison Foley to advocate solutions for plastic pollution through school-based programs. Alison is one of 300 women selected for the eXXpedition around the world sailing mission research and raising awareness of the health impacts of plastics and toxins in our oceans.

Mum of two, Ellie Degraeve was shocked when she discovered the harmful ingredients in many mainstream skincare products. Go For Zero sources and sells Australian made toxin-free, low-waste skincare and everyday products from an online store and local retail stores.

After making the transition from maximalist to minimalista, Carly Willoughby-Rolls specialises in helping us create less complicated lives, supporting modern women to ditch busy, clutter and overwhelm so they live a life of ease and contentment.

ECOllaboration CEO Cerran Fawns said the organisation has teamed up with TerraCycle to offer a local collection point for difficult to recycle materials. Items such as pens, cosmetic packaging, toothpaste tubes, plastic stationery, contact lenses and soft plastics can be dropped off at their Nambour office for recycling.

Recognising the huge reduction in her household waste when she embraced bokashi, Jodie Berndt turned it into a business and is now sharing all things bokashi through Bokashi Ninja.

Teaching gardening to kids was an epiphany moment for Robyn Cook, who began volunteering in the permaculture kitchen garden at Chevallum State School in 2003. Through The Kitchen Garden Teacher Robyn sees first-hand how teaching children to grow and cook their own food can have a flow-on effect in their families.

Rebecca Colefax is GM of Earth Tech, a startup social enterprise supporting people to make the discoveries, create the technologies and build the companies we need to save the planet and our future.

Other changemakers acknowledged for their innovative initiatives are Helen Andrews from Spare Harvest, a community which enables you to share, swap or sell surplus or spare product or supplies (check out Living Smart’s story Reduce Waste with Spare Harvest) and Sallie Francis from Feel Good Food Boxes, offering seasonal organic product direct from farm to your door while also making good food accessible for low income earners.

You are powerful

Natalie Isaacs believes that whatever we do in our lives and careers, it is our individual and collective responsibility to live with the least impact on the planet. Taking action can be as easy as making one simple swap.

“Just do one thing like cut your power usage and see the result. I guarantee that will lead to another action. It will take you along the road of empowerment, build your voice and build confidence,” said Natalie.

“One person can shift the system. Because if one person has millions of other people alongside her or him, systems actually do shift. All of that starts with each and every one of us. Never underestimate how powerful you are.”

Take the 1 Million Women challenge at 1millionwomen.com.au or download the new app on the Apple Store or Google Play.

Get your copy of Natalie’s book from the 1 Million Women shop.

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