The Good News About Climate Change — These Women are On It
The fight against climate change is an important one, but it can feel overwhelming at times. Large industries directly responsible for some of the biggest waste issues often blame consumers for the issue. No matter how hard we, the people, try to reduce our carbon footprint in our own lives, it can feel like it’s never enough.
Thankfully, Mother Nature has some fierce females on her side. CircleAround’s Editor-in-Chief Stephanie Regalado caught up with leaders in the environmental industry to learn how consumers can make a difference. Regalado spoke to Maria Rodale (author and former CEO and chairman of Rodale Inc.), Rachel Payne (a venture partner at Elevation VC and experienced climate investor), and MK Futrell (a college junior and Girl Scout alum whose Gold Award project, Project ReefLove, was a public awareness campaign promoting education about the impact of chemical-based sunscreens on coral reefs). Here are some tips they offered for fighting climate change today for a better world tomorrow.
1What You Buy Makes a Difference
We used to be much more reliant on local farms to provide most of our needs. But today, produce is more often imported from Mexico or Canada. According to Rodale, most career farmers are over 60 years old, and less than 5% of farms in the U.S. are certified organic, meaning that unless these kinds of statistics change, the carbon footprint on farm goods will only grow larger and more damaging.
But there is hope. Rodale has dedicated much of her work at the Rodale Institute toward the scientific study of regenerative organic agriculture, sequestering carbon, healing environmental devastation, and creating a better experience for humans overall. She emphasizes that the fact that there is a greater interest in regenerative and organic agriculture is “huge, because it's going to take a lot of people to shift the impact on climate.”
2Fast Fashion Needs a Refresh
Payne points out that fashion has a devastating impact on the environment, particularly because of its supply chain, fiber production, and waste. Payne connects with new businesses looking to combat these issues.
“So many inspiring entrepreneurs have a deep understanding of the planet's climate and of the technologies that they're innovating on,” Payne tells CircleAround. She is particularly proud of one female-led company, Evrnu, which is taking textile waste and transforming it into new, sustainable fiber that can be regenerated six to seven times with no degradation to quality.
“With the right amount of capital expenditure for some of the new facilities they're creating, they can displace some of these harmful fibers at scale, which can provide a viable substitute for a lot of the oil- and gas-derived products that we see in the market, as well as a harmful cotton,” Payne continues. “It also represents something that can be transformative for supply chains as well.”
3Fight the Guilt
Both Rodale and Payne acknowledge the level of corporate gaslighting present in the recycling industry, oftentimes blaming the consumer for not recycling enough. From experience, they also know that positive change should come from empowerment, not guilt.
“The great lie is that it's because of people who aren't recycling that we have a plastic problem,” Payne tells CircleAround. “No, it's the creation of plastic. It's the supply of plastic. … By pretending that it's because of consumers rather than the overabundance of plastic, we're giving corporations even more air cover for something that they should be held accountable for.”
“Taking shame out of the equation when working within any environmental subject is really, really important,” Futrell adds. “It was definitely frustrating at first, looking in my own cabinet and seeing that my sunscreens were having a negative impact on the environment. But I think that one of the most important things is being committed to making a change within yourself and your own activities. … I'm not a bad person for having sunscreens. I'm just somebody who didn't know any different.”
4Ways To Invest Wisely
While Payne takes investing in the climate to the next level, there are plenty of ways everyday consumers can positively impact their environments through investments.
There is power in communities that make a stand by boycotting products in an effort to make the supply/demand for plastics more imbalanced. Payne says that it also takes “a kind of coordinated effort and clarity of immunity to action” to make an impact. Still, there are immediate solutions, like purchasing insulated, consumer-safe metal containers that can be refilled with tap water and stored in the fridge.
Futrell knows how valuable her own community can be as well, and this support network is a wonderful resource. “One of the ways that I have encouraged people to lower their waste stream in general is shopping locally,” she tells CircleAround. “While we may not be able to cut down on the waste that we create by consuming plastic items, we can at least cut down on the transportation cost and the materials used to transport items.”
She admits accessibility is a large barrier to living a fully zero-waste life, but she also understands that small actions are better than no actions. “If everybody changes one thing, you can make a big change,” Futrell emphasizes.
The Bottom Line
It is possible to create a better world for tomorrow, no matter how small or large your contribution may be. With help from female leaders in the climate industry, we can reduce our consumption, create more consciously focused recycling habits and support our communities in positive, environmentallyfriendly ways.