Women championing change to benefit people, plants and the planet.
8th March 2018
Throughout history, inspirational women have been leaving their mark on the world, acting as catalysts for positive change. To celebrate International Women's Day, we wanted to share with you the work and successes of some of the incredible women we are lucky enough to have encountered on our journey here at Pukka.
Here are just a handful of women helping to create circles of benevolence that benefit people, plants and the planet.
Natalie Fee - Founder of City to Sea
Natalie Fee is an award-winning environmental campaigner, author, speaker and founder of City to Sea, a non-profit organisation running campaigns to stop plastic pollution at source.
Their primary campaigns are 'Refill', a free tapwater initiative promoting bottle reuse across the UK and 'Switch the Stick', their successful cotton bud campaign which called on all resulted in UK retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, Superdrug, Boots and Wilko to switch from plastic to paper stem buds, stopping over 420 tonnes a year of single-use plastic at the source.
Where do you find your inspiration and drive to create the change we need to see in the world?
My inspiration first came in the form of a baby albatross chick dying a slow, painful death with its belly full of plastic! My shock and grief quickly turned into action and I began dedicating my skills towards doing something about it. My drive to carry on, four years on from when I first saw that horrendous-but-life-changing film clip, comes from knowing we're making a tangible difference. I'm supported by a great team of passionate, talented people who care about stopping plastic pollution at source - and we have a lot of fun creating campaigns and content that have a lasting impact!
What are the most common misconceptions around plastic?
I think we still disassociate from the plastic we use and buy every day and the plastic we see winding up in the oceans. And often people think that because they recycle that they're not contributing to the problem. But the recycling issue is complicated.
In 2014, 2015 and 2016 the UK exported 800,000 tonnes of plastic waste a year - mostly to Asia. Once it gets to Asia (often contaminated with our food waste) we have no actual way of measuring how much of that plastic gets recycled. Or how much ends up in landfill or leaking into the ecosystem. And with around 80% of plastic in the ocean coming from eight rivers in Asia, I don't think anyone who recycles in the UK can safely say their plastic isn't ending up in one of those rivers.
What’s the single best thing right now women can do to help reduce plastic pollution?
Can I suggest three things? Switch to reusables! In terms of our periods, we can have a huge positive impact (on the environment as well as our bank balance!) if we switch to using a menstrual cup, washable pads or period panties. You can also switch to washable make-up remover pads to cut back on cleansers and cotton wool pads. Finally, swapping out plastic bottles for solid shampoos and conditioners will make a huge dent in your plastics recycling.
What do you hope 2018 brings?
I'd like to see the government introduce a levy on single-use plastic takeaway items, like coffee cups, straws, and plastic cutlery to bring about the kind of drop in use that we saw with the 5p plastic bag charge.
I'm also hopeful that this amazing wave of change continues so more people feel empowered and inspired to reduce their plastic footprint and join the refill revolution!
Kate Williams - CEO of 1% For The Planet
Kate's career has been devoted to balancing her passion for spending time outdoors with her commitment to doing the often desk-bound work of stewarding and advocating for outdoor places. Kate stepped into the role of CEO at 1% for the Planet in May 2015 bringing a strong track record as a leader, including roles as Board Chair of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Executive Director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, founder and owner of a farm business enterprise, and as an elected political leader in her community.
Kate earned a BA at Princeton University where she majored in history, and an MS at the MIT Sloan School of Management where she focused on Systems Theory. Kate lives in Vermont with her husband and two children. Find out more about our 1% For the Planet partnership.
What inspired you to work at 1% for the Planet?
I’ve spent my entire career working in the environmental space, as an outdoor educator, a conservation and recreation professional, and a farm-business entrepreneur. And personally, I’m a devoted outdoors-person and have embraced the opportunity to raise my children to love and feel connected to wild places.
The opportunity to bring my whole self to 1% for the Planet is a great gift - I was inspired before I started by the vision of the founders, Yvon Chouinard and Craig Mathews, and I’m inspired every day by the hard, smart work all partners in our network are undertaking to create a healthy future for our planet.
How can we all contribute to positive change?
At 1% for the Planet, we believe that we can all take action to create positive change. Each person, each business, each organization can choose to take everyday actions such as purchasing products that solve instead of creating problems. Looking for the 1% for the Planet logo on products and services is one important way to do this. They can also make annual commitments to invest in change at a deeper level.
Our membership model creates a way that businesses and individuals can commit their 1% to drive environmental change, and our staff is at the ready to support these members in developing the partnerships that best fit each member’s goals. Private citizens, businesses, and organizations have significant power - and it’s more important than ever to not only contribute to but to be leaders in driving the solutions to the urgent problems facing our planet.
What does feeling empowered mean to you?
For me, feeling empowered means knowing and believing that I can take action and play a role in the important issues of our time. I used to see it as something that could - and even needed to be - given to me, but I now believe that it is my responsibility to step forward and both act with power and agency myself and create the space for others with whom I’m working and living to also feel empowered.
In this context, I don’t love the word “empower” because it includes that sense of power being granted when instead I think the power to act is something that we all have and should feel free to exercise. I think one of the most important changes I’m seeing around me now is that more and more people of all demographics are stepping forward with strong voices and visions and doing their part to create a healthier world on so many dimensions. We are unstoppable!
What positive message would you like to share with anyone reading this?
I just had a wonderful opportunity to spend some time on a college campus, meeting with various student groups. I was so inspired and encouraged by how strongly these students - from different majors, backgrounds, and interests - all expressed a strong desire to work for positive change.
And my message to them and to all of us is “don’t wait.” We are the people we’ve been waiting for is a phrase first popularized by Sweet Honey and the Rock, and I think it’s absolutely true. We all have something to contribute to make this planet the vibrant, healthy place we envision, and our time is now.
What do you hope 2018 brings?
What I came out of 2017 with is a strong sense that private citizens and businesses can and will step forward when opportunity and need arises. We saw this with the #wearestillin movement after the United States pulled out of COP21, and we’re still seeing this in the 1% for the Planet network as our network size and engagement grew in the wake of so many threats to the environment. We brought on more than 500 new business members and nearly 200 individual members in 2017 alone! So, my hope for 2018 is that this global momentum of citizen and business action continues and increases! We’ve got a lot of important work to do, it’s urgent, and we have the power. I couldn’t be more energized, and I look forward to the many collaborative opportunities ahead to create positive change.
Hermione Taylor - Founding Director of DoNation
Hermione Taylor is the Founding Director of DoNation, the non-profit on a mission to make sustainable living mainstream, by helping people to nudge those around them towards more healthy and environmentally friendly habits.
Since the launch of DoNation, over 1,000 people have pledged actions that reduce their carbon emissions, and a whopping 161,991kgs of carbon dioxide have been saved. Find out more about our DoNation partnership.
What inspired you to set up DoNation?
Following my belief that the environment needs action more than it needs our cash, I asked my friends to support a big cycle ride I was doing (from London to Morocco!) by ‘donating’ actions instead of cash. Friends cycled to work, planted trees, switched energy suppliers, and gave up meat - all sorts of simple actions, all in support of our cycle. It was hugely inspiring and motivating, both for me and for them.
When I got back and a) saw the very real impact these pledges had had on my friend’s lifestyles and attitudes, and b) calculated that their actions had added up to save as much carbon as 84 flights from London to Morocco, I realised that we were on to something… and Do Nation was born!
What one thing would you like someone to do with DoNation?
Pick a Do Action you’re not already doing and make the pledge. Simple!
What does feeling empowered mean to you?
To me feeling empowered is about living the quote “be the change you want to see in the world”. It can start small - finding the motivation, confidence, and ability to make some really small and simple changes - but it can snowball rapidly into far wider-reaching changes.
One of the things I love most about running DoNation is how often I get to see this play out in reality. For example, I was talking to a user recently who first made a pledge Do Nation back in 2012, pledging to stop using plastic bags. She continued making more pledges over the coming years, until last year when she persuaded her company to sign up to run a competition to see which team could make the most pledges on DoNation. Through running that programme she got to put her leadership skills to the test, and as a result has been able to set up an entirely new business unit offering sustainability services to their clients.
How can we all contribute to positive change?
Changing our own habits to improve our impact on the planet is all very well - but if we’re going to make positive change on a really meaningful scale, we need everyone around us to come on board too. So the best way you can contribute is by encouraging your friends, family, colleagues, or workplace to make changes too. Thankfully, DoNation is designed to help make that an easier and less intimidating task!
What do you hope 2018 brings?
I'd love to see Do Nation grow to a scale that gives us clout to influence change beyond just our users' behaviours. Our ultimate aim is to be able to use the pledges being made on DoNation as an indication of public appetite for change - that’d be a really powerful message to decision makers in governments and businesses, where the really big changes can be unlocked.
Petra Sovcov - Herbalists Without Borders
Introducing Petra Sovcov, Membership and Volunteer Coordinator for Herbalists Without Borders (HWB). This organisation is on a mission is to promote humanitarian aid and health justice globally for people who need access to natural and botanical medicine; health and wellness provision based on need, not ability to pay.
The HWB People's Clinics are supported by the generosity and volunteered time of the natural medicine communities they serve.
What sparked your interest in herbs and natural health?
In 1998 my mother was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer and was offered minimal treatment options beyond invasive surgery and chemo/radiation therapy. She refused traditional means of treatment and sought out a natural health practitioner. Within a year she was cancer free and to this day (20 years later) maintains her health with botanical-based medicines.
Though results like this are not always the case, seeing the power of healing plants and minimally processed nutritional supplements along with lifestyle changes with my own eyes inspired me to begin my studies, specifically in the area of inflammatory-based illnesses such as cancer.
Have you noticed any changes in women’s attitude towards botanical wellbeing?
Absolutely, as botanical medicine becomes more mainstream it seems that women are becoming more open to the idea of traditional healing. More than that, I think that in many cases once trust in the botanical formulations are established and women can experience a far deeper holistic healing via plants; it seems that natural based healing then becomes embraced as the norm. It is always a deep honour to be part of someone's healing, and I look forward to seeing many more positive changes on the horizon.
What’s one positive message you’d like to share with any woman reading this?
Never think that you can't achieve what you want to in life. It may be tough and you will certainly face challenges, but through perseverance, barriers can be broken and goals achieved.
What are your hopes for 2018?
My hopes for 2018 are to continue to see a turn towards informed botanical based healing. It would be such a wonderful thing if both modern western medicine and traditional modalities could be used equally for the benefit of those seeking improved health.
Catherine Zollman MRCP MRCGP - Medical Director of Penny Brohn UK
Dr Catherine Zollman trained in Medicine at Oxford University and the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London. While training she became interested in the connections between mind, body and spirit and their impact on health.
Catherine now works part-time as a National Health Service Family Practitioner in Bristol, where she tries to take a holistic perspective on the many and varied cases she treats. She uses primary care level homoeopathy, acupuncture and relaxation skills training in her work and would like to make more use of nutrition and bodywork as these are very neglected areas of conventional healthcare training in the UK. She also maintains an active interest in the field of oncology and works part-time as an Integrative Medicine Specialist at Penny Brohn Cancer Care.
What does people-powered health mean to you?
As a doctor, I have seen some of my very best results when my main input has been to help people find their own inner resilience: to maximise their innate capacity to get well, stay well and respond well to life's challenges.
For many people, this capacity is an untapped resource. It may be something they’ve long forgotten, don’t know how to nurture, or believe doesn’t have much relevance to their health and wellbeing.
In my GP practice and in our work at Penny Brohn UK, we help people discover their own powerful potential to increase their health and wellbeing. Through our Bristol Whole Life Approach, we explore simple tools for eating healthily, being physically active, learning to sleep, relax and manage stressful thoughts, emotions and situations well. This is much more rewarding, for everyone than just prescribing an ever-increasing list of medications designed to treat symptoms, not causes. Even in a cancer setting, it can produce amazingly positive results, where people sometimes say they have never felt or lived better.
What keeps you inspired?
My patients in general practice and the many clients who use the services at Penny Brohn UK. They manage to find incredible resilience, creativity, compassion, wisdom and humour - often in the face of huge, life-threatening adversity.
Every day, I feel I learn as much from them, as I do from the books, research papers I read and the conferences I attend. I am also blessed to have some wonderful and inspirational colleagues, friends and family who challenge me to learn and develop as a doctor and as a person.
Have you noticed more appetite for an integrative health model?
Definitely! I think that - although it has produced some major advances in health - the limitations of conventional medicine alone, in dealing with many of today’s lifestyle-linked long-term health conditions is becoming much more obvious to everyone. We’re seeing a big increase in the numbers of people exploring other ways of getting and staying healthy.
There are growing numbers of doctors who are campaigning against “over-diagnosis” and big pharma-sponsored “over-treatment” and who are exploring social prescribing and patient activation instead.
People from all walks of life are seeking help from complementary practitioners, learning about cooking and nutrition or taking up mindfulness, meditation and physical activity programmes. For example, most cancer hospitals now offer some advice about exercise, healthy eating and psychological support, and may provide some access to complementary therapies.
Many NHS cancer hospitals in the South West now show Penny Brohn UK videos encouraging patients to explore lifestyle as a way of helping them live as well as possible for as long as possible. This would have been unthinkable even 10 years ago. As a GP, I work using an integrative model and I’m surprised how few people with symptoms prefer the option of a pill when they find out that there is a lifestyle change that could take away the symptom and be more sustainable and beneficial for them in the long term.
However, sometimes both are needed, and more and more people don’t want to be forced to pick one system over the other – they want to choose and combine the best options for them.
This is where an integrative model, where options that can work well together are carefully selected by experts with an understanding of the different approaches, in partnership with patients who are experts in their own body and experiences, comes into its own.
Do you have a positive message you’d like to share with any women reading this?
I think that women often experience and acknowledge the interconnections between mind, emotions, spirits and bodies more readily than men and so may be more naturally open to exploring and using an integrative approach.
A less hierarchical, less paternalistic approach also helps patients step into their power, develop their expertise and discover the joys of collaborating as partners with their healthcare teams to maximise their wellbeing.
And women are often carers, providing multidimensional support to help others stay resilient, which is demanding work and means that they need to actively nurture their own wellbeing in a variety of ways, or they risk becoming depleted and unwell themselves.
Women, as patients, carers or as healthcare professionals, are brilliantly placed to support and lead this movement of sustainable, integrative health creation.
It doesn’t surprise me that the pioneering, integrative charity I work for was set up by two visionary and passionate women, Penny Brohn and Pat Pilkington, who recognised a need for a more holistic way of dealing with cancer.
What do you hope 2018 will bring?
I hope that 2018 will bring more government support for the long-term research studies and investment we need to prove that adopting a more integrative approach to healthcare would make our National Health Service more sustainable and cost-effective, and would provide better outcomes allowing us to live healthier and happier lives.
I hope that we at Penny Brohn UK raise the funds we need to help even more people and to further spread our message that there is a lot that we can all do to increase their own health and wellbeing, whatever our situation. I also hope that we can engage with people from more diverse communities helping them to become more resilient and more able to live well with whatever challenges life brings them.