Features, Waste Management In Action

1 Million Women inspiring social change

1 Million Women’s Natalie Isaacs explains how her movement is helping to foster collaboration between the waste industry, government and consumers.

In 2006, former United States Vice President Al Gore starred in a documentary aiming to educate the masses about global warming.

The film, An Inconvenient Truth, was credited for raising international awareness of global warming and grossed $26 million at the international box office. One year later, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd referred to climate change as the “greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our age”.

In one of his first moves as Prime Minister, Mr Rudd ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which saw Australia commit to limit its average greenhouse gas emissions over 2008-2012 to eight per cent above its 1990 levels. The decision later resulted in Australia signing the second phase of Kyoto for further emissions cuts, along with another agreement in Paris at the COP 21 Paris France Sustainable Innovation Forum.

As these events unfolded, cosmetics manufacturer Natalie Isaacs was in Sydney working on establishing a critical mass to help reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.

“I was a cosmetic manufacturer for 24 years. For all of my working career, I owned and manufactured skin care products and never once thought about waste and over-packaging,” she explains.

She says the year of An Inconvenient Truth was a turning point for her, as the media began to portray climate change as a critical issue. The epiphany for Natalie arrived when she was able to reduce her electricity consumption by 20 per cent just by being conscious of when she was using power. From then on, Natalie left behind what she describes as the “over-packaged world” of skincare and beauty products to establish 1 Million Women.

According to a 2013 report Women: the next emerging market by global investment advisory firm EY, women will control close to 75 per cent of discretionary spending worldwide by 2028. The report predicted in 2013 that by 2018, the global incomes of women will grow from US$13 trillion to $18 trillion. 1 Million Women is a registered charity which encourages individuals to fight climate change by reducing their carbon footprint and overall waste.

1 Million Women was inspired by an inference that women make a majority of consumer decisions in developed nations and 85 per cent of the decisions that affect the household’s carbon footprint. It encourages women to join the movement by joining the site free of charge and pledging to reduce their carbon footprint. They are able to track their progress online by taking part in programs such as the carbon challenge (and a soon-to-be-released mobile app) – which show how their actions contribute to and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. 1 Million Women also runs events at schools and corporations, allowing these institutions to take part in similar challenges. The movement recognises the power consumers have in reducing the carbon footprint, while seeking to influence manufacturers and governments to make decisions that contribute to a circular economy.

Natalie says she spent two and a half years getting the enterprise off the ground, which was officially launched in 2009.

“The first few years were really hard because we never had much money and we had an audacious goal of getting a million women to be part of the movement,” Natalie explains.

She says the initial set up saw women sign up and pledge to cut a tonne of pollution from their life within a year, before later moving on to staff empowerment programs with major businesses such as Telstra.

“We didn’t have much of an active social media presence in the first few years. It was a lot of building through workshops at schools and businesses and other events.”

The 1 Million Women community is now over 700,000. Their blog in 2017 was viewed 4.5 million times, and Natalie has garnered support from numerous high profile figures, such as federal Labor Senator Penny Wong and the Director and CEO of the Australian Museum Kim McKay. To date, its members have pledged to reduce more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon pollution. In 2013, 1 Million Women was recognised by the United Nations, winning its Momentum for Change awards in 2013 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, Poland. Natalie Isaacs also won Australian Conservationist of the Year in 2017.

“In the years since we launched 1 Million Women, we’ve seen a transformation within industry. Governments have responded to people power with policies that work to reduce waste. For example, we work closely with the NSW Environment Protection Authority on its Love Food Hate Waste, which provides citizens and businesses with the tools to reduce their food waste.”

She says consumers have a powerful role to play in influencing manufacturers to design their products in an environmentally sustainable way.

Natalie will be presenting a talk on 1 Million Women at the Waste 2018 Conference, one of the industry’s  leading waste management conferences. The event takes place in the coastal city of Coffs Harbour from 8-10 May and will feature two and a half days of presentations, a detailed trade exhibition and networking events on three nights.

“Coffs Harbour will be a critical conference as 1 Million Women aims to help bridge the gap between consumers and the waste industry. After all, we cannot achieve positive social change without cross-collaboration between consumers, manufacturers, the waste industry and governments,” Natalie says.

You can register your interest for Waste 2018 at: https://www.coffswasteconference.com.au/2018/waste

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