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10 sustainability influencers you should be following in 2021

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Sustainability female influencer checking the label of a product
Content creators that are practicing what they preach have higher engagement on social media

Sustainability has been popping up on social feeds for a while.

From creators sharing tips on how to save the planet by upcycling your wardrobe, to food lovers advocating for the end of food waste. However, you can’t trust all social media hashtags these days – as posting a photo of yourself holding a recycled paper cup captioned #conciouslifestyle, while sporting tons of plastic accessories, doesn’t turn you into an eco-warrior.

Here are 10 sustainable influencers that are practicing what they preach. They are using their platforms to share actionable hacks and ways to live a more balanced life in 2021. After hearing about their quality content, you will know you should go and follow them as soon as you finish reading this article.

 

The entrepreneurial Influencer

Lindsey McCoy @plaineproducts

While living in The Bahamas, Lindsey McCoy noticed all the plastic bottles washing ashore and, after taking stock of the amount of plastic she was using in her own life, Lindsey made a concerted effort to stop using single use plastics. She had trouble, however, finding plastic-free bathroom products and realized her opportunity to make a difference. In 2017, North Carolina-based McCoy joined forces with her sister to start Plaine Products, a line of vegan, natural body care items that arrive in reusable, refillable aluminium bottles. Once empty, customers can return bottles to be cleaned and refilled. Her interest in learning more about the impact of plastic on our landfill led Lindsey McCoy to get involved in plastic pollution research, so she spent last summer aboard a plastic research sailing vessel.

 

The green chef

Max La Manna @maxlamanna
Low-waste chef, award-winning author and host of multiple BBC Earth food shows, Max La Manna is a 32-year-old chef who uses colourful plant-based recipes to encourage people to be more mindful about food waste while cooking. As most of us have been in the kitchen more often, thanks to waves of lockdown around the word, this influencer is rapidly growing on social media. In January 2020, he had 97k followers, and by September 2020 his profile had grown a following of 135k. This growth has only increased as the pandemic has continued. By May 2021, the influencer had reached almost three quarters of a million followers (730k and counting).

 

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The minimalist podcaster

Host of a weekly show about eco-friendly living, minimalist parenting, and incremental lifestyle tweaks toward sustainability, author Stephanie Seferian aims to make sustainability accessible and easy. A former teacher turned full-time content creator, she interviews specialists to demystify eco-friendly living for the average,
overwhelmed parent on her podcast Sustainable Minimalists. This is definitely one to tune into to learn more about reducing waste and reliance on plastic, and how to become a more conscious consumer.

 

The fashion-conscious influencer @haifazakariaa

Dubai-based digital content creator, Haifa Zakaria, balances fashion with posts about minimising plastic use, encouraging recycling and sustainable fashion, and where to find brands that are conscious of the environment and animal ethics. She produces this aspirational content to her 77k+ followers. Check out Haifa’s story highlight ‘Earth’ on her Instagram page to find sustainability content that is updated on a regular basis.

 

The vegan expat @mostlyamelie

Amélie Gagne is a Canadian sustainability and wellness blogger based in Germany.

Her blog www.mostlyamelie.com features ethical living, veganism, and wellness travel. She also offers recommendations and tips on health, eco-living, sustainability, and wellness. Besides creating content about living a healthier and greener life, the influencer also shares occasional recommendations about living in Berlin as an expat, a city she has called home for five years now.

 

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And here are five sustainability influencers, from different parts of the world, recommended by our readers:

 

Good for your planet and your mind
“I highly suggest you check out @TimFerriss. He posts new videos almost weekly on his YouTube channel that cover various topics on sustainability
and self-improvement. If you have the time, you can listen to his podcast as well! It features several powerful and successful people from a wide variety of professions who share their philosophies and vulnerabilities while Ferriss deconstructs their habits, traits, and routines. There’s a wealth of lessons to be taken from them that will influence both your mind and heart.”

Matthew Paxton – Founder at www.hypernia.com

 

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The young activist we should be listening to

“As editor of a website on sustainability, I believe there can hardly be a better sustainability influencer than the young Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg. She doesn’t influence like most others do, by locking us into a silent, socially unresponsive cycle of endless consumerism of click-through ads; she influences by acting, speaking, and appealing to the decision makers. But she also teaches us that no age is “too young” to understand the catastrophic consequences of climate change.”

Silvia Borges – Chief Editor of sustainability website at www.enviromom.com

 

Living with less
“As a warrior for social equity and an advocate for sustainability, Francesca Willow desires to bring some clarity on the best methods to utilize for a more ethical lifestyle. She not only has an incredibly informative Instagram page, but her blog is a treasure for anyone searching for a holistic approach to sustainability. The most important idea I learned from her is that we don’t need expensive products to live a healthy and sustainable life; the products we need are all around us.”

Caroline Lee – Co-founder at software development www.cocosign.com


Sustainability works better when fully integrated
“One of my favourite sustainability influencers is Besma, a Paris-based lifestyle influencer. Her blog, Curiously Conscious, talks about essential eco-friendly shortcuts and makes sustainability feel effortless. She tries to document her clothes swaps and visits to eco-villages, sustainable spa hotels, and organic food markets. She also promotes small organic brands on her profile.
One thing that I have learned from her is how to integrate sustainability into all aspects of life: food, travel, fashion, and beauty as well”.

Miranda Yan – Co-Founder at software development company www.vinpit.com

 

Advocating beyond sustainability

“The best sustainability influencers in my opinion are Emma Slade Edmonson and Claudia Ayuso. Not only do they both promote sustainable fashion, but they use their platform to advocate for climate change and charity fundraising to help those without a voice. They both possess an active presence in the sustainable clothing sector and are looking to use these platforms to make social change for the better.
Their environmental advocacy is by far my favourite and I look forward to seeing their posts regularly on social media.”
Umarah Hussain – Outreach Specialist at Marketing solutions agency www.surgems.co.uk

Sustainability

Interest-free loans empower indigenous women in Mexico

As the first and only interest-free micro-finance non-profit in Oaxaca, Mexico, Fundación En Vía enjoys 99% loan repayment rates of their loans within 15 weeks or less.

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Pregnant with her second child, Yanet Bazan Chavez has been with the En Via program for 15 years.

In a country with interest rates over 11% , one NGO has provided interest-free microfinance loans in Mexico since 2010 empowering indigenous Zapotec entrepreneurial women to jumpstart their microenterprises. Despite a deep trust deficit in financial institutions, the non-profit Fundación En Vía, enjoys 99% loan repayment rates within 15 weeks or less.

“We are the first and only interest-free micro-finance non-profit in Oaxaca with a unique business model that combines business education with responsible tourism to empower Indigenous women entrepreneurs who have the skills and need someone to believe in them,” says Managing Director, Viviana Ruiz Boijseanueau, a Mexico City native and architect by training who left her lucrative career to devote herself full-time to the social justice program that began with a commitment to alleviate extreme poverty among Indigenous population, but evolved to focus on empowering women to discover and develop their skill set to “build brighter futures for themselves and their families.”

Boijseanueau oversees five full-time employees and 20 volunteers on average including tour guides worldwide. Founded in 2010 by Oaxaca-native Carlos Topete and an American Emily Berens, Fundación Emprende, Intercambia y Aprende A. C.–known as Fundación En Vía–evolved to a refined social enterprise model based on Grameen Bank micro-loan model “with a twist.” Since convincing the Zapotec women entrepreneurs to join En Via was challenging Topete decided to offer more than a steady flow of tourists buying their handmade products.

To create a responsible, sustainable program, En Vía evolved to offer interest-free loans to all the women entrepreneurs in need. To be sustainable Topete offered the women “basic business classes, not rules” on business and money management and slowly built positive relations based on trust, connections, and a deep commitment to those who had business ideas and skills–but lacked financial means.

In empowering the women En Via combines microfinance and tourism with a nonprofit organization–providing a deserved basic human right. While Topete and Berens now live and work abroad, they remain board members.

Three Women Solidarity Model

En Via banks on its “education tools and trust on the women” to be responsible loan recipients. This empowerment Boijseanueau believes boosts the women’s self-esteem.

En Via has supported over 800 indigenous women entrepreneurs across six Tlacolula Valley communities in the Oaxaca, Mexico region through donations and income from responsible tourism trips, . Of those, 600 women have successfully secured independent businesses or left the program to pursue other interests. One of these is Teresa Hernandez Lopez whose sister, a beneficiary, encouraged her to join in 2015 to scale the chocolate and dried chilies business she had started in 2009 in her home. En Via business courses taught her how to name and brand her business, customer relations, and product display while engaging with other women entrepreneurs to share challenges while learning. In 2023 Teresa left En Via to manage her El Guajillo store where she continues selling various handmade products.

Currently supporting 200 women businesses–from weavers to livestock and vegetable farmers, to food producers, clothes makers, to storefront owners–the micro-finances help sustain self-employed women who fulfill the required prerequisites and basic principles. Loans are exclusively earmarked for groups of three women entrepreneurs needing to expand their microbusiness. The “solidarity model” jump-starts businesses for women who lack credit history or collateral and defies the gender gaps in financing which exclude women even though women loan recipients have higher repayment rates than men and dedicate most of their income to their household.

Once the team of three completes eight money and business management classes, they sign a contract as a commitment to repay before receiving a loan of 1,500 pesos ($78). All three women must use the loan exclusively for their business and generate income to contribute to the payback–within 15 weeks–before qualifying for a second loan. Mandatory monthly classes equip recipients with the core business concepts of developing, marketing, and presenting their small businesses to a regular flow of responsible tourist groups. Social media training introduces online marketing and new sales avenues, leading many women to build Instagram accounts and offer digital payment options.

After receiving the first loan, most women create additional projects to maintain the circular, sustainable financing–and on average receive at least four loans per year. Traditionally, families in Oaxaca set up collaborative, family businesses that scale as older members, preserving traditional techniques, pass on their cultural skills keeping the knowledge within the family. Most women generate enough profits to afford schooling for their children, savings, and additional ideas to enhance their profit.

Impressed by En Via’s success and its value for the women (primarily Zapotecas), Wellesley College Spanish and study-abroad Professor, Carlos Vega, was intrigued by the NGO’s ties to the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca Spanish language program. Convinced that the program could represent ideal teaching opportunities for his students, he arranged the first study abroad language studies between the two institutions–three Wellesley College students have already completed their internships.

“Wellesley is renowned for ‘women who make a difference in the world’ and I saw in En Vía an outstanding opportunity to learn more about microfinance, sustainability, and responsible tourism, and offer opportunities for our Spanish majors wanting a fully immersive experience in a Spanish-speaking country but who could not study abroad for a full semester or year,” says Vega.

Teotitlán del Valle Village

En Via’s 5-hour responsible tourism trip [$90/pp], brings tourists to respective business sites managed by the women beneficiaries. A 19-mile drive southeast of the color-bursting Centro Historico of Oaxaca de Juarez, the bustling outskirts give way to flat, open plateaus of the Tlacolula Valley district. By the foothills of the Sierra Juárez mountains, the small village of Teotitlán del Valle (Land of Gods in Náhuatl, Aztec, language), is the first area town founded by the Zapotecs where legend says the Zapotecs crossed the Picacho mountain, looked down from its peak, and chose to settle in the valley below. 

The village’s Zapotec and Spanish-speaking indigenous population are known for their generational pre-Hispanic weaving traditions. Throughout centuries, they incorporated loom and wool yarn weaving traditions, introduced by the Spanish, to create unique motifs across handmade wool tapetes (rugs), bags, table runners, coasters, and other accessories.

micro-finance loans make Zapotec Cucina possible.
Brenda Martiniz’s traditional Zapotec Cucina restaurant serves meals learned from her mother and grandmother–are all sourced from her gardens and made possible with microloans.

En Via beneficiary, Brenda Martinez’s local restaurant sits amidst her tree-lined yard hugged by a two-story, multi-generational residence. Brenda, her husband, mother-in-law, and four children help scale the business throughout her four years with En Via. An organic garden, an artisanal workshop teaching her weaving talents learned from her family, and a traditional Zapotec Cucina restaurant serving meals learned from her mother and grandmother–are all sourced from her gardens and made possible with microloans.  

In the middle of the yard, a long tapetes-covered table, shaded with an orange plastic awning, sits by a soot-darkened brick-walled open kitchen. Brenda’s mother-in-law presses tortillas with a metal presser then dexterously flattens them with her hands before tossing them atop Comal’s smooth metal-surface griddle, balanced atop vertical cinder blocks. Brenda’s husband lines the table with large pitchers of juice, baskets of warm tostadas wrapped in handkerchiefs, and an assortment of spicy dips. Soon warm bowls of delicious Cegueza–a Zapotec hoja santa-flavored chicken soup with a broth of toasted, cracked corn arrive.

In preserving her centuries-old practice of extracting pure pigment colors for wool dying, Brenda eagerly demonstrates her rows of nopal cactus leaves hung across the far end of the open-air kitchen wall. Covered with cochineal scale insects, she harvests and sun-dried pulverized female scale insects, which turn into natural red dye for the wools she uses to make bags, tapetes, table runners, blouses, and other artisanal items for sale. Some 70,000 insects make one kilogram of the sought-after dye after they are dried and finely ground in a metate basalt stone grinding slap.

Preserving the traditional crafts and cultural heritage of the Zapotec communities in the Tlacolula Valley En Via’s “Celebrate Culture: Nurture Creativity” campaign engages the young women artisans to continue their ancestral family weaving workshops and diversify into new market trends by capitalizing on the generational talents of the undervalued elderly women to actively pass their expertise to the new generation of cultural preservers.

Driving out of Teotitlan, off a beaten road, we stop by one of the first En Via beneficiaries, Yanet Bazan Chavez, and her husband’s weaving business. Pregnant with her second child, Yanet has been with the program for 15 years and now grows various plants used to dye the wool and teaches dying workshops.  The couple has also built an environmentally sustainable, solar Airbnb accommodation afforded from the profits.

Sitting against a wall of colorful displays of her handicrafts, Yanet explains in English how she set up a wool dying and weaving workshop. As a former En Via employee, she used her loans to fund her jewelry business at first and then reinvested the profits to fund her college education. She now designs jewelry using wool–and makes bags, pillow covers, rugs, runners, and more.

Across the display wall a row of looms thumps away as Yanet’s husband continues to weave. Behind the looms a small, blue-tiled pool is surrounded by trees and hanging plants potted in recycled plastic containers. The couple is now building a brick entry into their workshop.

Hermelinda, another beneficiary has used loans to expand her weaving business.

For the last six years, Hermelinda, another beneficiary has used loans to expand her weaving business. She now has four looms and a permanent booth in downtown Oaxaca from where she sells her products on Sundays. Standing in her yard where her crafts are displayed on clotheslines and hangers, she says she used her loans to purchase wool for tapestries, bags, ponchos and other clothing items she creates.

Her husband, mother-in-law, and sons help make some of the products–she’s invested part of her profits in purchasing an industrial sewing machine to sew her leather-strap wool tote bags with silver clasps. Her husband handles the digital payments standing under the colorful rows of crafts hung across their yard.

On a friend’s recommendation, Beatrice joined En Via nine years ago. Standing beside her small, partially covered barn, and piles of garlic bunches on the ground, she says she used her first loan to purchase sheep to sell the wool to the local weavers. After repaying she invested her second loan in purchasing pigs and cows.

Now she sells the Oaxaca queso cheese, and in a nearby farm harvests beans, garlic, and alfalfa which she feeds to her sheep and cows. She and her husband harvest 800 bundles of garlic, twice a year and have a successful wholesale garlic business–selling one bundle for 100 pesos (about $6).

“The most important thing is how women even during the pandemic went on to start new businesses because they possess higher skills–they just need someone to believe in them and provide them with secure funds,” says Boijseanueau. “What’s more the children of our recipients grow up proud and more confident witnessing their mothers achieving new levels of success in businesses and financial independence.”

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Sustainability

New EU law will protect environment and biodiversity

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Alain Maron, Minister for Climate Transition, Environment, Energy and Participatory Democracy of the Government of the Brussels-Capital
Alain Maron (centre), Minister for Climate Transition, Environment, Energy and Participatory Democracy of the Government of the Brussels-Capital

The European Union Council has formally adopted a new regulation on nature restoration. This law aims to put measures in place to restore at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030, and all ecosystems in need of restoration by 2050.

It sets specific, legally binding targets and obligations for nature restoration in each of the listed ecosystems – from terrestrial to marine, freshwater and urban ecosystems.

The regulation aims to mitigate climate change and the effects of natural disasters. It will help the EU to fulfil its international environmental commitments, and to restore European nature.

“I am pleased with this positive vote on the Nature Restoration Law, which was agreed between the European Parliament and the Council almost a year ago. It is the result of hard work, which has paid off. There is no time for a break in protecting our environment. Today, the Council of the EU is choosing to restore nature in Europe, thereby protecting its biodiversity and the living environment of European citizens. It is our duty to respond to the urgency of the collapse of biodiversity in Europe, but also to enable the European Union to meet its international commitments. The European delegation will be able to go to the next COP with its head held high,” says Alain Maron, Minister for Climate Transition, Environment, Energy and Participatory Democracy of the Government of the Brussels-Capital Region

The new rules will help to restore degraded ecosystems across member states’ land and sea habitats, achieve the EU’s overarching objectives on climate mitigation and adaptation, and enhance food security. 

The regulation requires member states to establish and implement measures to jointly restore, as an EU target, at least 20% of the EU’s land and sea areas by 2030.

The regulation covers a range of terrestrial, coastal and freshwater, forest, agricultural and urban ecosystems, including wetlands, grasslands, forests, rivers and lakes, as well as marine ecosystems, including seagrass and sponge and coral beds.

Until 2030, member states will prioritise Natura 2000 sites when implementing the restoration measures.

On habitats deemed in poor condition, as listed in the regulation, member states will take measures to restore:

  • at least 30% by 2030
  • at least 60% by 2040
  • at least 90% by 2050

The regulation sets out specific requirements for different types of ecosystems, including agricultural land, forests and urban ecosystems. 

Member states will put measures aiming to enhance two out of these three indicators: grassland butterflies’ population, stock of organic carbon in cropland mineral soils and share of agricultural land with high-diversity landscape features. Increasing forest birds’ population and making sure there is no net loss on urban green spaces and tree canopy cover until end of 2030 are also key measures of this new law.

Member states will put in place measures aiming to restore drained peatlands and help plant at least three billion additional trees by 2030 at the EU level. In order to turn at least 25 000 km of rivers into free-flowing rivers by 2030, member states will take measures to remove man-made barriers to the connectivity of surface waters.  

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Sustainability

Sky inks 10-year deal for clean energy in Scotland

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A windfarm in Scotland
Starting in 2025, Sky will receive 100 GWh annually of clean, renewable energy from the Crossdykes Wind Farm

Sky has signed a 10-year agreement with Octopus Renewables Infrastructure Trust to receive renewable energy from the Crossdykes Wind Farm in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Under this agreement, Sky will receive the majority of renewable energy guarantees of origin (REGOs) generated from the 46 MW wind farm, which will help Sky reduce the emissions associated with its electricity use.

Starting in 2025, Sky will receive 100 GWh annually of clean, renewable energy from the Crossdykes Wind Farm, approximately 69% of the total power generated by the project. This is equivalent to approximately 34,000 UK homes’ annual electricity use. [1]

The agreement is a key part of Sky’s ongoing commitment to sourcing renewable electricity. From being the first media company to go carbon neutral in 2006, to launching the world’s first auto standby set top box – Sky has been committed to decarbonising its business for more than 15 years.

“This agreement is evidence of Sky’s commitment to reducing our environmental impact. We source the majority of our electricity in the UK from renewable energy and this long-term project in Lanarkshire provides us with lasting clean energy for years to come. As a media and entertainment company, we are determined to use our voice to help the media sector and the UK more broadly decarbonise,” acknowledges Fiona Ball, Group Director of the Bigger Picture and Sustainability at Sky.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2022, renewable energy supply from solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and ocean rose by close to 8%, meaning that the share of these technologies in total global energy supply increased by close to 0.4 percentage points.

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