Experts agree — immediate, far-reaching action on climate change is critical if we are to secure our future. And women ecopreneurs are heeding the call.
[Related: 14 Women Who Turned Eco-Friendly Ideas Into Successful Businesses]
As people young and old get ready to take part in a global climate strike, we’ve rounded up some quotes from our favorite eco-conscious female founders on what inspires them to fight the good fight. Read on to further fuel your flame, or to find the motivation you need to rejoin the fray.
These women ecopreneurs started up…
1. Because there isn’t a minute to spare.
“There’s not a lot of time here.” — Jennifer Bolstad, Local Office Landscape and Urban Design
Bolstad, a landscape architect, is working to protect vulnerable areas from sea surges through her Rockaway Beach, N.Y., firm. In less than 25 years, that peninsula of land — about an hour-long subway commute from downtown Manhattan — will be sinking into the Atlantic Ocean, something that almost happened after Hurricane Sandy’s ferocious flooding in 2012.
Due to rising sea levels, “the Sandy flood height is going to be the regular high tide mark in less than a century,” the ecopreneur says. Her work revolves around the notion that time is of the essence, and that the very survival of communities relies upon immediate, thoughtful action.
[Related: Cleaning Up Our E-Waste Mess]
2. Because our future — and our children’s future — is at stake.
“We didn’t want to wait until we were older to do something.” — Melati Wijsen, Bye Bye Plastic Bags
Melati and her sister, Isabel, are the teenage forces of nature behind this Indonesian nonprofit that encourages kids and teens to get active in combating the island’s significant plastic and pollution problem. In addition to hosting beach clean-ups, the duo also meets regularly with government officials to discuss policy proposals for limiting plastic waste, leveraging the Bali’s reliance upon its tourism industry to appeal to politicians’ economic concerns.
In addition to the on-the-ground work they do, the Wijsen sisters also want to lead fellow young people into the cause by visible example. “As kids are realizing our voices are a power we have, people are starting to listen,” she says. “We became a living example to kids around the world that we can do things — of the power we have.”
[Related: Women Mayors Talk Climate Change]
3. Because we’ll need everyone on board to right this ship.
“We’re talking about the future of the planet — there shouldn’t only be one type of beauty represented.” — Priscilla Debar, Faubourg
Debar is bringing eco-conscious minority women out of the shadows by spotlighting them through the online boutique for sustainable fashion she launched in 2017. A black woman of West African descent, she prominently features fellow fashionable women of color on her company’s site, both as models and as profile subjects on her blog. It’s an intentional effort inspired by the lack of diversity in eco-friendly spaces that she noticed as a customer.
“There’s a humongous lack of representation in an area that couldn’t be more universal,” she says, adding that everyone has a stake in Earth’s well-being. That’s why her mission statement is simply this: When it comes to making environmental change, “I definitely want people of color to feel they have a role to play.”
4. Because our natural resources are finite.
“These things we kind of take for granted — apples, watermelons, any fruit — would be gone.” — Kristy Allen, The Beez Kneez
Allen is no hobbyist — she’s the ecopreneur behind a unique full-time business that maintains beehives, sells honey, teaches intensive beekeeping classes and, generally speaking, profits while maintaining environmentally sustainable practices.
She had always planned on a career in agriculture, but was moved in this particular direction by environmentalists’ concerns over the drastic drop in the number of pollinators: bees, butterflies, bats and other animal species who pollinate food crops. In recent years, bees’ health has been severely compromised by mites, the overuse of pesticides and more. Bees “pollinate a third of everything that we eat,” Allen says. And without them, it’s not a stretch to imagine a world where “only the very rich would probably get to eat things like strawberries,” she says.
5. Because no action is too small.
“There’s just a lot of trash when you pack their lunch every day.” Lynn Julian, U Konserve
Julian and co-founder Chance Claxton launched their venture, which makes and sells reusable food containers, straws and more, after noticing the alarming amount of plastic that went into preparing their kids’ lunches — plastic that would later get thrown out. “Both of us had a strong passion for creating a business that has a positive effect on the environment,” she says of their motivation to launch.
Since doing so, the company’s work has made a noticeable impact, with Julian estimating that their reusable straw alone had kept 74 million plastic ones out of the waste stream. And in 2015, U Konserve became a B Corporation, a designation that means the company meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
6. Because humanity will need to be more mindful.
“We don’t know, when we’re giving someone a dollar, what we’re supporting.” — Samantha Martin, Agathos Athleisure
The practices behind making “fast fashion” — or apparel that is manufactured quickly to keep up with hot emerging trends at low cost — often result in water contamination, textile waste and harm to aquatic life, research shows. And that’s on top of the poor conditions suffered by factory workers. The problem is “these clothes are viewed as almost disposable,” so corners are cut to keep costs low, says Martin.
Through Agathos Athleisure, she makes making sustainably made clothing more readily available to the masses by acting as a distributor of other eco-conscious brands. With her work, she hopes to inspire customers to be more thoughtful about their spending and actions in every aspect of life.
[Related: Meet the Female Entrepreneur Who’s Going Global With Her Eco-Friendly Pest Repellant]
7. Because global work should begin locally.
“[I want people to have] the opportunity to make a difference in the world at large from their home, outward.” — Nicole Wakley, Tree
Every item sold by Tree, which boasts locations in Hong Kong and the Pacific Northwest, is constructed of materials — from recycled paper to reclaimed wood from old boats — sourced locally to ecopreneur Wakley’s various stores. In addition to providing a more sustainable option to mass-produced pieces for eco-conscious consumers, she also wants to showcase the “beauty of imperfection.”
The good work doesn’t stop there. Tree also partnered with Indonesian nonprofit Trees4Trees, and through this collaboration has helped in the planting of tens of thousands of saplings. It also works with Forterra, a Washington-based land-protection effort. Wakley told us she wants “my children to grow up in nature, grounded by Mother Earth, running around barefoot in a back garden,” and is working hard to make sure families the world over can have the same.
8. Because there are always new opportunities to live more sustainably.
“We take the recycling stuff even farther.” — Ann Siner, My Sister’s Closet
Ann Siner wasn’t setting out to solve a pressing problem when she co-founded her designer apparel consignment shop in 1991. But when we last spoke with her, she had realized she did more than create a multimillion-dollar retail chain. “We have kept millions of pounds of clothing and goods from going back to landfills,” she says.
Beyond that, the company also prohibits employees from using disposable water bottles, and was working to eliminate plastic bags in all of its locations. And Siner practices what she preaches in her personal life, decorating her home and filling her closet with her store’s offerings.
[Related: The Story Exchange’s Eco-Friendly Holiday Gift Guide]