As a budding social entrepreneur and a self-confessed change maker I was elated to find myself sitting in The Rocks Sydney eagerly awaiting the inspiring presence of Natalie Isaacs, founder of 1 Million Women. Natalie’s team and her 79,330 female followers have inspired new habits that will help effect climate change – not just now, but for generations to come.
Even though we live in a beautiful world, most of us walk around with our eyes closed. We are not conscious of the negative effects we create by living in a throw-away society. It is the classic case of out-of-sight-out-of-mind. It’s Natalie’s vision that 1 Million Women will empower a vital wind change in our daily habits. After all, 70% of household purchasing decisions are made by women.
Every time you spend money, you are shaping the world around you. Your decisions in buying certain products has a massive impact on the well-being of our planet. As an organisation, 1 Million Women is confident in guiding holistic behavioural change by imparting tips and ideas that bring family units together. 1 Million Women already has an impressive list of ambassadors and influential women joining the movement such as Margaret Fulton – Australian food and cooking ‘guru’, writer, journalist, author, and commentator.
When Natalie introduced herself to me, the first thing I noticed was her warm and welcoming smile. It instantly made me feel at ease. After some light chit-chat, I asked her how 1 Million Women took off and became the foundation it is today.
“In 2006 I had an epiphany whilst I was attending and supporting my husband at a climate change event,” she told me.
Natalie’s husband Murray is a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald on climate change and a very successful consultant.
“I had no real understanding of my husband’s career up to that point,” admitted Natalie. “I was quite content being a loving and supportive wife.”
Before marrying her husband and having four children, Natalie had forged her own career as a successful sales professional working in the world of cosmetics and packaging, ironically one of the biggest industrial culprits for over-consumption and competitive hustling. As the woman of the house and mum to four, Natalie’s husband would go off to work every day to save the planet while she had little clue on what waste products go to which recycling bin at home.
However, her whole view about how we live was about to change. Natalie had helped edit a book Murray wrote on climate change which led to a meeting with Paul Gilding who had an implacable CV as a change maker and leader. Paul had been on the executive team of Greenpeace and had successfully set up other initiatives like Easy Being Green. Its aim was to replace all households with energy efficient light globes in New South Wales. Easy Being Green held a one-night only event to celebrate a significant milestone – the installation of one million energy efficient light globes across the state. Natalie and her husband attended along with 200 people. Every single person who attended the night had contributed to the cause, apart from Natalie. She had held the belief that to make a big impact on the world, you had to have special credentials to do so.
“I thought who would listen to me?” she asked.
“I am not a scientist who studied at Oxford or Cambridge. I am certainly not a climate change activist who have devoted their every waking hour to educating and supporting such initiatives. Nor have I chained myself to trees or joined rallies. I am just one of many people in society who fear looking stupid if they don’t have the expertise. It never even occurred to me to simply have faith in my own ability in order to take action.”
By attending that one event, Natalie realised one small change in the way we live our lives had far greater impact on the planet than she could ever imagine. She also realised that one person is part of a collective and when a collective comes together with the same aim, it is a powerful force for positive change.
Unfortunately, many become overwhelmed and choose to disconnect from their surroundings and the issues that threaten their environment, instead of taking action to improve living conditions. We reassure ourselves that the experts will fix things for us when in fact, they are likely to be profiting from our naivete, apathy, ignorance and the she’ll be right mate mentality.
‘To make a difference, firstly you have to be really honest with yourself. Once you examine that in earnest, a profound shift in thinking comes from within,” Natalie explains.
That night at the event, Natalie truly felt that urge to make a change. She also understood that in her own capacity, she could not only make a big difference in her own life, but also on her own family and friends.
“Once you’ve made the behavioral shift, it becomes easy to implement changes and embody new beliefs,” she said.
Natalie took action by starting with the family home. She wondered what could she could do? What would be easy to do without disrupting family life? She decided to focus on two areas and tackled them head on. Her food and energy bills were two of the biggest issues – they are a major problem when it comes to over-consumption and waste. Within three months of making small conscious alterations, Natalie saw the fruits of her labor. By saving money on her energy bills and food costs, she realised there was no limit to what she could transform in her life and the planet.
“I felt an incredible sense of achievement,” she said. “It highlighted to me that individuals do have the power to make a change.”
After this positive experience Natalie reached out to Paul Gilding’s wife and other women she knew. After putting their heads together, 1 Million Women was born and the concept was conceived. In three years 1 Million Women evolved into an organisation with 80,000 members, 30,000 Facebook fans, 11,000 organised events, including 500 volunteers. They also launched the under 18 Teen group. So far they have 8,000 girls and counting. Natalie confided in me that getting to 1 Million women will never be easy and that they still have a long way to go. In the next three years they will be focusing on policies and educating communities on over-consumption. As it stands now, we consume 50% more than the world can physically sustain.
‘What we have started will span generations and ignite profound behavioral change in the future.’
So with purpose in my question, I asked Natalie, how could I get involved so my unborn daughters get to experience the wonders of the planet as we know it today? Her eyes smiled right back at me and she simply told me to go to her website and join the community for free. There I will find an activity centre sharing wisdom on what I can do individually in my own life by saving money and implementing practical ways of living life to help effect climate change.
I can proudly say I have joined the movement and shortly be a proud owner of a worm farm. My showers are shorter, I switch off appliances on ‘stand-by’ at the power point and I have visited my local farmers market for fresh produce, and I refuse plastic bags from my local super market. I now have a sense of purpose by belonging to a community of women just getting on with it.
Natalie also shares a first with Woman.com.au and divulged that she has been invited to The International 100 Women Earth and Climate Summit, being held in September this year. The 100 women delegates are attending by invitation only which brings together grassroots activists, economists, scientists, businesswomen, indigenous leaders, policy-makers, faith leaders, and culture shapers for three days, to help further the climate action agenda. This will surely put 1 Million Women on the world stage and highlight the great efforts these women have accomplished.
You don’t need to chain yourself to a tree, march past Parliament House or plant thousands of trees. You just need to visit www.1millionwomen.com.au and see how you and your family can start making a change for a brighter, greener future.