In the latest in our Life As I Know It Series, our account director Emily Turner shares her journey in sustainability so far and the impact it has on her career and daily life.
Growing up in Australia, I’ve always had an appreciation for nature and what we call “the great outdoors”.
Balmy days were often spent lazing on the sand then cooling off in the surf, followed by leisurely bush walks shaded under huge eucalyptus trees and great Australian native flora.
Speaking of plants, my mum, an avid gardener, gave me my first taste of sustainability when she installed a state-of-the-art worm farm in our backyard. She wanted to ensure our food scraps could be repurposed with the resulting “tea”, a liquid by-product of the compost becoming an excellent fertiliser for her impressive, sprawling garden.
Recycling in our household was a must. We had three bins and although my brothers were more vocal about the extra effort it incurred, I think deep down they felt it was important.
On weekends we would visit our farm in the picturesque countryside of the Southern Highlands – a two-hour drive from Sydney. Each time I see that country landscape I feel at home. It isn’t always green like pretty English meadows but can be dry and sometimes barren. And yet our cattle are lucky enough to have plenty of grass to graze on or bales of hay to feed on. Others in more inland parts of the country are not so fortunate – years of severe drought has caused loss of crops and livestock putting severe financial strain on farmers. Some say the current drought is the worst Australia has seen since settlement.
I left that sunburnt country for London over five years ago to start my career in PR and see what opportunities there were on the other side of the pond.
The past few years have been spent gaining invaluable experience working at some of the top PR agencies on global brands like Vodafone, Nespresso, HSBC and ExxonMobil. With each brand came varying expectations and priorities, which provided me with a more holistic understanding of what makes a brand tick and gives it purpose. Even though I wasn’t directly in the sustainability or activism space at these points in my career, I did work on a number of exciting campaigns like when HSBC introduced its 10 gender-neutral pronouns to help trans customers – a first in the banking industry.
I started working at Eco-Age just over a year ago and was blown away by the team. Eco-Age is set up in such a unique way that we have in-house experts in sustainability, consultancy and communications, covering both traditional PR and digital content. Having these technical skill sets within our teams means that we can confidently put out messaging for our clients that tell their sustainability story in an accurate and engaging way.
Working at Eco-Age has certainly influenced my mindset and way of living. Waste, whether it be from fashion, food or packaging is always front of mind (if not in the periphery). Learning that every minute the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles goes to landfill still horrifies me. It continues to make me pause before I buy and think if I really like the item enough to want to have it in my wardrobe for years to come and still enjoy wearing it too (Marie Kondo mantra here). However, although I’ve witnessed an impressive commitment to reusable coffee cups and water bottles, I am still baffled by the amount of plastic covering all food at the supermarkets. Compared to Australia it seems monumental here. To combat unnecessary packaging, I try to make it to my local farmers market each Saturday and fill up my reusable bags with lots of fresh produce. Doing this I reduce my food wastage as I can pick the quantities, eat better tasting products and spend less (see basket below- some good-looking aubergines)!
I never felt a need to think about provenance of products when I was in Australia, but in London I am more aware of what is seasonal and how far something has travelled before making it onto my plate. And yet I am by no means perfect – I still buy exotic fruits or food wrapped in plastic and sometimes forget my reusable coffee cup when I desperately need my morning flat white fix.
It is important to remember, big actions or small, we have the power to influence brands with what we choose to buy (or not buy at all) and this can have a powerful impact on the way brands do business. Millennials, in particular, are demanding greater transparency across supply chains, and they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. It is great to see our attitudes are changing in response to our wasteful society.
Read more from our ‘Life as I know it‘ series.
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