Natalie Isaacs is not your traditional conservationist.
She once ran a major cosmetics business, which she concedes produced shocking amounts of waste, before experiencing her own lightbulb moment in 2006 on how over-consumption is impacting the planet.
But after years of working to connect and unite hundreds of thousands of women over the common challenge of climate change, she became a go-to source of knowledge regarding how to minimise your waste and impact on the natural environment through the group she founded, 1 Million Women.
And she’s just been honoured by Australian Geographic Society as the Conservationist of the Year.
1 Million Women has so far reached 600,000 women and girls aiming to take action on fighting climate change by altering the way they live. The goal is clear — to reach 1 million women, and then some. With women making the bulk of the spending decisions and often responsible for the management of their family homes, Natalie believe women are well-placed to make the most significant impact on reducing their families’ carbon footprints.
I recently spoke to Natalie with Georgie Dent, when she joined us in the studio to record our Work It Out podcast.
She told us her lightbulb moment came when she got her household electricity bill down by 20%, back in 2006. She did it just by being vigilant around the house, turning things off. The result, while small, made her feel empowered.
“That was the moment I actually took ownership of the issue when I saw I’d made a result,” she said. “I thought, wow I’m really powerful, what else can I do? Then I got our household waste down by 80%.”
Natalie then spent a number of years educating herself on climate change before launching 1 Million Women. She studied with Al Gore in 2007.
“When you have a government that is not courageous enough to take a stand on this, we have to rise above it,” she said. “We have a voice. We have the way we live. We can rise above politics to get on with it.”
“Climate change can be an overwhelmingly complex issue. At 1 Million Women, we break it down to give bite size things women can do, that deliver tangible results. We take you on this journey of empowerment: just act, just do one thing, just get on and do one thing. That will lead to another and another. You will build your voice and find your confidence. You will profoundly change the way you live.”
Natalie believes the world is in a climate emergency. Fighting for change on social media and even on the streets is one thing, but we also really need to live it– make conscious decisions to create a difference.
So what are some of Natalie’s tips on what we can do?
Address your food waste. We waste one in five shopping bags of food. Consider how much you’ll end up wasting from the moment you’re shopping. Go ‘shopping in your own fridge’ to determine what you can cook from what you already have available — instead of going shopping again.
Leave it on the shelf. Five apples in a plastic cylinder? Two avocados wrapped in plastic with a plastic tray? No thank you! ‘Leave it on the shelf’ is a current 1 Million Women initiative aiming to send a collective message to supermarkets regarding over-packaged food. “Every dollar we spend or don’t spend, we’re sending a message to the manufacturer that we love something or don’t,” says Natalie. “I know that as a [former[ cosmetics manufacturer, just how quickly the department stores will say, ‘no one’s buying that, we don’t want it anymore'”.
Address your electricity consumption. Give yourself the challenge of reducing your bill by 20%. You’ll save money, and curb pollution.
Reconsider ‘fast fashion’: Yes clothes are cheaper than ever, but that doesn’t mean they need to be constantly purchased. The fashion industry is one of the world’s leading polluters. Think with your wallet.
Be passionate about the issue, and live it. While it’s great to be vocal on social media, what’s more important are the actions you take to promote change. Even the smallest actions in your personal life can and will make a difference.
Changing the way you live is hard — but it’s also empowering. Start with one thing, and then another. It’s challenging, but will soon become a habit and second nature.
There are numerous more tips on 1 Million Women.
Other women honoured by Australian Geographic this week included ‘Shark Girl’ Maddison Stewart for her work inspiring more people to understand the world of sharks. She was named Young Conservationist of the Year. Lisa Blair, the first woman to sail solo and unassisted around Antarctica, received the Spirit of Adventure award.
Listen to our chat with Natalie Isaacs below: