In this blog post, we're going to talk a bit about us, the Terra Neutra team; who we are, what motivated us to start Terra Neutra and what we're trying to achieve.
I’m a child of the 70s which means aside from growing up listening to amazing music, I was also taught to conserve from an early age;
I learnt a lot from my aunt, who remains the most sustainable person I know. For her, it’s all about being careful with what you have.
She reused everything (there’s a drawer in her kitchen full of offcuts of tin foil), had an amazing fruit & veg garden that could - and did - feed an army, and didn’t fill her life with unnecessary things.
On the flip side, my father worked in the motorsport industry for most of his career - lots of petrol there - and I spent 10 years flying around the world for my last two jobs.
According to British Airways, I’ve racked up 312,792 air miles. That’s the equivalent of flying to the moon + a bit more.
These days I fly a lot less (and yes that was pre-before COVID).
I’m also using our new ‘Past Flights’ calculator to offset my 312,792 ‘residual’ miles over time. My goal is to get this done over the next 12 months. I’ll let you know how I get on!
While air travel has been the single biggest contributor to my personal carbon footprint, the issue that drove / inspired me to help set up Terra Neutra, was waste.
In all walks of life, be it energy, consumer good or food, huge amounts of time and money are spent on things that people don’t need.
And a lot of those things have been designed in such a way that they need replacing after a couple of years and then the whole cycle begins again.
I made a commitment not to buy any new clothes for 12 months. I’m halfway through and so far so great.Full disclosure, my wife gave me a pair of Allbirds running shoes for my birthday. They are made out of wool, trees, recycled bottles & castor bean oil and have a carbon footprint which is 60% lower than their peers (and they offset the rest).
Look at food and water wastage - if food wastage was a country, it would be the 3rd highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China!
When I look back to what made me start thinking about pursuing a career in sustainability, it was a comment from a friend and colleague from my online video days.
We’d had a very bad day. Our video platform had crashed and stayed crashed. Irate clients had been on the phone yelling at us all day long.
Dave got the team onto a call and said something along the lines of
‘I know you’ve had a hell of a day, but remember this; it's only online video. We’re not saving any lives here.’
And that made me think, what if I did something that did have the potential to save lives? Or make the world a better place? Or both……
I took redundancy from my corporate job in the summer of 2017. Up until that point (apart from my three maternity leaves) I had juggled having the kids and running (literally) between work, school and home. My husband fortuitously got a promotion at the same time as I left work so I decided to take a break. My kids were 14, 12 and 9 at the time.
Anyone who’s a parent will be aware of the pressure to be a role model in front of their kids. And increasingly mine were making comments on aspects of our lives that were not quite up to scratch.
The plastic finally got to me. So I set about reducing our use of single use plastic. I wrote about that journey in our blog section here.
It mainly involved making swaps for more sustainable products or services, swapping the milk from the supermarket to a delivery from Milk and More, fruit and vegetables from Riverford, meat (and much less of it) from the butcher’s.
The stuff you can’t see
After having spent time on reducing our plastic waste I was able to think about other issues;
Be more activist
I realised that I could take all these steps and I could hope that others were taking them too, BUT that I was merely hoping that companies and governments were noticing.
Inspired in part by Greta Thunberg’s fearlessness in the face of powerful world leaders and in part by the incredible work of Christina Figueres and Tom Rivett Carnac in getting the Paris Agreement signed in 2015, I’ve started channeling my inner activist.
Embracing the ‘ish’
At Terra Neutra we’re fans of Jen Gale and her group, Sustainable-ish. She aims to focus on the things we can do, the changes we can make, and not the things we can't.
I recently came across this infographic and as I read it left to right I mentally checked off the things I had or hadn't yet done.
Getting to the right hand side and realising the biggest thing I could do was not to have had the third or even the second of my children. I have three kids, a dog and a large diesel car but I do the best I can.
And the kids, they do that too. They ride their bikes to school, they use reusable water bottles and buy their clothes from depop. And I never thought I’d be dragged out of bed at 6.30am on a Sunday so that I could take my 15 year old to a carboot sale.
BUT they also want new phones, deliveroo and long haul flights!
All of this ties back to a mantra we developed early on at Terra Neutra: awareness, reduction and offsetting (the rest).
Knowing what the issues are, understanding them and making steps to reduce your impact where you can is key.
For the rest, offsetting is a valuable tool to help the drive to Net Zero by 2050.
If you’re reading this, you’ll have some notion of the fact that awareness of climate change and its impacts has gone mainstream.
People’s opinion of climate change has gone from “it is happening” to the “what can we do”.
This is amazing news for those of us who’ve been waving the flag for several years and is about time!
For the past 15 years or so, I have been involved in the fight against climate change one way or another. From designing energy efficient buildings, to helping organisations lower their energy consumption and managing their carbon emissions – minimising impact on our world has been at the forefront.
During this time I have had the opportunity to work with companies that were usually in the “what can we do” group. They understood the risks of climate change (otherwise they wouldn’t have engaged with us), and therefore willing to make a change.
Despite the indirect impacts made through these organisations, I realised there was still a need for the global population to be mobilised and take action. A necessity to bring the rest of the business world along for the ride.
Our climate consciousness has grown, and in doing so has opened up the floodgates for whole host of info available online on what we can do about it, some truthful and others slightly misleading.
Right or wrong, this information overload can detract from the most impactful actions we can take.
Essentially, these were the main drivers for setting up Terra Neutra.
In the beginning…
My passion for the environment was nurtured from a young age. I grew up in a small market town, with easy access to the Fenland countryside and my grandparent’s farm; to run through the cornfields (credit: Theresa May).
My OCD about excess was drilled into me by my post war parents, who grew up at a time of rationing and therefore endured much of the lifestyle changes that we will need to re-introduce to sustain our planet.
Growing up, my sister and I heard the same parental rhetoric as many other families (and Luke – see above).
New clothes were a rarity; well at least until my elder cousins started to shop for themselves or mum's sewing pipeline piled up so high that we’d run out. Our plates had to be wiped clean before we could get down to play.
Being born into the 80’s, I also vividly remember hearing about the dissipating ozone layer on Newsround and Blue Peter (I have to admit I was pretty jealous of the BAS scientists who all got Blue Peter badges for this discovery.
This unintentional low carbon lifestyle had a pretty significant effect on me. Over consumption and wastage remains a pet hate, and one my family takes the full brunt of in the winter.
Practising what I preach…
Having worked in the energy and environmental industries for several years I have brought my work home. Though a lot of my sustainable practise just seems to make sense!
I’ve commuted by bike since starting work, driven partly with distaste for the rush hour cram but also the benefits on my pocket.
Living and working in London made this easier, though stolen bikes and multiple x-rays have probably counteracted much of the good.
Amongst other things, our weekly fruit and veg comes from Riverford, reducing our food miles and also far more convenient than the trip to the local supermarket.
Finding the balance
To say that my lifestyle has been completely without trace is far from the truth. I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed travelling the world and have many family members who live abroad, which has inevitably meant I have taken a long haul flight or two.
In most respects, our approach with Terra Neutra aligns to finding the balance. Drastic lifestyle changes are required to mitigate from the worst impacts of climate change.
Focusing our efforts on those that have the biggest impact will get us there sooner, and with time running out, this balance needs to be struck sooner rather than later.
With only 10 years to act, the legacy learnings instilled in me by my parents need to be re-invoked to allow our future generations to enjoy the world as we have.