Anne Therese Gennari and Monica Richards Unite for Sustainability: The Counts in Climate Corporate Workshop
In the heart of New York City, where the concrete jungle meets the green revolution, two visionaries are teaming up to catalyze a corporate sustainability movement. Anne Therese Gennari, renowned as ‘The Climate Optimist,’ and Monica Richards, the dynamic ‘Ecobabe,’ have embarked on a mission to redefine corporate responsibility through their innovative Counts in Climate workshop. This transformative initiative is poised to equip companies with the tools, mindset, and passion required to make sustainability a core part of their ethos.
As we journey through this exclusive interview, we uncover the extraordinary stories of Anne and Monica, delve deep into the ‘Counts in Climate’ workshop, and explore the profound impact of climate optimism. Join us in this unique narrative as we witness how these two exceptional individuals are igniting a sustainability revolution, one company at a time.
Anne, you are surely an all-rounder when it comes to sustainable living, climate optimism, and action. Could you please tell us your backstory? From where did it all start?
Anne: I wish I could tell you this one moment when it all began for me but honestly, I think I’ve been dedicated to work for the planet my whole life. Thinking back at my childhood I remember days spent outdoors and I learned early on how to respect and care for nature. However, I do have what I call my “climate optimist awakening” which I also talk about in my book. I was in my early twenties and had so far tried to change the world, so to speak, from a place of anger and despair. I thought that if only I could make other people as angry and concerned as I was, surely they would join me in wanting to make a change.
But when I found myself on the floor of my parent’s guest room, crying over a silly conversation with my brother at the dinner table and feeling like no one in the world but I cared, I had my awakening. What came to me was that I was doing it all wrong and that if I wanted to truly have an impact on the world, I needed to change my ways moving forward. I received my mission as a climate optimist that night and what followed was a decade of understanding just what living life as a climate optimist means.
Monica, as a media personality who is also an environmentalist, could you tell us your backstory? How did you become passionate about both fields?
Monica: I became passionate about environmentalism before I knew it had even been termed, as I was raised on a small farm in South West Michigan. There, my chores included collecting chicken eggs, tending to our gardens and fruit trees, and caring for our animals. From a very young age, I experienced how humankind is nature. And that pillar of life has always stayed by my side. I’m blessed in that my upbringing funded Earth as my biggest interest, investment, and asset. It’s the thread of everything I do in life!
Media-wise, I also started modeling at a young age, which developed comfort and a love for being in front of the camera. After graduating in interior design and working in the UK and LA, I pivoted and returned to media as a TV Host, starting with hosting classes and then, reporting on red carpets, press junkets, and for an online news show. From there, I tucked back into my roots and founded Ecobabe, a lifestyle brand that marries environmentalism and media together to make sustainable living second nature with credence that what we do matters.
Anne, you are known as ‘The Climate Optimist’. Could you please tell us in your own words what Climate Optimism means to you and why we all need to be climate optimists?
Anne: Absolutely! And this right here is what it took me all those years to figure out. In the beginning, I thought that if I could only ignore the negative climate news and focus passionately on the few but very inspiring pieces of good news out there, I could lead with light and invite others to join in on this journey. But then, in a couple of years, I experienced climate anxiety more intensely than I ever had before, I knew something wasn’t quite right.
What I learned was that the body is always paying attention and even if you try to close your eyes or look the other way, your subconscious is picking up the clues and storing it for another day. Then one day when you least expect it, those feelings of anxiety and fear will come crashing down, and completely unguarded, you find yourself breaking apart.
I broke apart many times during those early days as a climate optimist and I started to feel more and more like a fake, like this mission of mine was built on dreams and wishful thinking. But then Paul Hawken’s Drawdown was released and for the first time, there was real scientific evidence that what I wanted to believe so badly – that we can reverse global warming – was possible! It reignited me to keep trying but I also understood that relying on this outside source of reassurance wasn’t sustainable, not in a world that’s filled with so much doom. So I began the work of figuring out what a grounded and sustainable life as a climate optimist would look like and I learned pretty quickly that it starts with you. To be and remain an optimist, you must create that optimism for yourself, but in doing so you not only fuel your optimism engine, you are what is making a better world possible.
My book, The Climate Optimist Handbook, is a guide on how to become that resilient change maker and the book I wish I had alongside me all those years. I hope to help people build emotional resilience and recognize the greatness of the times we’re living through. We are the change and to fully recognize that is an incredibly beautiful thing!
Shifting gears, Monica, let’s talk about climate optimism. How do you define climate optimism?
Monica: Climate Optimism is to view climate change – and act – from a place of opportunity and hope, not responsibility and fear. Hopefully, Anne will be proud of my answer. *smiles*
Monica, how do you integrate your career in media and environmental advocacy to create an impact?
Monica: For me, TV and media hosting is a form of education and I sincerely love raising awareness in this way! My favorite job in the world is using my voice to spread the truth. So, I consistently used my skills – talking – to create environmental advocacy. In fact, I’ve recently launched the Ecobabe 101 series: a weekly video where I share my key tips and tricks for taking the gray areas out of sustainable living. I also believe the way we communicate sustainability goals, climate, and social equality is essential to making a collective difference. So, I’ve really worked hard to be able to choose my words wisely from a neutral place that bridges extreme viewpoints while translating them from scientific jargon to language we all (including me!) can understand. I believe that’s how we can most efficiently activate people to start making a difference on their own. Because once you’re informed, you’re empowered. And once you’re empowered, you want to take action. And luckily, my host training has really supported this side of my environmental advocacy.
We are so used to learning about terrible news related to climate change and nature, almost every day. It seems like the mainstream media either focuses on climate change as ‘just another weather update’ or does not focus on it at all. Most people either tend to avoid such updates or they tend to give in to climate doomism.
So, Anne, what do you think is needed to shift our focus from these to become climate optimists?
Anne: I couldn’t agree more and that right here is what the problem stems from. It’s how we talk about climate change and more specifically – what we leave out. If people keep learning how climate change is affecting our world but the article lacks to offer ways that they can get involved, or at least deliver examples of solutions already on their way, a feeling of overwhelm will seep in. As a reader and individual, you should be aware of this so that you can intentionally limit your negative intake (no you don’t have to read every climate article) while also making sure you actively seek out positive news too. Furthermore, find ways to get involved in climate action in an area that interests and ignites you. Participating in the change is the foundation of being a climate optimist.
When it comes to the media outlets I think they need to become aware of how big of a part they actually play in our chances of getting this right. They may think they’re innocently covering the “truth,” but the truth is that they are constantly comparing data and seeing what kind of headlines get the most clicks. And sadly enough, doomsday messaging will always win the prize! Ironically enough, consuming negative news releases dopamine, hence making us “addicted” to a negative news cycle. But I believe that we can play the click-bait game and also weave in some empowering optimism. This kind of grounded optimism, as I like to call it, leads with sharing some alarming facts but then makes sure to also include ways of how we can make it better. It’s time the media starts using their power to ignite people, instead of just alarming and overwhelming them.
Monica, can you tell us a bit about why you felt the need to start the journey of purpose-driven entrepreneurship?
Monica: Throughout my journey from living off country land to adjusting to bright city lights, I’ve seen a huge gap in society’s connection with nature and with one another. I am certain that bridging this gap is the passe-partout (the master key) to unlocking climate change solutions. So, I established my North Star: to connect people with nature, and with one another, to support the healing of our Earth and all who reside here. From hosting opportunities and consulting projects to ecobabe products and brand collaborations, I always follow my North Star – to help support in bridging that gap.
Throughout your journey what are some of the most significant challenges you’ve encountered and how have you overcome them to continue advocating for climate optimism and sustainable change?
Anne: Oh, there are so many… But what comes to me right now is the constant challenge in believing that I can make a difference, that what I’m doing is enough, and that we do have a chance at actually getting this right. As mentioned earlier, your optimism will quickly fall flat unless you actively work to keep it alive but it can be hard to keep showing up for that work if you don’t think it actually matters.
That is why I’ve developed some guidelines that I come back to on those more difficult days and I share them all in my book. I have reminders of why our individual actions matter (they mean anxiety, building character, shifting norms and culture, and planting seeds) as well as how to think about this “work” as a journey that we’re traveling together. When viewed this way, it’s easier to accept the hard days as well as the times when we need to slow down and take a break. I keep reminding myself that this movement is only as sustainable as we are and that we’re not alone in this work. Finding community and sticking to what I believe is possible, no matter how silly and impossible it may seem at the moment, is what fuels my optimism and keeps me going.
Monica: It’s important to remember the high level of evolution to which one’s brand and oneself can be capable. And to be honest, I’m still sorting out which of my services will stick. One of my biggest challenges is my creativity. I’m an IDEAS girl. So, focus and refinement have been monumental in my evolution, both as an individual and a brand. I do this by going into inner space; a place where I am quiet and still and can ask myself where I truly want to focus, what will most resonate with my community, and what will bring the most joy. By refining with this lens, it allows you to keep evolving, flowing, and letting go of old ideas, services, and stories that will no longer serve you.
Because I’m a solopreneur of sorts, time is a constant challenge for me. There are so many tasks and projects I’d love to get done in a day, to make the most impact as possible. But oftentimes, all those to-do’s aren’t possible at all. So, I’ve become a pro at priority! Where I once would complete the tasks most inspiring to me that day, I now dive into what must be completed first. Sounds like common sense, but if you’re creative, you surely know the struggle! I also received the best productivity advice I’ve ever been given by a dear friend in LA: complete one non-work related task per day. Whether that’s laundry, food prep, paying bills, getting a massage, etc… this ‘one extra’ method keeps your life more organized and your person feeling more productive overall!
Last but not least, I’ve experienced massive intensity in the climate space. The intensity is essential, but the delivery can oftentimes be more harmful than not. I am challenged with these extremes constantly, where I have good days and can brush it off and where I have bad days and call Anne! I’ve handled these intensities, where blaming, shaming and separations lie, in two ways:
1) I know that every person and every idea counts in climate. We need everyone on board, no matter how they choose to advocate or activate. We need union! Therefore, I stay true to myself, and to my truth, and to how I choose to advocate, no matter what anyone else says. I choose to remain fiercely loyal to myself. And it definitely helps to align with a friend where you both truly listen and support one another.
And 2) I stay in the ascension attitudes of praise, hope, gratitude, love, and trust. When you adjust your perspective to arrive from these attitudes, your reality will instantly change. From that new reality, I’m able to stay grounded, happy, and humble and can therefore create a long-lasting impact. I highly recommend you try it!
Let’s discuss your collaboration on the Counts in Climate corporate workshop. What motivated you to develop this workshop together?
Anne: Monica and I have both been hosting workshops on sustainability and climate optimism for a while and we decided that it would be so fun and empowering to merge the two and start pitching something together. We’ve also been hosting workshops mainly online and this one we aim to do in person as much as we can. We believe there to be a great deal of untapped potential when it comes to enacting positive climate change inside companies. When you ignite their employees to not only believe something can be done from within the company but actually create a culture that encourages creativity and excitement, we believe that BIG stuff can be made. And let’s face it, companies “run” the world today and we DO need them. Imagine the impact when we activate those companies from within and make them powerful climate forces to be reckoned with!
Monica: When we heard that 50% of employees are currently considering quitting their jobs due to a lack of alignment with their values (data by Kite Insights), Anne and I sprung into action! We had been hosting corporate workshops on climate optimism and sustainable living separately and knew we could make a deeper impact by joining forces. So that’s what we did!
Approximately 70% of the total emission reductions needed to avoid dangerous climate change lie in the hands of government, utilities, and businesses (data by Drawdown Labs). Our Counts in Climate Workshop integrates climate into company culture by teaching climate optimism and sustainable living to every business’s greatest asset – their employees! We aim to shift the overall mindset and yield purpose and agency in climate from within, no matter where a company stands on the sustainability spectrum. Can you imagine the possibility for positive change throughout a company’s processes, products, and output if its employees are educated, inspired, and activated in climate? It’s for this reason, as mentioned above, that every job counts in climate. And we’re here to prove it.
While the Counts in Climate corporate workshop is only available for businesses in New York City, such a valuable workshop is really needed for businesses from all around our planet. Do you have any plans to make that happen in the future?
Monica: You have read our minds! We would be over the moon to take our workshop on the road, as long as the travel method and stays are as sustainable as possible!
What advice would you give to individuals who want to make a positive impact but are unsure of where to start?
Anne: I always say this – start by slowing down. Yes, we need to activate and accelerate right now and do all we can (as fast as we can) to make a shift to a sustainable and net-zero or net-positive future. However, we can only make that reality come true if we act from a place of clarity and intentionality. That requires slowing down so that we can create space in our busy minds to reflect and think again. It’ll take a lot of courage to change our way of thinking – about life, society, the world – and that courage can only grow if we take a moment to just breathe.
So start there. Find ways to implement a bit more slow time in your day, if that means taking yourself to a park bench for 20 minutes to just jot some thoughts on a piece of paper. Dare to be still! And then, ask yourself: what is one thing I can do right now? One simple switch in my daily routine that would allow me to live with a smaller (negative) footprint? After you pick one, choose to go about that mission with passion. Fuel excitement into what you do and recognize that by adopting this new habit and mindset, you’re part of fueling the revolution! (And if you want tips and mindset tools of how to continue on that empowering journey, I guess I have to plug my book…)
Should you struggle with picking something to get going with, I’ll give you composting as an example. To me, it’s one of the most rewarding climate actions and a simple way of significantly reducing your carbon footprint while at the same time increasing your positive footprint. By composting, you not only remove greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere but you also enrich the soil, hence enabling it to grow better foods, hold more water, and sequester more carbon. A win in so many ways!
Monica: The vastness of sustainability is one of the most difficult parts of this movement, as everything we touch (literally!) is connected to climate. Every single action we take as humans has an output that affects our planet. But vastness is also the best part; because this gives you the opportunity to pick your passion. Meaning, pick what you’re most interested in (think fashion, animals, beauty, food, oceans, etc.) and start there. Start making eco swaps, research bit by bit, and follow educators on social media, share this information organically with your community, sign petitions, and call Congress to request support for bills, and start integrating this part – your passion! – of sustainability in your daily life. You’ll be surprised by how much wisdom you acquire and how much impact you can make when you start from a perspective of focus, just like this.
Now, if you’d like to make a positive impact specifically throughout the home, go from micro to macro. Begin inside the home and make eco swaps room by room, not starting the next room until you’ve mastered the first. Then, graduate to bigger pieces of sustainable living like rainwater collection, composting, green energy, cleaner transportation, community tree planting, and so on and so forth. By integrating sustainable living on a micro-to-macro scale, overwhelm is avoided and the process is filled with attainability, longevity, and fun!
Do you have an idol?
Monica: My lifelong idol is Dr. Jane Goodall. I studied Biological Anthropology in college and all I really wanted to do was work with the Great Apes. I admire her for her bravery in taking risks, for educating while advocating, and for communicating climate impact and animal empathy in a way that everyone can comprehend.
Anne: I have a few. But the one that comes to mind right now is Dr. Jane Goodall!
What’s your mantra for life?
Anne: Keep your room in your heart for the unimaginable. You never know what’s waiting around the corner…
Monica: When you connect, you care. When you care, you help. So get outside and tap in! X
This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond Mag explores the stories and takes a peek at the lifestyles of incredible people like green entrepreneurs, innovators, climate advocates, activists, community leaders, and content creators, all around the world, who love the planet, and are working tirelessly to make the world a better place.