Anne Therese Gennari and Monica Richards Unite for Sustainability: The Counts in Climate Corporate Workshop

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.

Monica Richards & Anne Therese Gennari

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.

Anne Therese Gennari

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! 

Photo of Monica Richards as a kid
Photo Credit: Jean Richards (Mother of Monica Richard)

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!

The climate optimist handbook

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.

Photo Credit: Better Earth Solar

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.

Anne Therese Gennari

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?

Photo Credit: Starky Morillo

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…)

Anne Therese Gennari

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!

Photo Credit: Robyn Lindemann

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

Click to find out more about Monica Richards, Anne Therese Gennari and the Counts in Climate corporate workshop.

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.

Nivi Murthy’s IKKIVI: Paving The Way For Sustainable Indian Fashion

Nivi Murthy’s IKKIVI: Paving The Way For Sustainable Indian Fashion

In a world where fashion is often synonymous with fast-paced trends and fleeting styles, there are passionate individuals who are reshaping the industry’s narrative. Meet Nivi Murthy, the visionary founder of IKKIVI, an online marketplace dedicated to sustainable and ethical Indian fashion. With a mission to provide a platform for talented designers who champion mindful practices, Nivi has transformed IKKIVI into a global destination that blends artistry, culture, and consciousness.

Amidst the bustling streets of the Indian fashion landscape, Nivi recognized the need for a space that showcased sustainable and ethical designs, amplifying the voices of those dedicated to making a positive impact. IKKIVI, the result of her unwavering commitment, has become a beacon of hope for designers and conscious consumers alike.

The birth of IKKIVI

Nivi’s journey began with a profound awakening when she watched the eye-opening documentary ‘The True Cost.’ The film shed light on the dark underbelly of the fashion industry, compelling her to take action and assume a greater responsibility. No longer content with being a mere platform, Nivi and her team at IKKIVI set out to raise awareness and actively contribute to the development of sustainable and ethical fashion.

Since its inception in 2015, IKKIVI has blossomed into a trusted marketplace, connecting conscious consumers with designers who embody the values of handcrafted excellence, use of natural and organic fabrics, fair trade practices, minimal waste, utilization of traditional techniques, and a commitment to vegan fashion. The platform has recently expanded and opened their headquarters in New York. With over 45 designers on board, IKKIVI is bridging the gap between the past and the present, fusing India’s rich cultural heritage with contemporary aesthetics.

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the inspiring story behind IKKIVI and gain insights from the visionary herself. Join us as we explore Nivi Murthy’s unwavering commitment to sustainable fashion, the challenges she has faced, and the remarkable strides she has made in creating a better, more ethical future for the Indian fashion industry.

What inspired you to come up with the idea of IKKIVI?

The richness and depth of the fashion industry in India along with the talented growing number of independent contemporary designers made me want to create awareness and bring these brands to international markets.

What does sustainability in fashion mean to you as a conscious entrepreneur?

Quality, care and use for a long period of time is what sustainability means to me in the fashion industry. 

IKKIVI supports more than 45 brands from India. What makes these brands stand out to be a part of IKKIVI?

Unique aesthetic, quality and their strong values.

Having run IKKIVI for more than half a decade, what do you think is the current state of conscious consumerism in comparison to the time when you had just started your journey with IKKIVI?

Yes, a lot has changed over the years. The concept of sustainability in fashion hadn’t yet reached enough people. Now, consumers are a lot more aware and are thinking twice about making purchasing decisions. We see Gen Z being more conscious with thrifting being at the helm of it all. We are seeing a lot more brands reconnecting and redefining their visions and wanting to make a change with the power they have as conscious brands. There is still a long way to go but we are headed in the right direction.  

From your point of view, what is the current situation of the fashion scene in India right now?

Everyone has their eyes on India, looks like. It’s a great time to be in the fashion industry and wanting to take Indian brands international. There is more recognition and awareness beyond the stereotypes which is exciting. The amalgamation of traditional crafts and techniques with modern/international aesthetics is so beautiful and I’m excited to see that through the brands both established and young.

India is a big name when it comes to the global garments industry. But we know that the fast fashion industry still does not treat the garment workers with the fair living wage and respect that they deserve for their work. What do you think as a conscious entrepreneur needs to change?

I really appreciate the work that Fashion Revolution does with their ‘Who Made Our Clothes’ campaign. I feel such movements will put these large brands under the spotlight and scrutiny forcing them to change systemically. It is not going to be overnight but consumer awareness will increase a demand for change along with changemakers at the forefront demanding this systemic change.

Does the climate crisis affect your business? If yes, then what measures are you taking to mitigate and adapt?

I think it affects us all. As a small business we are taking small steps individually as well as creating awareness through our platforms with our community. But as an ecommerce business, our biggest footprint is shipping and packaging and we are slowly working on it step by step. First was using packaging that has the least negative impact and now we are working on grouping shipments for our international orders so as to avoid sending them individually.

What are the challenges that you had to overcome while trying to turn your incredible idea into a business?

One of the biggest challenges is finding the balance between doing business for profit  and being a conscious business (and the decisions that go with it). Still something we are trying to work on.

Photo of Nivi Murthy, founder of IKKIVI, a sustainable Indian ethical fashion marketplace

As an entrepreneur, how do you deal with negative emotions like self-doubt, criticism, or burnout and keep yourself motivated?

A strong support system, podcasts and the innate desire to solve problems and tackle challenges.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become a green entrepreneur?

Take it a step at a time, there is no rush to have it all check marked the day you start. It all takes time to figure out. Start and slowly work through the aspects of being a green business. We are still a work in progress and I think progress should be given more importance and recognition.

How do you define success?

When you are able to define the way you spend your day and live it as fully as you want to

What’s your mantra for life?

Do more of what makes you happy and excited.

Learn more about IKKIVI or connect with them on Instagram.

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.

Gen Z Pioneer: How Estella Struck is Disrupting the Marketing Industry

Gen Z Pioneer: How Estella Struck is Disrupting the Marketing Industry

22 years old Estella Struck from New York is the face behind the world’s first Gen Z-run sustainable product marketing agency, Viviene New York. The platform is utilizing new perspectives, technologies, and the power of community to help mission aligned brands reach broad Gen Z adoption. In this exclusive interview, we speak with Estella about her journey as a young digital entrepreneur, and take a look at how she practices sustainability in her regular lifestyle.

Estella, tell us a bit about yourself and how your journey started.

I’m 22 years old and live in New York City where I work as the CEO and Founder of Viviene New York – the world’s first Gen Z run sustainable product marketing agency on a path to make sustainable brands the cornerstone of my generation. I am currently a junior at NYU studying the intersection of climate action and business. I’ve always been interested in science and wanted to have a positive impact on the world through my job. In high school, I thought that becoming a doctor would be my path to this. However, during my first year of college the pandemic hit and quarantine changed my life. All of that free time allowed for environmental TikTok creators to expose how the industries and systems that we currently live under are contributing to the climate crisis. I am someone who has always wanted to contribute to the world in a positive way. So this period of isolation and self reflection led me to realize that I am a climate advocate and entrepreneur at my core. Climate advocacy through entrepreneurship will be the path I travel down for the rest of my life. 

What was your inspiration for founding Viviene New York?

I started my very own sustainable fashion brand called Ethica NYC after learning about the adverse effects of the fashion industry in spring 2020. This was due to an onset of climate anxiety, the need for climate action in my life in order to calm those thoughts and quarantine boredom. Ethica quickly blew up on TikTok amassing over 4 million views and 200k followers in the first two weeks following its launch. I ended up taking a gap year for the 2020 to 2021 school year in order to hone in on my marketing skills. The realization that social media can truly drive impact and my hunger to change my generation’s perspective on climate change inspired me. With lots of time alone with my thoughts during my gap year I figured why not work to build something that can actually create change on a larger scale. Thus, Viviene New York was born. Our goal at Viviene New York is to change the brands that Generation Z is loyal to, while helping sustainable brands rule the online landscape. We do this not only for our own future, but for the future of generations to come, who will inherit the environmental and social impacts of the choices we make today. 

A screenshot of the homepage of Viviene New York's website

What makes the business unique?

Viviene New York is a force to be reckoned with and is more than just another digital marketing agency. We are an organization building a movement; creating a more sustainable future by challenging the way Gen Z thinks about the power of their capital. As a majority-female team of digital natives, we are unafraid to push the boundaries and challenge the status quo. In fact that is our exact prerogative because if I am going to be real right now – Many brands today are simply slacking in their video content and most don’t even realize it. At Viviene New York, we take pride in our ability to create authentic and engaging content that resonates with our clients’ audience while attracting new customer segments! We understand that the social media landscape is constantly evolving, and we adapt accordingly to ensure that our content remains fresh, relevant, and effective so that our clients can focus on what matters – growing their business and saving the planet. Our case studies have even shown that we know what we are doing. In fact our content creates engagement momentum with increases of engagement spanning 100-500%. As a team of digital natives, we know what it takes to create content that connects with viewers on a deeper level, and we strive to set the bar for performance higher. It’s not just about having aesthetic content, it’s about having content that truly speaks to your audience and drives them towards action. That’s why we are unique. That is what sets us apart from the rest.

Is Viviene New York working on educating the consumers? 

I got my start in content creation through educating consumers about how their fashion purchases can make a difference. While I do see the value of educating consumers online, the content we produce for our clients is dependent on their organizations needs. Ultimately our goal is to increase the effectiveness of their content and oftentimes people on social media are just looking to mindlessly scroll. If a brand is specifically looking for educational content or we deem that it is necessary to increase conversions we can absolutely execute on that vision. Education is awesome, however we know that climate education is extremely overwhelming and complex. We are targeting individuals who know about climate change’s existence but have not yet taken action in their lives so our strategy has to be carefully assembled. 

What are the challenges that you had to overcome while trying to turn your incredible idea into a business?

One of the largest challenges I’ve faced as a Gen Z founder is typically being the youngest person in the room at climate events and limited access to funding. In the 2 years I have been working on Viviene New York there have been countless times where I have shown up to a conference or event expecting to connect with a younger crowd and have ended up the youngest person in the room by a decade. While I do see this is a privilege and opportunity to establish myself as a Gen Z leader in the space, at times it can be a bit discouraging. I have been looked down upon or not taken quite seriously due to the fact that I became a founder much younger than most. Another challenge I have faced as a Gen Z founder is lack of funding. I am bootstrapping Viviene NY and paying for college myself. I decided to attend the university to execute a strategic plan to build something that does my part to help save the planet. I did not shy away from the challenge and instead viewed it as an opportunity to make the most out of the moment. This school allows for the experience of building my company to feed into my degree and my degree informs the decisions made at my company. Most college students wait until they’ve already graduated to start making a return on the investment that is a degree, but I built the infrastructure to get that return as we speak. I had no choice but to turn this challenge into an opportunity because I wanted to pursue my passions as a generational leader in such a new industry. Despite the challenges, I am so glad I listened to my gut and went for it! 

Related: Building a Sustainable Business: Practical Steps to Make a Positive Impact

As an entrepreneur, how do you deal with negative emotions like self-doubt, criticism, or burnout and keep yourself motivated?

‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’. I think I was in the first grade the first time I heard that quote. It has definitely stuck with me ever since and keeps me working hard on a day to day basis. Knowing my work is diverting clothes from landfills, empowering carbon capture technology, and uplifting brands that are working towards ensuring humanity has an inhabitable planet keeps me going. Building a company is no easy feat and when burnout happens I prioritize my sleep, and get offline.  For me, when times are hard and I keep hearing the word ‘no’, knowing that I’m having a positive impact on the fate of the planet really keeps my head in the game. 

How do you define success? What has been your greatest success so far?

In 2021, during my first month at NYU one of my sorority sisters from my first college reached out to interview me for an entrepreneurship class. Below is an excerpt about my definition of success:

“Estella Struck describes success as a feeling within your gut in which you finally believe in yourself and see that at work. Estella believes that success stems from your team constantly putting work in and striving to better themselves and the start up. She views her startups from the “glass half full” perspective and looks at each small step as a success. She celebrated the creation of her startup which happened throughout the course of only three months. 

For this question, success has a deeper meaning for Estella and has been something that she has analyzed throughout all her life. She acknowledges that it is easy to focus on the negatives, but it is important to look at aspects of life in a positive lens and try to see the good in every situation.” 

As far as my greatest success, I think that my greatest success is getting myself to where I am right now. Currently I am a college student handling 18 credit course load and a rapidly growing marketing agency that is shaping the future. To be here is a privilege.

What have you enjoyed most about starting your own business?

Starting my own business has been a wild and exhilarating experience. I’ve met so many amazing people through networking events and social gatherings. It’s been incredibly inspiring to connect with like-minded and motivated individuals who share my passions for creating positive change in the world or passion for content creation. I’ve also built a content creator community here in NYC that I dreamed about when I was on my gap year. It’s my 2020 FYP in real life except they are actually my friends now! And, of course, seeing my hard work pay off and watching everything come together has been incredibly rewarding. But there have definitely been moments of perplexity and uncertainty along the way. Sometimes I feel like I’m bursting with ideas and other times I’m at a loss for what to do next. But that’s just part of the journey, right? I think what keeps me going is the knowledge that I’m making a difference – like on those unseasonably warm winter days, I know that I’m doing my part to fight climate change and that feels pretty good.

What do you think the future holds for the creator economy?

I’m excited about the future of the creator economy and the potential it holds for positive change! Growing up in the ‘influencer generation’ I’ve seen the power of the online world ever since I was a kid. As more and more people turn to social media for inspiration and entertainment, creators have a unique opportunity to use their influence for good. By partnering with sustainable brands and promoting climate action resources, creators can encourage their followers to make more conscious choices and lead a more sustainable lifestyle. I believe that the creator economy will continue to evolve in this direction, with more creators and brands recognizing the importance of sustainability and working together to create a better future for all.

Describe a typical day in your life. How do you practice sustainability in your daily life?

On a typical day, I wake up at 7 am and hit the gym before starting a busy schedule filled with classes, brand meetings, networking events, and brand activities. As someone passionate about sustainability, I have made a conscious effort to incorporate sustainable practices into my daily routine. I prioritize buying from sustainable brands for my skincare, shoes, phone cases, and backpacks, and approximately 90% of my clothes and apartment furnishings are secondhand. I also make my own coffee at home and bring a reusable water bottle with me wherever I go. Living in NYC I prefer walking everywhere, which helps me log in 10k to 15k steps per day. I am also constantly seeking knowledge and learning about sustainability. This is evident in the classes I take, which are titled the theory and practice of sustainable investing, global business and human rights, greenworlds, and others. I also spend my day working on Viviene NY , where I consult with sustainable brands and content creators to create a more sustainable world. However, I recognize that sustainability looks different for everyone. I believe that small steps can make a big difference, and I’m committed to exploring how everyone can make a positive impact.

What advice would you give to someone who is trying to become a green entrepreneur?

Best of luck to you on your journey to becoming a green entrepreneur! Remember, it’s a process and it takes persistence and patience to build a successful business. There will be obstacles, but stay true to your vision and don’t give up easily. When it comes to networking, don’t underestimate the power of LinkedIn. It’s an excellent platform for connecting with other green entrepreneurs, finding potential partners or investors, and promoting your brand. Make sure your profile is up-to-date and highlights your expertise and passion for your project. Trust me, LinkedIn is underrated but might be the key to your company’s success!

What’s your mantra for life?

Trust your gut. I always had a feeling that I was going to go out and do great things for the world and that I had something special. This turned out to be true so now I know to just trust my intuition, enjoy the journey and keep taking the leaps. 

Find Estella Struck and learn more about her work at Viviene New York. For any queries, you can reach out to them at

This is a part of a series where Green & Beyond 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.

Building a Sustainable Business: Practical Steps to Make a Positive Impact

Building a Sustainable Business: Practical Steps to Make a Positive Impact

Sustainable business is not just a buzzword or a passing trend – it’s essential for our planet’s and society’s health and well-being. As future business owners, we have a responsibility to consider the impact of our operations on the environment, the people we work with and serve, and the communities we operate in. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense. Sustainable businesses are more resilient, innovative, and attractive to customers and investors who prioritize social and environmental responsibility.

Related : A Free Piece Of Advice For Your Business : Rethink Sustainability

Now, I know that sustainability can seem like a daunting concept. It might even seem like something that’s impossible to achieve. But the truth is, every small step you take towards sustainability makes a difference. And as a business owner, you have the power to make a big impact.

The Four Pillars of a Sustainable Business

In this guide, we’re going to dive deep into the four main pillars of sustainable business: environmental, social, economic, and governance. We’ll explore what each of these pillars means, and we’ll give you practical examples of how you can embed them into your new business.

But we won’t stop there. We’ll also look at frameworks that you can use to guide your sustainability efforts, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the B Corp certification. These frameworks can help you set goals, measure your progress, and communicate your commitment to sustainability to customers, investors, and other stakeholders.

So lets dive in!

First up, is environmental sustainability.

White Windmill

This means taking care of our planet and doing our part to minimize our impact on the environment. Some ways to embed environmental sustainability into your new business include:

  • Using renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power
  • Reducing waste by using compostable or recyclable materials
  • Sourcing materials from sustainable suppliers
  • Encouraging sustainable transportation options, such as biking or carpooling
  • Supporting conservation efforts, such as protecting endangered species

Next, is social sustainability.

Crop diverse colleagues stacking hands together during training in office

This means taking care of the people who work for and with your business, as well as the communities you operate in. Some ways to embed social sustainability into your new business include:

  • Providing fair wages and benefits to employees
  • Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace
  • Partnering with local organizations to give back to the community
  • Supporting human rights and labour standards
  • Encouraging employee volunteerism and community engagement

Third, economic sustainability.

White Android Tablet Turned on Displaying a Graph

This means creating a business model that is financially sustainable in the long run. Some ways to embed economic sustainability into your new business include:

  • Developing a business model that takes into account the full cost of production, including social and environmental costs
  • Creating a fair and transparent supply chain
  • Developing innovative products or services that meet the needs of customers and society
  • Embracing the circular economy and finding ways to reuse and recycle materials
  • Measuring and reporting on your business’s social and environmental impact

Finally, governance sustainability.

Top View Photo Of People Near Wooden Table

This means creating a framework for decision-making and accountability that is transparent, ethical, and responsible. Some ways to embed governance sustainability into your new business include:

  • Developing a code of conduct and ethics that all employees and stakeholders must follow
  • Creating a board of directors or advisory board that includes diverse perspectives and expertise
  • Embracing transparency and accountability in all business practices
  • Establishing clear policies and procedures for risk management, compliance, and reporting
  • Incorporating feedback from stakeholders and customers into decision-making processes

Now, you might be wondering where to start when it comes to embedding these pillars into your new business. One helpful framework to follow is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. Another helpful framework is the B Corp certification, awarded to businesses that meet rigorous social and environmental performance standards, accountability, and transparency. Becoming a B Corp can be a great way to signal your commitment to sustainability to customers, investors, and other stakeholders, however, the assessment alone is also a fantastic way to guide you to be a better business, even without pursuing certification.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the United Nations

You can also join live online courses, like the susMBA, which will equip you with the knowledge and skills needed to establish a successful and sustainable business.

In conclusion, becoming a sustainable business entrepreneur is not only good for the planet and society, but it’s also good for business. By embedding environmental, social, economic, and governance sustainability into your new business, you’ll be setting yourself up for long-term success and making a positive impact on the world.

Conversation with Rahmina Paullete, young activist on a mission to save Africa’s largest lake

Conversation with Rahmina Paullete, young activist on a mission to save Africa’s largest lake

Growing up in Kenya, Rahmina Paullete, young climate activist, environmentalist, and wildlife conservationist started her own organization called Kisumu Environmental Champs to bring together environmentally conscious youth to inspire collective action for the planet back in 2020 while she also runs her own sustainable business. Looking at all the sufferings that her people are facing in the Lake Victoria region, Rahmina decided to speak up and take action to help restore the ecosystem of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa.

Tell us about your backstory. How did you join the climate movement and become a climate activist?

I have been an environmentalist almost all my life since I was 5 years old, but I have now become a climate activist because I realized that the actions that we are demanding are not being taken seriously by the government, the community, and especially by the private sector – the multinational companies.

So, back in 2021, I started demanding change for us, for our future, especially in the Lake Victoria region. This was mainly inspired by the climate crisis impacts that we have faced for the past years – like the rising of the water level of lake Victoria and how it has affected the community and the biodiversity.


What motivated you to start Kisumu Environmental Champs?

I started Kisumu Environmental Champs back in 2020 during the outbreak of Covid-19. So I came up with the idea of having a group of environmentally conscious people, especially young people, mainly students. I thought, maybe at this time, when schools are closed, students can take the time to bring in the changes in the community and act with the purpose of enlightening people on environmental conservation and the urgent need of creating climate solutions. Now we have many students, youths, and also parents in the organization.

Besides being a climate activist and an entrepreneur, you also focus on sustainable living. So how can anyone start living sustainably? What’s the formula?

Well for me, I believe in small steps. I mostly buy second-hand clothes. I know that people from all parts of the continent of Africa buy second-hand clothes very often. Apart from that, to reduce plastic waste, I always carry my water hyacinth bag. Also in our house, we have a little kitchen garden where we usually use our food waste as compost. So, in a nutshell, I always keep emissions of greenhouse gas and pollution in my mind and I try to act accordingly, no matter what I do.

Tell us about your sustainable business. Do you plan to give it a more formal outlook in the future?

It’s a funny story that actually made me come up with this sustainable project. So the story is from back in 2016. I had just come back home from the lake where I went with my mom for boat riding – because I love boat riding. But sadly, that day we were told by one of the boatmen that we could not go on a boat ride. So I was really sad when I got back home as I had nothing to do. So, then I just had an urge to look up water hyacinths and found out that they can be reused and beautiful products can be made from them.

So it started off as a project where we were making papers and cards, but then, we actually realized that we were just limiting the production so we expanded into a small business called “Rahmina Paullete Eco-Products”. So that is when we started making eco-friendly products from that. Right now, we’re looking towards expanding the business, in terms of increasing the production, and having more machines. So I guess I can say that the outlook towards the future for the business is to bring more sustainable products.


Tell us about some sustainable practices in your culture.

In my culture, we normally eat indigenous vegetables – which not only has medicinal properties but is also very sustainable and climate-friendly. Then, originally before our culture became vastly westernized, we used to wear clothes made from nature, like cow leather – just creative wears made from things like animal skins and plants like Sisal. Although it is something that we still occasionally do, most people do not wear that normally anymore. So that was actually one of the ways for us to live sustainably. We also used to have bags made of Sisal. These practices have been passed from generations to generations and that’s how the knowledge was preserved.

How do you keep yourself motivated and keep doing what you do while dealing with negative emotions like eco-anxiety?

I do suffer from climate anxiety due to the impacts of the climate crisis like floods, the environmental degradation and pollution. But these things also motivate me to see a vision for my people from the Lake Victoria region where they can swim in the lake without facing any irritation to their skin, where there are plenty of indigenous fishes in our lake, where there is no pollution, how our ancestors saw it. These are the things that make me want to take action to help restore the ecosystem of Lake Victoria.

Normally when I face negative emotions, I like to visit places that are peaceful that can help me to connect with nature. Sometimes I go to Kisumu Impala Park to look at wild animals. Also, music helps me a lot to overcome my negative-emotions.

What would your advice be to someone in the climate movement who feels hopeless and burned out?

Well, I would advise them to continue their work. I know it can be tough but it’s important to know that the combined result of our efforts, no matter how small they are, can create bigger impacts towards restoring ecosystems and make our planet a better place.

Do you have an idol?

For me, I can’t say that I have an idol. I’m not really looking up to anyone, but I am currently following the steps of people such as the late Wangari Maathai. I also follow the steps of my mentor, Paulene who is actually an agronomist and a specialist in climate change adaptation. I also have someone who I look up to who is called Kevin Mtai, who is the founder of Kenya Environmental Action Network (KEAN) and also a climate activist.

What do you do for fun? Any hobbies or passions?

For my hobby, I love going on boat rides. Apart from that, I love listening to music and also singing this song called “Save The World” by Jarvis Smith. That’s my favorite song.

What’s your mantra for life?

Change starts with us, for us and by us. We can make a change in a span of five minutes and it should reflect on the future to come.

How can others join you in the climate movement?

Well, it could be in different ways. One, someone can join the movement through Kisumu Environmental Champions. Or even by supporting our campaign that we are running to restore the ecosystem of Lake Victoria which is #LetLakeVictoriaBreatheAgain.

So people can join the campaign by sharing a one minute video talking about Lake Victoria and the urgent need of restoring its ecosystem. That will really empower the indigenous community. People can also join the campaign by doing cleanups and they could help us financially which will help us bring resources since we need a boat for the Lake Victoria cleanups and removing the water hyacinths – because boats can be quite expensive. If we have our own boats, we can go from Kenya to Uganda and Tanzania for advocacy. Apart from that, I think financial support will really help in terms of getting us tools for cleanups and transportation for people. So, I think that would be amazing but in case they also want to join Kisumu Environmental Champions, we are open and glad to welcome anyone to join us.

Where can people find you if they want to get in touch with you or follow what you’re doing?

You can follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram and I also have a website. For Kisumu Environmental Champions, you can just search ‘Kisumu Environmental Champions’ on all social media platforms and find us. You can also follow our campaign Let Lake Victoria Breathe Again on Instagram.

A free piece of advice for your business: Rethink “Sustainability”

A free piece of advice for your business: Rethink “Sustainability”

Do you know why it is high time for businesses to become more sustainable, ethical, and conscious? The answer is very simple – because younger generations are becoming more and more conscious as consumers every day. 

According to a Credit Suisse Research Institute analysis, Gen Z and Millennials account for 54 percent of the global population and 48 percent of consumer purchasing, growing to 69 percent by 2040. These generations are trying to shape the future of the world by changing the conventional mindset of doing business. 

Now, there are two important questions that we need to ask. One – How are these younger generations trying to change the old ways of doing business? And two – How should businesses and entrepreneurs prepare for a world of business that is changing?

The answers to these questions are interrelated, just like the questions. But, I guess you have already figured that out. So let’s jump into the “hows” and “whys” and find out the answers together, shall we? 

The Rise of Conscious Consumerism : 

Have you noticed how frequently terms like “eco,” “green,” and “sustainable” appear in commercials these days? Brands from every industry have figured out that “sustainability is the new sexy” and they are trying their best to attract young consumers by focusing on “sustainability” and promoting it. 

These younger generations do not only care about affordability and need when it comes to “decision-making”. Their awareness about climate change, how human activities are contributing to it, the unethical and tricky practices of greenwashing, and how voting with their wallets can be the most powerful tool to ensure a sustainable future – play a huge role in their consumer behaviors. 

Young shoppers are more likely to buy from sustainable brands according to a study by the research firm Nielsen. Gen Z consumers are even willing to spend 10 percent more on sustainable brands and the percentage goes up to 73% when it comes to Millennials.

And the big brands know it!  

20 years ago, no one in their wildest dreams would have even thought about McDonald’s introducing a vegan menu. But, that has become the reality now. It is not surprising that brands like McDonald’s, and KFC are focusing on vegan customers because veganism is on the rise. More than 600,000 people from 228 countries signed up for Veganuary 2022 and Gen Z along with Millennials are the ones who are taking the lead when it comes to veganism, worldwide. 

Photo by Gustavo Fring via Pexels

This shift in the food industry’s market is not an isolated event. Every industry is seeing the rise of conscious consumerism and is having to shift as per the market demand. 

The change in consumer behavior is exactly why brands like Patagonia are becoming more popular every day and big brands like Adidas, Nike, and Allbirds are trying to pick up their required pace and right direction to be on the sustainability track. 

Google understands the need for sustainability too and has vowed to run on clean energy by 2030, while greener search engines like Ecosia are becoming increasingly popular among the younger generations.

Sustainability is reshaping the auto industry too. The Nielsen survey found that 63% of Gen Z and Millennials plan to buy an electric or hybrid electric vehicle. Tesla has delivered almost a million cars in 2021, which is an 87% increase from 2020. Industry behemoths like BMW and Ford have also recognized the need for sustainability and are working hard to take the wheel and steer the industry toward a more sustainable future.

Though it can be claimed that – “every industry has realized the importance of sustainability”, it will surely remain untrue at least as long as the fashion industry doesn’t come out of its “fast game”. The statement above will also remain untrue as long as the fossil fuel industry is powering our houses, vehicles, and factories. 

Now, this might make you think that consumer behavior alone cannot change the conventional ways of doing business and the market. But, it is essential to realize that, these behaviors are bringing changes in governmental policies and legislation too. The proper application of those regulations will not only result in a healthy shift in the market but will also ensure that the shift is permanent.

New laws are also pushing for a more sustainable future

Have you heard about the proposed rules by the EU which aim to make the fashion industry sustainable? 

These new rules target clothes, furniture, and smartphones sold in Europe. According to the proposed rules, these products must be more durable, easily repaired, and recycled. These proposals also aim to prevent brands from greenwashing consumers through their advertisements. 

Similarly, the New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act which was proposed in February 2022 also targets to make the fashion industry more sustainable by being transparent and by practicing accountability. 

The fashion industry can receive a prize for greenwashing and the only logical rationale for doing so is that it recognizes that demand for sustainability is increasing. But, with the passing of such laws, there will be no more chance for the industry to greenwash the consumers. 

According to the Nielsen survey, 41% of the respondents said that they believe that the fashion industry is unsustainable and 20% – 40% are trying to decrease their consumption of fast fashion. Though it can be argued that despite all the concerns about sustainability, consumption of fast fashion is still booming, it is also important to notice that a big portion of young global consumers is getting into sustainable fashion more and more every day. 

Of course, the influencers of fast fashion on platforms like TikTok and Instagram are still promoting nothing but consumerism. But on these same social platforms, advocates of sustainability are not only promoting purpose-driven brands, but also ways to reduce consumption and stay in style by upcycling, repairing, and swapping. 

Global platforms like Greenpeace, Fashion Revolution, Slow Factory, Slow fashion Movement, Remake, Ethical Influencers, etc. are helping people to get united and create communities. With the help of these communities, these young advocates are being able to make their voices heard in the right places and that is exactly why legislation is changing in favor of sustainability, worldwide. 

If you still can not convince yourself that these younger generations are changing the future of the business world, then let me tell you this : 

Gen Z and Millennials are more interested in jobs that care about our planet 

Photo by Cup of Couple via Pexels

By 2030, Millennials and Gen Z will comprise the majority of the workforce. 

According to a Fast Company survey from 2019, 70% of Millennials prefer to work for a company that prioritizes sustainability. Not only that, nearly three-quarters of them are willing to accept a lower wage to work for an environmentally conscious company. 

It is not only Millennials but Gen Zs who also consider a company’s environmental policies when deciding where to work, according to the 2018 Deloitte Millennials study. Two-thirds of those polled stated they would not accept a job if it did not include a good sustainability program. 

So, even if you do not believe in sustainability, don’t you think it’s important for your business to become environmentally conscious to attract these young generations of workers? 

You might also want to remember that, focusing on sustainability will also help you to save money too! 

So what are some of the basics that you as an entrepreneur need to remember?  

This will be really easy for you if you want it and tough for you if you don’t! Whatever industry you’re in, the core mantra should be the same for all of them: Planet and People over Profit. 

You need to genuinely figure out how you can help people through your business, by not harming and giving it back to the environment. This also means that you need to stay a hundred percent away from greenwashing, be transparent about your supply chain and business model, and practice accountability. 

You might find it tough to be an eco-conscious, purpose-driven business at the beginning. But you can be sure that focusing on sustainability will not only help you to grow your business but you can really bring meaningful changes into the world and ensure a future that will be better for you, your future generation, and everyone else. 

Here’s to you, your business, and a sustainable future! Cheers! 

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