Skip to content
Customer Service: DoGood@goodchangestore.com
Close
FREE SHIPPING ON ALL ORDERS OVER $50 TO NZ & AUSTRALIA

Transitioning Out Of Ultimate Consumerism

Transitioning Out of Ultimate Consumerism with Nicola Turner

Good Change:

So Nic, on your website I saw some words that bring a real sense of absolute comfort to me, and I think the standard consumer as well. It says, and I quote, “mainstream green, making sustainability easy, normal, and feel good”. Can you tell us a little bit about what this actually means?

Nicola:

I'm so stoked that you find comfort in it. That's really nice to hear. I played around with these words for so long, so thank you for that. For me, I think there's a really common misconception that being more sustainable is going to be time consuming or hard work, or going to compromise the way we live or the way we do business. I believe that if we put the right mindset or the right lens over sustainability and think about it and approach it in ways that work for us, it can be really easy and that can become really normalized.

Good Change:

I’m imagining that if there were a whole lot of leaders out there like you with all of these teams of people or communities underneath how powerful that could be.

Nicola:

The ripple effect of change, right? It's just so easy to see sustainability as this big thing that we'll do when we have time or resource, and it just doesn't have to be that way.

Good Change:

It's sort of like wanting to eat organic or cook plant based and you think “Oh, I'd love to be one of those” but it just seems really difficult.

Nicola:

Yeah. It's the whole eating the elephant, right? To start one bite at a time. Yeah, exactly.

Good Change:

You talk about empowering people and organizations to become more intentional about how we consume and the impact that we create. Tell us a little bit about how you do this.

Nicola:

So, there's sort of three prongs to my social enterprise.

One is I work with councils - a lot of that is in the consulting space, it's doing project management. It might be creating and delivering campaigns. It might be delivering events and education. I work with businesses and predominantly that is in the public speaking space, so going in and delivering speaking events, either under the guise of sustainability, employee wellbeing, or maybe as a keynote speaker for the conference and then I do general public facing or a lot of live events, or I create a lot of online courses. So, the lens I always throw up, there's kind of three parts to it. The first one is always sharing my story. I haven't always been sustainable, quite the opposite actually.

My lifestyle and what I do for a living has pretty much done a 180 degree turn. In my previous life, I spent about 15 years working in the FMCG industry, where my job was to understand shopper behavior in the supermarket environment. So how we all think and behave as shoppers, and then using the insights to orchestrate things to get us to buy and consume more.

The last 12 years has been a personal journey for me, understanding human behavior as a way to encourage myself and other people to consume less. So, it's very much been this kind of paradigm shift, I guess. So, I share that story on the basis of helping people understand that just because you don't feel like you're sustainable or have that mindset, that there's a journey that you can take that's really rewarding.

The second thing I do is in the area that I work in now which is called behavior change. I will give people tools to actually change their behavior when it comes to sustainability. As humans, knowing we want to do something doesn't necessarily mean we do it. The examples that I use in that space might be exercise or nutrition or sleep. We all broadly know what we should be doing, but that doesn't mean we do it. So, I put that lens of behavior change over everything that I do, helping give people a bit of a toolkit of ways to approach it.

Good Change:

And do you think those behavior changes, the older you are, it's harder to shift those habits?

Nicola:

That's a really good question and that's why I focus alot on behavior change and make sure I'm giving people tools to do it. Because I think a big part of it is understanding and having an approach to change your behavior. Because if it's just a case of “I wanna do this” change has to be really easy. And also we have to be motivated to change. I'll give a really simple example. I wanted my family to start composting more, so I put a compost bucket under the sink. Everybody's gonna start composting if I put a compost bucket under the sink, right? Nobody did because it was too hard, and it sounds ridiculous, but this is the reality of being human.

When you put a behavior change lens over it, go, Okay, how do I make that good behavior the easiest thing to do? The good behavior is by far the easiest behavior.

Good Change:

And do you think though, if you do the education piece around it, of what the composting benefits are and take the kids out into the garden and show them the nutrients of the soil and the rejuvenation. Do you think that if you educate them, then they have a bit more buy in into the whole topic?

Nicola:

Absolutely, if you have the bandwidth and the space to educate and give people the ‘why’. When people don't know the fact that if we throw a banana skin into a landfill it doesn't break down properly. It creates methane and extremely powerful greenhouse gas.

You know, the alternative is turning it into a compost which is an extremely rich resource. If there is a way to bring people on that journey and help them understand the why and the context, then I think that is really important.

Good Change:

We recently interviewed Brianne West, the Founder of the shampoo bar company, Ethique and she had these really wise words that I just wanted to mention here. She said “The way to change the world is to do business for good. Business for good is driven by consumers demanding better”.  So it shows that the future is in our hands if we just all come together and demand better.

What do you think about this comment?

Nicola:

Her brand's amazing and that's so cool. She's just achieved such awesome stuff, and I wholeheartedly agree. I think given my previous life in FMCG, working with some pretty big brands and pretty big organizations, it's really easy to feel as consumers that the power does not sit with us.

Whereas when I was working inside these big brands and these big organizations, we always kind of felt like it was the other way. We felt like the power was with the consumer, and if people aren't picking up your brands then that's not what success looks like. So, we were constantly trying to come up with ways to understand what consumers wanted, and you guys will know being in the business that you are in, and even in the business I'm in as a service provider.

I really encourage all of us to get better at communicating with brands and with companies, and I'm not just talking about what they should do better, but also celebrating what they do well. It's actually messaging them on social media pages or sending them an email. Likewise, if they're doing something that you really love, having that conversation as well, either in the virtual world or in real life, if you're going into a store or dealing directly with that brand or product.

Even though, you might be one person, if they are starting to see a trend if there are more and more of their customers or followers reaching out and saying the same things, then they will stand up and take notice.

Good Change:

So, you've created a really great initiative. Im particularly interested in the setting up of the hot composting bins which is one of your projects. Can you tell us a little bit about this?

Nicola:

Well, one of the things that really ‘irks’ me is food waste. It's a really big deal, and as I sort of alluded to before, there's not a heap of understanding around the throwing food waste away into a landfill.

The landfill is this weird anaerobic environment where everything's pushed down really tightly and not a lot of air gets in there, and so things don't break down properly. But then there's also the fact that a lot of the food that is going to waste is edible food that could’ve been eaten. So that seems crazy. And then also when we throw things away, it's not just what we see that we are throwing away, it's everything that came before. So if we think about a banana. For a banana to arrive in our kitchen in New Zealand, it's had to have a whole lot of water for it to grow; a whole lot of pesticides and fertilizers have gone into it to help it grow  as well as a whole lot of labor and time. A whole lot of transport emissions because it's had to get halfway around the world to us. There's all of that embedded impact in that banana before it even arrives at our house. Then we buy a bunch of three bananas and arguably one of those bananas goes in the rubbish bin.

Good Change:

And, a lot of the increasing food prices actually makes the whole case a whole lot worse.

Nicola:

There's a really amazing organization, there's a few of them across the globe and we have one in New Zealand and there's an UK version called Love Food Hate Waste. They've got lots of amazing statistics around food waste, and I think it was 500 on average New Zealand households throw away $563 worth of edible food every year. Those statistics are a little bit old, and as you say, the price of food now, it just seems crazy, right, that we're throwing away all of this value into a hole in the ground.  In a way that creates a significant emissions footprint . So one of the most powerful things we can do when it comes to food waste is just to reduce the amount of food that we waste. And there's lots of ways we can do that. And Love Food Hate Waste is a great place for inspiration, but it can be just buying better and shopping to a list. It's using up the food that we have more and some of the most commonly wasted items of things like bread.

The really simple things like getting better at using our leftovers in our house. One night a week is a leftover night. It's normally pizza. And so how do we get better at using the food that we have? But then underneath that is we're always going to have some element of food waste, or it's probably better to call it food scraps.

So composting, worm farming, all of those choices are obviously the best thing we can do and then turn it into a resource to grow more food. So, I see composting as such a powerful thing to do. One, to obviously reduce that food waste going to landfill, but also to create a resource that we can then grow really healthy Kai and on a localized level.

My vision for New Zealand is to see localized composting hubs all over the country where people can drop off their compost, it can be turned into a resource and we can grow more healthy food from it. My way of doing that is getting a hot composting hub set up at my children's primary school, so we got some funding.

That funding was through the Ministry for the Environment Sustainability Fund and we got these amazing hot compost bins of a design and scale that there'll be so much microbial activity in the compost piles that they can get up to a really hot temperature normally somewhere between 50 and 60 degrees.

And so they break down everything in a really fast way.  The school is now composting all their food scraps. But then I'm working on, well, how do we get more in the community? A really interesting challenge from a behavior change point of view, because there's so many wins from composting, but it's quite a hard behavior to change with people.

Good Change:

Yes I guess you need to get the buy in from every individual. There's going to be somebody that leads it in a school, for example, and just drives that whole change.

You've talked about in the past applying a lens of behavior change to make it as easy as possible to get involved. How do you do this?

Nicola:

We are doing a few pilots. One is that there's drop-off bins at the school gate. There's two bins there. One is a drop-off for your food scraps and one is a bin full of shredded carbon because you need a mixture of carbon with your compost.  They're right at the gate so that you don't have to come all the way into school or the kids can just get dropped off in the car if that's the way they're coming to school and throw them in the bin and then grab a handful of carbon and throw it in.

But on top, the bins are beautiful. So that was a big part of it as well. We had some old shabby wheely bins lying around school, and I'm working on getting them designed up in a way that they're really beautiful and attractive and they stand out so that people are drawn to them. So, when I think about behavior change, there's a few different kind of frameworks I use, but one that's really easy to think about is this concept of friction and fuel.

When we are thinking about asking people to change their behavior, in this instance composting, how do we reduce friction or how do we increase fuel? Reducing friction is all about making the change as easy as possible. Increasing fuel is all about how do we make the change as attractive or feel as good as possible.

If I apply that lens over this composting initiative, we want as many people as possible within the local community to start bringing their compost in. How do we reduce friction in terms of how do we make that as easy as possible? If they're bringing their compost, what's gonna be the easiest way to bring it and drop it off?

The dropoff point is not in the middle of the school next to the compost bins. It's right by the gate. When we first started looking at it we thought maybe we have a drop off day, like it's Wednesday for compost dropoff day. No, that's gonna make it too hard to remember, right? So actually we need to have it every day.

We need to make the bins really easy to open and we don't want the bins to be stinky because then people aren't gonna wanna do it. I'm trialing having this hub at my house that makes it really easy for my neighbors. What are the possible barriers or what are the possible points of friction that could stop people doing this, and how do we overcome them?

Good Change:

If you come across a principal in a school where you can't get the buy in from that principal, do you go through other avenues to hunt for the person that's the gonna become your advocate, or how does that work?

Nicola:

For me, it's also understanding. What does motivate people? So, maybe a compost bin doesn't motivate a principal, but maybe being the first school in the region to have a community composting hub that we can get in the local paper,  maybe that's what drives them. My aim, if I'm trying to get people on a journey of change is to understand what their ‘why’ is and what motivates them, which is that fuel part. What's gonna make change and what feels good for them? What's gonna make this attractive for them? How do I wrap that lens of fuel over? I'm all about going where the energy is, and if the energy's not there or I can't find it, then I'll go somewhere else for sure. That's often what I'll try to do. Coming back to that principle of friction and fuel.

But also that principal of friction and fuel is the same in everything. Even in what you guys are doing and providing a product, it's all about how do you make it as easy as possible For people to switch to a better choice?

Good Change:

Yeah, ours is all about habit changing as well.

On a more personal note, what are the things that you do personally at home to be more sustainable.

Nicola:

So my journey of change, how we've kind of gone on that journey in our household is to really question every aspect of our consumption. Because when you really boil it down to how and what we consume, the clothes we wear or the food we eat, or the electricity we use or the way we get around, or the manufacturing that goes into the things that we buy or the waste that we create. How do we do a little bit better? So, it's not about being perfect. It started with a lot of those changes in the kitchen like Okay, huh, we're buying and consuming cling film that doesn't feel great. You know, that's creating quite a lot of waste. Is there a better choice that we can make? Now we predominantly just have the massive draw full of reusable containers and, you know, configure those in different ways. And for us, it started off with those day to day products that we were buying or using in the home.

And then it moved on to our broader relationship with stuff as well.

Good Change:

Did your husband come on the journey with you right from the outset, or did it take him a little bit of time?

Nicola:

It was definitely me leading the charge. My husband wants to do the right thing, and I believe most people inherently do. So anytime we are tackling a change I have to find a way to do this that's better or that's lighter on the planet, but that doesn't take a heap more time or money.

Good Change:

I think it's about not beating yourself up if you're not perfect. Don't try and do a whole lot of massive changes, and then feel like you are failing and searching for perfection because you’ll just be disappointed.

Nicola:

It's a quote that I love: ‘Don't let perfect be the enemy of good’. I think that's really important, and we do see that a lot in all facets of life, but particularly in sustainability. Imagine if everybody focused on just doing things a little bit better.

 



Prev Post
Next Post

Thanks for subscribing!

This email has been registered!

Shop the look

Choose Options

Close
Edit Option
Close
Back In Stock Notification
this is just a warning
Login Close
Close
Shopping Cart
0 items
x