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The influencer industry is powered by consumption. Video after video show bodies jump – sometimes literally – into outfit after outfit. Each snapshot exists as an effort to persuade the scroller that they won’t just need one coat this winter, but five.

Here at aware_ we want to speak to individuals who are using social media to positively influence their audience, to showcase that a mindless scroll through your phone has the potential to become mindful, even impactful. This week we sat down with three influencers bringing sustainability in sport to the world of Instagram. Whether it’s through educating their audience on building healthy daily routines or just providing motivation to get out into nature, these three voices provide an educational voice amongst the countless calls to keep on consuming. 

Sandra Martens – the model and female founder prioritising nutrition and sustainability in sport 

Growing up in the south of Germany, Sandra spent most of her childhood surrounded by nature and animals. Moving to New York at age eighteen, she quickly established herself in the modelling industry, working together with a whole host of interesting creatives. Whilst working in this fast-paced industry, she discovered the need to reconnect people to a more holistic and healthy way of living.  

After meeting her boyfriend, who had a similar mindset, the pair founded Ninja Foods: a supplement brand backed by science. The 13 Superfoods in their “Super Green Ninja Powder” help you to fix your underlying deficiencies, boost your immune system, help with skin and gut health and support you in creating a healthy routine.  

Ninja Foods also follows a zero plastic policy and plants one tree with every purchase 

aware_: What have you learned from your work as both a female founder and advocate for sustainability in sport? 

Martens: My biggest lesson was to take one step at a time. In our fast-paced environment it’s really easy to get demotivated if you don’t make a deadline that you’ve set for yourself or if things just don’t work out the way you planned them to. But especially when founding a start-up it’s so important to keep up the good spirit and just work through all the tough bits. Eventually things will fall into place and the bigger picture can only be „painted“ if you focus on the little things first.  

Also – don’t be influenced by the industry standards. When I told my first supplier that I only wanted to work with compostable packaging he was just laughing, telling me that it’s an investment that’s not worth its money. Now, 3 years later I’m so happy I made that decision. Ninja Foods is the only Superfood company in Germany that has a zero plastic policy which really makes us stand out from our competition.  

sustainability in sport
Sandra Martens

aware_: What impact do you hope to have with both Ninja foods and your own platform? 

Martens: The impact I’m hoping to have is on two levels. The first level refers to our clients, which I hope to inspire to live a healthier lifestyle. Through consuming the Supergreens Powder you not only fix your underlying deficiencies but you also create a healthy routine. And as we all know, building the right routines, means building patterns for your life that help you make the right decisions. Mentally and physically.  

The second level refers to the industry. I really hope to inspire other companies to make wiser decisions when it comes to the sourcing of their products (using local instead of global ingredients), the choice of their packaging (switching from plastic to compostable / eco-packaging), and the impact they have on the environment. We plant one tree for every order that’s being placed with our partner Trees for the Future in central Africa. And even if this might not seem like a lot, over the past 3 years we have made such big contributions I’m really happy we started this attitude right from day one.

 

Laurent Petit the activist taking sustainability in sport to the next level 

Laurent Petit moved to Berlin in 2017 to explore the intersection of music and art with his project Music On Walls. New to a city saturated in culture and energised by a desire to combine his great passions, Laurent began to organise Urban Art Runs events, a project promoting urban art whilst running. Through these experiences, Laurent understood his primary mission: getting people more active. Fusing this with a desire to advocate for sustainability in sport, Laurent began to look at ways to combine sport and doing good (for the planet). In 2019 Active Giving was born, a platform that would engage individuals in physical activities whilst contributing to environmental projects.  

aware_: What are your tips we could all follow to be more sustainable when it comes to being active? 

Petit: Sustainability in sport has many key elements. Firstly, set the right intention. In my opinion the primary intention of being active is to maintain good health, to feel good in our bodies and minds. Once this intention is clear, the path is set to explore ways to make being active sustainable.  

Secondly, create habits of movement. For instance, giving priority to walking, cycling and running is essential to keep our bodies moving. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk or cycle to your office. Even during a working day, why not take short walks throughout the day (ideally in green spaces) so you don’t stay too long sat behind a desk.  

Thirdly, be conscious of your diet and protein intake as you’ll burn more calories by being active. Try to follow a plant-based diet (in accordance with your doctor’s recommendations), consuming local seasonal products. 

Then there’s the obvious one: drink a lot of water. Get yourself a nice reusable bottle and avoid single use bottles as much as possible. 

Lastly, buy second hand equipment and shop in places with a green mindset and planet friendly products offers such as Planetics or The Good Run. 

 A few easy ones I also find helpful:  

  • Don’t put your sport shoes in the laundry machine 
  • Pick up litter (plogging) when walking in parks or city streets 
  • Go workout in parks or outdoor gyms 
  • Sign-up to Active Giving and turn your physical activities into trees planted 
  • Inspire/motivate your family, friends, colleagues to move! 
sustainability in sport
Laurent Petit

aware_: What inspired you to start Active Giving? How does the platform address sustainability in sport? 

Petit: Being a sport enthusiast I always wanted to motivate people to be active. In recent years I realised the impact of my daily actions on the planet. Therefore, I wanted to act. And since I spend a lot of time being active, I thought, would there be a way to have a positive impact on the planet while being active? 

Currently the AG app allows users (for free) to track a variety of activities (running, cycling, walking, yoga and more…) and turn them into funding for green projects – mainly planting trees at the moment. In order to generate revenues to finance tree planting, AG provides brand placement in-app to companies willing to support personal well-being and the planet. The revenues generated from brand placement are then distributed towards our different tree planting partners. 


Vanessa Nord – the speaker taking sustainability in sport to the boardroom  

Speaker and sustainability strategist Vanessa Nord is driven by a fundamental love for the game. The daughter of a forester, Vanessa came into contact with the patterns of ecosystems from an early age and has learned to apply this understanding to the world of sport. Before starting out alone, Vanessa was responsible for national and international events at the German Boxing Association and through her work realised the challenges that sporting bodies face in developing an authentic attitude in areas of sustainability.  

From contributing to long term projects such as the second German ice hockey league and the 2022 European Championships in Munich, to short term projects for the like of FC Bayern Munich, Vanessa investigates how to incorporate sustainable values into the world of sport. Vanessa’s sustainability in sport strategy serves as a basis for every action and stands for a long-term future of growth, social coexistence and the best possible environmental compatibility in professional sport. 

With the understanding that it’s unrealistic to expect footballers to ditch the private jet and pitch up on a bicycle, Vanessa’s sustainable mission illustrates that big change can be implemented easily, with little effort and to great effect. Vanessa believes in implementing action step by step and prioritising a change in mindset in order to achieve lasting change. 

aware_: How to you hope to, regarding sustainability in sport, positively influence your audience? 

Nord: My goal is to be authentic and critically question trends in sustainability (electric mobility, planting trees, etc.) whilst understanding that nothing is black or white. I investigate what sustainability means to each of my partners in particular and how they see themselves, because the answer to this question may be different for one club than for another. For me, sustainability in sport means things have to be questioned, but some issues cannot be changed immediately. 

One way I hope to influence my audience is through my work as a speaker. I love being a guest on various podcasts, I feel very comfortable on big stages and I like to share my thoughts on LinkedIn, so I mainly use these platforms to inspire people and to exchange ideas with more people. Above all, I love constructive discussions and I really like it when people tell me their views on the world (without forcing them on me), because I can always take a lot away for myself through that: either agreeing or clearly distancing myself and deciding for myself that I don’t want to assess things that way. That really inspires me. 

sustainability in sport
Vanessa Nord

aware_: Can you tell us about an impactful project you have been part of? Why was it important to you as a creator? 

Nord: In the last few months and in the months to come, my consulting work for the European Championships Munich 2022 has been particularly important. Since November 2020, we have been working together on the strategic orientation of the event towards a more sustainable event. Right from the start, the premise was not to do everything perfectly, but to set ourselves focus topics that fit in with image of the event.  

In November 2021, we published our sustainability path in an interim report and explained what we had planned, where we currently stand and where there are still challenges. I think it’s particularly great that we show here that sustainability is more than environmental protection and offsetting CO2, and that working on social and economic issues in crucial for the future of sport.

 

– by Eliza Edwards

5 Climate Activists Demanding Immediate Action and Motivating Their Generation

A feeling of discordance hung heavy in the air as the first week of COP26 came to a close. Whilst world leaders finalised pledges – 40 countries to end coal use, promises of deforestation, reductions to the emissions of greenhouse gases – young climate activists marched the streets of Glasgow demanding an end to greenwashing by governments. Greta Thunberg, a pioneer on climate issues for her generation, published on her social media: “Time is running out. Change is not going to come from inside these conferences unless there is big public pressure from the outside.”

aware_ presents 5 climate activists who took to the stage during COP26, each determined to disentangle the inflated language surrounding serious climate issues, demand immediate action from leaders, and motivate the rest of their generation to take action.

Mikaela Loach 

 “The only people who can save us are ourselves”

Mikaela Loach, the activist, podcast, writer and medical student at Edinburgh University, is a force of nature with a rapidly increasing presence on social media. Born in Jamaica – a country becoming increasingly vulnerable to drought, flooding and extreme heat –  Mikaela’s work addresses issues such as climate justice, refugee rights and environmental racism. At just 23 years old she has been featured in publications such as Vogue, featured on BBC Woman’s Hour Power List and received a nomination for the Global Citizen Prize: UK’s Hero Award in 2020. Despite this noteworthy list of accolades, Mikaela, keen to address the “disproportionate amount of attention” for her work, believes fundamentally in the power of community to dismantle current systems and magnify other climate activists working in her field. 

As a key member of the #StopCambo campaign (a bid to stop the UK proposal to drill 1.7 billion barrels of oil from the sea by 2050), Mikaela arrived in Glasgow for COP26 with a clear focus: “Holding the UK government accountable for still pushing to approve 40 new oil & gas projects”.

climate activists

Elizabeth Wathuti 

“Open your hearts and act.” 

The Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti spent her childhood surrounded by trees, exposed to the power of mother nature from a young age. But growing up in Nyeri County, an area in Kenya known for its expanses of woodland, the 26-year-old has increasingly become witness to climate devastation. In recent years drought (leading to crop failure) and flooding (resulting in the displacement of populations) has compromised “the livelihoods of thousands of Kenyan people” (KCSAP). In a bid to bring awareness to these devastating issues, the climate activist founded the Green Generation Initiative which works to nurture environmental enthusiasts, environmental education, and address food insecurity by planting trees.  

In a speech during COP26 Elizabeth laid bare the disparity between the global north and south: “the decisions you make here will determine: Whether the rains will return to our land; Whether the fruit trees we plant will live or perish; Whether children will have fruit and water”. Elizabeth implored her audience “To do what is right, if we let ourselves feel it in our hearts”.

Alice Aedy

“We must tell stories that harness hope, and move people beyond despair – to engage with their hearts, not just their minds. And while the stories we choose to tell is important – just as important is WHO gets the chance to tells them.” 

Alice Aedy was first alerted to the climate crisis through her work as a photographer capturing the impact of forced migration. Employing the camera lens as a tool to humanise issues such as climate justice, Alice documents moments of suffering and displacement, often ignored in the speeches of policymakers. As a cofounder of earthrise studio – a platform using film, design, and storytelling to communicate the climate crisis – Alice and her team work to reframe the human relationship with the natural world. At the forefront of the fight for climate justice, Alice’s work has been featured by global institutions such as The Guardian, The Atlantic, Stella McCartney and the New York Times.

Emma Watson

“Emma’s official Instagram has been taken over by an anonymous Feminist Collective for Cop26.” 

Emma Watson needs little introduction. After gaining global recognition as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise, Emma has become a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, been a leading voice in the fight for gender equality, joined the luxury brand group Kering as an advocate for sustainability, and most recently gave a feminist collective autonomy of her Instagram for the duration of COP26. Featured activists include Mya-Rose Craig, an activist campaigning “to prioritise the rights of indigenous peoples in the climate justice movement”, and Tori Tsui, “a climate justice organiser, and (environ)mental health advocate from Hong Kong”. Emma’s work amongst climate activists is an acknowledgement of her immense privilege she experiences on the global stage, leading as a necessary example for her contemporaries.

climate activists
Craig Gibson for The New York Times

Whitney Richardson for the New York Times Climate Hub

“Something about being amongst the trees this week, has created an energy of optimism, hope, and courage, which is what is needed to plan for a better future, which can only come from dialogue and collaboration.”

As world leaders and delegates wrapped up their first week of COP26 talks, thought leaders, climate activists, and the public, were gathered in the New York Times Climate Hub – an oasis of green set apart from the conference rooms of COP26 – to have their say. A breath-taking installation of 197 trees (each representing a country taking part in the conference) was conceptualised and designed by the artist Es Devlin, who together with the forest architect Phillip Jaffa, and landscape specialist Scotscape, created an mesmeric experience in which to encourage collective thinking on climate issues. Whitney Richardson, the international events manager for the New York Times, has been instrumental in providing an intriguing, dynamic platform upon which “to discuss how we can create tangible solutions for a more sustainable future for our planet”. Sitting down with the likes of filmmaker Jack Harries (co-founder of earthrise studio) – who spent the last months developing a film series “travelling around the U.K. to document stories of people on the frontline confronting the real impacts of a warming planet” – Whitney’s personable manner with which she interviews her guests allows her followers to engage with hard-hitting subject matter traditionally inaccessible for the general public. Jack was one of over 70 speakers to take a place amongst the trees for this year’s COP; the roster of speakers included designer Stella McCartney, the activist Malala Yousafzai, politician David Lammy and former Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon. 

The work of each of these climate activists surpasses the traditional form of speech-making, instead encouraging people to get involved under the fundamental belief that activism and organising is incremental in igniting change. But this selection of voices are by no means the only ones, the last few years have witnessed waves of indignation emerge from schools, universities, groups; a generation of climate activists determined to instil empathy and humanise the climate crisis.

by Eliza Edwards