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In conversation with Sustainability Expert Meg Koch

Meg Koch likes to describe herself as the Marie Kondo for reducing single-use-plastic. 

What’s your story, what sparked your interest in this field?
I actually have an advertising and technology innovation background. Having spent over 15 years in the agency world, selling people stuff they didn’t necessarily need. I learned a lot about consumer behaviour and what big businesses do to maintain customers.

When I left my job, I became aware of the amount of plastic I was generating. My husband and I had turned vegetarian after our youngest was born (she has a metabolic condition which severely limits her protein intake). We were excited about the additional environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet. However, the mountain of plastic in the bin after we did a shop seemed to negate that. So, I decided not to buy vegetables wrapped in plastic anymore. I started paying more attention and it kind of snowballed from there.

After doing the #plasticfreejuly challenge in 2019, I really started getting serious and evaluated how single-use plastic impacted our lives in all areas, not just the weekly grocery shop. I had started posting our adventures on Instagram and Facebook and I got a lot of positive feedback and interest (@discoveryourshadeofgreen). People from all stages of life and from across the globe started commenting and asked lots of questions. I kept hearing the same things: “I’d love to do something as well, but I don’t know where to start” or “I don’t have any time” or “I am worried about the cost”. In the end, it was this time-cost-convenience issue, combined with my knowledge of the power of the consumer, that led me to where I am today.

What did you learn from the #plasticfreejuly challenge and what advice have you to share?

The act of starting with a small time period, i.e., one month, allows you to really focus, because it is tangible. And usually, once the deadline arrives, it’s almost second nature to keep it going. I am constantly looking for ways to improve my sustainability, it is something I strive for; but at the same time, I have learned not to beat myself up for the occasional mistake.

Revel in your human-ness and then decide to do better next time.
Use #plasticfreejuly as a catalyst to increase your awareness about the issue, and then see what sticks, and what leaves room for improvement.

Fuelled by a desire to do something with a positive social impact. Meg helps her clients make the zero waste movement accessible by empowering them to identify small changes they can make in their day-to-day which have a big impact. After mastering that, she helps them, level up to identify other areas in their lives where they want to start making changes. Meg helps others discover; their shade of green.

What mistakes have you learnt from? How do you change your struggles into strengths?
I have worked in three different countries and in two different languages. Looking back, I realise that these leaps were when I grew the most. From New York City to London, and then from London to Berlin and now from being an employee to starting my own business. I think these experiences really taught me to pay attention to nuances in communication, alongside the importance of building strong relationships. It also helped me to become a bit braver. I am not sure I would have had the courage to strike out on my own, had I not been forced out of my comfort zone multiple times throughout my career: To take on a new client/product, do business in a different culture, or switch industries and languages simultaneously.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, what’s your biggest entrepreneurial/business/personal challenge?

Staying relevant during this period of social distancing (as my services mainly focus on 1:1 in-home consulting and on-the-ground scouting) and not getting discouraged.

We see all these positive snippets on social media about the reduction in C02 and dolphins in Venice. I take it with a grain of salt. I think the reduction in travel and tourism has had a positive impact on the planet. On the other hand, I also see a lot of the progress from the past few years being cast aside. For example, being able to bring your own reusable cups or containers to stores, cafes & restaurants… as people now assume plastic = hygienic. With the panic-buying happening earlier this year, understandably, most people didn’t care what their food was packaged in, as long as they could buy it. I see this as a temporary blip. I do believe that sustainable living will gain even greater momentum due to the fact that the majority of people will realise how important it is to listen to facts and scientists. And that by acting together against a common goal, we can have an impact.

If we collectively respond to the climate crisis, then we have a real opportunity to make a difference. It really boils down to education, and people taking the situation seriously.

How do you balance business, family/friends and your own well-being?
Now that I am my own boss, I am much better at doing this. Although I still need occasional reminders from my husband to get up from my desk when I am “in the zone”. It took some time to learn that it’s ok to put my health and well-being first, and when I do so, everyone benefits. I haven’t mastered it yet, but I have definitely improved. We’ve also implemented a weekly family meeting. We all sit together on Sunday afternoon and discuss meal planning and activities for the upcoming week, so that we can minimise any knee-jerk reactions/trade-offs because of poor planning. The kids are fully involved, so it also helps them understand more about prioritisation and planning, and that showing up for yourself is just as important as showing up for work or school.

What do you do for encouragement or to keep yourself motivated?
Yoga really helps keep me grounded and calm, so I make a point to do that a few times a week. I am also making a conscious effort to keep up social contact with my friends and family via video calls, as I am the type of person who really thrives around others. I think it is incredibly important to maintain human connection throughout the pandemic, even if we can’t do it face-to-face.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs or small business owners?
Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely, so a strong network is key. Reach out to people you admire and setup a call or grab a coffee, go to events that interest you, and find your tribe so that you have the support network you need.

If you could travel in time what advice would you give your 20 year old self.
Don’t prioritise work over everything else, it’s a bad habit to break later on. And: Company culture is everything. If you don’t feel valued for what you do, then it is time to find something new. Do good work, then leave that work where it belongs, and go hang out with your friends, do something you love, or spend time with people you cherish. And last, but not least, step away from that fast-fashion; it’s not worth it!

And finally…
What meetups, local entrepreneurial events and accelerators do you recommend that have helped you grow?
Work Happy Mums  has been an amazing resource, as has Future Females and Rising Pineapples.

I participated in the Future Females business school accelerator. This really helped me to formulate my business plan, validate my idea, and get my website up and running as quickly as possible. Rising Pineapples has also been fantastic — very motivating and inspiring, and they really empower their network to try something different. I did my first online webinar via their platform. They have an event once a year, and it is something I really look forward to. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the power of a strong network of women to support you and cheer you on. Melanie Fieseler’s Work Happy Mums network has been instrumental in terms of helping me to formulate and stick to my goals. And to just feel like I have a group of women who’ve got my back.

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