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This 30-year-old quit her ‘dream job’ to boost sustainability across Asia

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Stephanie Dickson was very fortunate and the moment she left her college, she landed her dream job. For her, she thought she had made it.

She had wanted to work in fashion for her entire life and, suddenly, she had a job that allowed her to do just that, organizing some of the industry’s biggest events across Asia.

However, one day she had a thought cross her mind.

“I got my dream job,” Dickson said. “But about three and a half years in, I just became really disconnected with the work I was doing.”

She had started to think about how the world was affected by the fashion industry. In fact, alongside other common issues such as energy, transport and agriculture sectors, the fashion industry today is one of the world’s largest polluters.

“I felt completely blindsided,” she said. So determined to make a change she sat down and started reading everything she could about the subject. “I’d been working in this industry and I had no idea what actually was going on.”

‘She had made a decision. She wanted to be a part of the solution.

She said she felt like she was in the “Matrix” and that she had decided to take the red pill.

So, at just 26, she decided to quit her job and do something to lead change across Asia.

“I wanted to do something to be part of the solution instead of being part of the problem, which is where I felt I was,” Dickson said.

At first, that got her involved with local sustainability groups in Singapore. But she found out pretty quickly that i could be intimidating for newcomers and there needed to be a way to encourage people and businesses to start their educational journeys without feeling judged.

So, only six weeks later, she had decided to launch her first event, bringing together 40 companies and 600 attendees through a series of talks, to help people and businesses on the journey to being more sustainable.

Dickson started educating others

Building that support network has become increasingly important as more and more people suffer from what she described as the new “21st-century syndrome: Eco-anxiety” — which is a sense of defeat in the face something that looks increasingly bleak from a global environmental outlook.

“You can see that people are actually anxious,” said Dickson. “They’re really passionate, but they feel so lost and they don’t know what to do about it and just see all the problems.”

HOW CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
At work
– See if your work has a sustainability group. If not, create one.
– Look for allies who will support you and promote the cause.
– Encourage management to implement new policies to reduce waste, such as a ban on single-use cups or a carbon tax.
At home
– Donate excess food to a food rescue center.
– Use reusable bags and containers when food shopping.
– Harness the sharing economy and rent or borrow items instead of buying.

Last month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report stating that we have just 12 years left to limit the impact of climate change on the planet. The issue is seen as particularly pronounced in Asia, this is because of the rapidly growing population.

“For us, we try to see the solutions and the positives,” Dickson said. “I always try to focus on the wins because it can get very dark very quickly.”

Long term not short term

Four years later and Dickson, her co-founder Paula Miquelis, and their small team staff of only 4have environmental events across Hong Kong and Singapore.

Those events culminate each year in Green Is The New Black, a “conscious festival” which last week attracted more than 50 speakers, 70 companies and non-governmental organizations and over 3,800 guests.

Among the speakers at that event was 17-year-old Indonesian student Melati Wijsen, who has made it her mission to fight plastic bag pollution at home on the island of Bali. Her talk at the festival prompted one attendee, a designer at a prominent global fashion agency, to quit her job the following day to help her family business in the U.K. to become more sustainable.

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