Friday, 27 August 2021

climate solutions: swimming upstream: how the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community is tackling climate change

I recently applied for a climate job that required written tasks as the second stage of recruitment. While ultimately I was unsuccessful in getting the role, I really enjoyed the writing tasks. Sort of like an awesome homework assignment (what can I say, I'm a school nerd through a through). So I thought I may as well share some of the writing here, perhaps you'll be as inspired as I was learning about the climate forward Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, and dive into the uplifting rabbit hole of Indigenous and First Nations environmental stewardship.


Known as the People of the Salmon, the Swinomish Tribal Community’s way of life has been supported by the waters of northwestern Washington for 10,000 years. The Swinomish tribe consider themselves stewards of the land and water surrounding Fidalgo Island, where they have resided since the reservation was established in 1855. Currently the tribe is reviving an ancient mariculture practice of establishing a clam garden on reservation tidelands in an effort to support the health, wellbeing and culture of its people as part of the Swinomish Climate Adaptation Plan. As outlined by the tribe, this project “will encourage the integration of traditional ecological knowledge in contemporary resource management and climate change adaptation strategies as well as bolster local food security, support tribal treaty rights, and provide ecological and cultural benefits to the community.”


The Swinomish tribe is familiar with climate innovation; they established the first climate change initiative by a Native American Tribe back in 2007. The community has since experienced increased effects of climate change in the form of greater floods, storm surges and erosion on their land. The tribe has also noted warming waters, ocean acidification, and human land-use actions that have led to habitat loss and degradation of the shellfish, salmon and other finfish that sustain their community. Aside from negative health outcomes of losing traditional foods such as salmon and shellfish, the tribe would experience profound cultural loss should healthy seafood populations not be maintained due to the inherent connection between people, water and spirituality among the tribe.


As part of their climate adaptation plan, the Swinomish tribe regularly partners with other tribes, scientists and state agencies (such as the Skagit River System Cooperative). Adaptation projects include improving spawning beds in the Skagit River, working with marine ecologists to restore healthy oyster populations, wetland restoration projects to preserve native plants and help manage flooding, as well as fighting a potential mine upstream.


While indigenous communities are disproportionally impacted by climate change, the example of the Swinomish tribe demonstrates unique abilities to adapt to our changing climate due to their connection to land, understanding of biodiversity, and experiences of endurance.

Overwhelming as the challenges before us may at times seem, our community and culture have also proven their ability to endure and survive many times before. Indeed, it is the enduring heart, spirit, and strength of our community in facing previous challenges that shows us the promise of the future.         - Chairman Brian Cladoosby, Spee-pots, Swinomish Tribal Community.




  • Schramm, P.J., Al Janabi, A.L.,  Campbell, L.W.,  Donatuto, J.L. and Gaughen, S.C. (2020) “How Indigenous Communities Are Adapting to Climate Change: Insights from the Climate-Ready Tribes Initiative” Health Affairs 39(12); pp: 2153-2159
  • Jantarasami, L.C., R. Novak, R. Delgado, E. Marino, S. McNeeley, C. Narducci, J. Raymond-Yakoubian, L. Singletary, and K. Powys Whyte (2018) “Tribes and Indigenous Peoples” In Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II [Reidmiller, D.R., C.W. Avery, D.R. Easterling, K.E. Kunkel, K.L.M. Lewis, T.K. Maycock, and B.C. Stewart (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 572–603. doi: 10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH15

Friday, 23 July 2021

AFC Responsible Industry Toolkit: Ethical Sourcing

 I recently authored a module on ethical sourcing for the Australian Fashion Council's new Responsible Industry Toolkit. Free for all members of the AFC, and designed to support all fashion brands - large or small - as they start or continue their sustainable fashion journey. If you're already a member, check it out! And as always, drop me a line if you'd like any help transitioning your business to be more sustainable.

Thank you to Valentina Zarew at New Romantic for bringing me into this very exciting and important collaboration. Together, we are changing the industry.

pure pod collaboration: the juggle is real

I've recently started a new writing collaboration with my friend, Kelli, from sustainable fashion label Pure Pod. Here's a little bit of my first blog post - hope you enjoy!

Nearly ten years ago I published a book, Sustainability with Style, about my personal journey into environmentalism. It was an eco-memoir of sorts, where I documented how I learned to live more lightly on the planet while I maintained a sense of my personal identity and style. It was the early 2010s, the term ‘sustainable fashion’ was nearly unheard of and it was hard to find quality, stylish, environmentally sustainable clothing (except among the earliest pioneers like Pure Pod).


Since that time I’ve continued my journey into sustainable living, completed a PhD on sustainable fashion, and worked as a sustainability professional. Sustainable fashion has come a long way, too, with more sustainable labels being launched and mainstream labels adjusting their methods. I could write for days about the benefits and complexities of sustainable fashion – and I promise a more detailed article on fashion in coming months. For now I will state that the connections between fashion and creativity, comfort, pleasure and identity are incredibly important for transitioning fashion toward sustainability. And while there are heated debates about which fabrics are ‘most’ sustainable, and where it is ‘most’ ethical to produce clothing, one thing nearly all sustainable fashion advocates agree upon is the importance of loving your clothes.

Friday, 26 March 2021

about last night

 Last night I attended a reunion for staff members from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) - it also marked my first outing in the city since COVID and the new baby (yew!), but I digress. 

It is so hard to express the role GBCA has played in my life. It was the first job I had in the environmental sector after what I like to call my 'green awakening', and it challenged me, supported me, and helped me grow into the woman I am today.  From my first day working at GBCA in 2009, I felt I had found a home of kindred spirits; people who were not only committed to helping halt the environmental crises we find ourselves hurtling toward, but also wanted to connect with others, have fun, and form relationships that would last beyond our days working in the same office, the Greenhouse (complete with worm farms, compost, stunning balcony plants, and many many more technical green features than I'll explain here). 

Photo of Lisa with Romilly Madew
With my former boss, always mentor, Romilly Madew AO FTSE

It is also the time when I wrote my book, with incredible thanks the support of then-CEO Romilly Madew AO FTSE (now CEO of Infrastructure Australia). She supported my move to part-time so I could write, suggesting we turn my role into a job share because she wanted to support women achieve their career aspirations. I used the offices for my book launch party. I returned to the GBCA for a contract after my failed move back to the US, a haven amidst my emotional turmoil. Rom also supported the launch of Clean Cut Fashion, as our key speaker at our first presence at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Sydney in 2014. And even I rented a desk in the Greenhouse for a few months while writing my PhD thesis, craving the energy of other environmentalists (over the years GBCA shared offices with the Climate Institute, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, and 1 Million Women).

Friendships I have made at GBCA continue, though with less catch-ups in person because of life - you know, changing jobs, moving to new cities or countries, having children. But I'm proud to say that much of my professional network is built around this powerhouse of Australia's sustainable development professionals. Though there were many beloved faces missing last night, their presences were felt in the flood of memories that accompanied the evening.

So, thank you for joining me on my quick trip down memory lane. It can be so easy to overlook significant places and people in your life, and it was a real gift to be tossed into the mix last night with this brilliant, funny and determined group. A special thanks to Rom, Suzie and Robin for making it all happen, I'm already looking forward to the next time.


Oh the hilarity! And fabulousness! Suzie and I
wore the same One Dress by Ever By X!

PS - Robin, no photo with you! The one person I see the most in real life - hugs

Monday, 24 August 2020

between the bushfires and the pandemic, hope springs

An Environmentalist on Having Children

A recent article in The Conversation suggests there will be no Covid Baby Boom in Australia, despite many lucky couples celebrating more adventurous sex lives during the pandemic. It cites reasons such as economic uncertainty, relationships being more strained by forced togetherness (highlighted by the horrific statistics of increased domestic violence during lockdown), and the postponement of elective medical procedures, including IVF. Other research from the US shows 34% of surveyed women said the pandemic was stopping them from getting pregnant or having another child, primarily due to the uncertainty of the future in terms of jobs, healthcare and childcare. 

These stories have reminded me of the growing group of environmentalists who are remaining child-free by choice*. In the UK, the Birthstrike movement demands system change and shares personal, often heartbreaking, stories from its members on how they decided to not have children in relation to the planet's ecological destruction. There is a similar movement in the US called Conceivable Future that includes video testimonials. I greatly appreciate that both these movements give people the opportunity to share their personal stories and speak their truth, even if that truth remains in the "I'm still undecided" category. Many environmental campaigners and journalists have also shared their thoughts and anxieties around the choice to have children (or not).

As someone entrenched in the environmental movement I completely relate to those who share their thoughts on the taboo subject to be child-free by choice in a world that celebrates reproduction. One of the most common reasons discussed is the morality of bringing children into a world that will be largely uninhabitable by the end of the century if radical climate action does not occur within the next decade. When Australia was experiencing the devastating bushfires this past summer, I was consumed with anxiety and sadness at the world that awaits my son, who is now just 2 1/2 years old. I don't think I will ever forget the particular evening we watched ash falling like black snow against a fire-tinged orange sky. And I hope I don't forget it, such a powerful reminder that the climate has already changed, and urgent action is required to halt its progress toward even more devastating ends.

Another common reason for choosing to be child-free is to avoid bringing another "superconsumer" into the world, particularly the industrialised nations where these movements are most vocal. I write this from the comfort of my first world home complete with WiFi, lighting, heaters, devices, furniture and so much stuff. Even as a climate activist my lifestyle has a heavy footprint, and the last time I measured it would take 1.7 Earths to sustain my lifestyle (the average Australian lifestyle uses 5.2 Earths - meaning, if everyone on the planet lived like Aussies we'd need 5.2 planet earths to sustain us). Bringing another western "superconsumer" into the world is hardly a pro-environmental act. 

And yet, despite these very valid concerns, I never considered not having a child for environmental reasons. In fact, I actively pursued reproduction. My first child was conceived via IVF after years of "unexplained infertility", multiple tests and treatments. And last year I had two surgeries to address complications from my son's birth because without doing so I would never be able to have another child. Even after the devastation and resulting fear from the summer's bushfires, I scheduled an appointment with my fertility specialist to start another round of IVF to try for Baby #2 in February of this year.

And then 2020 continued to unfold in surprising ways. 

Somewhere between the bushfires and the pandemic, and before my IVF cycle could begin, I became unexpectedly pregnant.** 

I view this surprising, joyful, twist of fate emblematic of the way I view parenthood in the time of climate change - a brazen sign, or act, of hope. Even though the familiar climate horror stories initially inspired my involvement as an activist, I have never once thought we couldn't solve the problem. Never.

This doesn't mean I think everything is solved, or that we can afford to be personally or politically complacent. But that I know collectively humans have the knowledge, willpower and tenacity to overcome the climate crisis. I know, I know, I hear your concerns...
  • There are conservative and corrupt governments to overcome.
  • There are covert corporate interests that interfere with our governments that also attempt to greenwash us with beautiful climate commitment statements.
  • We continue to emit dangerous levels of greenhouse gases, even during the pandemic.
  • There are countless issues of biodiversity loss, drought, and planetary health to address.
But, we also have:
  • A growing, powerful youth climate movement.
  • A robust Indigenous climate movement.
  • Growing awareness of the many effective grassroots environmental justice programs led by BIPOC.
  • Thousands (or is it millions?) of scientists, engineerings, social scientists, writers, and other experts and activists finding solutions all across the globe.
As a result, the culture is changing.

I've said it before, but one of the great privileges of my work is meeting with people who are actively improving the world. Often quietly, behind the scenes, no fanfare (no Instagram!), just hard work, often unpaid and voluntary. So in addition to my naturally optimistic view of the world, I am lucky to be surrounded by signs of hope (as long as I don't linger on social media or the news for too long). I don't mean to discount the feelings or fears of others who have chosen the alternate view, and of course there's a chance I could be wrong, but I genuinely feel the best is yet to come for humanity. You can feel change in the air (even amongst a global pandemic, or perhaps it's enhanced because of it).

I yearned for a family for a myriad of reasons, not at all connected to the environment (except, perhaps, wanting to share the love I have for the natural world with the next generation). But I do consider the fact that I am an active environmentalist having a second child to be an act of hopeful rebellion. I refuse to accept we have lost. I remain ever hopeful that we are pulling ourselves toward a cleaner, safer future. And now I will have one more reason to continue dedicating my life to the cause. And just maybe, if I do my parenting job correctly, I'll have the privilege of raising two humans with a generous, selfless, compassionate, collaborative, justice-oriented worldview (no pressure, kids).

xx Lisa

* Please note, I am writing specifically about people who actively choose to be child-free, and I am deeply sorry if this post triggers difficult emotions for anyone experiencing infertility or being child-free for any other reason.

**My intention here is not to provide any false hope to anyone experiencing infertility, or to offer one of those stories we're so often told to try and give us hope that miracles can happen. My heart truly goes out to anyone who has ever dealt with the emotional reality of infertility. I merely aim to tell my full story here.

Friday, 31 July 2020

fashion with heart

I'm so excited to share the news that my first academic publication is finally complete! Only 3 years since I submitted my PhD thesis, but whatever. Parenthood and a non-academic job certainly get in the way of those publications. Despite the time lag, there is nothing like finally seeing some of my very own peer-reviewed research out in the world.

Below is an abstract and a link to the full article. Note, you'll need a University library account to access, or you'll have to purchase access, I'm afraid it's not open source at this time.

Fashion with heart: Sustainable fashion entrepreneurs, emotional labour and implications for a sustainable fashion system

Recent years have seen a rise in the number of fashion entrepreneurs who practise sustainable fashion design, including the use of environmentally friendly materials and transparent supply chains. However, mainstream fashion practises remain unsustainable and the pathway to a sustainable fashion system is not yet clear. Using qualitative data gathered from in‐depth interviews with sustainable fashion entrepreneurs, this article examines the practise of sustainable fashion design to understand the industry's transition towards sustainability. Building upon social practise theory, the management of emotional labour is identified as a key element in sustainable fashion design as indicated by the pro‐social motives of the entrepreneurs, financial precarity, entrepreneurial risk and the management of ethical complexities in sustainable fashion businesses. I argue that the element of managing emotional labour limits the reproduction potential of sustainable fashion design by other practitioners, thus slowing the transition to a sustainable fashion system.

A special thanks to the amazing sustainable fashion entrepreneurs who gifted me their time during my research, and who have gifted the world with their compassion and innovation. You continue to amaze and inspire me to this day, and my work would not have been possible without you. I only hope to add a bit more to the dialogue to help this speed up this transition to a sustainable fashion system.


Thursday, 20 February 2020

fire feels

Recently I contributed to a new website, Fire Feels: Telling politicians how we feel about the 2019/2020 bushfires I heard about the site from one of the founders (and my colleague!) who led a climate grief workshop last month.

This important site was created in the wake of this summer's horrific fires as a means of communicating your grief, rage, horror and shock to our politicians. It actually originated between two friends writing to one another about how they were feeling, and then realising that our politicians - the ones who have the power to make the dramatic, systemic changes we need to decarbonise and to value nature - should hear how we feel. Instead of 'staying calm', we should tell them how we feel.

You can contribute, too, just visit the site for instructions. Importantly, if you need further support, please seek professional support - find more information here.

So without further ado, below is the letter I wrote to my MP, Zali Steggall

To Zali Steggall: I had hoped never to experience this fear and grief

I have been a climate activist and working in sustainable development for over a decade. The scenes from the bush fires have brought out fear and grief that I had been hoping never to experience – and fighting for others not to experience – for so many years. I attended a climate grief workshop to help me start to address these feelings, during which I drew the following two pictures.

One is the scene I just can’t get out of my head of standing on a fairly isolated beach in Broken Bay with my two year-old son as the sky was golden-orange and ash-flakes snowed down upon us. There were children in the water who were laughing and playing, trying to catch the ashes with a goal of catching the biggest one possible. Did they know what it was? It was a very apocalyptic scene. It was very hard to accept that it was really  happening, and we were not even in the worst of the fire zones.

CC-BY-NC-SA Lisa Heinze

The other is a representation of how I feel – sad and frozen, but also angry. I’m just waiting for that anger to thaw me out of my frozen state so I can start flowing and acting (and activisting!) again.

CC-BY-NC-SA Lisa Heinze

I know that you are committed to climate action, I voted and campaigned for you because of it. I am writing to remind you of how urgently Australia needs to take bold action. I will stand behind your climate efforts, but also push you for more brave and robust efforts for the sake of the future and younger generations.

From Lisa Heinze