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