What a year…
It is the end of the year and the decade. In amongst the craziness that is a social enterprise, we’re taking a moment to reflect.
Every year is a crazy one when you’re a business with a social purpose. We have the strategic and operational needs of a business and the support needs of a charity. 2019 certainly delivered its share of highs and lows.
It started off really badly, with a fox in our hen house on New Year’s Day and new regulations for music festivals putting our zero waste work (and therefore the whole of Green Connect) at risk in February.
As the year went on, the foxes stayed away, most of the music festivals went ahead, the farm ran its first tours and workshops, we took on an op shop, labour hire bookings grew enormously, and lots of new businesses contracted our zero waste team to decrease their waste to landfill.
The young people and former refugees we employ have thrived, and we have had so many wins – two of our refugee staff buying their first house, several staff getting their first long-term jobs, and many calls from parents and teachers about the difference work experience at the farm is making in the lives of young people.
As 2019 comes to a close, our biggest festival has sadly been cancelled due to bushfires, meaning a lot of work that our staff were looking forward to has dried up, but we will still see you at New Years Eve in Wollongong and a slew of events in early 2020. Our veg boxes will be up and running, and our op shop open, from 2 January. There is work to be done!
What a decade…
What about the last decade? Well, Green Connect was born on 1 January 2011, and has grown from an idea to a $1.7m social enterprise that last year employed 122 young people and former refugees, kept 119 tonnes of waste out of landfill, and grew and distributed 35,000 kg of fair food.
I like to think of us as the little engine that could. Tiny, but impactful and growing. We’re showing that you can employ people who most need the job and still run a business. You can grow healthy, chemical-free food and sell it in the local community. You can run a clean, green music festival and still have fun. You can turn your school or business waste systems into ones that prioritise compost and recycling. You can keep great items out of landfill and run an op shop with low prices so the whole community benefits. You can pay staff Award wages and support them to succeed and be the best labour hire offering in the region.
In the last decade, the impacts of climate change have become starkly clear. Calls to action have been made from scientists and communities around the globe. And the need for a different way of living, working and doing business is urgent.
As the bushfires raging in NSW blanketed Sydney in smoke, we attended an End of the Decade event at Digital Storytellers this month. One of their staff members, in summing up the 2010’s and looking forward to the 2020’s, said:
“It’s crunch time. What we do in the next decade will decide whether we get another one.”
That hit home for us. The thought is terrifying though and it’s easy to be overcome by environmental anxiety, especially when you look at the climate science, the projections, and the lack of action, particularly in Australia where we were recently ranked last of 57 countries on climate change and the Morrison government was noted as having taken both the nation and the globe backwards.
But here at Green Connect we still have hope. We can all do something.
At this year’s Green Globe awards, Anne from Taronga Conservation Society said something like (to loosely quote her):
“People often ask me if I’m a pessimist or an optimist. I would say this… if you look at the data and don’t feel pessimistic about the future, you’re not paying attention. But if you look at the people and projects happening around the world to combat climate change and don’t feel optimistic, you don’t have a heart.”
Or, as one of our favourite illustrators depicts:
Where to next?
We’re definitely in the “hopeful” bucket. For nine years we have been creating jobs, reducing waste, growing food and building a community that values people and the planet.
Looking to next year and the next decade, there is lots to be done. Real climate action needs to be taken. And that takes so many forms. Whether it’s changing your personal consumption to reduce waste, plastic, red meat, pesticides and fossil fuels, changing your business practices to join the circular economy, growing food, employing someone on fair wages, planting trees, connecting with people and nature, or cultivating kindness, we can all do something. Find your something.
Or use this as your cheat sheet:
Happy green new year, everyone!