Climate action tends to have a domino effect; we only have to see others taking steps to become greener to start reducing our own carbon footprint and, as a result, inspire those around us to do the same. A small ripple can become a tidal wave of positive action, and European Climate Pact Ambassador Anna Desogus, from Poland, is a testament to this.
My world: changing tune via a leap of faith
Anna began her career by pursuing a childhood dream: working in London as a manager for classical musicians. However, after a decade working in the industry, Anna decided to change her career to address some of the climate-related challenges she had witnessed in her role and make a difference to the environment. “That kind of lifestyle means you’re flying non-stop,” she says.
In addition to her love for music, a childhood often spent in the countryside meant that Anna also had a curiosity about the natural world and the environment around us. But when she moved back to Poland from London in 2018, she noticed that little attention was devoted to recycling and zero-waste initiatives. “Rubbish was always a mess outside my house and people weren’t separating it,” she explains. “I wanted to understand why waste separation wasn’t working in Poland.”
The solution, Anna decided, was to shine a spotlight on the importance of waste reduction, while promoting reusing, repairing and recycling products, otherwise known as the ‘circular economy’. So, in 2019, she established her company, Circular Together, to provide training and expertise on how everyone can reduce the waste they generate. “Achieving a climate-neutral and fully circular economy requires everyone – both industry and consumers – to work towards the same end goal,” she stresses. “We all have to learn how to make climate-conscious choices.”
My action: transitioning from the influenced to the influencer
2020 was a turning point in Anna’s journey. She joined a training programme run by the prestigious Ellen MacArthur Foundation, one of the leading global charities that aims to educate future leaders of the circular economy. Just like Anna, Ellen MacArthur also undertook a dramatic career change: from a highly successful long-distance yachtswoman – at one point holding the record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe – to a pioneer in the field of sustainability and an advocate for the circular economy, working with governments and institutions around the world.
The training helped Anna develop original workshops for people, schools, businesses and organisations in Poland, as well as deliver sessions created by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, for example on upstream innovation for plastic packaging. Instead of finding ways to recycle used plastic, upstream innovation looks at how we can reduce the amount of plastic we generate in the first place. In 2021, Anna began working with Packoorang, a Norwegian government-backed startup that aims to radically reduce the amount of single-use plastic and cardboard used to ship goods, replacing it with a reusable bag made of recycled plastic bottles. The bag can be shipped up to 100 times, and after each shipment consumers can return it to a local collection centre.
In 2019, Europe alone saw 59 billion units of single-use postal packaging pass through its letterboxes – weighing nearly 3 million tons, roughly the same as 16,500 Boeing 747 planes. “Switching to reusable solutions in the transportation of goods will have a huge environmental impact: it’s one of the fields where we can act right away,” Anna remarks. Packoorang estimates that its reusable bag reduces the amount of waste by over 99% compared to single-use cardboard packaging, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 87.4%.
And it is having an impact; although Anna has only been representing the brand in Poland for a short time, a large warehouse facility in the south of the country is already trialling the solution and other businesses are looking to follow suit.
Our planet: multiplying the momentum
Anna’s passion for the planet is contagious and the impact of her actions quickly began to snowball. She soon saw that she needed help in scaling her training sessions to reach an even wider audience. As a result, she became a facilitator for Climate Fresk, an organisation that aims to raise the awareness of climate science by offering 3-hour workshops which feature an interactive card game: “It’s great because it’s both for beginners and people with more advanced knowledge. It helps people connect the dots and then, when they see the news about a wildfire or one of the economic impacts of climate change, they understand how it fits into the bigger picture.” Since June 2022, Anna has also been a trainer for other Climate Fresk facilitators, enabling more people to deliver the workshops.
Today, Anna believes that she has reached over 3,000 people through over 100 workshops and even more through other events, such as a TEDx talk at a Climate Pact event in Warsaw. This, believes Anna, is how the message spreads. “This multiplier effect is definitely something I want to encourage,” she says. But true impact can only be achieved if messages are simple and accessible to everyone: “Getting this basic understanding is necessary to make people want to act – in their households, businesses, local communities or cities”.
Despite Anna’s success in inspiring others to take climate action, as an individual consultant working alone, she found it challenging to keep abreast of climate news. “I needed access to the most up-to-date knowledge in the fields of the circular economy, environmental degradation and climate change,” she explains. As a result, in November 2021, Anna became an Ambassador of the European Climate Pact. Spearheaded by the European Commission, the Climate Pact is a network composed of businesses, organisations, regions and cities, as well as individual citizens, united by climate action. By joining the Climate Pact, Anna gained access to diverse and well-connected experts, all with their finger on the pulse of the latest European climate news and developments. This enabled Anna to learn about pan-European initiatives so that she, in turn, could spread the news in Poland. “European Climate Pact Ambassadors help to bring these important issues to local communities. And for someone like me, who works alone or in a small team rather than in a big structure, it is great to be part of an international community, where you can exchange ideas and advice,” she says. For Anna, being part of the European Climate Pact is the fuel to keep taking a stand against climate change: “Even if you are fully involved in the climate fight, you still need motivation, ideas and the energy of others to support you.”