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Porter
Culture

The women championing sustainability in food, travel and art

In celebration of Earth Day, PORTER’s KATIE BERRINGTON speaks to three women leading an eco-charge across their respective industries

Lifestyle

Juliet Kinsman, founder of luxury eco-travel brand Bouteco

What inspired your passion for sustainability in your work?

It was how I was brought up. My mother grew up in Holland, where people are naturally programmed to live a more sustainable life, and when she died, I lived with my grandparents. They were mindful of not wasting a single thing, ever. My granny would save every scrap of food and wash out every plastic bag to reuse, saying “Well, where will it end up otherwise?”

What sustainable practices are you most proud of promoting through Bouteco?

I have loved working with hotels to help travel brands decide what they’re going to stand for, and how to stand out for it. It’s important to consider a hotel’s behind-the-scenes practices and supply chain as much as the other elements we get to enjoy as guests.

The Fogo Island Inn hotel in Newfoundland is one of the hotels that Bouteco works with, due to its strong eco-credentials

How is the travel industry benefiting from a rising commitment to sustainability?

Sustainability is about being more efficient. It might feel more costly in the short term for hosts to have to invest in certain systems or equipment, but if you streamline your energy use and practices, it can be seriously cost-saving in the long run.

What has shocked you most in terms of the environmental impact of travel?

Last year, everyone finally started talking about carbon emissions — with fingers most wagged at air travel, since it is (or at least was, before the Covid-19 pandemic) the biggest contributor to our individual footprints. But what hasn’t been discussed enough is our carbon food-prints. Emissions from food waste comprise eight percent of the global total, whereas aviation accounted for around two percent, so we should be thinking more about that thing we do every day, at home and on vacation – eating and drinking.

Where do you hope to see the travel industry in 10 years and what part would you like to play?

I’m hopeful when I see how the Slow Food movement has re-ignited our appreciation of age-old wisdom and the pleasure of simple, quality cooking. I hope we can get our heads around those same virtues when it comes to travel. I hope people buy less but buy better; thinking about how their vacations can be a force for good and help with global wealth distribution.

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It’s important to consider a hotel’s behind-the-scenes practices as much as the other elements that we get to enjoy as guests

Skye Gyngell, chef and food author

Where does your passion for using eco-practices in food stem from? What are you most proud of introducing through your work?

I’ve always been driven by taste and flavor – I discovered years ago that the food that was most delicious in flavor and beautiful to behold was made using produce grown in clean, nutrient-dense soil close to home, and eaten in the season it is meant to be eaten in.

Fundamentally, I am most proud of establishing a business model where Spring (Gyngell’s London restaurant) sustains and supports Fern Verrow (a 16-hectare biodynamic farm in the Black Mountains of Herefordshire). We are part of a positive solution to our deeply flawed food system.

What has particularly shocked you about the environmental impact of the food industry?

Essentially, we have a broken food system that is very big business. The most important question we need to ask as consumers is, “Where does my food come from?” Although a largely plant-based diet is the way we should all be eating, well-raised small-herd meat farms actually absorb and remove C02 from the planet, whereas large-scale GM vegetable and fruit crops emit vast amounts of C02 into the atmosphere. The issue is very nuanced.

Where do you hope to see your industry in 10 years?

I hope to see more people in our industry working directly with small farms, addressing food waste, and removing the use of plastic. Everybody has the power to change things – we often talk about the ‘power of one’. We can all vote with our feet and our pockets.

I hope to see more people working directly with small farms, addressing food waste, and removing the use of plastic

Courtney Mattison, ceramic sculptor

Where did your passion for conservation of coral reefs come from?

Coral reefs have captivated my imagination for as long as I can remember. Both sculpture and the ocean fascinated me from an early age, so it felt natural to study marine biology and ceramics as a student. My work began to evolve from anatomical studies into more large-scale, representative work when I visited the Great Barrier Reef in 2007.

During my time in Australia – before the catastrophic coral-bleaching events that have made headlines in recent years – it broke my heart to learn about the predicted effects of climate change on the marine environment.

How are you marking Earth Day this year?

Images of my series Our Changing Seas IV were selected by the United Nations Postal Administration for its new series of postage stamps celebrating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, alongside five other artists. [My images] depict a rapid transition between vibrant, healthy coral reef organisms and ghostly white, bleached corals, to highlight the impacts of climate change.

Mattison’s Our Changing Seas IV sculpture, created using glazed stoneware and porcelain

How would you describe the relationship between art and the environment?

I believe that art impacts our emotions and can move us to value the blue planet we live on in ways that scientific data often cannot. We protect what we care about and we care about what we know and understand: art can bring the beauty and peril of threatened ecosystems into view.

Increasingly, art is going beyond ‘art for art’s sake’ and connecting us to the natural world in ways that can inspire us to change our lifestyle choices. I also expect it to reflect our growing sense of interconnectedness to each other and to nature following the Covid-19 pandemic. I hope we can move forward as a global community with respect for the fragility and value of life on Earth.

What major changes do you hope to see in the next 10 years?

Renowned marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle says: “The next 10 years will be the most important in the next 10,000 years in terms of shaping a future where humans can have a hope for an enduring place within the natural systems that keep us alive.” We have lost half the world’s reefs in the past 30 years. My goal is to inspire greater public and political awareness about the impacts of climate change on these delicate ecosystems. Action starts with awareness and hope, and people need to know: Earth will heal itself, if we let it.

We protect what we care about and art can bring the beauty and peril of threatened ecosystems into view

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The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown