After a cancer diagnosis changed her perspective on life, environmentalist Lizzie Carr quit her corporate job to take a stand for our planet and rid the world of single-use plastics. Here, she chats to us about the world of work ahead of her upcoming talk at Belong.
Describe your job in 10 words or less…
I’m a paddleboarder, adventurer, environmentalist, author and founder of Plastic Patrol.
Plastic Patrol is a non-profit organisation that I set up in 2016 to eradicate single-use plastics by combining citizen science and community activism. On a daily basis, that means taking people out on paddleboarding and wellbeing type-activities completely free, and in return they pick up any rubbish that they find in the waterways, in parks or up mountains and log it in the Plastic Patrol app so that we can gather really important data about the types and amounts of waste that we’re finding all over the world.
What was your first job? What was one thing you learned from that and took forward with you in your career?
My first job out of university was a marketing assistant, and I think I learnt very early on the importance and the power of storytelling. I’ve taken that through my entire professional life — how important it is to communicate really important issues.
Plastic Patrol began as a result of me using paddle-boarding and endurance challenges as a vehicle to get people thinking about environmental issues and plastic pollution when, at the time, hard facts really weren’t cutting through and making people think. By combining adventure with this issue, it suddenly became a more powerful story that people connected with.
One of our tracks for this event is Inspiration. Where do you look for inspiration in your work, and how do you seek to inspire others with what you do?
I take my inspiration from people that are on the ground, campaigning on the front lines and really trying to make changes all across the world. I find that really motivating, because it makes me feel that I’m not on my own, and that people are talking about this issue and campaigning against environmental issues in their own way. By coming together, it’s actually really powerful.
At Belong, we’ll also be looking at the theme of Insight. What’s the most surprising skill or aspect you’ve learned about yourself or the way you work?
I quit my job to pursue something that I was passionate about, and that has really shown me how determined I am to see something through when I really care about it, as well as how important having purpose is to whatever it is that you’re applying yourself to.
We’re also going to explore the subject of Inclusion. How did you build a sense of community within what you do?
The very heart of Plastic Patrol is communities all over the world. It’s not only me going out on the ground, inviting people to come on water with me paddleboarding — we’ve got Plastic Patrol partners in all sorts of disciplines from paddleboarding to yoga to parkour. They’re inviting people in their communities, not just to learn a new activity or sport, but to connect with the environment in a really unique way.
We developed the Plastic Patrol app so that we can crowd-source data from people all over the world at any time and get a really good understanding of the information that we need. Within that, there’s communities being built all the time.
What can people expect to learn from you at Belong?
I’m talking about how you can be an activist in your everyday life and how you can apply that to your work life as well.