05 May KIA JOHNSON
Kia Johnson is an eco-warrior and media personality who blazes with a ‘burning desire’ to save our planet. She’s a multi-talented woman who wears many hats as a presenter of the well-known wildlife program 50/50 on SABC 2, the morning co-host of Tygerberg Radio 104fm, an ambassador for WWF, co-founder of Mycelium Media Colab,a proud mommy and an active environmental campaign contributor. In the following interview, she shares why and how every person can make an impact to save our precious Home.
Be warned: after reading this you might want to go 100% zero-waste YESTERDAY!
In this interview, Louw shares with us how he landed his dream job as a presenter of the iconic South African wildlife show 50/50. Furthermore, we discuss his sustainable home and carbon-free lifestyle which is inspired by a compilation of travels all over the world. This authentic way of living is a breath of fresh air and demonstrates that man and earth can truly live in harmony.
1. Where did your love and passion for the environment stem from?
I’ve loved every aspect of nature for as long as I can remember. Growing up I had dreams of becoming a Marine Biologist but my path led me to business initially and then the media industry. But this burning desire to contribute in a meaningful way to the earth remained throughout that time, so I continued creating and organising greening/eco type functions, campaigns and events wherever I found myself, and it was these very pet projects that kept me going and made me become more and more aware of my surroundings and how things were slowly becoming very challenging within the climate sector.
2. As a WWF ambassador, which environmental campaign that you’ve been involved in are you most passionate about? Why?
Well besides the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed welcoming David Attenborough to Instagram recently, one of my most favourite moments is doing beach clean ups for WWFSA.
It’s an eye opening and humbling experience to see the waste accumulation on our beaches.
When you’re literally getting your hands dirty and seeing first hand what is going on, it makes you appreciate how much we need to take care of what we have. Since doing this I have not looked at an earbud, lollipop stick, the plastic packets where our crisps goes in or rubble the same way again. I was so shocked to be picking up pieces of furniture and styrofoam amongst all of this, the list was endless and this was only surface clean. It made me wonder about what is sitting deep down in our oceans and just how bad the situation really is if we are beginning to see this on land now.
3. Being a 50/50 presenter, which stories are you experiencing to be dominantly reported on as being the biggest threat to the environment?
Waste is a huge issue and it’s the one where I’ve personally received so many emails on as well as air pollution caused by companies who are emitting way too much in certain areas. Many people are tired of having to live each day in smog and unhealthy conditions that affect their wellbeing. Some become chronically ill and struggle to breathe because of how polluted the air is. Wearing a mask in these areas has become commonplace and was happening way before Covid19 arrived. Another pertinent issue is finding more ways to generate renewable energy and trying to change the narrative of how we are currently creating it.
4. Kia, you are crowned as the ‘Most Influential Plastic Free Mzanzi Campaigner’ in 2019, well done! What type of influence has COVID19 and lockdown had on plastic pollution?
Regarding plastic, it’s really a catch 22 type scenario, on the one hand it was quieter and people weren’t out and about enough to cause much harm, but we were privy to seeing just how bad plastic waste had become during this time and we also began using things like plastic gloves and masks. Within the hospital sector plastic is important to manufacture for hospital devices and personal protective equipment. So it’s quite tricky as these are items in our medical sector that are needed to assist in the reduction of the Covid19 spread.
So the very material that is saving lives is also a polluter.
Unfortunately, the environmental footprint of plastic increased and was very visible on beaches where you would see many Covid19 plastic items laying around.
5. What can the average person do to assist in solving the plastic pollution problem?
Well having a zero plastic tolerance is the ideal situation and definitely what we should be aiming for. I’ve always been approached by people who say that they can’t eliminate plastic in their home and my answer to that is always ‘Have you tried?” If we could stop supporting industries or companies that refuse to look at alternatives to plastic, we can certainly make a huge impact. Just look at how health products are now being featured in your general supermarket aisles. This came to be because many of us want to change the way we consume our foods and are searching for healthier alternatives. And because of this trend in consumer movement the supermarkets now stock these items. So anything is possible but we have to stand together as a collective.
Single use plastics are such a big no-no.
Try and do some research to find if there is a shop or shops close to you that use recycled or environmentally friendly packaging when you are buying your groceries for example.
And if you love using make-up there are many vegan and cruelty-free brands available locally that make sure to use eco-friendly packaging as well.
6. As a mother, what three tips would you suggest for raising children to be more environmentally conscious?
- Speak to your children and educate them on the little things. Because my children are quite young I have to speak to them in a different way to make them understand. Usually keeping it simple helps a lot. So I chat about not wasting water and always closing the tap properly because the little fishes in the sea need the water to survive, and believe me they totally get that when its explained that way.
- Secondly I try and get my kids to be proactive by having them join me on the beach clean-ups.When my 5 year old son went to his first one he spoke for almost 2 weeks non-stop about the ocean and how people are so disgusting with all their mess. I had a bit of a chuckle because he was so adorable when he said it, but in all seriousness he was very upset about it.
- Then third, grow your own. I have a little vegetable and herb garden and one of my kids favourite pastimes is to get their hands dirty in the soil and help to nourish the plants or plant new ones. It gets them more connected to nature and off their devices. Their eyes just light up!
7. Please tell us more about your company Mycelium Media Colab of which you are the Co-Founder?
So I met these amazing women:
- Natalie Nolte, who’s a designer and filmmaker and aims to create change towards environmental regeneration and community upliftment,
- Jemima Spring who’s a director, writer, editor, consulting producer, a SAFTA award winner and an Emmy nominee,
- Stef Swanepoel who’s a writer and researcher and has researched African food systems for the African Centre for Biodiversity and is also the Director of The Beach Co-Op, an organisation that focuses on eliminating single-use plastics,
- Lara Taylor who’s a producer, director, videographer and editor, she’s been making films within the corporate and NPO sector for over 20 years and
- Jacqueline van Meygaarden who’s a documentary filmmaker and visual theatre-maker who also got the top prize in the Commonwealth Vision Awards.
With our experience, background and ultimate passion for the environment we decided to open up a collaborative enterprise with a common interest in sustainability and regeneration and we generate awareness of this via various media platforms by using storytelling to inspire a movement towards a healthier world.
8. At Sapmok we are constantly striving to be better and do better for the environment, but there’s always room from improvement. What do you suggest can we do as a brand to assist in the most concerning environmental challenges that you deal with through your campaigns?
The good news is, you are an actual brand that cares for the environment and that’s the first step. You are proactive by using ethical leather from tanneries for your items which is amazing. When it comes to clothing, bags, accessories and shoes (or any item you are selling) it’s so important to really know where your products are coming from. Perhaps even looking at ways in which you could upcycle more materials to your consumer, even if it means slightly branching out from the original concept of how you began. I’ve come across many companies who have changed to a different material such as plastic for example and are using that as a base to create/design their items.