How to recruit one million women for a good cause

14 Nov 2012

This weekend, Natalie Isaacs would like you to invite your girlfriends over for a cuppa and a chat about climate change. Thousands of women have registered to share ideas about living sustainably, as part of an initiative called Recipe for Change. Their ideas will be collated into an ebook, published in time for International Women's Day in March next year.

Recipe For Change – a weekend of nationwide chit-chat about how women can be more environmentally friendly – is run by Isaacs' charity, 1 Million Women (1MW). Its mission is to recruit 1 million women to cut 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Any woman who registers commits to cutting one tonne of CO2 within a year of joining the movement, and she can track progress online.

There are currently 77, 000 women registered. While the goal is still 1 million people, Isaacs would like her next milestone to be 100,000.

"We just want for women to be able to forget all the noise about climate change, forget all the politics, and just get on with it. Get on with living better, and more sustainably. Something really powerful happens when women join forces, and I think we're growing more confident in how to harness that power," Isaacs says.

1MW started with a conversation at the kitchen table one day with co-founder Michelle Grosvenor. The idea spread to a group of women, including Anita Jacoby, Wendy McCarthy and Sam Mostyn. Women on the Northern Beaches of Sydney took interest. Isaacs' belief in the project was so strong, she sold her cosmetics company and worked on 1MW full-time.

"I worked in the cosmetics industry for 24 years, where my life was all about over-packaging and pushing products off the shelf. I had four kids, I drove a four-wheel-drive, and I just didn't think about climate change. I don't have a background in science or activism, I just had an epiphany one day and knew I had to do something," Isaacs says.

"Behaviour change is really hard, and I know that because I went through it. I got our electricity bill down by 20%, reduced our food waste by 50% and started taking the bus. I want to show other women how to do the same."

Back in 2007, Isaacs gave herself six months to establish the charity and start recruiting one million women – which was too ambitious, even for her. It took Isaacs two and a half years to start 1MW.

Now, she has some high-profile ambassadors committed to the cause: MasterChef winner Julie Goodwin, surfing royalty Layne Beachley, Terry and Bindi Irwin, Play School alumnus Noni Hazlehurst, and Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry. Country singer Melinda Schneider's song Courageous is the campaign's theme song.

1MW has even reached Ireland, where former president Mary Robinson (the first female president) praised the campaign. Robinson recorded this video message and recently spoke at a private function in Sydney for 1MW.

"Mary's support is incredible," Isaacs said. "She wants to take us global, and I believe we can do that. Her wisdom is so powerful but really, we try to stand side by side, and she stands equal to every other woman we have involved.

Kate Leaver

Kate Leaver is a journalist, columnist and radio producer.

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