It’s a truism that children are the future, but in the present era of ecological collapse, the pressure on the next generation to revolutionise how humans live on earth is huge. Equipping them for this task is not easy either.
However, Lesley Ottey, is not one to shy away from a challenge. Through her business, Eco Educate, every day she creates and promotes environmentally-motivated rethink behaviours in over 130 schools and preschools across the Waimakariri and Ashburton Districts in Canterbury.
Though Lesley is a waste educator, she also brings with her a strong practice of community engagement and a deep knowledge of old ways of doing things – from knitting, sewing, foraging through to gardening. She’s helped to set up community gardens, runs waste-free events, regularly appears on local radio, and for 2 years she ran a toy rescue operation where she diverted over 9000 stuffed toys from landfill.
Lesley’s become quite the public figure, and she’s a force to be reckoned with. In 2018 Eco Educate took out the Environmental Step Change Award in the North Canterbury Business Awards, and was also a finalist for the People’s Choice Award.
In this wide-ranging interview, we talk with Lesley about the work that she does. We focus on why she loves doing environmentally-oriented behaviour change with children specifically, why she is hopeful about the future when these kids take on the helm, and her approach to naysayers and litterers in the community at large. We also chat about her techniques for navigating the boundary between her public and private life, and making sure her dedication to waste minimisation doesn’t lead to burn out.