This month in our eco hero interview series, we’re talking to Georgina Wilson-Powell, Founder and Editor in Chief at pebble magazine, and author.
We speak about pebble – what it is, where it’s going, we take a look at the festival she is planning for November, and her journey from luxury travel editor/journalist, to creating a life and business fitting for a more sustainable life.
Georgina also has two books out in 2021, Is It Really Green? and The Eco Conscious Travel Guide, so we dive into those.
When did you start living a more eco-conscious lifestyle? What was the catalyst for change for you?
It was a slow drip rather than a religious moment. I was flying all over the world, doing a job I’d always wanted to do, and one I’d strived to get to. Once I got there it just felt quite empty, even though on paper it was everything I’d wanted.
Flying around, travelling, staying in luxury hotels, getting paid well - I’m quite an anxious person and the guilt started to take over. I was spending a lot of time in airports and I could see how much single use plastic I was using, my food, water, starting to think ‘this is my personal footprint and its massive’.
I had been reading a lot about organic farming, permaculture, ethical fashion, ethical travel - which is really where my heart is. The two things were miles apart. It just felt so divorced from what I was actually doing. I’ve spotted trends throughout which is something I’ve done in my career, and I just kept thinking there must be others like me searching for this stuff. This was 2013, and although not long ago, it feels like longer – nobody was talking about reducing carbon, or plastic / zero waste - it felt quite lonely.
My background is magazines so the only way I could think about tackling it was to set up another magazine. I’m good at telling stories and communicating and this is where I can use my skills to change mindsets and stop over consumption and play my part. With me, and with pebble, it’s about doing what you can with the skills you’ve got, the time you’ve got, the budgets you’ve got – and that’s ok. We don’t have to all save the world alone, we don’t all have to do everything. It’s about working out what you can do and doing it.
What is pebble?
pebble is your trusted guide to sustainable living. It’s a free digital magazine. We also have a big online community and run events. pebble has really come into its own in lockdown because so many of the things we talk about, that were niche a few years ago, people are now embracing – circular economy, zero waste shops, local food systems, permaculture – all this stuff people are cottoning on to and seeing it as a way forward.
How did pebble get started?
The transition was rocky. The final catalyst was my stepdad died very suddenly in the summer of 2016, he really lived the pebble life – he lived off the land, he lived in the west of Ireland, he had all these amazing local community links – he lived the life that looking back on it we all should be doing. Because his death was so sudden it really threw me.
I had been thinking about starting pebble for ages, and this just made me go ‘sod it – you have to try these things’. So less than a month after he died, I appointed a creative agency and six months later pebble was launched. I threw myself into the project. When I launched it, I was freelancing so I juggled both for a while and eventually dialled down the freelance work.
Your ethos with pebble - ‘all about making the sustainable stylish’. Can you talk us through where that came from and why it’s important?
It’s massively important to me that we make things desirable, accessible and affordable, but also, we make people feel like they’re not giving up anything – people are never going to stop shopping and that’s fine. We need to support sustainable businesses and our local economy, no one is suggesting that we need to stop spending. But what we can do is spend better and use the money in our pocket as a real power tool.
Coming from a consumer magazine background I know the power of magazines; I know how much they influence people. So, I want to use our power and our reach to showcase the sustainable brands that are doing good and that people should be supporting, and also show people who might be on the fence – it doesn’t all mean hemp shirts, living up a mountain and no fun. We talk about alcohol, luxury eco hotels, we try and make it as fun and as accessible as possible, but also, it’s just a nicer way of living. We’re not fans of overconsumption but thoughtful, mindful consumption – there is nothing wrong with that.
What drives you in your work?
pebble is an extension of me, so seeing it grow and help people. The first hashtag we used was #pebblesmakeripples because we want to effect change. So just doing that is a win.
What do you enjoy about your work?
I love meeting people, talking to them, hearing their stories, and seeing the innovations come out from social enterprises, SMEs and research labs, and just asking the questions and then being able to tell others about it.
How do you switch off?
Yoga, cooking and I live in Margate – so swimming in the sea. Even if it’s not for long, it’s so cold and beautiful you forget everyone else.
What advice would you give to people looking to start living more sustainably?
I’ve been talking a lot lately about overwhelm and I think it’s an important point. I think if you watched David Attenborough’s documentary for example and panic – then come to pebble, but really break it down into what’s important to you.
I think there is this challenge that if you’re sustainable you have to do everything, you have to be 100% green, and that is not what it’s about. If you’re brilliantly eco one way, and not so eco in another – at least you’re doing something. I say to people if you’re feeling overwhelmed – find what you’re most passionate about and start there and see how you can make that greener. Or find what annoys you the most – it could be beach litter, single use plastic, food waste – generally when people start with one thing, it will expand to other things.
It’s a slow lifestyle change – we’re in it for the long haul.
Who do you look to for eco inspiration?
Writers actually -
Kate Raworth is amazing, she’s an economist and all about the circular economy. She has come up with a new theory on Doughnut Economics - how we should measure things differently and in terms of planetary limits instead of GDP. Amsterdam has just decided to adopt her model to build back their city post Covid.
Rob Hopkins was the founder of the transition town network years ago. He has gone on to be a really imaginative speaker. He had a book out last year ‘From What is to What If’ – all about harnessing the imagination – how can we have a better future if we can’t imagine it.
I’m also reading ‘Less is More’ by Jason Hickel, about degrowth – the idea we have growth for growths sake is going to break us.
What is the future for pebble?
We held four big events last year and BeeBee & Leaf were at three of them, each around 1000 people in London. We were set to do more this year but that has obviously all changed. So, we have decided to run one big virtual festival – Future Fest - over two days 7/8 November.
There will be four stages – a talks stage, a learn stage, the world’s first podcast stage, and an ethical marketplace. Speakers will include – Tom Hunt, Douglas McMaster, Guy Singh-Watson, and we’re hoping to have a few recorded talks too. It’s exciting. It also opens us up to more people wherever they are.
At Future Fest we’re inviting the audience to imagine what the future could look like, because until we can imagine it, we won’t make the changes.
Where do we go from here?
We need a very polite revolution. We need people at all levels to make changes, as much as we bang on about consumers making a change. We need massive government intervention, we need international treaties, we need to get on with things.
It’s terrifying seeing the US pull out of the Paris accord. Carbon emissions are still going up even though we’re at home. Structural, systematic change is what we need. I worry we don’t have the leadership around to do that.
All the little changes we can make is really important, but we also need that structural change as well.
What’s next for you?
I have two books out in 2021.
Is It Really Green is out on 7 January 2021. In it I try to tackle all the home eco dilemmas, eg - should I wash up or use my dishwasher / what difference does it make if I really recycle / should I buy a new car or second-hand car. It’s all Q&A and tries to show the difference we can make with small changes. It also highlights the areas that you might not have thought about yet. Everyone would take something from it but especially those who haven’t dived far into sustainability yet.
I was meant to spend the summer riding trains over Europe as research for my other book The Eco Conscious Travel Guide, which is out in March 2021. It looks at 30 trips across Europe, most circular, travelling by train. Content is themed so some for families, some skiing, some hiking – just trying to get people thinking moving around Europe by train and what to see in each city.
I’m planning a third book on how to run an ethical business. I hope that will be out in 2021 too.
Where you can find Georgina Wilson-Powell and pebble
Sign up to the weekly pebble newsletter– trees are planted for every subscriber and every 100thsubscriber wins their own tree
Pre order Is It Really Green?
Pre-order The Eco Conscious Travel Guide
Buy tickets for Future Fest