In our latest instalment of Empowering Women Series, we chatted with the lovely Charlotte Rose Mellis. Lover of the earth, co-founder of Vox Populi and incredibly successful and passionate! Read on to hear more about Charlotte and her journey in making a positive impact on our earth.
You have co-founded the amazing organisation of change ‘VOPO’’. Could you tell us a little bit about this and what inspired you to create it?
With pleasure! VOPO is a sustainable design agency, unique in the way that our diverse team empowers organisations to create value and meaning through positive social and environmental change. Our team consists of enviros, designers, strategists and creatives who thrive on inventing solutions for a thriving planet.
What do you hope to achieve through VOX POPULI?
It is our vision to drive positive ecological change through strategic enterprise. In other words, use the power of business, for good!
You headed an expedition to the Palawan region earlier in the year to deliver Modibodi products to young women and girls there - what was the inspiration behind this and why did you choose this particular area?
As an eager adventurer, I often find myself off the beaten track. This has led me to experience some of the most breathtaking landscapes and connect with incredibly remote communities. Through the variety of conservation-based projects I have been involved with, one of the most consistent challenges is ocean pollution. In developing regions, this is often a side effect from the influx of Western developed products, introduced negligently into places lacking adequate waste management systems. In addition to this, an estimated 35% of the world still lives without improved sanitation. A large portion of this population exists within South East Asia. This is a concern, not only due to the obvious health-related impacts, but the fact that on average, one of every five girls discontinues their education upon reaching puberty due to the lack of facilities and social stigma attached to menstruation. As a women, with a uterus and over a decade worth of monthly cycles, I felt that even if a dozen young girls could be empowered through access to education and sustainable, discrete feminine hygiene alternatives to traditional rags, we could start to shift to a solution that considers both society and the environment.
The Philippines, Palawan in particular, was an area I was eager to understand as it is rich with a history of flourishing ecosystems yet impacted heavily in more recent years by destructive fishing practices. It is currently in a critical time of recuperation, as new policies are introduced and locals are motivated to invest in ecotourism. Once I was introduced to the Tao Kalahi Foundation, I was confident that our values were harmonious and we together created the project.
What were the reactions of the women when they received Modibodi garments?
The women were SO grateful! I’m thankful for Rambie, Director of Tao Kalahi Foundation, who assisted with translating a short workshop I presented for the ladies and girls. It was important to us that they understood the unique Modibodi technology and were aware of how best to take care of the garments. It was also imperative that the community of ladies were onboard and that we were providing something that they actually would use!
At first, the Tao village ladies were quite shy and hesitant, but after spending a great morning together, they became excited and spoke openly about their own menstrual routine and challenges. This was really valuable for us to further understand. We all had a beautiful time together by the isolated beach at Tao Farm with plenty of laughs!
Part of Modibodis’ uniqueness is its ability to reduce landfill by eliminating the need for single use feminine hygiene products such as tampons and pads.
You wrote an interesting article on the highly aversive impact that landfill has on our planet, what other tips do you have on reducing this footprint?
One of the reasons I love Modibodi! I’ve always been an activist with my cash. We can make a huge difference as consumers, if we celebrate and support sustainable alternatives. This inspires a new standard, applying pressure to companies who are not yet taking accountability for what they produce and spit out into the world.
Yet, although conscious consumerism is a wave doing wonders, it must be noted that even as a plant-based, plastic-free environmentalist, your greatest impact is in fact determined by your Governments’ source of energy. Sadly, in Australia due to our heavy reliance on coal and non-renewable energy, our impact per person is alarming. The biggest tip is for people to keep up to date with Government agendas, policies and prioritisation. Use your voice, vote and email politicians if you don’t believe their actions reflect a future you wish to live in. Also, an easy thing to do, is register with a Super Fund that invest in sustainable business.
You are involved in so many amazing projects with a strong humanitarian and environmental focus - where did your passion for this begin and why do you feel so strongly about it?
I am incredibly lucky to have such a diverse and beautiful network of people in my life. From a family filled with compassionate, curious brains (we are more of a global village these days!), I grew up fascinated by the intertwine of nature and the human species. I think this sparked into a campfire and has since become a full-blown inferno.
Having abundant access to feminine hygiene products is something that many of us take for granted in the developed world. What do you think is the best way to spread the world and get more people behind this cause?
One of the biggest factors relating to the uptake of new or alternative products is around behavioural change. Where other sanitary products exist, so should Modibodi. Convenience is critical.
What has been your most memorable experience so far throughout all your travels?
This is way too hard! Going wild aquawoman free-diving without fins and mask, in nothing but my birthday suit in the Philippines sea.. Or living aboard a yacht, sailing and navigating our way down the Great Barrier Reef.. Orrr an earlier experience that profoundly inspired much of my life since, was traveling through the Peruvian desert, watching nothing but the blazing sunset as I embarked on a mission to Ecuador.
What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
Continue to challenge myself, inspire positive change and importantly, make time to laugh so hard that a little wee comes out (lucky there’s Modibodi).
You can follow Charlotte and her worldly adventures here [embed_popupally_pro popup_id="11"]