I recently spent time in Japan, at NELIS's global summit, followed by a retreat to work together. Personally, I went into it after the fun and productive edgeryders retreat in Turkey, and was more open than ever to a new experience. It is such a luxury: new people and projects, taking stock of where I am, personally and professionally, of what I know or more importantly, what I don’t know. I am so grateful.
Here's what some people in the network are doing, and what we've been gifted with. Let me know if you would like to connect with some, I’m happy to liaise.
An eating kit we each got for the purpose of stopping use of disposable cutlery and napkins. It includes the usual fork, knife, spoon, chopsticks, a straw and textile towel. Handmade in Brazil, by Mariana Camardelli & mom (?) <3
Vegan shoes from Pozu
from natural rubber, organic cotton, and coconut fibre. By Safia Minney, author of Slow Fashion and featured in The True Cost
(great documentary, recommended!)
My friend and natural cosmetics artist, Puja Thiel, is living plastic and waste free more than anyone I know. From left : toothpaste, bamboo toothbrush, oil for face moisturizer, deodorant, shampoo bar, body butter, and eyeliner. NB toothbrush only an add-on in the picture, not hers and not fully plastic free. They're still researching that..
More photos in my album here. Other people are doing:
- Recycled paper pens with complimentary seeds, made by Matthew Jose and his Paperman in India.
Springboard, an organic farming network in Nigeria, which grows at an incredible speed, training farmers and establishing new product distribution chains locally! Created by the lovely Lawrence Afere.
Yes to Life, No to Mining global platform co-founded by Mariana Gomez Soto, a longtime community facilitator in Cajamarca (Colombia) and activist
- Leverage of banana paper production from Zambia to establish new manufactured products and supply chains in India (made of banana stems high quality fiber), through livelihood creation. Shravan is involved in this mega interesting project.
Peace and Permaculture Dojo, a retreat and community space in rural Japan, built by those living there on two acres of land with a ten year lease. Kai lives in the paddie rice fields! Not being able to visit this community is the only thing I regret from this trip.
…. Like them, many more! I would be happy to volunteer a couple hours a week into any of these projects, if they will have me.
This is a group where everyone welcomes new people with arms open and so warmly, that they/ we forget to be new. I liked that there was no distinction between newcomers and old timers, some cosmetic match making to make those of us who were new become more at ease. It came naturally, leaving room for new dynamics. I believe that to be healthy for any group. I had access to conversations that may or may not be of direct relevance to me, but if anything, time is what we had during the week to debate intellectually, but also to chat away
I have to brag about new friends. Puja is going to teach me to make natural soap and toothpaste, and Shravan will host us in Chennai, south of India, in one of his gazillion projects. We only need an excuse to work together.
That kind of leadership.
We had with us a leadership coach, the lovely Wouter from Transformation First, who said something that I particularly cherish. We grow into leadership roles through repeated practice:
“Your authentic self may have parts that you don’t know, which come to you from the outside in.”
I noticed that some NELIS members have a cultivated inner orientation which guides their work. It’s hard to put in words, but for a group so far spread out, these set the atmosphere. I haven’t seen one instance of mind games, ego bursts or (even silently) leading from the top, which is my least favorite style. Leadership and sustainability here means doing good work, while remaining very connected to the essence of being human. I suspect that not at all coincidentally, NELIS’s birth in Japan takes from its oldest (non-dogmatic) religion, Shinto: communion with nature and sincere hearts. Peter David @PDP, one of the founders of the network whose leadership style I cherish very much, manages to infuse this attitude from the initial group, and it carries through: “We need to make it sustainable for ourselves, otherwise we will burn out”. Thanks for that.
Finally, the connection to nature. The walkshop with Adam Fulford at the Meiji Shrine and the “eternal forest that recreates itself” with no man’s effort was extraordinary. The other forest we walked in, near Karuizawa, I suspect could well be one of those healing Japanese forests.
Neither NELIS, and surely not Japan, are something to figure out in haste. Time has a precious role here, and I look forward to see where this goes and return to Japan.
P.S. special thanks to Jovin @hkjovin: I owe you one. Happy that you thought of me for this.
My first, more pragmatic post about my immersion in the NELIS network of sustainability leaders - here.