A diverse group of women from around the region came together at the Tattersalls Hotel on Thursday, April 22 for The Exchange, a HealthWISE initiative focused on the meeting of minds and sharing of ideas. In keeping with Earth Day, the theme was sustainability.
“We do know that our actions have an ongoing impact,” HealthWISE chief executive and panel host Fiona Strang said. “The house we live in, the breakfast we eat, the clothes we choose to wear, the mode of transport we take to work, the organisation we work for… the split second decision to dispose of an item in a waste bin or a recycling bin – at almost every moment of the day, the choices we are making are all influencing future physical, environmental or financial sustainability.”
Amongst the group, there was a sense of hope that sustainable practices are being more widely incorporated. The guests spoke about the impetus to change ‘just one thing’ to drive sustainability from an individual level.
The panel included UNE lecturer and yoga teacher Dr Sue Watt, HealthWISE primary care dietitian Dr Amy Ashman and Tanya Bagster, partner at Roberts & Morrow, Tamworth. President of Manilla Community Renewable Energy (MCRE), Emma Stilts, shared her story through a video recording.
The panel explored the idea of sustainability thoroughly, discussing a range of environmental initiatives they fought for, as well as ways they worked to sustain themselves and their businesses.
Emma spoke about her passion for community owned renewable energy projects, one of which begins construction in Manilla this year. “My motivation originates from feelings of distress, frustration, anger and dismay about new and dangerous coal and coal seam gas projects being proposed in the north west of NSW,” she said.
“In the 21st century, we have safer, cleaner and cheaper alternatives that we should be embracing.” Emma was eager to show others that we can make positive, long term changes.
Amy recalled the moment she became inspired to act on climate change, reading an article about declining insect numbers while nursing her infant son. “There was something about this particular article, reading it on this particular day with my child in my arms, that struck a chord.”
Amy is now an active member of the HealthWISE Sustainable Working Group, which has implemented several policy changes designed to reduce the organisation’s carbon footprint, such as favouring electronic records over paper and new recycling systems in each office. She encouraged attendees to consider eating more plant-based foods for both personal and planetary health.
Tanya encouraged the room to invest in themselves. “Be it finances or career, think of yourselves as an asset,” she said. She advised women to get educated and seek advice on financial matters in order to safeguard their future. “Wherever you can, always try and support your fellow female colleagues.”
Sue discussed how she finds the energy to work full time and run a micro business. She spoke about setting aside time to simply stop, clear your mind and take five minutes for yourself. “You’ll feel like you’ve had a holiday,” she said.
“It’s important to sustain ourselves – body, mind and spirit.”