An Interview With Georgina Wilson-Powell
- Written by Alicia Drewnicki
- January 27, 2020
- 8 min read
This week we interviewed a sustainability superstar – Georgina Wilson-Powell, who is the founder of Pebble Magazine.
Honestly Good has proudly been part of two Pebble events so far (PebbleFest and PebbleFestive) and we’re huge fans of Pebble Magazine, and all of the eco-friendly inspiration it provides us with.
Check out our interview below:
1) Hi Georgina, for people who don’t know about it, how would you sum up what Pebble Magazine is?
Pebble is about stylish, sustainable living. We take a friendly approach, like sitting down with a good mate and having a good ol’ chat about what we can do as individuals to change our consumer habits. We want to help move away from overconsumption and at the same time discover a huge range of ethical brands, social enterprises and activists who are helping to make the planet a better place. That’s why we’re all about #EverydayActivism.
2) Can you tell us a bit about your background before you started Pebble Mag, and if there was a defining moment when you decided to make it your career?
There were several! I spent six years working in Dubai where I was editing a travel magazine and then overseeing many other magazines, so I became really concerned about my own footprint in terms of flying and plastic bottles and I could see the lack of care being taken over the environment in some places but the huge conservation efforts in others. I wanted to use my media skills to share positive stories to help people make changes in their own lives.
When I was looking for more info about ethical fashion and permaculture and issues like that a few years ago I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me like a mainstream magazine did and those titles I used to write for weren’t interested in eco issues, so I thought I would launch one. After 16 years working as a print magazine editor, I’ve embraced being able to work more quickly and nimbly online with pebble.
3) How long has sustainability been something you cared deeply about, and who/what inspired you to take an eco-conscious approach in life?
I grew up in the 80s and 90s. I grew up learning about acid rain and rainforests but it never seemed like an urgent issue like it is now. We didn’t particularly think beyond the bin and neither did anyone else. However in my late 20s and 30s I became much more aware of how food was grown, the waste, the industry level pollution and deforestation which I wanted to talk more and learn more about. I also became much more interested in living more simply, off the land, in harmony with nature and that seemed very at odds with most modern, career driven lives – until a couple of years ago. I’m amazed at the scale of change since then and I’ve learnt so much about so many issues I care about from restoring heritage manufacturing to protecting our coral reefs and oyster beds.
My step father also lived a very rural life in Ireland, caring for his land, focusing on the present and being part of an extensive community and that really struck home with me. Sadly he passed away suddenly four years ago and that really was the catalyst to starting pebble, I thought, why not now.
4) For anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps, can you shine some light on the reality of how hard is it to run an online magazine, juggle work-life balance, and also make enough money to survive too?
Jeez. It is hard. I mean really, really hard. Not to put you off, but I’ve not had a life for three years. Pebble is my life and it has brought me a wonderful community, new friends, colleagues and incredible inspiring people but running any brand is hard and I think running a media brand amplifies that as people still aren’t prepared to pay for content and most brands we work with have small budgets. For any brand you need passion, a plan and a huge dose of patience.
We keep our overheads small by having a tight team, we’re location independent and all outside London now and have sacrificed many things to be able to bring pebble and our pebblefest events to people. One of my resolutions is to find more of a work life balance this year as I pushed myself far too hard last year. I do yoga, walk by the sea and do beach cleans to clear my head.
5) What are some of the important things that you do personally, in order to live sustainably?
I’ve challenged myself do a beach clean every week this year where I live in Margate.
I’ve given up dairy and have restricted meat to be non supermarket and only as a treat. We also shop more at zero waste stores and local greengrocers.
I don’t have any plastic in my bathroom and use my local zero waste shop for refills. I use reusable make up pads and bamboo cotton buds for instance.
I haven’t bought any fast fashion for over 2 years now, so I shop secondhand and also support a few ethical fashion brands when I can afford it (or need essentials).
I reduced my flying to 1 flight a year last year and will do the same this year. I use Eurostar for any European travel.
I’m trying out lots of eco alternatives when things run out – like cleaning products and reporting back through pebble.
6) What sustainability stories do you wish appeared more often in mainstream press?
I wish that more ethical brands were represented alongside the mainstream ones more without there having to be ‘green issues’ or ‘ethical articles’.
I think we need to talk more about carbon in general and how we can reduce emissions in general around non sexy things like banking, home insulation and so on.
7) Can you sum up a ‘day in the life of Georgina’? Any daily morning routines? Do you work in an office or at home? What’s a typical day like?
Oh god. Not at the moment. It used to be go to yoga and get a coffee in my KeepCup from this lovely plant shop and cafe in Margate on the way to work but I’ve given up coffee!
I try and walk along the coast before work and I’m trying really hard to not sit at my desk all day but go for a walk at lunchtime. I spend one day a week in London in meetings but otherwise I’m in Margate with my small team, mostly working through emails, writing features or on calls. It’s pretty full on as we’ve got the magazine and then lots of events planned in for 2020 so I’m doing a lot of organising at the moment.
8) Pebble Magazine covers a lot of sustainable brands. I know this is a tough question, but if you had to choose 3-5 companies who you think are making an amazing impact when it comes to sustainability, who would they be?
That’s like trying to choose a favourite child, that’s tough. I really respect any brand that has become a BCorp, which is the hardest sustainable accreditation, as that’s a lot of work and it holds you to a really high account.
I love what Mud Jeans are doing as they make ace jeans out of recycled organic cotton and then you can lease a pair to spread the cost and give them back after a year and get a new pair.
I think Oatly are having a massive impact making it easy to move away from dairy. They’ve really crossed over to the mainstream in the last year.
Dopper water bottles are fab, really well designed and have really strong branding and message – they funnel a lot of profits through a foundation to help water projects and they support students and young people who have pioneering ideas.
Change Please are an awesome coffee brand in London who train up homeless people to be baristas.
9) How hard was it to develop the trust of readers, and do you feel a huge responsibility to deeply anaylse the brands you feature on your site to check they’re ethical and sustainable?
Yes! We spend a lot of time at pebble talking about the brands we feature editorially and commercially. There’s no one check list but there are criteria to hit before we will cover you and we look into every brand to make sure they’re not greenwashing. Very occasionally we’ve been fooled but not very often. You won’t find a feature on pebble being supported by a fast fashion label or an airline, we take readers’ trust very seriously and so far our readers have been very generous in loving us back!
10) What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started Pebble Mag?
Cancel all plans for the next few years. Everything is easier with a team. In the last year we’ve grown from 1.5 to 5 people so it’s got a lot easier to cover more.
11) What are the biggest challenges with your job, and how do you overcome them?
Time and emails. We are inundated with people wanting to cover them, their product launches or new brands and we just can’t cover everyone – we only have 2 of us working on site content so I wish we could cover more but hopefully we will be able to do in time. A bigger team now helps me focus on bigger picture stuff, organising events and brand partnerships as we’ve got some being plans being cooked up.
I would love about 36 hours in a day.
12) What’s your biggest concern when it comes to the future, and the path to people creating a more sustainable and eco-friendly world?
That nothing at government or global brand level will really change. As consumers and individuals what we do and don’t do is really important but we need corporations and politicians to join the fight. And soon.
13) Which facts do you wish more people knew about sustainability?
So many. I just wish people would think more about the brands their hard earned money is supporting. There’s an assumption that being sustainable costs more and I think that mindset is often what I’d like people to change.
14) What do you think is the biggest change that people can make in their own lives to act more sustainably?
Tackle the small stuff if you can’t commit to the big stuff, there’s always something you can do. Start by reducing your single use plastic, eat more plants, fly less and stop buying stuff that won’t last. In the Western world we have to focus on consuming less and working with what we already have.
15) Do you think it’s different for businesses, or should they make the same changes?
Yes and no. Businesses have their own challenges but even committing to making business travel carbon neutral or supporting staff volunteering is a start. They can do everything we do as individuals and ultimately have a lot more power by helping to change shareholders, directors and employees’ attitudes. Smaller, independent brands are definitely pioneering this change.
Businesses that aren’t committing to being more sustainable won’t be around in the future as consumers now expect brands to match their values.
16) Which countries do you think are doing amazing things in the world of sustainability, and why?
Costa Rica and Kenya for banning single use plastics. The Pacific island nations who are on the front line of sea levels rising for sounding the alarm about real change right now. Ireland for divesting all investments out of fossil fuels and changing the direction of its economy towards being carbon neutral really quickly.
17) What is your future vision for Pebble Magazine?
We are all about sustainable living across the magazine, events and communities. We have 4 regional events (Cardiff, Nottingham, Liverpool and Sheffield) coming up this year and we’re having a website revamp this spring.
We always have so many plans, there’s never enough time to do them all. I’d like pebble to grow to 100,000 readers a month and have a sizable impact on people’s everyday habits.
18) Are there any books about sustainability that you recommend?
Actually I have one coming out in May! I can’t tell you much about it yet but it’s going to be very exciting and exactly what you need everyday.
This UnInhabitable Earth is an uncomfortable, uncompromising look at where we are.
Rob Hopkins’ From What If to What Is is the antidote, an inspiring book about the power of imagination to change the future.
19) Do you have any sustainability heroes/role models that you want to give a shout out?
Jen Gale is doing amazing things as Sustainable-Ish and has a great book out.
Ellen McArthur has really taken on the cause of the circular economy and is pushing hard for massive industries to change.
At the other end of the scale, Ella Daish is a campaigner to get rid of plastic in period products and she’s taking on the big supermarkets and manufacturers single handed.
We hope you enjoyed Georgina’s interview, and it has inspired you to learn more about living sustainably. If you’d like to get involved with Pebble, the best way is to join the pebble post newsletter.