Amelia Twine tells us about her varied career journey, working in many different areas of sustainability, from food to fashion..”I really enjoyed hosting the Catalyse Change Meet Up. Together, we sat around a table in a cosy – albeit a little chilly – yurt in the centre of Bristol to talk about sustainable food and potential career paths. I loved having an opportunity to talk about my career journey to date – this is a little flavour of what I shared with the group.”

Tell us a bit about your background and reasons for your interest in sustainability
Having grown up on organic farms, an innate sense of our place in nature was impossible to escape. We would help weed carrots and milk the Ayrshires alongside a group of adults passionate about organic as a philosophy and not simply a lifestyle choice.

I carried that respect for nature, and a desire to protect it, through my teens and on into my adult life. I floundered somewhat in finding the right path, knowing I either wanted to work to empower women, or in sustainability in some form. I felt passionate about sustainable food systems, sustainable fashion and protecting rainforest ecosystems. My plan for myself when I was young was that I would work indefinitely with charities or NGOs. I had no sense of the path my career would take in reality …

What different jobs has your career involved so far?
Battling to get my life jump-started in the middle of the 2008 recession meant I ended up piecing together the beginnings of my career like some strange puzzle. Voluntary short-term positions at Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Foundation, Global Action Plan sat alongside doing a mini stint of research for Lucy Siegle’s Observer column and working briefly for the Soil Association. And then… I found myself working as a PA for the widow of a press baron.

This role was well paid and, in some respects, interesting. I met royalty and wrote letters to politicians – but ultimately I felt that I was working in direct conflict with my core values… So I took a £11k pay cut and went to work for the RSPB.

This led to me joining forces with Luke, Nick and Josh to form Eat Drink Bristol Fashion in 2012. We created a large-scale pop-up restaurant in the centre of Bristol – with the aim of showcasing the Bristol food scene and an emphasis on supporting the wealth of local suppliers in the area. The event was a great success and went on to run for four consecutive years, developing a clear sustainability message. I organised and hosted two Sustainable Food Summits, aiming to engage with key figures from all aspects of the local food scene to see how we could make hospitality more sustainable.

How did you end up running two organic restaurants?
Off the back of the events we created the Yurt Lush café and, in time, both Chicken Shed and Root restaurant concepts. What had started as an events company had evolved into a restaurant group and I unexpectedly found myself managing a business. In addition, I was invited to join the board of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and I’ve also spent three years supporting their aim of changing the face of hospitality.

Operating as a sustainable restaurant or café is challenging, but has the power to drive change in favour of greener and fairer dining habits among consumers – not simply when they’re eating out but at home too. It was an interesting journey. Bristol is an amazing hub of innovative thinking around food systems and there is so much opportunity here for inspiring change in the industry through the commitment of so many green-thinking restaurants

What is your current job and why did you make such a big career shift?
As time moves on, we all find it’s time for a change and life goes through phases which we don’t foresee or expect. I’ve now moved away from managing our restaurants to launch my own sustainable fashion e-commerce business – Give Wear Love. This takes me out of my comfort zone and into an industry I know little about – but so many of the issues facing fashion run in parallel to those in food. Degradation of the land and soil, exploitation of producers and animals, significant contribution to atmospheric carbon levels… to speak in very broad terms. It’s an industry which needs significant and immediate review and change.

What advice would you give a young woman who wants to work in sustainability?
Based on the many, varied work experiences that I’ve had – and in aspiring to always work in a way that actively does GOOD or supports the good work of others – the advice I would give to young women starting their career journey is:

  • Have confidence. Stand tall and don’t underestimate the value of your integrity.
  • Work with people who truly share your sustainability agenda. Don’t work with green washers! Don’t work with people whose values are not in alignment with yours.
  • Be honest about your journey – honesty breeds trust.
  • If you are working in a sustainable business – build yourself a plan for sustainable improvement and be realistic about which steps you can take now and which will have to wait. Trying to be perfect everywhere will only make you feel like you are failing or not sticking to what your claim.
  • Remind yourself that you can only freely give to the world what you can freely give – don’t burn yourself out by giving more than your realistic capacity.
  • Take a risk on an unexpected career route – you never know where it might lead or what skills (or wisdom!) it might bring to you.

I’m thrilled to have joined the Catalyse Change Advisory Board and to have a unique opportunity to work with a group of women with such strong values and add another voice to their call to action for young women.

Do take a look at Amelia’s new business Give Wear Love and tell your friends!  Amelia will be running a social action project around sustainable fashion at this years Catalyst Bootcamp.