Paula Miquelis, Co-Founder Of Green Is The New Black, On Making Sustainability Sexy
“My first job was in investment banking. It was the whole grey suit thing with serious amounts of money,” Paula Miquelis says, describing herself at the time as “thirsty for power”.
A year after she began climbing the corporate ladder she started to crave more impactful work, becoming desperate to escape society’s traditional ideas of success.
Unsure of what to do next, she went back to school to get a master's degree, which is where she learned about the concept of social entrepreneurship—a discovery that would shape the next decade of her career. “[It was the first time] I realised you could grow an organisation that is both financially sustainable and impactful,” says Miquelis.
After graduating she gained experience working for Gone Adventurin, a consultancy that assists multinational companies set up circular economy chains, travelling across the world from Madagascar to Papua New Guinea. “[It was] the dream job,” she says. “But it then occurred to me that sustainability is often associated with charity work and in order to make it mainstream, we’d have to make it cool and sexy so that everyone would want to be involved. That’s when I met Stephanie Dickson.”
Dickson, a fellow Gen.T honouree, and Miquelis co-founded Green Is The New Black, a lifestyle media and events platform that works to make sustainability mainstream. The startup organises Conscious Festivals across the globe to promote conscious fashion, brands and lifestyles. This year, the duo are launching their next Conscious Festival in Paris, with smaller events in both Singapore and London from 24 to 26 September.
Here, Miquelis talks to Gen.T about everything from her greatest hero to the book that changed her life.
What is your proudest career moment?
It would have to be the creation of the Conscious Festival in Hong Kong in 2019, which happened to be during my birthday weekend. It was our second ever Conscious Festival in Hong Kong, previously it was held only in Singapore. The event in Hong Kong was held at the Kerry Hotel in Hung Hom, and we took over the entire ground floor with our talks, workshops and sustainable marketplace. The atmosphere was amazing, very vibrant and inspiring and I felt so lucky to have been able to celebrate my birthday surrounded by my team, partner, friends, and other passionate environmentalists.
Who is your hero?
Sebastiao Salgado, a photographer who switched from covering war and very difficult events such as famine in Ethiopia to becoming an environmentalist, recovering hectares of jungles and forests in Brazil, which is actually where he grew up with his wife. I am constantly inspired by his life and work.
Where do you want to be in 10 years?
In the South of France in a tiny village called Roquesteron, which is near Nice, the town where I grew up. It’s in the mountains right before Italy, and it has such beautiful nature and incredible blue rivers. People drink pastis and play pétanque. It’s paradise for me.
My family actually started renovating a house there, in the middle of nowhere. It was the first time in a long time that I built something with my own two hands, and it felt amazing. So, in 10 years, I would like to be there with my friends growing our veggies and doing yoga outside with my babies.
What advice would you give to a younger you?
Dear Paula, I love you and you are loved. Entrepreneurship is the most difficult, yet rewarding journey. You are learning constantly, growing professionally, but also emotionally and personally. Failure is part of the process, just like death is part of life. One cannot go without the other, so you need to accept it and flow with it.
What book changed your life?
I would say Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, which is about the life of Gautam Buddha and is told in a very philosophical way. I often go back to this book because I get a different perspective every time I read it.
But seriously, Harry Potter definitely changed my life. I remember being 10 years old and starting to read the first book. I was the same age as the character and it gave me so much confidence and allowed me to escape from my daily frustrations. I now think that we all are witches and wizards learning to discover our magic through reconnecting with the invisible world.
Most recently I read Les Furtifs from French author and activist Alain Damasio. It's a genius book. It’s about a modern dystopian world where technology has taken over and human beings live with their AI alter-ego, brands have taken ownership of cities, people are being constantly spied on. It was fascinating.
What productivity hacks do you swear by?
Fifteen minutes of free flow movements and 30 minutes of meditation in the morning. I visualise light and white colour coming in from my third eye to the bottom of my spine. I cleanse my body by shaking whatever is stuck inside. I really couldn’t live without this.
I also have been using Asana—a web and mobile app that helps teams organise, track and manage their work—for years now and I love it.
See more Gen.T honourees from the Sustainability category of the Gen.T List 2020.