Nicole Rycroft, recycled-paper pusher, answers questions
With what environmental organization are you affiliated?
I’m the campaigns director for Markets Initiative.
What does your organization do?
We work to completely transform heavy paper-consuming industries in Canada (e.g., book, magazine, and newspaper sectors) — to shift them away from papers originating from ancient or endangered forests and to reduce their overall paper consumption. In the last five years, Markets Initiative has succeeded in engaging 70 percent of the Canadian book-publishing industry in a shift away from papers containing fiber from ancient and endangered forests — something everybody thought was impossible when we started. We’ve also made a promising start with the magazine sector.
What are you working on at the moment?
We’re in the middle of Harry Potter mayhem with the impending release of the French-language Canadian version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. We succeeded in our work to get both the Anglophone and Francophone Canadian versions printed on ancient-forest-friendly paper. I’m currently working with my French-language campaigner on press materials and Potteresque props for a kids’ event that we’re hosting (lightning bolt transfers, ancient-forest-friendly Quidditch sticks, glasses, etc.).
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
Trained formally as a physical therapist and having spent a number of years as an elite-level rower in Australia, I felt perfectly qualified to head up a national environmental campaign aimed at shifting corporate purchasing practices. Not! I cut my teeth volunteering in substantive ways for environmental and social-change organizations over a period of 10 years. Eventually I felt experienced enough and strategically prepared to launch my own project, and made a major career shift. I founded Markets Initiative in 1999 and have been working with it since then.
How many emails are currently in your inbox?
This is embarrassing — 4,002. I gotta work on that filing system.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
Born and bred in Sydney, Australia. Now living at the other end of the planet — part-time in Tofino and part-time in Vancouver, British Columbia, Land of the Fabulous Socialist North.
What has been the worst moment in your professional life to date?
One of the most embarrassing ones was when I dropped the phone recently in the middle of a national radio interview for the launch of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Lucky for me, it was taped, not live!
What’s been the best?
Securing a commitment from the Canadian publisher of Harry Potter to print on 100 percent post-consumer recycled (ancient-forest-friendly) paper. The first Harry Potter book printed on this paper saved more than 39,000 trees, brought an environmental message to millions of kids and Harry Potter fans around the world, garnered incredible media attention, and sparked an international movement with other publishers following Canada’s lead.
What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?
The last U.S. election.
Who is your environmental hero?
I don’t generally have heroes, but some of the people I really admire are Bob Brown (an Australian environmental activist and now Green politician) and Jane Goodall.
What’s your environmental vice?
Flying too much and eating organic food transported up to Canada from California.
What are you reading these days?
Which stereotype about environmentalists most fits you?
I’m the type of eco-freak who cycles everywhere, buys primarily secondhand clothing, eats organic and fair-trade food, doesn’t drink coffee or use take-out cups, etc.
What’s your favorite place or ecosystem?
The Blue Mountains, a World Heritage Area not far from Sydney, where sandstone canyons and eucalypt forests stretch as far as your eye can see. It’s a sea of golden cliffs and blue-green canopy with lots of noisy birds thrown in for good measure.
Favorite band when I was 8: Bay City Rollers. 18: Blondie. 38: Spearhead.
What’s your favorite TV show?
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
Take time to reconnect to your passion for the environment and communities. Volunteer and donate to groups who do good work.