Julia Taylor is one of those women you can’t help but be jealous of, a kind of South African Gwyneth Paltrow. Not only is she beautiful and smart and irritatingly nice, but she has dedicated her life to making a difference in this country- one tree at a time.
At the beginning of this year, Julia moved to Livingstone in Zambia to work for Greepop; a reforestation and eco-awareness initiative that aims to inspire awareness about environmental sustainability and alternative energy sources.
Zambia suffers from one of the worst cases of deforestation in the world and in the last twenty years, the country has lost over 3 million hectares of forest because of the huge demand for fuel that leaves many forests bare.
Deforestation threatens environmental stability and contributes to climate change. A major cause of deforestation is the need for cooking fuel and trees are being cut down at a rapid rate for charcoal and firewood.
Julia spends her days running eco-clubs in schools throughout Livingstone where she teaches school-children about the importance of sustainable living and eco-friendly farming practices.
She also volunteers at a women's group called Solar Venture that is working to make solar cooking a viable alternative to cooking with charcoal.
Wome24 spoke to Julia to find out a bit more about the work that she’s doing and how we can do our bit to leave the world a happier, greener place for our children.
So, what exactly is it that you do?
“I am currently working in Zambia with one of our Greenpop Zambia directors, Benjamin Mibenge (Uncle Ben). I have been monitoring all the trees we planted last year in schools and farming cooperatives.
We also help out at schools with a project to make solar cookers which the kids have been really enthusiastic about it!”
“I am also working with a women's group called Solar Venture to research whether solar cooking is a viable alternative to cooking with charcoal. The results of our research have been promising as we have been able to cook Nshima (pap) for 8 people in just 1,5 hours when it takes 1 hour with charcoal.”
How did you get into this kind of work?
“Growing up in South Africa I have come to love the country with a passion! But when I started studying, I was exposed to the incredible inequality present in our country and felt helpless sitting in economics lectures where the models we discussed couldn’t explain the kind of income inequality I saw all around me.
“I saw a Greenpop advert which said "Join the Treevolution" and I thought it sounded like fun so I joined up and started volunteering through planting trees in schools in the Cape Flats - and soon realised it was about so much more than just fun.
“I was doing something to bridge the social divide between the tree-lined streets of Constantia and Newlands and the barren Cape Flats - I finally felt like I was doing something important.”
What keeps you motivated?
“Trees are so vital, not only for a healthy eco-system but they also create pride of place and I have been so lucky to have experienced so many awesome moments since working for Greenpop.
“I think one of the best was when I was speaking to a women's group about the importance of solar cooking in order to decrease deforestation and they interrupted me and started telling ME how important it was.
“I am also so thankful for the amazing people I work with, especially my colleague; Uncle Ben, who is a wise old tree-man and has taught me so much!”
What small things can the public do to help make a difference?
“I think we need to keep in mind that the biggest problems in society are inequality and disregard for the environment. We need to think about ways we can change that.
Maybe plant a tree or two...or three...
To find out more about Greenpop and how you can get involved check out the Greenpop website
Check out their YouTube channel and watch one of their video's here: