#3: Creating the World You Want to Live In with Dorinda Phillips

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Meet behavioural change expert DORINDA PHILLIPS who is passionate about helping people live the life they want to lead and creating the world they want to live in. Dorinda has a passion for protecting our planet, and special expertise in teaching people the things they can do that will enable them to make a positive impact. Dorinda reveals how small changes in the way we live can have a big impact on our environment, and our survival as human race – both of which are inextricably linked.


The biggest threat to humanity
Just 1 thing – what can I do?
We owe it to the children


Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson
The Future We Choose – Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac
Questions and Answers About Plastics by Katie Daynes


Demain – Directed by Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent.
Demain Geneve produced by www.demain-geneve.org


‘I believe in learning, and because I do it made this whole journey possible for me. I believe in choice and that we all have one, in everything we do, think and feel, and I believe in change. I believe, if we don’t like something, we can change it, or at least our attitude towards it. In my mind, it’s all a question of learning. I believe we can, all of us, learn virtually anything we want, any new skill, new habit, new mindset, new belief, new confidence, new courage, new anything. We just have to want to, believe we can and go find the people who can help us do it.’
~ Dorinda Phillips


Read Full Transcript


If you care about your health and the health of our extraordinary yet vulnerable planet, this podcast is for you!

I’m here with Dorinda Phillips, a behavioural change expert, and we are picking up where we left off in episode 2, and changing our focus from ‘Living the live we want to lead’ to ‘Changing the world we want to live in’.

Tania Cotton
Your quest, in your quest to demonstrate how we can change behaviours – and this is very much part of the ‘meaning’ part of the ‘beauty’, ‘joy’ and ‘meaning’ – you agreed to help ZeroWaste Switzerland in their mission, which I believe has now become your mission. Talk to us about this extraordinary journey you’ve been on, Dorinda.

Dorinda Phillips
I think for me, as I said, even in the time when I was travelling around and I was figuring out what I [wanted to do in 1:03:51] my life, I was still reading a lot. One of the things that I realised is the world is facing some really big challenges, and one of those biggest challenges is climate change, and our overconsumption of the world’s national resources, and many, many other things that we now know: plastic pollution and all of these things.

I was literally, probably, going through a journey that many people go through, is the first time you read about it in any type of depth, you end up feeling somewhat depressed, thinking, but then thinking, “What can I do about it? I want to do something. What can I do as just one person?” because I would look at this and say, “I think it’s personally the single biggest challenge or threat facing humanity at this point,” and I really do believe we’re talking about the survival of humanity, moving forward.

I actually was very lucky to, after a couple of years of agonising, “What can I do? I don’t know what I can do,” I read a book called ‘Zero Waste Home’ by Bea Johnson, who is a French lady who lives in California. She tells the story of how she and her family went from creating multiple bags of waste, of trash per week, down to one small jar a year. I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh. Oh, wow, there is something I can do,” because if I can look at, “How do I reduce the amount of natural resources I’m consuming? How do I reduce the amount of packaging I’m consuming? How do I…? The amount of carbon emissions if I’m buying more locally,” etc. etc., then actually there is something I can do. So, I was totally inspired because I [felt 1:05:25], “She’s shown me there is something that’s possible. I can do something.”

I had a go, but, to be honest, I didn’t get that far, because of the time. It wasn’t very clear: “Where are the shops in Geneva? Where can I find these things? How do I do it?” So, I changed a few habits, but I didn’t get as far as I would have wanted. But I kept talking about it to friends, and at some point somebody said to me, “I just read an article in the Geneva newspaper of someone who’s done it.” I went, “Oh, really?” So, when I went and read that article, it mentioned the association ZeroWaste Switzerland.

ZeroWaste Switzerland had just been formed by these two ladies about a year ago, and I remember thinking, “Okay, I love what they’re trying to do. I want to get in touch,” so I sent them an email and said, ‘Hey, love what you’re doing. Is there any way I can help, because my background is in learning and training, and how do you design training in a way that actually really works and it does change people’s behaviours? So, can I help?’

So, I went to see them and at the beginning I said, “Do you know what? I’m just going to create you a couple of workshops,” because I think I looked back to what I needed. I needed someone to just tell me, literally: “These are all the things you can do, and here is where you find the shops. Here’s where you find the sites.” I thought, “If we can get people in the room, it’ll just be incredibly motivating for them to realise there are lots of other people who want to do this,” and so I created a series of three workshops.

The first one is all about food, and drink, and how you can avoid packaging, reduce waste in those areas. The second is all about beauty, hygiene, cleaning cloths, and how you can do it in those areas. The third takes the more broader definition of waste and goes into energy, and transport, and work, and holidays, and celebrations, etc. So, we tried to cover all areas of people’s life and show people: what can you concretely do?

At the beginning, when we first created them, we didn’t know, is anybody going to come? Are they not? The very first workshop, we weren’t charging very much at all, but within three days we had sixty people signed up and we, kind of, went, “Okay, stop, stop, stop. The room isn’t big enough.” It, kind of, went from there, and that was back in 2017. We’ve been giving them in Geneva now for three years. We piloted them in the first year, and then what actually happened was that we had the amazing opportunity to work with Carouge, to help them become the first zero-waste town in Switzerland.

Actually, it was a member of ZeroWaste Switzerland who lives in Carouge, and the town had put out an appeal for projects to mark ten years of their environmental department. So, she had put in this project to say, “Let’s make Carouge the first zero-waste town,” and it had been accepted among the top three, so chosen among the top three projects, at which point she came to me and said, “Dorinda, Dorinda, we have this amazing opportunity, but I need help. I can’t do this on my own,” which, of course, you can’t do that type of thing on your own. So, I said, “This is amazing.” This is what I’d really wanted to do from the beginning. Yes, I know how to change individuals’ behaviour, but I want to have a go and see: how would you change the behaviour of a whole town, like 23,000 people? After that we’ll try Geneva, (Laughter) but let’s start [somewhat 1:08:24] smaller first.

So, literally we did all our videos, and then the citizens of the town voted for the project, and that’s when it started, back in April 2018. We’re about 20 months in now. So, literally, at the time we got the whole… Got the town to agree that “Let’s try and reduce by 30% in 3 years for these 23,000 people.” So, we’re doing this amazing project, with the help of a lot of unbelievably passionate and talented people, in terms of helping to actually make this happen and prove that it works. Yes, it’s an amazing playground to see: how can you help? How can you inspire, enable, and change the behaviours of a large group of people?

It’s a lot of fun. It’s incredibly rewarding. It’s hard work. We’re getting great, great testimonials of lots of individuals who are reducing their waste, some companies starting, some cafés, some schools starting. Lots of people are getting behind it now and really looking to what they can do to reduce.

Tania Cotton
This is incredible, (Laughter) [a dream 1:09:32], learning, changing behaviour and adding meaning to your life’s journey. Dorinda, you told me about the film ‘Demain’. ‘Demain’ means ‘tomorrow’ in English.

Dorinda Phillips: Yes.

Tania Cotton
We went to watch it together. You’d already seen it. I think after that you went to see it a few more times. (Laughter)

Dorinda Phillips
I think I saw it three times. I think I cried through most of the first time.

Tania Cotton: What was it about that film that you so loved and that resonated with you?

Dorinda Phillips
What I absolutely loved about it is that they were looking for solutions. I find so many of the documentaries they’re good in helping you understand the problem, but they really don’t spend much time at all on: “And this is what you can personally do about it. Here are the solutions.” So, literally what the ‘Demain’ film did is it was a group of friends who travelled around the world and just highlighted all of the inspiring stories of people trying to make a difference, and the solutions they were coming up with.

For me, I just… It just touched something deep inside of: “Yes, this is what I want to do. This is what I’m trying to do. I want to go out and inspire people, to show that you can do something that makes a difference. You can inspire your communities, or your workplaces, or your churches, or your schools, or goodness knows what.” That’s why I loved that film so much. It focused on: “Here are the solutions. This is what you can do.” That’s, I think, what we needed.

Tania Cotton: Do you remember who made that film?

Dorinda Phillips: Cyril Dion.

There are two people who made the film, and the names are just escaping me right now, but yes, huge success. Definitely worth watching.

Tania Cotton
Yes. I will make sure that that comes with our podcast and that people can find out how to access that film. How incredibly and wonderfully appropriate it was that you ended up being filmed for ‘Demain Genève’.

Dorinda Phillips
Absolutely. That was lovely because there was a group of people who had watched the film ‘Demain’, and had the vision to, and had been inspired to say, “Why don’t we create the same thing for Geneva? Why don’t we just go and talk to all of the different people who are doing…? Who are finding solutions and are out there inspiring people and showing people that this is what you can concretely do if you want to make a difference.”

As part of that, so I wrote to them and said, ‘Hey we’ve got the workshops. We’re seeing lots of people already. They’re very inspired when they come out of the workshops, and we have lots of examples of people reducing their waste by 20%, 50%, 90%. We want to be in the film.’

So, it went from there and we actually had a lovely, lovely filming session because we filmed it at the house of a lady who had reduced her waste by 90%, together with three children. So, their three children were there and they were showing what they do from a zero-waste point of view. We had two other ladies who’d reduced their waste enormously in the meantime, perhaps by 50%, 75% at that point. Now they’ve reduced it by more than 90%. So, it was a lovely day to just watch and for that to appear in the film, and so we’re very grateful to be in the film.

Tania Cotton
Good. A burning question that, perhaps, we all have is what were the top three things that made the biggest difference in helping them reduce their waste?

Dorinda Phillips
I would say there are two ways you can answer that. You can answer it in terms of the more conceptual, in terms of one just realising it’s possible, seeing all the examples, seeing concretely what you can do, and having some help on where you find the shops. So, literally, when you design training, it’s all about how do you inspire people? Show them it’s possible. Show them concretely how to do it. Show them why it’s important, what’s actually happening. Most people are absolutely shocked to realise – or very surprised to realise – that Switzerland is actually one of the highest… One of the countries in the world that has the highest rate of waste per person. Most people don’t realise that. So, that’s one way to answer it.

The other way is that literally there are some very simple, concrete habits we can all do in our lives, like we can take cloth bags to actually go and buy our fruit and vegetables, so you’re reusing that cloth bag for the next five years. You don’t need any paper or any plastic. You can take your own containers to the shops, where you can buy all your fish, your meat, your cheese, your cakes, your goodness knows what, and so you don’t need any packaging, and you can take your own water bottle or your own reusable cup so you don’t need any of the things.

I think what’s… So, actually people realise that actually these are not that difficult. These are fairly simple things, just one by one. What we always say to people is, “Just pick one small thing. Start with one small thing. Every step counts. Every step makes a difference. Just pick one a month. Pick one a week, whatever it is.” Before you know it, you actually don’t have that much waste left.

I think that’s what people are realising: that it’s actually possible and it’s not that difficult. It’s a lot easier than I thought, and it’s actually fun. A lot of people realise not only that, but they usually save money while they’re doing it. They usually end up with a lot better-tasting food because it’s quality, local, fresh kind of food, often bio, often organic, and so there are a lot of advantages to doing this.

So, I think in the end it’s that being inspired, seeing there are lots of other people wanting to do this. They’re not on their own. These days, when we do the conferences and the workshops, every workshop we do, we have between 30 and 50 people coming to want to see: “How can I reduce my ecological footprint? What can I do? I want to make a difference. What can I do?”

Tania Cotton
The plastic bottle issue really is my big, shining bugbear because I feel that if, (Laughter) as individuals and as organisations, we are committed to changing that, we are already making a massive difference. Airports, for example, could provide on-tap water and we can all just bring our empty favourite bottle. They could even sell us our favourite bottle if they want to make money. There are other ways. There are very creative and imaginative ways where no-one’s going to lose out. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.

Dorinda Phillips
I think literally it needs everybody working towards it. There’s a lot we can do as individuals. There’s a lot that companies can do. There’s a lot that governments need to. do. Literally at this point, I think scientists are telling us it’s the next 12 years, literally, that are going to make the absolute biggest difference before we might go beyond what we can control. So, it needs everybody reducing as much as they can, finding innovative, creative solutions. As soon as we start asking that question, “How could we do this without using natural resources and creating carbon emissions?” actually it’s amazing what the human brains can come up with in terms of finding those creative solutions. (Laughter)

Tania Cotton
Going back to the film ‘Demain’ that really highlighted on the solutions, it talked about the ‘what’, but it really focused on the ‘how’. Dorinda, you are one of the most well-read people I know. Not only do you read a vast array of books, on incredibly interesting topics, you have the unique ability to read a book and really summarise the essence of each book, and really differentiate between the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, on the practical tips you can take away and put into action now. (Laughter)

Dorinda Phillips
I guess for me that’s the piece of always wanting to, anything that… Anything I read – anything that we read – wanting it to be able to improve our lives in some way. So, for it to improve our lives, we have to be able to get to: “What were the one or two core nuggets out of this, and practically what can I now go do differently?”

It’s the same when you’re designing training. For me, my big thing is always you start from: “What is it you want people to be able to do?” Then you design the exercises to let them do it, and then you think: “What are the one or two new pieces of knowledge that they need to either be motivated on, ‘Wow, I didn’t realise that; oh, my gosh, now I want to do this,’ or, ‘Ah, that’s going to help me in terms of how I do it’?”

So, I guess it’s because I’m always looking at everything with that thought of, “How would you train somebody how to do this? How would you explain it to them? How would you enable them to practise?” Yes, my mind, sort of, does that naturally with the books I read. (Laughter) It helps me, as well. Otherwise, I can’t remember everything that was in there.

Tania Cotton
Yes, it’s helped me enormously. You’ve recommend many books to me, but giving me that initial summary at the beginning has always really surprised me and helped me. What an incredible skill. In terms of becoming life wise and leading a healthy, happy, fulfilling life, if you could only give one top tip to our listeners, from your huge amount of experience and expertise, what would that be? Would there be just…? If there was just one thing that you want people to take away.

Dorinda Phillips
In terms of leading the lives they want to live?

Tania Cotton: Yes.

Dorinda Phillips:
Very hard to get to one thing. (Laughter)
What would I say? I think it’s taking the time for yourself to be able to think about: “What is most important to me in my life? What is it that I want? Am I enjoying the way I’m spending my days?” Like the quote I had at the beginning how you live your life: “How you spend your days is how you live your life,” and, “Am I enjoying that?” I didn’t. I wasn’t taking the time at the beginning to do that. I just wasn’t. I was so wrapped up in all the day-to-day stuff I wasn’t doing it. So, I think it’s taking that time.

One very practical tip that helped me enormously was when I realised, actually, the ‘aha’ was: “I’m spending 10 to 12 hours a day at work, and by the time I come home I’m exhausted. Not only is it the amount of time I’m spending” – I was spending – “It’s the best hours of the day, so it’s like the time when my brain is most able to do something.” So, I decided I was going to take the first hour of each day for me to actually think about: “Where am I in life? What do I want to do?” Then move things forward to make that happen.

I truly believe today that taking… If I had not taken that hour – virtually every day; didn’t always work, but most, 90% of the time, every day during that time I was trying to build up the courage, and put things in place, and sort all the finances out and do all of this stuff – I wouldn’t have, in the end, been able to [leave 1:20:26]. I think one big thing is taking the time and making a little bit of space that you can do that. Think about what’s important, and then put the things in place.

I guess the other big ‘aha’ that I got to by the end of the book that I wrote after the first one-and-a-half years of leaving, which one day I hope to be published, was this: the ‘aha’ of, for me, personally, we don’t have to settle for less. You literally don’t have to settle for less. I think I’d been doing that a lot in my life. Whether it was in the area of work-life balance, “Don’t know how to do it,” I think it was, “I don’t have to settle for less, and there are people out there who know how to do it. There are people who can help me.” Whether that’s in building my confidence, whether that’s in building my courage, whether that’s in helping me sort out my finances, whether it’s somebody… Any of these areas, I don’t have to go, “That’s the way it is. There isn’t much I can do about it.” I can literally say, “Actually, if I don’t like it, then I can change it.”

Actually, maybe there’s a quote. Maybe this is a good time to read this quote that I wrote when I was summarising a little bit the learning. It basically said, ‘I believe in learning, and, because I do, it made this whole journey possible for me. I believe in choice and that we all have one, in everything we do, think, and feel, and I believe in change.” I believe, if we don’t like something, we can change it, or at least our attitude towards it. In my mind, it’s all a question of learning. I believe we can – all of us – learn virtually anything we want, any new skill, new habit, new mindset, new belief, new confidence, new courage, new anything. We just have to want to, believe we can, and go find the people who can help us do it.’ So, for me, I think I would sum it up, perhaps, with that.

Tania Cotton
That really is beautiful. My question to you now is, as you offer people this wonderful advice, I’ve seen you take a step back, take time for your life, this incredible journey you’ve been on, and now your life has become busier than ever, (Laughter) so within that first hour of that day will you take that first hour? How are you going to use that hour to help you? What are the most valuable things you can do now to help you move forwards and hold onto those sacred words of ‘beauty’, ‘joy’, and ‘meaning’? What do you need? What are your needs?

Dorinda Phillips
That’s a great question. I think this phase for me now is a very interesting phase. I think the last couple of years were about creating the workshops, proving that they work, and creating demand. At the beginning, a lot of the work that we were doing was volunteer, but the idea was always to be able to create the demand, have people be able to pay for these and pay for the other programmes that we have around the town. How do you change the behaviour of a town, the schools, etc.?

I would say that I then went through a phase – a phase of having a lot of time in my life, lots of time for beauty, joy, and meaning, in many forms. Over the last couple of years – and certainly last year, as the demand for this, for the services that we offer, for the workshops, for the conferences, for the coaching programmes – that I was back at a point where I was working, probably, more than I even did at P&G, but it felt different. I very much realised I’ve got to the limit of what I can personally do in this particular time, but it was… It felt very different. It still felt as though there’s a huge amount of meaning in this. I’m really happy that I’m doing it.

Just now we have got to a point with the association here in Geneva where we need to scale this up to the next level. So, last year we actually did deploy the workshops through Switzerland, and we created… I trained six new trainers to be able to do that, but now, as the demand has grown, which is absolutely lovely I would say there are two needs: we literally need both financial help and we need physical help.

We have a team who works with Carouge which is lovely, but a big challenge for us right now is that how do we get the funding in advance of being able to scale up and to be able to pay people normal wages for doing this work so we’re moving it out of a lot of people with a lot of passion and doing a lot of volunteer work, to actually scale this up to a whole new level?

Tania Cotton
If you could have a personal assistant that was going to help you be more efficient, and directed, and really act on your strengths, and not try and do everything, what would that look like? What would that person look like? (Laughter)

Dorinda Phillips
First of all, it would change my life. Secondly, that person would be somebody who literally would be able to manage a lot of the day-to-day project management logistics that I’m ending up doing at this point. That person would be someone who absolutely loves organising events, organising details, and structure, and systems, and putting all of that in place, and someone who’s very good at finishing things. I’m very, very good at creating new ideas and getting them to 70% to 80%. Sometimes, somebody just needs to send out that letter to actually get it, make it actually happen. So, absolutely, somebody who can do a lot of the administrative, assistant project management type work to make that happen.

Tania Cotton: How do people get in contact with you if they want to?

Dorinda Phillips
People can get in touch through the ZeroWaste Switzerland website, so that could be ‘info@zerowasteswitzerland.ch’. It could be ‘geneve@zerowasteswitzerland.ch’, or it could be ‘info@carougezerodechet.ch’, so lots of ways for people to get in touch, but going through the ZeroWaste Switzerland is a great way to do it.

Tania Cotton: Do they put, ‘For the attention of Dorinda Phillips’?

Dorinda Phillips
Yes, if they send it straight to ‘Genève’, so the French way, the ‘geneve@zerowasteswitzerland.ch’, it will come straight to me.

Tania Cotton
That’s wonderful to know. Since we’ve moved full circle and we’ve really come to this whole meaning of life, something that touched me is a final poem that really comes to mind: ‘We Owe It To Our Children’. I think this really brings it home. Please, yes, do share that with us, because I think that really makes us all realise how important this is.

Dorinda Phillips
So yes, this is a poem that was kind of inspired when I was travelling around Australia, I actually, I read a lot, and was often confronted with some of the increasing environmental problems. And when I came home to England and I was spending time with my little nephews and I was looking and thinking, oh my gosh, what is the world going to be like when they grow up? When they’re my age? What is it going to be like? And I was talking to a friend one day and just saying, I don’t know what I can do? What can I do? And he said, ‘You know Dorinda, sometimes we don’t have to have all the answers, sometimes its enough to ask the questions’. And that really stuck with me so the next day I wrote up with this feeling ‘I want to write something, I want to write something’… And so it literally came out all in the form of questions. I thought I almost want to write something in the voice of a young child. You know, talking to the adults. And that’s how this poem came about: ‘We owe it to the children’.

‘We owe it to the children to look them proudly in the eye, not to hang our heads in shame when one day they ask us, “Why? Why is the sky no longer blue? Why is the grass no longer green? Why did all the rivers run dry? Oh, how different it might have been. Why did all the animals die? Where are all the fish in the sea? What happened to the birds in the sky? Oh, why weren’t you able to see? Why did all the trees disappear? Why did it melt all that ice? Why did the soil just blow away? Oh, why didn’t you realise? Why is the air not safe to breathe? Why do I have to wear this mask? Why is the water not fit to drink? Oh, why didn’t you stop to ask? Were you really so very busy? Did you forget to love the Earth? Did you not notice her tears? Did you not value her worth? Was there really no other way? Couldn’t you change what was going on? Did you not like her health, her beauty? Now I’m so afraid it’s all gone. Oh, please, don’t let it come to this. Promise you’ll fight for every tree. Please, don’t make me one day ask, ‘Didn’t you care enough for me?’” We owe it to the children to look them proudly in the eye and say about our beautiful Earth, “We kept it safe for you and I.”’

Tania Cotton
If that doesn’t touch people, I don’t know what will. (Laughter) That’s a really amazing way to finish an incredible conversation with you, Dorinda, and really for me an incredible journey of learning that I’ve had ever since I’ve known you. Thank you so much for coming and I wish you a wonderful journey of beauty, joy, and meaning, and for that to continue for many years to come.

Dorinda Phillips
Thank you so much, Tania, and thank you also for your friendship over the years and for your inspiration. For me it’s been a mutual journey of learning. I’ve learnt so much from you, and I look forward to it continuing

Thank you for joining me for these 2 enlightening episodes of The LifeWise Snow with Dorinda Phillips. In episode 4, I will be speaking to internationally acclaimed adventure filmmaker Keith Partridge about discovering and following your passion. This episode guarantees to transport you to places you have never been before. I look forward to meeting you there!

Meet Tania Cotton

Tania Cotton avatar

Tania Cotton is a Movement Analyst and Chartered Physiotherapist with over 25 years' experience helping people overcome pain, injury and disease to lead a happy and fulfilling life. After 12 years as a consultant for the Swiss Olympic Medical Centre in Geneva, Tania began making films on health and human performance to show people what is possible and to inspire them to take action.

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