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Force of Nature: Stephanie Dickson of Green Is The New Black

Seven years after founding Green Is The New Black and Asia’s first Conscious Festival, Stephanie Dickson is feeling more invigorated than ever about the future of Mother Earth.

September 15, 2022

Stephanie Dickson is on the cusp of what she calls a transition. “I want to operate from a place of play and flow, instead of heaviness and fear, in service of the greater good.” In fact, joy and purpose have been cornerstones of the eco-entrepreneur’s ongoing journey of sustainability, which has so far included creating lifestyle media platform Green Is The New Black in 2015 with a mission to make conscious living mainstream, fun and accessible. A big believer in collective power, she also founded Asia’s first Conscious Festival and hosts podcast Live Wide Awake, where she brings together a variety of fresh voices and brands to help drive positive change for our planet.  

The recent World Economic Forum 2022, where Dickson was a speaker at two satellite events and has just returned from when we chat, has buoyed her with a renewed sense of optimism about the plethora of innovations and inspiring changemakers working hand-in-hand towards the same goal. And that passion is infectious. “Numbers move the game,” enthuses Dickson. “The more who are on the right side, the sooner we can tip the scales.” 

Photo: Green Is the New Black

Can you share with us your journey into developing a passion for sustainability, becoming an advocate, and founding Green Is The New Black?  

I’ve loved fashion since I was a little girl, and as a young working millennial, loved ordering new clothes online each month. I got my first full time job running fashion festivals around Asia and it was my dream job, at the time. Four years in, I had a rude awakening when I discovered that fashion was one of the most polluting and socially corrupt industries in the world. I felt completely blindsided and couldn’t believe this industry I had idolised my entire life was so dirty behind the glossy curtain.  

So I quit my job and started trying to figure out how I could be part of the solution instead of the problem. My training was events, so I started organising meet-ups to explore and learn about sustainability. That led me to start Green Is The New Black and our flagship event The Conscious Festival.  

While I have been vegetarian most of my life, for the last seven-plus years I have been on my own sustainability journey, with highs and lows, eco-anxiety and joy. It’s a lot to process and understand, yet at the same time can be deeply rewarding and a freeing way to live. Breaking the addiction of consumption, to find joy and fulfilment in having less stuff and more life changed my whole way of being.  

What have been some special moments with Green Is The New Black so far? 

Since we started we’ve had over 30,000 people attend our events, held in Singapore, Hong Kong, London and Paris. And we’ve reached millions online. The special moments for me are when people tell me that they attended one of our events or read our content and changed something in their lives for the better, like quitting their job to make their family business more sustainable, or having their epiphany, or just learning something new. These are the stories that keep us going.  

My favourite moment of all was going to the Arctic on a climate expedition with Sir Robert Swan. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn deeply about the climate crisis, connect with changemakers around the world and create our first documentary The Naked Arctic Adventure, which is free to watch on YouTube. Witnessing the midnight sun, seeing walruses and polar bears up close, and getting a deep reminder of what the fight is for, was such a gift.  

Photo: Green Is the New Black

You also launched Conscious Festival, Asia’s first large scale sustainability festival. Why do you think such a gathering is vital in promoting eco-consciousness? 

The Conscious Festival is a living experience that showcases sustainability as a journey. When we started in 2015 we focused on celebrating ethical brands, yet we had single use items and meat! Over the years we’ve evolved and pushed our own boundaries to now be a plant-based, carbon neutral, almost zero waste festival with over 5,000 people attending each time.  

It was important that we focused on the experience first. I didn’t want it to feel like an eco-hippie event. I wanted it to be excellent, and oh by the way, did you realise that all the food was plant-based, there are all these incredible brands doing things in a better way, and people can learn in an interactive and fun way.  

I think we’ve all realised how important it is to have real-life experiences, ones that bond us, help us grow and learn, and connect us to things bigger than ourselves. Having events for people to learn and find the joy and positivity in the eco movement are so important.  

You have described yourself as a “third culture kid”. Can you tell us about the places that have shaped you, in terms of sustainability? 

I’m Australian Scottish, and have spent half of my life in Asia. I went to eight different schools (from kindergarten to high school). So many places feel comfortable and familiar yet none really feel deeply like home. It’s a strange, yet wonderful life. I think this really has shaped my world view and allows me to connect to many people from many different places. Instead of saying that one place has shaped my views on sustainability over others, each place has had something different to offer. It is naturally easier in some places to have a lighter footprint, and harder in others. Sometimes you can make it work, and other times you need to succumb and not feel guilty about adjusting.  


Photo: Green Is the New Black

You have just returned from attending the World Economic Forum 2022 in Davos in May, themed  ‘Working Together, Restoring Trust’. Can you tell us about that experience? 

If I were to describe my experience in a word it would be “magical”, or in a sentence, “re-instilling my hope in humanity”. After the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference I left feeling jaded and exhausted. Fast forward a few months, I am leaving Davos feeling energised, hopeful and alive again. I met some incredible humans who are using their time, intelligence, creativity and energy to build a better more equitable world. It is these interactions that gave me new energy to keep going. Amid the darkness the world is currently facing, there is more and more light cracking through.   

The depth of conversation and connection, wrapped in the surrounding mountains blooming with spring, was life- and mission-affirming. I had the privilege of speaking at the same event as Deepak Chopra, who had been invited many times to WEF and always declined except this time, because he knew it was different, with evolved intentions and goals at play. There was an audience ready to hear a different message, one of community, that incorporates indigenous wisdom, collaboration, and a different kind of future. 

For the first time there was also the Medical Psychedelics House of Davos. They brought researchers, leaders and investors together from around the world to further the dialogue, and share research and advancements for medical psychedelics addressing mental health and changing global health policies.  

I was there with over 100 people via Top Tier Impact, a global network of impact investors and entrepreneurs who believe another world is possible and they are building it. And I am excited to see what these connections and collaborations will birth in the coming months.  

What were some of your biggest takeaways from the event? 

There were so many takeaways from the week but a few that stuck with me were that first, there is a new wave of energy being birthed by changemakers who are operating out of a place of joy, not fear and greed. Second, play is becoming a more important part of experience, education and community-building. When we are brought into this mindset, innovation and connection run much deeper and more profound shifts can happen. Third, more than ever we need to protect and regenerate with indigenous knowledge, cultures and people, as they are the stewards of the land.  

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland | Photo: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell

What other trends in the world of sustainability are you excited about? 

Web3/blockchain for impact is a huge intrigue and passion of mine. I’ve been studying for the last six months. There are many smart, creative people in this space who are harnessing the power of technology to solve the world’s most pressing problems. While technology will not solve all of them – humans have to – when the two are combined for the greater good, real shifts can happen.  

I recently co-founded UNTAM3D alongside five incredible changemakers. It is a community for women and non-binary folk in Asia Pacific to connect, learn and collaborate in the Web3 space. Our mission is to decode the world of Web3, enabling women’s growth in the sector, igniting their potential and elevating their success, all through the lens of impact. That’s our North Star.  

On the flip side, the industry is booming and sustainability can sometimes feel like a buzzword. Is there anything we should be mindful of? 

Now more than ever we need to maximise the window of opportunity to ensure meaningful change happens across the board. Thinking that your actions don’t matter is a cop-out. This can be the decade of decisive action that turns everything around. We just need to do it, and do it fast. Most of the solutions already exist, we need to move the money and amplify them.  

Don’t underestimate changes you can make at work and the power of calling up your local member of parliament. We have to use our wallets, time, and voices to vote, to ask questions. 

Be wary of greenwashing, do your own research and ask questions. And at the same time, celebrate companies who are actually doing the right thing. It’s quite common that companies are scared to share what they are doing because of the backlash. So as much as we ask questions and call out greenwashing, we need to support those doing the right thing too.  

Photo: Stephanie Dickson

Who and what are some people or things that have inspired you?  

The book that changed my life the most was You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. I deeply resonate with Mark Manson’s writings, in particular The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and his monthly newsletters. I have learnt a lot from the Tim Ferris podcast across a variety of different subjects. Marie Forleo was a huge influence on me when I started my company; her concise yet profound wisdom helped me through those early days. In particular “everything is figureoutable” is something that I’ve been working on embodying for years and I now finally have. 

The Matrix Trilogy is without a doubt my favourite [set of] films. I watch them once a year to remind myself to think differently, always plunge down the rabbit hole and have deep empathy in life. Somatic healing and breath work has given me the most profound shift, getting me out of the darkness and into the light, where I feel now the most stable I have ever been.  

What does sustainability mean to you? 

Conscious living is what I’ve been speaking about since I started over seven years ago. As I do more work in this space, it became apparent that Mother Nature doesn’t actually need saving; she will survive as she always has. It is our existence that is in question: the extinction, or not, of humanity. So when I think about sustainability now, it’s really on how we work in harmony with the Earth and ourselves, regenerate the land we have destroyed and create the utopia that this planet should be, where everyone has enough and lives in abundance with nature. Because we are nature and somewhere along the way we have forgotten that. 

Arctic summer landscapes in Svalbard | Photo: Unsplash


Themaverse by Benjamin Eymere 

“It’s like a utopian jail to help save the planet. Real people-inspired avatars are taken to virtual court where they pay a carbon fine for their criminal behaviour – emissions – on earth. Once they have paid their fine, the world flips upside down, and they become hemp farmers in the utopian world, where the games begin. In the real world, these carbon taxes give a secondary income to farmers to continue to farm sustainably. This is so fun because it’s gamifying carbon tax with real life benefits, and the partnerships they are rolling out are very cool. It’s definitely one to watch.”

YesWeTrust by Stefan Kanalga 

“A personal growth app that rewards people for a healthy lifestyle, it uses blockchain to build trust and transparency to create generational change. It’s like making a game out of life, helping people feel more alive and being rewarded for that, unlocking real rewards in conscious hubs around the world, all while connecting to The Sustainable Development Goals. The app also allows people to fundraise their projects through the app and vote on which start-ups or charities get the funds, hence decentralised ownership and voting.”

Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund and Urban Indigenous Collective by Sutton King (Nāēqtaw-Pianakiw) 

“They work to expand consciousness by shifting culture to inform sustainable and ethical choices. Indigenous communities have used certain natural materials for healing properties for thousands of years, and now that these medicines are becoming more widely accessible, these organisations exist to ensure the traditional knowledge is protected, respected and regenerated. It is critical that we work hand-in-hand with the stewards of the land.”

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