The Company We Keep – Hayley McLellan

The Company We Keep series profiles some of the most interesting and inspiring people in our networks. Here we share the details of the lives of people we know, showcasing the extraordinary diversity of our society and proving that people truly are at the heart of everything we do. In this month’s blog, CN&CO’s Blake Dyason introduces us to one of his environmental heroes.

In 2016 I was introduced to Hayley McLellan who started Rethink The Bag in 2007 and has been spearheading the movement to ban plastic bags and single use plastics in general.

I first worked with Hayley in 2017 when I assisted the Two Oceans Aquarium in running the 5FM Cape Town Big 5 Cleanup.

While reflecting on 2019 and setting goals for the year ahead I started reading a book called Lean Impact. In the book they reinforce the challenge of setting a big scary 10 year goal.

This got me thinking about my inspiring friend Hayley who has been relentlessly working towards her goal of banning plastic bags for 13 years.

Seeing the impact of her work is truly inspiring!

Back in 2007, Hayley started Rethink The Bag. She had been working with dolphins, seals and over 30 different species of birds, learning about their natural environment and becoming aware of the impact of plastic. Hayley became aware that she was part of the problem and in a moment committed to not buying or using plastic shopping bags ever again.  Removing plastic bags from her daily life was something Hayley could do with ease… challenge yourself to do it too!

13 years ago, Hayley felt like a salmon swimming upstream alone, but today the world is catching up and actively taking a stance against single use plastic.

In 2018 Hayley did 88 public talks to over 10 500 people and in 2019 she did 94 presentations to over 18 000 people.

It took 10 years of campaigning and activism to get momentum on the movement.

In 2019 big brands like Foodlovers, Pick n Pay and Spar began taking action and piloting alternatives to plastic bags.

Woolworths has also piloted no plastic shopping bags in selected stores and has committed to being plastic free by the end of 2020 across all their stores.

Kicking off 2020 the Liberty Two Degree property group have committed going plastic bag free in all their retail properties.

Hayley has really inspired me with her journey and has reminded me that we can all make a meaningful difference, just by leading by example, we can all be an activist.

Hayley also shared her dream on the TEDx Cape Town stage, its worth watching.

What is your 10 year goal?

Blake brings a lot of energy, passion and heart into everything he does. He is extremely passionate about our country, it’s people and the environment. He is based in Cape Town and is happiest when he is running around exploring the beauty of the mountains.