Keep learning and practice “deep listening.” To change the world, start with understanding the pain and aspirations in your immediate circle and practice daily small acts of kindness
As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brando Crespi, the Chief Sustainability Officer of Santa Fe Farms.
Brando is an environmentalist, climate activist, impact investor and futurist. After an illustrious career in the luxury fashion business — essentially launching Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills with brands such as Fendi, Versace, and Pratesi amongst others — Brando focused his attention on the world’s climate issues by co-founding Pro Natura International. As its Executive Vice Chair, Brando designed, funded and implemented sustainable development projects in 63 countries and the organization was the recipient of the US Academy of Sciences’ “Mitchell Prize” (the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for Sustainability) for his work in the Amazon. Currently, Brando continues to work on technological innovations and sustainability especially in areas related to climate smart agroecology, bio-char and digital innovation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in a Roman palace and an 11th century Tuscan castle. My parents were high priests of the Church of Culture and Aesthetics. I led a wonderful and very privileged life! I was educated in Italy, Switzerland, the UK, and at Georgetown University, where I studied anthropology and economics, after a few years of Italian journalism, of Amazonian anthropological fieldwork exploring shamanism and ethnobotany.
Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?
I drowned when I was thirteen and had a transcendent experience that showed me that our life is just a stage in the evolution of our consciousness. Over time that led me to choose a life of purpose and commitment to do my best to heal our feverish planet.
Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?
Find what nurtures your passions in service to others. It makes all the shit life throws at you into an interesting fertilizer.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Offsetting climate gasses through the global use of biochar is an effective way to sequester carbon for hundreds or thousands of years. In the process Pro Natura International (PNI) has learned how to use biochar, compost or camel dung to turn sterile Sahara sands into a fertile soil that supports eleven harvests per year.
Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?
Dream big, prioritize engagement, and give up economic practices that generate waste, dependencies and fears! I’ll throw in a fourth tweak, listen — be open and curious — never become an expert!
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
1) Don’t talk about change but act- educating by example is much more effective.
2) Embrace the natural world- try walking in a forest with your eyes closed
3) Listen to Nature and learn from her Intelligence. Biomimicry is one of many ways to do this.
4) Practice tolerance and compassion to all life forms- with the possible exception of female mosquitoes, the most effective killer of humans on the planet
5) Keep learning and practice “deep listening.” To change the world, start with understanding the pain and aspirations in your immediate circle and practice daily small acts of kindness
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
As people become more and more aware, and blockchain improves transparency, businesses will redefine profit and understand that their duty to their stakeholders is not just to be good corporate citizens but to go beyond that. Today it’s not enough anymore to be “sustainable” or carbon neutral, we all need to, and businesses can aspire to become carbon negative. Amongst consumer companies, Patagonia and Unilever are setting good examples – others will experience more and more reputational backlash.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Dona Nenita, an 80-year-old Brazilian leper I met in my 20’s, who became blind when she fell in quicklime. She was the happiest human being I’ve ever met! She taught me to keep life and my complaints in perspective.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m trying to develop Green Charcoal businesses (it’s compressed biochar) throughout Africa. The traditional charcoal business is responsible for up to 70% of Africa’s deforestation and the ensuing loss of biodiversity and, more to the point, for the death of close to 500.000 women and children each year who breathe its fumes and VOCs.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
My mantra is that there are only two frequencies in our world- Yum and Yuck. Practice gratefulness and your life will fill with yummy moments!
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
Don’t much like both social media or being “followed.” Social media is anti-social as its algorithms are designed to polarize us into tribes- furthermore not only it sucks up your data but, worse of all, our time and attention.
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!