Circular Podcast - Season 3 Episode 7 | Making Design Circular Skip to content

Circular Podcast – Season 3 Episode 7

Welcome to season three of Circular with Katie Treggiden, in which we’re exploring what it takes to cultivate a creative practice that enables you, your business and the planet to thrive. We’ll be diving deep into the nuances, complexities and paradigm shifts that we need to embrace in order to bring about a just transition to a more circular economy. 

In this episode, Katie explores another of the pillars of the making design circular framework – Believe. The idea that we need to bring about change and that we need to believe that it’s possible, but as ever it’s easier said than done. Maintaining hope, and believing that we can sort all this out, is the work. It’s one of the hardest things we have to do as environmentalists so Katie is diving into how to maintain that stubborn optimism, how to cultivate hope in the face of the climate crisis through feeling, naming and acknowledging your feelings, rebuilding your connection with the natural world and to taking aligned action.

Katie has built a three-part mini course around this subject, are you ready to cultivate hope in the face of the climate crisis? Sign up to her three-part free mini course that will help you move through feelings of helplessness, reconnect with nature and take aligned action. Cultivating Hope | Katie Treggiden

Below is a transcript of our conversation. Find the full episode available to listen on Spotify here.



Welcome to season three of Circular with Katie Treggiden, in which I’m exploring what it takes to cultivate a creative practice that enables you, your business and the planet to thrive. I’ll be diving deep into the nuances, complexities and paradigm shifts that we need to embrace in order to bring about a just transition to a more circular economy.



You need to find something that you’re good at, because then you can make a disproportionate impact. You need to find something that the world actually needs, right? There’s no point doing something if it’s not helping. The world needs an awful lot of stuff, so that can be something that you’re particularly passionate about, there’s no shame in that, you don’t have to take on, you know, bits you don’t care about. I’m particularly passionate about the ocean, and about craft and about designer makers, so that’s where my actions go. And the last one is, it’s got to be something that brings you joy that fills your cup, because we’re in this for the long haul. And if it’s going to tire you out and burn you out, you’re not going to be making your best contribution.



Hello, and welcome to another episode of circular with Katie Treggiden. Now, in this episode, we’re going to be exploring one of the pillars of the making design circular framework and that is believe. The idea that we need to bring about change, we need to believe that it’s possible but easier said than done. So in this episode, I’m going to dive into how to maintain that stubborn optimism, how to cultivate hope in the face of the climate crisis.



We’re talking in this episode about hope, optimism, belief. And I talk about stubborn optimism a lot, I even sign off every email, stay curious, imperfect, and stubborn optimism. And this is a term that comes from a wonderful book called The Future We Choose by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac. And I love the inclusion of the word stubborn, because this is not about naive hope, this is not about sort of being passive, and just imagining everything’s gonna work out. And it’s also not easy, right? The stubborn talks about determination and I actually think that maintaining hope, and believing that we can sort all this out is the work, I think it’s one of the hardest things we have to do as environmentalists. So I’ve actually put together a whole three part mini course on this very subject, and it’s free. And you’ll find the links to download it in the show notes. But I wanted to talk a little bit about it in this episode, and kind of talk through what I do when I’m feeling hopeless. And for someone who talks about stubborn optimism a lot I’m also prone to feelings of absolute helplessness, and frustration, and anger and sadness, and kind of all sorts of complex feelings. And I think that’s human and natural and normal. Because we are facing an existential crisis as a species. If things keep going the way they are, humans are not going to be able to survive on this beautiful planet, the planet itself will be fine, by the way. Many of the species that live on it will not, we’ll take more of them than we already have down with us. But the planet will be fine. So I think part of this is about understanding that this is not about saving the planet this is about saving ourselves.


But let me kind of take you back to where I started with this. I can remember I think it was last summer, when temperatures in the UK hit 40 degrees for the first time, well ahead of schedule, kind of well ahead of when climate scientists had predicted that would happen. It was sticky hot. I live in Cornwall, which is a county famous for its mizzle, which is a portmanteau of mist and drizzle. As much as people come down in the summer and think that sun shines here all year round, trust me, it doesn’t this is a damp County. And I drove past a wildfire on the side of the road just on my way home pootling about you know, perfectly normal day and the side of a road had spontaneously burst into flames. We’d hit 40 degrees for the first time, you know, there was this sense of I can’t even enjoy the sunny weather because of this like sense of impending doom that comes with it. And my husband and I went camping that weekend. And I just felt so down. In fact, I think we might have even got been camping for a week, I remember feeling that I had the rare sort of privilege and space and luxury of just being allowed to feel my feelings. So we went camping and I just spent a couple of days feeling properly gloomy about the future of our species. You know, the state of the planet what as humans, you know, the damage we’re racking on this planet. And I just allowed myself to feel those feelings. And then because we were in the countryside camping, I was just accidentally more connected to nature than I would normally have been. So I

would love to pretend I cycled up a really big hill, I pushed my bike up a really big hill in the woods, and then freewheeled all the way down like a nine year old. It was glorious. And I took my sketchbook out into the, this particular campsite got a wildflower meadow in the middle and little bits that are protected and little bits you can go into, so I took my sketchbook out into the meadow and just listened to the insects and the birds and drew and I listened to some interesting podcasts about nature and kind of I really immersed myself in nature and that really helped me to feel better. I think because there’s, the sense of nature will carry on doing its thing, right nature is incredibly resilient. And I don’t like using the word nature as if it’s something separate from us because we are nature, we’re inextricably connected to nature. But the more than human world, let’s say, is incredibly resilient and I’m often struck when I’m on the beach, by the fact that tide will keep rising and falling, it rises and falls according to the position of the moon. And it’s done that for millennia, and it will keep doing that for millennia. And so I felt really calmed by being surrounded by nature just doing its thing. You know, the bees going around pollinating plants, the horse fly that bit me, nature is mean people forget that, with all this chat about the glory of nature, I got bitten by a horse fly and scuttled back to a campervan. But I felt really calm and by the end of that trip, I was ready to come back and do my work. And I have spent a long time kind of working out exactly what my mission and purpose is, and my unique contribution to environmentalism. So I’m lucky in that I was able to slot back into that work when I came back from that trip. But it just struck me as interesting that I was able to go from feeling utterly hopeless to making a contribution in a week through working through this, this process. So as I said, I’ve put together this free three part mini course, it’s called, Cultivating Hope in the face of the climate crisis. It’s really based on that experience on that camping weekend.


So I’m going to talk you through the sort of three stages that are in this three part course. The first one is to name acknowledge, and really feel your feelings. So cultivating hope is not about toxic positivity. It’s not about emotional bypassing, the only way out is through. So the first thing that we have to do is make space for those emotions. And I talked about the fact that on that camping weekend, I had the privilege of space to do that. And, you know, in the middle of a busy life, it’s not easy, it’s not always easy to carve out that time to feel hard feelings, but it is necessary. So if you are feeling overwhelmed by the news cycle, you know, if you’re feeling helpless, if you’re feeling sad, if you’re feeling angry, the first thing to do is to carve out a little bit of space, and name those feelings.


So Brene Brown did some research and found that the vast majority of people can only name three emotions mad sad and glad. So angry, upset and happy. And that’s not enough. As humans, we feel a vast range of nuanced and complex emotions. So it can be really helpful to actually name them, you know, are you angry? Or are you furious? Are you filled with rage? Or are you annoyed or frustrated? These are all slightly different versions of what might be labelled as angry? Are you sad? Or are you grieving? For what has been lost, you know, in my lifetime alone, we’ve lost half the world’s biodiversity a lot of that we’re not going to get back and you know, there there needs to be space to mourn that loss and to grieve. Or is it more a sense of hopelessness? You know, that sort of, there’s, it’s no good, it’s no use, there’s no point trying that sort of that can that can kind of come under sad, and perhaps feel closer to depression. Or are there glimmers of joy? You know, when you when you do connect with nature, do you feel at awe when you look at the stars, do you feel hope when you see a little bumblebees hairy bottom going into her foxglove flower. It’s really useful to name these emotions. And then once you’ve named them, it’s incredibly powerful to find a way to really feel them to express them, whether that’s having a cry or a good rant or a proper toddler tantrum. All of those things are valid. It’s important not to judge them. I think these are all really normal human reactions and whatever feeling that you’re feeling, I can guarantee I’ve felt it too. So I think don’t judge yourself for having those feelings. And then once you’ve kind of really felt into them, working through them. So one of the things I love to do is I’ll take a page of a notebook and write that particular emotion in the middle and then just fill the rest of that page with a spider diagram or just kind of free writing or drawing or different ways of kind of helping that emotion to move through me. You might prefer something more embodied like kind of physically shaking it out, standing up and shaking your whole body until that emotion feels like it’s passing through you. Or it might be that if you’ve done the journaling, burning that page can be a good form of release. So it’s, it’s kind of acknowledging the feelings, naming them and feeling them. And that’s the first step. And that’s what I did almost intuitively, on this camping weekend, I just gave myself a couple of days to just sit in my emotions, much to my husband’s delight.


And then the next thing, which again, I did almost by accident just by virtue of where we were camping, is to rebuild your connection with the natural world, with a more than human world. And as I said, we are nature. It’s not that being in nature does something magical, it’s that being separated from nature is inherently bad for us, we are supposed to be connected. So I mean, there’s a tonne of research on the fact that spending time in nature, and specifically exercising in nature is really good for your mental health. So there’s that and that is completely valid in and of itself, right? If you’re feeling crappy pushing your bike up a really big hill in a forest and freewheeling all the way down is gonna make you feel better, you know, going for a run along the beach, going to your local park, and just going for a good stomp That tick tock meme of going for a walk in nature for my, what’s the thing going for stupid walk for my stupid mental health, that’s the one that will help, right? All of that stuff is good and valid and important. And for no, to no other end than to make you feel better. That’s good and unimportant. And there is also increasing research that shows that the effect of that and the effectiveness of that is not just about being in nature, it’s about how connected you feel to nature. So if you’ve kind of got your headphones in and you’re stomping through and you’re not really paying attention to what’s around you, I mean, that will do you some good. But really, the power is in connecting to nature. So there’s a couple of things I love to do, I’ve mentioned taking my sketchbook out. And so nature journaling is a really powerful way of tuning into what’s around you. And it’s not about creating works of art. It’s not even about inspiring your next creative project. It’s just about trying to really tune in and capture your surroundings. So I did an incredible exercise with Agnes Becker on the we are stardust nesting adventure, I think it was, where she asked us to draw birdsong, which is the most incredible thing, my brain was nearly exploding, like, how do I represent the sounds I can hear visually on the page. And to look at the page I created, you know, the absolute nonsense to anybody else, but I can see sort of what I could hear. And so exercises like that are wonderful for getting you out of that sort of perfectionism, we’ve got to make something beautiful, and really just tuning into that bird song.


Or it might be capturing all the colours that you can see and sort of mixing paint colours and making little, you know, almost like a little colour palette of the view in front of you. Or it might just be drawing, I use those black, naught point five Muji pens that most creative people seem to have on their person at any given time. And I love drawing with these, because you can’t erase any mistakes. So you kind of have to just go for it. And I think they make really lovely black outline kind of drawings that enable you to just capture what’s there. And that is the point is just to capture your experience, it’s not about what ends up on the page. The other thing I find super helpful, just if I’m out for a walk in nature and I feel like I’m all up in my head is an exercise that’s actually recommended for anxiety. But I think it also really helps you to connect with nature. And that is to notice five things you can see, and then four things you can hear, three things you can feel on your skin, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. And it’s amazing how quickly that gets you out of your head and into your five senses and connects you with what’s around you and you notice sounds that you wouldn’t necessarily have noticed otherwise, where you notice just the feeling of the air on your cheeks, or whatever it is. Often the taste is just my toothpaste or my coffee from that one is a slightly weird one. Unless you spot some blackberries or something if it’s autumn then you can have a sort of nature inspired to taste. But those two are both really interesting ways to kind of connect with nature. And I think the other one that I love is putting food out for the birds. So we have a bird feeder right outside our kitchen window. And despite the fact our neighbours seem to get some very exotic birds we get Sparrows, Sparrows, Sparrows and the occasional pigeon. The guy over the road is getting all sorts of beautiful goldfinches and I think it depends what food you put out. So apparently I looked this up on the RSPB website and you can look up which foods certain birds like. So if you want to attract something more glamorous than sparrows, you might need to invest in some more fancy bird food. But that’s a really lovely way of just connecting with nature on a day to day basis. And there are now bird feeders that will stick to the outside of your windows. So you don’t even need a garden. You can literally come with little suckers, and you can stick them outside your windows, and so the birds will come right up to your window to feed which is absolutely incredible. And I think getting into birds, I’m gonna, I’m gonna out myself as a bird watcher now, I’m not really I have no knowledge or skill in this area. But noticing birds is really interesting, because wherever you go, you will see birds. So even in the middle of a city, you will see pigeons and black birds and little garden birds. And when you go to the seaside, you’ll see sea birds and it’s just fascinating how nature is everywhere, absolutely intertwined with human life. And yet sometimes we don’t even notice it. I was in London recently, and I saw three or four foxes and one of them made absolute eye contact with me as it sort of backed away. And it was a really magical experience and yet I think Londoners almost don’t notice boxes anymore, because they see them so often. So I think it’s that way of just connecting to nature and it’s really magical and it rebuilds that sense of all in us. There’s a lovely quote, I don’t remember who it was by, I will, if I’ll dig it out if I can and pop it in the show notes. But it goes something along the lines of if the stars only came out every 100 years, we’d rush outside to look at them, we’d create festivals around them, you know, we’d react to them as they ought to be reacted to right and yet they come out every night so we watch TV, and we ignored them. And I think if you can, you know if you spot a clear night, and you can get outside and just look at the stars and obviously again there is there is privilege in being somewhere without a tonne of light pollution. But there are dark sky areas all over the country where you can really, really see the stars. But even again, walking through London last week, I think Venus and I want to say Mercury, I might be wrong ,maybe it was Jupiter, were both visible. And I saw them just walking along by the Thames. So these things are there, It’s just a question of remembering to sort of check in with them.



We’re going to take a short break now to do three things. One, I want you to hear from Inhabit the brand partner for this season of the podcast. They’re actually the hotel I stay in when I’m in London, because they are super sustainable and absolutely gorgeous. I reached out to them and asked them if they would be interested in helping me make this season of the podcast happen and I’m delighted that they said yes, so there’s a short word from them. There’s a short word from me about making design circular, the membership group that I run, and I also want to talk to you about Surfers Against Sewage.

So I am a member of 1% for the planet, which means that every year I donate 1% of my turnover, not profit, to an environmental charity and the charity I’ve chosen to partner with is surfers against sewage, which is a grassroots environmental charity that campaigns to protect the ocean and everything that the ocean makes possible. It was created in 1990 by a group of Cornish surfers fighting to clean up the sea that was making them sick. Now surfers against sewage campaigns on everything that threatens the ocean. Plastic pollution, the climate, emergency environmental exploitation and water quality by taking action on the ground, that triggers change from the top.

If like me, you’d like to support surfers against sewage, head over to and I will leave you now to hear a short message from Inhabit, a message from me about the membership, and then we’ll dive right back into this episode.

Inhabit hotels, located in the Bayswater area of London, offers restorative environmentally and socially conscious places to stay in the city. Wellness and wellbeing also play a major part in the brand’s ethos Mindfully designed for the modern traveller everything at this new hotel has been considered with a genuine commitment to environmental initiatives and meaningful community partnerships. To find out more please check out our Instagram at inhabit_hotels.

If you’re a designer maker, here’s what I want you to know. None of this is your fault. Climate change, ocean acidification, falling biodiversity levels, none of it. But you do get to be part of the solution. And the best part that gets to be creative, collaborative, and filled with wide eyed curiosity. Remember that? Visit and leave your eco guilt at the door. Find a community of fellow travellers clear actionable steps you can take today and all support you need to join the circular economy. Visit I’ll see you there.



So the next thing is reconnecting with nature. And not only will that do your emotional well being the world of good there’s also evidence that shows that people who are more connected with nature in whatever way are more likely to take actions that are good for the planet. So there’s a sense of just by reconnecting with nature in ways that make us feel good, help us to take more planet positive actions. And then once you’re in that space, once you’ve moved through those feelings, and reconnected with the natural world, you’re ready to take action. And I think this can still feel quite overwhelming, right? There’s this sense of, there’s just so much to do, from ocean acidification to the plastics crisis to carbon. You know, the environmental crisis is huge, and complex and multifaceted and it can be really difficult to know where to start. But I think the important thing to remember is that you can’t do it all. You can’t save the planet single handedly, so you can stop trying, you know, you can let go of that idea.

Seth Godin says that specific as a kind of bravery. And he’s talking about niching down in business, right, the idea that by offering less, you will actually be more successful and he’s right. And it does require bravery to do that, because it’s counterintuitive. But I think when you apply that to an environmental context, it requires even more bravery because not only have you got to take that counterintuitive action, but you’ve also got to trust that someone else is looking after all the rest, right. And that is where being in community can be really powerful because you spend time with other people who are doing the rest. So taking action is about finding your niche. It’s about finding an action that is small enough for you to make a big impact. And finding an action that is aligned with your values that is placed to your strengths. That’s fun, right? You’re in this for the long haul so you need something that fills your cup. And so there is a Venn diagram, 10-12 years ago, in my first job interview in this career, I drew a Venn diagram on a napkin, I can’t remember whether it was in my interview, or my first appraisal for my first job in this career as a writer for good as it were. And I drew a Venn diagram that had three circles, three overlapping circles, that said, what I’m good at, what I enjoy doing, and what the world needs. And I explained to my would be boss, that I wanted to work at the intersection of those three triangles. And funnily enough, 10 years later, Dr. Anyana Elizabeth Johnson, somebody I respect enormously, on the podcast, how to save a planet described an almost identical Venn diagram, in answer to the question, you know, what is my mission in environmentalism, what can I do to make a difference? And she’s absolutely right, and so was I. You need to find something that you’re good at, because then you can make a disproportionate impact. You need to find something that the world actually needs, right? There’s no point doing something if it’s not helping. And that can be something, the world needs an awful lot of stuff, so that can be something that you’re particularly passionate about, there’s no, there’s no shame in that, you don’t have to take on, you know, bits you don’t care about. I’m particularly passionate about the ocean, and about craft and about designer makers, so that’s where my actions go. And the last one is, it’s got to be something that brings you joy that fills your cup, because we’re in this for the long haul. And if it’s going to tire you out and burn you out, you’re not going to be making your best contribution. So I would really recommend drawing that Venn diagram and filling it in and really owning your talents. Right? Let’s not be shy here. I think people can sometimes get a bit hung up on the what I’m good at section, name it, own it. And finding something at the intersection of those three circles is going to enable you to take aligned action, to take action that feels good and is niche enough that you can make a real impact.


That brings me nicely onto The Seed, which is another programme that I run and we dive into that specifically in a tonne more detail. So I’ll pop a link to that in the show notes as well. We spend four sessions, kind of really digging into how to find your unique contribution to environmentalism.


So that is in a nutshell, the idea of believe, this part of the making design circular framework, which enables us to cultivate and maintain hope in the face of everything. You know, the news cycle, which is just relentless with news and bad decisions made by world leaders, both in business and in government. But it’s important that we stay hopeful because as I said, right at the beginning, if we don’t believe we can bring about change, then we’re not going to bring about change. So the first step is to believe and as I said, that three step process is to feel, name and acknowledge your feelings, to rebuild your connection with the natural world and to take aligned action. And if you would like to sign up for my three part mini course that digs into all of this in a load more detail, the link to do that is in the show notes. It’s completely free, I would really love to welcome you into that space, I think, I think this is the work, right, staying optimistic and staying hopeful and believing that we can bring about change. That’s the work. Because once we can do that, then then we can do anything. Thank you so much for listening.


Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed what you’ve heard, follow me on Instagram @KatieTreggiden.1 And if you’re a designer maker who’s interested in sustainability, DM me a little recycling symbol and I’ll add you to my close friends group, which is especially for sustainable designer makers.

You might want to sign up to my E-newsletter via the link in the show notes. And it would be amazing if you could follow or review the podcast in whichever platform you’re listening on, that really helps other people to find it, so that’s super helpful.

I want to say one last thank you to Inhabit my gorgeous brand partner for this season who have helped bring it to life and I also want to give a shout out to the Ko-Fi supporters from the initiative that we did in series two. So Kathryn Kernow, Bob Shankley, Eleanor Burke, Vicky Pulter, Leslie Curtis, Val Muddyman, David Clarke and Nolan Giles all bought me a virtual coffee to help with the production of season three.

And last but not least, I want to say a huge thank you to Kirsty Spain whose production skills you are listening to as I speak.

Thank you so much for listening.

All copy is reproduced here as it was supplied by Katie Treggiden to the client or publication.

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