This International Women’s Day we are taking the opportunity to celebrate and spotlight some amazing women in the North of England who inspire us through their climate actions.
From boardrooms and large organisations, to entrepreneurs, local communities, and education, these women are using their voices, wisdom, and influence to take climate action.
Climate Action North comprises Sharon Lashley, Jennifer Clair Robson, and Julie Harrison three business women who, after working on a wide variety of climate issues throughout their careers, pooled their experience and expertise to empower people, businesses, and communities to take the meaningful action needed to fight the climate crisis. You can check out our profiles here.
We want to celebrate women’s achievement and, above all, recognise and applaud their sheer hard work as they take the vital action needed to fight the climate crisis.
Here are just a few amazing women doing great things in the climate emergency in the North of England.
Sustainability educationalist, Joanne Appleby is CEO at Outdoor and Sustainability Education Service (OASES). Having delivered outdoor and sustainability education for over 25 years she is passionate about creating a sustainable world where all children thrive and learn to take climate action. Joanne is also a Forest School Leader, Learning Through Landscapes accredited trainer, Forest Bathing Leader, and Yoga Teacher. Joanne said: “At OASES we believe in building a connection to nature, so young people understand its importance and feel motivated to protect and nurture the natural world. We hope by instilling an appreciation of nature and natural systems, young people we work with will go on to make sustainable life choices, to protect our planet and ensure their own future upon it. Connect with Joanne on LinkedIn.
As a scientist and environmentalist, Mary educates sustainability professionals and university students of all ages and cultures. Having developed and led a Masters programmes in Environment, Health and Safety for over 25 years at the University of Sunderland, Mary is still amazed to see her ex-learners working in prestigious positions, delivering sustainability goals, and engaging in climate actions across the region. She said: “These are the climate champions seeding the change that is needed in our private and local government sectors from City Councils to NHS and local charities. There is no parallel career reward than this!” Mary is also a member of IEMA (Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment) promoting training and membership both in UK and Greece and is planning to volunteer with ‘life changing’ goals. Connect with Mary on LinkedIn.
Meryl teaches science to nine to 13-year-olds in Corbridge, Northumberland and believes the education children receive should prepare them for the future. Climate change and biodiversity loss are impacting the lives of young people and she aims to ensure education makes them aware of the causes and effects of these global issues. Meryl understands education can provide children with skills to mitigate climate change and adapt to life on a warmer planet so helps them develop the critical thinking skills and technical knowledge needed for creative problem solving. She supports her pupils to take climate action through reducing waste, changing their diet, contacting their MP, and planting trees. With the flexibility and freedom teaching in middle school offers, Meryl works with her pupils on gardening, STEM challenges and collaborative projects with partner schools in Ethiopia to encourage a sense of global citizenship. She is a TeachSDG Ambassador, writes articles each year on environmental education, and assists schools as far away as Australia. Meryl told us: “Young people will have to live with the coming ecological crisis, and it’s my passion and purpose to help them address this by taking action. It makes my job worth doing.” Meryl practices what she teaches and lives almost fossil fuel free, grows her own veg, drives an electric car, and is often found being outspoken on Twitter under the tag ‘DoccyB’, a name endearingly given to her by her pupils.
Having worked in the voluntary sector for nearly 25 years and, as CEO of Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE), Carol is instrumental in helping this sector take climate action. She played a key role establishing the cross-sectoral North East England Climate Coalition (NEECCo), which brings together strategic partners from across the region supporting over 80 partners from the public, private and voluntary and community sectors on land use and agriculture, waste and resources, built environment, retrofitting, public engagement, indicators, and sustainable finance. Carol is also deeply involved with leading work related to taking climate action and the need for a just transition. This includes the Going Green Together campaign www.goinggreentogether.org to encourage and support voluntary organisations to learn, take action, and share what they do to address the climate emergency. Connect with Carol on LinkedIn.
With a deep interest in conservation and environmental issues since childhood, Tamma is on a mission to help businesses in all sectors take action on climate issues and drive a sustainable future through her environmental consultancy and training business Imvelo Ltd. Tamma is also a Climate Action North Boss Hogg ambassador and fosters baby hedgehogs in a release sanctuary from her garden, volunteers with the STEM Ambassador National Programme, and is an active campaigner for Women in STEM. Tamma said: “Fundamentally, everything we do at Imvelo aims to work with businesses and establish strategies that have a positive impact on the planet. We also help businesses mitigate environmental risks to their operations, which are sadly increasing because of Global Warming and Climate Change.” Connect with Tamma on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Vegan farmer and rewilding enthusiast, Jenny, runs Dalton Moor Farm, a 24-acre small-holding in County Durham. She has won a raft of awards for her environmental achievements and credentials and has also been named among the i-also top 100 inspirational female entrepreneurs 2022. Jenny has always felt a close bond with the natural world, and after purchasing the arable farmland around her ancient farmhouse 11 years ago, she began her mission to encourage and support a more natural environment and greater biodiversity across the farm. Orchards, fruitful hedgerows, herbs, and veggies are all planted, tended, and harvested by hand. Cultivated and foraged ingredients are made into drinks and preserves that are sold from the farm, online, or at local markets and food fairs. Through her recently opened School of Sustainable Living and Wellbeing, Jenny aims to bring people closer to nature, empowering them to become curious and connected, more independent and self-reliant, and to move away from the environmentally damaging, consumerist, throwaway society that has become the norm. Connect with Jenny on LinkedIn.
As a marine and coastal specialist at the forefront of driving positive change for our ocean and all of us that depend on it, Emily leads the Local Government Association Coastal Special Interest Group (LGA Coastal SIG), a group of 57 local authorities taking climate action across 60 percent of England’s coastline. In 2021, she won a national Rising Star Award for her work for England’s coast and its communities, has been named a global “30 under 30” for environmental education, is co-author of the model #Motion4Ocean, and is a Trustee of the Marine Conservation Society. To date, she has secured over £5 million in funding for inclusive conservation projects. Emily previously held various marine conservation roles for The Wildlife Trusts and has worked in some incredible places around our blue planet. The Tyne to Tees coast holds a special place in her heart and she loves nothing more than a bit of rockpooling and a plodge in the sea. Ask your council to take action and make an ocean recovery declaration. Connect with Emily on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Director and part owner of award-winning solar photovoltaic installers AR Power, Maria has steered her company through the most challenging times in a turbulent and changing renewable energy industry. Now, with a decade of trading under their belts, AR Power, a company which has been tested to the max in terms of its resilience in a changing climate, is a strong and thriving company. As a strong leader passionate about the environment, Maria continues to drive the company forward, have succeeded in increasing turnover from £900k in 2020 to £3.5 million in 2022 and increased staff levels up to 27 from three in 2016. She continues to maximise ability to take action in the climate emergency both internally as a company and externally for clients in the public and private sectors. Maria said: “it’s incredibly important to help our clients on their journey to net zero by investing in renewable energy, and to know we are playing our part in helping to tackle the climate crisis as well as making a better future for our children and their children”. Connect with Maria on LinkedIn.
Head of environmental sustainability at Thirteen Housing Group, Samantha is very much at the forefront leading its environmental agenda, demonstrating a professional and personal commitment to tackling climate change. Managing a team of specialists, who are driving the organisation’s plans to reduce its environmental impact, Samantha leads the delivery and development of decarbonising its assets, energy use, and climate change adaptation. To support the journey, Thirteen’s Take Control campaign, will see the organisation achieve its goals to becoming a much greener organisation. Samantha told us: “We’re all seeing the devastating impact of climate change and a collaborative approach so we can learn from each other is vital to drive positive change in the housing sector.” Connect with Samantha on LinkedIn.
Louise works every day to keep 30 miles of coastline, stretching from South Shields to Seaton Crew, clean and safe for people and wildlife. As SeaScapes Beach Care Officer at Durham County Council, she coordinates litter picks along the shores with local people and community groups and raises awareness on how everyone can change habits to reduce marine rubbish. Louise started her environmental career 20 years ago and her hard work is paying off as the coastline is in much better condition than ever before; in the last year alone, she has organised 105 beach cleans and collected 1,500 bags of marine rubbish comprising plastic bottles, fishing nets, tyres, dolls heads, and even a pair of false teeth. Louise told us: “Some rubbish is left by visitors, but it is mostly washed down from the rivers or blown overland. It’s a challenge to keep on top of it, but I get great satisfaction by working with the public and picking marine litter from the beach leaving the sea and beaches safer and cleaner.” Connect with Louise on LinkedIn.
Passionate about nature and connecting people with nature on their doorstep, through education and volunteering, Hellen has spent over 20 years’ delivering and developing projects focussing on conservation, nature, and blue recovery. As Programme Development Manager at Groundwork North East and Cumbria, she currently delivers on Revitalising our Estuaries, a project focussing on nature restoration on rivers in coastal communities across the North East and the Tyne Estuary Partnership. These nature-based solutions have created saltmarsh and mudflat, restored lost habitat in heavily modified water bodies and support water quality improvements. These solutions reduce the presence of greenhouses gases by storing carbon in mud sediments and saltmarsh plants, provide flexible habitat options in areas at risk of inundation from rising sea levels, and purifying aquatic systems by removing sediments and pollutants from the water. Connect with Hellen on LinkedIn.
Artist and filmmaker, Barbara, has made it her life’s work to understand the huge variety of bees, how to breed and sustain them, and what they need to survive and thrive. With a small numbers of hives in several apiary sites, keeping honeybees made Barbara aware that we need to conserve and restore forage and habitat for all 25 different bumblebees and around 250 solitary bees we have in the UK. Barbara is at the hub of the bee community in the North of England and actively contributes to building the scientific evidence base while campaigning to help others learn and take action using art and citizen science projects. She told us: “Plants and all their pollinators are interdependent, and we need them all in the fight against climate change. Sometimes we need to take action by planting, sometimes we need to walk, or sit quietly and allow ourselves to be re-enchanted by nature. The earth will recover if we let it.” Connect with Barbara on LinkedIn and Twitter.
When not working as a graphic and digital designer for Home Group, Vijay is a support group leader for North East Animals Asia and her volunteering activities include collaborating with organisations like Climate Action North, Keep Washington Tidy, North Sea Rejects and North East Animal Rights. She shares Animals Asia’s motto, ‘Kindness in action’, and holds awareness stalls at vegan festivals and auctions her paintings to raise funds to rescue moon bears from the bile farming industry. When not removing ghost gear and marine debris in her spare time, Vijay organises community ‘Big Bear beach cleans’ in the north east through her Animals Asia support group to inspire others to take action and responsibility for the environment and wildlife. As a result of the many plastic toys she finds on beach cleans, her latest initiative is designing and leading a beach and dog toy recycling project to encourage people to recycle and cut down on plastics washing into the marine ecosystem. Look out for the boxes, made from old wooden pallets on the local promenades in Sunderland. She said: “I enjoy using my creativity to do work which helps, informs, and inspires others and has a positive impact on people, wildlife, and our environment. As a wildlife volunteer, I have seen first-hand the effects that marine debris and litter has on wildlife and am filled with an urgency to protect and conserve them. As we are all in this together, I enjoy working with like-minded people to make this possible.” Connect with Vijay on LinkedIn.
Award-winning Paula McMahon is a Civil Engineer with Sir Robert McAlpine and is passionate about the need to address the climate crisis with urgency. She organises and speaks in many forums, is the Founding Chair of Engineering Together, and spearheaded Primary Voices to educate and ease climate anxiety through climate action. Paula personally championed the first dedicated climate-related special issue of the international journal series Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) proceedings for the flagship Civil Engineering title. She also was in the final of the 2021 Pitch 200 where her thought-provoking ‘Engineering our way out of Extinction’ was described as highly engaging. Paula’s STEM work sees her talking about all things sustainability and engineering and often speaks to students alongside Climate Action North’s Julie Harrison. When she isn’t doing all this, Paula is at home in her garden looking after her chickens. Connect with Paula on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Trained by Al Gore’s Climate Reality programme and a Chartered Environmentalist, Anna-Lisa specialises in helping businesses with Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Carbon Footprinting. Through her company, SmartCarbon Ltd, Anna-Lisa engages with organisations that are serious about the climate crisis and helps them measure and reduce their carbon emissions putting them on track for net zero. She told us: “The business sector is cracking on, leading the way, and demonstrating what can be done. I’m here to help them measure and reduce emissions across the full value chain and take meaningful action to address the climate crisis.” Connect with Anna-Lisa on LinkedIn.
Michelle runs IT company Resilient Business Systems, with her husband Andy, and strives to make a real positive environmental difference through the services they offer, including a refurbishment service where older IT equipment can be repurposed and reused. Michelle told us: “While the switch to digital during the pandemic offered important environmental benefits, such as the reduction of travel-related carbon emissions, the transition to a more digitally centred world is not as clean as you may initially think. We provide people with the information they need to make good digital choices, so they don’t develop habits that harm the environment.” Resilient Business Systems have been an active supporter and sponsor of Climate Action North since its inception. Connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.
With eight years of championing the natural environment through her work at The North East England Nature Partnership (NEENP) Claire is passionate about taking the urgent action needed to make the planet healthier and more sustainable. The past year has seen Claire lead on sustainability at social housing organisation Livin where she continues to make a real difference to people’s lives, and the places they live, through the organisation’s drive to reduce missions, retrofit housing stock, and reach net zero. Claire said: “We talk a lot about what needs to be done and it’s critical we take action too. I am proud to be making real change through Livin and seeing the wider benefits, including improving people’s health and wellbeing, revitalising communities and restoring the natural environment coming to fruition.” Connect with Claire on LinkedIn.
Personal brand photographer by trade, Catherine proactively tackles the climate crisis by taking action professionally and personally. As well as buying as much plastic-free food as possible, she uses white-box, second-hand or refurbished equipment in her business, and ensures all documentation and clients’ photo transfers are digital. She’s also signed up with Ecologi, and plants trees for every client who books a session with her. She told us: “If more people questioned packaging or why buy it in the first place, we’d be in a much better place than we are now. Just one small change can have a big impact. Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn.
After years working in the waste industry striving to change people’s behaviours, speaking at conferences, panicking about climate change, and even digging around in people’s bins Claire decided to leave a legacy of being known as someone who took positive action on climate, so her kids know she tried to protect their future. She set up social enterprise Venture Zero with business partner and mental health coach, Clare Blunt, to help organisations create sustainable wellbeing by developing socially and environmentally connected workplaces while showing how small everyday changes can reduce the impact on the environment and improve mental health. She organises events and beach cleans through her community group, Totally Tynemouth, and collaborates with local businesses to bring communities together and build the resilience needed for the road ahead. Claire is also working on making realistic lifestyle changes to reduce her impact on the planet. She told us: “It’s not perfect. I haven’t yet won the battle with my husband over vehicle choices but we’re making steps in the right direction, and I know I’m (literally) planting seeds that will shape the decisions my children will make as they grow older.” Connect with Claire on LinkedIn.
Claire has created an exciting way to support growing and distributing food, while minimising the impact on the environment, through her social enterprise the Sunshine Co-Operative. By supporting other entrepreneurs who create and craft food without it having to travel miles, she is creating a thriving community and giving people in the North of England the chance to eat fresh, eat healthily, and eat local. She told us: “People are starting to understand the impact of what they’re buying when it comes to the environment and the climate crisis and it’s changing consumer behaviour. Knowing where your food has come from is just as important as the taste.” Connect with Claire on LinkedIn.
Katie works for Arktek Group Limited, a company that installs energy saving measures to make homes energy efficient and help protect our environment. She works hard to make sure to reduce, reuse and recycle where possible from cardboard to clothing. Katie is also a member of the WATAR initiative and can be found taking part in litter picking mornings along the River Wear with Climate Action North. She said: “Volunteering is a great way to become more educated on the climate and discuss ways we can work together to protect our planet.” Connect with Katie on LinkedIn.