Interview with Joseph Kennedy Environmental Copywriting Consultant, Nomad & founder of Content Pathway
At 24, you’ve quickly decided that being a digital nomad is for you. What motivated you to take to the road?
It’s in my blood. My mum travelled for nearly ten years, from 17 years old to 26, I think. Growing up with her stories really inspired me, and I want to go and relive some of her adventures.
I started going on adventures when I was 18, hitchhiking around England with a tent, volunteering on organic projects in Portugal, camping in the northern lake region of Albania and working in a hostel in Italy for example. When I was working remotely for the recycling company, I started seeing the term ‘digital nomad’ come up, and so I asked one of these people to tell me all about it, and this amazing lady called Kate helped me prepare my pitch to my boss. See, I was working remotely, but from home, from a room I was renting, and I was desperate to hit the road. I had saved enough money to go travel, but I didn’t want to quit the job, and I figured I had a 50/50 chance of my boss saying yes to letting me work abroad. He agreed and off I went!
I ended up coming back and looking for a new job, but based on this experience, I would do everything I could to become a digital nomad a second time, but this time I would be the boss and it would be a far more creative and useful role. Fortunately, I managed it.
You’ve moved around quite a bit over the past year. How do you decide upon your destinations?
I’ve been asked this a few times recently, and I usually say that I follow the sun, like a lizard! I much prefer hot weather to cold, but this year I’m going to try and break free from that so I have more diversity in where I travel to. Hot places with a beach, like Lisbon, Tarifa, Koh Samui and currently Essaouira have been very good to me, and are far more appealing than a massive city or the countryside (where I’m from originally).
You’ve decided to launch your business with a clear focus on environmental copywriting. Why did you decide to focus on that niche?
I’ve always been curious about environmental protection, but beyond volunteering on the odd project, I didn’t really get involved until I graduated from university. I found an internship with a small virtual recycling and landfill diversion company, working remotely, where I was paid to research, produce content, interact with the public and other brands, and get a strong understanding of the industry. I learned more than I could have expected, and it grew my interest beyond recycling and landfill, and into renewable energy, sustainability, reuse, ocean plastics and more.
When starting the business, I knew that I wanted to help environmental businesses with their copywriting and content marketing, but I was really surprised at how few specialist agencies there were in the UK. Most UK environmental businesses are working with general agencies who struggle to connect with the audience because they don’t know how to write for them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same writers who they hire are also writing about fashion, sports, politics or technology.
I made the decision that if a business was not driven to help the environment, I wouldn’t help them.
What are the particularities of environmental copywriting?
It’s part science, part emotion and part education. With any environmental cause, you have something to root for, whether it be the turtles eating the plastic, or the renewable energy companies taking on the dirty coal plants, and this is a vital factor in any good story, having a main character that you want to win. That’s where you build emotion, and then you add in the science, the data, the stats, the reasons and how things are going to get worse if we don’t want them better. Now that the reader is involved and informed, if you’ve done your job well, it’s time to educate them about best practices and progressive actions that will work towards nullifying the issue. There’s more to it than this, but I can’t give away my secret sauce!
Do you have any observations to share regarding the environment and the countries you have visited? How does attitude and perspective about environmentalism differ between some of those countries and the UK/West?
Of course, I’m always tuned in to local behaviors to the environment. In Thailand and Cambodia, I was shocked by how dirty the rivers, beaches and ocean were, and how people don’t put stuff in the bin. Waste management seems to be almost non existent, and I don’t know if they recycle anything there. In Spain, I watched people separate their recyclables into different containers, and then the rubbish truck coming along and throwing everything into the same compartment, meaning all of that energy was completely wasted. In Morocco, I think they do a fairly good job, I see the waste operatives on the street every single night cleaning up and making sure the litter doesn’t go to the ocean. There are a lot of micro-plastics on the beach, but this isn’t directly the fault of the people here, as they wash up from all around the world. The attitude is not much different, as the locals are aware of the problems, but cite the lack of infrastructure and opportunities to reverse or eradicate the issues. It’s disappointing, but it’s something I would like to tackle in my lifetime, when I find the right opportunity and investment to do so. The driver of recycling in the UK is the money to be made from government contracts, grants, subsidies and from selling material. If our councils couldn’t make a profit on the materials, they wouldn’t bother, which is one reason why recycling is not so popular in developing countries. Saying that, there’s a huge push for recycling in West Africa, where businesses have found ways to make profits through exportation and are using people power to drive material collections. I think in the US the problem is the opposite, as from what I gather in the media, they really don’t seem to care about the environment, they deny climate change and consume and dispose at a rate far greater than is sustainable.
Can you relate a memorable work moment that happened over the past year during your travels?
Sure! I’ve been working with this amazing and progressive London-based house clearance company. They’re the first house clearance company in the UK (and maybe the world) to have reached zero waste to landfill. For an office or a shop, this would be easy, but for a company that’s business model is collecting unwanted items and waste from homes and businesses, to recycle, reuse and donate everything is insane. I entered them into a national awards competition for green business leaders, going up against giants like O2 and Toyota, and incredibly they won Circular Economy Project of the year in 2016. This was a huge victory, as people really felt a connection to what they were doing. This, and being published on Inc.com for my introspective piece about introversion and entrepreneurialism were perhaps the two main highlights.
In your bios, reading philosophy comes up more than once. Which philosopher has had the greatest influence on you?
That’s a tough question! Seven years ago, I’d have said John Locke or Mikhail Bakunin, three years ago I’d probably have said Albert Camus, but nowadays I’m reading purely Stoicism, so Seneca, Ryan Holiday and Marco Aurelio. Overall, if I had to pick one, it would probably be Camus.