Lindsay Hopkins has always been a humanitarian at heart, even while working in corporate offices throughout Europe. She was involved in outreach projects, working with troubled youth in London, and in Vietnam, rescuing dogs and cats from the illegal dog meat trade. Back in South Africa, Lindsay is part of a national Plastic Pact that supports a global drive, and she runs the KZN Operations for SA Harvest, a national food rescue organisation.
Lindsay has founded and runs ‘Waste Action Tribe’, which is a group of like-minded action-orientated civil society members. Her mission is to raise awareness and educate people about the impact of plastic pollution. Lindsay supports both communities and corporates in making responsible choices and implementing incentivised and sustainable programmes to reduce pollution and waste. She achieves this mission through community, river, and beach clean ups as well as undertakes educational talks in communities, at schools and corporates, in both rural and city areas.
Lindsay says her determination to reduce waste was driven by her childhood experiences as when she was growing up her family never had much money. “I was always trying to recycle, create clothing or make clothing and then that interest went very quickly into food waste; anything that became inefficient or ineffective, just really bothered me.”
Transforming our environments
During Covid, this work came to an abrupt halt, but Lindsay now had communities that were living hand to mouth, starving with no way of getting food. She explains, “At the same time, I had farmers sitting with rotting produce. I set out to source food that was otherwise going to be dumped due to the supply chain being disrupted. I had an essential services work permit, so I was free to move around. I very quickly became a centralised facilitator, and before I knew it, I was feeding hundreds of people, every day, in a number of communities throughout KwaZulu-Natal.”
Lindsay started her initiative in a local church hall. She says that just before burn-out and bankruptcy occurred she found SA Harvest, which really spoke to her heart. “I approached them and asked if they’d support me in opening a KZN branch… and here we are,” Lindsay explained.
Through SA Harvest, short dated and surplus food that would otherwise go to landfill is rescued and redirected to communities in need. Out of the 30 million tons of food produced annually, 10 million tons is wasted, and for no good reason. Not to mention the severely negative environmental impact it has. So, SA Harvest aspires to do more than just feed the hungry, they have a heart to empower our communities and transform our environment; one truckload at a time.
Give people a purpose
Lindsay can normally be found on the ground and usually barefoot. She explains, “I like to do more than just feed. I want to build up communities, instil pride and dignity with extended support programmes – giving people a purpose again. I pride myself in building lasting partnerships and relationships, while encouraging a strong focus on a holistic and sustainable future. My dream is self-sufficient communities where basic needs, food security, shelter and safety are a human right. My drive has always been compassion, humanity and just trying to save the environment, because I do feel that we are on borrowed time.”
In commenting on some of the differences that she has made; Lindsay says that this is apparent when she goes into communities to tackle inefficiencies and comes up with solutions that are sustainable, and she can incentivise communities to get involved. “The solutions may include training and development in soil rejuvenation or seedling and crop rotations. If they are in an environment full of pollution, there’s money to be made in recycling. It’s building up systems and networks, to make the environment a better place to be.”
In the future, Lindsay would love to continue to leave a legacy, which is based around mentorship and leadership. “I really want to be able to teach many people about the environment, and about the planet. We honestly need a huge change in the way that we look after the planet and the environment and that’s made by small steps. Just being more considerate and making responsible choices in the way we do things, eat, or buy items in our lives.”
A common thread
Lindsay believes that some of the biggest obstacles that divide us, as women, are the widespread misconceptions that we hold about one another. The nature of our problems is not solely determined by our socio-economic status; there are an abundance of social issues that plague us all. “When I think of some of the challenges I faced in my home as a child, and I listen to the women’s issues in the communities that we support, there is such a common thread that links us all together.
While life’s challenges are no respecter of persons, they are integral in shaping us into the people that we are. The sooner we are able to accept this truth; the sooner we’ll be able to break through the mental prison of victimhood and embrace the endless possibilities that life has to offer,” she explained.
The advice that Lindsay would give to young females is to hold your head up high, keep your shoulders back. “If you’ve got any concerns or questions; you really need to open your mouth and just say so in a pleasant way and have a conversation or ask for advice,” she added.
Lindsay concluded by saying that having your own sense of self-worth creates a domino effect that improves your life. “You will see the importance in making good decisions, you will command respect, and you’re able to set the tone for the way that people should treat you.”