Changemaker Challenge – finalist Amy Mooijman

You separate your waste, you don’t use plastic bags in the supermarket and you’re steering clear of single-use water bottles. Just when you’re starting to feel like the next Sylvia Earle, your bubble is burst by Amy Mooijman, winner of the Changemaker Challenge 2018. It turns out, your own bathroom is a big problem!

‘I once read that there was a lot of plastic in personal care products, but it wasn’t until I put my scrub creme through a coffee filter that I realized how big the problem actually is’, says Amy. ‘Those colorful particles that supposed to be salt crystals? These don’t dissolve in the water. That’s plastic!’ That would rub anyone the wrong way.

Sun-kissed Glow

If you’re thinking that – apart from the plastic containers – you don’t have any plastic in your bathroom, you’re probably wrong. Amy: ‘If it glitters or shimmers, it is bound to have plastic in it. You can easily see it in nail polish, but it’s probably also in your sunscreen if it gives you a so-called sunkissed glow. The thing is, the plastic is well hidden. Even on the packaging manufacturing companies use different names to indicate plastic particles. They even come up with new combinations of plastic to dodge regulations.’ How sneaky!

Is Amy a Biology student, or maybe doing something along the lines of Oceanography? Not even close. This happy go lucky, talkative girl is saving the planet at the Willem de Kooning Academie (Art Academy). During the Changemaker Challenge, between a lot of students from Technical Universities, Amy didn’t feel like a fish out of water at all: ‘I liked the quirky mix of people. Even though my education is different, as a person I’m very much aware of my ecological footprint. I was brought up to clean up after myself, separate waste, you know – live a sustainable life. And my studies give me the tools to make an impact regarding the things I believe in. Brands and social media can influence so many people and change behavior. If you have a powerful message and take branding and aesthetics into account, you can really make a difference.’

The first competition

This year, Amy made a bold move. She took 6 months off to explore what she really wanted to do. ‘Some of the projects I was working on felt like “greenwashing”: I was executing ideas I didn’t support. So I stopped.’ Is that when she found out about the Changemaker Challenge? ‘To be completely honest: No. I came up with my idea for another competition: the ADCN Circular Brands Pitch. But when that deadline drew nearer, I decided not to enter. Afterwards I heard about the Changemaker Challenge. And my proposal was a perfect fit.’ So you entered straight away? ‘To be completely honest (again). No. It took some relentless badgering from my friend Naomi to get me to send in my research proposal.’ We appreciate your honesty Amy. Your idea was amazing, so we wouldn’t have wanted to miss it! Thanks Naomi 😉

Amy’s insight

You already know Amy’s research proposal has something to do with plastic in personal care products. But what did she propose to do about this? Use organic mud instead? Stop using sunscreen altogether? ‘I am researching plastic-free alternatives to soap and scrub products. Probably with seaweed instead of plastic.’ This would make our inner little mermaid very happy. ‘But most importantly, I want to set up an awareness campaign. People just don’t know about plastic in personal care products. Even though you can actually see it. They are rubbing the tiniest particles on their bodies, and flushing them through their sinks. You can’t sieve these out. They will end up in our oceans, and eventually on our plates.’ Glittery food. Not for us, thanks.

Boat buzz

Then the finals were there. Twenty students on a boat. Pitches, speed-dates with the judges, no sleep. ‘I did a lot of pitches for my studies. A LOT. But none were as big as this one. It was very impressive. All those people, all those ideas, my head was positively buzzing with inspiration. So I didn’t sleep a lot on that boat. And when my name was called during the award ceremony the next day, I didn’t really register that I actually won. But as soon as I did I was over the moon. When my dad picked me up and I told him, he thought it was incredible. Literally. “How on earth did YOU win this?” Thanks dad.’

Skipping steps

And then the rollercoaster started. Interviews with newspapers, exploding LinkedIn profile and a tidal wave of messages. Before the competition, Amy had had a plan. She would finish her studies and get a job at an advertising agency (preferably one with a sustainable vision). ‘Winning this competition might have just given me the opportunity to skip ahead to my dream: starting my own business.’ So what’s the plan? ‘I’m trying to find the right people to help me set this up this Summer. Someone to help me with product development, maybe a crowdfunding campaign – who knows? One thing I do know is that I don’t want to wait until I graduate. There is so much buzz around plastic pollution these days – the ban on plastic straws in the UK for instance –  if I want to turn this into a success, I need to jump in now!’ We are sure you are going to make a splash when you do, Amy!

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