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Juliet: [0:03:46] Diana Kapp is a journalist with an MBA from Stanford University. Her work has appeared in most major media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Elle, Marie Claire, Sunset, Outside.com, O, The Oprah Magazine, and many more. She has crisscrossed this country writing for and about empowered girls. Girls who expect to be leaders, founders, and inventors. Diana’s first book, Girls Who Run the World, was published in 2019 and was endorsed by Madeleine Albright and featured in Forbes and on NPR’s Marketplace. On April 5, 2022, in time for Earth Day, her second book, Girls Who Green the World, was released and covers 34 of the most revolutionary environment change makers at this critical moment in time. I think you’re really going to enjoy our conversation with Diana.
Juliet: [0:04:39] Hey Ready State listeners, if you like what you’re hearing, please subscribe and leave a review on iTunes to help others find our show. Diana, welcome to The Ready State Podcast. We’re so excited to talk to you about all of this awesome stuff you have going on.
Diana Kapp: [0:04:52] Hello Juliet and Kelly. I’m so excited to be on. I’ve always wanted to be on The Ready State.
Kelly: [0:04:58] Oh my Lord. Well, fortunately, that bar is low and you come in very high. What we realize is one amazing book isn’t enough. We’ve just been waiting around for you to put out a second amazing book, which has just launched. And finally, I think your bona fides are good enough to hang out with the Starretts.
Diana Kapp: [0:05:19] I’ll try. I’ll see if I can hang. I’ll see if I can hang.
Juliet: [0:05:21] So I think we’re going to go in reverse chronological order because you’ve had quite a month. You just launched your second amazing book, Girls Who Green the World. And I’m wondering if you can tell The Ready State audience a little bit about what it is and what you’ve been up to for the last month getting it out there into the world.
Diana Kapp: [0:05:40] Girls Who Green the World is a compendium of profiles of amazing women working in sustainability. They are doing things like turning mushrooms into leather and bioengineering protein grown in microbes so we don’t have to use methane producing cows. They are putting solar panels on 600,000 rooftops. And it’s a super diverse set of women in every corner of the environmental movement. There’s activists, artists, people that are making glitter out of eucalyptus leaves. And my thought is that a very negative tone has sort of overtaken the conversation around climate. Everything is this is inevitable, there’s nothing more that we can do, it’s gloom and doom. And that’s making people and particularly young people feel a lack of motivation, lack of desire to lean into all these problems that we just have to solve. And so the book is… I call it an oasis of positivity. So it’s doers and changemakers and innovators. And they’re not sitting around talking about how impossible all this is. They’re just getting to work and solving problems, which I think is a really good message to send at this moment.
Juliet: [0:07:12] I think it is and I see that even in my own young daughters where they know that this is going to be the issue of their lifetime, but they’re like where do we start, where do we begin, how do we incorporate this into our lives? How did you discover all of these women? How did you go about finding them and their work? Because there’s a lot of terms that I just want to add I’ve heard from you around the writing and promotion of this book. Maybe I’ve been living under a rock but I’ve never really heard about or thought about fast fashion until you and I talked about it. So how’d you find them and then maybe even can you tell us a little more detail about some of the women in this book and what they’re doing.
Diana Kapp: [0:07:51] Sure. So I was a complete novice as far as my knowledge about the environmental situation. So I’ve obviously been reading the news and following along. But I did not know when I started writing this book that fossil fuels are actually degraded plants and animals that have been decomposing and they’re under a layer of the earth and that’s how we get oil and gas. Did you guys know that?
Juliet: [0:08:22] I did know that but only because my dad is a climate guy. So I’m not sure that… I don’t know. You knew that, Kels. Did you know that? I’m not sure that’s common knowledge though.
Diana Kapp: [0:08:30] Okay. Anyway, that’s just a good example of seeing that I was way back at the baby beginning of having to figure out what any of this meant. I have very tough critics in my three kids. So I was led to the book by having teenagers who are really sad, angry, and mad at our generation for being left this situation and their view of our lack of attention to it.
Kelly: [0:09:04] Let me just say this. I am personally friends with your children and they’re not mad at me. They may be mad at Juliet, but not me. I’m just going to exclude myself from mad at us.
Juliet: [0:09:12] And I can also confirm that they’re a tough audience.
Kelly: [0:09:15] They are a tough audience.
Juliet: [0:09:15] They are a tough audience.
Kelly: [0:09:16] And a smart audience.
Diana Kapp: [0:09:18] They are. And they really helped me in the writing of the book. They helped me watch out for traps like greenwashing, which again, wasn’t necessarily a term I was that familiar with. But that’s kind of this faux effort to show and to take actions that are more symbolic than real in order to have a good public relations face on your effort. And so they helped me look out for that. They read the manuscript and they would scribble “cringe” wherever there was a very annoying phrase. And particularly with exclamation points. So I learned that to teenagers, anything with an exclamation point deserves a cringe. So back to how I chose the women-
Kelly: [0:10:05] I’m wring this down.
Juliet: [0:10:05] Me too. I literally was like, noted.
Diana Kapp: [0:10:09] Note to self. But they really did save my bacon. They took out so many… You know, it’s hard to write for teenagers as someone who’s in middle age. And I’m young at heart but I definitely don’t have the terminology down and when you attempt to have their terminology it really comes off badly. So it’s better to go with kind of simple language, which is what I’ve done. But one of the ways that I figured out to find women in the book is through friends of mine who are social impact investors. And one of those people is Robin Donohoe and her firm is Draper Richards Kaplan, and they do a lot of seed funding of very early stage players in regenerative farming, in plastic alternatives, in ways to address fast fashion. So I got ideas from them and from another firm similar to them. And my idea was looking for people that are under the radar. I wanted to find women that we don’t know about and the whole idea is to give them more airtime and to shine some sunshine on them so we can know about them. And I also, every time I would interview one of these women, I would ask them who they would put in a book like this. And that was obviously a great way to get ideas. And just a lot of research. I’m a journalist so I know how to Google until the cows come home and find interesting people and lists that are interesting like The Grist List.
Kelly: [0:11:52] What’s The Grist List?
Diana Kapp: [0:11:53] That’s a publication that writes a lot about environment and every year they put out a list of the most exciting up and comer environmental players.
Kelly: [0:12:04] One of the things that we talked about when Girls Who Run the World, which we’ll get to, came out, was that you said, which is your first book in my world, since I’ve known you, one of the things that you said was that a lot of the entrepreneurs or the women in that book who became entrepreneurs were accidental entrepreneurs. They didn’t set out to build a business; they set out to solve a problem. That kind of surprised you a little bit. And they had to build up a business and business acumen as a side effect of trying to solve a problem. And I know Juliet and I can relate to that as an attorney and a physical therapist who are suddenly like, oh, business. Did you have that similar experience here? Is that a universal truth, that oftentimes people aren’t thinking about sustainable business and thinking about solving a problem and that these women who are greening the world were in the same category as those other people who didn’t set out to start a business but set out to solve a problem?
Diana Kapp: [0:13:00] Very much so. So a great example is Gregg Renfrew and she has a really big cosmetics company called Beautycounter. And I mean I think it’s worth maybe a billion dollars. I know she just got a big investment or partnership. So she started out bathing her kids and recognizing all these lotions and potions that she was rubbing all over them and she just started to think in her head what the heck am I putting through their bloodstream that’s obviously going through their scalp and their skin. And she started learning a little bit about how are cosmetics regulated and she learned not at all. But I asked her how much did you know about any of this when you got started, and her quote to me was, “I knew nothing about cosmetics, nothing about direct selling, nothing about marketing, nothing, nothing about nothing.” And so she had this personal problem that made her just very uncomfortable thinking about her own children. And that’s often, in my view, that’s really how the most interesting entrepreneurs come about, is they have a passion for a problem. It has to be personal because you really have to kind of go to the end of the earth to solve these problems. It’s so difficult to get a business going. So it’s a lot of instances of that in the book.
People that, you know, a young woman, so interesting. Kaitlin Mogentale and her company is called Pulp Pantry and she actually just joined me on my trip in Chicago. She’s from the North Shore of Chicago and she went off to college at USC. And that’s an LA place where juicing is really cool and really something that students are into. So in her first year she went to a friend’s house and she saw her juice a carrot and she noted that one millimeter of carrot juice came out and this big pile of refuse went in the garbage can. And she had just been working in a community garden with these young Title I public school students, most of whom had never eaten a fresh tomato or carrot. And so she was thinking all about how we’re throwing away this byproduct that’s full of fiber and vitamins. And the next day, she called up 10 local juiceries in the LA area and she got these bins at Target and she just went around in her car and picked up all the goop. And then she started experimenting and now she has Pulp Pantry Chips which have five grams of fiber per serving, which is significant, and they are 50 percent made from vegetables. And she dries them out kind of into a flour and then she bakes them into these chips. And she’s got other ideas. She’s getting into cereal next because all the cereals are just corn based.
Kelly: [0:16:07] Can I get an amen?
Juliet: [0:16:08] Yeah, can I get an amen because Kelly and I love cereal.
Diana Kapp: [0:16:11] Yeah, it’s a great idea. And she was telling me in Chicago some of the potential partners that she’s talking to now as she grows. She’s talking to McDonald’s because for their Happy Meal they slice up their apple slices, but 40 percent of the apple gets tossed. And she was talking about baby carrots. Three babies come out of one carrot. But think of all that excess around all the babies that are just getting tossed. And she was talking about broccoli and cauliflower florets in the supermarket packaged up so nice and neat and clean. But you just get the flower and you’re not getting any of the stems, which have all the… They’re tasty.
Kelly: [0:16:59] Do you think it’s an advantage for these women or for all entrepreneurs potentially to come in with such a different view, a different experience, a different skillset, a different set of tools to solve these problems? Or do we… I mean I see one of the things you’re trying to do with this book is plant seeds and incubate this so it’s a way of seeing the world. But do you think it’s a competitive advantage sometimes to just start from scratch and look with really clean eyes?
Diana Kapp: [0:17:29] I do think that can be an advantage. I think Kaitlin in her instance, was taken into the Target incubator and that was what launched her. She never would have been able to do this without that kind of specialized knowledge that she was able to take advantage of in all these different areas. But I do think coming at problems with fresh eyes is helpful. I remember as a young writer being assigned to do a portrait of Gavin Newsom and my editor specifically said, “I’m choosing you for this because I know you don’t know anything about local politics in San Francisco.” I didn’t. It wasn’t an area I was familiar with. And so he just said, “You’re going to come to this with really fresh eyes. You’re going to be reading-
Kelly: [0:18:21] Good luck.
Diana Kapp: [0:18:22] I remember I went over to Jamie and Staci Slaughter’s house and I said, “Explain San Francisco local politics to me.”
Juliet: [0:18:31] Yeah, you’re like, “And go.”
Kelly: [0:18:33] Sorry. TLDR. TikTok it. I have 15 seconds. Go.
Juliet: [0:18:36] Fifteen seconds. TikTok. Okay, so I mentioned it briefly, but I don’t know why this particular thing piqued my interest so much, but maybe because I had never heard of it, but can you tell our audience a little bit more about fast fashion and who you feature in the book, what they’re doing? Because I have to say that just learning about it from you, I’ve been way more conscious about my own fashion habits.
Kelly: [0:18:57] Especially with teenage daughters.
Juliet: [0:18:58] Yeah.
Diana Kapp: [0:18:59] Fast fashion is most fashion. And basically, what it means is when we were kids, we had two fashion seasons a year where new clothes would come into White Flint Mall and I could go around and shop the new season. And I loved clothes; I was really into clothes. Now, clothes come out 50 times a year and we are throwing away clothes on average, Americans, after using them for six months. We Americans on average toss 80 pounds of clothing every year. So we have come to view clothing as disposable. And it is produced extremely cheaply, mostly in developing countries, mostly by labor that’s treated very poorly. And it has huge environmental impact because there’s all the gas that’s used to ship all these materials to the Far East and then back over here, and then there’s a lot of rinsing that comes with apparel and all those toxins go into the water. It requires a ton of water. So these companies, they price things so cheaply because of how they make them that it pretty much makes it impossible to manufacture in the United States or in Europe to compete with those other brands.
And teenagers, there’s a trend on TikTok right now that is #haul, h-a-u-l. And basically, you watch teenagers take out all their packages from a shopping spree of fast fashion. And the brag is how much you could buy in one afternoon. And so it’s really not a good thing. I mean the whole theme for me of this book is about consumption and how we are just over consuming for our planet and we have to start rethinking consumption. That’s the number one message I think I want to spread and that really hit me hard over the head, is we went in the 1700s from a population of 760 million people on the planet to now 7.6 billion people on the planet. And our planet just can’t support the kind of use of resources that we are currently using. So fast fashion is just a good example because if you think about clothing becoming disposable, it really doesn’t make any sense. And young people care so much about identify and so they really want to wear what their friends are wearing and shop the trends, so it becomes kind of an insidious thing.
Juliet: [0:21:49] Can I just add one factoid? Caroline goes to shop at this one shockingly cheap fast fashion place and then it comes in a box and then every little $5 T-shirt that she’s bought, which is like a half shirt, is in a plastic bag, and then all those plastic bags are in the box with plastic. Like just the box-
Diana Kapp: [0:22:13] The packaging. Yeah.
Juliet: [0:22:14] Just the packaging alone on the fast fashion that I’ve seen my own kids get, I’m like, wow, this is bad.
Kelly: [0:22:20] What were some of the solutions to fast fashion besides-
Juliet: [0:22:23] Consuming less.
Kelly: [0:22:24] Telling my daughter, “No.” Give us some examples of… Because I want to come back to this consumption idea that’s very interesting and notable, definitely a central core idea. But what is this person that you interviewed, how are they solving this?
Diana Kapp: [0:22:39] So there’s a couple of examples of approaches. One is a lot of brands right now are starting these renewed lines. So did you know that a lot of women particularly when they order clothing online, they order three sizes. They are not sure if they’re a four, a six, or an eight, so they order all three. And then when they return the two, those things typically never make it back into circulation. It’s just logistically too difficult for these brands to do that. So that stuff typically goes to landfills. So companies that are fixing small errors that happen during production, like one stitch is wrong or one button is missing, or something gets dirty in the dressing room with lipstick. One of the companies in my book Renewal Workshop, has these sew techs and these really advanced washing machines and they get hired by a brand like Prada and North Face and they’re one to three percent of the product they’re now able to get back out and on the floor for sale. But it’s sold as a renewed line so it’s something positive for the brands. It has a good image and all the brands are doing it; it’s amazing. Every single one is starting to come out with a renewed line.
Then there’s an example of this company called Pareto and they call themselves the Marie Kondo of apparel and they are just trying to get down to five or six core elements like a black T-shirt dress and a pair of leggings and a cute sweatshirt. That’s all they’re going to put out for the whole season. And everything they’re going to produce, they are going to manufacture it in the United States and they call it a farm to closet. It’s kind of a play on the farm to table. But it’s like you’re going to know who’s growing the cotton and who’s spinning it. And all those things take place in different places and that’s one of the reasons that apparel is so messy; you can’t track the supply chain so you don’t know what hazards have happened along the way. And in Berkely there is a really cool company that is bioengineering dye for blue jeans. So they take a piece of DNA from the indigo plant, which is how we used to dye blue jeans a long, long time ago before chemical formulations came in, and they grow those up in microbes, which divide quickly. And then those microbes start secreting the dye. And the first person that they’re working with is Aktiengesellschaft, which is AG Jeans, which I’m sure your kids know. And they’re going to do all colors. And that’s kind of a getting the toxins out because the toxins are ruining the water so much so someone told me that the rivers in China, the fish, it’s changing the sex of fish. Their hormones are being impacted by these toxic chemicals that are being dumped.
Kelly: [0:25:55] I woke up today thinking about this interview. You told me a story last summer, the summer before, someone you were interviewing for this book had reduced their consumption and all of their waste products to fit in a single bell jar in the course of a year. Am I remembering that right?
Diana Kapp: [0:26:14] Yeah. She actually doesn’t end up being in my book, Lauren Singer. And Lauren, I hope if you’re listening to this, you feel really badly because you treated me terribly. I had three interviews set up with you and you never showed up. But there is a whole movement called the zero waste movement. And just the other night I met someone, she calls herself the Zero Waste Teen. That’s her handle on Instagram. And she’s kind of following that way of living, which is doing everything you possibly can to change out your lifestyle from, you know, you save the butt of the zucchini and boil it into veggie broth. You save that stuff. The onion clippings and the little carrot peelings and then you boil that into something. You change out all your shampoo so you’re having shampoo and conditioner in bar form. You get all the glass bottles to replace everything. You know, just everything you do is… You don’t buy from Amazon because it’s going to come in that packaging and that’s not going to fit in your little tiny jar. So instead, you buy in a thrift shop and you don’t take a bag.
Kelly: [0:27:23] I feel like this book is Girls Who Green the World aimed at a generation of people who are coming into their power, starting to make decisions about how they are in the world, planting a consciousness seed. I feel like there is a real opportunity, that kids are actually a lot more sophisticated than we think around some of these complicated, nuanced conversations. And of course, there exceptions to that, fast fashion, et cetera. In your experience, in talking to schools now, have you felt that, A, kids are receptive, or they sort of understand this intuitively but they don’t know what to do? Are our teens just consumers or are they starting to recognize that they’re inheriting this? Because you started by saying that your kids are a little mad at us, and rightfully so. And I just blame the boomers. So it’s really easy. I just shuck it on them. But what has been your experience in understanding kids’ role in this and their ability to adopt this in their own lives?
Diana Kapp: [0:28:26] I think they’re savvy. I mean they’ve been hearing about this and reading about this for their entire lives basically. And you meet a lot of teens, it’s really trendy to be vegetarian right now. There’s a lot of teens who because truly, I know you guys are meat fans, but meat is one of the top ways that you can as an individual make a change that impacts the planet. And I heard this statistic that if we all Americans ate one less hamburger a week, it would be equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road in terms of emissions. But the kids, I got this great email from a young girl after I visited Grace Church School in New York, and she said, “I really loved your talk because we talk so much about the problems and very few people ever talk about the solutions.” And that is the same issue that caused a woman in my book, Daniela Fernandez, she founded Sustainable Ocean Alliance. It’s a seed fund to back small companies working on ocean health. And she has one that does wave power and many that are using seaweed in interesting ways like as a plastic alternative and also to feed to animals because it reduces the methane in their belches. But yeah, the kids, they really are savvy. I mean in fact I was a little bit afraid to go out and talk to them because I wondered if it was going to be too elementary because they know all about the food waste problem and why it’s so important that we cut down on air travel and the fact that that’s already happening in Europe. They’re following these stories.
Kelly: [0:30:19] I feel like as a child, I had two concerns: The hole in the ozone, right? That was universal.
Juliet: [0:30:26] And then don’t do drugs?
Kelly: [0:30:27] No. Quicksand. Those were the two things that I… Weren’t you guys obsessed with quicksand as a kid?
Juliet: [0:30:34] Yeah, yeah. You didn’t have nuclear war on there? You had quicksand? No, I definitely, quicksand was not on my top list.
Diana Kapp: [0:30:42] Because you brought up ozone, that’s a great prompt for me because my book opens with the story of this scientist, most people have not heard of her, named Susan Solomon. She’s a professor at MIT. But when she was a young NOAA scientist, that was the mid-80s and that was the time when we were all freaking out about the ozone, that we were going to fry because we were getting these radioactive rays were coming through this big hole in the layer that was supposed to protect us from the sun. And she did the fundamental work. She went to Antarctica, she stood out in minus 40-degree temperature. She told me her eyes would freeze shut. She had to keep them open because she had sawed a hole in the roof and she was bringing in moon and sunlight into a prism in a spectrograph and using that to look at the light waves, which told her what was the chemical components in the atmosphere. And she found chlorine dioxide at a hundred times normal levels and sounded the alarm on that. And that produced the Montreal Protocol, which is the only time in the Earth’s history that every nation has signed on. We banned chlorofluorocarbons and now when I go out to the schools the first thing I ask the kids is, “Have you even heard of the ozone problem, the ozone hole?” And maybe a tenth of the hands go up. It’s so solved.
Kelly: [0:32:15] And those kids don’t even have Aqua Net hairspray.
Diana Kapp: [0:32:19] I know. I know. Spray deodorant. But I guess they do. Actually, the reason that we were able to move off CFCs, this is interesting, what Susan Solomon told me is when there is a practical alternative that can easily be substituted in… And so there was a chemical that was not CFCs it was like NFCs or whatever, and so then we started using that. And that’s one of the things that makes me feel positive right now because the price of clean energy has dropped 70 or 80 percent in the last decade, wind and sun energy. And so we are moving to a place where it actually would be practical for us to move off fossil fuels if we could just get out of this way of being so stuck and unable to change. But economically it makes sense now.
Juliet: [0:33:25] So I have sort of a two-part question. The first is, is there a story, a conversation, an experience you had, either working with one of these women or writing this that surprised you? And then the second part is how have you, Diana, changed your own habits? I mean I understand the overarching theme here is how can we reduce consumption. But what are the specific things you’ve done or your household has done based on specifically doing these interviews and learning what you’ve learned through this book?
Diana Kapp: [0:33:56] Well, I mean I don’t hold myself up by any means as some exemplary greenie because I’m just learning. And I view one of the ways that I’m contributing is by going out and spreading this message. But I will say, I have really been impacted in terms of my thinking about all the things that I just quickly buy when I don’t even look to see if maybe… I would just buy it on Amazon before I would bother to look for it, if it was hard to find. Or fixing things, like sending back, David just sent back his climbing shoes and had them resoled. And I have been doing more of that, taking my boots in to be redone. And I did some clothes swapping this year with my running friends for our holiday party. Instead of white elephant, which is what we usually do, so we buy a bunch of stuff at Walgreen’s and have 15 minutes of laughter. But then it’s just a bunch of junk that goes into the trash. We did a really fun, bringing our old clothes. And I’m definitely eating less meat. Just thinking more about airline travel. Thinking about could we take a U.S. vacation that could be just as fun. I don’t want to think about these things. I mean it’s such a bummer. But that is just the truth. And once you start thinking about it and reading about it and talking about it, there’s kind of no going back. I really do feel that way.
Kelly: [0:35:34] Let me ask you this. I always feel like there’s a competing pressure between my mother-in-law and my father-in-law trapping their grey water right from their showers and pouring it on their plants and the fact that we are watering a billion almond trees. Do you think—and this is my naiveite—I believe that aggregating a ton of behavior changes and viewing the world and our consumption differently will have a net positive impact. But do you feel like we have to simultaneously have a top down approach and a bottom up approach to see meaningful change here?
Diana Kapp: [0:36:10] I do but I do also think that everything is tradeoff. So even if you take the example of they’re making this new bioengineered way of creating dye for blue jeans, but in order to shake the vats that they’re growing those microbes up in, it takes probably more energy than it would to create those chemical mixtures. And so I think that is one of the things that I’ve really taken away. There’s no perfection. There’s no finding the solution out there that has no net consequences on the environment. They all have consequences on the environment. But I think this new mindset of thinking about solutions that will have a lighter impact on the planet is a way we just have to start thinking and baking into our thinking. And someone that’s going to start a company today, I really believe that they don’t have to be a green company, they’re going to have to think about when they create their product, when they create their packaging, then they build their headquarters, when they think about their supply chain and their resources, they’re going to be thinking about environmental issues. To me, it’s-
Kelly: [0:37:27] So it’s not solutions, efficiency, that the total aggregated efficiency and just improvements in the process are important steps towards leaving this place in a better place. Because really, we just read this book this summer, Ministry for the Future, which is about near environmental collapse, and Juliet and I, as we were driving home from Idaho, we were driving through the fires, and then we were like, oh my Lord, I mean these West Coast fires, going from climate change and then just yesterday you sent me an article about heat wave in India, which is how the book opens. And it’s like, oh, it’s all coming true. This is actually a biography of our near times. So it’s really interesting. You pivoted from this idea of women who are running the world, girls who green the world, where do you think this is going to lead you for your next understanding or the next piece of what you want to talk about or illuminate? What are we missing? Because I think you’ve really done a beautiful job in this book of illuminating possibility. What does that lead on to?
Juliet: [0:38:35] Can I just frame that a little bit? Maybe you could tell our listeners about your first book.
Kelly: [0:38:40] Don’t get all like, come on.
Juliet: [0:38:41] And then answer Kelly’s questions.
Diana Kapp: [0:38:44] Okay. So the first book is Girls Who Run the World. And the concept of that was it’s not dissimilar to this book but it was just an attempt to have these modern day role models for young women who are sort of the pioneering women of modern day. Because we have all these books about Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart. I mean great books for young people. But we have now kind of modern equivalents and I wanted to find a way to help inspire young people. And two weeks before that book came out, Forbes published one of their famous lists and this one was titled America’s Hundred Most Innovative Leaders. And it was 99 men and one woman. And it just reminds us-
Kelly: [0:39:36] Suspicious.
Diana Kapp: [0:39:36] That this is such a modern problem. We still need to be holding up female role models in every field because they just get so much less airtime. There’s statistics like 90 percent of op eds in the newspaper are written by men. The data just doesn’t, it doesn’t look that good. Even women, they are the majority of college graduates, but they don’t make it to get funding from venture capitalists. That’s still only two percent of all the funds that go to startup ventures go to women founded ventures. So even though I’ve now done two books about spotlighting women and talking about this issue, I think we could talk about it for a lot longer because we’re not really making a lot of progress.
Juliet: [0:40:30] Well, it seems like one of the angles you’ve had is to really try to say in both of these instances, look at all these role models who are either doing interesting working entrepreneurially or climate change or in the environment. And I think the goal, right, is for you to create a space to inspire young women and give them an opportunity to say, hey, you’re right, it isn’t… I mean I even look at my own kids. In fourth grade, they were supposed to do some thing where they stand up, a woman in history that is inspiring, and literally, they are, they’re doing these historical figures that are 100 years old. So I assume that was kind of your goal, was to figure out a way to inspire young women, or all women, honestly, because I found both of your books to be really inspirational just as a woman out there doing things. So did you sort of set out or has that just been how it has turned out at the end?
Diana Kapp: [0:41:19] No, that’s definitely, that was the objective. I mean starting with the first book, that was very explicitly my goal. And I think it comes from a really deep place in me, a person who as a young person I really didn’t have a strong sense of self. I didn’t have a strong sense of ambition. I don’t think there was high expectations of me career wise, particularly in my family, a lot of sort of gender norms. And I had a really circuitous career trying to find my way to something that I actually cared about. And if I could leave something to the young people, it would be some guidance in showing what’s possible, inspiring to aim high, and believe you could really have an impact. I think you know all the data about how young girls go through adolescence and they lose their sense of self and their belief in what’s possible for them. It drops during adolescence. And so we really are watching a whole generation of young women who haven’t changed all that much from when we were girls. Some things are changing. I don’t want to be too dire. But I still think a lot of those dynamics remain. We still live in a society that is men kind of hold the power and the money and girls don’t tend to be that comfortable dealing with money, for instance. That’s still a thing.
Juliet: [0:42:59] So I think it’s been a couple years since Girls Who Run the World came out. Have you kept in touch with all the women you feature? Are you going to do like a where are they now second edition?
Diana Kapp: [0:43:10] That’s a cool idea. I’m searching around for my next idea. But I haven’t kept in touch with all of them, but I really made some good friends. And so recently, Natasha Case, she has a business in LA called Coolhaus Ice Cream. And she’s a woman-
Kelly: [0:43:28] Respect.
Diana Kapp: [0:43:29] She’s a woman who runs the world who has turned herself into a woman who greens the world because she just sold her business to something called The Urgent Company and she’s going dairy free. And it’s not nut milk. It’s like they’re producing one of these alternative proteins that seems to be increasingly popular and she swears that the ice cream is still, that she has really high standards and this dairy free ice cream is going to be just as good.
Kelly: [0:44:00] Well, since most of the world turns out not to be white people, I think nondairy alternatives I think is really progressive. I have so many friends who just do not tolerate dairy. I love that idea. We have a daughter who has grown up around women who are running businesses and sort of see the world a little differently. Georgia is launching a cookie business because I think she sees some of the benefits of having some agency and some control. Do you think that part of this, your book, is just that we need to model behavior, that if you just don’t see a road or have never been shown that there’s another road or someone’s done it in front of you, it’s just harder to do that? I feel like I really want to go to one of your talks and hear just the consciousness change. I remember all of those, the whole school gathers in an auditorium and sits crisscross applesauce and then someone comes and talks. I remember ever single one of those. I mean Lisa’s nodding her head yes too. I mean is that sort of where you are right now and what kind of questions are you getting from the audience?
Diana Kapp: [0:45:03] I think that whole adage, “You can’t be what you can’t see,” it really is true, and we just pick up so many signals unconsciously about who’s allowed to hold what jobs. And so I do think the more that we hold up women doing all kinds of interesting, innovative jobs, it’s going to influence our girls and what they choose to do. What you’re saying about Georgia, I think there’s almost nothing more empowering for a young girl than creating her own business, making money, learning all the things that go wrong, and problem solving day and night, which is what you do when you start, even if it’s a tiny cookie business. It’s like how are you going to get your ingredients and how are you going to make the costs work out and how are you going to keep the warm cookies from melting the plastic bags you put them in or whatever it is. And I just, I love that message of be a little entrepreneur because I think you learn so many skills doing that. Like being able to present, to sell your idea, to pitch something, all of those skills are so good. Recognizing how much being personable is a part of business and how it helps you succeed in business.
Juliet: [0:46:29] Quick story about Georgia, it’s been interesting to watch her because of course she has on her website that it’s all organic and sustainable. And I was like, “Hey, just FYI, you say that, but have you actually gone and priced out all the ingredients and made sure that you can actually afford to have all the ingredients and products and packaging and everything that you want and then actually make a profit still?” And she was like, “Oh yeah, I actually need to run the numbers on that.” So it’s interesting to watch her solve those problems, right? She’s like, “It’s easy to write organic and sustainable on your website and then to be organic and sustainable, there’s a lot of considerations that go in there.”
Kelly: [0:47:05] This is the same kid who came home after listening to the CEO of Straus Creamery present to her school at sort of a business leadership kind of a thing that was happening, and she came home, she’s like, “We’re only drinking Straus milk from now on.” Glass bottles. She’s like, “They feed the cows-”
Juliet: [0:47:20] Full regenerative.
Kelly: [0:47:22] Full regenerative situation. They feed the cows seaweed. She just was so impressed that when we go out to buy milk, we end up with Straus milk in our house. Even though we think it tastes delicious and actually have a milk we like maybe differently, but when Georgia’s in charge, she makes that decision with her parents’ pocketbook, which is great. But the idea is that I think these things do matter. We just have to have repetition. I definitely stopped using mousse eventually with chlorofluorocarbons if I heard the message a lot. And I just feel like kids don’t get enough of that.
Diana Kapp: [0:47:57] Another message that I’ve been hammering is encouraging young people, and old people too, we really need to get politically active. And we can talk about all these small, individual changes, but the truth is, and those things matter because cultured change matters and mindset change matters, but to really achieve what we need to achieve as quickly as we need to, we need government policies, and we need to put pressure on politicians, we need to elect politicians that are climate friendly.
And I think young people can have a big role in that. The Sunrise Movement for instance is now the world’s largest youth movement, fighting for environmental health. And they have a powerful political platform that they’re building because they’re so large. And you can join up a hub in your area, you can start one. And I also think this message, you don’t always have to create your own new thing. You should join these organizations that are already doing the work to figure out which races are so tight and they really need you to be phone banking because it’s going to be the difference between a candidate that gets it on the environment and one that really is kind of in the pocket of business or whatever it’s going to be.
Juliet: [0:49:20] That’s so interesting. So I would just like to say, I know that you did set out and did write this book for a young adult audience, but I have really enjoyed reading both of your books just personally, even though I’m in middle age as well.
Kelly: [0:49:32] You’re a crabby teenager too.
Juliet: [0:49:34] Crabby teenager deep down. But I just want to say that I think both your books are inspirational and appropriate for any age. And in this era of too many things going on, too many distractions, I have to say that having some nice digestible chapters to read that are inspirational and informative has been really nice.
Diana Kapp: [0:49:52] I call it a snacking book.
Juliet: [0:49:55] Snacking. That’s exactly it.
Diana Kapp: [0:49:56] The snacking book. You just read a couple chapters. I do think a lot of adults are getting a lot out of it. I’m always finding women coming up to me and saying, “I bought this for my daughter or my niece or my granddaughter, but I ended up reading it too and I found it really interesting.”
Kelly: [0:50:15] If this is a way of viewing the world, our producer here, Lisa, has been carrying around her own straws, these metal straws, reusable straws, and her own bottle, and a million years she’s been doing this. I mean we are all pro Yeti reusable cup here. But it’s just sort of a way of seeing the world. And we used to give her a lot of crap about the number of dolphins she must have because there haven’t been straws jammed into the breathing holes of dolphins all over the world. But it really did impact us a lot. And we started to make these different changes and things. If this is a way of seeing the world, what would you go back or have you started to… Juliet said that you have made some changes, we’ve kind of talked about that, but are you looking at problems around writing or have you started to see a set of other issues that need to come to light out of this?
Diana Kapp: [0:51:10] I mean one of the things that I just have always been really interested in is mental health. And I think that this whole new issue of existential angst and climate anxiety is becoming very real for young people. And it’s a big problem to be constantly seeing how your world is not safe and you can’t depend on the future. They’re talking about not wanting to have kids. Forty percent of young people that answered this Lancet study in 2021 said that they would consider not having kids because of their fears about the future of the planet. And that to me, that really knocked me over the head when I heard that because what a thing to rob our kids of.
Kelly: [0:52:01] And we’re already at a tipping point.
Diana Kapp: [0:52:30] They could have their own family.
Kelly: [0:52:03] The research has just come out that we’re not at a replacing capacity in the United States for the first time in like our nation’s history. We’re population shrinking. That’s really interesting.
Juliet: [0:52:12] Yeah, that is really interesting. Well, Di, I am a huge fan of you and huge fan of this book. Where can our listeners buy a copy for their daughter, friend, cousin, you name it?
Kelly: [0:52:25] Husbands.
Juliet: [0:52:26] It’s an amazing graduation present I would like to say with graduation season approaching. So where can people find your book and then follow this whole journey and learn more about the amazing women you feature in the book?
Diana Kapp: [0:52:38] I also have to plug the book as the best bat mitzvah gift ever. So I think it would be such a great to give this or for the person having the bat mitzvah to give it out. You know, you have to give a little thing for them to take home. This could be instead of a succulent plant, you could give them this really inspiring book. But the book is available online at places like Bookshop and Barnes and Noble, Amazon, of course, and local bookstores, independent bookstores, support them. I always say if you can go into the bookstore and buy it and ask them to order it if they don’t have it, it’s better for me, the author, and it’s better for the planet. And my website, www.dianakapp.com, now has a section on it called Resources and one of the tabs under there is Things Teens Can Do, and I’m generating this really amazing list of ideas for teens. And one of the best ones I’ve found is a site that will pay teens to create TikTok content about environmental issues. As long as they have 200 followers or more, they will pay you per post or for Instagram posts.
Kelly: [0:53:56] Do you have to be a teen?
Diana Kapp: [0:53:59] I think you’ve got to be a teen.
Kelly: [0:53:59] I mean I have a few followers.
Diana Kapp: [0:54:00] I’m sorry. You’ve got to be a teen.
Juliet: [0:54:02] That’s amazing. That’s so cool.
Kelly: [0:54:04] That’s really cool.
Diana Kapp: [0:54:05] But I tell you how to… I give like a sample letter of what you would write to a head of a company if you wanted to complain about their packaging or different organizations that are every time you click on a certain web search you plant a tree. So these are just great things to know about, the young people can get excited. They’re looking for a way in. I really believe that. They want to do something and they’re just a little bit intimidated and don’t know where to start. I think that’s the truth of it.
Kelly: [0:54:39] So many ways in. You don’t have to solve all the problems; just solve or improve one aspect of one problem in your community.
Juliet: [0:54:43] That’s what’s so cool about all the women in this book, is they’ve just sort of chosen an area and they’re focusing on that.
Diana Kapp: [0:54:48] I went to one school in Chicago, a private girls’ school, and they wear these plaid skirts and they told me that every two years the school changes the plaid and so then they can’t pass down the skirts to the younger kids. So that was one of the things. We had a great conversation and they were all fired up to go address their administration and demand an end to that. And that was pretty exciting to me. They found something in their little world that they actually could change. And then they could start a closet at the school where they could have their own little exchange for old uniforms. And I thought that was a great idea.
Juliet: [0:55:30] Much to the chagrin of my daughters, I have always been a fan of school uniforms and sad that my kids aren’t required to wear them. And I feel like there’s 100 percent an environmental argument for it. So it’s too late for them. They’re already going to be gone to college but, man, if every kid-
Kelly: [0:55:45] No, it’s black tights and-
Diana Kapp: [0:55:49] And a hoodie.
Juliet: [0:55:50] Yeah, if you just had to have two outfits that you’re allowed to wear to school, that would probably make an impact in fashion, that’s for sure.
Diana Kapp: [0:55:57] It would be good.
Kelly: [0:55:57] I just want to say personally, I find myself the last few summers hiking through the woods with you, hearing about what you’re working on, and it is always impressive when someone I know says they’re going to do something and then they actually do it and they come out in the world. There’s so much distance between the cup and the lip, and you seem to land the plane—I’m going to mix my metaphors—every single time.
Juliet: [0:56:21] Cup to the lip, land the plane.
Kelly: [0:56:21] Exactly. I just can’t shine enough love at pulling this off yet again. It’s such a wonderful book and it’s really fun to see you get some acknowledgement at taking a swing at what is a big problem.
Diana Kapp: [0:56:34] Thanks, Kelly. It really has been fun. I’m really having a good time out talking about it and meeting the kids. It’s awesome.
Juliet: [0:56:42] Congratulations. And thank you again, Di. Loved having you on.
Kelly: [0:56:46] Thank you.
Diana Kapp: [0:56:46] Awesome. See you guys very soon.Back to Episode