There’s a lot to care about at the moment. But a curious thing happens when human beings feel the pressure of reality – more often than not, we rise to the occasion. After all, our brain does have regions dedicated to kindness and compassion. So the issue isn’t, “What’s the point in caring?” but rather, “In which direction should we point all of this caring?”
Well, we’re glad you asked.
Based in Sydney, environmental conservation non-profit HalfCut is indeed one of many valid causes that deserve your attention. But where HalfCut seperates itself – not just in a charitable sense but even in a corporate one – is its tangible and promising outcomes.
An organisation as disruptive IRL as it is on paper, HalfCut provides a worthwhile case study for any and all of those out there interested in initiating their own charity or non-profit movement – and the best part is, as BLUNT would find speaking with co-founder Jimmy Stanton-Cooke, they’re more than happy to share the secrets to their compelling success.
How did you get your start as a Charity CEO?
When we learned back in 2014 that nearly half the world’s forests were destroyed, we wanted to create a visual disruption [that would lead] people to ask, “Why half a beard? Did you lose a bet, mate?” This allows us to have a conversation about conservation, explaining the visual metaphor that now more than 50 percent of the world’s forests are destroyed, and 50 percent of plant species could be extinct by the end of the century!
What does your day-to-day job involve?
Before COVID-19, I was a walking, talking, visually disrupting conversation-starter about conservation. I’ve been rocking around with half a beard for four-and-a-half years! Now, my co-founder and partner Jessica are keyboard warriors inviting great businesses and people to take part in our fun campaigns that have tangible outcomes.
There’s the HalfCut August Challenge, a program to save the Daintree rainforest, where every $2.50 saves one square metre. Then there’s our fitness PSS Challenge (push ups, squats and sit-ups) from March, which we launched to help rewild the earth’s rainforests – every one dollar establishes one rainforest tree. Then there’s our Make The Switch November program, where we encourage people to divest to ethical banks, super and electricity providers, and products and services that do less harm to our forests, animals, people, climate and planet.
We provide tangible outcomes for individuals or businesses to make an impact with the Daintree protection via a square-metre counter of what they have saved and/or how many trees they have established. We are now up to over 74,000 trees established and we’ve saved over 84 acres of Daintree rainforest – 84 football fields’ worth of Daintree Gondwanaland rainforest – from being developed on. It’s the world’s oldest rainforest.
What have been the highlights of your job?
Definitely in 2020, when during the ongoing pandemic, our HalfCutters raised over $376,000 and saving Lot 155 of The Daintree Rainforest – we raised 135 percent over our target. The overflow of funds went to saving our next Lot, 157, right opposite Lot 155, where we finished that fundraising earlier this year. In total, we’ve saved 18.78 hectares – or 46.40 acres.
Over 11 Lots have been purchased between 2020 and 2021, which are gifted to the lowland Daintree’s traditional owners, the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Bama people, to manage with Jabalbina Yalanji Aborignal Corporation. These Lots are expanding Daintree National Park and added to the Daintree NP. Rainforests (the hint is in the name) are our greatest and cheapest assets to provide carbon drawdown, water cycles, habitat for wildlife, medicine, food, and so much more.
Can you describe some of the more trying times you’ve experienced in this job?
I would say the apathy and nihilism of some people and businesses, or the lack of real commitment. I mean, we have very real and tangible programs! Half a bad coffee ($2.50) we can save one square metre of Daintree. Every establishes another rainforest tree; all really optimistic and positive outcomes. People can stand physically on the ground of the Lots we save and/or plant the trees.
I personally find it frustrating when people say, “I know we are stuffed,” but then don’t do anything about it. As the quote goes: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It’s like they’re saying, “Let’s keep driving blindfolded at 150 kilometres an hour towards that cliff edge and do nothing!” Especially when we have such great action-based outcomes, all we’re asking is for people to make a choice to do something. Sure, it’s a monetary ask, and I wish that wasn’t the case, or that our governments actually led and represented the environment and people – but that’s far from the case. So what we look for in our HalfCutters are donations, taking part in our campaigns, and being their own impactful leaders.
What sort of background experience and education is required before one can venture into the world of not-for-profit environmentalism?
Zero! We are both qualified high school teachers – we just followed our hearts, passions and determination to see some good happen for this earth and invite others to be a part of it. And it’s working! At the end of the day, we are just passionate, hardworking and enthusiastic earthlings who want to see better outcomes for our forests, wildlife, people, climate and planet.
With the reduced human activity over the past 18 months, how has the pandemic affected your mission of promoting sustainability and environmentalism?
HalfCut as an organisation had incredible growth, which is a great thing. Maybe it was people being at home more? More online? Or maybe they are finally seeing the implications of not looking after the environment or tackling the climate crisis, and want to be a part of tangible positive outcomes… Or all of the above. We all remember the images of wildlife coming back into major cities and air quality cleaning up, although sadly global temperatures still increased due to the Co2 in our atmosphere – over 417ppm, the safer limit being 350ppm.
Regrettably, what we learned and saw was that deforestation and the animal black trade market increased during the pandemic due to next to no policing. This is a major step backwards for conservation and wildlife.
What are some of the more recent developments in your line of work that have you excited for the future?
We are part of the global 1 Trillion Trees initiative put forward by the World Economic Forum, where we have put our hands up for rainforest restoration. The goal is to establish one million trees within the next three years, and then double this target each year thereafter. There is only less than three percent of rainforest left on Earth – originally it was 14 percent – so we must take action to rewild the earth’s rainforests. The PSS Challenge is where we focus on this fun fitness fundraising challenge every March.
HalfCut offers opportunities and incentives for big businesses, as well as households and individuals. How important is it to make sure no one gets left behind with the messaging of a not-for-profit organisation?
We need every person to feel connected and like they’re a part of this movement, and feel they can make their impact – taking part in the campaigns, donating and even volunteering their skill sets. One planet, one people, right!? We are all here and we are all winners, so let’s all put back for all future generations.
You’ve spoken before about the big differences that small changes can make. For an individual person reading this, what are some ways they can make a tangible difference?
Be brave and courageous – not furious, but curious. Most people don’t know that over half the world’s forests are destroyed, and a further 30 percent degraded. Try to find your own information, and try not to be overwhelmed. Reach out and connect with the people thinking globally but acting locally. We welcome with open arms those wanting to be involved and have their slice of the action. We believe in collaboration and alliance – this is the way forward.