Photo credit: Michelle Chow

IMPACT 0140: PASSION TO PASS IT ON

Michelle Chow, 33, is the founder of Pass it On, a sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle brand that teaches consumers how they can contribute to solving the problems of climate change and keep the earth healthy in their everyday lives.

Pass it On also partners with other initiatives such as Eden Reforestation, a non-profit that helps with the replanting of trees and stands for fair wage employment for the villagers working for them. She shares her experience founding and running a sustainable brand.

Dear Youth,

Just this morning, I heard over the radio that Henan, China, suffered a year’s worth of rain over three days. This caused severe flooding in underground subway stations and resulted in the deaths of over 30 people. My heart sank. I was reminded of the imminent impacts of climate change.

Climate crisis news has been around for years, but it wasn’t until the end of 2019 that it hit me how environment degradation will affect our lives. I was snorkelling at a conserved area along the Great Barrier Reef and witnessed extraordinary life and beauty underwater. I was excited at the thought of bringing my little niece to come snorkel, but quickly realised I’d have to wait another 12 years till she’s 16, and by then, this beauty found underwater may no longer exist.

The new curiosity to find out more about rapid climate change then led me to start Pass It On, a sustainable lifestyle brand whose mission is to inspire more people to pass on climate change awareness. I wanted to use my years of experience in marketing and storytelling to create a positive impact on the planet.

Our first product, Plantable Candles, are scented soy wax candles inspired by iconic destinations around the world that are endangered due to climate change. While using places to create scents is not a new idea, I saw it as a great way to share more about the relationship between the climate and the “destinations” we selected.

The additional plantable feature that allows customers to turn the used candle vessels into mini-planters was also to encourage the act of upcycling and introduce the concept of gardening and slow living.

Most importantly, a portion of all sale proceeds are used to contribute to reforestation projects through Eden Reforestation, a global NGO that we are partners with.

Pass It On officially launched in December 2019, though 2020 proved a tough year for us all because of COVID-19. Despite the challenges, our mission and goal to plant more trees kept us going. By the end of 2020, with the help of everyone who bought and supported our products, we planted 50,750 trees!

It’s a great achievement, but it still feels like there’s so much to do. The challenge climate change presents is that it’s hard to advocate for because it is invisible to most. It is not obvious how our actions are leading to more floods, sweltering heat, marine life loss and the likes. So even though Pass It On is doing well, I can’t help but wonder if what I do really makes a difference in influencing a consumer’s mindset on climate change.

However, the pandemic has taught me one valuable lesson, which is you never know what will happen next. It’s not easy, but every day I remind myself to simply turn up and push forward no matter how small the step may be. As long as we keep inching, moving, leaping forward, you will see the change you want to see at the end of the road.

The following quote I end my letter to you with was said by an environmentalist and has been an important northern star for me. I hope that it will spark a light or even a fire in your heart.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

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