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Feature: Adventure Activism With Lauren MacCallum

SEPTEMBER 21, 2020  

Cactus Energy is proud to be partnered with the incredible climate action charity Protect Our Winters (POW). Here, we speak to the Scottish force of nature running the show in the UK.

Officially, Lauren MacCallum is the General Manager of POW UK. But she’s also a keen mountain-biker, golfer, skateboarder, snowboarder, climber, writer, broadcaster and passionate climate activist. She’s even made movies with Patagonia. We were lucky enough to catch up with this inspirational lady to chat about saving the planet, the clean energy revolution and… er, butterfly keeping.

“Greta Thunberg on Craic”

Hi Lauren, thanks so much for taking the time to chat to us today. We’ve heard that you were once described as ‘Greta Thunberg on craic’. Could you tell us a little bit about the climate work that you do?

[Laughs]. Of course. So my name’s Lauren MacCallum and I’m the General Manger (GM) of Protect Our Winters UK. We are a climate change action charity that looks to inspire and equip the outdoor community to take positive action to address the climate crisis.


My role as GM is pretty varied – it involves setting the direction and strategy of the charity; managing the staff; looking after our athlete and ambassador programmes; and overlooking fundraising, corporate relationships, community projects and political campaigns. Essentially, I oversee everything that goes on.

I’ve also worked with Patagonia to promote and educate people on environmental issues. I made a film with them in 2017, called ‘Right to Roam’, and then another last year as POW UK was the face of Patagonia’s Winter 19/20 campaign. That one was ‘Accidental Activism’ and went down with viewers really well.

You sound like a busy lady! The whole concept of becoming an activist accidentally is really interesting. In your most recent film you mention how you never set out to pursue environmental work as a career. How did you ‘fall into’ this industry?

I guess I got into climate change through action sports – snowboarding and mountain biking, mainly. They really led me to develop a love for the outdoors. Also, living in the Scottish Highlands means I’m part of a community that’s really been affected by the lack of snow in recent years. People’s livelihoods depend on it.


Then I think alongside that, I’ve become more politically aware. It’s been quite a political time in the UK, with the 2014 Referendum in Scotland, the Brexit referendum and several general elections. As a result, I had to educate myself in these spaces and then started relating this understanding to the topics I was really passionate about.

Clean Energy and Coronavirus

One of the key areas that POW focuses on is renewable energy. Why is clean power such an important aspect of fighting the climate crisis?

So at POW we talk about the need for systemic changes – big changes to society, not just individual adjustments to our ways of living. Personal lifestyle choices are really important – reducing your meat consumption, for example, is a really good place to start. But to really curb our global emissions, we need to make the systems we use in our everyday lives more environmentally friendly. Energy is one of those systems that has a huge impact.


We agree. Do you think with more people working from home recently, our reliance on energy has become more apparent? 

Absolutely. As tragic as it has been, coronavirus has actually highlighted some interesting things. We’ve seen the world be placed into lockdown – international aviation was halted, people had to stay at home, no-one was commuting to work, global economies essentially shut down.
“Moving towards renewable energy is essential to achieve a significant reduction in emissions”.

Yet, in that time, we only managed to reduce our emissions by a tiny amount. Some studies are quoting the figure at 8%, others are saying it’s closer to 5%. That means that even when most parts of people’s lives were put on hold, the world was still producing 95% of its usual emissions, which is insane. It really shows that moving our whole grid away from fossil-fuel based power plants and towards renewable energy is essential to achieve a significant reduction in emissions, and fast.

The Time Is Now

How has POW taken part in the push for a ‘green recovery’ from the Covid crisis?

POW UK is part of the #TheTimeIsNow campaign, which is organised by The Climate Coalition. It’s essentially a call to the Government to use this unique time in human history as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. Over the last couple of months, we’ve seen a slow return back to normal, but normal wasn’t working before. We’re asking leaders to use this chance to tackle the climate crisis and also address the inequalities and social injustices that have been provoked by coronavirus – people losing their jobs, small businesses going under, that sort of thing.

That sounds great. How can we get involved?

We’re launching a ‘Declaration for a Healthy, Greener, Fairer Tomorrow’ at the start of October. It will be sent to the Prime Minister and is essentially our way of asking for a just and green recovery officially, in writing. What we’re trying to do is display the wide civic support for this issue, the breadth and depth of people who are concerned about the climate crisis. So we’re asking all of our partners and supporters to sign the Declaration and state POW as the source through which they heard about the campaign.

“We’ve got support from a really diverse selection of groups, and demonstrating this diversity to MPs is a great way stimulate action on the issue”.

We’re also asking people to contribute to the Corporate Spending Review (CSR). This is a big discussion that the Government will hold in the Autumn to decide how and where to invest the country’s money. You can have your say on what matters by submitting a statement asking for investment into green sectors. It takes about two minutes with our easy online tool!

Protect Our Winters

POW was only set up in the last 10 years or so but has already branched out into 12 different countries and engaged a massive supporter base. How have you managed to get so many people listening to what you have to say?  

Climate change is a huge, huge issue and that can often be overwhelming. I think what POW does is break down a large volume of complex information into bite-sized chunks. We act as a translator, turning scientific discussions into a language that our community can understand, so they feel inspired and able to take action.


POW also connects with people through what they love, which I think is really important. We focus on action sports but it could be anything – cooking, gardening, butterfly keeping, it doesn’t matter. Everybody cares about something and starting with that is a great way to make the climate conversation relevant.

Photo credit: @protectourwintersswitzerland

So what advice would you give to someone who is engaged, who wants to help, but has no idea where to start?

First of all, I’d say get plugged into the message. Find an area of the climate crisis that means something to you and get tuned into the information. Protect Our Winters is a great avenue for that – sign up to our website and follow us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for manageable updates and info.


In terms of taking action, I would encourage everyone to go to the POW website. If you’re into outdoor sports, you’ll be familiar with seeing things graded in terms of difficulty level. What we’ve done is rank carbon-reducing changes you can make from green to black. Green represents the easier changes, so meat-free Mondays, taking fewer car journeys, etc. And then black changes are slightly harder – things like moving your pension or your banking. Having a look at that is a really good place to start if you’re not sure what you can do to make a positive impact!

Amazing, thanks so much for talking to us, Lauren. The whole team at Cactus Energy is super excited to be partnered with POW! We’re big supporters of your mission and can’t wait to see what we can achieve together in the future.