Green Element weekly podcast Interview with Tessa Tricks from Hubbub


We are thrilled to be interviewing Tessa Tricks from Hubub. Hubbub is a charity that creates environmental campaigns with a difference. They design playful interventions that inspire people to make healthier, greener lifestyle choices, which more often than not help save money and bring people together. They concentrate on things people are passionate about and are relevant day-to-day, like fashion, food, homes and neighbourhoods. They keep things simple, offering practical and realistic solutions that help people to cut waste, make clothes last longer, save money and create cleaner spaces to live and work in. Tessa has led Hubbub’s food campaigns since 2014. Prior to Hubbub she’s worked with the Sustainable Food Trust and in San Francisco with Seedling Projects running the Good Food Awards and the Good Food Merchants Guild. She has a Masters in the Anthropology of Food from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She has formerly worked in the kitchen at The Ethicurean restaurant where she helped to research the Ethicurean Cookbook. She has also written for Edible Communities, the Oxford Food Symposium and a column for Fork magazine. She is also a trustee for Eat-Club, a charity trying to make the joys of cooking and eating accessible to all young people.

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Will: Tessa, welcome to the Green Element Podcast, thank you so much for coming on. I’m really looking forward to finding out more about Hubbub and what you guys are doing and how you are changing the world as we know it. 


Tessa: Thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure to be here.


Will: Tell us a bit about your business and what your purpose is and who you work with.


Tessa: The first thing to say is that Hubbub is a charity and we create quite positive, playful environmental campaigns, and we really seek to inspire people to make healthier, greener choices in their lives. We started in 2014 really with the ambition of engaging a mainstream audience with environmental issues and largely by not talking about the environment. We often find the environmentalism way of living quite a normal life of pitted against one another in common narratives. People tend to feel that if they want to do something good for the planet then they have to give up their cars or their holidays or go and live in the woods. 

So, for us, it’s very key to get cut through to talk about things that are really relevant [01:10 inaudible] today. So, we work around food, fashion, homes, and neighborhoods and these form the basis of our hubs. So, in terms of how we go about that and who we work with, we really can appreciate that reaching a mainstream audience means having the right partners and where possible we use businesses, use their reach as a force for good and tap into their audiences with timely, relevant messages. So, we very much talk about the environmental actions in terms of benefits to the individuals that might be, you can save money if you’re not reducing the food or you can come along to this workshop and learn new skills. That’s not to say that we ignore the environmental benefits but often use them to enforce the message as opposed to being the primary motivator.


Will: You work with organizations and the general public, don’t you?


Tessa: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, collaboration and codes aren’t quite central to our principles and I think scale climate change means that we need action taken at every level and organizations, governments, individuals all need to pull together. We’re a small organization, we can’t change the world on our own, so we know that brands have a future potential to shape the thoughts and actions of their following. So, where possible, we try and time them, but we also work a lot with community groups, academic partners, local authorities, individuals, universities, you name it. I think it depends on the campaign and our ambitions and we try and find the right strategic partners to bring on board with knowledge and reach.


Will: What would you say your charity superpower is? 


Tessa: I would say that our charity superpower is finding the right message and action for the right audience. So, that doing the right thing for the environment at that point is compelling but also quite simple and so for us, we feel it’s about having authentic timely conversations that people can identify with. What we are good at, I’d like to say is finding eye-catching, fun communication methods whether that’s video, art, installation, and then supporting these with a range of nudge techniques and then really trying to do what we can to take that kind of nudge towards they’re going to think so that people will then begin to feel that doing the right thing can be for them and it becomes part of their decision making process. 


Will: Okay. Do you find with the different campaigns that you run, there is a difference between the general public and organizations, even though the general public work in the organizations? I’m just curious because they’re kind of the same people, aren’t they, but do you find that they need different things?


Tessa: Yeah. We do a lot of employee engagement and I think so, which is interesting. So, when you’re working with these organizations thinking yes, it starts first at home and the idea is that messaging is aspiration enough that everyone can get on board with it. So, does that answer your question?


Will: Yeah, it does, I guess it comes down to the fact that within an organization you sit within a structure and then the general public don’t really sit within a structure, do they? They are their own structure as it were on trying to be more environmental so I’m thinking about your cigarette campaign that you had on the streets in central London and that would be very different to say your fishing boats that Grant Volten use to pick up litter in the Thames. It’s a different psyche, isn’t it? It must be really interesting to see that, having to deal with the same consequences, that is reducing environmental impact but in different ways.


Tessa: Absolutely and I think that’s what’s key about finding the right message for the right person. So, with the ballot bin that you were referring to so we were trying to reduce littering on Village Street between Charing Cross and embankment back in 2014 and we’re trailing a range of different things to see what would bring the litter count down. We’re just going to take a step back and thought okay, well, who were the biggest causes of litters, what are they throwing away and where are they? It was young, drunk men outside the pub, so then you think okay, well, what are they interested in? At the time of the year you think football and that led us to develop a ballot bin so you have your cigarette and then once you’ve got the butt, instead of throwing it on the floor actually in front of you is a bright yellow voting bin so you can say who’s the best player in the world, Ronaldo or Messi? You pop it in, and you vote and you’re off.


Will: Who won? 


Tessa: At the time I think, yeah, good question, Messi was… 


Will: Was it. Not that fond of football to be honest with you. You’ve talked about this a bit about engaging your, they’re not really staff, suppliers or customers, I guess they’re customers for the most part, aren’t they? How do you engage them? How do you come up with campaigns? Talk us through the process of what you do? 


Tessa: Well, I think what’s quite crucial is when trying to tap into people’s immediate concerns and thinking about what makes them tick. You also need to think about some of the external forces that are at play and shaping the stories that we’re telling ourselves about out in the world and also setting the priorities for the day. So, you can see with David Attenborough, Blue Planet, we suddenly got huge feory around plastics that wasn’t really here a year ago. So, suddenly, that’s much more compelling to businesses but also to households and every man on the street as well.

I think when we go about it, it’s very much about defining what is the problem and then compare who we are looking at. Quite recently, I lead in our food work here at Hubbub and one of the things that we’ve, no two ways about it, we really need to reduce the amount of meat that we’re eating. This is a gigantic problem and meat-eating is so personal to people and it’s deeply ingrained in their identity, in their culture and everyone’s got a slightly different stance. So, it’s then thinking, how are we going to make an impact and for us, the response was to be really highly targeted. So, thinking okay, who are the largest consumers of meat and why and how can we work with the external forces at play? 

We targeted young, gym-going men who were very much trying to conform to a muscular ideal but also for them, protein is a real buzz word and a driver and for them, it means being lean and fit. We base a lot of our campaigns on research and insights everything will start with a big research period as well. What we found from our research, which was a partnership with the University of Southampton, was that people are really not very savvy about where the plant-based protein is found. We thought for the guys that we’re working with we’ve set them a challenge to have their meat consumption and replace that with plant-based proteins. So, within that, it was very specific, it was quite measurable, and we then provided them with the support that they would need to introduce plant-based proteins into their diet, so recipes and meal plans. 

We help them measure it, so we gave them garments, they could see how their health improved and gave them a body composition analysis in the beginning and sat them down with a nutritional practitioner. So, I think that the support package really work to incentivize them to take part, but then once they got on board with it and they could see that they were feeling better and actually they were eating it actually led them to eat more vegetables around and they had all of these positive repercussions for their health and well-being, so that kind of spurred them on. 

We had a two months challenge period and then after two months again, 80% of people had carried on, significantly reducing their meat intake. So, it is hoped that could provide an example of how we work through things and how it’s finding the right message but then that support mechanism to foster long-term behavior change.


Will: Out of curiosity, when did you do that? 


Tessa: We started in March and ended it in May and released the results.


Will: Will you do a follow-up to find out if those people, how many people are eating say meat or following the program a year on or something like that?


Tessa: Yeah very much. We’re still in close contact with them, we did a two-month follow-up, but I think a year would be really interesting. Now we’re looking at how can we take this to a wider audience? What are you going to do? You do men and women together and I think what was really the unexpected within this was that the challenge led our guys to do a Me Ammo team. They started drinking more water, they were diversifying their diet, they were saying they were sleeping better, they were feeling better than getting to know [12:12 inaudible] better. So, suddenly you think okay, this is a really interesting thing for employee well-being, do businesses want to work with us to support their colleagues and employees to have healthier more sustainable lifestyles with benefits of their well-being and productivity. So, all of these things are very interesting and expected outcomes, which also have key environmental benefits. 


Will: Yeah. Okay, so when it comes to running an ethical and sustainable charity like yourselves, what would you say has been the biggest struggle so far? Can you tell us a bit about how you’ve overcome it?


Tessa: Yeah, I think that the hardest part is really ensuring that your values stick, even when times are quite difficult financially and sometimes it will be tempting to follow the money even though it might take you away from the core purpose. So, I think we’ve really found that though it can be nerve-wracking it is important to hold your nerve and stick to your core principles, which is really great culturally on board with and every staff member knows what they are. We just really try to plan ahead as much as we can which is difficult in the current pre-Brexit landscape and just always try and be as transparent as possible as we can with employees and partners.


Will: Okay, if you could offer one piece of advice to our listeners, which could help them with their purpose what would that be? 


Tessa: I think that would really be to agree your values upfront and stick to them through thick and thin. The best way to do this is by creating a narrative that reinforces those values to ensure that they are really repeatedly shared with employees. Storytelling is key within that but just shaping an aligned vision within the Hubbub team so that we all understand what the bigger goal is.


Will: You are really all about behavior change, aren’t you, as an organization? Would that be fair to say? 


Tessa: Yeah, absolutely. 


Will: I wonder if there’s a piece around values in behavior change and the values that people hold on work that they do and organizations. I’m thinking about it from a selfish point of view but why do organizations want to become more environmental? It’s something that’s talked about a lot, it is a mixture of everything but a lot of it comes down to the values of that organization. In order to make or help ensure more organizations become more environmental then that would be a part of it, would be the values and I’m just wondering if there’s a piece around that.


Tessa: I think it’s having the values and making sure that those values are really embedded within the organization. If you’re looking at it from a brand perspective, then it comes back to that level of authenticity, doesn’t it? We ran a three-year campaign with Ikea called Live LAGOM, which LAGOM is a Swedish word for the balance. I guess in Swedish, it could be quite puritanical but I think with the alliteration and tying in the trends of mindfulness and decluttering it really struck a chord with the group that we are working with and actually, people saw it as not denying yourself what you love but not taking more than you need. We worked with Ikea, the sustainability team, but also Ikea co-workers too, employees who were from all levels of the business, they might be driving a truck in a distribution warehouse. They might be on the shop floor, they might be a marketing, they might be working in the Ikea restaurant and we trained those guys up to be called Live LAGOM leaders. 

So, they would champion score and the project which was very much about how can you live more sustainably at home through reducing water, energy, which is exactly quite basic things, but it was one bringing them on board with the story and actually being able to say that Ikea walks the talk and they have a people planet positive stainability strategy. This is how it works for you and your day-to-day life and you’re creating a better world for your children without having to go and live in the woods as we alluded to earlier and I think it’s that sense of everyone seeing the value in it at each level. 


Will: Okay. When it comes to reducing your own environmental impact within Hubbub and the carbon footprint of the charity, what would you say your biggest challenge or frustration is? 


Tessa: Our office is in Somerset House, so it’s a wonderful building in Central London that, to be fair, does quite a lot too in terms of Environmental Management. Unfortunately, we do have a lack of food waste bins, but we have a Somerset House environmental committee, so there’re a few different things that they moved through at the moment. So, starting wormeries, which is exciting. 


Will: I like it. 


Tessa: There were limits on it, it’s like we’re renters and I think that’s what’s difficult, isn’t it? If you live in rented accommodation, you think I wouldn’t be able to get solar panels, or I can’t do this. So, I guess we do have frustrations because we don’t have the autonomy over what we can do with our premises.


Will: But you are the clients as well, that’s what we tell our clients. It’s hard though, it is really hard and it’s a question that a lot of smaller organizations, it’s not so much that they struggle with the answer but it’s more what we can do. We talked about this before and it’s doing as much as you possibly can is as much as you can do. I remember a client of ours, a very small client, they couldn’t work out whether to buy a second-hand colour photocopier or a new one. They were going back and forth, they did life cycle analysis, they did all this stuff and they were like, “We can’t work out which one’s better because the new ones are more energy efficient and better, the older ones aren’t.” My answer to them was you’re doing it, you’ve already answered the question, haven’t you? The fact that you’re thinking about it means that you’re already becoming more environmental and it’s that process, isn’t it, of trying to be greener is almost as good as it’s not almost as good but it’s about that process.


Tessa: Yeah, that’s a brilliant example, absolutely. I think it’s to say how all the tenants come together and take part in this kind of committee has led to a huge amount change and so I think we have all collectively raised the bar. So, coffee cup granules coming from the restaurants and being used to grow mushrooms, which are then provided back to the restaurant. Coffee cup recycling has been set up quite recently off the back of a Hubbub campaign where we set up the infrastructure of coffee cup recycling in the square mile of London. So yeah, there are all sorts of things happening and I think we’re really fortuitous to be surrounded by other like-minded tenants, but I think it’s you say it’s just starting that conversation and thinking that you have some power to change things. 


Will: Is there any advice for learning that you’d like to share with anyone listening to this podcast? Maybe take us through a campaign that really stands out in your mind and what you’ve taken from it, may be personally or as an organization. 


Tessa: I think as an organization it comes to life in our campaigns, so it’s following the principles of being a Lean Startup. So, we very much seek to gain insight, learn fast and cheaply and then refine that quite rapidly and then scale up the successful elements and then hope that this goes well and then give them away so they’re going to have a life of their own. I think it’s just to draw back to the example of meet your match, the campaign with the men in the gym, it’s doing that huge research piece with academic partners sitting with that and thinking okay, how can we take this into a behavior change campaign? Doing some quick sense check pilots like this one and then now we will refine it and we’ll try and take it to other organizations and other audiences but also using social media and the media to get the message out there as much as we can and that comes back down to finding the right time, whether that’s plastic or pumpkins at Halloween. I think this is worked well for us on an organizational level but also for each of our campaigns. 


Will: Would you say the media is becoming more receptive now to environmental matters?


Tessa: I think so, yes. There’s a positive story as well, that’s key. 


Will: Do you think the general public is becoming more receptive to environmental matters?


Tessa: Good question. Depending on which survey you read…. 


Will: From your own experience.


Tessa: From my own experience. Well again, I think if you can say here is something that you can do today at the back of it that’s really simple so that people don’t feel fatalistic and that they do feel empowered to get involved with it. If you can bring your own coffee cup and that will contribute hugely towards this mountain, but also, you’ll say 50p at the coffee shop acts at the same time. Then people are on board it’s small, incremental things but it does then as you say, pave the way for future decision-making where they’re faced with their printers and suddenly, they realized that these things matter to them and that’s who they are, and they can be an environmentalist without feeling as if they’re hippy.


Will: Yeah. You’ve got a really good campaign in the mountain leads, haven’t you? 


Tessa: Leeds by example. 


Will: It’s brilliant, I love that, when I saw it, I said that was so cool. Can you tell us a bit about what you’re doing there? 


Tessa: Yeah, sure. So, we’re working with the city of Leeds to see what we can do to reduce single-use plastics, but increase recycling, disposables on the go to research a transient society now specifically with food consumption. So, we’ve got council, businesses, universities on board and which piloting a range of different fun things to see is it above our bin or what can you do in terms of installation, fun poster campaigns, bin messaging. Yeah, just playing around with a number of different things to see what works with the ambition that we can get at the towns and cities to take those learnings on board and items out. 


Will: Finally, organizations, because obviously this podcast is also aimed at either business owners or people that work in organizations that want to be more environmental. I know one of my team members went on a boat with Ron Bronson a client of ours a couple of weeks ago, that’s been really popular. Hasn’t it? 


Tessa: That has been really popular. So yes, we have plastic fishing which is open to any organization to do can have a way day which I think really helps people to get to grips with fishing marine plastics the most fun way by going out on the Thames with a fishing net and seeing what you can find. I think it’s connecting that dot between oh, I carelessly dropped my bottle on the floor. We’re in Central London and before you know it the wind blows and it’s in the Thames and before you know it, it’s out to sea and yeah, it’s a great fun team building activity that’s supported by a really nice infrastructure to the issue but really gets everyone stuck in fishing plastic out of the Thames on what I should say is polymer, a plastic boat made from recycled plastic.


Will: Brilliant. Are you running a competition of giving it away, is that right? No.  


Tessa: Perhaps, you never know. Things move fast at Hubbub and we’re a busy team, I may have missed that one out. 



Will: Busy means getting everything wrong, so I’ll completely ignore that. 


Tessa: But what I would say is that any organization probably the first thing to do is sign up to our mailing list and we also have a blog and it’s a great way to keep on top of our campaigns and learn how you could be involved because we have very open to partnering our campaigns, exploring new problems or doing a range of different employee engagement initiatives from [27:26 inaudible].


Will: Brilliant. You just touched upon this, how can we learn about what you do more, what your website, we’ll be putting all the links on the show notes as well. 


Tessa: Great. Well, I think go to and sign up to the mailing list there. We kept in the know with all of our campaigns and opportunities.


Will: Brilliant, thank you so much today, Tessa, for this. It’s been really interesting listening to what you’re doing at Hubbub, thank you so much. 


Tessa: Thank you, an absolute pleasure, have a nice afternoon. 


Will: You too.

Hubbub have a range of services to support employee and/or customer engagement. Get in touch to find out how we can support you [email protected]


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