Sustainability is about healing our bodies and healing the environment.
For Jeffrey Malcolm, COO at One Planet Life, the idea of living a sustainable life has come full circle.
As a child growing up in rural Jamaica, Malcolm and his family fed themselves off of their farmland. Years later, he’s come to realize just how much that lifestyle can benefit not only our planet but our health as well.
“I’ve seen firsthand, just watching what you eat, as well as taking care of our environment – that combination has really led to health,” he said. “So I will say my sustainability journey is one of health – the health of your body and the health of the world. I’m a spiritual person, so I believe that God has provided everything we need on earth. If we just take care of it, it will give us enough food and make us healthy. To me, that’s why sustainability is important.”
Sustainability Leads to Longevity.
From a young age, Malcolm was already taking care of his own herd of goats and helping his grandparents on the farm when he wasn’t at school.
“I grew up very organic, if you want to say, in terms of food,” he said. “If I wanted milk, someone would have gone and milked the cow, and then we would boil the milk to drink.”
That lifestyle – eating directly what the local land could provide – has made an impression on Malcolm.
“I see the longevity it’s had on my grandparents,” he said. “We moved up here, and people are getting ailments in their 50s and 60s. I have a young grandmother, she’s 84, but she’s only had knee problems because the majority of her life she ate from the ground.”
An autoimmune disorder served as a wake-up call.
When Malcolm’s wife was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system creates antibodies that attack thyroid cells, the family started to look at how their diets could affect overall health and wellness.
“As a result, whenever her body would swell, it would attack her thyroid,” he said. “They said the best way to do it is either you can take medicine, or you can change your diet and change your lifestyle.”
After taking a critical look into the additives in everyday foods that could affect his wife’s condition, the Malcolm family shifted their mindset on what should be in stock in their kitchen, eventually making the leap to organic. The Malcolm family also ditched their microwave, concerned about how it could affect their health.
“It really started our journey of needing to be mindful of what we’re putting into our bodies,” he said. “A lot of the foods that are preserved have a lot of chemicals our bodies can’t break down, so as a result, that’s why we started to swell. We went from shopping all the aisles in the grocery store to only shopping on the edge.”
Years later, his wife’s disease is now in remission. It wasn’t just this experience that helped him realize how important diet can be.
“When she was going through that, one of my close friends got diagnosed with lupus,” he shared. “He was trying to do the medicine, but recently, what has been really helpful is him paying attention to his diet, and that has caused his lupus flare-ups to go down.”
Healing Our Bodies and the Environment.
As with a typical journey, Malcolm’s sustainability journey has evolved as he’s gained greater insight through the changes his family has implemented.
“We gained control over what we are putting in our bodies,” he said. “But what are we putting into the environment? That led us to recycle more – moving from single-use plastic to reusable water bottles.”
Mason jars have been another item that has greatly impacted the Malcolm household’s overall plastic consumption.
“If you come to our house, we only have mason jars,” he said with a laugh. “Whenever we bring out one of our mason jars, people think we’re drinking moonshine. It’s not moonshine; it’s a mason jar of water.”
These goals – personal health and a thriving natural environment – are inherently connected, Malcolm explained.
“We need to take care of the environment and protect the resources that God has blessed us with,” he said. “If we protect them, we won’t have to eat fake food. We will eat real food that our body needs to be healthy and live longer healthier lives. We will be happier.”
One Planet Life, a New Leg of the Journey
Malcolm joined the One Planet Life team full-time in 2022. However, before taking the leap, Malcolm helped get the app off the ground through his experience in both technology and sustainability on a corporate level.
“I got involved in One Planet Life on a one-on-one basis in 2019,” he said. “I was the CIO at the time of a company called Thrive Farmers. When I was there, they had just gone through to get their B Corp certification. That introduced to me how important it was for a company to be sustainable.”
After his time at Thrive, Malcolm took on the role of CTO at Yes We Are Mad, a digital agency that helped launch the One Planet Life app.
“When I got there, I was going to build out their technology arm, and they were just amazingly creative,” he said. “One of their strengths was building and designing mobile apps. At the end of 2020, we started building the OPL app. We launched it while I was there.”
Malcolm ultimately decided to resign from his CTO role and take some personal time off, which was when Lorie Buckingham, CEO of One Planet Life and Malcolm’s professional mentor, asked him to fulfill the role of COO. This leg of Malcolm’s sustainability journey opened his eyes even more to the impact individuals have on the environment and how our journeys can overlap with others.
“Since I joined OPL, another thing that I learned about was the impact of methane on our environment,” he said. “The team has helped me to become more aware of how much beef I’m eating and the consumption of beef and how driving down that demand can lead to less. When I met the rest of the team and heard those similar stories, it’s like serendipity played a role in bringing everyone together.”
Despite all the changes Malcolm has made to live more sustainably, he admits that he still feels intimidated by the commitment new changes can bring.
“Keep in mind that everything is truly a journey, and everyone has to find out what it is that they can sustain and don’t beat themselves up or compare themselves to someone else,” he said. “Someone eating no beef – that could be fine for them. I know for me, that’s hard.”
Malcolm agrees that One Planet Life has given him the ability to try out different options and have a supportive community behind him to share successes.
“I think the best thing to do is to try different ones and see which ones could become a true habit and understand that the power is not in doing all of it,” he said. “The power is finding one that you’re passionate about and then becoming an ambassador and sharing your story with others so they too can join you.”
The staff at One Planet Life are serious about sustainable living. That’s why we decided to share the struggles and successes of our individual sustainability journeys. In the upcoming weeks, we will share tips directly from our team members, curated through authentic personal experience. We hope that by sharing our stories, we can help foster a community committed to helping each other – and the planet!