Sixty-one-year-old nature enthusiast David Gibbs recently completed a successful career in marketing, and is now embarking on a mission to improve climate change. David believes passionately in mental and physical wellbeing, which he feels goes hand-in-hand with living on a healthy planet. He recently set up a non-profit social enterprise that aims to fund the planting of as many trees as possible, whilst encouraging people to be more physically active, with no digging or wellies involved.
Growing up with a father who was a passionate gardener meant that David, from Runnymede, spent a lot of time around nature. Memories of his childhood include “tasty fresh food, beautiful plants and the most amazing climbing tree” in his home garden. So, the combination of being active and living a healthy lifestyle is something that David feels has always been an intrinsic part of who he is. It was his love of nature and his sadness over ongoing environmental issues that led David to want to take matters into his own hands.
He explains, “It breaks my heart to see the devastation that is going on all around us, from plastic pollution and deforestation to global warming, air pollution and much, much more. My credo is “There’s no PLANet B” and I feel compelled to do my part by mobilising everyone to join me and help make a positive change.”
So, armed with passion, dedication and the desire to make a difference, David deployed his skills in marketing, and set up his new venture; One in a MILL1ON. He says that the concept behind this charitable organisation is fairly straightforward:
“Given that two thirds of people want to do something against climate change, yet don’t know where to start, the project provides precisely that – a simple starting point. Anyone and everyone can get involved – either individually or as a small team. People can simply set their own personal challenge, request some sponsorship from friends, family and colleagues, and upon completion, all profits will be put towards the planting of trees.
“There are no wellies or digging involved, as this part is left to specialists in this field. Most of all, the project is about having fun and is a great way for people to get active in their local community.”
David originally planned to launch the project in March, but was forced to place things on hold due to lockdown. He officially relaunched One in a MILL1ON in September, and is working hard to make his vision a reality.
At the moment, a typical day for David involves putting in a number of hours to make calls, attend local community groups and send emails. He explains that although the formation stage of setting up any organisation can be quite challenging, he’s enjoying contributing to a cause – and adds that there’s generally a strong appreciation for the presence of social enterprises that work towards a greater good.
Since starting One in a MILL1ON, he’s also been able to connect with like minded individuals, who have similar interests and goals.
David says, “Knowing that I’m actively contributing to something that I care about deeply is incredibly rewarding. I believe that good things are going to happen and I want to work with people with a shared passion, who want to thrive – not just survive – in a healthy world.”
As well as trying to get his organisation off the ground, David has also had to adjust to working solo – which is a noticeably different experience from his previous work. He says, “This is indeed my own venture, which has pros and cons. I love that I can work flexibly, but I do miss kicking ideas around with others. I am, however, open to collaborations, and I’ve had a lot of positive and supportive feedback from people from a variety of different backgrounds who have shown interest in the project.”
Considering his long term goals, David says that any plans for retirement are a long way off. He hopes that over the next 10 years he can achieve a large chunk of his mission – by planting tens of thousands of trees, so that we can all breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives. Not only is he working on a project that he enjoys, but he’s also found that being able to work flexibly has allowed him more time to be active in other ways too:
“Like many others that I know of, I have no plans to retire any time soon. The One in a MILL1ON project will hopefully keep the grey matter ticking over, and the tree planting will hopefully keep the air that we breathe cleaner for all these wonderful outdoor pursuits that we have available to us in this country.
“I like to be as active as possible, so when I’m not working, I’m often doing cross-country mountain biking along river and canal paths, working out in the gym, or skiing.
“I also enjoy all kinds of good food, and I feel it is important to support the wine industry in particular and therefore enjoy partaking in a good red wine (occasionally two or more upon request)!”
Looking back at his decision to take the leap and start a new venture in his 60s, David has no regrets and is proud of what he has created so far. He says, “Coupled with my academic training (MBA) and professional experience, I believe that One in a MILL1ON is now a really attractive and fun proposition. Despite the setback in March, I’m now enjoying focusing on building a community, and encouraging people to ‘pay it forward’ for the benefit of future generations.”
Speaking directly to anyone else over 50 who might find themselves at a crossroads in life, he says:
“I would always highlight the importance of thorough planning consideration and research when it comes to making a career change or taking on a new venture. This includes considering how your individual circumstances and future needs (family, time restrictions, health, finances etc) will impact your plans. But, as relevant as these things are – it’s equally important not to overthink, as this can hold you back.
“Taking a new direction in life can be daunting, but many successful gurus would say “the only regrets you will have is not having had a go!”