Husband, Dachshund owner, Co-founder, Take 3 For The Sea turned Co-founder, Ocean Impact Organisation, ocean activist and surfer.
We have been take-3-for-the-sea-ers for years and love what Tim Silverwood created there with his team. He's one of those environmentalists who is just impossible to not get inspired by because you see and hear his passion in everything he does. Tim lives on The Northern Beaches and you often see him surfing in Manly and solving problems with likeminded people at local cafes. With a brand new project Ocean Impact Organisation on the go now we thought only fitting to send some questions to Tim to hear all about it as well as what makes him get out of bed every morning.
It was sad to step down as CEO of Take 3 for the Sea but it was time. I still maintain a role as an ambassador and will always be recognised as co-founder. Our new CEO Sarah Beard will bring new energy and direction and I’m excited to see where she takes it. Photo: TBP
How do you see your new role at Ocean Impact Organisation and what do you hope to achieve in your work on a day to day basis?
I started OIO with my co-founder Nick Chiarelli who is the brains behind the idea. Nick is a Manly local and a super impressive guy. I’m the ‘deep green’ environmentalist and experienced non-profit CEO whilst Nick is the accomplished business leader. Nick has previously been Chief Financial Officer of an ASX listed company, is a chartered accountant and is very familiar with the startup sector. Whilst our professional experience is very different we align beautifully in our values. We both surf and we both passionately believe that humanity can do much much better in how we treat Planet Ocean.
My role will predominantly be in communications and community building. I’ve been fortunate enough to build a huge network and reputation through my ten years at Take 3 so I’ll be using all that experience to bring awareness to OIO and build our ‘ecosystem’ of partners, supporters and participants. I’m also the host of our brand new Ocean Impact Podcast that you can listen to now on Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud or YouTube.
You’re an environmentalist from way back but how did you end up where you are today?
Gee, how long have you got? In a nutshell I’ve known for the last 2-3 years that my tenure at Take 3 was coming to an end. I’m turning 40 this year and started Take 3 when I was 29 - that’s a loooong time focussed on one project. I couldn’t easily envisage what managing Take 3 for another 3, 5 or 10 years would look like. But bigger than that realisation was the realisation that I’d achieved what I set out to achieve with Take 3. I listened to my 2011 TEDx talk recently and in that I declared that my mission was “to change the face of trash”. Through the work of myself and many other individuals, organisations, brands and communicators we’ve done that - we’ve made plastic pollution and waste mainstream issues. The snowball is rolling down the hill on plastic and waste now, attitudes have changed and now policies, practices and entire systems are shifting to circular economy models. But in the wake of that mass media awareness are dozens of other pressing issues that affect the ocean. A big part of my motivation with OIO is to make the ocean mainstream. That’s why my leading statement when I talk about it is, “we live on Planet Ocean”. If we can have humanity look at our fragile planet through the lens of it being ‘Planet Ocean’ we’ll soon realise the need to adjust the way we do things. Did you know if you compressed all the gases in our atmosphere into a liquid form they would only represent 1/500th of the liquid in the ocean. And that if you added up the volume of all the terrestrial land on earth (everything above the high tide mark) it would represent only 1/11th of the volume of the ocean. The ocean has 1.37 billion cubic kilometres of habitable space (just not for us). Crazy stats huh.
I’m keen to strip back Tim Silverwood to a person with no seminars or think-talks on the horizon, no computer or email address and no social media accounts or co-workers. You are still living in your usual environment and have the same people around you. How do you see your ‘Person Power’ and what do you still possess that gives you the ability to impact on the world in a positive way?
Great question guys! I’ve learnt a lot about leadership in recent years and for me it distils down to one very simple feature: standing for something. I have been able to use a lot of tools and embrace a lot of opportunities to have my ‘People Power’ impact amplified but if they weren’t available I would still stand for the same things. The key difference is a persons ‘sphere of influence’. We all have one, it’s that cluster of people who look at us and are moved in thought and action by what we do. With social media and rapid global connectivity our sphere of influence can be massive and can certainly be harnessed for both good and bad ends.
Being an environmentalist obviously lends itself towards living a sustainable life. I thought it would be cool to get your thoughts on the importance of living that way, what sustainable shopping means to you and how you think we can all improve the way in which we care for the natural world. How do the two go hand in hand?
I’ve been toting the term ‘conscious consumer’ for a while now as for me it sums up a very simple process that we can all go through to become a better participant in the journey to a sustainable future. It’s literally as simple as a quick line of questioning that you ask yourself when making a purchase. Something like, “Where did this come from? What were the consequences of the production and distribution of this product on people and planet? What do I do with this product at the end of its life? Do I feel ok about the consequences of me consuming this product?” Obviously the insights from this line of questioning could be quite harrowing if you dive into the provenance of your beef, tuna, cheese or leather shoes so I wouldn’t expect people to dive deep immediately or on every occasion but even a simple ‘acknowledgement’’ of the negative impacts associated with your consumption is a great exercise. I imagine this is a practice engrained at BLAEK store and the reason you work with conscious and visionary brands like Nudie or Patagonia - I’d buy them over their competition in a heartbeat knowing I was supporting a sustainable business and could repair the item free of charge if I ever needed to.
The beaches around home remind me a lot of where I grew up on the Central Coast. There’s lots of surfers around but if you know where to go and are willing to make the effort there are some spectacular locations and waves to be found. Photo: @will_hartl
During the COVID-19 epidemic how are you approaching life both mentally and physically? I’m keen to hear as a public speaker, collaborator, lover of the outdoors and surfer how you are approaching those roles and adapting during a very difficult time.
It’s such a strange time. I’m acutely sensitive to the devastating impact the crisis is having around the world, particularly on disadvantaged people and communities. But as a lifelong environmentalist this type of disruption isn’t a big surprise. Thought leaders and academics have predicted events like this and much bigger. One of my early inspiring reads was ‘The Great Disruption’ by Paul Gilding that paints a picture of what a series of destructive events generated by the climate crisis could cause. The models are terrifying if humanity can’t alter our ways. So whilst this is not the Great Disruption it is a disruption nonetheless that is leading many of our species to deeply reassess the relationship we have to the planet, to each other, to the structure of our economy, our political systems, our purpose… the list goes on. I recently read this period being referred to as ‘The Great Pause’ - a chance for our species to stop, slow down and reassess the future we want for ourselves, our species and our planet. Again, I acknowledge that not everyone is privileged enough to look through this time with rose coloured lenses but I certainly am.
On a personal and mental front I’m doing ok. I’m so thrilled to have left Bondi 18 months ago and to now live closer to nature on the far northern beaches of Sydney. I can still surf, I can walk my dog in nature and we’ve found that our favourite providores from the local farmers market will deliver or arrange pick up. My wife and I miss a lot of things (I don’t think my personality is quite as big as many of her friends she normally hangs with) but we’re coping well and focussing on what’s important.
For work and OIO it’s been a disruption but we’re taking it in our stride. Our team has adapted exceptionally well to a virtual workplace, we have 9am team meetings every day that are incredible for productivity and morale. We have suffered in our ability to secure commercial sponsors and philanthropic donations to run our our first face-to-face startup accelerator cohort this year but we are focussed to deliver in 2021. In the meantime we are focussing on ‘virtual’ offerings that are low cost to produce and help build our brand and reputation. Last week we released The FishTank, a series of interviews with six founders of projects helping the ocean and on June 8th we’re planning a virtual Pitch Fest to highlight the best startups in the Australasia - Pacific Region that are making a positive impact on the ocean. And of course there’s the Ocean Impact Podcast which has moved from face to face interviews to being virtual. All in all we’re impacted but persevering with our mission - planet ocean needs us.
At home in my new digs on the Northern Beaches with my dachshund Frankie and a cup of joe. It’s been important and necessary for me to get out of living in a densely populated area like Bondi. I grew up in the bush and have been panging to be back amongst the trees for a long time. Photo: @will_hartl
What is the first thing you are going to do once COVID-19 is declared over and we are free to do what we please? Let’s finish this on a lighter note!
My wife and I fell in love at the Sydney Biennale in 2012 and with our anniversary falling in April we usually treat ourselves to a sneaky day off to indulge in art and delicious food. I can’t wait to experience art! Sydney is a great place for an art immersion, especially when the biennale is on. And I miss Manly! I was really getting into a groove in our new office in WOTSO Manly but we’ve been working remotely for over 4 weeks now. I’ve loved integrating into the Manly and Northern Beaches Community in the last couple of years...