"The ocean has always meant so much more" Jessica Kooiman from Impact For Good
If WOMB had a second name, it would be “curiosity”. And the more people we meet, the more curious we become, the more we want to know about them. This week, we are pleased to present Jessica Kooiman, young female, passionate change-maker, the power-bank behind “Impact For Good” and … a cheerful fan of the Obama family!
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from, where did you study, and why did you choose to be based in Arkansas (at least for now)?
My name is Jessica Kooiman, owner of Impact for Good. I am 22 years old and I am a senior studying Marketing and Spanish in Arkansas. I’ve been a waitress for 3 years to fund my travels all around the country and the world. I love going to national parks specifically in the west and I loveeee experiencing other cultures outside the country. My favorite National Park is Glacier National Park in Montana and my favorite abroad trip I’ve ever done is my Spanish Immersion trip to Chile.
I’m born and raised in Arkansas, which is why Impact for Good is Arkansas based.
2. What's important to you, and how do these values affect your professional choices? Tell us about “Impact for Good”!?
Ocean Conservation has been important to me since I was a child. I went to Sea Camp in Mississippi where my uncle is a marine biologist for 6 years in a row, and later I volunteered there as well. This camp is what made me always look beyond the shore when on the coast. When I look out into the ocean, I think of all the animals that could be out there. I think about where I’m at -California, Maine, Florida, Washington- and then I think about what type of animals could be in that part of the ocean. When on the coast, I always inform my friends what type of animals we might see. In California, I’m always eager to see a humpback whale, but hope I’ll get lucky and see an orca. When in Florida, I know I’ll see black tip sharks, stingrays, and hopefully Manta rays.
All of this to say, the ocean has always meant so much more to me than just a pretty landscape. I love how inspiring it is to look out into the water. I love how you can look out in the ocean and know that this world underwater is so unknown to humans. It’s so mysterious and beautiful.
So plastic pollution in our oceans has been absolutely heartbreaking to me. We’re having such a negative impact on a beautiful, complex ecosystem. Plastic is suffocating fish. It is impaling Sea Turtles. It is ending up in animals’ stomachs.
Impact For Good started because I realized that just maybe, my voice could make a difference. I realized the worst thing I could do for the environment is to be quiet about what is happening. So Impact For Good is my Instagram platform where I inform others about the problems of pollution and provide a vision for change. I show what little and big steps we can all make to do our part in protecting the environment.
3. How would you describe the general eco-awareness of people in your state? Do you see a difference from big cities to more remote areas?
Many people in my state don’t know a lot about sustainability- and kind of don’t have the interest in learning about it either. Here, there’s a lot of resistance toward facing the problems of climate change and pollution. That’s why I originally started Impact- to inform my local community about sustainability and show my sustainable lifestyle so hopefully, it would catch on.
In Little Rock, more sustainable restaurants are popping up little by little, but it has definitely been a slow process. But slowly, I am starting to see some eco-awareness in bigger cities in Arkansas. The small town I live in currently has little grip on sustainable living. At my local grocery store, I have never seen someone carry reusable bags besides me and my roommates. The college students in the area are starting to become more conscious of their impact, but businesses essentially do nothing to lessen their impact on the environment.
4. What about diet: do you reckon that people in your circle/community make dietary choices based on environmental awareness?
Not at all. Honestly, I think this idea is so far from hitting Arkansas. Even when I started living sustainably, it took me a longggg time to realize that eating meat has huge environmental impacts. I think Arkansas has a long way to go when it comes to sustainability, so the “sustainable” diet is definitely way down the road.
5. What's your personal battle? What do you do to live more consciously on daily basis?
Something I personally battle constantly is plastic packaging. At my local grocery store, I absolutely can’t avoid it. I shop in bulk once a month in the city, but that’s not enough to replace all the packaging I have to use on a weekly basis. I don’t beat myself up about it because I know I have made amazing progress in the last 9 months. I always remind myself that this journey is about always improving, not being the “perfect” zero waster.
On a daily basis, I read about sustainability to always learn what I can do. I watch short films/documentaries regularly to keep learning about environmental impacts and the steps that I can make to help. I also have a reusable bag, produce bag, water bottle, coffee cup, and straw with me basically wherever I go to avoid plastic along the way. These items have decreased my plastic waste significantly!!
Who are your personal heroes and why?
One of my personal heroes is definitely my mom. She’s been living sustainably her whole life without even knowing she was doing it. She is the gardening queen and has been a strict budgeter since I was 13. She is farrrr from materialistic and is huge on reducing her food waste. She composts and is outside anytime she has the chance. She has taught me to own quality items and take care of what I own. She has taught me to budget my money so it doesn’t slip between my fingers. But she has also taught me to love the simplicity in planting a seed and watching it grow.
6. What book are you currently reading?
Right now I am reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. If I could have dinner with anyone in the entireeee world, it would definitely be the Obamas. They are just the coolest to me- I love them!
Her book is amazing and is very inspiring. A must read for sure!
7. What’s next for you?
I have a lot of change coming up in the next 3 months. I’m graduating college, I’m getting married 2 weeks after that, and then I’ll be moving to Northwest Arkansas- 4 hours from where I live currently. This time in my life is very bittersweet. I’m living with my 2 best friends, while my other best friend is a 4-minute drive away. I can feel the end of this season coming. I wouldn’t trade these last 4 years for anything. I learned the power of women-supporting-women by having really close girlfriends that I would do absolutely anything for. I met the love of my life during my second semester of freshmen year. And I’ll never forget sitting with my roommates when I randomly decided to make an Instagram called “Impact For Good.”
Change is hard, but the future is very exciting. I just accepted a digital marketing job to promote a sustainable company. My literal job is to build a community around loving the environment. That’s incredible! The community of Impact For Good gets bigger and bigger every day, which means I am always teaching and influencing n ew people, which is so inspiring to me. My career is officially going to be focused on sustainability -through my new job and my Instagram platform- which is a dream come true.