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LIVING WELL

Environmental Stewardship Is Important—Here’s How YOU Can Make a Difference

by Burt’s Bees | 4 min read

In part one of this series, we put the spotlight on Leigh-Kathryn Bonner, a North Carolina-based queen bee herself as a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree for her work with Bee Downtown—a company she founded at 22 that brings beehives to corporate campuses.

Here, we continue our conversation about how we can help support pollinators of all shapes and sizes and her straight-from-the-hive beauty secret. Read on to learn more!

Why are bees so important?

Leigh-Kathryn: Every third bite of food you eat is thanks to a bee. Seventy of the world's top 100 food crops are pollinated by bees. Without the bees, we'd be in big trouble. But it's not just the honeybees. Native bees—like our leaf cutter bees, mason bees, rusty patched bumblebees—they're super important, but we can't manage them like we can honeybees. They're harder to study.

People often only think of honey, but beeswax is also an important product that we can get from the beehive. But it's important for us and the bees, just like the honey is. Sustainable beekeeping practices really matter.

Bees can tell us if something is wrong or off balance in our environment at a faster pace than humans can. And because they're all struggling right now, we need to stop and slow down and listen to what they're trying to tell us, because they're trying as desperately as they can to say, "Something's not right here." And we need to start looking at how to address it. 

"Every third bite of food you eat is thanks to a bee. Seventy of the world's top 100 food crops are pollinated by bees."

What are some of the things you think the bees are trying to tell us?

Leigh-Kathryn: Humans are reducing and removing habitat and food from all pollinators.

And instead of looking at our impact saying, "What are we doing to cause harm to all the pollinators?" we say, "Well, it's the honeybee's fault." And that’s just not true. It's that we clear-cut land and we build big cities. And we don't rebuild habitat for what we've destroyed, and so all the pollinators are struggling right now.

What are some of other pollinators besides bees?

Leigh-Kathryn: Birds are great pollinators because they eat the seeds from the trees, and when they poop they help plant new trees. Bats are the same way. They're great pollinators. Butterflies are fantastic pollinators. 

"We always ask people to make meadows, not lawns."

How can we help support pollinators?

Leigh-Kathryn: One honeybee can have 1,200 pollination events a day. Most nectar sources are in the trees. If you're wanting to rebuild habitat and support pollinators, look at native trees in your area. Look at what bushes you can plant that are going to bloom, not just in the spring, but the late summer when the pollinators need food and there's not much blooming.

Go outside and take an intentional, thoughtful look at your yard and see, is your yard supporting life or is it on life support? If it's colorful, if it's blooming, if you can hear it, especially in spring, if you can hear the buzz in your yard, your yard is supporting life. If it is one inch of a monoculture of green grass and you've got no flowering plants, and you're spraying a ton of mosquito chemicals and pesticides, then your yard is on life support. And it means that it's hard for the pollinators to find any sort of refuge. We always ask people to make meadows, not lawns.

Get some mosquito wipes and mosquito repellent, but don't fog. It doesn't kill just the mosquitoes. It kills every insect that's out flying at the time of the spray.

It's a testament to the power of teamwork. One person may say like, "Well, why does my yard matter? Somebody else, it's only just one yard. Why will it matter?" It does. Because if everybody takes a small step toward better environmental stewardship, the collective greater good is almost incalculable.

What does conscious beauty mean to you?

Leigh-Kathryn: For me, first and foremost, it’s sustainability. “What are you putting into your body? What chemicals have been on it? And what's the half-life of that chemical?” Our skin absorbs things, so it's important to know what you're putting on your body and how it's produced. Is it truly sustainably produced? That’s very important.

Conscious beauty is, also, I'm sure my Southern mother would say, "It's more important what's in your heart than what's on your face. And you exude beauty by who you are as a human first and foremost." If you want to accentuate areas of your face or body, you can do that, but beauty is from within.

As women, it’s important for us to always encourage other women. We have so many unrealistic expectations of beauty in today's society. It’s important to be conscious of encouraging healthy beauty practices, standards and expectations, because it matters to young people growing up. It matters to people who may not be as confident as others. Mindfulness matters in everything in life and in the beauty industry even more so than other areas.

"you exude beauty by who you are as a human first and foremost. If you want to accentuate areas of your face or body, you can do that, but beauty is from within."

What does your beauty routine look like?

Leigh-Kathryn: I feel like I'm the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who puts the Windex on everything. I'm like that but with honey. If people are like, "Oh, my skin's so dry." I'm like, "Oh, put honey on that." I have a pump bottle of honey in my shower. I just put it on my face and I'll put it in my hair and let the steam hit it.

I also love a power lip. That's the fastest way to dress up anything. I always keep a fun color in my bag so that if I ever accidentally show up underdressed to something or if I had to go straight from work to speaking. I'm maybe in overalls and my cowboy boots, but I'm going to have a hot pink, fun lip. The Burt's Bees Lip Crayons are my favorite thing on the planet. 

"I feel like I'm the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding who puts the Windex on everything. I'm like that but with honey."

What does self care look like to you?

Leigh-Kathryn: Instead of a New Year's resolution, I go by the Melinda Gates' rule of a word for the year. I've not been good at self-care, so my word for the year is “present.” To be able to just be present and say, "I'm going to put my phone down. I'm going to enjoy dinner with my family without feeling like I need to check my email." And being deeply mindful about being present in whatever situation I'm in has been great self-care for me.

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