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Woman Who Once Flew 6k Miles For Dinner Quits High-Paying Job To Work For Free Saving The Planet

Woman Who Once Flew 6k Miles For Dinner Quits High-Paying Job To Work For Free Saving The Planet
Aimee Higgins left a corporate role at KPMG after an environmental awakening. PA REAL LIFE / The Woman & The Wolf

This woman once flew 6,000 miles business class to Hong Kong to surprise a friend for dinner, now, she swapped a $200,000 annual salary to help save the planet.

A former company director at a world-famous accountancy firm, Aimee Higgins, put her carbon-guzzling lifestyle behind her after a trip to Australia last year, when she had an epiphany after reading a book about the fragility of the planet.

Swapping her drive to the station for cycling using a British made Brompton folding bicycle and fine dining for her own vegetable patch, Aimee quit her corporate role at KPMG and left life in the fast lane behind her.

Aimee Higgins, left, and friend Sonia Lakshman cofounded The Everyone Club. PA REAL LIFE / The Woman & The Wolf

In October 2020 she started The Everyone Club, a website and membership club with a weekly newsletter dedicated to informing and inspiring people to make positive lifestyle changes for the sake of the planet.

Launching the initiative with friend and co-founder Sonia Lakshman, they aim to mobilise 100,000 Brits by 2022 to join the club with neither of them drawing a salary from the project for at least 12 months.

"Before this awakening, my lifestyle couldn't have been any worse for the planet," Aimee said.

Aimee Higgins, right, with a friend on holiday. PA REAL LIFE

"I was very busy and often treated myself to things. I loved the convenience," she said.

Travel was a big part of Aimee's life, with long-haul flights becoming the norm. Especially after a secondment to Hong Kong from 2009-2011, during which she made friends who she often visited after returning to the UK.

"The worst thing I did was to fly to Hong Kong in 2015 to surprise someone for dinner," she said. “It was literally just for a few days before I flew back."

Aimee Higgins was used to long haul flights and business class travel. PA REAL LIFE

"I look back on that now and think, 'Oh my god,'" she continued.

Aimee's expensive culinary tastes also had an impact on the environment.

"I used to eat steak every week," she confessed. "I would eat my breakfast, lunch and dinner on the run and buy packaged foods."

Sonia Lakshman with a timer for her shower to save water. PA REAL LIFE

"It was just unbelievable," she added.

"And my food waste was through the roof. I'd do my big shop at the weekend, thinking I'd cook. Then I'd have a really busy week and end up getting takeout or eating out and waste my food.

"It's been a really rude awakening."

Aimee Higgins swapped driving to the station in her Mini for cycling on a Brompton folding bike. PA REAL LIFE

Aimee's eureka moment came after a break with friends in Melbourne, Australia in April 2019.

During her holiday, her former KPMG executive coach, Sonia had been texting her about an incredible book she had read, which highlighted the terrifying "cliff edge" the planet was balanced on.

"I was visiting friends in Australia and having a blissfully ignorant time and feeling very happy with life," Aimee said.

Sonia Lakshman has swapped her toiletries for reusable products. PA REAL LIFE

"I kept getting these texts from Sonia telling me I needed to read this book, Losing Earth, by Nathaniel Rich," she said.

"That weekend, when I flew home, I read it and, like Sonia, I had an OMG moment.

"It was a real wakeup call. It's not like I didn't know what climate change was, but I didn't know we had 10 years left to have a fighting chance of mitigating the devastation of an increased temperature."

Aimee Higgins, right, drinking cocktails with a friend. PA REAL LIFE

"It was very stark," she said.

Firm friends since Sonia mentored Aimee at KPMG, the successful women both felt a calling and became determined to quit life in the fast lane and dedicate themselves to saving the planet.

They funded their new venture, The Everyone Club, from their own savings and a loan.

Sonia Lakshman, cofounder of The Everyone Club. PA REAL LIFE / The Woman & The Wolf

"We are literally taking pay cuts to the greatest degree – we are not in this for the money," Aimee said.

"For at least a year we'll be taking no salary at all from the project and once we do it won't be anything like the amount we used to earn."

As part of her wakeup call, Aimee has overhauled everything from her fridge and bathroom cabinet to her mode of transport.

Aimee Higgins who has given up meat in an effort to live more sustainably. PA REAL LIFE

"One of the big things that I've changed is that I no longer have meat in my diet," she said.

"I don't know if I will become vegan, but I'm having more vegetables and maybe I'll have fish, but that's more occasional now."

Her realizations about the meat industry were inspired by the infamous 2014 sustainability documentary, Cowspiracy.

"Sometimes now I think I'll treat myself to a pepperoni pizza and I get to the supermarket and can't do it as I've got those images from Cowspiracy in my head," she said.

Working at a careers service, while she transitions into working full-time at The Everyone Club, Aimee has also ditched commuting by car and train for cycling.

"I started commuting on my bike. I live in Ashford and used to work in London before lockdown, so I got a Brompton bike rather than driving," she said.

Aimee Higgins at a fancy dress party in Hong Kong. PA REAL LIFE

"It's been quite a turnaround – my family had a big shock!"

Now both women are keen to inspire others to follow their example – if only by taking small steps, like buying a reusable toothbrush, or using a prewritten template to write to their MP about environmental issues.

Explaining that membership to The Everyone Club costs £3 a month, which is partly used to fund eco-projects in the UK.

"It takes just a few minutes a week to do this one thing after you get your Friday lunchtime email from us," Aimee continued.

"It might be to swap to a product you wouldn't normally buy, or it might be making your voice heard, or voting on which project we should fund," she said.

"The funding is taken from the membership fee – we're not asking members for anything else."

And the club's first cheque is set to be written in January, to a rewinding scheme run by a husband-and-wife team in North Yorkshire, with the amount dependent on how much cash the duo can raise.

Aimee Higgins has swapped her bathroom products for reusable versions. PA REAL LIFE

"We'll put potential projects to the members' community, and they get to choose which one we fund," she said.

"We really want everyone to feel like we are doing this together because that is the sense of the collective impact that we can have."

For Aimee, who does not have children, the club is an intensely personal venture.

As an aunt to 11 nieces and nephews, she hopes to pass her green credentials onto her five siblings and their children – and is particularly keen to inspire them, like her, to grow their own vegetables.

"I've been trying out vegan meals on them, trying not to tut at them, and even recycling their takeout containers and crisp packets. They've been learning with me," she continued.

While Aimee is full of enthusiasm for her new eco-friendly lifestyle, her fears for the planet run very deep.

Sonia Lakshman, left, and Aimee Higgins met when Sonia was Aimee's executive coach at KPMG. PA REAL LIFE / The Woman & The Wolf

"The planet is on a cliff edge and it should be on the news every day," she said.

"I am genuinely worried that if we don't turn things around there will be a climatic catastrophe, causing devastation and food shortages.

"We need to move away from all this consumption and waste and recognize the impact we're having on the environment."

“It's really sobering and it's really sad, because we're doing it mindlessly. We don't all necessarily know that the things we're doing are having such a negative impact," she said.

"We do have the power to turn the fate of the planet around. We just need to know how and for it to be made easy."

Just swapping a plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one, or buying bamboo or sustainable brush heads for an electric toothbrush is a significant start.

Sonia Lakshman, left, and Aimee Higgins met when Sonia was Aimee's executive coach at KPMG. PA REAL LIFE / The Woman & The Wolf

"Toothbrushes take 500-odd years to break down and even when they do it's still into tiny plastic particles that then go into the soil and the food chain and everything else," she said.

“It's just horrific when you think about it. If we were able to change that for as many people as we can possibly reach – we would be really proud."

Aimee, who currently works three days a week and plans to become full-time at The Everyone Club later this year says she is constantly learning.

"I recently watched Sir David Attenborough's brilliant film, A Life On Our Planet, on Netflix," she continued.

“It showed how, during one person's lifetime, we have both discovered all the wonders of the world and also the devastating impact that we're having on it."

Sonia Lakshman, pictured on a bike ride. PA REAL LIFE

"Environmentalism is a really positive way of life," she concluded.

"Forget earning a massive salary, for true happiness, we feel far better when we connect to nature."

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