You Can Transform Your Outrage into Action: The Proof Is In This Elephant Plushie with Kristina McKean (Episode #155)
Kristina McKean has a story that demonstrates exactly why we should not wait to start building lives of meaning and purpose. Kristina found a way to take the skills of her working life and combine them with her lifelong passion for animal welfare. Now, she finds joy every day in her work and the impact it’s having on wildlife and a new generation of very young philanthropists through her work at The Elephant Project.
About Our Guest:
Today, we have a remarkable guest whose work demonstrates that every one of us can start out small and make a BIG difference in the world.
Kristina McKean is the founder of The Elephant Project, a venture that has captured the hearts of philanthropists of all ages and backgrounds. She found a way to use her product designer skills, to become a hugely impactful advocate for wildlife conservation and animal protection.
Her dedication and The Elephant Project’s mission have garnered attention from local, national, and international media outlets, including The Today Show, Vogue, and People Magazine.
As you listen to Kristina’s story, you’ll be filled with hope and inspiration.
Get ready to be wowed by Kristina’s dedication and the creativity of one woman’s mission to make a significant difference in the lives of others. Her story is a testament to the transformative power of passion, determination, and a genuine desire to create a better world.
In this episode, Kristina helps us move forward with fresh ideas for progress on our own passions.
She raises our travel savvy to new levels. And best of all, on this podcast you’ll be hearing from yet another wonderful voice from what I’m calling a Conspiracy of Goodness in our times.
She’s proof that ordinary individuals can accomplish extraordinary things when they set their minds to it. Her journey began with an “ah-ha” moment and a vision of what’s possible, and it has blossomed into a powerful force for good.
Before The Elephant Project, she worked with multinational clients and renowned corporations like GAP.
And now, she brings all that experience to creating positive change in the world.
The Elephant Project sells plush, luxurious feeling toy elephants that delight children worldwide and instill a sense of purpose in their young hearts… and then… 100% of net proceeds are dedicated to on-the-ground tangible impact on the lives of countless elephants.
Imagine a world where many of our elective purchases like this, keep a great company in business AND contribute to making the world a better place! (I know what I’ll be purchasing from my next baby gift: something wonderful from The Elephant Project that supports goodness and progress in the world.)
The Elephant Project is at the forefront of something I’m calling a Gratitude Economy. That’s a rising tide of companies that consumers are giving their loyalty to, because they trust the company is making every effort to make the world a better place.
And perhaps, by the end of this episode, you too will feel the wind in your sails for bringing your own passions and skills together in some remarkable, beautiful way.
00:00 Intro & Welcome
02:28 The Elephant Project
- Kristina started The Elephant Project after seeing a baby elephant being abused in the streets of Bangkok.
- Kristina did research to identify the different plights of elephants in different parts of the world and decided to do more than just protesting.
- Kristina was inspired by her daughter’s stuffed animal and used her background in product development & design to make her own stuffed animal to create awareness and raise funds for elephants globally.
- The Elephant Project started from scratch with 10 seamstresses who came up with the design for a stuffed toy elephant.
- The Elephant Project gives 100% of its net profits to helping elephants.
09:47 Saying No To Elephant Rides
- Elephants go through a process called a crush box to be trained to be ridden, do circus tricks, paint pictures, etc.
- Baby elephants are caged and horribly beaten as babies and have spears pushed through their genitals in order to break their spirits and get them to follow instructions.
- We are all responsible to take enough measures to ensure that we are not contributing to the cruelty of animals.
- Many people love elephants and see elephant riding as a fun experience and innocently participate so Kristina does the work to educate people about the ills of the practice.
14:49 Challenges Facing Elephants
- In Asia the main issue with Elephant well being is rooted in the commercializing of elephant rides and the abuse that goes along with this business practice.
- African Elephants are along the lines of poaching, trophy hunting, and animal/human conflict.
- Drought is also a factor affecting the well being of elephants in Africa.
22:44 Love and Bananas
- Kristina put out a film about the treatment of elephants and her rescue efforts.
- Several children were at the screening of Love and Bananas and many of them started their own initiatives to help the causes of the Elephants.
- Kristina sees a difference in the younger generation’s willingness to take action on world issues.
- While The Elephant Project continues to be a lot of work, Kristina finds motivation in the younger generation.
- Kat Tweedie appeared on Episode 133 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast and spoke about finding the intelligence in every emotion.
- There is a theory about four generational archetypes that might explain more about why this younger generation has a tendency to take action and make lasting change. You can learn more about this theory by listening to Episode 108 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast featuring Dr. Stephen Shepard.
- Kristina has partnered with the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust since 2017.
- The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has a nursery of elephants in Kenya.
- Kristina also works with The Elephant Nature Park which is funded by Trunks Up.
- Lek Chailert, the founder of Trunks Up, is Kristina’s biggest hero.
- Kristina worked with Pedro De La Cruz to create a book about not riding elephants.
- Wildlife SOS is doing great work with elephants in India. Kristina plans to partner with them in the future.
32:54 Travel Lessons
- If we educate ourselves before we travel, we can affect change in many ways.
- We should ensure that the hotels we travel to are not supporting elephant rides.
- We shouldn’t take selfies with any endangered animals.
- We can ensure that our dollars don’t go toward causes that do harm.
- We should make buying decisions that align with our values.
- We can make a huge difference by choosing not to participate in harmful activities.
37:15 Kristina’s Work with Dogs
- Kristina saw the meat trades in China and connected to women who were rescuing dogs from these markets.
- Kristina decided to create a dog stuffed toy to make a difference for the treatment of dogs.
- We can adopt or rescue beautiful dogs and avoid buying dogs from breeders.
- Kristina saw the opportunity to raise funds for the women in China who are rescuing dogs from meat traders.
- Kristina also used to rescue sea lions and seals.
- Vicki Saunders, the founder of Coralus (formerly SheEO) spoke about ‘following the aliveness’ as her strategy for deciding where to direct her resources toward her cause of funding women in business. Vicki appeared on Episode 148 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast.
- Kristina meditates frequently as a means of staying connected to her purpose and maintaining good intentions in her efforts to make a difference.
- Kristina encourages us to identify a cause and start somewhere. There are a million battles in the word to fight—we can just pick one.
44:25 Original Courage
- Kristina’s mother was a single mother and inspired her in many ways to accept challenges.
- Kristina enjoys taking risks and working long hours every week.
46:46 Gaining Inches
- We all have unique talents.
- We don’t always have to score the winning touchdown to help a cause.
- Every contribution of goodness towards your passion helps affect change.
- If we all did a little bit, we could create an enormous impact.
- Don’t assume that someone is already doing something about something that is wrong with the world.
- There are many forms of wealth. Nipun Mehta spoke about these forms of wealth on Episode 138 of The Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast.
51:38 What Do You Wish People Knew?
- We can all do our part to help animals.
- We can adopt rather than shop.
- We can contribute in any way we can to help the welfare of animals.