Alison Foley is from Gubbi Gubbi Country on the Sunshine Coast, QLD. She is the founder of Ten Little Pieces, an environmental education and empowerment movement inspired by ordinary folk collecting ten little pieces of rubbish anytime, anywhere.

Ten Little Pieces came about one summer’s day with my children on Noosa Main Beach. They were whinging for an ice cream, so while I packed up the beach kit I said to my kids that an ice cream would cost them ten little pieces of rubbish. They came back to me with armloads of plastic cups and bottles, cigarette butts and food wrappers – it shocked me. We washed our hands and got the ice-cream and my six-year-old asked for his in a cone because he didn’t want the little plastic spoon that came with the cup. It started a conversation about waste, ocean health and environmental empowerment.  

I started a Facebook page and people from all over the world started collecting litter with their children too. I studied with the University of the Netherlands and the UNEP and became an expert in marine litter, which tied back to my previous role as a chief stewardess in the super yacht industry – I’ve always had a really strong connection with and respect for the ocean.

I realised that knowledge is power but it means very little without action. I wanted to create activities that would engage kids in making realistic, motivated changes to consumption. With the encouragement of our online community, and the support of the Global Sisters programs, I developed the Ten Little Pieces education program. We bring in the science of marine debris, ocean literacy, conservation and sustainable action to students from pre-Kinder to school leaver levels and provide educator support. These are heavy considerations, but taking that doom and gloom and using it to elicit emotion that underpins action is something that it turns out we’re pretty good at. One little step leads to another little step and another – don’t underestimate four-year-olds!

Starting a business is incredibly challenging especially when you throw in a pandemic and motherhood to three little boys. There are days when you’re not sure which way to go or what to do next and it can feel overwhelming. Global Sisters has provided a fantastic program and supportive community that’s really helped me on my journey.

The Sister Pitch process was an opportunity to reflect on how far we had come and ask for what we needed to take the next big step forward, because you simply can’t do everything yourself. I was matched with Microsoft Australia and NZ whose mentorship is helping to bring some of our education programs online so we can serve our international community. Global Sisters has opened so many doors to connect with the right people at the right time. I’m absolutely certain that giant things are on the horizon for Ten Little Pieces. 

I’ve managed to find a balance in creating a sustainable business model around time for self-care and family, too. It’s a juggle for sure, but bringing hope to the classroom, and seeing the faces of the children light up when they realise they can do something about the challenges the earth is facing, brings me so much joy. From little things, big things grow.

My work is a passion and whilst that might take away from story time on occasion, I’m doing what I’m doing for my children, and for yours.

Alison FoleyTen Little Pieces