Whole Champions. What and who are they? In the past, we’ve defined what we mean by whole and champion and what we mean by whole champion, e.g. “the human force driving positive change,” and “a good person who gives their best effort to champion their own life while caring about the global challenges facing humanity and the environment.” But being a whole champion isn’t about being a member of a club or a group, and there isn’t an organization we are saying you should join. Being a whole champion is embracing personal, social and environmental responsibility. It is standing up and I saying, “I’m aware, I care and I will act on that caring.”
Being a whole champion involves first taking care of yourself in the best way you know how. We applaud Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka for making their mental and physical health a priority over competitions and winning. And we appreciate the candor and authenticity of Prince Harry about his struggles with using drugs and alcohol to cope with the personal trauma of his mother’s death. All three of them are taking care of themselves and championing others and the environment.
The second part of being whole champions involves looking out for other humans and championing their well-being. For an example think of the bravery of Simone Biles. She spoke up about the abuse of herself and her fellow gymnasts by Larry Nassar. (You can watch the hour-long interview she did with Today here:
Anyone who speaks out or stops bullies, fights for gender equality or women’s rights or LBGTQ rights, stands up to any kind of injustice, or helps anyone in need is acting with compassion and care for others. They are whole champions.
Another example of people being driven by social responsibility includes Simon Griffiths, Danny Alexander and Jehan Ratnatunga who founded Who Gives a Crap. They write, “We started Who Gives A Crap when we learnt that 2.4 billion people don’t have access to a toilet (now 2 billion – yay for progress!). That’s roughly 40% of the global population and means that around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s almost 800 children per day, or one child every two minutes. We thought that was pretty crap.” So in 2012, they crowdfunded to get enough money to start production on making sustainable bamboo and recycled toilet papers, and they donate 50% of the company’s profits into building toilets and improving sanitation in the developing world.
A similar story can be found in the driving force behind Bombas. In the early 2000s, founders David Heath and Randy Goldberg learned that socks are the most requested item at homeless shelters because they are the clothing item that wears out the fastest. The men created socks with thicker footbeds so they wouldn’t wear out as quickly and decided on a business model that includes for every pair of socks or clothing (t-shirts and underwear) item sold, a pair or item is donated to homeless shelters or homelessness related charities. To date, Bombas has donated more than 40 million items or as they say on their website, “that’s 40 million acts of kindness…”
And the final component to being whole champions is caring about the planet that each of us calls home. Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia and a huge champion of sustainability, created Patagonia Provisions to build a marketplace that is an alternative to industrial agriculture, what he calls, “a path to restore and regenerate our home planet.”
Another example is actor Woody Harrelson, a celebrity who isn’t afraid to champion the environment. He once scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to unfurl a banner that read “Aren’t ancient redwoods more precious than gold?” He launched Voice Yourself, a website devoted to sustainable living tips, healthy living and eco-friendly products. He’s made ecologically-focused documentary films and supported Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, Surfrider Foundation and many other environmentally-related organizations.
More Examples of Whole Champions Causes and Works
Many people in the public eye uses their platforms to champion causes near and dear to their hearts. Simone Biles’s charity work include working with Mattress Firm Foster Kids, helping with relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey, creating a scholarship for foster kids at University of the People and being a catalyst for change around social issues such as gender inequality. Naomi Osaka has teamed up with UNICEF and works with Los Angeles-based and Haiti-based Play Academy. Similarly, Prince Harry’s charity work includes founding the Invictus Games, working with UNICEF, Sentebale, National AIDS Trust and the Walker Family Events Foundation, and he and wife Megan Markle started Archewell in 2020. Archewell partners with a wealth of nonprofits, foundations and centers for all types of humanitarian causes.
We can all be whole champions. You don’t have to be an athlete or a celebrity or an entrepreneur. Greta Thunberg was barely a teenager when her love for the environment and humanity led her to become an activist who now has spoken on major world stages and received Nobel Peace Prize nominations. Some whole champions start super local and don’t seek limelight, like the three teens—Liam Williams, Isaac Sweeny and Jack Summers—who started the Carroll Park Climate Challenge and 1000 Trees Long Beach in a small residential neighborhood in Los Angeles County. Williams, Sweeny and Summers spearheaded a tree planting program in their city with a goal of installing 1000 new fruit trees in order “to reduce greenhouse gases, increase oxygen in the air, cool down the streets, filter stormwater before it enters the ocean, and provide shelter and food for wildlife,” as their website says. Others see problems in their local areas and come up with solutions, like the Missouri nonprofit that is building tiny homes for the veterans in their community who are experiencing homelessness.
Opportunities to care for ourselves, for others, and for the environment are all around us, we just need to stay in a state of awareness and openness and be willing to say, “Yes! I assume responsibility.” But if for some reason you can’t figure out where to begin, keep coming to our website. Sign the pledge to be whole champions and peruse our resources. We will post weekly about a new way to take action, and we’ve established an online catalogue of organizations and opportunities. Soon we will be sponsoring events and ways to engage. We can choose to be the change we wish to see in the world, and we can choose to be the change starting today.