The Climate Crisis Needs Better PR. Stephanie Shepherd & Binx Are On It
The Future Earth founder on rescuing a pandemic puppy and using social media to save the planet:
“Our approach is that we’re all in this together during a really transitional, transformational time in society.”
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It’s just another weekday morning in the Shepherd house, and Steph waves her rescue dog Sir Binxington Jon Bon Jovi Jackson (you can call him Binx) goodbye as he heads out on his daily pack walk. “It makes me feel like he’s going to kindergarten,” she gushes. You might recognize Shepherd as Kim Kardashian’s former assistant and right-hand woman, but nowadays she’s using her social media prowess over at Future Earth — the digital platform that she co-founded to share climate information through punchy graphics, colorful campaigns, and bite-sized interviews with leaders the likes of Al Gore.
When she’s not engaging the climate club’s 356k followers, Shepherd cruises along on her own sustainability journey and is constantly furthering her climate education. Binx is along for the ride too, of course, and the playful, mischievous two-year-old seems to love his recycled rope leash just as much as the high-fashion garb of his recent Moschino campaign. While the up-and-coming model was out on his walk, we caught up with Shepherd to learn all about how she and her pup are working towards a future Earth we can all get behind.
It looks like Binx is living the good life in his walking group.
He was a COVID puppy, so this is such a great way to socialize him. And then when he comes back, he’s literally like a kid coming home from school. He has all this energy and he’s so happy. He’s just the best.
What was that process of adopting him during COVID like?
Yeah, well, the intention was to foster. In that first week of lockdown, which felt like 10 years, my friend Jen Atkin rescued her second dog, Chewy. She worked closely with shelters and told our friend group about how they were going to have to close down and all those dogs would need to be homed. So our little pod at the time all fostered dogs, and then we all adopted them. Now we have this puppy parent support group where all we do is talk about dogs and rescuing.
Binx was abandoned with his family in Bakersfield, and we were fostering him from the Labelle Foundation. The first day I got him I was like, “Nope, I’m keeping this guy forever.” There was no chance.
So it was love at first sight?
Totally. He was so cute. If you see pictures of him as a puppy, he was the tiniest little teddy bear. And he had this dark-brown-and-black mixed coat with this little tiny button face. He fit into the palms of our hands.
I bet he was so helpful during those early days of the pandemic.
I really, really know that the Universe put him into my life at that exact moment for a reason because 2020 was, without a doubt, the most difficult year of my life. He has truly been like my emotional support animal. If he senses my anxiety or picks up on a specific tone in my voice, he’ll come over to me and bury his head in my hand and he’ll paw at me. He just has the most playful, happy personality. He brings so much warmth and joy into our home. I cannot imagine life without Binx.
I hear he has quite the full name. How did you decide on it?
I think I was going through a Bridgerton phase where I was very much into dukes and all of that pomp and circumstance. And one of those nights in quarantine, when my partner and I were losing our minds, we just decided that he’s Sir Binxington Jon Bon Jovi Jackson. We’re not even huge Bon Jovi fans. But it really rolls off the tongue, and he lives up to his name. He’s a regal boy.
Does he keep up with the other dogs from his quarantine crew?
Yes! He’s an Aquarius, so he’s Mr. Social and gets along with everybody. When we’d be able to see each other during the lockdown, it was when Binx was in his kind of ornery puppy phase. The other dogs were a bit older and much mellower than he is. He was by far the most energetic, and he’d always be taking people’s shoes or the plates or something. And so we’d always joke, “He took your stuff? You got Binxed.”
Love it. And when you’re not busy getting Binxed, you do such important work over at Future Earth. What inspired you to start it?
My first expansion into this space was attending a training with The Climate Reality Project, former Vice President Gore’s organization. They host these weekend seminars that I cannot recommend more, no matter what stage of this climate education journey you’re on. It’s such an incredible experience.
It really changed my life perspective and made me want to do more to contribute. Since I already had a bit of a social media platform, I immediately wanted to share what I was learning with people there. I wondered why we weren’t talking more about the climate — why it wasn’t on my Explore page already. And so that really pushed me to create a place where I could post the information I was learning in a cool way that my friends — who also love social media and design — would want to actually share.
How did it all end up coming together after that seed was planted?
My co-founder, Max Moinian, comes from a very academic background and is one of the smartest people I know. So pair her understanding of the problem and her eye for graphic design with my understanding of social media, and we kind of balance each other out.
At Future Earth, we have always said the climate crisis has the worst PR of all time. We wanted to make an entry point for people where they could go to learn without feeling judged. No one wants to be reprimanded or made to feel like their way of life is completely wrong. Rather than saying, “This is your fault. You’re not doing enough,” our approach is that we’re all in this together during a really transitional, transformational time in society.
What’s next for Future Earth?
At first, we had no expectation to get this many followers. We were just doing it for our friend group. But we want to continue to share the stories of the communities that are really hit first and worst with the climate crisis. We want to shine a light on them and do what we can to help in any way.
Has working on the platform changed the way you think about the climate crisis at all?
I’m trying to do all the things I can do to help — from buying an electric car to getting a composter. But by no means do I do absolutely everything. I can’t sit here and say that I live a zero-waste lifestyle. But I try to make the best decisions that I can make.
One thing that I’ve really learned is that there’s so much emphasis and pressure for us as individuals to be making changes. But at the end of the day, it’s kind of backward. It’s letting corporations get away with producing things, like plastic packaging for example, and then putting the responsibility on the consumer to recycle. It’s false blame. Really, they should just stop making stuff with plastic.
So when it comes down to it, yes, we all should absolutely be doing our part. But at the end of the day, it’s a handful of companies that are contributing the most to this climate crisis and we’re left with the blame. I think that’s unfair and unrealistic. If you really want to hold these corporations accountable, there has to be policy change. That’s been one of my biggest takeaways from starting Future Earth.
Any wisdom you’ve picked up that’s changed how you do the whole pet parenting thing?
We look for eco-friendly poop bags and we use leashes made from recycled rope. They’re sustainable and practical, which I love.
I’ve also started making Binx’s food! We were buying frozen food, which is a great option, but it always comes in some type of plastic container bag. He has allergies so we have to be particular about what he eats anyways, so I just started making his food. I feel very accomplished and proud, like an overachiever puppy parent! But then I see those TikTok videos of people putting quail eggs and all this crazy stuff on top of their pet food and I’m like, oh, I need to step my sh*t up.
Does he have a favorite dish you make him?
He can’t really do chicken or turkey since he has allergies, so I’ll do a lamb blend that he loves. Since I’m a pescatarian, it’s a little cringe for me to make it for him — but we do what we have to do for our pets.
* The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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Emma is a writer, editor, and environmentalist based in New York City. She is the senior sustainability editor at mindbodygreen, the author of Return To Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us (April 2022), and the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self-Care. While she doesn’t have any pets of her own, she is a loving dog aunt to Pip the pup.