Planeteer Feature: Natalie Bullut’s “Homegrown” Advocacy Journey

“I think ever since I was a child, I have always had a deeply rooted sense of love for nature,” shares Natalie Bullut (22), a Planeteer, law student, and Co-founder of Mviringo Africa. Though Natalie has always had a personal connection to the earth, she says her journey in environmental advocacy truly began when she attended the Planeteer Alliance 2022 Blue Climate Action Summit in Nairobi where she assisted in a community cleanup. 

“Through the cleanup, I saw how much power there was in the community gathering to support such an important cause. From then, I began brainstorming on how to start a similar community at my university,” she says. That following year, Natalie hosted her own WIND Summit, powered by Planeteer Alliance, to address plastic pollution. 

Natalie has worked her way up the Ladder of Engagement and earned a leadership position within Planeteer Alliance, serving as a member of the Wisdom Council and as a Summit Host. She’s also a member of the Tide Turners Plastic Policy Cohort, powered by Captain Planet Foundation and the United Nations Environment Program, to address plastic pollution from a policy level. 

Natalie’s passion coincides with the WIND element, which represents circularity. “I believe that most of the climate and environmental-related problems we are facing are deeply rooted in our over exploitation of the earth’s resources,” she shares, “For a long time, we have known only the linear economy model of over-exploitation which thrives on overconsumption. With the multifaceted challenges we are currently experiencing, there’s a need to take a step back and figure out how we got here and the way forward for the sake of our planet and the future generations that will inherit it.” 

This reality inspired Natalie to co-found Mviringo Africa – with fellow Planeteer, Ruth Tanui–  an organization which aims to reduce single-use plastics in her community and establish an effective recycling program. Natalie saw plastic waste around her university campus and decided to take action, “Instead of imposing a blanket ban on plastics, which would negatively impact food vendors who depend on them, we are implementing a recycling system. This approach not only benefits the environment but also supports the livelihoods of the food vendors.” 

With the work of her team, Natalie has established a recycling program in partnership with Mr. Green Africa, a recycling company that is helping manage plastic pollution in this area. Moving forward, Natalie hopes to invite more young people to contribute to her organization in an effort to reduce plastic pollution and manage waste even more efficiently. 

When asked about how she’s grown in her work, Natalie explains that she used to be scared to take action for fear of failure, “Over time, and especially in the past two years, I’ve learned that it’s okay to fail—as long as you fail forward and fail fast,” she says. 

When she began this journey, she felt overwhelmed by responsibility and uncertainty. “Balancing my role as a student with leading a community advocating for a cleaner environment was challenging. Many people questioned the connection between being a law student and an environmental advocate,” she says, “I wasn’t studying an environmental course nor had I received any formal certification; I was simply passionate about having a clean community. During that time, I often felt overwhelmed by doubt.”

She credits the support from Planeteer Alliance as the force that encouraged her to keep going. “That sense of community, where I felt both heard and understood, is precisely what the Planeteer Alliance has provided me—and so much more.”

Now, Natalie’s passion for finding solutions, especially those that focus on leveraging young people’s voices in addressing climate change and environmental problems, is stronger than ever because of the community around her. 

“I think many young people want to advocate for the protection of our environment, but they don’t know how to or even where to start—something that I completely understand. My advice is to start with the people at home and in your community,” she shares, “Another thing… Joining the Planeteer Alliance is probably the top two best decisions I made in my teenage years, and I know it’s not number two!”