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Women We Admire: Michelle Donnelly of Lark

Michelle Donnelly is the co-founder of Lark, a Toronto-based eco-friendly water delivery service with a mission to reduce their use of plastics and landfill waste.

Michelle worked in ad and design agencies for many years as a creative director. She saw a need to change the status quo and thought that if she was to start her own business, she simply did not want to create more stuff. She thought that the world does not need another clothing, jewelry, or furniture line - unless it’s insanely sustainable. "The world is already overburdened with man made objects and waste. Closed-loop takes so much packaging “stuff” out of the equation. Imagine if closed-loop became a priority option for high volume food and beverages when possible? It could be transformative!"

We asked Michelle a few questions about sustainability, her work, and wellness.

What inspired you to start Lark?
Part inspiration and eco- anxiety. Convenience, ego and inflated profits are devastating the planet and I wanted to try my absolute best to change this. From a packaging perspective, food and beverage are big “waste for convenience” offenders. I wanted to see if we could serve beverages and food with minimal waste, do it in a beautiful + easy way, while maintaining fair margins. Create a company that was for profit but with purpose. Charities and organizations are very useful to inspire change, but unless a critical mass of consumers and business leaders see that being eco is convenient, aesthetically pleasing and profitable, I don’t know if meaningful change will happen fast enough to repair the damage done to the planet.

What does sustainability mean to you?
Doing something everyday that is less wasteful or less harmful to the planet. You don’t have to be perfect but you can at least try to think about the planet and the greater good before you make a business or personal lifestyle decision, it all adds up.

What do you love most about your work?
I love to create useful things that are aesthetically pleasing that do not cause harm to the planet. I love the cross section of people that buy lark; all income levels ... we deliver to such diverse neighbourhoods, from mega mansions to subsidized housing. It is pretty wild. When I see all of the empties come back, it is VERY satisfying to know that people enjoyed a beautiful quality product and very little waste was created. I guess that is kind of nerdy :) It also makes me think that we will need a bigger bottle washer. Ha.

What are some of your best tips for living more sustainably?
Slow down and sit down. Have your coffee at a table out of a ceramic cup. Why do you need to walk with coffee ?
Vote with your dollar. Commit to brands that do it right and use/wear/eat/drink their sustainable product.
Buy vintage and reclaimed when you can.
Follow David Attenborough’s words, “ Just don’t waste”
Watch his latest film “A life on our planet”.

Who are women you admire and why?
Isle Crawford, the designer.
I love the balance of beauty and utility in her spaces.

Helen Frankenthaler, artist.
I have such an emotional reaction to the strength, scale and vulnerability of her work when I see it in a museum. There is this defiant feminine power in her work. She was really on her own, all the other abstract painters of that era were men. I admire that she just went for it.

Phoebe Philo, designer
Her unique point of view that has inspired so many brands, from the product design to the imagery. I also admire her choice to lead a private personal life. She did not use her personal life as currency to sell her work, her work spoke for itself.

What does wellness look like for you? Do you have a favourite self-care practice?
Wellness and self-care are not consistent for me tbh.
When I get busy with work, I let self-care slide and get caught in deadline cycles.

I enjoy my early morning, midday and evening dog walks.
Gustav helps tear me away from my computer. :)

When the weather permits I love a nice gentle swim.

When I get really wound up I meditate.
I meditate mostly as a reaction to things feeling overwhelming.
I need to be more proactive and disciplined about prioritizing self-care.
Help me. Ha.

How would you spend a perfect 'day off’?
Simple things. Walks, enjoying lovely meals, a swim, maybe forage a floral arrangement.
I love looking at art, photography and design books with a good strong coffee.
Maybe throw in a movie, and a few Seinfeld reruns :)

What's your favourite part of being an entrepreneur? What is your least favourite?
Favourite part is the freedom and autonomy to work on something that you really believe in.
Least favourite, is the "always on” aspect, I never really stop thinking about the business, one aspect or another always floats into my head. Also self-funding a startup during a pandemic is pretty scary, gulp..

Please let me know how our followers can reach you best? Website, Instagram etc.
DM me on instagram @lark_dff or drop me a line.

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