“Travel sustainability goes along with supporting small businesses. When you travel responsibly, you buy from the locals, who are the people that are making the greatest impact in their communities.” –Jessica Woodall
A world traveler, adventure junkie, foodie, and lover of anything handmade, Jessica Woodall is using her platform as Mrs. Georgia Earth to showcase the importance of travel sustainability and giving back to local communities.
Growing up in McDonough, Georgia, Woodall made her way to South Georgia to attend Valdosta State University, earning a degree in business and marketing.
Woodall and her husband, Gadson, are owners of Mr. Fixit Smartphone Repair, which specializes in cellphone and computer repairs. Supporting eco-friendly initiatives, Mr. Fixit encourages people to donate used cellphones that are then refurbished and given to active duty military personnel and veterans.
While helping to get the family business off the ground, Woodall also worked as a flight attendant for Delta and embraced the company’s commitment to sustainability.
“I was inspired with Delta’s slogan, ‘We believe in making the world a smaller place,'” she says. “Travel sustainability goes along with supporting small businesses. When you travel responsibly, you buy from the locals, who are the people that are making the greatest impact in their communities.”
Since being crowned Mrs. Georgia Earth in June 2021, Woodall has combined her passion for the environment and business acumen to develop the S.A.L.E. (Sustainable Authentic Local Experiences) initiative.
“I want people to travel globally and think locally,” says Woodall, the mother of Cain, a two-year-old. “My goal is to advocate and educate people on how to travel responsibly, not just by reducing their carbon footprint, but to become authentically engaged in the places they visit, to create a memorable experience, and support the local economy.”
With her passport stamped in more than 21 countries, plus visiting 43 U.S. states, the title of Mrs. Georgia Earth has allowed Woodall to continue advocating for the environment, tourism, and local businesses.
Recently, Woodall engaged with the locals during a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and became immersed in the culture. “We ate local food and bought goods from local makers, went scuba diving, snorkeling, and hiking,” she says. “We also took part in the country’s natural and eco-friendly experience, including meeting a coffee grower and chocolate maker.”
Discovering a community’s hidden gems, including regional handmade items, is part of travel sustainability.
Proudly displaying her travel mementos on a bookshelf, Woodall says, “They offer a unique conversation starter, as they are not your typical souvenirs. Instead, I look for items that are handmade and have a unique story behind them.”
Engagement in the local community is a significant part of Woodall’s mission. “The pageant has taught me the power of community,” she says. “You achieve great things working together as a community.”
More than picking up trash and saving the planet, Woodall says, “There are a lot of things people can do to become eco-friendlier, like growing your own food or supporting a community garden.”
Having spent many childhood summers on her grandfather’s farm, Woodall was eager to team up with Annie Baras, a master gardener with Valdosta City Schools and the University of Georgia Lowndes County Extension office.
Lending her marketing expertise, Woodall helps Baras promote the school’s gardening program, including producing videos and photographic content.
Woodall enjoys interacting with the students and promoting the importance of home gardening. She also introduces the students to career pathways in agriculture.
Her community engagement also includes working with the Greater Valdosta United Way, participating in neighborhood clean-up efforts, coordinating electronic waste events, and attending environmentally-focused events, like the Hahira Farmers Market and Downtown Valdosta’s Maker Market.
“Being in the pageant has taught me that we only have one planet,” she says. “We have to do our part to take care of it, we have nowhere else to go, and if we don’t take protecting our environment seriously, then we have a dangerous road ahead of us.”
More than a beauty pageant, Woodall says, being Mrs. Georgia Earth represents a “commitment to being active in our communities, helping fight for our beautiful planet, and making an impact on the lives we touch.”
The next steps in the pageant process include Woodall competing for the title of Miss USA Earth in January, and if the winner, Miss Earth International in the Philippines.
When the pageant journey concludes, Woodall says she plans to continue promoting her environmental platform. “I want to educate and advocate for sustainable tourism and the sustainable development goals to help lead, create, and renew our cities so that it has a positive impact on the environment, local people, and community.”