I’m absolutely delighted to share with you this interview with Jen Gale, author of the brand-new book, The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide. I loved reading the book, and I highly recommend picking up your own copy!
Have you always been interested in environmental issues? If not, how did you interest come about? What prompted you to make these eco-friendly living changes with your family?
I think I always thought we were pretty green – we diligently did our recycling – but looking back I totally hadn’t made the connection at all between the things we were buying and their impact on the planet. That all changed when I slightly randomly decided we were going to spend a year as a family buying nothing new. I’d read an article in a magazine about a woman doing a similar thing, and a little naively thought it sounded like a ‘fun’ challenge. And it was fun, but also a massive eye-opener, and ultimately a challenge that totally changed my life – it changed not only how and where I shop, but how I see my place in the world. It made me so much aware of the power we have as individuals and as families to create positive change and make a difference.
What inspired you to, then, write the book?
I think I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I decided at about the age of 15 that I wanted to be a vet, so had to concentrate on the sciences for that. During our year buying nothing new, I blogged about our experiences (every day for the year, nearly finished me off…) and re-discovered my love of writing. I had been thinking for a while about turning the blog into a kind of memoir of our year, when I was approached by an agent after doing a talk. It was a whole new world to me, and after not having much luck with the memoir idea, I re-vamped the proposal into more of a general sustainable living book, and got lucky! It feels even more relevant and such an important message to get out now, with more and more people aware of the perilous state of the planet, but who maybe aren’t quite sure what they can do to help, or where to start.
I love the actionable tips in the book! If there’s one takeaway that you’d like readers to come away with, what would that be?
Pick ONE thing to change – it doesn’t matter how small. It can feel so overwhelming and there’s so many things we feel like we should be doing, that sometimes it’s all too much and we do nothing. It doesn’t matter how small the change is, just do it, it WILL make a difference. Also, if you’re looking for a big impact change, with very little effort – change your energy supplier to a renewable tariff.
How are you feeling about the future, given our current environmental challenges, and climate crisis?
I honestly don’t know. As I’m writing this, we’re in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re pretty much on lockdown here in the UK, the kids are off school, people are off work, the roads are quiet, and international travel has stopped overnight. It shows that we can all, collectively, individuals and governments, make massive changes when we need to. When we see that there is a clear and present danger to ‘business as usual’. The climate crisis is a clear and present danger, but I guess because it’s so complex, and still very difficult to see direct links (eg. you don’t experience a severe weather event over your house when you forget to turn the lights off), so maybe that’s why it’s harder to get the changes we need to happen?
I think anyone working in this field has to remain hopeful. If there was no hope, we would all give up now. But as the wonderful Greta Thunberg said, “the one thing we need more than hope is action.”
I keep making changes, sharing, taking action, and when I see others doing the same, inspired to start, that’s what gives me hope.
What inspires you?
Is it wrong to say fear? Can fear be inspiring?
What keeps me going is this idea that I don’t want my kids to turn around to me in 30 years time and ask me why I didn’t do anything. I’m genuinely fearful for their future – that inspires me to keep going. And obviously in the last year or so, we’ve seen massive shifts in public awareness, and the power of the young people, making their voices heard and demanding action.
Thank you again for chatting with me!
Photo of Jen Gale courtesy of Jen Gale.