BeeBee & Leaf meets Jen Gale, founder of Sustainable(ish)
Introducing our new interview series, where we talk to our favourite eco heroes about their work. We talk through their story, ask their advice, and their thoughts on where we’re all at in the world.
First up we meet Jen Gale, eco speaker, author, blogger, festival coordinator, coach, social media influencer, podcaster and founder of Sustainable(ish).
Can you talk us through your work?
This all started for me in 2012 when we spent a year buying nothing new. I blogged every day about our experience. From that I built a great community. I hadn’t thought further than that at that point. After that I continued blogging, started speaking at events, and developed my social media presence.
As a result of my work I was offered a book deal. My first book, The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide, came out in January this year. The second book will be out next March, The Sustainable(ish) Guide to Green Parenting – available to pre-order now on Amazon, but if you ask your local independent they may be able to pre-order too.
I also run online courses – the next ‘sustainable(ish) in six weeks’ is starting in September, a ‘plastic free July’ one, and ‘crap free Christmas’ which will run in the autumn.
I have a big Facebook community in a private group where we share ideas and news on a daily basis.
My sustainable(ish) podcast, and website, both host interview, blog and advice content.
I’m available for corporate, school and community speaking – my first speaking event was a TEDx talk!
My most recent innovation was to hold an online festival during May 2020 (lockdown). The festival hosted 40 talks providing a source of inspiration for anyone wanting to try and live a more sustainable life and reduce their impact on the planet. Over 2500 people came together in the festival pop-up Facebook group, and the talks were watched on Crowdcastover 8,000 times over the festival week and the week that followed.
What was the catalyst for your year of no buying?
I’m never quite sure! I read an article about a lady who was doing something similar, she called it her second-hand safari. I was quite naïve and thought that it would be a fun challenge! I hadn’t really brought it back to consumerism or climate change at that point. My children were four and 1.5 when we did it.
What was the first eco swap you made?
The first for me was changing to use a Mooncup for my periods.
What did you do before this?
I was a vet, but I never really enjoyed it. I was still working part time after having my children. I knew I needed to either go for it as a vet or draw a line and do something different. I chose the latter.
Can you talk us through your ethos – sustainable-ish, imperfectly green, practical inspiration for busy families
I feel like there are so many stereotypes about being green and I see parents in the playground, and friends, and we’re so much more aware of the climate crisis but it feels so overwhelming. We’re getting so many different messages.
Also, I think a lot of people want to do their bit, but they don’t want to go the whole way, straight away. It’s not about being either green or not green. There are so may shades of green in between. We’ll never get those people started if we say, ‘the only way you can help is to give up flying, give up your car, go vegan’. Yes, we need massive action, but we also need billions of people on board with this message.
People sometimes say to me is the ish enough? No, it’s not, but if we can get millions of people started then a proportion of them will go on to do bigger things. If we can start people off with baby steps, they will grow in confidence with the power they have, they’ll grow into their voices as well. It’s so important to me that we get people started.
Is there a common barrier you find people have in getting started?
Overwhelm. The climate crisis feels so big. We bury our heads in the sand and think ‘well if it’s that important the Government will sort it out, or the big companies will get together’. We feel too small and too powerless, so we wait for someone else to do it. Actually, we can all be that someone.
Changing your energy supplier can take ten minutes, and it can slash your carbon footprint. Once you’ve done that how about you try meat free Monday?
Helping people to realise yes, they’re just one person but they’re not just one person. Overwhelm is a big one. As is the perception it will take more time and cost more money.
What advice would you give to people looking to start making changes to their lifestyle to live more sustainably?
Don’t let ideas of perfection get in the way. Start small. Rather than starting by looking at the plastic in your food shop, have a look at the plastic in your bathroom for example. The coffee cup and water bottle swaps. Find your tribe, the people that can support you.
Who inspires you?
The expected Greta and David Attenborough. But really for me I get so inspired by seeing those I help have their lightbulb moments. That’s what keeps me going.
What do you enjoy about your work?
The connection in the community and feeling like I am making a difference and helping people. I enjoy social media too actually. I enjoy showing up.
Who do you follow on social media for eco inspiration?
I love Lauren at Wear Em Out Pads, she’s brilliant and so engaging. Denis the Dustcart on Facebook is brilliant! It’s a council recycling page but it’s so engaging and informative. He’ll talk about the environmental impact of clothes for example, and dive into bamboo vs cotton!
Aside from yours are there any books and/or podcasts that you’d recommend?
How bad are bananas – the carbon footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee is great for dipping in and out of. Martin Dorey’s, No More Plastic – you can read quickly and it’s non preachy. Finally for book recommendations – How to save the world for free by Natalie Fee. The podcasts I regularly listen to are Sustainababble and Outrage and Optimism.
One of the projects I’m planning is a crowd funder in October for a knackered mums eco club to try and get 1000 people in a little movement. Donor’s will get a year’s membership, and a safe space to access resources and support.
Where you can find Jen GaleWebsite – A Sustainable Life
Connect – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter,
Buy Jen’s book – The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide
Listen to Jen – The Sustainable(ish) podcast
Watch the festival talks – The Sustainable(ish) Online Festival