Greenhouse Pioneer: Jen Gale, Sustainable(ish)
Whether it’s Parliament declaring a state of climate emergency, Greta Thunberg leading millions of children on a school strike or Attenborough topping the Netflix ratings, climate change has never been higher up the political and media agendas.
We met up with Jen Gale – blogger, podcaster and author of “The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide” – to find out what we, as individuals, can do to make a positive difference.
Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about Sustainable(ish) – what’s your mission?
To make sustainable living mainstream and do-able for everyone, and to inspire and empower everyday changes that make a difference.
What drives you?
Fear, verging on panic about climate change and the future that our kids and future generations might be facing. I don’t want my kids to turn around in 30 years’ time and ask me what the hell we were all doing, and why I didn’t do more.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Getting a publishing deal with Bloomsbury for my book – “The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide” – which will be out in January! I’ve been wanting to write a book for years, and it feels like a dream come true and an amazing opportunity to get the Sustainable(ish) message out there and inspire more people to make the small changes that add up.
What are the challenges you face?
Transitioning from ‘blog’ to ‘business’ is difficult. Finding ways to get paid for my time and expertise whilst still being able to get a message out there that feels vitally important is a challenge and a work in progress!
What are you working on that's getting you fired up and excited?
I love recording the Sustainable(ish) podcast – it’s such a great way to connect with amazing people doing inspiring things to make the world a better place, and to be able to share that with my listeners.
Where do you want to take Sustainable(ish) next?
I’d love to create some more online courses and even an app – to give people gentle daily nudges to do the simple stuff and inspire them to take the next steps.
What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?
I can sum that up in four words: Buy Less, Buy Better. It really is about questioning our consumption, as so much of what we buy, eat, consume has become so UNconscious.
- Eat less meat and when you do buy meat buy local, organic and sustainably farmed.
- Switch to a renewable energy supplier and use less energy – simple things like turning appliances off standby really do add up.
- Buy fewer clothes and love the clothes you do buy – wash less often, and repair them.
- Drive less – could you commit to walking or biking any journey under 2 miles?
- Ditch the ‘big 4’ single use plastics: water bottles, coffee cups, carrier bags and straws and replace any that you use regularly with reusable versions.
- Make your voice heard – write to your MP to let them know your concerns and ask what they’re doing about climate change. You may well get a stock response, but we need to let them know that this is an issue that we demand action on.
I could go on!
How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?
I think it’s really important to let people know that they don’t have to go from where they are now, to plastic-free vegan minimalist in a matter of weeks. In fact, they don’t even need to get there at all. Sustainable(ish) is about starting from where you are, acknowledging that we all have different challenges and circumstances, and that even if we might never be ‘perfect’ (whatever that means) we can all make progress, and that it really is about one step at a time. My aim is to make it feel do-able, to get people making one simple change at a time.
Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?
Oh, that’s tough to pick just one! A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button, founder of Buy Me Once is an inspiring and motivating book – so much information about how and why we shop, how it’s changed over the years, and practical tips for how we can consume more thoughtfully.
Listen to Jen's podcast with Tara Button here.
What do you listen to when you're cooking dinner?
I feel slightly bad that I don’t spend my time cooking dinner listening to podcasts that will improve my life and the future of the planet, but I usually have Radio 2 on in the background while I’m cooking dinner – I love Sara Cox’s new drivetime show if I can get to hear any of it over the dull roar of the kids blowing off steam after a day at school.
My ultimate luxury is to listen to The Archers while doing some baking for the week ahead on a Sunday morning!
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
I don’t know if this counts as advice, but I love the Jane Goodall quote: “Everything you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” It applies to everything – from smiling at the person next to you on the bus, to remembering your reusable water bottle.
Can you leave us with who'd be your Eco Hero?
Probably a total cliché but it has to be Sir David Attenborough. He’s an absolute legend with such a gift for telling stories that help us to engage with the natural world, and more recently that educate us all about the threats facing the planet. My eldest wrote to him when he was five, inviting him round for tea, and got the loveliest handwritten reply!
Greenhouse supports the brands and pioneers who are transforming business for good. Read about how we worked to clean up fashion supply chains with Changing Markets, campaigned for plastic free periods with Natracare and called for unwanted clothes to be put back into use with TRAID. If you’re looking to amplify your message, get in touch.