Eco Warrior Q&A: The Green Mum

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A self-described full-time eco-warrior, Meera Jain (aka the Green Mum) is also a part-time primary school French teacher, and a mum to two daughters, aged two and four.

Today, we chat to the eco-influencer and blogger about her zero waste journey, her advice for those trying to live more sustainably, and how she deals with eco anxiety.

How did you get started on your zero waste journey? What were some of the first few changes you made?

I had some friends come and stay with me one weekend, who had recently started their own blog about eco-friendly living (@sustainablejungle).

While I had always considered myself very environmentally conscious, their actions showed me that I still had a long way to go. I didn’t even know about the problems that plastic was creating on our planet!

After asking my friends what had inspired them to start their own zero waste journeys, they recommended that I watch the documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’… well, was that ever an eye-opener for me!

The devastation and anxiety that I felt after watching this film was almost indescribable. However, it promptly motivated me to refuse all single-use plastics, I purchased a travel mug and a reusable water bottle (which I continue to use on a daily basis), and my children started using metal straws.

What are some of the main ways you try to be eco-friendly at home?

There are too many ways to count… Essentially, we create a very minimal amount of waste in our house that goes to the landfill, and we are also very mindful of our carbon footprint.

In order to avoid most food packaging, I shop very carefully at grocery stores. I use reusable produce bags when buying my fruit and vegetables, and if I absolutely need something packaged, I try and buy it in cardboard, glass or metal.

Having a bulk food store nearby that allows me to use my own containers has been invaluable. I bring in any clean containers that I have, and I am able to fill them with all kinds of dried goods like nuts, grains, flour… you name it. I even grind my own peanut butter there and store it in my own jar. You can imagine how much packaging I am able to reduce by doing this.

As previously mentioned, we take care to ensure we aren’t emitting too much carbon into the atmosphere. I am currently driving a hybrid vehicle, and I try to take public transport when time and circumstances allow it.

We pay a premium to use “green and clean” energy instead of some of the more traditional, polluting methods. Our energy comes from a variety of sources like wind turbines and solar panels.

And most importantly, we are constantly learning and evolving in our house. I am always looking for “what’s next?” and trying to set and meet new goals.

What prompted you to start blogging as the Green Mum?

My friends (@sustainablejungle) had shown me the ins and outs of what they were doing with their own blog. Since this is a topic I have always been very passionate about (even if I have been ignorant about it at times), I was super motivated to do this myself from a parenting perspective.

I love blogging about my eco journey because many people have told me of the changes they have made because of my work. And that’s what this blog is all about – inspiring others to make this world a better place. It has been amazing; the community on Instagram has been extremely warm and inclusive.

Instagram also helps me continue to aspire to do better. I get excited about swaps we are making at home or changes I am seeing in society because I know I can share them with my community.

What have you found the most challenging aspect to reducing your waste or being more eco-friendly?

I think the trickiest part is the fact that industry and government haven’t caught up to this way of life. Though I will never put down individual efforts, it does feel frustrating to know that you are doing everything you can to reduce your own waste, only to sit in a Starbucks and see hundreds of people using plastic cups and straws.

I looked up the top 100 companies responsible for polluting our atmosphere and the top few were all oil companies. When our governments are subsidising the use of these fossil fuels, it feels impossible to make a difference on an individual level. I get the sense that I am not alone in this feeling.

But no matter what society is up to, I will continue to live my life like this because I know it is what is best for my children, and our future as a family and as a race.

Many people admit to dealing with eco anxiety. Is this something you have experienced yourself? How do you combat this?

Absolutely! Eco anxiety or eco guilt fuels a lot of what I do. It’s important for us to allow these feelings of fear and worry (in my opinion) because then we know we are really in touch with what is going on. What is not productive is to allow ourselves to get consumed by anxiety or guilt (although this is often easier said than done).

My strategy for combating these feelings has always been action. I feel very comfortable saying I am doing almost everything I can to lessen my family’s impact on the planet.

My anxiety stems from knowing about problems but not their solutions. The Green Mum has allowed me to understand the problems at a deeper level and look for effective solutions.

What’s something from you “old” pre-zero waste life that you’re yet to let go of?

Gum! I am a teacher and I speak to several students a day. I have scary memories of teacher’s stinky coffee breath in my face and refuse to be that same person. There are some biodegradable gums available out there, but let’s just say I have yet to find a decent replacement.

I have a zero waste box from Terracycle, however, that allows me to put gum in it for recycling. So though it is an indulgence, I don’t feel too guilty about it.

What’s your number one sustainability tip for our readers?

Start small but end big. It can be extremely overwhelming to take on all facets of eco-friendly living at once.

Choose one thing you would like to change. Will you take shorter showers? Will you pledge to bring your travel mug to the coffee shop every day? Maybe you will start buying secondhand clothing. Do that one thing until it becomes a habit and you don’t even think about it anymore. Then think of the next thing you can do.

I believe that once you start incorporating these different practices into your life, low impact living might not be as intimidating or overwhelming as it initially felt.

Which eco-related book or documentary has most inspired you?

I’ve already mentioned ‘The Plastic Ocean’, which I highly recommend everyone watch in order to motivate them during their own low (or zero) waste journeys.

I have also really been enjoying ‘Drawdown: The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming’ by Paul Hawken which talks about all the different ways to combat climate change.

Podcasts, Instagram accounts, blogs and discussions with other people are also amazing resources.

Thanks for your time, Meera!