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Jennifer Hattam on Green Living
Blogging is as hot as green living, and journalist Jennifer Hattam combines both at Sierra Magazine’s “The Green Life” blog. Covering earth-friendly options for conscious consumers, “The Green Life” now also features daily email tips and a radio show hosted by Hattam on Sierra Club Radio. We asked Hattam to give us some tips on going green.
Unearth your eco-roots and share how you made your way up to lifestyle expert for the Sierra Club.
I really got into conservation as an outgrowth of political and social interests in general, and through my journalism background as well. While covering environmental issues for Sierra magazine, we started to see a lot of interest in lifestyle issues. People really wanted to make personal changes to counter a lot of depressing things that have been going on with the environment the last few years. So it became a topic we wanted to focus on more, and I took up that mantle and have been learning along with my readers.
What does “adopting a green lifestyle” mean to you?
I think that one thing a lot of people stumble on is just feeling like they have to change everything all at once, and we don’t want people to feel that way. We want people to know you can make small changes that add up, and you can increase the things you’re doing in your life over time. One way to sum up adopting a greener lifestyle is to live a more conscious lifestyle, thinking more about the impact of your day-to-day choices and connecting more with the environment and community.
What stumbling blocks might people encounter when going green, and how can they overcome them?
I think one obstacle is just being a little overwhelmed by all of the different decisions there are to make and all of the different resources out there. For example, when you look at something that should be really simple like recycling—every city has different regulations where you can recycle some things and not others. I think to overcome that, you want to put in the time to research and learn more and do what you can but not kick yourself if you can’t do everything. Also, everyone has really different passions, whether food or transportation or the clothes he or she wears, and I think it’s okay to hone in on the thing you feel most passionate about first.
What key steps should people make during the first 30 days of going green?
We recommend that people start small. Pick something like your job, how you get there, consider if you can go to work one day a week without driving a car or without driving a car by yourself at the very least. Look into the bus schedule. Think about riding a bike. See if anyone wants to carpool. Just do it one day a week and see how it works, how it feels. Test it out. And hopefully—I think this happens to many people—you’ll get a benefit out of it as well. If you’re riding a bike or walking, you’ll be getting some good exercise. If you’re taking a bus, you’ll have time to read. You’ll probably be more relaxed than if you were sitting in traffic for that time period. If you are making your life better by getting to work in a more pleasant manner or by eating better food, that’s going to encourage you to keep up those changes.
Likewise, you can take two to three things you buy at the grocery store every week and just decide you’re going buy them organically from now on. See how it works. Enjoy the taste, and then maybe you’ll want to buy more things organically. There’s a great campaign called Mission Organic 2010 designed to get people to shift 10% of their shopping dollars to organic.
What advice do you have for people to maintain that momentum they’ve gained after the first 30 days of going green?
I think if you are picking things that make an improvement in your own daily life, it’s going to be easy to keep doing them. Another great thing to do is try to find other people to [go green] with you, just like with an exercise program . . . whether that’s through an existing environmental group like a Sierra Club chapter or just getting friends together in a more informal way.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
I’m not saying I’m always able to do this myself, but try to keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything at once. You don’t have to tackle every problem or every change simultaneously; just do a little bit day by day and things will start shaking out.
The best thing about change is…
…trying something new. I think there’s really a value in that and having new experiences and new opportunities, even if they don’t feel like opportunities at the beginning.
What is the best change you have ever made?
My best change was perhaps a simple one—extending my first trip to Europe from two weeks to four after I was laid off from one of my first jobs out of college. It was a potentially risky move, since I had no source of income to return to and no one to travel with for the additional weeks. It ended up being a rewarding change and serves as a valuable reminder to this day about the importance of seizing opportunities when they arise.