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Jennifer Boulden on Going Green
Business strategist and marketing guru Jennifer Boulden co-founded Idealbite.com, a site that feeds readers bite-sized bits of user-friendly eco-info. Her knowledge of green consumer market trends is a natural outgrowth of her experience as a sustainable business consultant. Boulden shares her unique secrets to going green.
What does “going green” mean to you?
Being more conscientious about everyday choices. Thinking beyond the point of purchase, i.e., thinking about the packaging, where the product comes from and basically connecting the dots. [People say] “Gee, bottled water sure does create a lot of wasted plastic bottles, and plastic bottles are made with petroleum, and then we use more petroleum to ship water (of all things) across the world. I am going to save money and the planet by refilling a water bottle. Duh.”
Thinking back to when you began adopting a more eco-conscious lifestyle, what emotions did you experience and what coping techniques did you develop?
I guess the first emotion I felt was that I needed to be brave enough to not go down the beaten path. I remember helping my friends clean up from a party in high school, and they really wanted to ditch all the beer cans before their parents came home. I said no, we have to take them to the recycling center. And they were like, “Are you nuts? Are you just like the dorkiest kid on the block?”
Now I’m the one who’s laughing, because it turns out I was on to something.
I do think you have to realize that some people might give you a strange look, but now it’s much easier and you’ll find many more compadres in this attempt to go green. This is the focus of our site—guiding people down that path in those critical first steps they’re taking.
Can you share any “don’ts” when going green?
I would say don’t preach. People do tend to get turned off by the preachiness of the environmental movement of the past. It’s always green vs. everybody else, and that attitude is just going to continue that polarization. So that’s my meta-mission—to put everybody on the same page. We all want to breathe clean air. We all want our children to not live on landfills. We have the same goals, so there’s no reason why it’s us against them. Never preach and be positive.
Looking back and knowing what you know now, what would you do differently in terms of how you went about adopting a green lifestyle?
Knowing what I do now, I would have adopted a greener lifestyle sooner, because many of the changes I've made have been around for eons, like xeriscaping (landscaping with indigenous plants that don't need a lot of watering) and hanging your laundry out to dry. But more importantly, I would have started Ideal Bite sooner, because we could be that much farther along in catalyzing small changes that add up and being a resource to bridge the divide between the hard-core enviros and the mall shoppers. There is a happy medium and we feel it every day. We get amazing stories on how we are truly changing people's lives for the better.
What advice do you have to offer people after their first 30 days going green?
The short answer is that when you chart the right, most realistic course, it’s fun and you’re not going to be sacrificing too many creature comforts. It’s going to feel good. Most people take that first bite and say, “Hmm, tasty, I’ll do more!” For example, let’s say you have a newborn and all of a sudden, you have this new consciousness and you want your child to be in contact with non-toxic materials and fed organic foods. From there it starts to snowball in a very positive way: “Well, this feels good, now I understand why I painted my baby’s room in non-VOC paint. So why wouldn’t it be acceptable for the rest of us, and in our offices, where everybody’s getting headaches?” It really starts to create a positive, virtuous circle of inspiration, because it feels good, it tastes good and it looks good. It’s kind of like dieting: if you don’t go to extremes and don’t have overly ambitious goals, you’ll start to work your way into this groove with a healthy lifestyle.
What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?
That we are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and so just doing my best is enough.
The best thing about change is . . .
…the rush of energy you get from stepping outside your comfort zone. I love it!
What is the best change you have ever made?
The best change I ever made was to give up TV. It happened in 1997 when I was turning down social invites for "Must See TV"—Seinfeld and Friends were two big draws! So when I gave it up, I had this extra time that was crucial for my soul's work, like writing in my journal, taking a ceramics course and reading a good book at night instead of filling my head with other people's lives (at least the TV personalities' lives) and standards. Plus who needs to watch more commercials promoting unabashed consumption?
For more information on Jennifer Boulden, visit www.idealbite.com.