Interview With Mrs Green From Little Green Blog

I thought it would be nice to give all of you GreenSteve readers a bit of inspiration to help motivate and encourage you to do all you can in your green endeavours. What better way than to speak with somebody who has committed herself to a life free from waste and to having as small an impact on the planet as possible.

Just to give you a bit of background, Rachelle Strauss (a.k.a. Mrs Green) and her family set out to live for a year while throwing as little in the bin as possible and have been featured before, during and after the challenge on the BBC, in the Telegraph and in the Daily Mail among others.

Rachelle and her family managed an incredible one dustbin of rubbish to landfill in the entire of 2009 and have set out a vision of a zero waste UK where “we rethink our rubbish and start to view it as a resource rather than a waste product.”

In addition, they have setup two websites to help educate and motivate people to move towards low impact living: Little Green Blog and My Zero Waste – I wholeheartedly recommend that you visit and bookmark them both as they provide loads of practical tips that anyone can follow.

Now down to the interview, so without further ado, let’s get going.

GreenSteve: When did you first start thinking and acting in such a “green” way and what first inspired you to do so?

Mrs Green: I was first inspired to ‘act green’ when pregnant with my daughter. I had always eaten pretty healthily, but the fact I wanted a ‘non medicalised’ birth meant I had to take full responsibility for mine and my daughter’s health. I switched to a high organic diet and learned that 60% of what I put onto my skin could end up in my bloodstream, so I took a good look at the toiletries I was using, learned to differentiate between healthy and not-so-healthy ingredients and changed to all natural brands.

After my daughter was born we were on a family holiday in Boscastle (Cornwall, England) when we were caught in the biggest flood on mainland Britain. 100 people were airlifted out of the village that day as the only route out of the village crashed into the sea. As I was standing with my daughter in my arms and rising flood water separating me and my husband I thought “Everything I’ve been reading about climate change is happening. Not in 50 years’ time, but NOW!” It was a real wakeup call as to the fragility of our planet. Looking at my young daughter I vowed to become part of the solution, not part of the problem so that I could look her in the eye and know I had ‘done my bit’ for a brighter, greener future.

GreenSteve: What is the hardest thing about living a zero waste lifestyle?

Mrs Green: The hardest thing about living a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle is that I rather like convenience! Even though I value good quality food I’m like everyone else – I have days when I’m tired, when we have a lot on or I’m feeling lazy. Those are the times a microwave meal looks attractive but I make the effort to cook a meal in order to avoid the wasteful packaging. I’ve found plenty of ways around these lazy days, such a batch cooking and freezing and we’ve found friendly local takeaways who wrap our food in fully recyclable packaging for us.

GreenSteve: Are there any products that you gave up that you wish you could use again?

Mrs Green: There is nothing I wish we could use again – we’ve made conscious choices with our current lifestyle and we’re happy with it. We’ve either found alternatives to the things we felt we really can’t do without or we’ve adapted to doing things differently. I rather like the creative aspect of finding new ways of doing things and for the items we can’t find alternatives for; well we continue to use them and they end up in our landfill bin. This isn’t a deprivation lifestyle – we are simply doing all we feel we can do.

GreenSteve: Would you say living a zero waste lifestyle has saved you money or cost you money? What are the major differences in expenditure?

Mrs Green: Living a zero waste lifestyle has most definitely saved us money – around £2k a year I estimate. Most of this is through reducing food waste to zero, by buying exactly the amount we need rather than pre packaged items, buying in bulk from a food co-op, separating our wants from our needs and then the little things that add up like giving up dustbin liners, kitchen towel and other disposable items.

GreenSteve: What is the biggest factor in success when it comes to reducing household waste?

Mrs Green: The biggest factor in success is planning in advance. On a Sunday night I take an inventory of the foods I have in the house then plan the next few days’ meals around that food. This prevents food waste and stops impulse buying. I make sure there are ‘convenience’ meals in the freezer and plan our week around the commitments and events that are happening. It doesn’t take much planning, but makes a lot of difference.

GreenSteve: Where do you think the impetus to tackle household waste should lay – consumers, businesses or government?

Mrs Green: We have to stop the ‘us and them’ mentality and work together. It’s up to governments, manufacturers AND consumers to work towards the same goal; we all have our part to play. Each one of us is a part of a jigsaw – together we make up the whole picture.

GreenSteve: Do you think the carrot or stick approach works best when trying to tackle peoples’/businesses’ attitudes?

Mrs Green: I prefer the carrots approach. In areas where incentives and rewards have been given for ‘good recycling’ the rates have increased. When you start to threaten or punish people it is human nature to fight back and become bloody minded or become fearful and act through duty rather than passion. As I mentioned above, it’s time for us all to work together and rewarding good behaviour is a great motivator and adds to the ‘feel good’ approach.

GreenSteve: What one thing would you like to see UK government do to protect the environment?

Mrs Green: It’s very simple really. I would like to see only a few permitted types of packaging allowed for any product which would have to be clearly marked with the material it is made from. Then, every district in the UK would have recycling facilities for ALL those materials readily available to consumers.

Businesses and the government would ensure recyclers and reprocessesors for all those materials are available to cope with the demand in the UK. We’d then have a flood of great quality recycled products on the market for consumers to buy. In that way we can achieve a zero waste Britain, where rubbish is a resource and we close the loop.

GreenSteve: Do you think it’s important for children to be educated in environmental issues? Should such lessons be compulsory?

Mrs Green: I think it’s vital, but I don’t want it to be compulsory lessons I want it to be completely normalised. I want it to be weird to throw something away, horrifying to drop litter, crazy to buy something that is disposable or has built in obsolesce. The sooner we can normalise green behaviour, and give the earth the same rights as humans the better.

I want children to grow up asking “Where is away?” when we tell them to throw something away. Let’s make caring about the earth cool, sexy and trendy! Let’s remember that ‘away’ is a landfill site, an incinerator or a ship to China.

GreenSteve: What is next step in green living for you and your family?

Mrs Green: No matter how ‘green’ you are there is always room for improvement and I frequently set myself challenges. Over on Little Green Blog we take part in a weekly ‘change the world Wednesday’ challenge (#CTWW). These are hosted by Reduce Footprints and keep me on track. Each week we are given a task to do to reduce our carbon footprint. With the best will in the world it’s easy to slip back into bad habits.

For example last year we completely reduced our electricity consumption, but it crept back up again. A few weeks ago we were right back to leaving lights on, leaving the router on and using the immersion heater. CTWW reminded us to take meter readings and I was able to reduce our consumption by around 15% with small, simple gestures. For January I’m going to try something I’ve never tried before. I’m going to attempt to live a month without using the supermarkets. I’m not at all confident, but I’ll see what I can do!

GreenSteve: Thank you so much Rachelle for giving my readers and I an insight into your life and your thoughts on the way forward to a more sustainable future. Good luck with your green goals for 2012 and Merry Christmas to your and your family.

If you are interested in telling the world your green ideas or opinions then get in touch and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Steve (152 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

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