Jen Gale is your everyday working mum crossed with an eco-warrior and author with a firm hold on what’s realistic. She doesn’t think you have to be the picture of perfection when it comes to being green and believes that absolutely anyone can make small changes to help save the world. We couldn’t agree more.
Find out about all the things she’s been up to (think online festivals, book launches and podcasts plus more) by reading on.
Hey Jen! How was 2020 for you? Did you launch anything exciting in the midst of the pandemic?
Hello! 2020 was a weird one to say the least!
I think, like many of us, I spent the first month after lockdown trying to get my head around what was happening. It also felt like a really difficult time in the ‘eco space’ – to know what to talk about or whether it was even appropriate to still be speaking about environmental issues and concerns when the world had been turned upside down.
I spent April really struggling, but after seeing a friend run an online festival around redundancy, I wondered if I could do the same for my audience. I wasn’t sure if there would be an appetite for it or if people would be too consumed with Covid and not have the headspace to think about anything else. Luckily it turned out that there was an appetite! Within 2 weeks I pulled together the Sustainable(ish) Online Festival – a week of 40 talks, workshops and panel discussions with over 60 contributors and 2500 people taking part. It was phenomenal and saw so much action as a result. It was definitely the highlight of my lockdown. I still get messages today telling me about the things that people have done and made happen because of it.
I was also one of those irritating people who managed to write a book during lockdown. I signed the contract for my second book – The Sustainable(ish) Guide to Green Parenting – as the first lockdown hit with a deadline of mid June. It’s being published this month which is hugely exciting!
I ran the first ever Knackered Mums on (Eco) Tour in August, a free 5 day challenge for knackered mums (and other knackered types) with 15 easy eco actions. Over 600 people took part, with a carbon saving of over 60 tonnes of CO2 over the 5 days – safe to say that blew me away! Off the back of the tour I launched the Knackered Mums Eco Club, my new membership club, which now has over 140 amazing women on board who inspire and motivate me everyday with their actions and support of each other.
Can you tell us about when you first starting becoming aware of our environmental impact and wanting to do something to help?
I always used to think I was pretty green but I, slightly randomly, decided to spend a year buying nothing new as a family in 2012/13. I think prior to this I was somehow subconsciously looking away from a lot of environmental issues and hadn’t joined the dots at all between our own consumption and the climate crisis. It was an amazing experience and one that totally changed my life. I understand it’s pretty overwhelming to start to face up to the realities of what’s happening to the planet and very easy to feel powerless and hopeless. The year made me realise the power of my choices, the power of my voice, and the responsibility that I have to make better choices more of the time, when and where I can.
What was the first thing you did to start leading a more eco-friendly lifestyle?
I’m not sure what sparked it because this was well before our year of buying nothing new, but I bought a Mooncup (reusable menstrual cup) when my periods came back after the birth of our eldest. It took a bit of getting used to, but I haven’t used a disposable menstrual product since, saving thousands of items from landfill!
We love the ‘sustainable(ish)’ concept! The 2 Minute Foundation is all about small actions making big differences. Tell us about ‘imperfect eco-action’.
I feel like the ‘ish’ is so important. Someone commented on one of my posts recently, saying that they found themselves in tears during one of the Festival sessions last year realising that they didn’t have to make perfect choices. Imperfect eco-action gives us permission to get it wrong, to compromise and to find out what works for us and our family. Therefore it makes it so much easier to get started!
There’s a brilliant quote by Anne Marie Bonneau (aka the Zero Waste Chef) that says “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly,” and the same applies to all areas of sustainable living.
How did it feel to turn everything you’d learnt over the years into The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide? Can you tell us about your new book, The Sustainable(ish) Guide to Green Parenting, too?
Writing the books has been a dream come true. I used to be a vet, so have a science background, but I rediscovered my love of writing when I blogged about our year buying nothing new. It’s been challenging though too, to push through the imposter syndrome – the ‘who am I to write a book?’ feelings. After all, I’m not an expert, but I hope that that is part of the appeal. I’m just an ordinary knackered mum and if I can do it, so can you!
The new book is, as you can tell from the title, aimed at parents. There are 7 chapters from pre-baby through to the teenage years and I hope that there’s something there for everyone. I am painfully aware of how much pressure we are all under as parents, especially after the last year, so it very much majors on the imperfect action; picking one thing, making a start, having a go. There’s no guilt or judgement or pressure to be perfectly green. I don’t think there is actually such a thing as perfectly green! It’s packed with ideas at each stage for swaps and easy changes we can make to help reduce our own impact and try to bring the rest of the family along for the ride.
Did the podcast spring up naturally after you’d written your blog and first book? Who’s featured on it so far?
The podcast started about two years ago before the book was on the horizon. I think I’m inherently nosy and I LOVE chatting to people and hearing about all the amazing things they’re doing. There are so many people out there, quietly getting on and doing their thing to make the world a better place. I wanted to be able to, in my own small way, give them another platform to share their stories on.
The 2 Minute Foundation’s very own Martin Dorey has been on, as well as Sian Berry – co-leader of the Green Party, Tessa Clarke – co-founder of Olio, Guy Singh-Watson from Riverford, and chef and author Melissa Hemsley. It’s been amazing to have the opportunity to speak to so many inspirational people. I think one of my favourite episodes was when we had a virtual coffee morning with some of the Knackered Mums from the Club. It’s so important to share the message that us ‘ordinary types’ can also change the world and that we don’t need a huge social media following to do it!
You may have heard of our #2minutesofpositivity campaign, which launched during the first lockdown back in March 2020 – what small thing do you do each day to put a smile on your face?
Tea is my absolute essential to keep me functioning. Walking the dog has also helped to keep me sane during lockdown and we’re lucky to live somewhere we can easily get out into the countryside.
One of the things that never fails to make me to smile is to head over to the Knackered Mums Eco Clubhouse on Facebook and read about the changes they are making and seeing the love and support they have for each other. It’s genuinely life affirming and like having our own team of cheerleaders!
Any parting words of wisdom for our 2 Minute Tribe?
Never let anyone tell you that individual actions don’t make a difference. We are more powerful than we know – embrace the power of your choices and your voices. You DO make a difference.
If you’d like to find out more about Jen Gale, join the Knackered Mums Eco Club or check out her books, head over to Jen’s website by clicking here.