Here we find out more about what inspired her to write her book, as well as what some of the key messages are that she would like everyone to hear.
Tell us why you chose to call your book 'The Joyful Environmentalist'?
I have been reading books about protecting our environment and about climate change for two years and they’re depressing. The subject of my books (this is the 7th) has always been happiness - which I believe is important because life is short. So I wanted to find all the ways that we can help the environment that also enrich our lives. I don’t see this as selfish - I see it as essential. And as the book shows, many of the changes that we need to make to help our planet are joyful and do enrich our lives.
Your book includes tips to help people live more sustainably in every aspect of life. What would you say to someone who feels they don’t know where to begin?
It’s interesting that you ask that because when I started to write this book I didn’t know where to begin either. Becoming an environmentalist isn’t a linear journey. There are so many different aspects of the transformation that we can make in how we live. I see this process more like doing a puzzle where we work on one aspect and then another until it builds up into a beautiful picture that we never thought possible.
In ‘The Joyful Environmentalist I look at how we live - how we heat our homes, how we volunteer, travel, vote, shop, dress, eat, vote, what’s in our houses, even how we garden. It’s a fun read, so to someone who doesn’t know where to begin I’d say curl up on your sofa with a copy of the book (which is in short sections for busy people) and read it and I hope it makes you smile. Then choose all the bits that work for you. Be as radical as possible, because that’s what the planet needs, and use joy as your guide.
You travelled to many different places to research your book, do any projects stick out in your memory?
I loved a week of volunteering with the charity Trees for Life that is re-planting the Caledonian Forest in the Highlands of Scotland. For anyone who is fit and able to climb some steep hills I recommend a week of planting trees on Glen Affric for creating beauty and restoring perspective in life.
Secondly, I spent a week exploring living off grid at the Lammas community in Wales. For anyone who wants to find out what it would take to escape the rat race completely - this is an interesting section and full of information to help you decide if you’d like to visit.
Thirdly I’d choose the Knepp Estate in Sussex, which is the largest ‘re-wilding’ project in England, as far as I’m aware. To visit Knepp is to experience nature as she could be, in all her brilliance and infinite variety if only human beings could stop trying to control her. I don’t know why we call nature by the feminine - maybe it’s the influence of the French language ‘La Nature’ or maybe it’s something more complex than that. But anyway, at Knepp, nature is free. (You can read more about the Knepp Estate in our interview with Isabella Tree)
It’s easy to become pessimistic about the future of the environment. What do you reflect on that helps you remain optimistic?
The first line of ‘The Joyful Environmentalist’ is ‘What I’m doing is this.’ I don’t even bother explaining the problem. One of the causes of all the pessimism and sadness is that we are continually informed about problems in the world that we can do nothing about. Even the environmental movement is very fond of telling us how bad it is. I think we know how bad it is by now. So my focus is a simple one - solutions. Our point of power is what we can do - so I like to explore that. We have so much power as consumers and in the choices we make. I put the focus on changes we can make. There is so much. We do need to be radical though. It’s not enough just to stop using plastic.
Why did you choose to advocate switching to an ethical bank in your book?
Switching my account - from the High Street bank I’d been with for 20 years too long to a Triodos account - is one of my favourite examples of something people can do to live a more congruent life. And I see it as part of becoming a better environmentalist because of the projects you support. I wrote to my high street bank to ask if they could tell me who they invest in and who they lend money too. They replied that this information is not in the public domain. Well, I want to know whether I’m supporting companies that may be polluting the planet, conducting experiments on animals, treating workers unethically, farming intensively or all manner of other behaviour that supports neither people nor planet.
When I asked Triodos if they could tell me who they invest in and lend money to they said ‘Yes’ and showed me a link where I enjoyed reading about all the projects that Triodos supports. So I swapped my bank account, wrote about this swap in the book and stole the line - ‘Put your money where your values are.’ I didn’t think anyone at Triodos would mind.
Joy is an interesting subject to consider. Being congruent is part of it. For the first time in my life I have a bank I’m proud of.
The Joyful Environmentalist: How to Practice Without Preaching
'The Joyful Environmentalist: How to Practice Without Preaching’ is by Isabel Losada and is available to buy online.