I am thrilled to have another international participant in my weekly interview series! Clare lives in Mauritius (pull out your atlases, kids, that’s off the coast of Africa) after growing up in Ireland. After following her on Twitter and enjoying her website, I just had to ask her to participate! She’s got SO many awesome ideas for living simply, and right now is giving away her free 100+ page e-book full to the brim with green living ideas and tips on her website, EcoFriendlyLink. Check it out!
What or who inspires you most?
The wonderful people I’ve connected with since I started blogging and tweeting about the environment! I’ve been so astonished at the sheer number of people who are all doing so much to save the world, all over the world.I really like the fact that even if we have slightly different areas of focus, we all have the same goal, to “live within our means” in terms of our environmental impact.
What do you turn to when you need strength?
My husband. Coffee. My dogs. Friends. Skype (I live a long way from so many of my friends!). Books. Wine. Music. Trees. Any of the beautiful landscapes all over this little tropical island.
How can women best support and/or empower other women?
As a vast generalization, I think men tend to be better at supporting each other than women. But I think social media is helping to change this. Tweets on Twitter for instance, are just that, Tweets. Useful, interesting, humorous, thought-provoking – the point is, we tend not to judge (and sometimes we don’t even know) the gender of the author. It’s the great equalizer! Personally, I find the Twitter green community very supportive.
What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday?
I love to grow anything that survives in this climate! Many things I used to grow, don’t grow here. My first lettuces for example got eaten by bugs or fried by the sun as soon as they sprouted. I’m getting better but I’m not growing as much as I’d like – yet.
But growing bananas and pineapples is such fun – the pineapples are slow-growing but there always seems to be a hand of bananas ready to harvest throughout the year, and it’s fun swapping with friends and neighbours, we all have abundance of different things at different times.
What are your creative outlets? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t?
I’m more of a geek-type than a creative or artistic type. The only artistic thing I’d like to do is to learn to play the piano, but I haven’t made the time for it.
In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element?
I adore the African bush, it restores my soul. Since moving to this tiny tropical island, I’m finding new environments to nourish me – sitting with my back against a palm tree on a deserted beach watching the sunrise for example.
Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?
We have a lot of stray dogs here and it’s an issue close to my heart:
- PAWS Mauritius provides care, sterilization and a refuge for the many stray dogs and cats in Mauritius
- SOS – Save Our Strays Mauritius supports education and sterilization programmes, and promotes animal adoption in Mauritius
- The Brooke helps working animals with veterinary care and kindness, and also educates their owners on caring for them.
What recent “green” change have you made in your own life? What’s next?
I’ve been making green changes for quite a while now, improving (there’s always room for improvement!). So most recently, as per above, re-learning how to grow things here. I’ve also been doing more rainwater harvesting since getting a shade sail – it’s miles more effective than putting buckets out in the rain which is what I had to do before the shade sail – and the garden is thriving on it. I’m really focusing on buying fresh produce in minimal packaging – not always easy! Recycling is a bit of a challenge as there’s no curbside pickups so I’m trying to find creative solutions. And I’m trying to bring “green” into every conversation with friends so it’s always in the forefront of their minds (I hope!).
Next, learning how to compost more things more successfully in this climate.
Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary? Why?
The African bush. I’m so aware of just how insignificant our lives are, when watching the life-and-death daily activities of wild animals. I’m also very conscious of just how privileged I am to be there, and how incredibly fragile it is.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
- Take more risks.
- Keep fitter.
- Start at least one small business while you’re young
How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet?
Social media has made a significant difference, spreading the word quicker and more broadly, improving reach and education. I think everyone can have a huge impact by reducing our personal consumption of goods, and voting with our wallets – choosing sustainable products and suppliers.
What sparked your interest in environmental issues? What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did?
I think I was about 12 when I entered a competition to raise awareness about littering. I didn’t win, but it started my awareness of the things we do in our daily lives which harm the planet.
Then when I moved from Ireland to Africa – well, that changed everything. Even in the cities you’re just so much more aware of the natural world and how we impact it. You also realize why habitat destruction happens – if you’ve got a family to feed and keep warm, are you going to cut down a tree for firewood, or are you going to leave it there because it’s the right thing to do? If you live near a hardwood forest, are you going to take a job with a guaranteed wage as a logger so you can survive, or stay unemployed and keep the forest? If you can earn enough to feed your family for several months, do you kill a rhino and sell the horn, or do you let it live while you wonder where your next meal is coming from?
That’s why I’m always looking for win-win solutions – things are rarely as simple as they appear at first glance. I believe that in developed countries we’re too far removed from the “real” world, we no longer have that connection to nature. Without the connection, we won’t protect. I also believe that we only have one chance – once a species is extinct, it’s gone forever. An oil spill can never be properly “cleaned up”.
As consumers, we are causing habitat destruction by our demand for goods. That’s why I set up EcoFriendlyLink and other ‘green’ websites – to spread the word.
How do you live simply?
I’ve downsized significantly. I now live in a much smaller house, I sold or donated my clutter (saying goodbye to some of my books was difficult, but I haven’t missed anything else) and although I’m not minimalist (sigh) I now lean a lot more in that direction. When I entertain at home it’s much more simply now (i.e. more emphasis on the food and the conversation and enjoyment rather than a sophisticated setting) and that’s meant I could reduce a load of stuff.
I’ve found that living on a tropical island is good for reducing clothes – it’s a hot climate and things are very casual here which I’m enjoying. Shorts and a t-shirt are perfect for most days which is really great!
In some ways I’ve been “forced” into more simple living – living on a small island in the middle of nowhere means the shops and services simply don’t have the choices I’m used to. I was taken aback at first but it’s surprising how quickly you adapt and now there are only a few things I miss. And seasonal eating is easy – shipping in perishable goods is very expensive and doesn’t happen much.
Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours?
“What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
~ Henry David Thoreau