Books & Resources

A podcast for those who want to be sustainable(ish)

Are you an ex-commuter? Perhaps one of the only positives of the pandemic is that there has been a lot less travel. As well as giving us more time, this has been a massive win for the environment.

But it also means there’s less unproductive or dead time for getting truly absorbed in a good old page-turner (or a screen-scroller if you’re into e-books).

This is where podcasts come in. They work especially well while cooking and doing mindless chores. You can’t scrub a toilet while reading a book! Of course, audio-books might allow that but I find podcasts are much more three-dimensional.

As you’ll know already, there are millions of podcasts out there now on pretty much every subject you could imagine. Science, lifestyle, health, food, sport. Even Harry Potter. In fact, there are LOADS of Harry Potter podcasts out there. Who knew?

Excitingly, sustainability podcasts are growing in availability. There are some great eco-friendly pods out there. I’d like to share my favourites over the coming months. And there’s no better place to start than Sustainable(ish) by Jen Gale. 

A little about Jen and her work

Jen is a former vet who has been catapulted into the green arena after blogging about her family’s quest to not buy anything new for 12 months way back in September 2012. Jen lives in Wiltshire, UK with her husband, two kids and lots of animals.

I first became aware of Jen and the great work she’s been doing when I heard about her first book: The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide. In Jen’s own words: “Easy, do-able, down to earth ideas and suggestions for everyone to help save the planet. If you want to save the planet, but your to-do list is already pretty long and remembering your re-usable coffee cup feels like a Herculean task, then this is the book for you.

Jen’s philosophy and the inspiration for her choice of name for her cause is that we can’t all be 100% perfect when it comes to sustainability. Doing small things and accepting there may be much more you can do is all part of being what Jen calls being “sustainable(ish)”. I know at first glance the word could sound a bit flippant or half-hearted. But actually, it’s just being realistic.

Of course, life has been made so easy and convenient for most of us in the last 50 or so years. Advancements in technology and lifestyle have been huge. Although we may feel busier than ever, overall these advancements have bought us all time. For women, in particular, it has opened up opportunities and freedom.

But this development has come at a massive cost to the planet and, as we all know, something has to change for it to be sustainable. So, being sustainable-ish isn’t half-hearted at all. It’s the same as taking Small Green Steps towards change. It ALL counts.

This approach reminds me of a 2019 quote by Anne-Marie Bonneau (Zero Waste Chef) who said: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Recent Focus on Greener Parenting

So, back to Jen Gale. in March this year, Jen’s second book came out: The Sustainable(ish) Guide to Parenting. On the same theme, Jen also set up and runs an online community called the Knackered Mums Eco Club (KMEC).

Perhaps you’re a parent who wants to be more sustainable (especially when it comes to babies and kids related things) but don’t know where to start. Maybe you worry about what sort of world your kids and grandchildren will have to live in. Or perhaps you’re paralysed by the idea of not getting greener parenting 100% perfect?

Well, fear not as Jen’s book and KMEC are here to help. By setting up KMEC, Jen provides a great platform for parents to share experiences, ideas and inspiration. And also support, all in a kind and non-judgey space.

Now, if I was a mum, I know I would definitely be a knackered one.  But it’s also very clear that as well as being all-consuming (and I mean that in a good way), having kids inevitably means greater plastic use. I can see how many areas are affected and how hard being an eco-friendlier parent is to navigate. Especially when so many things exist to make parenting easier. Things like disposable nappies. A great invention in so many ways but most parents I know despair at the huge landfill load dirty disposable nappies create.

While going cold turkey on using disposable nappies would be a massive challenge (I am sure!), using less of them and turning to reusables a bit more alongside using disposables could be something to consider to reduce the impact.

Toys are another tricky area to navigate. Plastic toys are usually durable and certainly easy to clean and sterilise but yet again, so many end up in landfill. Perhaps this is where toy-sharing/swap subscription apps could help. Things like Whirli which sounds like a fantastic idea (and something that Jen covers in episode #29 when she speaks to the founder).

Eco Pod

Jen started Sustainable(ish) podcast back in May 2018 when it was known as “A Sustainable Life”. The name change was made from episode #14 where Jen also explains a bit more about the meaning of “sustainable(ish)” as well as “plastic-free(ish)” and “zero waste(ish)”.  At just 9 minutes long, this episode is a great introduction to the concept.

While there are lots of episodes relating to greener parenting, especially recently given Jen’s second book, the podcast has a broader focus. I’m happily working my way through.

My favourite episodes so far are:

#33 – Ecobricks – all your questions answered

#46 – Sustainable Shopping Made Easy with Giki

#50 – Everything electric cars

#77 – How your freezer can help fight food waste

Jen is warm, charismatic and witty. It’s like listening to a friend chatting away. Her guests are great too. She interviews and chats with loads of interesting people. Including, Tara Button (episodes #28 and #52, who wrote the fantastic book I posted about in October 2020, see here), Tim Mead (episode #75, CEO of Yeo Valley, who I posted about in March 2021, see here) and Sian Berry, Co-Leader of the Green Party in the UK.

Jen’s enthusiasm is infectious. She acknowledges that sustainability can be an area where people are moralistic or preachy. She’s careful to acknowledge that she is not perfect. Throughout Jen is candid about these green struggles.

Jen has also flagged how getting buy-in and consensus from your family/those you live with about making greener choices can be a challenge. As an example, Jen mentions how instead of banning crisps altogether, she buys large bags and portions them out. Yes, it’s not plastic-free and it isn’t perfect but it is plastic less. And that’s something.

Jen’s also spoken about how she’s trying to encourage her children to cycle to school with her but how the mornings can be so frantic and the kids unwilling. So instead, Jen pops her bike on the back of the car and drives to school. She then cycles home and back again later on to collect the kids when she’ll drive them home with the bike on the back again. This cuts out 50% of the car journeys. Pretty smart. As long as you won’t be needing your car that day.

What’s the time commitment?

Sustainable(ish) podcast episodes range from 7 minutes to 1 hour 24 minutes in length. Most are around 45 minutes. So far there are 101 episodes with a new one released every week (at least).

If you’re time poor, for the lengthier episodes, Jen adds a synopsis with the key facts on her website in a section called “TLDL?” Which I’m sure you’ll know means: “Too Long Didn’t Listen?”. For an example, see here.

If you’re looking for something new to listen to that’s full of interesting facts, ideas and tips on sustainability, check out Sustainable(ish). I’d love to hear your thoughts and favourite episodes in the comments below.

Sustainable(ish) podcast, available on Apple, Spotify, Google, Soundcloud and other platforms.

Image credit: Lee Campbell, via Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *