Founder of The Green Mum + Elementary School Teacher
eco+amour: On your website you say you spent the majority of your adult life convinced you were an “ecofriendly” person only to learn you could be doing much more. I think this is the same for many of us. What made you realize this and what were the first changes you made?
Meera Jain: Last year, my husband and I had had some good friends stay with us. They were starting their own blog @sustainablejungle and I could see how differently we lived our lives, even though we were both “ecofriendly”. They were going out of their way to avoid plastic and minimize their belongings while I was doing...well...very little. After spending time with them and watching the documentary, “A Plastic Ocean” I knew I had to make some very big changes. The first area I decided to tackle was single-use plastics. It’s been almost a year now and I haven’t looked back!
e+a: What are some of the challenges you personally face when trying to be more sustainable?
MJ: I would say the most significant are time and accessibility. Living as sustainably as possible takes time, there is no way around it. One of the ways I combat this is by trying to take pleasure in what I am doing, rather than viewing it as a chore. I also plan like crazy so that I know what I am cooking for the day, I know what kinds of errands I have to run, and I still get some cuddle time with my kids. Accessibility is an issue that I am sure everyone runs into when it comes to living a “low waste” life. While I recognize that I am extremely lucky to live in a city like Toronto with such incredible resources (like eco+amour!), I happen to live in area that requires a good chunk of driving to get to these places. I am really looking forward to the future when green living becomes less of a fad and more of a norm... and zero waste resources become more accessible to everyone!
e+a: What are some of your favourite sustainable living items and/or habits?
MJ: Some of the things I can’t live without are my reusable coffee cup, my reusable produce bags, and my mason jars. Geez, I sound like such a mom. Caffeine is a regular part of my life, and I love being able to enjoy it plastic free and on the go! My reusable produce bags have probably saved me over a thousand plastic bags from going to the landfill or recycling plant. I just keep them in a bag and when I know I am going grocery shopping, I throw them in the car and am good to go! I have amassed quite a collection of glass jars. These are key for bulk shopping of all kinds. I use them at Bulk Barn, eco+amour, and anywhere else that will let me use my own containers for buying consumables!
e+a: As a teacher, you sometimes share the ways you bring eco-living into the classroom such as switching from stickers to stamps when marking student assignments. Do you talk about sustainable living with them, and if so, how do you encourage it?
MJ: I learned a long time ago that the best way to teach a lesson to a student was to show them how to accomplish the goal. So while I do talk to my students about sustainability whenever possible (I’m teaching French this year so opportunities don’t often present themselves), more importantly, I model the change I wish to see. I bring my lunch in reusable containers, drink water out of a reusable bottle, and make mention of all the small things I am doing to try and reduce my impact. Additionally, I am running our school’s eco team this year. This is a great opportunity to work with eager kids on initiatives around the school like zero waste lunches, or textile drives!
e+a: In some ways, the zero waste/plastic free movement still feels very “grass roots”, but it’s gaining momentum and it’s happening quickly. From social media influencers to large corporations implementing green initiatives, change is happening. What or who do you credit making this movement more mainstream?
MJ: I’m not sure that I can credit just one person or thing for bringing awareness to the zero waste movement. There are so many incredible individuals and enterprises that have dedicated everything they have to making low waste living mainstream. People like Bea Johnson and The Wasteland Rebel have really popularized the movement. Documentaries such as “A Plastic Ocean” and “Cowspiracy” have done much as well. And as much as I would like to credit them, I think those that watch the documentaries, follow the Instagram accounts, and make small changes in their lifestyles deserve just as much adulation. Influencers and businesses would be nothing without followers and customers and it really just fills me with joy knowing that everyday, more and more people are getting inspired to “go green”.
e+a: What advice would you give someone just starting out in green and sustainable living?
MJ: I would tell them two things: Go slowly and get to know your city. If I think about the number of changes I have made in mine and my family’s life over the past year, I think my head would spin. But every journey starts with the first step and that is what someone new to this lifestyle should focus on. I would start with avoiding single-use plastics. Then, I would sit down and research my city. I would look out for bulk stores, green boutiques, and other places that I could get zero waste supplies. Once you have this figured out, it feels a lot less overwhelming. But the most important messages I would like to impart to someone just starting out is that although it can feel like a lot, never underestimate the collective impact small changes can make. And never give up, because a cause like this is just too good to let go.