by Jenna Kutcher
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If you’re not conscious of the sustainability of your daily habits or the green efforts of your business, this conversation will open your eyes in a new way. It did for me.
I met Manuela Baron at an Aerie Real Role Model photoshoot. We swapped Instagram handles, and scrolling her feed I was obsessed with her mission and the way she shows up online for a cause she’s passionate about. She’s a visual artist and a sustainability advocate, raising awareness for going green in a million ways, one of my favorites that she shares about is making art out of trash. This woman made a full mermaid tail and swim suit out of plastic bags, urging everyone to end the pollution of our oceans by ditching single use plastics.
Beyond reusable water bottles and ditching plastic straws, what can we do? How can we be more sustainably conscious in our lives and businesses? And more importantly, why should we care? Manuela’s mission is important and she’s here to help us think and act a little more GREEN.
Being Part of the Solution
“If you had told me a couple years ago that I would be an environmental activist, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Manuela laughed.
Manuela had the same view that a lot of us may still have of pollution… That it was someone else’s fault. That it was due to lack of systems and the government’s failure to clean up trash and recycle. It wasn’t until a long haul flight back to the U.S. when she realized that she was part of the problem. With the long flight, she had 18 cups of water, in 18 separate plastic cups. Manuela saw that she needed to be part of the solution.
“I didn’t study environmental science, I didn’t go to school for this, I don’t have some fancy expert title, but how can I, as a normal person, reduce how much I consume and how can I have a positive impact on our planet when the norm is to have something so negative?”
Manuela launched Girl Gone Green soon after to connect with her audience and share what she’s learned about going green and being environmentally conscious. It was launched out of necessity because she started to get so many questions about plastic-free living that she needed a way to get the information out to the world en masse.
It’s Not About the Negative
“The thing about sustainability, is it’s overwhelming. You can get really overwhelmed with how much is going on,” Manuela began to explain. I wanted to hear some facts and figures to really set the stage of our sustainability chat.
One of Manuela’s biggest causes is plastic pollution. She told me we use 2 million plastic bags a minute across the globe. There’s more plastic in the ocean than there is fish. Manuela shared a few more of these stats before pausing to say what was already going through my mind, “All of these things are really scary when you think about them because you feel like you don’t have an impact.”
But flipping the script, Manuela told me about the 4 million people who took to the streets to protest for climate change with Greta Thunberg. Countries across the globe like France are banning single use plastics. Environmentalists are risking their lives for soil and composting.
“I don’t like to focus on the negative things because we all kind of know,” she explained. Instead it’s knowing that while all of the things impacting our environment are adding up, we have the power to change ourselves and our habits and watch that impact spread to others while making a difference for the planet.
You Don’t Have to Be Perfect
Manuela admits that she has a very all or nothing personality. When she started this sustainability journey, she thought she had to be perfect. She went zero waste, fully vegan, all the things that are part of the “perfect” environmental activist… And it was actually negatively impacting her life.
She didn’t have access to enough clean drinking water while she was in Asia so she went without bottled water. She wasn’t eating enough because she wouldn’t consume anything that came in plastic. “I wasn’t taking care of myself because I was so passionate about something else,” Manuela explained, “But you have to take care of yourself to sustain your message. You have to sustain yourself to sustain your message.”
If sustainability is important to you, it will come naturally if you take small steps. Start with your day, how can you live more consciously today? Because not every day looks the same. “If you are trying your best, whatever your best looks like, it’s going to have a big impact.”
Manuela encouraged me and anyone interested in being more environmentally conscious to start with an audit. Write down your daily habits because if you don’t know how much you’re consuming, you won’t know how to reduce it. Every time you throw something away, what material are you throwing in the trash? What are you eating and could you buy it in bulk or plastic-free?
It’s also important to establish your non-negotiables. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you have a favorite lotion that comes in a plastic bottle and you simply cannot give it up, find another way to offset your plastic consumption.
Perfection isn’t sustainable, instead look at the areas you CAN tackle. Be intentional with the decisions you make every day. “You vote with your dollar. Every time you make a purchase you’re telling that company, that corporation, you’re telling our government and world what you want to see more of,” Manuela explained, “You have that ability to create change.” If you keep that in mind, it can have a long term effect.
More from this Episode
What are the common misconceptions about sustainability that Manuela sees on social media? How has the “trend” of sustainability actually created a whole new issue of consumerism? And what does Manuela carry in her bag to prepare to consume less when she’s out and about?
Manuela makes sustainability so approachable — I promise you will not once feel accused, guilty, or convicted while listening to this episode of very actionable, easily translatable advice to live more sustainably and intentionally each day. Press play to hear the full conversation with Manuela Baron and visit The Girl Gone Green for more.