Jodi Helmer is the author of three books including The Green Year: 365 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference and freelances for a variety of magazines and web-sites. Because so many of us want to do the right thing for the environment and, yet, are intimidated by making it happen, Helmber came up with a way to make that commitment in 365 manageable, affordable steps. In addition to writing, Jodi is rescuing dogs, mentoring young Latinas, teaching writing, and making art. Because she is so inspiring and because The Green Year is a great book for each of us to own and operate from and give to others, I asked Jodi to share some of her experience with us.
How did your interest in sustainable living and environmental issues develop? Looking back, I can see that my interest in sustainable living and environmental issues developed without me even realizing it was happening. I lived in Portland, Oregon, from 2000 to 2007 and the things I loved best about the city were the farmers markets, restaurants with an organic/local/Fair Trade focus, local shops, bike culture, awesome public transit…all things that are such a huge part of a sustainable lifestyle. To be honest, I took them for granted. It wasn’t until I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, that I really realized how important those amenities were, not only to my quality of life but to the environment as a whole. It was definitely one of those “don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-until-it’s-gone” realizations.
When and why did you decide to translate that love into The Green Year? When I moved to Charlotte, I realized that Portland was a green utopia and it was much harder to be eco-friendly in other parts of the country. I’d lament to friends about the lack of curbside recycling in my neighborhood or the number of vendors at the farmers market who were selling imported and out-of-season produce or the way the bag boy at the supermarket gave me an odd look when I handed him my canvas bags. Every time I complained, I heard the same thing: “It’s so expensive and difficult and time-consuming to go green.” I knew that wasn’t the case. I figured writing a book was a safer option than screaming the message from my rooftop. (Plus, I live in a small neighborhood and only a few people would have heard me)!
What was your favorite part of writing The Green Year? The research. I’m such a research nerd. I loved digging up statistics on how much paper it would save if we all stopped taking our receipts at the ATM. (For the record, if every American declined their ATM receipt, it would save a roll of paper more than 2 billion feet long, which is enough to circle the equator 15 times). I think the research I was able to dig up helps to really show people how the small things really do make a big difference.
What would you say to encourage someone to try and live with more eco-consciousness? Just start. Do one thing. You don’t have to solve the climate crisis on your own (though if you think you have a solution, please step forward). The little things really do make a big difference. Turn off the water when you brush your teeth, switch your light bulbs to CFLs, use the “cold” cycle on the washing machine — and then talk to others about what you’re doing and how simple it is. I think the green message can be spread just like it was in the 80s shampoo commercials — you tell a friend and they’ll tell a friend and so on and so on…
Some issues we discuss on a regular basis on this blog are self-awareness and community engagement. Given that, what community issues most speak to you? Ironically, the community issue I’m most passionate about has nothing to do with being green: I’m very involved with dog rescue. I volunteer at adoption events, help raise awareness and funds and foster dogs until they find their forever families. I think the way we treat animals speaks volumes about our society. Right now, we’re doing a poor job. Mecklenburg County, where I live, euthanized 12,000 animals during the last fiscal year. Responsible pet ownership, including spaying/neutering, is essential. I also advocate for rescuing pets, not purchasing them at pet stores. I have a pack of three dogs (two dachshunds and a lab mix) that I adore.
And what do you most appreciate about yourself? I have a big heart.
What do you wish all women knew? Great question! I wish all women knew that we have the power to achieve our wildest dreams; that it’s much more fun and more fulfilling to dig into life and get messy than it is to sit on the sidelines.