My name is Iliana (nice meeting you!). I come from the tropics but I married a lovely Irish man almost a decade ago and I have been in the windy and rainy west of Ireland for about three years now. I’m a marine biologist doing consultancy in different topics, but much of my work revolves around helping manage the sea more sustainably. I’m just a beginner living sustainably on land, though: I eat some meat, and there is still way too much plastic at home. We turned a corner recently, though: our house looks definitely different than it used to a year ago.
What sparked your interest in sustainable living and where did you start?
For a while I have been “ok”: I like repurposing things and giving new life to old things. I enjoy the thrill of a good charity shop find, and for a while I have thought it silly to get a new piece of clothing when you can get a funky one second hand. As a family, we have gotten renewable electricity and decreased the amount of animal protein we eat for a few years now.
But things have definitely changed during the last year or so. Why? Probably covid and quarantine sparked the change, in two different ways. On one hand I have been stuck in rural ireland, surrounded by nature. With few things to take my free time I took to foraging for wild plants and seaweed, learning about what’s around me and appreciating it. I enjoy it immensely :)
On the other hand, I connected with a good (virtual) crowd… the lack of personal contact made me look at instagram more, follow some good people (like the Sustainable Life School) and get to learn some scary facts about the way I have (unsustainably) lived. If you’re reading this you might think it’s silly, but it was just during the last year that I really thought for the first time about where my things were coming from and where they were going. I just never gave it much thought before. And that realization mobilized more changes, mostly related to minimizing plastic and carbon, and using my money more wisely on products and businesses I like.
What keeps you motivated?
I’m a very rational person but to me what keeps me motivated is not the knowledge of making a better world or anything like that.. it’s a bit selfish: it’s the warm feeling of doing something I enjoy and also helps. I feel good when I go and forage for flowers and herbs for my tea. I have a warm feeling preparing the jars for refilling in our (awesome) local zero-waste shop.
What is a sustainable change you have made that makes you really happy?
Filling my larder with “produce” from foraging gives me a grin. From kelp to elderflower champagne to wild mint for tea.
Are you tackling any sustainable changes at the moment you’d like to share or are planning to?
Nothing huge I’m afraid. I’m fighting my little battles: trying to grow native hedges and trees in my windy windy garden, figuring out how to protect them in the windy west without using plastic (there is so much plastic involved when you grow green things, and I want none of it!), trying to keep slugs out of the garden without harming wildlife (I have had a harsh battle this year, and I’m losing), or finding out how to transition to a shampoo bar that doesn’t make me look like a witch.
What would you like to see in a sustainable future?
More education on sustainability. I want my daughter to know all the things I have learned in the last year (the sustainability ABC!) in primary school. With education I’ll like to see changes in people’s ways of thinking….and with that I would like to see a shift in how we do things from their conception. Plan, design, produce with sustainably out front (and waste will be designed out of our lives).
If one of your friends told you they wanted to start living more sustainably, what would be your top tip to get started?
Get jars. Tons of jars
Start with changes that make you happy, that bring you warm feelings, that give you smiles. 10 years ago for me it was the thrill of finding a beautiful object that fills a need in a charity shop. These days it’s about finding the wild herb, seaweed or flower that brings a new, amazing flavor to the table.
And For a bit of fun and… really find out about you…What was your first concert or your first CD/Tape/Record you owned?
Concert: in a land far, far away, “Menudo”. The boy band where Ricky Martin (a 12 year old Ricky) comes from..
Some of Iliana’s favourite sustainable shop/brand/cafes etc
Pax whole foods (https://www.paxwholefoodsecogoods.com) has been a great source of ingredients and inspiration
Jiminy eco toys (https://jiminy.ie/) is a must if you have little ones
Starting a foraging journey with a simple book on wild food* is a great way to gain confidence and get you started like “Wild Food : Nature’s Harvest: How to Gather, Cook and Preserve” by Biddy White Lennon and Evan Doyle
Thank you Iliana!