eco-living q&a

Lisa answers from frequently-asked eco-questions.

what is sustainability with style in a nutshell? 
Sustainability with Style is a way of living that reduces an individual’s impact without sacrificing his or her personal style; it’s a mindset that allows me feel like I’m doing everything I can to help the environment and I still look and feel like myself.

what is green?
I think of green as the option with the least impact on the environment and the greatest positive impact on people.  Green living isn’t just about reducing carbon, but understanding the interconnectedness of all living things on this planet and how our actions impact those living things.  Similarly, sustainability is about more than just the environment, it also encompasses political and social issues.

why did you start? 
I like to joke, but it’s true, that coffee cups changed my life.  I’d seen Al Gore’s film and had made a few eco-changes, but it wasn’t until I read an article that most takeaway coffee cups aren’t recyclable that the other shoe dropped.  I remember thinking to myself, “If I didn’t know about this, what else don’t I know about?” and my life has not been the same since.

how did you start? 
I started with using my own mug at coffee shops, or taking the time to sit and enjoy a coffee at the café instead of taking away all the time.  Other early (and easy) changes for me were using a stainless steel water bottle, taking my own bags to the grocery store and relying on public transportation.

what’s the hardest thing? 
The hardest thing for me was giving up my addiction to shopping for fashion.  Until I started researching more and more, I’d really never considered the environmental footprint of my shopping habit.  My clothes were such an integrated part of my identity and lifestyle, so when I realised the environmental cost of all the things I collected, my world was shattered.  I had to somehow figure out how to maintain my identity without all the shopping; for awhile it seemed next to impossible.
Another area I found really hard was talking about it with my friends.  When I first got into the movement some friends were interested, but many were not, and it took me awhile to figure out the best way to talk about environmentalism without being perceived as being pushy, preachy or overzealous.

what is something we can do every day to help? 
I suggest people to consider where they can make the largest impact.  For me, it means buying fewer new clothes.  For another friend of mine, it means using a Soda Stream to make her sparkling water without buying multiple large bottles each week.  For someone else it may mean taking public transportation a few days a week instead of driving every day.  We each can make a huge impact, we just need to do a little self-reflection to see where our largest impact can be made.

does it cost more? 
I’ve found that it actually costs me less.  Of course there are extra costs here and there with higher rates on green energy and organic products, but there are immense cost savings to be found in buying only enough food as you’ll use, reducing the amount of new purchases you make, taking public transportation and sharing items instead of purchasing something for a single use. I found that once I got in the habit of considering every purchase I made and activity I participated in from an eco-perspective, I was saving money all the time because I wasn’t wasting it on unwanted items (or emissions).

friends – are they on board or not? 
I have friends who are at various stages of environmentalism.  Most of my friends continue to make environmental changes, and I’m happy to share with them what I find easy and hard to make their journeys a little bit easier. I wouldn’t say I only had greenie friends, but unfortunately some friendships have ended.  The friends in my current circle support my environmental aspirations and are willing to learn more.  I’ve also made so many amazing environmentalist friends over the past few years thanks to getting out and connecting - the green social network is growing exponentially by the day!

and your partner? 
Thankfully my husband is as committed to the environment as I am – he inspires me through his environmental actions everyday!

how do you eat out? 
I love food, so this is a really great question. I tend to eat at home a lot and cook leftovers so my lunches are green, too, but I love to eat out and I do have a few guidelines:
  • Order vegetarian options 90% of the time, and always on flights and at events.
  • Bring my own containers to takeaway shops. I also have a local free-range chicken shop so I can eat ethically, quickly from time to time.
  • Seek out sustainable restaurants.  More and more chefs are embracing ethical meats and local, organic, especially in the nicer restaurants. Frequently I’ll feed my meat craving at a specific restaurant, that way my meat has the lowest footprint it can when I do consume it, and it's cooked better than I would cook it at home.

walk us through a sustainable day. 
I’ll wake up on my organic cotton mattress inside organic hemp sheets (they are softer than you think!) underneath my ceiling fan that’s been keeping the room cool.

Then I’ll eat some delicious homemade muesli (thanks to my hubby), made from oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit purchased package-free at the Manly food co-op, with organic home-made oat milk and fresh organic fruit on top.  I usually have a cup of organic, fair trade tea at home, and if I need a coffee I bring my KeepCup out with me to get a soy latte – organic if I can manage.

Of course I’ll have washed with organic, carbon neutral products and applied natural makeup, and I’ll either be wearing my latest vintage find, a seasoned favourite from my wardrobe and/or a new sustainable fashion find, mixed and matched in a whole new way.

Next it’s onto the ferry then the bus to get to work.  It takes me about an hour, but I love being able to read and relax on my commute as opposed to stress in traffic – yuck. Of course I’ve brought with me my lunch, leftovers from a mostly-organic and probably vegetarian dinner. Luckily I work for a green organization, so my paid work is sustainable, and I strive for paperless working.  I try and practice yoga on my lunch break, and avoid the shopping centre!

If I don’t have to go into the city for work I’ll fit in a coastal walk or a bushwalk, and frequently this means picking up some pieces of litter that I find along the way.  I’ll probably also do the laundry, and relish in the time spent hanging the clothes on the line.  With every little clip of the clothes peg I feel like I’m making a difference!

If I have drinks with friends I opt for local wine over imported, unless they have organic, and at home it’s the same.  If it’s Thursday my organic produce delivery will have arrived, and I get to put away each piece of beautiful organic produce while getting inspired for tonight’s eco-culinary creation!

Do you have any questions for Lisa? Email or tweet her.


  1. Hi Lisa

    If you're looking for a yummy, sustainable option for eating out on the north shore you should try Ora they've just opened and are super lovely and have the same outlook as you :-)


    1. Yes! I ate at Ora just last week - a delightful addition to Manly for sure! Maybe I'll go there for lunch today . . .