Do you even have any awareness of your impact on the environment around you?
Every now and then, I meet someone who is just so passionate about what they believe in and what they stand for.
One such person is Anna Pitt whom I met a year ago at my talk at the Millionaire Author Bootcamp. That was the day I overcame my fear of public speaking on a big stage!
I vividly remember how Anna met me after my presentation saying how I had changed her life! She was really inspired to finally get her own book out there about green living and today I am proud and honoured to interview her about her first book “101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free (Amazon USA /Amazon UK).
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Green living is something I am also interested in and whilst I was composing this blog post, Anna sent me the feedback she received from one of the first people to apply the ideas in her book:-
“Reading Anna Pitt’s book has really surprised me of how much I could do to recycle and reduce waste – flicking through the pages I’ve either thought or said to myself, I either do that or I could try that. Recently I have copied some ideas in the book. It has turned a full bin in to half a bin!”
Which makes me even more excited to share Anna and her book with you and to further spread her message about green living:-
1. Anna, your book idea totally resonated with me when we first met. Please tell my readers more about your book.
101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free is about reducing waste. It gives the reader 101 simple ways in which families can be kinder to the environment without having to spend a single penny. There are tips on how to reduce food waste, how to save water, energy and fuel and how to recycle and reuse your stuff.
The really important thing is that my book takes a look at the maths and the science behind all these green efforts and shows exactly how much difference small changes of habit can make.
A few years ago I started a project to try to show the next generation exactly how and why we need to rethink our attitude to waste. I believe that we need to embrace whole-heartedly the circular economy and shun the linear economy that is destroying our planet.
However not enough people are allowing this message to sink in and then doing something about it.
So, I thought it was about time I did my bit!
I wrote 101 Ways with a very specific goal in mind: to create a resource for waste reduction workshops for secondary schools.
The tips in my book are family orientated and I hope that students will share the ideas at home. But in my workshops I’ll be helping students to create their own version of 101 Ways with tips that are entirely relevant to their own lives and their own communities.
I know from my experience as a systems analyst, that when people are involved in creating and shaping something they become far more engaged in the message.
Better than reading a book about green living is to create a book of your own about green living!
2. What’s special about your book? How is it different from other books out there?
There are lots of books about reducing carbon footprint, but so many of them can put you off in the first few pages, because the tips and suggestions require financial investment and we don’t all have that available to us.
So I wanted to focus on things we can do for free.
‘Waste’ is just what it says it is – a waste – something unnecessary and undesirable. We’re the generation of the throw-away society; we are surrounded by the ‘built in obsolescence’ culture. But we are seeing now that we can’t go on like that. So there’s a green economy popping up, building on our fears and concerns and charging a premium to those of us who feel it is important to go green.
My book, 101 Ways to Live Cleaner and Greener for Free is, I suppose, a reaction against that.
Besides, it is the perfect time for a book like this, because so many of us have to tighten our belts at the moment. And so many of the things we can do for free are not just free but they actually save us money.
Most importantly, though, I wanted to create something that would engage teens. I looked long and hard for books and resources that I could use for my workshops, before I thought about actually creating a book in my workshops and I was amazed to find that there was nothing out there, specifically on green living, specifically for teens.
I thought, maybe, this was because people thought teens didn’t read books, but that doesn’t explain the plethora of titles out there on maths, history, even quantum physics, so why not a book on the environment and green living?
3. What inspired you to write your book about green living?
Well, it was you, Arvind!
I was in the audience, at your first public speaking engagement. You asked a very powerful question: “What is your legacy?”
Your question made me reflect on me and my life. I looked at what I had done and what I have achieved and accumulated.
I live a nice life in my lovely village in West Oxfordshire. I have two children, who are both wonderful. I have a kind, caring husband who is a fantastic cook. We have fun. Working as a systems analyst, designing and writing computer systems for businesses has proved to be a flexible career that allows me enough income to live comfortably, yet be there for my children. I never had to miss out on the school plays or sports day or when parents were invited in for assemblies to share the children’s learning.
There’re plenty of things I’ve done that I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do. I helped out on school trips, I ran a French club for 5 to 11 year olds at my children’s primary school. I helped out with IT classes. I became part of our Parish Council with responsibility for the play areas in our village and along with help from the village Primary school children I was able to oversee the design, and implementation of new play equipment that will provide good quality play opportunities for the children of our village for the next thirty to forty years.
But legacy? What’s my legacy? That, I couldn’t say!
I suppose the journey started several years ago, when I was looking at creative ways to engage young people in debate about waste reduction using the power of story. I write two blogs, one for teens and one for mums, to write about ways to reduce carbon footprint without it costing money. I also set up a web page where people could share eco-tips.
Although I’d planned to gather these ideas together into a book about green living, life just kept getting in the way, I suppose. In particular, I had a grandmother with whom I’d always had a fantastic relationship who began to suffer from dementia.
Dementia is a cruel and demanding illness. It started with the phone calls. 10, 15, 20 times a day. It would usually be the same question. I’d explain, and I’d explain again and I’d explain yet again. I’d try to keep the edge of exasperation out of my voice, but she knew and I knew that it was immensely frustrating.
As Nan’s dementia gradually worsened, so did her sense of loneliness. She had lots of visits from family and friends, but she couldn’t remember having seen anyone from the moment they’d walked out of the door.
Whenever I went – which was most days and sometimes several times a day – Nan would generally complain about how she hadn’t seen a soul. I knew she was lying to me. Several times I’d have passed my Dad or my sister on their way from her house, not thirty seconds before I got there. I felt as though she was pressuring me to be there all of the time, but there was something in me that wouldn’t allow that to happen. I spent a lot of time with her, but resisted being there 24/7.
When my grandmother died, I really felt a sense of guilt, wondering whether I’d actually done my best for her. It was in dealing with that question that made me start to ask myself whether I had really put my best into anything.
So, this is the thing I have to do before I die, I guess. This is my legacy. This book and my workshops about green living is me making sure that I give of my best.
4. What drives you to do the work you do?
My passionate belief that being green is actually so much easier than we think, coupled with a burning desire to see the circular economy flourish and the linear economy die a death to the extent that our grandchildren will laugh at the idea that we once thought it was okay to plunder the earth’s resources to make something that didn’t last very long, and to throw it away on a trash heap and just forget about it.
I mean, really, it is laughable isn’t it that we think that?
It has to change and I want people to demand that it changes soon and in the right way, for the social and environmental good.
5. How do you see your book’s message about green living getting out there?
Through an army of students who have fun taking my message on board and turning it into their own message and then shouting it from the rooftops, in a way that I could never do. I want them to have fun finding out that green is the coolest, best thing ever and the only way to be.
I piloted my first workshop in May 2013 with 180 Year 8 students in their PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) course, and my second course will be working with 60 Year 9 geography students. We’ll learn from those courses and make the workshops stronger and stronger as we learn more about what encourages behaviour change.
I plan to engage the army of green bloggers to help spread the word, and I hope that local bookshops will be a key resource, supporting students by selling their books and I hope that students will go out and talk about their experience and will share their book at home with family and friends.
Workshops, workshops and more workshops, I hope. I want to get to speak to as many groups of students as possible, and ultimately to bring together a team of people, passionate about reducing waste, to help me spread that passion and that knowledge.
The workshops are going really well. It is great to see an idea come to fruition. The students are so much more receptive than I expected to the idea that we can reduce waste.
After the second session, I gave them a ‘post box’ for them to post their ideas for tips. When I opened the box it was like delving into a goldmine. There were over seventy-five contributions, some of which included several tips – and there was some great cartoon artwork.
The students really impressed me, how they engaged with the project and I can’t wait to see all their ideas in a book of their own!
‘Reading Anna Pitt’s book has really surprised me of how much I could do to recycle and reduce waste – flicking through the pages I’ve either thought or said to myself, I either do that or I could try that. Recently I have copied some ideas in the book. It has turned a full bin to half a bin!’
‘After reading the book I think that it has many good and unique ideas. Some of the ideas are already used throughout our class but others are really original and we all aim to try them out. One idea I was particularly inspired by was tip number 31: “If you use an electric cooker you can turn the heat off just before it has finished.” I have decided to use it at home and it is very good.
I also thought the workshop with Anna Pitt was very useful and helped me generate ideas of my own. She obviously feels passionate about this subject and her enthusiasm has really inspired us to save energy, water and fuel and to help us live cleaner and greener for free.’
When I read the reviews they had written for me it really did bring a tear to my eye. It is really hard work setting up a project like this on your own, with no big business backing, no funding (other than my own!) and only your own passion that is telling that what you are doing is a good thing. But now my workshops have started I can really see that this is a project worth persevering with.
It will make a difference. That is quite an overwhelming feeling.
I’m also busily researching and writing my next book, which I hope will be available by November.
7. How can my readers support you and your cause? How can they make a difference in practical ways in their daily life?
Please do take a look at some of the tips in my book and talk to me about it! Tell me if there are lots of things you are already doing. Tell me if there’s something in there which you’d never thought of that you might now try. Or even what you think isn’t for you and why! Share your own eco-tips on my website.
I hope people will find that by following one simple tip that makes a small difference to the environment will lead to a slight shift in thinking towards reducing waste. And I strongly believe it has a mushroom effect. Do just one small thing, or one more small thing, and the desire to do more will follow. It’s infectious – you get the bug!
But there are many, many other ways you can help too.
Everyone has friends and family who may know of a school in need of a “Dustbin Diet” workshop. Tell people about the book and the workshop. Pass on the links. Watch the videos the students create and click ‘Like’ if you think they are good.
Support the circular economy, yourselves. Think before you buy. Are you perpetuating the problem or are you voting with your feet in the right direction, giving your custom to companies who are better and kinder by design?
If you know of companies who are great examples of circular economy good practice, please let me know – the easiest way is by tweeting me a link to @AnnaPitt. The more we can shout about good practice, the better.
You can sign up to my newsletter for news about my workshops, details of my next book and I’m also searching for companies I can help and promote, so I’ll share what I find in my newsletter too.
If you think you’d like to reduce your waste then get in touch with me and we can tell others about your experience on my blog.
Whatever small steps you take towards living cleaner and greener for free, I promise you, you’ll feel good about it.
You will be making a difference – and that’s awesome!
Thanks Anna for sharing with us your journey and your amazing book.
More about Anna – Anna Pitt is a writer a speaker on green living and the circular economy. She is passionate about waste reduction and is currently researching the ins and out of recycling in the UK for a book series. She writes an eco-themed blog at Rosie’s EcoBlog and runs the Dustbin Diet Workshops for secondary schools.
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