Amanda & Nicole are the two Melbourne ladies who started Urban Granola – a blog about making practical every day changes towards a sustainable lifestyle, without giving up all the stuff you love.
First of all, I love your attitudes towards living a cleaner, greener life. When did you first start exploring and falling in love with this area of your lives? And why?
Nicole: There was no ‘aha’ moment for me, it was really a slow, natural progression becoming aware of my impact on the world and what I can personally do. I read quite widely on a variety topics and generally follow the left/green side of politics so it was probably inevitable that I would take an interest in sustainability.
Amanda: It’s definitely been a work in progress over the last few years. My diet was the first big change in my life. I focused on reducing meat consumption and really enjoyed spending Saturday mornings at the local farmers markets. From there, I decided I wanted to live a simpler and more meaningful life.
What did your worlds look like then compared to now? How much has changed?
N: For me, there hasn’t been a drastic change to the way I live, it’s all really been slow incremental changes and I really do still have a long way to go on this ‘green’ journey. Which was really the motivation behind Urban Granola – it’s about creating a community of people, who like Amanda and myself, want to make positive changes to the way they live and to break down living sustainability into bite size edible chunks without having a complete lifestyle overhaul. Like any goals in life the best way is to break it up into small manageable pieces and create good life long habits. I believe it’s the best way to get people to realise that green living is for everyone and to move past those stereotypes about environmentalist hippies who live in commune (not that there is anything wrong with that!).
A: In the past, I really didn’t give any thought to what sort of impact my lifestyle had on the environment. I had a lot of habits that I didn’t really even know were bad. I used to shop whenever and however I liked and didn’t really think about how anything was made, where it came from, the people behind it, or what happened when I threw it out. While I’ve got a long way to go to living a more sustainable lifestyle, I make a real effort to understand the impact my choices have on the environment and people with the information available to me. I’m not perfect and I don’t live a perfectly green lifestyle, but I try my best and that’s all we can do.
As apparent on your blog, Urban Granola, there are so many aspects of our lives that are affected by trying to lead a sustainable lifestyle, what changes did you find most challenging? Are there any that you still struggle with?
N: I struggle with everything – I really fail at adulting but I put on a brave face (and drink lots of wine) so no one notices. My true challenge and ‘getting things done’ demon is time and energy. But there are so many small, easy things you can do that make a huge impact which I kind of forget that I do now – like use a keep cup for take-away coffee, take your own drink bottle and use your own bags at the shops. I need to remind myself that these small things add up when I’m feel a bit of green guilt!
A: Like Nicole, I struggle with everything! You really need to be organised, which I’m not. I’ve conquered some of my bad habits, including ditching the takeaway coffee cup and taking my reusable bags to the markets for the groceries. I’ve started composting food scraps and have made a big effort to up my recycling and know exactly what can and can’t go into the recycling bin. But, I always forget to ask for no straw in my drinks on the weekend and I really need to ensure less single use plastics enter my home. It’s all a work in progress and I’m learning new ways to reduce my environmental impact every day.
What does a day in the lives of Nicole and Amanda look like? Are you early risers who like to get stuff done before the rest of the world wakes up, or is it more slow and steady?
N: It’s my greatest dream in life to be a morning person but I enjoy and relish sleeping in too much, it’s my biggest guilty pleasure. I generally get up at around 7 – 7:30am and I’m out the door half an hour later, I don’t like hanging around the house in the morning and will eat breakfast at my desk. After the ol’ 9-5er, it’s usually home to hang out with my boyfriend and pug, cook dinner then working on uni or the blog until bed time. I’m trying to add some self-improvement aspects to my day to clear my head such as writing a journal in the morning, going for a walk with the dog and getting off my phone to read a book. It doesn’t always happen though!
A: I’m not a morning person and I’ve tried for many years to establish a good morning routine but it’s just never happened so I’ve decided to accept I’m a night owl and give up on trying to become anything else. On a typical day I’m at the office by 8am for my day job and home in the evenings by 6pm. I jog most days during the week to clear my head and relax from the day. Then I’m out for a walk with the dogs in the evening and when all that’s done, I sit down at the laptop in the evenings to work on the blog and plan the week with Nicole.
Are they strict routines, or are you more of ‘go with what you feel like at the time’ type of people?
N: I really think I need to implement a better a routine as I think it’s preventing me from achieving all my goals. It goes against my nature to be routine and organised though, I’m very go with the flow. I feel like it’s my new years resolution every year. Maybe 2016 will be the year it finally happens. Who knows!?
A: I like to keep a routine especially during the week. I’m much more go with the flow on the weekends.
What’s something about what you do that few people realise?
N: That I hold the world record for the longest tight rope walk while juggling donuts (that’s a lie).
A: That changing a life time of bad habits is hard and actually committing to living a ‘greener’ lifestyle can get overwhelming and confusing at times. But know this, making small changes count. Don’t be hard on yourself for failures or setbacks. We all have a different picture of what living sustainably means, we’re not all going to go off the grid! Making an effort towards positive change is what’s important, think of the world we could create if we all did that.
It’s certainly a relief to hear that! What about skincare, what are your attitudes towards skincare and how did that come about? Have you always been wary of what you’re putting on your skin and how it affects it? When did you first start to become concerned?
N: This topic really is the literally and figuratively a massive pimple on my life that I wish would just bugger off. So my attitude towards skincare really isn’t that crash hot at the moment. But I do really care about what goes on my skin and had switched to an all natural regime but it wasn’t strong enough to rid me of acne and my pores did get quite congested. Not only that, my forehead ended up breaking out (cute!) which I’ve never experienced before (I blame my mis-guided use of coconut oil, it isn’t a miracle cure for everyone, unfortunately). My dermatologist has got me using a glycolic acid cleanser and Vitamin A cream, which aren’t 100% natural but seem to be improving the situation. The rest of my routine is all natural and I’m a huge fan of oils and use them daily. I have few different ones in my kit but roseship, jojoba and hempseed are always on high rotation.
A: Finding good skincare is tricky! While there is a lot of information available now about product ingredients, it’s still hard to decide what is considered ok and what we should be avoiding. I don’t have a 100% organic skin care routine, but I do like to read about the company behind the products, the ingredients and whether its been tested on animals. I’m trying to reduce the amount of products I use and keep it simple where I can. My only hard and fast rule with skincare is to avoid microbeads, because I feel like that’s a pretty big issue at the moment. I also love using oils and have been using organic rosehip for years and have recently added hemp seed oil to my collection.
As busy young women, and with the added responsibility of starting your own online community, how do you like to relax when (and if!) you find the time?
N: Well, I just had a week off in Japan (which was flippin’ fantastic) but to be honest I’m paying for it a bit with a hectic catch up schedule this week! Even though I do harp on a bit about being SO busy, I always make time to just chill out, even if that means some work gets bumped or something isn’t done 100% because life is too dang short to be working all the time. You gotta take the time to enjoy it.
A: I really enjoy exercising to de-stress and relax, I feel like a good run is mediation for me. Nicole and I usually work together on Saturdays and have the evenings free to unwind. My ideal Saturday evening would be just catching up with friends over a good meal with a glass of wine (or two!) with plenty of laughs.
What are your bedtime beauty/wellness routines? Any rituals that you swear by?
N: I try to get to bed as early as possible, which doesn’t always happen with my current workload. As for rituals, I usually do a little bit of a stretch before hopping in bed and try to kick my phone out of bed at some point. If I’m good it goes on the shelf on the opposite side of the room.
A: I never get to bed early and I don’t really have a bedtime wellness routine. In fact, my routine is an example of what you shouldn’t do, including sitting on my phone or laptop in bed, tisk tisk!