I recently had the privilege of catching up with Sara Renshaw, owner of Green Life Consulting out of Pacific Palisades, California. Green Life Consulting helps their clients to first understand what it means to live the green life and then how to transition your family and/or business to a healthy, smart, sustainable future.
As with all of our Community Partners, Sara’s business rings true to the values on which this partnership community is based: our actions as individuals and our business plans as corporations should grow our collective capacity to live smart, healthy and sustainable lives.
It was a pleasure spending time with Sara to hear her story of creating Green Life Consulting, and discuss some steps we can all take to live healthier, toxic-free lives.
WVE: Sara, tell us about how Green Life Consulting came to be?
Since my two kids came in to my life, I’ve started looking at the world differently.
This prompted a group of my friends – 5 of us – to start an organization called “Drop in the Bucket.” We focused on building water wells in Africa, but I was not expecting how much it would open my eyes to the issues that we deal with in the rest of the world – specifically water issues.
I started researching more, and specifically waste impact on water quality. As luck would have it, UCLA has a great global sustainability program that allowed me to take classes on food, air, water, toxins, energy… a comprehensive environmental study. I got my Masters in 2011.
What I noticed in school is that most graduates were looking at business sustainability – which is an easy sell because most businesses understand the financial benefits of being more sustainable.
But something jumped out at me – there is often a big disconnect between what behaviors at work (where your boss is watching you) and behavior at home.
So I started thinking: “How can I create real change and engage people on thinking about what our real actions are doing?” I developed my business concept around just this about 8 months ago, and Green Life Consulting was born.
WVE: What are some of your core beliefs and values that shape how you work?
One of my core beliefs is that, in order to change, we need to create the awareness starting at home. Everything we do is connected to our home base: consumption, habits, water use, food, etc. We take these behaviors out in to the rest of our lives.
Being that I am a mom of two, I understand that we can try to be healthy for ourselves and our families, but it’s so easy to be green washed. We are all so busy, and none of us have the time to do this research. Luckily, I’m there to do it for my clients.
I’m a believer in getting inside the home with my clients. There is so much more opportunity to create awareness in that space. I can point out specific things, and also educate and inspire them more easily with specific examples. Being in the home literally allows what we’re talking about to “strike closer to home!”
WVE: Who do you typically work with, and how do you move them toward action?
So far, my clients have all been mothers with families. What I’ve found is that you have to get to know the client and their motivation to change first (Save money? Save the health of their family? Save the environment?). Then, I have a checklist that we go through to see what they know and what inspires them. Together, we create a “go green action plan” that’s full of baby steps, without being too intrusive. I’m all about making the approach to change personal, with gentle conversations that provide options and information, but don’t make people feel bad about the choices they’ve made to date.
I’ve also found that “leading by example” is very powerful. If I can relate to my client with a personal story – for instance, “I used to use Tide laundry detergent until I read this online article from this great organization called WVE, and this is what it said…” – it helps to break down any “I’m better than you” perceptions or ego struggles between us. We’re all in the same boat – so I try to talk about that a lot!
WVE: Why do you support Women’s Voices for the Earth?
I’ve learned through all of my work that the products that we’re using – with the fragrances and the smells that we’re used to that make us feel like things are “clean” – are such a huge part of the problem. You guys really help with the education side of things for me. The Facebook posting and articles, for instance, I share on my site and with my clients. And, best, it’s about stuff that we use all the time – for instance, Tide. It feels good that I can share this information with my friends and clients that we wouldn’t otherwise have.
WVE: Why did you join the Community Partnerships Program?
I think that we’re creating a community – a community within a community even! Right now, we need to connect the masses in order to make some progress. We need to get information out there so that it’s in everyone’s face – so we can’t hide from it, we can’t run from it. Creating communities of the “new world” of how we need to move away from how we’re used to doing it is going to save us. Partnering with the right partners creates a bigger impact, and a bigger force.
WVE: Do you have any advice for the folks reading this who might want to make a change in their lives?
For those people who don’t know anything about this issue, and begin learning about it, my advice is “don’t panic or be overwhelmed… you’ve already taken your first necessary step.” Instead of not acting, focus on the options that you have to create change. Your contribution does count, no matter how small it is. Don’t under estimate the value of your little steps, because they all add up.
Also, take a look around at the little people in your life: kids, nephews, neighbors. Kids are a really powerful symbol to motivate adults, because it’s our responsibility to make sure that they have a healthy future.