Insights on Sustainability from a Renowned British Author and Environmentalist Julia Hailes

Today, we have a very important guest in our blog corner - Julia Hailes. She is a famous British Author and Environmentalist, having written or co-written 9 books, including the famous “Green Consumer Guide '' which sold over 1 million copies. She makes speeches at many different events and campaigns to raise awareness about environmental issues. We had a very nice interview with her about how she started her career, her clean-energy-related actions and projects, how she came across TESUP, and how we can collaborate with her. Let’s begin!

Hi Julia, we’re really happy to have this interview with you. Thanks for joining us. Let’s start with our first question: We’re curious about how you started your environmental career. What made you move in this direction and how did your journey start?

There was a pivotal moment that made me think that I really needed to do something. In the early 1980s, I went to South America and found myself in the West of Brazil, in the Mato Grosso. It’s a wonderful part of the world with forests and wetlands - and teaming with wildlife.

But as I stood looking at the rainforests stretching into the distance, I heard the sound of chainsaws and realised that the Spanish family I was staying with was cutting the forest down. This was the catalyst for me in becoming an environmentalist - and in particular, prompted my mission to save the rainforests.

That was in the early 80s - we’re now in 2023 and we’re still doing it. Even on a recent trip, I had to Indonesia, I could see people burning the vegetation and it breaks my heart. The destruction is huge and it has immense impacts on climate change and biodiversity.

It’s horrendous indeed, and it’s so important to have as many passionate environmentalists as possible like you to turn the tide. In today's world, there are many famous terms such as sustainable living and being environmentally friendly. In your own words, can you please explain what sustainable living means and how people should act to have a sustainable lifestyle?

Today, sustainability has become a really common word, but when I first started as an environmentalist in 1986 it wasn’t widely understood. In simple terms, it’s about being able to live without consuming more resources than the planet can produce and continue to produce forever. Unfortunately, we haven’t been doing that for a long time.

We need to put stuff back. Today, it’s not so much about sustainability but the focus is on regeneration - how we can not only stop destroying what we have but most importantly put back what we’ve lost.

When people are asked about what environmental actions they’re taking, they often mention recycling. But, if we’re going to tackle the issues relating to our wasteful society we have to reduce the amount of waste we produce, use recycled products, replace products with services and a whole lot more. This is often described as the ‘circular economy’ copying nature where there is no waste.

I fully agree with you, we shouldn’t only focus on sustainability, but we should also focus on regeneration. Can you tell us about the actions you’re taking at home?

I’d like to mention a few things that you might not be familiar with rather than some obvious things that many other people do.

But before that, one important thing to understand is the importance of what we do in sending a message to the government and businesses about our priorities - and what we want to change. This was a very key part of our original Green Consumer Guide Book - rallying the general public and getting them to push companies to change what they were doing. In that respect, it was incredibly successful.

In 1987, when I first called the supermarkets to ask about their green policies, they didn’t know what I was talking about. Only a year later, after the publication of The Green Consumer Guide, I called them again to ask what they were doing - and they had all employed someone to take a lead on sustainability issues. Wow. That was a clear sign that they knew that ‘green consumers’ were their customers and they were listening to them.

OK, so here are some of the things that I do. For a start, I’ve become a very campaigning tourist. I don't have a completely relaxing time on holiday because I challenge the hotels on what happens to their sewage and what they're doing in terms of conservation or where they're putting their rubbish.

I use LED light bulbs, I recycle anything that I can recycle, and try to use recycled products as much as I can. I give a lot of things away on Facebook Marketplace or to local charity shops, everytime I chuck something out I always think about any possible way for someone else to use it. We have an electric car and use electric bikes. And, we give our pet food that is made with insects, which has a much lower carbon footprint than meat-based foods.


So there are a few things we’re doing as a family, but the last one I’d like to talk about is the investment and charitable giving. My youngest son has taken over managing my pension with a focus on what’s called ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investing. On the charitable front, I’ve signed up for the Global Returns Project, which is an excellent initiative encouraging people to donate a very small percentage of their total investments to ‘best-in-class’ climate organisations. One that I particularly enjoy supporting is Client Earth, which supports lawyers enforcing environmental laws and helping governments develop effective environmental policies.


I’ve also signed up for an organisation called ‘Give as You Live’. It means that for most purchases I do online I can donate to a charity of my choice. It’s one of those things that once you’ve set it up requires no further action but adds to what you can contribute. I think I should write a blog about all the different ways you can invest or donate to support the planet.