Jennifer Grayson, Environmental Journalist (And What Else, Trained Opera Singer)

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Being an environmental journalist is an incredibly rewarding profession, but the truth is that it’s not without its downsides – the biggest being that you are no longer able to enter a room without people frantically apologizing for their non-organic fruit, or trying to hide their adorable baby running around in disposables.

Writer Jennifer Grayson, originally an operatically trained singer, (all of the truly great environmental journalists are, right?) has fully embraced her role as eco-expert, and you can find her rolling up her sleeves each week to take on the this issue, as well as many others, in her column in the Huffington Post, Innovation Earth.  You might know Grayson from her former HuffPost column, Eco Etiquette. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Grayson, and loved the unique viewpoint she brings to environmental journalism.

Grayson began her foray into green writing while working on the Obama campaign in 2008, finding herself surprised at common views toward environmentalism. “Talking to voters, I found it incredibly frustrating hearing how polarized and partisanized people had become about environmental issues – even ones that were so clearly in everyone’s best interests” she says.

She took this frustration and channeled it into a blog neatly merging politics and the environment, called The Red, White and Green. It wasn’t long before her signature style and tongue-in-cheek writing made her a regular on the green scene, penning popular articles like “Is Your Ass Worth One Million Trees a Year?” and “Environmentalism Etiquette: 4 Tips for How Not to be a Buzzkill at Your Next Cocktail Party

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Jennifer Grayson (Image credit – Laura Grier)

Grayson’s accessible writing style and open, friendly tone makes her the perfect antidote to the judgy, holier-than-thou persona often associated with environmentalists – a role she relishes.

“It’s funny, because I get to hear a lot of the stereotypes that people associate with being an environmentalist.” she says, “Friends will apologize to me, for instance, when I’m at their house for dinner and there isn’t anything vegan being served. But I’m not vegan. I’m not even a vegetarian. I believe way more in cooking and eating real, unprocessed food – and that includes small amounts of meat. I think that’s a much more realistic way to minimize your impact.”

This reasonable, logical attitude has also allowed Grayson to gracefully negotiate the transition into parenthood, a time when many notice a looming chasm between their lofty ideals and the nitty-gritty day-to-day realities of child-rearing.

“I of course have to compromise. When my first daughter was born, I was determined to have everything be organic and made from reclaimed wood and I remember her uncle walking into her play area and ribbing me that we were really going for the spartan look.” she laughs, “Then she got older and we had another daughter and I realized that most of the really fun toys are not made from bamboo. So they have Barbies and scooters and water guns but I get almost everything secondhand, from a kids resale shop here in LA or Craigslist or even Freecycle.

“When we have things we no longer need, we put them back into the sharing economy. At first my husband balked at our kids not having shiny new things, but then he realized how much money we’re saving!”

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Jennifer Grayson (Image credit – Laura Grier)

This commonsense approach makes it easy for readers to relate to Grayson, but her acute awareness of pressing environmental issues means an increasingly essential need to balance cheeky posts and attention-grabbing headlines with heavier articles able to educate, inform, and press for real change on a larger scale.

“The world has changed a lot over the past few years, and while individual action is still important, I think we’re all realizing that switching to recycled paper towels alone isn’t going to cut it.” she says “We’re all seeing the apocalyptic pollution in China, we’re all seeing the skyrocketing rates of obesity here in the US and now connecting the dots to our hyper-industrial agricultural system, and we all watched hundreds of thousands of people march last year for climate action. We’re facing a future of an exploding world population and a dwindling amount of resources. We need monumental change, and I can’t help but feel that urgency.”

In the meantime, between the call for large-scale change and the political maneuvering necessary to make it a reality, Grayson offers simple tips for transitioning to a greener life.

“Learn how to cook. Buy secondhand, or borrow what you need from a friend (especially for baby stuff!), or re-purpose what you already have lying around the house. Give people ‘experience’ gifts instead of giving stuff. Walk and bike whenever you can. These are things that anyone can do.”

You can find more of Jennifer Grayson and her writing at www.JenniferGrayson.com

Feature image courtesy of www.Jennifer Grayson.com

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Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.