We talked with sustainable living expert Monica Richards about the gap between nature and society, and how to intergrate sustainability into everyday life.

Can you tell us about how you started Ecobabe and what inspired you to pursue this path?

I was raised on a small, eco-friendly farm in South West Michigan. So, I've been a little ecobabe since day one :) After careers in modeling and sustainable interior design, and within the third year of hosting an online fashion and beauty news show... I felt the pull. The pull to make a deeper impact and work towards a different sort of legacy. A legacy built completely on my connection with Mother Earth. So long story short, Nature inspired me!



As a former farm girl, how has your upbringing influenced your perspective on sustainability and environmental stewardship?

Growing up, I experienced how every part of Nature is connected. I experienced how every ecosystem, big and small, has a role to play. And they play it... perfectly. In nature, every move an animal makes is intentional. Every living being eventually goes back into the ground and provides nourishment for the next living being. Every part of Earth is eternally circular. For these reasons, my perspective on sustainability is that of oneness. In other words, I believe we should be living with Nature, not without Her or apart. I believe the stronger we bridge the gap between society and Nature, the closer we'll step back from tipping points - including the 1.5º C gauge where science says once passed, return is not possible. Bridging these societal gaps will also create respect and honor for our Planet. For instance, I've seen tremendous dishonor for our animal kingdom as of late. If we could teach more of our youth to have compassion and respect for animals, this would eliminate much of this dishonor, or animal cruelty. How do we do that? - Exposure! Exposure to the natural world while growing up is what laid that green foundation of immense respect within me. Therefore, I also believe that education and awareness are key to building these transformational bridges into the future we wish to see!



You mention "making sustainable living second nature" on your website and Instagram profile. Can you share some practical tips or strategies for integrating sustainability into everyday life?

First and foremost, become a minimalist! Ask yourself before consuming, "Do I really need this?" A simple strategy, yet one that is hugely effective in streamlining purchases while saving both Earth's and your resources. The less we consume what we don't need, the more Earth's plants, minerals, oils, metals, sands, stones and waters stay in the ground. Remember, the most sustainable of the 3 R's is... Reduce! Period. 

Secondly, sort a plan for your food scraps! Contrary to popular belief, food comprises the highest percentage of material at landfill, where it does not fully biodegrade! While sitting at landfill, food basically mummifies itself and releases methane gas - this gas is many times more powerful than carbon dioxide (the most talked about of the greenhouse gases). And nowadays, there is a food waste solution for every type of home! If you don't have the space for an outdoor compost system, try an indoor worm bin. If you don't love worms, try an electric countertop composter. If you don't need the dirt for plants, save your scraps for homemade veggie broth. And if you don't want to keep scraps, collect them in your fridge (eliminating scents and bugs) to drop off at a collection site. 

Third, think soil! Our soil levels throughout the world are very depleted. This affects not only the surrounding biodiversity, but also the health of humans. When our soil is depleted, the nutrition in our food is depleted, too. Nutrition depletion results in more supplements, more medicine, and more trips to the doctor for humans. To help regenerate our soils, purchase organic foods and cotton when possible, as pesticides strip soil nutrition. Use natural alternatives to landscaping and gardening deterrents, as those formulas travel far and wide, contaminating our soils with rain and runoff. Sign petitions to federally fund regenerative farmers. Pick up litter, especially from the beach, to eliminate those discarded plastics from breaking down into microplastics, which will forever pollute these soils. And if you're utilizing soil from compost, you're already part of the solution, as compost is some of the most nutrient rich soil there is! This 'black gold' boosts soil health overall! 



Could you discuss some of the most pressing sustainability challenges we face today, and what steps individuals and communities can take to address them?

One sustainability challenge we face today has arrived in the form of a language barrier. In my experience, climate (and climate change) has been highly politicized. This polarization contracts people from caring; when in all actuality, most beings that I speak with DO care about our future and state of our planet, no matter their political beliefs. On the other side of the coin, I've experienced a majority of climate being communicated with doom and gloom, as well as fear and guilt based language. What does a being do when in fear, guilt and/or overwhelm? They freeze and don't take part at all! Or, they retract in depression, which is a response I've sadly seen in a lot of youth today. 

Thus, language is critically important when communicating climate. We need everyone on board. We need everyone participating in reducing emissions and waste... imperfectly, without shame or guilt! As an example, I stay away from using the phrase 'climate crisis', as 'crisis' is a trigger word and can cause immediate contraction. 

I also meet people where they are. Meaning, I speak to their personal interests because truthfully, climate change affects every single part of life here on Earth. So finding the bridge between a person's passion and how climate change affects that passion not only comes easy, but can also help that person form a new perspective in a language they understand! 

Many people also feel disempowered in this transition towards a climate just future. "What difference will I make?" is a question I often hear. When in reality, the individual holds so. much. power!!! When you RISE UP and use your voice, you move mountains! And you can do so from home, too. For instance, in the States, Congressional offices tally up citizen messages at each week's end. So, when you call or email your respective Congress members requesting support for a policy or bill, Congress uses these requests as a guideline to what is happening outside Congressional doors. Your voice literally MATTERS. I've seen dozens of bills I've called on... get passed! 

The disconnect between society and nature is also a major challenge. Do you know where your food comes from? Have you felt the Earth's energy on your bare feet lately? Have you taken a dip in a natural body of water (without chemicals)? The more we can experience the outdoors, the more communities will see and feel our Earth and the effects of climate change! Connecting with Nature, if even for 5 minutes a day, also produces happiness hormones within your body. These hormones support mental wellness, a healthy, balanced body and self-sustaining care for our Planet. This happiness hormone bump will organically motivate you to support our Earth more, as your body will want to continue to produce more happiness hormones in response to your actions and time spent outdoors! So simply put, get outside! For when we connect, we care. When we care, we help. 



In addition to your consulting work, you also conduct climate workshops. What are some key topics or themes that you cover in these workshops, and what do you hope participants take away from them?

My climate workshops include gaining an understanding of how waste streams actually work, and the high value of evolving from a linear economy to circular one. I hope participants will walk away with an overall mindset shift in diverting waste from landfill and creating less waste in general. 

I also teach participants how to adopt a low waste lifestyle, why individual actions truly matter and the most impactful action steps to take right now. Combined with removing the societal pressure of starting this lifestyle and sustaining it perfectly (perfection is impossible!), I hope participants will yield agency and personal power, both in climate change and within their daily lives. 



On a more personal note, what are some of the most rewarding moments you´ve experienced in your journey as a sustainable living advocate?

What sustains my journey are the rewarding moments from my community. Every time I graciously hear that I've influenced a being to make the switch to an eco swap, or think twice about a daily habit, or even produce more hope and agency in life... It's those moments that make my heart sing! I've also really enjoyed bringing sustainable living to the forefront of media. One of my biggest goals is to support cultural shifts and media is King in the cultural shift court. 

I've also experienced the most beautiful, meaningful moments in nature. For me, it's those moments that bring the most inspiration and clarity. It's those moments that are worth the squeeze!


Finally, do you have any upcoming projects or initiatives related to sustainable living that you would like to share with our readers?

I will soon be relaunching the ecobabe 101 series, your key to sustainable living that works! If you're interested in weekly, short videos dedicated to taking the grey areas out of sustainable living, so this way of daily life becomes more accessible, sustainable and fun, please follow on Instagram and YouTube @theecobabe. Additionally, if your community, team or group is interested in a Sustainable Living Workshop, where you'll receive a complete guide to starting and sustaining a low-waste lifestyle in just 60 minutes, I would be so honored to support you in this way! 

I will also soon be leading Sustainable Living Retreats! Co-hosted with my dear friend and High Alchemist, Stephanie Besmehn, each retreat will be focused on reconnection with oneself, through the learning of alchemic tools to heal and trust, while creating new realities in sovereignty from inner space. Guests will also learn how to detox one's home while tapping into the wonders of Nature. Stay tuned @theecobabe for details and for a taste of alchemy, please lend an ear to our podcast, called Passepartout! 


Thank you so much for choosing to spend time with me here! I am forever grateful to be an ally in your sustainable living journey, so please don't hesitate to reach out! Hope to see you in a workshop or at retreat. Happy Earth Month X