It ain't easy being green: confessions of a wannabe eco-mum

Photo of a woman's feet in green shoes with a string bag of vegetables for Lunch Lady Magazine

Mandy Nolan wants to be an eco-mum, but there's a whole lot of challenges getting in her way.


In design there is this expression called the ‘A/B split’: it notes the gap between action and belief. As a woman with a whole lot of belief and not much time, there’s often a gaping chasm where my action should be. Right now I’m fully charged with the whole idea of being an eco-mum. That’s no plastics or single-use wrappers in the lunchbox. I’m just not getting up the hour earlier I need to hand-roll sushi. It’s so hard. Mums in the past had it easy: everything wrapped in plastic and prepped in two mins max! 

Changing your behaviour isn’t easy.

I’ve been taking my own bags to the supermarket for over two years now. I’ve calculated I’ve saved about 2,000 plastic bags. I do, however, buy things from the supermarket that are wrapped in plastic. It makes me feel dirty. I’d go to the farmers’ markets but I just don’t have the time. You have to talk to people. They don’t have trolleys. I’ve tried the health food store but you just can’t feed a family of seven on one activated almond. It’s not financially viable. I have eco-guilt. Every week I resolve to use less plastic. Every week I put my waste plastic in my neighbour’s bin and claim, “Look how empty my bin is! I really am using less!”

I have a natural pool and don’t I love telling people about that. “No chemicals,” I say. Like it’s some sort of creed I live by. I don’t tell them the main reason I went ahead with this cutting-edge eco-design was because I bleach my hair and chlorine makes it go green. Yep. I need a natural pool so it doesn’t wreck the chemicals I use in my hair. A natural pool is wonderful! It’s my favourite place to post Insta pics! 

I know about fast fashion.

I watched a documentary about what happened in Bangladesh and I was appalled. Factory floors collapsing, raging fires. This is how the world’s poor work to make our cheap clothes. When you say, “That dress is to die for,” it’s exactly right. I am aware that the textile industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

Then why can’t I stop? I’m like a bloody heroin addict. I told myself: “You’re not buying anything new for a year.” I lasted one week. Then I justified spending $400 on a slow-fashion dress. Made locally. It was hand-dyed. The girl in the shop told me that it took a year, and part of the process involved it being buried in a hole. I wore it once. It has this crumpled look that I find disconcerting. I wore it to lunch and a friend said, “Do you not own an iron? Looks like that dress was buried in a hole.” I was like: “It was. It’s eco.” I haven’t worn it since. And when the yoga pants with the pockets popped up on my Facebook feed, I may have bought them.  

I have a bike.

I don’t ride it because I don’t like wearing a helmet. It’s hard enough being fifty-one; being fifty-one in a helmet is just wrong. And I have a cat.

Real eco-warriors don’t have cats. But I love cats. I know they kill lizards and small creatures but they’re so soft and fluffy, and II find them relaxing. I have a friend who is a total greenie. She hates cats. When she comes over I pretend to hate my cat. I shoo it off the bed. I kick it out the door. The cat’s like, “Oh, lady, you’ve got some serious issues.” Then it brings in a lizard and drops it at my feet while my friend and I are making our beeswax wraps. I say, “Oh, that lizard’s not a native.” My friend shakes her head. I’ve got five kids. I’ve already made my mark as an environmental destroyer. Now I’m killing lizards. 

My biggest eco-fail is the recycling bin.

I’m a smart woman—why is it so hard to work out what goes in there? Is it a council-issued IQ test? If it is, I fail it every week. I have to admit, at Christmas, I committed the ultimate eco-sin. When the rubbish bin was full, I may or may not have knowingly put a non-recyclable item in the bin with the yellow lid. 

And, of course, I use my KeepCup. I just tend to keep it in the wrong place. I am thinking of pioneering a fusion between the menstrual cup and the KeepCup—that way it’s always on hand.


Written by Mandy Nolan for Lunch Lady Magazine Issue 18