isabel losada



We talk to Battersea-based writer Isabel Losada about her new book The Joyful Environmentalist, which shows us how we can all make a positive difference to the planet…

Most people know the severity of climate change but many are wondering how they can make a meaningful difference. In The Joyful Environmentalist, Isabel Losada puts forward ways we can make a change in every aspect of our lives. They are all small steps but together can bring about a significant impact. What’s more, unlike the many serious tomes on the topic, the book makes a difficult, and often technical subject, accessible and fun to read, never straying from Isabel’s mission to keep it ‘joyful’.

Says Isabel: “The book suggests all the joyful alternatives to the ways we have become used to doing things that will help the planet. It is a whole life overhaul. For example, we can make a difference by exploring alternatives to car ownership such as joining a car club or swopping the car for a cargo bike. A friend of mine bought a cargo bike which she cycles her kids to school in. The kids (and her dog) love riding in it and it’s helped her lose weight and alleviate her depression. Unless you need a car as you live in a remote area or have a medical condition that means you rely on one, you can do without. On the rare occasion I need a car, I rent a Zipcar.”

She encourages us to reconsider how much we buy: “We have reached ‘peak stuff’. If you’d like to buy a present, look at second hand and vintage shops.” The way we bank comes under scrutiny in The Joyful Environmentalist. Isabel writes to her High Street bank, which is criticised by environmentalists for funding fossil fuel companies and is shocked when they confirm that their lending investment portfolio isn’t in the public domain. Isabel consults ’The Ethical Consumer Magazine’ and moves her account to the bank that is considered the most ethical in the UK, Triodos Bank. “Now I know that my bank isn’t funding new drilling in the oil industry, the arms industry, vivisection or anything else that I wouldn’t want to support.”

Isabel also explores how we buy our food. The book contains an interview with Guy Watson, the founder of Riverford. “One thing that people all across the political spectrum agree on is that we need to buy food grown in the UK. I would add that we need to buy organic food as it’s better for the earth, better for biodiversity and better for our health.” Having organic food delivered can be more expensive but not necessarily. Isabel says: “My housemate and I always choose the cheaper vegetables that are in season and as we are both vegan and prepare food at home our food bills are low. The delivery is packaging free and there are no payments to supermarkets – you are paying the farmers directly.”

In the book, she asks whether we should be ‘a little bit activist’. “What I mean is finding forms of activism that work for you. Some may feel that they want to join the forms of action that environmentalists are creating to plead with our government to take better care of the planet. Some may prefer to volunteer locally.” Friends of Wandsworth Common and Thames 21 are two local initiatives that Isabel recommends. “Being ‘a little bit activist’ is about taking action – not doing nothing. I’m a great believer that actions we take do make a difference. They add up. And support some of the humans who are doing work you believe in. It doesn’t matter if it’s Client Earth, The Fossil Fuel non-proliferation treaty or The RSPB.”

When so much about environmentalism seems hard to grasp, Isabel is winning much praise for her approach to making it accessible and showing us what we can all do. As Dr Rowan Williams put it: “Perhaps the most important message any environmentalist can give at the moment is that green options are neither just a last desperate hope for saving the planet, nor misery maximisers that will make life less worth living. This book will keep that positive message before the reader’s eyes. Joy is after all one of the best motivations we can have for change.”