Sustainable living with Erin Brockovich

7 March 2024

Erin Brockovich, a keynote speaker at Momentum, CommBank’s Sustainability Conference

In this interview with Erin Brockovich, an environmental activist and consumer advocate, Erin shares her perspective and insights into how we can all play a role in making small changes in our everyday lives that will all help to make a difference to our planet.

You’ve been an advocate for the environment for many years. What do you wish more of us understood about climate change?

When we discuss the climate, we often think of air quality but water is going to be a big part of the challenges we face. Things like icebergs melting, ocean levels rising and water encroaching on land.

Sometimes the idea of helping save the planet while you’re trying to make ends meet feels like too much. 

Living in a more sustainable way doesn’t have to mean spending more. In fact, it can save you money. Simple things I do include swapping paper towels for reusable ones in the kitchen, unplugging energy-zapping appliances when I go on holiday and swapping cleaning chemicals with simple formulas I’ve made with natural ingredients – they clean better anyway.

Do you think we need to live a more self-sufficient, sustainable lifestyle?

Growing some of your own food is a good start. I don’t have a green thumb but I have friends who grow things in their backyard for salads, like cucumbers and carrots.

How do you stop from feeling too stressed by what will happen if we don’t all change the way we live? 

Ten years ago I thought, “I can’t do this anymore.” The magnitude was so overwhelming. And around that time my first grandchild was born and it was a real moment for me. I realised that I needed to push past the frustration for her future.

What have you learnt about how to make a real difference?

We often think one person can’t create change but if everybody does the small things in their homes then I believe all the little things will add up.

Do you think people are ready to take matters into their own hands?

Yes! When I did that work in Hinckley in the ’90s [exposing Pacific Gas and Electric for contaminating the town’s drinking water], I could see frustration in communities who knew something was wrong and they were being told by the authorities it was all in their minds. Now we all know much more than we did then. I think we’ve been building towards a major shift for a while.

How do you take care of yourself so you have energy to advocate?

It took me a long time to figure out how to not run myself into exhaustion. Now, when I get that feeling, I go for a walk or bike ride. I get into nature to feel connected to the environment around me. It clears my mind and reminds me that what really drives me is my love for the environment. I feel hopeful for what we can do when we realise we have the ability, courage and mind to make choices that move us forward. 

Erin is a keynote speaker at Momentum, CommBank’s Sustainability Conference, where business leaders work to speed up Australia’s transition to net zero.

Things you should know

An earlier version of this article was published in Brighter magazine

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