What makes someone sit inside, stare at a screen and write and illustrate a blog for year after year? Especially when the stories are all about getting outside and improving our relationships with nature, our food and the local community?
To explore the tensions between writing about the simple life and actually living a good life, I chatted with Tricia Hogbin, author of the popular and long-lived blog on sustainable living, Little Eco Footprints.
I began by asking Tricia how the practice of blogging – Tricia started Little Eco Footprints more than seven years ago – has influenced her life.
Tricia: I was looking at it the other day and I realized, “All my good friends, I actually met via the blog.” It helped me meet like-minded people, online but also in real life. My blog definitely enriched our lives, in terms of my family and who our friends are.
My daughter was only one when I started Little Eco Footprints. She was the inspiration. Parenthood was a bit of a wake-up call for me, like it is for a lot of new parents. All of a sudden you realize that the planet we’re leaving our children is quite depressing and scary.
I was working in threatened species conservation and I felt like I was wasting my time because I wasn’t addressing the real threat – which is habitat loss and the impact humans have on the planet – so I started the blog to inspire other people to live more simply.
In a nutshell Little Eco Footprints is about living a sustainable and meaningful life. I write about finding meaning in “doing” rather than in “stuff” and I share tips for simplifying your life and skills for doing things yourself.
I’d always thought of myself as being fairly green – we had solar hot water, rain water tanks, I recycled, I did all those things – but I was still driving around and consuming way too much, and I guess I saw myself as part of the problem.
Going to work and trying to recover threatened species – it was not pointless, but I felt like there were more effective ways of inspiring change.
Since then, Tricia has changed jobs and the family has moved to the rural Hunter Valley where they are building a new home. Tricia now writes a weekly column on sustainable living for the Newcastle Herald which she re-posts on Little Eco Footprints.
Over the years, Little Eco Footprints seems to have changed from a “chronicle of daily adventures” to more of a “how to” source of practical information. Is that how you see it?
Exactly. Newspaper comment writers can be quite nasty so my writing has definitely become less personal. In the beginning I had a very informal “bloggy” style whereas now I focus more on giving readers information that they can go away and use. I focus on being positive and I try to sneakily inspire people to change.
Do you have a mental image of a “typical” reader?
I have a really diverse readership. I always had in my mind a working family trying to simplify their life – maybe connect with their food and their life a little bit more. A mum who doesn’t have as much time as she’d like to do everything. She’s looking for ways to make her life more meaningful and to simplify it. Someone like me.
One of the reasons I’m still blogging seven and a half years later is that I’ve made it quite sustainable in terms of not overwhelming myself and I’ve ignored a lot of the blogging rules.
What do you mean by “the blogging rules”?
Things like, I should really be on all the social media platforms. I should be writing dot point posts and I should have headings that inspire people to click on them more. I should be going to blogging conferences. There’s dozens of rules I can rattle off.
The main thing is I could be far more active on social media and I could have more readers, but for me that just wouldn’t feel right. Living a good life is my first priority. I want to continue writing but be away from the screen as much as possible.
What advice would you give to someone starting a new blog?
I see some new bloggers come on line and they’re very enthusiastic and then I can see they’re burning out – they’re focusing too much on the blog, focusing on all of “the rules”. It becomes not as authentic.
It’s easy to write “ten tips to simplify your life” but there’s only so many times you can write a post like that. I like reading posts from people who are living extraordinary lives and doing interesting things. I like reading about their life.
After seven years, what motivates you to keep writing Little Eco Footprints?
I still enjoy it. I’m writing about something I’m interested in and I’m writing about something I’m doing every day. It keeps me motivated and it inspires me. I guess it’s what my life is all about.
Yesterday was a writing day. In the morning I was really excited because I knew I had five hours in front of me and all I had to do was write. That’s quite rare and I really enjoy it.
Also I genuinely think that we can’t continue to destroy the planet. We definitely need to change the way we live. And I really genuinely want to inspire other people to be more mindful of their impact on the planet.
It’s wonderful that there are so many lifestyle bloggers online sharing. Our online community is where we can talk about sustainable living and learn from each other. There’s a lot to learn.
Thank you Tricia for setting aside time for this interview. The black and white photos of Tricia and family are by What Xanthe Saw: you can see more at her website. All other photos by Tricia Hogbin, used with permission.
Do nature and sustainability bloggers inspire you to make a difference? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts with other readers.