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5 Minutes with Juliet Kinsman

We are constantly inspired by the changemakers and solution providers in the environmental space, and we have SO many questions for them. In our “5 Minutes With…” series, we ask the important questions (plus some fun ones, too) to cool people who want to change the world. This week we’re chatting with Juliet Kinsman, an author, broadcaster and Sustainability Editor for Condé Nast Traveller (UK). You can find her list of the most special sustainable hotels at BOUTECOLOVES.com.

What have you had enough of?

Email overload! I am finding it impossible to stay on top of my inbox, and as Sustainability Editor of the UK edition of Condé Nast Traveller, I’m bombarded. It’s great to be hearing about so many more so-called ‘green’ products, but I need to give it my full attention to check it’s not greenwashing. I hate not replying to everyone who gets in touch, and so I feel genuine anxiety about my ever-spiralling inbox.

As a freelancer, I could honestly work full-time five days a week just fielding emails without getting into tackling any actual work — and no work, no income. I’m not sure what the answer is. If I had a penny for every time I’ve had to write “I’m sorry for not getting back to you earlier…” I’d be able to pay to clone myself as a full-time email-writing machine.

Why do you do what you do?

After two and a half decades as a journalist, the last two decades in travel (having been founding editor of the boutique-hotel brand, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), and my more recent years specifically in sustainability, it’s a great privilege to feel as though I have a voice that helps amplify messages that matter when sharing stories of positive impact and innovation as well as ways to do, buy, and live better.

What inspires you?

The hotels I celebrate on BOUTECO LOVES, my independent list of the best design-led hotels and boutique eco-escapes. It’s always a joy to hear about hoteliers showing the world how business can be done differently and how operations can balance purpose with profit. There are some incredible visionaries doing incredible things to tackle social and environmental issues through their travel companies and hotels. Hotels don’t pay me to recommend them — I just ask them to plant trees through TreeSisters!

What makes you feel calm?

Getting into a freshly-made bed in a beautiful boutique eco hotel, which I know has a conscience. After a year of being at home in a basement flat surrounded by reminders that domesticity and housekeeping are not my strong points, being back in the hotel-reviewing saddle and escaping to a fresh, elegant hotel bedroom free of clutter and piles of half-read books all around me is super-soothing. For me, luxury is a feeling. It’s somewhere that flirts with my vagus nerve — I’ll explain. It’s not simply how a hotel looks, but how it makes you feel. A hotel can be beautiful in brochures, but in reality has no heart and soul. My recent fleeting visit to Sublime in Comporta in Portugal exemplified this. It may not officially be a sustainable luxury hotel, but there are lots of sustainable luxury touches to delight an eco-enthusiast like me — a whirl in a Bio-Pool Villa, cradled in acres of cork, pine and olive trees, surrounded by the sound of frogs and birds. Neuroscience tells us that being near water and trees has a positive effect on the vagus nerve, because the presence of nature speaks to the longest nerve in the body in such a way that it sends good vibes to all your other vital organs. I love that the word ‘vagus’ also means ‘wanderer’ in Latin, representing how the nerve wanders all over the body, a key player in our parasympathetic, ‘rest-and-digest’ nervous system. Calming our breathing, digestion and heart rate. Vagus, baby.

What is a personal sustainability tip/trick or organization you want to share?

Pardon the self-promotion, but my article of 60 Everyday Switches shares some of my top tips — and one of the best ways to boost your sustainability creds is to change to a green energy supplier. Obviously, this particular recommendation is for the UK but there are equivalents wherever people are based: measure and track your own carbon footprint through an app, eat locally and seasonally always. I’m working with an organisation developing a sustainability index for the travel industry which I can’t wait to shout about loudly.

What makes you feel anxious/on edge/angry?

Excess and waste — unnecessary consumption and casual creation of trash destined for a landfill. Whether it’s that take-away throwing in loads of plastic cutlery, napkins and ketchup sachets which won’t be used, food ingredients in an extravagant buffet, fussy wrapping on shopping or pointless corporate gifting. Compostable packaging is usually nonsense — it’s still stuff destined for landfill.

How would you describe yourself in a few words?

Imaginative, irreverent, usually uplifting, sometimes intense.

What did you learn in the pandemic?

So, so much. The forced slowdown made me realise that we had become human doings rather than human beings, and being much more grounded and in the moment is so important rather than constantly racing around. I actually wrote a book at the start that came out recently: ‘The Green Edit: Travel, Easy Tips for the Eco-Friendly Traveller’ published by Ebury post-pandemic, my easy-to-read, inspiring-to-implement eco-companion for hoteliers, travel agents and vacationers striving for more responsible travels. Researching this had me thinking more deeply about everything we do and how the most important thing is pausing to reflect on who we give our money to at every touchpoint.

What’s the one thing we have to get rid of as a society?

This perception of more money and more things being the route to happiness.

What’s the one thing we need to incorporate as a society?

Curbing our appetite for stuff. Choosing quality over quantity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still an enthusiastic consumer. I just like to buy things that have a great story behind them, are long-lasting and where I know my money is going to a good business which puts purpose before profit and has an honourable supply chain. The poster brand for this is Veja and I couldn’t be happier about having a pair of limited-edition Malika Favre high-tops. This French brand’s ethical supply chains and labour practices in Brazil are a lesson in responsible manufacturing.

Juliet is a journalist, broadcaster, producer and speaker discussing eco-travel and the world’s most special places in which to spend time. Among her accomplishments, she is the founding editor of Mr & Mrs Smith, author of Louis Vuitton City Guides, a regular keynote speaker and panelist, and was named as Condé Nast Traveller’s first Sustainability Editor. She is also the founder of Bouteco, a consultancy focused on showcasing design-led, eco-friendly hotels.

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