An Exclusive Interview With 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards Winner Laura Of The Mindful Merchant

Laura authors the 2010 Canadian Weblog Awards winner The Mindful Merchant, which placed 1st in Ecology & Social Justice.

Why blogging? Why did you start blogging, and what drives you now?

I started blogging thanks to growing frustration and a lovely birthday gift.

I was angry at the money wasted on products I thought were healthy or eco-friendly only to find out they were ineffective or cleverly greenwashed. (It goes against my frugal genes.) Some books and websites I turned to for information about environmental issues and "greener" living ideas demand drastic change, which is great... for some folks. I found it discouraging. Suggesting we give up toilet paper and live off the grid are intimidating and unrealistic changes for many of us. Unfortunately, the earth needs the "many of us" when it comes to improving environmental issues and climate change.

For me, tone is so important when it comes to delivering information. I think positive environmental changes can start with small actions that lead (hopefully) to bigger and bigger changes.

I suspect my friend Chris tired of my grumbling and suggested I try blogging. He gave me a few blogging books for my birthday and even helped set up the website. A week later, I wrote my first post and the addiction began.

I love writing. I also love the creative challenge and connecting with people from all around the world. Today I got a note from a reader in Ireland about local recycling programs. How cool is that?

Have you always been so planet-conscious? If so, what were some of your first active steps. If not, what inspired you to go down this path?

Unfortunately, no.

Growing up my parents’ conserved energy and recycled. They grew vegetables in the backyard, froze or preserved produce. It sounds 'granola' but my parents lived simply to save money, not the environment. I also grew up eating white bread with cheesy spread for, oh about twenty years. My Mom had a penchant for neon blue coloured toilet water, not granola.

My first active steps slowly started when I was pregnant over a decade ago. It began as a shift rethinking food, the products we used on ourselves and in our home. I also began to consider how my actions affected the environment. Having children also created a bigger interest in community.

In addition, our nephew and niece have life threatening allergies. This prompted me to scrutinize labels, question manufacturers and ingredients. The health of my family, their future and the future of the planet motivate me to take action and be open to learning more.

Oy that is a lofty sounding answer.

Your weblog is an inspiration to others to live well. Do you feel that blogging about green living has also helped you to stay more focused on maintaining a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle?

Wow, thank you.

Yes, blogging is a huge motivator. I am lucky to have "my people", close friends and family that help me stay on the path. They call me out when I slip up. Everyone needs people around to tell you there is spinach in your teeth.

Thanks to my pal Jen, I stopped using paper towels. I often ask my husband to read drafts and give feedback. I value his opinion. Our kids keep me focused too. Do not try to throw anything compostable or recyclable in the garbage or you will hear about it, from an eight year old as she fishes the item out. We all fear our kids, right?

Where do you find ideas for your content? If you are feeling less than inspired, where do you look for inspiration?

Many of ideas for posts come from personal experiences. I carry a notebook around wherever I go and jot down ideas, products or current events that sound interesting. I often get strange looks when I whip out the notebook in line-ups, but it is full of valuable scribbles and bits of conversations I want to remember. My neighbour told me it looks like I am reporting an infraction and it makes people nervous. Naturally, I wrote a ticket and charged her with being "mildly insulting". That's how I roll.

I also love to read and many topic ideas come from books and all forms of media. People also email me questions and suggestions that keep the content ideas flowing. I really appreciate that.

Are you open about being a blogger? How do people offline react to your online writing?

I am quiet and careful about telling people I blog. In the beginning, I shared my posts with a small group of family and close friends that I knew would be supportive and encouraging. They cheered me on, and kept me writing those first six months.

Some family and friends know about my weblog but have never read it... and that's cool. I have had experiences where people made jokes about the environmental theme or rolled their eyes at the mention of blogging. Meh.

It is an honour to receive a CWA award. As my confidence slowly grows, I might be more apt to talk about it. Maybe.

Which weblogs are your current favourites? Which weblogs have been most influential in the shaping of your own blogging?

I follow my entire Faves list. Everyone says that, but I really do. Ottawa has a huge and talented blogging community and you do not have to live in Canada's capital to enjoy them. I am particularly enthralled these days with my Blogs Abroad list that transport to fascinating parts of the world.

The weblogs that have influenced me most are ones I first discovered and subscribed to years ago, XUP, A Peek Inside the Fishbowl, Knitnut, and Barganista. Vastly different themes and styles, I was drawn to their writing, humour and genuine voice. All four bloggers are encouraging and helpful to new bloggers like me. This was my earliest perception of what good weblogs are about and they continue to influence my blog, interactions with readers and other bloggers.

What advice do you have for new bloggers?

Give it a whirl. Be yourself. Start out with a few ideas of what you want and do not want your weblog to be. If you have the opportunity, get out and meet other bloggers. They are a great resource and in my experience, a lively and supportive bunch. Have fun!

*Thanks to my talented friend and fellow blogger Sara McConnell Photography for the photos.




2010 CWA Winner:
transplanted Torontonian
living in Ottawa, Ontario
The Mindful Merchant
1st in Ecology & Social Justice
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Elan Morgan

Elan Morgan is a writer and web designer who works from Elan.Works, a designer and editor at GenderAvenger, and a speaker who has spoken across North America. They have been seen in the Globe & Mail, Best Health, Woman's Day, and Flow magazines, TEDxRegina, and on CBC News and Radio. They believe in and work to grow both personal and professional quality, genuine community, and meaningful content online.