Encourage your children to read diverse viewpoints, and embrace their education, even if it differs from your personal viewpoint. I have a toddler at home who we expose to different ways of life — right now through books and her friend group, but soon through her interests and education. The more diversity of thought we can cultivate as parents, the more creativity, responsibility and open-mindedness we instill in our children.
As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandy Hall.
Brandy Hall founded Shades of Green in 2008. Since then, the team has grown to a staff of 10, working with hundreds of clients who are applying permaculture across contexts.
Hall is passionate about leading a purpose-driven business that actively creates a healthier world for our children every single day. She loves seeing her daughter graze on the plants in their yard, knowing they are chemical free and full of nutrients you can’t get at the store.
Hall’s roots are in building. She earned her General Contractor’s license directly after completing undergraduate work at the age of 20, and began training as a stone mason where she fell in love with the way intelligent design responds to the natural world. Hall has nearly two decades of experience in building off-grid water systems, landscape construction, and integrated farming systems. She serves on the Pine Lake City Council and spends lots of time outdoors with her husband, Aaron, their daughter, and their rambunctious pup, Peanut Butter.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Igrew up the daughter of entrepreneurs — my father is a builder in Western North Carolina, and my mother and stepdad owned an ornamental plant nursery and seed company in South Florida. My childhood was filled with juxtaposition — the verdant forests and pristine lakes of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, and the toxic ag fields and unbridled development in South Florida. My mother and stepfather both developed life-threatening chemical sensitivities when I was young, which left a strong impression on me as they moved the family onto a 30-acre farm along the Santa Fe river in north central Florida to begin what would end up being a 7-year detox. This experience and the dissonance I felt between the natural world and the human-centric one shaped my inquiries, studies, and work as a young adult.
Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?
My upbringing has absolutely been the catalyst for my work. The overexposure to toxic herbicides and pesticides resulted in life-threatening illnesses in my family. This experience made a huge impact on my view of the world and instilled a sense of purpose to live in harmony and healing with the environment. A desire to reconcile the human built environment and the natural world developed through these experiences, and permaculture was ultimately the means to achieve such harmony. I wrote more about this experience HERE.
Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?
As a young person, when you see something that feels awry, that rubs against your very sense of how it should be in the world, take that as a call to action. Young people know when something isn’t right, and they aren’t yet so cemented in their world views that they excuse the injustices, as so many adults do.
Also, treat every experience and job as an opportunity to learn and build your skill set.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Shades of Green is a regenerative landscape design, build and education firm located in Atlanta and serving the southeast. Every outdoor space we create contributes to protecting biodiversity; growing food, medicine, and pollinator habitat; building soil, and restoring the water cycle. Every garden, no matter the size, can have a positive impact. Most gardens are designed to be high input systems ⏤ water-intensive, chemically dependent, and high maintenance. Instead of toxic, resource-heavy conventional landscapes, we build health from the ground up by transitioning landscapes to become ecologically-sound, healthy ones. Our work is to reconcile the human built environment and the natural world, creating a conversation between the two that is life-giving.
We are also launching an online course on December 8th — The Regenerative Backyard Blueprint: A step-by-step guide to transform your yard into an eco-friendly paradise.
Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?
There are many adjustments people can do right in their backyard to help reverse climate change. Here are the top three:
- Build raingardens to allow water to rehydrate soils and recharge aquifers, while reducing the impacts of flash flooding and drought.
- Employ better landscape maintenance practices, such as building soil through keeping leaves onsite to compost, not mowing lawns less than 3” and finding alternatives to herbicides and pesticides.
- Plant useful and native plants that bolster biodiversity, support endangered pollinators, and require less irrigation or maintenance than their exotic ornamental counterparts.
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
- Encourage your children to read diverse viewpoints, and embrace their education, even if it differs from your personal viewpoint. I have a toddler at home who we expose to different ways of life — right now through books and her friend group, but soon through her interests and education. The more diversity of thought we can cultivate as parents, the more creativity, responsibility and open-mindedness we instill in our children.
- Inspire your children to travel as young adults. Seeing how others live opens one’s mind to the possibilities of what life/society can look like or be. This was true for me even traveling from Florida to North Carolina! The difference in the climate, cultural values, and approaches to nature — being exposed to the agricultural exploitation and development on one hand and pristine lakes, rainforests, and wildlife on the other — opened my eyes to the possibility of a world where humans and nature interact with equity.
- Give children the space to grieve what is happening in the world without trying to shelter them from the harsh realities. Grief drives action. Seeing the destruction and loss in my family as a result of harmful environmental practices sparked life-long action in me and my future.
- Listen. Let’s get out of their way and see what comes of their fresh perspective. Diversity of thought has as much to do with age as it does anything else. At Shades of Green, we work hard to create space for fresh perspective and bring what we’re learning from our own little ones into the fold. How can they help inform our approach to our work? How can it help create a more sustainable company culture?
- Spend time outside together. This one is huge — it reminds us of our innate value as part of the natural world and can shift our thinking from “us versus them” to a oneness that is needed to come together to solve our environmental crisis.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
Don’t try to greenwash. Identify your values as a company, and live and work by those values. People know when a company is paying lip service, and not putting their full weight behind their words. What we do matters as much as how we do it. Our clients are drawn to us because they know that when they spend their hard-earned money with us, it will have environmental and social impact.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents were always so encouraging. They really made me believe that if I could think up something, I could “will” it into existence. They always encouraged my imagination and creativity, and that plays a huge role in being able to do what I do now. The currents of complacency are strong, and sometimes it takes gumption and sheer willpower to continue to stand for your values in the face of those currents.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Compassion and kindness, being able to dialogue and come to thoughtful resolution.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein
And in the same vein:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
― Buckminster Fuller
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
Follow us on Instagram @shades_of_green_permaculture
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!