Interview with the Author: Jennie Romer

October 5, 2021
Jennie Romer

Last week, we featured Can I Recycle This? – A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single-Use Plastics (Penguin Books, 259 pages) by Jennie Romer. This week we get to know the author.

How old were you when you first became interested in environmental issues? Why?

When I was in elementary school, my mom took me to the recycling center on Saturdays, and I loved sitting in the magazine bin and digging through the magazines in search of old copies of Teen Beat and Bop. I always cared about the environment — my mom saved something that I wrote in the fourth grade saying that I wanted to be an environmental lawyer.

How has the experience of writing this book been different than working to influence public policy?

This book has been a big opportunity to write to a much broader audience. In my policy work, I spend a lot of time getting into the wonky details, but here I was able to take a step back and focus on the big picture. I tried to imagine that I was explaining all of these concepts to a friend, which forced me to really figure out what things were the most important. I was incredibly lucky to work with illustrator Christie Young; her illustrations allowed me to explain some things visually and really made the book so much fun.

What has been your favorite experience from writing this book?

I really love when people tell me how reading the book has had an influence on them. I’m always happy to hear that people have a better understanding of recycling but hearing that the book has sparked conversations or behavior changes is even better. For example, several people have contacted me on social media to tell me that they started bringing their own utensils or stopped putting plastic carryout bags in their curbside bins.

What do you find most gratifying, personally, about the life you have lived?

When I was in my 20s, I had a lot of anxiety about the environment and waste in particular. But now that I have been working closely on plastic pollution reduction policy for so many years, I am satisfied in knowing that I’m doing my best to change the trajectory of where things are going.

Are there any environmentally friendly practices that you have tried in the past and subsequently decided not to continue?

Home composting is something that I have tried on and off, depending on where I live. Composting can take a lot of time and effort to get right, and I’ve given up before, but I’m giving it another shot!

Photo courtesy of Jennie Romer