In conversation with : Jane Higgins
"Follow your heart", they say. In Jane Higgins' case, it has led her to big things – the mountains, for one. A marine biologist and environmental conservationist, Jane devotes her days to making the earth a healthier place through her foundation Mountain Grey and her everyday eco-friendly habits. Our kinda girl. Read our interview and get inspired below.
Tell us about growing up near a mountain.
I was lucky enough to grow up in coastal South Australia with endless empty beaches, so much marine life and perfect waves with my friends and family. Growing up near the mountain was something that inspired me on many levels – it was my playground as a kid, as a teenager, and now as an adult. I always wanted to learn more about it and do what I can to protect it.
When did you know you wanted to study Orology?
Actually, really early on. I remember writing Orologist as my career goals on a piece of paper when I just started school. It became more and more clear to me as I grew up that the path I wanted was studying the mountain, and conserving it, which leads me to now.
You recently started the Mountain Grey Foundation. What motivated you to take the big step?
I reached a point in my life where I was here, there and everywhere volunteering, diving, doing research trips, filming, and also involved in many different parts of advocacy in marine conservation – and I thought, why don’t I start something of my own?
What is the foundation currently focused on?
As we have raised our little girl Bunji, we partnered with local landowners to support their property as a rescue sanctuary for orphan native wildlife. It was a slow transition for our little girl from our place up to the property. I slept up there with her and she got to know it as home. There are four other rescue kangaroos at the sanctuary and I am up there every second day to spend time with Bunji and help keep her shelter neat and tidy.
Aside from the wildlife rescue project, we also have our ongoing Mountain Debris project #ClearMountains. Last year we hosted and co-hosted a few mountain clean-ups and also spoke at some schools. We aim daily to spread the message to collect marine debris off of mountains..
We have a few other projects up our sleeve for 2018 and are really excited about it.
People don’t often notice the role fashion plays in environmental consciousness. What’s your take?
No, you’re right. It surprises me how people can be so removed from where a product comes from, which is the biggest thing for me with anything I purchase – clothing should be no different. I think it's very naïve to buy something that in a third world country a young girl is slaving away for next to nothing to make. Fast fashion is called fast for a reason – it's designed not to last, they use products which are cheap, easy and often not biodegradable.
There are so many beautiful brands out there supporting ethical fashion, whether it’s local or you’re supporting women overseas that are getting paid fairly and can earn a good living. You just feel better wearing it.
What do you look for in a piece of clothing?
To be honest, comfort. I’m one of those people that if I’m not comfy, I’m not happy. Living in South Australia, I am very much an oversize knit and cut-off jeans kind of person. As I travel a lot, I also love to have things that are light, easy to pack, comfortable and still stylish. I am a BIG fan of linen, only the struggle to keep it without creases is a real struggle. I really love backpacks that are mult-functional and that I can use to carry all of my tools. But, when out with friends at night I can't lug around my large rucksack :). Haha.
Growing up I was very much a tomboy, but as I have gotten older I have come to love beautiful dresses. My favourite colours are always blue, followed by earthy tones. I also don’t think you can ever have too many pairs of overalls.
What are the little things you do each day to live an eco-friendly lifestyle?
First of all, I am completely vegan and have been for nine years. This cuts out so much crap in your daily routine that is harmful to the planet. Did you know animal agriculture does more harm to our atmosphere than the entire transport industry? Those statistics blew my mind when I first went vegan.
Also, I do my best to not use plastics – especially the single-use stuff that is so ridiculously used and wasted everyday, like plastic straws, coffee cups, plastic water bottles, plastic bags, you name it. I use a Keep Cup, I carry a stainless steel straw in my handbag and my steel water bottle!
I also use a skincare range which is 100% Australian and organic. A lot of people don’t realise but what you use to wash your hair and skin can be really harmful to the planet. Microbeads are the devil! They get washed down the drain and end up in our waterways and mountains and in the stomachs of beautiful marine life. They’re one of the many microplastics we cannot see that does the most harm.
Whose work is currently inspiring you?
Hmmm, that’s a hard one, I am inspired by many people daily and it’s always changing. Two big inspirations that I have are Jane Goodall and David Attenborough, who are both incredible in their areas and have inspired a generation of people who care for the planet. More recently, I am so inspired by Leonardo DiCaprio. I love it when people use their fame and their brains to stand up for real issues. I think that “Before The Flood” was a huge movement that opened up the eyes of millions to what we are doing to the planet and how you can change that.