5 Myths About Sustainable Living we Should Stop Believing
Our Inspiration - Ethiopia
I’m Elsa, I set up Oh My Good in 2021 during the height of the pandemic. I wanted to share the inspiration behind Oh My Good and the personal reasons I decided to step out of my comfort zone and set up a business with purpose.
I’m Irish Ethiopian and despite being adopted from Ethiopia in the 1980s by my parents who were aid workers there, I was raised in Ireland and I identify myself as much Irish as I am Ethiopian. The reason I'm sharing my Ethiopian heritage is to give a little context to my inspirations when it comes to my love of the environment and my personal belief that people everywhere need to be included in the conversation when it comes to Climate Justice. Just before my 9th Birthday, my parents took a two-year job in Ethiopia, partly to reconnect me with Ethiopia, partly because of their own love of the country but mostly because they both loved what they did.
I had met lots of Ethiopians in Ireland but my knowledge of the country was limited to them, the food and the fact that I had been born there. I was extremely excited about the trip but wasn’t sure what to expect. Up to that point, I had been your average cartoon-watching kid, obsessed with chocolates and sweets, which I later found was a drastic difference to the life I would find myself living.
Ethiopia was a dream and at times a nightmare for a wide-eyed 9-year-old Dubliner! It was an education on life, and I will forever cherish the lessons I learned during my two years living there.
My Mother ran a women's development project, supporting single women in developing their skills and creating avenues for them to make an income. Each week I was inspired by her work. I would travel with her to the small village where her project was, meeting the incredible women she worked with. My father worked on irrigation projects and dam building, supporting local farmers to access the water they needed to grow their crops.
My Biggest inspirations for my passion around climate, equality and justice come from each of my parents and my time in Ethiopia.
My Mother taught me about the importance of fair wages, how incredibly skilled and talented people can find their work devalued, with no access to markets that would pay them fairly and the importance of community support.
My Father inspired my love for nature. He taught me to respect nature, to leave no trace behind, and how vulnerable people are to weather events, especially in places like Ethiopia. Our family Sunday afternoon hikes into the highlands of Ethiopia were always full of birdwatching, plant examining and many times running frantically away from giant unknown flying insects!
When I first arrived, the thing that shocked me was the poverty, something that hit like a slap in the face. I suddenly became acutely aware of the meaning of privilege, at the same time, the kindness I experienced in Ethiopia was like nothing I ever experienced before. People were genuinely concerned with the well-being of each other, they shared what they had. Neighbours raised and fed each other's children, the elderly were respected and those that were parents were looked after by and lived with their adult children. I remember many times being invited to the homes of some of the people my Mother worked with and the generosity they showed us was something I had never experienced, feeding us and ensuring we were comfortable even when they really didn’t have a lot themselves.
In our second year, the local farmers tackled an infestation of super worm, that ate through their crops at a shocking rate. Many resorted to beating them with sticks, while those that could afford it were out spraying them. Later swarms of locusts arrived causing another bout of action from the farmers. Shortly after the locusts had been dealt with as best they could, a sudden shower of giant hailstones ( I kid you not, the size of Ice cubes) flattened more of their crops. It was heartbreaking to watch these people who had worked so hard scrambling to salvage the last of their crops, knowing that they would not have enough to make it through to next year in a country with no security nets to lean on.
Finding myself back in Ireland after two incredibly enriching years was tough. In Ireland, the sheer volume of advertisements, marketing, and the encouragement of consumerism felt like a slap in the face compared to Ethiopia where beauty standards, advertising, consumerism and marketing all took the back burner. I never felt inadequate because of the things I didn’t own, or the way I looked in Ethiopia.
These life experiences have mapped out a life of meaning for me. They taught me to work towards equalising the playing field for people while respecting and loving the natural world and later, they lead me to a BA in International Development where I studied development theories, Aid models, Sustainability, Climate Justice, Project management, Media as well as Politics, and Corporate Social Responsibility.
“Life is a Trip, Travelling is Living Twice”
- Omar Khayyam