"i am fascinated by all the different ways people are trying to make the world a better place."
Katherine Martinko writes for the better good — which is to say that, story by story, she sheds light on all that we should know, all that we could know. free-range parenting! hydroponic mushrooms! efficient composting! in short: she’s a refreshing and resourceful voice, in more ways than one. here’s how (and why) she is where she is and does what she does.
where do you live?
“i live with my husband and three little boys in a small town called Port Elgin, Ontario. it's a gorgeous place right on Lake Huron, with long sandy beaches and famous sunsets. in the summer, the kids and i go to the beach most days after work.
i moved here in 2010 to join my partner. we had been living apart for a year, with me raising our baby and going to university in Toronto and him working three hours away during the week, but we couldn't continue like that. initially when i moved, i didn't like it. i grew up in a very remote location in northern Ontario and left it for the city, where i thought i’d stay forever, but after a few years Port Elgin grew on me. now i love it and can't imagine raising my family anywhere else. it's a perfect mix of urban and rural, and Toronto's not that far away when i need a city fix.”
what do you do — professionally, personally, passionately?
“so much! my days are wonderfully packed. professionally, i am a staff writer for an online website called Treehugger. i’ve been with Treehugger for nearly a decade now, writing daily articles about sustainable, low-impact living. it feels like the best job in the world. i get to think and write about topics that feel important to me, that introduce me to smart, interesting people, and that i hope will make a difference in the world.
personally, i am busy raising my young family. our house is a loud and lively place, full of food and music and books. i love cooking and entertaining, so it's not unusual to have random dinner guests throughout the week (pre-COVID, of course). we spend a lot of time outside, biking and hiking, cross-country skiing in winter and canoe tripping in summer.
as for what i do "passionately," i enjoy working out. i do CrossFit and Olympic weightlifting 4-5 times a week – a surprising obsession because i wasn't athletic until after having kids. i think i love it because it's such a contrast to the sedentary, cerebral work I do all day.
another passion is traveling, not that i can do much of it right now. i used to travel a few times a year for my job, and it was a much-anticipated escape from the demands of motherhood – a reminder that there's a broader world out there. i always come back from those trips feeling refreshed and energized.”
what path led you here?
“i’ve loved writing since i was a child, but i never thought I'd do it professionally. my original plan was to go to law school, but when i had my first child earlier than planned and ended up moving to Port Elgin, that plan got derailed. i started a parenting blog because i was at home with babies, craving intellectual stimulation. that blog did well, and i was offered a writing job by Discovery Network within a year. one thing led to another, and now i’m with Treehugger.”
what inspires and drives you?
“i am driven by a strong sense of obligation to do my part in fighting the climate crisis, and as a writer, that means using words and the platform i have to communicate the issues – and their solutions – to the world as best i can.”
how do you approach the subjects you write about?
“i try to approach every subject with curiosity and openness, putting myself in the shoes of the readers who might have questions about how things work and why they matter.”
something you’ve learned on the job?
“i am fascinated by all the different ways in which people are trying to make the world a better place. one guy starts a mushroom farm in an empty parking garage, a woman makes cosmetics in zero-waste, refillable packaging, a company redirects restaurant food waste for household consumption, someone comes up with solid bar-based cleaning products – the list goes on. these represent such diverse interests and areas of expertise, but together they add up to a cleaner, more sustainable, and excitingly innovative world.”
favorite piece you've ever written?
“tough question! i’ve written close to 3,000 articles for Treehugger on topics that range from local food to slow fashion to sustainable travel to cool product reviews. recently, though, i heard from several readers about a piece i wrote on free-range parenting a couple years ago, called "One Mother's Recipe for Resilience." they told me it has inspired them to give their kids more independence, which was satisfying to hear. a child psychologist said she uses it in a class to teach parents to be less clingy.”
you were an English lit major. favorite book of all time? last book you read?
“i don't have a favorite book, believe it or not! i read so much, and for different reasons. the last non-fiction book i read was The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Cristiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, who led negotiations for the 2015 Paris Agreement. the most recent novel i read was Deacon King Kong by James MacBride. it was on a New York Times “Best of 2020" booklist and i devoured it last weekend. i’ve fallen in love with Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie's fiction in the past year, reading everything of hers i can find.”
YOU WRITE ABOUT SUSTAINABLE, LOW IMPACT LIVING. CAN YOU SHARE SOME ADVICE FOR OTHER PEOPLE — WOMEN, MOTHERS, PROFESSIONALS — THAT MIGHT HELP INCORPORATE SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES IN THEIR EVERY DAY?
“as the saying goes, “perfection is the enemy of progress." i think people often get caught up in feeling overwhelmed by the immensity of the climate crisis and not knowing where to begin, but it all starts at home, with individuals making different choices in their own lives, and then influencing their families and friends, and eventually communities and policy-makers. by starting at home, i suggest tackling plastic pollution, walking or biking instead of driving, reducing food waste and cooking more from scratch, reducing meat and dairy consumption, and of course talking to kids about why this stuff matters. they will be the next generation of leaders.”
WE ARE LIVING IN CRAZY — BUT IMPORTANT, FOR SO MANY REASONS — TIMES. WHAT IS LIFE LIKE RIGHT NOW FOR YOU?
“i am fortunate to live in a place that's been largely unaffected by COVID-19. (Canada in general has fared better than the US.) my kids were out of school for a few months, but now they're back. life is quieter than it used to be. i’ve had to get better at spending time at home, particularly on weekends, when i used to socialize regularly. my husband and i play Scrabble, watch Netflix (almost done The Crown, and oh, the outfits in The Queen's Gambit are so gorgeous!), and spend time cooking more elaborate foods. we do a lot of family walks.”
what feels different about this year?
“there's so much i’m not taking for granted anymore. dinner parties, road trips, going out to eat, seeing a movie in theatre, visiting a city and walking down a busy street – these small actions that were once a normal part of life have now taken on so much meaning. i can't wait to do them again, and i intend to appreciate them deeply when that day comes.
the whole lockdown experience has made me enormously grateful to have a home and yard where my kids can play outdoors and access to hiking trails and beaches where we've been able to roam. i don't know how urban families managed.”
what are you looking forward to most this year?
“for the past ten years, i’ve wanted to write a specific book, and i’m finally doing it. i started the project last fall and am deep into it now, so this is the year i plan to finish. it's very exciting, and i look forward to the day when i can say i’ve finally done it.”
what's the single best thing you bought, read, did, listened to, saw, cooked and /or dreamed up so far this year?
“the year is still young, but here goes.
bought: a really nice second-hand pair of noise-canceling headphones. they've made me more productive (by blocking out kid noise) and more inclined to listen to podcasts, which have taught me some awesome things.
read: i reread Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for a second time. it's a beautiful, classic book on how to write and be a writer. even though I am a full-time writer, it's sometimes helpful and inspiring to go back to the basics.
did: i hired a gymnastics coach to help me with my goal of getting muscle-ups in the gym! she sends me biweekly workouts and reviews my progress videos, and i’m happy to say i’m getting closer. it's very satisfying.
listened to: i discovered a new podcast called "How to Save a Planet" by Dr. Ayana Johnson and Alex Blumberg. it's great, making environmental issues approachable and understandable. highly recommend.
cooked: my cousin posted an oatmeal cookie recipe on Instagram a few months ago and now i can't stop making them. she also has three boys, so she understands how big a batch of cookies needs to be to feed the family for a few days. the recipe starts with a pound of butter and four cups of brown sugar, and goes from there. they've got the chewy texture i’ve been after for years.”
piece of epoque on current rotation, and why?
“the one pencil skirt and one crop top combo, in olive green, is not only my favorite époque piece, but my favorite thing in my entire wardrobe. it feels like a dream to wear and i get so many compliments on it. while we're on the topic, I want to buy every single thing on the époque website! these clothes feel like they were made for me, and i haven't found another brand like that before.”
three sustainable items you can’t live without?
“be forewarned, this is a wide-ranging list: Unwrapped Life shampoo and conditioner bars; Klean Kanteen insulated wide-mouth mug, perfect for coffee or cocktails on socially-distanced walks with friends; my new RadWagon electric cargo bike, a total game-changer when it comes transportation that has basically made my car obsolete.”
all-around life hack you swear by?
“managing sleep wisely! i go to bed early (around 9:30 pm) in order to start my workday early (5:30 am) because that's when i am most productive. if i start to fade, there's nothing like a quick power nap to reset and get the creative juices flowing again.”
not-so guilty pleasure?
“popcorn doused in butter, truffle salt, and nutritional yeast... my late-night snack at least three times a week.”
“the secret to good ideas is to have a lot of ideas!”