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Eco Chic

Mar 4, 2011
by Liz Daube, '05

Alumna tackles environmental issues in her adopted language and country with new book

Alumna Margaret Fenwick’s love of learning has taken her places: not only from St. Augustine to Spain, but also toward an impressive career writing, blogging and speaking about environmental issues.

Her new book, “Eco Chic: Pequeños gestos para cuidar de ti y tu planeta” (translation: “Eco Chic: Small gestures to take care of you and your planet”) was recently published by El Grupo Planeta, one of Europe’s biggest publishers. Fenwick’s Spanish-language green-living guide includes a foreword by famed anthropologist Jane Goodall. The book has been praised by popular Spanish media, including Spanish Glamour Magazine, and has led to Fenwick hosting two weekly radio programs.

The 1996 Flagler graduate said the purpose of her book is to explain the “problems that exist and how each one of us in our day-to-day actions can form part of the solution.” In Spain, the environment is often viewed as an issue reserved for extremists, Fenwick added. She set out to make “Eco Chic” a positive and fun read for average Spanish people.

“To be an environmentalist still today has negative connotations [in Spain],” she said. “Eco Chic simply means you can live in a way that respects the planet, consume responsibly and not lose one bit of your style, elegance or class.”

Having lived in Madrid for about a decade, Fenwick learned a lot about Spanish culture. Not surprisingly, the upstate New York native majored in Spanish at Flagler. She went on to get her master’s in Spanish in 2000 from Vermont’s Middlebury College, which offers academic programs in Madrid. Fenwick then returned to the U.S. to teach Spanish at a private boarding school, but decided to move back to Madrid just a couple years later. Now she makes her living teaching and public speaking, in addition to writing and blogging.

Fenwick said her teachers – including Judy Martin, one of her Flagler professors – always encouraged her passion for learning a new language.

“An excellent teacher early on, someone motivating and inspiring, can make all the difference,” Fenwick said. “Now that I’m practically bilingual and live in ‘Spanish’ every day, the ‘love’ of the language and literature has converted into something else.

“I love the culture, the lifestyle, living in a society where family and friends are the utmost important thing, [where] sharing a meal and going to an art gallery are more important than going shopping or online, [where] stores still close on Sundays and the traditional siesta is still respected in the smaller towns, [where] the plazas fill up with people in the evenings.”

So how did she manage to get Goodall to write the forward to her book? “Jane Goodall has been a hero of mine for many years — a true champion for the environment, animals, children, society,” Fenwick said. “So it only seemed appropriate to simply ask her.” And to her surprise, Goodall said yes.

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