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Earth Week Day 5: Raising Up The Next Generation

Maddie and Cora’s adorable antics
will be back next week, but it’s Earth Week all week here at
1M2A! And don’t forget- send me an email
(Jennifer@1mother2another.com) if you’re interested in
entering to win a free copy of the new Healthy Child, Healthy
World: Creating A Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home
. And to win a
cool t-shirt from Mamaisms, send or post your best tip for living a
more eco-friendly lifestyle (see Monday’s blog for more

So far this week we’ve covered the three R’s of
environmental responsibility: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Tonight
we add a fourth R that we as parents are especially responsible
for: Raising up the next generation. Whether it’s creating a
healthier home environment for our children, investigating the
materials we use on and around our children, or teaching our kids
how to be good stewards of the created earth, our job is many-fold
and never ends.

First let’s talk about the home
environment we create for our children. Everyone wants to raise
their kids in a safe environment, and we all agrees on some basics:
a nonsmoking household is safer for a child than a smoking one, for
example. But sometimes we can be bewildered by all the choices and
different arguments out there: are organic foods really better? Do
bovine growth hormones really affect our kids through milk? Does
the type of cleaner I use on my countertops really have an effect
on my child’s asthma?

The short answer is: yes.

Look, everything’s relative. No one’s going to say that
our children are worse off than, say, Sudanese children because our
kids are eating Gogurt instead of homemade organic yogurt. And
there’s a limit as to how much you can do – a financial
limit, a time limit, and a worry limit. Plus, it seems that we were
raised without all this earth-friendly emphasis, and we turned out
just fine!

But the truth is that the earth’s in a lot worse shape than
it was when we were kids; that there’s a lot more pollution
in our rivers and oceans; that genetically-modified foods exist,
without any long-term studies on their effects; that the air is
dirtier to breathe; that while you may be able to buy strawberries
year-round, they bear little resemblance to the wild strawberries
you used to pick and eat fresh as a kid. Science has never been so
involved in producing food, even as the earth’s never been
more stressed.

So we need to make choices – informed choices – as we
raise our kids. The world is both a worse and better place than
“they” are painting it.

First, on the organic food issue. I mentioned it briefly the
other day from an earth-friendly perspective, but it’s also
something to think about for your kids. Dr. Sears has a list of
what he calls the “Dirty Dozen” – the twelve
fruits and vegetables most susceptible to absorbing pesticides in
their flesh. If you can’t buy all organic, this list is a
great place to start. And trust me – if you can’t
afford organic, your child’s not going to turn into a
two-headed monster. But if you can, give it a shot.

Second, the other way we control what surrounds our kids on a daily
basis – the cleaners we choose. There’s a great
article called href="http://www.lowimpactliving.com/blog/2008/01/09/a-clean-green-home/"
target="_blank">“What Is The Smell Of Green?”

about switching to “green” cleaners; give it a read to
learn more. As I started reviewing my cleaning cabinet after I had
Maddie, I couldn’t justify throwing away all my Clorox and
409, but I did replace what I ran out of with green cleaners, and I
viewed our move to Texas as a chance for a fresh start, which means
all the cleaners in our house are now green. You can find
non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaners anywhere now: Seventh
Generation is in most grocery stores or Targets and Wal-Marts, for

But you don’t even need to buy a lot of fancy green cleaners
– my friend Nija uses vinegar and baking soda for almost all
her household cleaning. And href="http://www.lowimpactliving.com/blog/2008/03/03/how-to-make-green-home-cleaners/"
is a great (and easy!) article on
making your own household cleaners – as the article says,
there’s not much that can’t be cleaned with some
combination of vinegar, baking soda, and Borax. Just the other
night my mom wandered in looking for some furniture polish, and I
had just finished reading that article. Five minutes later, I
handed her a bottle of vinegar and mineral oil and she was good to
go. The verdict? It works much better than any stuff I’ve
bought in the store! And was free! The point is, you can easily
make your own, and save money and your lungs. One caveat –
just because they’re nontoxic and environmentally friendly
doesn’t mean you should leave them in unlocked cabinets, ok?

And finally in the cleaning category, I’m going to suggest
something that will sound like blasphemy to a lot of you: ditch
the anti-bacterial soap
. My pediatrician rants against it every
visit, calling it “useless” and
“unhelpful”, and new studies show that triclosan
– the ingredient in these soaps – ends up in our water
sources and is absorbed into the fatty tissues of animals, which we
then eat. There’s a debate going on right now over whether or
not triclosan is a hormone interrupter (hello puberty at eight!)
and carcinogen, but there’s a pretty big consensus that the
anti-bacterial craze is simply breeding more resistant strains of
bugs. Remember, there’s a difference between hand sanitizer
and anti-bacterial wipes: hand sanitizer is alcohol, and kills ALL
germs – most famously, the cold virus – and
anti-bacterial soaps or wipes only kill bacteria, not viruses. Like
the cold. So stick to hand sanitizer when out and about, and use
regular soap at home. Keep the anti-bacterial spray for your
kitchen, for those chicken spills, if it’ll make you feel
better. Just ease up a bit.

The other area to consider revamping to be all-natural is all the
products that go onto your kids – lotions, sunscreens, etc.
You know I’m a big fan of California Baby, but search out any
company that uses humane testing methods and organic, sustainable,
nontoxic ingredients. href="http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/index.php?nothanks=1"
target="_blank">Cosmetics Database
is run by the
Environmental Working Group and is a great place to look for baby
products – they’ve got a great rating of sunscreens,
for example, but cover shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, you name it.

If all of this is overwhelming and you don’t know where to
start, pick up a copy of href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FHealthy-Child-World-Creating-Cleaner%2Fdp%2F0525950478%3Fie%3DUTF8%26amp%3Bs%3Dbooks%26amp%3Bqid%3D1208378664%26amp%3Bsr%3D8-1&tag=1mother2anoth-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325"
target="_blank">Healthy Child, Healthy World: Creating A Cleaner,
Greener, Safer Home
. It’s a great reference book
that will talk you throw all the different ways you can make a
difference in your child’s daily surroundings.

But by far the best way you can raise your kids up to be good
stewards of the earth – be a good model for them. Kids
learn by repetition, and all the speeches in the world won’t
matter if they see you throwing those water bottles away every day.
When Maddie goes to the park and picks up trash (you know, the
curious phase), she knows not to put it back on the ground: she
takes it to the trash can, because we try to leave the place better
than we found it. When my girlfriend Sandra fixes a book or toy for
her kids, she talks about how it’s best to try to use what
you have, not just buy a new one if something breaks. Or just get
out of your car and walk more – and tell your kids why. No,
not the “Have you seen the price of gas?” speech; use
the “it’s better for us and better for the earth and we
want to take care of the earth!” speech.

Talk and our kids listen. Act, and they see. Let’s be
deliberate about what we do – or don’t – pass on
to them.


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