Friday, August 22, 2008

Sustainable Motherhood Honors Dr. Jessica North as the First Sustainable Mother of the Month

When I had the idea for Sustainable Motherhood the first thing I did was check to see if the domain was available (yay it was!) and the second was a google search. At the time the only direct hit that came up was an article in the November 2007 newsletter of International Federation of University Women titled "The Science of Sustainable Motherhood" written by Dr. Jessica North an Environment Scientist and Waste Specialist in the UK. In it Jessica, a mom to be and an environmental scientist, discussed the challenge she faced deciding between disposable or reusable diapers. After reading the article I knew I was onto something. Here is a mom to be, an environmental scientist, a waste specialist for that matter who is struggling with the same questions as me 2500 miles across the Atlantic. I immediately reached out to her to let her know what I had planned for the blog and get her support and in the throws of "nappy changing" (cloth mind you) and adjusting to new motherhood she offered it up. I knew I wanted to recognize her in some way on the site, but wasn't sure how, so when I had the idea to start the Sustainable Mother of the Month feature it was a no brainer that Dr. Jessica North would be the first honoree.

Jessica is mother to a "wee angel of a baby" 6 month old Lucy. She is originally from New Zealand but is currently "in transit" as her husband James finishes his MSc thesis in straw bale building, moving from the UK to Canada. All this travel is giving little Lucy a large carbon imprint at an early age but as you'll see from the interview Jessica does a great job offsetting all their travel in lots of little ways.

SM: What does sustainable motherhood mean to you?

JN: Sustainable living, which I interpret as acting in an eco-positive way, is very much ingrained in our household - both my husband and I are 'green collar' workers (eco-building design and waste industries), and we also have a very personal interest in trying to reduce our day-to-day impact on the planet. I guess sustainable motherhood is simply an extension of this lifestyle to the decisions I make regarding Lucy. But it also goes deeper: I'm trying to act in ways that will help protect the world for Lucy's future, as well as teaching her valuable, eco-positive habits. I'm pretty sure the majority of my own values came from my mum, so hopefully I can pass-on a similar inheritance.

SM: What activity or product purchase do you struggle with the most when it comes to trying to parent and live more sustainably?

JN: At the moment the product is 'baby rice cereal' - she loves the bought stuff, but even the organic brands come vacuum-sealed and boxed, and that's a lot of packaging. I've tried to puree regular rice, but it doesn't go down well! The activity is going to be visiting relatives, since our families are spread around the globe. To date we've tried to combine family visits with business trips, which gives a little bit more justification for the air travel, but it's still a lot of fuel and carbon to consider.

SM: What are one or two of your favorite sustainable parenting activities?

JN: Most recently, making Lucy's meals from the ingredients in our locally produced, organic veg box: she sits in the sink and chews on spoons, watching me chop, steam and mash! I've discovered a recipe for homemade baby biscuits, so that'll be next.
An activity we aspire to is cycling - I've been doing some research, and feel happy about using a child trailer (with her infant car seat) until she can graduate to a front-mounted baby seat. Both systems have been rated as safe by European researchers. Hopefully we'll start next month. In the meantime we use a combination of buggy, backpack, trains, and ferries to explore the wider world.

SM: Do you have any other tips on sustainable living for our readers?

JN: We are friends with a group of very like-minded parents: our children are in cloth nappies, we buy organic/local food, we make our own baby meals, our bikes are used in preference to our cars (if we have them), we participate in 'freecycle' to exchange used baby gear, etc. Surrounded by people making conscious lifestyle decisions to be more eco-positive, it's easy to believe that this is 'the norm'. I hope one day it will be, but sadly it's not yet the case. I do believe that these lifestyle choices are going to become easier, as more resources (like this blog!) become available, and particularly as the prices for products and services start to reflect their true environmental impact. Ok, now I better stop before I really get into my stride!!!

Thank you Jessica for your time, your efforts at protecting the earth for Lucy and everyone and for taking the time to share your ideas and thoughts with us. Congratulations on being not only a wonderful Sustainable Mother but the first to be recognized on this site.

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