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.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

So Long Poland Springs I Found Something Greener

Across the country the anti-bottled water movement is gaining momentum. Some city governments are installing water filtration systems in office buildings and reducing budgets for bottled water. San Francisco banned the use of city dollars for the purchase of bottled water and Chicago and Seattle have followed suit with their own initiatives. Chez Panisse started a trend and now Boston restaurants are following suit by serving tap water and using fountain jets to make their own club soda. This spring the Park Slope Food Co-op with over 13,000 members sold its last bottle of water.

So why the same year that we learned that there is Prozac in the water has the plastic water bottle become the symbol of gross environmental disregard? It isn’t as simple as water is a precious resource and that those of us who have clean drinking water should appreciate it. It is about the massive amounts of fossil fuels used to transport the water and the billions of plastic bottles ending up in our landfills. Just so I am not the only one living in shame of my bottled water usage here are some facts I collected online....

According to Think Outside the Bottle:

Each year more than 4 billion pounds of PET plastic bottles end up in landfills or as roadside litter.

Making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil last year – enough fuel for more than 1 million U.S. cars for a year - and generated more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.

The entire energy costs of the lifecycle of a bottle of water is equivalent, on average, to filling up a quarter of each bottle with oil. Worldwide, consumers spent $100 billion on bottled water in 2005.

Seventy-four percent of Americans drink bottled water, and one in five drinks only bottled water.

Tree Hugger also provides similar reasons to ditch bottled water:

Approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil—enough to run 100,000 cars for a whole year—are used to make plastic water bottles, while transporting these bottles burns even more oil.
The growth in bottled water production has increased water extraction in areas near bottling plants, leading to water shortages that affect nearby consumers and farmers.
In addition to the millions of gallons of water used in the plastic-making process, two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every gallon that goes into the bottles.
Nearly 90 percent of water bottles are not recycled and wind up in landfills where it takes thousands of years for the plastic to decompose.
Below is an image taken by David Coale of Acterra. He calculated the amount of oil required to ship a bottle of water from its source to the Bay Area of California and poured this amount of oil into each bottle.


So what am I going to do to wean myself off my bottled water addiction?

Read Bottle Mania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It by Elizabeth Royte author of Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash.

Take the Think Outside The Bottle Pledge.

Drink our tap water or buy a home filtration system:

In addition, you can compare ten different filter options at:
Water Filter ComparisonsThe Green Guide

Then for portability purchase BPA free water bottles for the whole family. Gardenaut provides a comprehensive list and in depth reviews of the bottles readily available.
To get my fix of bubbles this NY Times article provides or good list of options.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sustainable Motherhood at 16 Weeks

I seem to remember 16 weeks being a milestone in the Freen's development. Perhaps that's because it is when I went back to work and even though he got easier everything got just a little bit harder. Regardless after four months, has also reached a milestone. We hit 2,000 unique visitors today. While this is not that impressive on its own right what I am excited about is that the second thousand happened in the last four weeks. The recent post on High Fructose Corn Syrup received great feedback and wonderful comments. I am so excited by the progress and I just wish I had more time to write and research but unfortunately there is still real work to be done and real money to be made.

For the blog in August, I am looking into phthalates and finding the research as conflicting and the chemical as pervasive as BPA. I also just recently attended our local sustainability group, Sustainable Warwick and became a member of the consumer initiatives group aka The Bag Ladies. My first assignment is to look into the environmental impact of bottled water and how we can promote the use of greener alternatives in our community. Finally, in August I plan to start a series titled Sustainable Mother of the Month. I want to recognize all types of moms for their efforts in promoting sustainable living. I have the first few lined up, but if you have any suggestions, please submit nominations via comments until I figure out how to add a poll to the blog.

In other news, Sustainable Motherhood was added to the blog roll of one of the best green mommy blogs around Green Mom Finds and it was listed in the Top 100 Best Blogs by Green and Clean Mom. Also in July, after months of procrastinating, I finally uploaded our logo and archived posts to a Facebook fan page. Visit and fan us to receive updates on posts and join a community of other moms looking to achieve sustainability. While you're there also check out Z Recommends' fan page. Z Recs was one of the first sites to list us in their blog roll and we get several visitors a day from it, so I would like to return the love.

Well that is all the shameless self-promotion I'll engage in for today. Now I am going to get out of my gym clothes and pick up the freen.