If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I moved to the US over ten years ago, it is that if you want to raise healthy children you can’t rely on the government or industry to protect you from harmful chemicals and toxins. You have to educate yourself and become your own advocate. But how? Where to start?
When consultant, environmentalist and writer Manda Aufochs Gillespie became became pregnant she asked herself the same questions, but wasn’t able to find many helpful answers. So she started doing some serious research of her own. The result of her work is Green Mama: Giving Your Child a Healthy Start and a Greener Future, a hands-on guide not only to avoiding exposure to pollutants but to raising eco-conscious children.
As an avid environmentalist myself, I was excited to get my hands on this book recently. I’ve been following Manda’s blog, The Green Mama, for some time and love her insights on everything from hidden sugar in processed foods to the ins and outs of recycling a car seat.
Each chapter of the book covers a different aspect of pregnancy or parenting, for example Greening the Bum (about cloth diapering and elimination communication), Greening the Boobs (about breastfeeding), Greening the Home and Nursery (about buying safe furniture and using natural cleaning products) and so forth.
One of the chapters even covers how to make kids’ play greener. I often make the case on this blog that unstructured play outside is key to raising healthy, well-rounded children and was pleased to see that the topic was included in the Green Mama as well.
Each chapter is followed by a list of action steps that are rated from dark green for those that potentially have the most impact but entail more work, to light green for tips that are quick and easy. Some of the tips are unconventional but refreshingly simple.
One thing that makes the Green Mama book stand out is its focus on making “living green” affordable. Throughout the book are sidebars called “When Money Matters More,” which are geared toward those who want to minimize their environmental impact but are on a limited budget. Having grown up in a poor family herself, the author is speaking from real-life experience and shares many of her own homemade solutions to save money, for example how to create a natural bedding system for baby from layers of pure cotton towels covered by an organic sheet.
I also really like that Green Mama is heavy on well-researched facts (did you know that 77 percent of the ingredients in 17,000 children’s products have never been assessed for safety by industry or government?), without resorting to the doomsday rhetoric that is sometimes found in other parenting books in the eco-category.
While the book certainly doesn’t shy away from describing the problems, it also offers a lot of solutions, from DIY skincare recipes to advice on potty training. You may not be able to adopt them all, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something that will help you and your children live a “greener” life.
As my children are almost 4 and 7, we’re already past the diaper and breastfeeding stage, so some of the chapters didn’t really apply to us, but oh, how I wish I would’ve had this book when they were babies! Other advice is relevant for older children as well, like how to green your family’s diet and encourage outdoor, imaginative play.
To sum it up, The Green Mama book would make a great gift for a new or expectant mother who is concerned about her family’s health (and really, who isn’t?). You can purchase it here and still receive it in time for Christmas!
Disclaimer: A copy of Green Mama was provided to me free of charge for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. For your convenience, this post contains affiliate links. I make a small commission from products purchased through the Amazon links on this page, without extra cost to you. This income helps in a small way to offset the cost of maintaining this blog.