“Mom, I Can’t Go to School: I Don’t Have a PLASTIC Water Bottle!”

August 31st, 2010

I swear I’m not making this up. No sooner had I finished my post about the Top Ten Green School Projects to tackle, and fallen into bed when my newly minted third grader hit me with this zinger.

It seems stainless steel water bottles are noisy. Really. When little hands drop stainless steel water bottles from their desks, apparently they make quite a din. So my son’s teacher, on the first day of school, banned anything other than plastic water bottles.

That’s a problem for us.

After much experimentation with everything from re-used Honest Tea glass bottles to Sigg water bottles, I finally switched the family over to stainless steel water bottles. I even shelled out $20 for insulated stainless steel water bottles.

I looked and looked and looked and realized we just have no more plastic water bottles. As an ode to my bloggy friend Beth of Fake Plastic Fish, the nation’s top anti-plastics blogger, I had banned plastic water bottles from the house!

My son was very concerned.

“I can’t go to school! I need a plastic water bottle!”

“We don’t have any! You’ll have to take the stainless steel. I’ll write a note to the teacher,” I responded.

“No,” he insisted. “It HAS to be plastic. The stainless ones make too much noise; they fall from the desks.”

“Well, we got rid of all the plastic water bottles and I’m not buying any more,” I retorted. “Can’t you just get up and use the water fountain?”

“NO!!!,” he shrieked. “We can’t just get up and get a drink of water whenever we feel like it. We only get breaks like only every two hours. And I won’t get to drink until lunch time. And it’s TOO LONG!!!,” he exhaled in a burst of eight-year-old whininess.

Now I thought about just letting this go. I’ve recovered from Green Mom Culture Shock.  I understand that not everything will be a Green Nirvana, not even at a Montgomery County, Maryland Green School.

I hate being THAT MOM. Yes, I’ve been called a “piece of work.”

But as I’ve blogged before, you can either sit behind your laptop and bemoan the state of the world, or you can do something.

So I wrote an email to his teacher.

Dear Ms. X:

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful start to the school year.  I very much look forward to meeting you at Back to School Night.

My son informed me this morning that he needed a plastic water bottle rather than the stainless steel one he brought to class. As part of our family’s commitment to protecting and preserving the environment and our family’s health, we have reduced our use of plastics, including plastic water bottles. We no longer own any plastic water bottles – part of an expensive, time consuming process to switch from plastic to stainless steel, glass, and other more eco-friendly alternatives.

I respectfully ask you to reconsider requiring plastic water bottles for the following reasons:

1) many plastic bottles leach harmful chemicals which can disrupt the endocrine system of young children. Plastic #3 (polyvinyl chloride/PVC can leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into the liquids they are storing and will release synthetic carcinogens into the environment when incinerated. Plastic #6 (polystyrene/PS), leaches styrene, a probable human carcinogen, into food and drinks as well;

2) the plastic nib at the top of most plastic water bottles is easily scratched by young teeth, resulting in ingestion of plastic chemicals (as opposed to most stainless steel bottles, which contain an open spout for drinking);

3) stainless steel bottles, like the one I purchased for my son, can be insulated to keep water cooler longer;

4) the production of plastics accounts for about 8% of our usage of fossil fuels (petroleum, oil, natural gas);

5) it would be expensive, wasteful and time consuming for the class to replace their existing water bottles with plastic. My son told me that all but about two of the students came to school with stainless or other bottles made of materials other than plastic (likely for the reasons cited above).

I understand there is a noise issue that is causing you to request plastic bottles rather than water. Could I help you to brainstorm other solutions? Perhaps the stainless water bottles could be labeled, put in a blanket and left in a wagon near the door. I recall that approach being used for lunch bags in my son’s classroom last year.

I’m so sorry to have our first communication be about this issue. As you can tell, I am very passionate about environmental issues! I am happy to help you as you look at other classroom issues and their impact on the environment – I know from experience that switching from conventional methods to greener, more environmentally friendly practices can be a long process, requiring lots of trade-offs and education.

Thanks so much for your consideration.

Regards,

Lynn

Yikes. Where do you think this will lead? And actually, I spoke too soon. I’m experiencing Green Mom Culture Shock all over again.

How’s back-to-school going in your world? I’m thinking of  updating that post about “Top 10 Green Projects” to make it “Top 20 Green Projects.”

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Green Moms & Public Schools: Top 10 Green School Projects – Pick One!

August 30th, 2010

If your child is heading off to school for the first time, prepare yourself: you may suffer Green Mom Culture Shock, like I did when my son entered public school two years ago.

For eco-conscious parents who have agonized over a zillion purchasing decisions related to choosing the greenest, healthiest products for home cleaning and only the freshest, local, organic and sustainable foods, it can be hard to cope when you discover your local “green” school doesn’t seem so green, particularly when compared to your own home.

While most schools these days (at least here in Montgomery County, Maryland and the surrounding DC suburbs) do have a Green Committee at the PTA level, you may find, as I did, that “green” means different things to different people.  To some, the main function of the green committee should be tending to a school garden. For others, it’s recycling or “waste free lunch.”   What happens if there’s so much to do, you just don’t know where to start?  And is it really possible that maybe, just maybe everything “green” has been “done” at your school?

I’ve put together a “Dream List” of Ten Green School Projects you may want to tackle this year, and I’ve  linked to posts that relate to the project whenever possible. Am I suggesting you try to get the PTA to tackle all ten? Uh, no. (You might want to first read my post, Green Schools: Five Lessons Learned the Hard Way).  But maybe, just maybe,  you can work to get one new project added to your Green Committee’s existing project list.

Take a look and let me know what you think. I’m particularly interested in hearing from parents who’ve tackled the walkable school initiatives. What’s worked and what hasn’t worked for you at your kids’ schools?

Top 10 Green School Projects

  1. Waste Free School Lunch
  2. Ban the Bottled Water  – Switch to Bottles and Jugs!
  3. Solar, Wind, and Alternative Energy at School
  4. Just Say No to Mandatory AntiBacterial Hand Sanitizers and Soaps
  5. Healthier School Lunches
  6. Just Say No to Cheap Plastic Crap: Oh, the Trinkets!
  7. Why Throw Out Unopened Milk? Forced Dumping of Unopened School Milk Bottles in the Garbage
  8. Energy Audits: Wearing T-Shirts In The Classroom During Winter = An Energy Efficiency Problem in Your School
  9. Buses? Try Walkable Schools!
  10. Healthy Schools, Healthy Cleaners. (Or Did You Ever Consider Your Child’s Mysterious Head Aches Might Be Related to the Cleaners Used at Your School?)

This is a post for the Green Moms Carnival on Back to School – our third annual! – hosted by the lovely Micaela at Mindful Momma. After you leave your comment, be sure to check out the other posts!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Help a Fisherman Out: #CitizenGulf National Day of Action

August 24th, 2010

What are you doing Wednesday night? If you happen to live in DC, San Francisco, L.A., Santa Monica, San Jose or any one of the 19 cities listed here, think about joining a Citizen Gulf meet-up to mark a National Day of Action to help Gulf fishermen and their families impacted by the Gulf Oil Spill Disaster.

Most importantly, you can kick in one of the $10 (or more) donations that are needed to raise $50,000 to help Gulf Coast fishing families recover from the disaster.

You may have heard that the Government has declared the Gulf waters open for fishing. (Kind of like they declared the air around Ground Zero safe to breathe. Remember that?)  Many fishermen aren’t buying that line either…They haven’t gone back to work because they don’t want their kids or yours or mine to suffer the ill effects of eating seafood contaminated with the dispersants and oil that’s accumulated in the Gulf. (I still stick with what the experts at TedXOilSpill had to say on the matter, as I blogged here. Bottom line: no one knows the impact, and we won’t know for years).

Where will your money and time go? To efforts like the After School Assembly program run by Catholic Charities.

After School Assembly has proven to be a family strengthener. When children are educated and cared for in a safe and no-cost environment, it reduces the stress of the parents and the stress on the family. Because we consider the oil spill to be an economic mental health crisis, we are trying to help families through many varied services.”

I just made my donation, and I’m sorry to report that the fund raising efforts aren’t exactly zooming along. Just four people have donated.   Yes, I know it’s back-to-school time. (I saw the crowds tonight at the Bethesda Staples, where I was crowned “Mayor.”) Sure, you’re packing for a last minute beach vacation. But it takes 2 minutes …I timed it.

C’mon. Help out. Donate now.

Thanks!

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Towards A Better BlogHer

August 15th, 2010

As someone who blogged last year about SwagHer, decrying Blogher ‘09’s excessive  swag and pushy promotions, I feel compelled to report on the atmosphere at BlogHer ’10.

What a difference a year makes.

It’s to BlogHer’s credit that they actually practice what they preach – they listened to the community’s feedback and implemented changes that vastly improved the feel of the conference and resulted in some noticeably greener changes.

Was it perfect? No. But as I told those who complained to me, BlogHer is not a green conference.

Here are just some of the improvements at BlogHer ’10:

Pur Waterphoto

1. The water stations were clearly visible (much more so than last year), as were the water bottles. (Thanks, P&G).

I especially liked the bathroom rugs that the organizers placed under the water jugs to absorb the water overflow. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had discussions with event organizers about how to handle the “drip” problem. Bathroom rugs? That’s a cheap, simple, green solution that anyone can implement.  Now we just need P&G to figure out how to recycle those water filters, like Brita does — (thanks to the Take Back the Filter action campaign led by blogger Fake Plastic Fish!)

2. Sponsors were barred from accosting approaching conference attendees to ask, “Would you like my swag wonderful sample of ….?” “Can I interview you about how much you love my wonderful brand and how we will change the world?”

Playskool

Of course, in the expo center, that kind of thing still went on at BlogHer ’10. But if you choose to step foot in the exhibit hall, you need to expect that the exhibitors will approach you and try to entice you with swag, giveaways, contests, etc. That’s the deal. If you don’t like it, don’t go to the exhibit hall.

3. A Swag recycling station (sponsored by P&G) was a big hit.

swagexchange

Even more swag could have been exchanged if it had stayed open a bit later (or if attendees had been warned that it would close up late Saturday afternoon).

4. I’m not sure if it was the conference lay-out or the way rooms were assigned, but there seemed to be far less of the “swag trick or treating” atmosphere that prevailed last year.

And as I’ve previously posted, I had a great time at BlogHer ’10. I’m looking forward to returning to next summer’s BlogHer ’11 in San Diego. But I hope to see some further “greening” of the conference.

What improvements would I like to see at BlogHer ‘11?

1. I had a hard time swallowing the “BlogHer Goes Green” slogan when there was no effort made to offset the carbon footprint of the conference. Many (most) conferences I attend offer carbon offsets,  and it’s something BlogHer could easily explore and probably even find a sponsor to cover for the attendees. In fact, last year  Michelin offset the travel for the attendees at the green session.

2. I’d like to see a diverse committee of BlogHer attendees offer a “swag vetting” service for BlogHer sponsors. (And yes, these women should be compensated for their time – not expected to volunteer).  Through a swag vetting service, sponsors could get early feedback that a proposed  giveaway would be a dud. Think of the time, money, and resources saved, as well as the improved blogger relations that would come from gifting a truly appreciated token rather than a spurned offering.   Does the Salvation Army really need all those leftover Jimmy Dean alarm clocks? (But believe it or not, I brought mine home for my son to replace his broken Thomas alarm clock!)

3. On the same note, BlogHer should re-evaluate the all-conference giveaway bag. Frankly, that’s where most of the discarded waste bound for some hapless homeless people came from!

4. BlogHer sponsors could run more experiential programs with attendees rather than offer gifts.  Some sponsors excelled at this, notably Liberty Mutual Insurance and their PR agency Ketchum, which offered a media training program for bloggers; Ecco Shoes, which pampered attendees with free pedicures; and P&G with their hair styling and make-overs.

makeoversP&G

But there’s still room for more creative experiential marketing programs with bloggers.    How about a leisurely brunch for the late owls who could never make the 10 a.m. breakfast cut-off (including yours truly?) What about some fresh fruit or veggies at the Recharge Lounge?   Or a goodbye brunch? How about  keeping the dance floor pounding all night long? I didn’t want Sparklecorn’s dance floor to close at 11 p.m. – did you?

5. Sponsors would profit from exploring more sustainable gifts. There is an enormous variety of creative, upcycled, recycled and fair trade gifts which would be unique and appreciated by the conference attendees.

6. I’m hopeful that next year, with the conference in California, we’ll see organic food and local, sustainable wines for conference goers to enjoy.

7. BlogHer could encourage sponsors to offer women an option of swag or donations to a crowd-sourced social change project or pet cause.Imagine the real impact of BlogHer if we were able to opt out of swag and reallocate those dollars to The Afghan Women’s Project, Tutus for Tanner, The American Cancer Society or Breast Cancer Fund, Bloganthropy, or another cause dear to the BlogHer community?  With 3500 attendees projected for Blogher ’11, and an estimated $100 per person spent on swag (my own  arguably conservative WAG), we could take funds otherwise spent on “sponsor gifts” and donate $350,000 to causes that make a real difference to our community.

After all – wasn’t that the real message of the keynote? Did you not hear what Gloria Feldt and Marie Wilson said? Women have power. We have economic power. And our voices matter. So what are we doing with that power? Mr. Potato Head or a Crowd-Sourced Cause Donation? Think about it.

And for those who say it can’t be all or nothing, fine. How about letting attendees opt in or opt out of swag from specific brands? That way those bloggers who take samples for review purposes are happy, brands’ products continue to get exposed to new audiences, so they’re happy, and we should all be happy because perhaps we could get to a near-zero waste conference – where we’re not expending resources to ship leftover  notebooks, plastic cups, alarm clocks, and paper – oh, the paper! -  to the Salvation Army.

NoNestlephoto

There was a lot of controversy about the Nestle sponsorship. It led to the boycotting of the conference by some speakers and attendees, and to silent action coordinated by PhDinParenting, who through her blogging, increased  BlogHer community awareness of Nestle’s violations of the WHO’s  International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.   I proudly wore one of the #NoNestle stickers that Crunchy Domestic Goddess handed me.

crunchydomesticgoddess

But to hold BlogHer’s founders to that same standard is not realistic. BlogHer is not a private endeavor. It’s not a B-Corporation. On the contrary, BlogHer is a rare example of a successful venture-capital funded start-up led by a female management team still comprised of the original founders. Jory des Jardins, Elisa Camahort Page and Lisa Stone don’t air their business issues in public, but take it from me – someone who worked for venture backed tech start-ups for years – these gals must be under intense pressure to grow revenue and show profit. They can’t turn away the big bucks that a company like Nestle offers to the conference.

Instead, BlogHer took Nestle’s money and paid for incredible speakers and a wide range of progressive programming. But BlogHer’s not a green or progressive conference, per se. And that’s not all bad. Because while I admire my deep green blogging buddies, I don’t want to spend my time preaching to the choir. I want to move people along the spectrum from light green to a deeper shade of green – and that’s best done by mixing at a conference like BlogHer, which appeals to a very diverse group of women from across the spectrum of ideologies, income levels, religions, and races.

What did you think about BlogHer? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

How Selling My Babies’ Stuff Gave Me The Baby Blues

August 14th, 2010

It should have been a simple business transaction: clear the clutter, post the old baby things online, and use the money for a trip to one of those kiddie-meccas.

But as I tweeted here, all of a sudden I began to feel…sad…emotional…melancholy. Oh my God, I had the baby blues all over again!

Those gorgeous brand new nautically themed sheets, rug, and comforter  I’m selling?

NEW NAUTICAL BEDDING & RUG SET COMPANY KIDS – $300 (Bethesda )


Date: 2010-08-13, 5:21PM EDT
Reply to: sale-pg2fb-1897302032@craigslist.org


I spent more than $500 on sale (trying to forget how much, but I just doublechecked on line, and this didn’t even include shipping) on a gorgeous set of nautical, boat themed bedding for my second child. (Buy this for a first born, you may be too tired like I was to make the curtains!) Never used. Includes a rug, comforter, 2 pillow cases (still in plastic), pillow sham (in plastic), six sets of sheets (my plan was to make curtains from four of them), with all in plastic save one. Very high quality from Company Kids. Not stocked by them any longer. Also includes a matching lamp that broke but will give it to you in case you wish to have it repaired. Also selling a Chicco high chair, Today’s Kids Baby PlayYards (2), and many other high quality name brand baby/kid items. Come get them all at once!

image 1897302032-0

PostingID: 1897302032

What was I thinking? Maybe I could have had a second child, gone back to work, and made curtains as planned. But start a new business, live the entrepreneurial life, enjoy two kids and a husband – and make curtains for a perfect little nursery? Fuhgeddaboutit!

The glider. Oh, the glider. Those long, never ending nursing sessions. The late nights. And the stuff that got on the glider. Why did I wait so long to really polish it up? Now it was gleaming – and ready to leave the house!

Dutalier Glider & Ottoman (Off-White, Dark Wood) – $150 (Bethesda)


Date: 2010-08-13, 3:16PM EDT
Reply to:rrors when replying to ads?]


FS: Neutral colored (off-white) Dutalier glider and Ottoman in good condition, only used in non-smoking home. Wood is dark cherry. The fabric has a very light pearl white-on-white leaf pattern. Loved it — it goes with anything – perfect for boys or girls!
Pick up near downtown Bethesda. I will also be posting other baby and kid stuff, like a nice highchair, baby gates, and clothing, so let me know if you need more! All high quality!

image 1897044191-0 image 1897044191-1

Just after posting everything, I ran to a potluck dinner at my “little one’s” preschool. There I saw a newborn, just six-weeks-old. How adorable.

baby_Booschool

It reminded me that my own “baby” is not a baby anymore.

BooBackpackphoto

The baby stuff really has to go.

And as my husband slid his arm around me, looked at the baby and said, “If we were ten years younger, we’d have a third,” I laughed and said, “If I was ten years younger, I’d still be of advanced maternal age!”

Today, a lovely young DCUrbanMom came by to pick up the glider. Her husband, a tall, strapping Navy man, carried the glider out to the car. I gave her a mini-download on green cleaning and all the lessons I’ve learned since I started my journey to figure out when it made sense to go green and organic. I handed her some left over organic baby salves from a former client.

And as she drove away, I sniffed a bit and realized once again, that time goes by too quickly. And they’re babies for far too short a time.

(And if you want to buy a bunch of great stuff, let me know! )

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

The Top 10 Things I Loved About BlogHer

August 9th, 2010

I had a great time at Blogher. Some people in my circles asked why, given all the controversy about the Nestle sponsorship and the excessive, sometimes reckless consumption which marred BlogHer ’09.

So here’s why. Here’s a list of the Top 10 Things I Loved About BlogHer.

  1. It’s the only time I get to see my tribe: the members of the Green Moms Carnival and the many other bloggers whose work I respect so much. I tweeted that I was up “partying” with The Smart Mama, Condo Blues, Fake Plastic Fish, Mindful Momma, and The Soft Landing. But actually, we’re a little nerdier than that. Sure we love to party. But you can do that anytime. Looking up municipal water tables and calculating the amount of time a glass of water stays fresh before bacteria breeds? I just can’t do that with my friends at home in Bethesda!

Siel, Jennifer, LynnphotoGreen LA Girl Siel, left; Jennifer Taggert of The Smart Mama and Yours Truly Relaxing After a Session

gmcphoto

Ok, Ok, this pic was taken last year at BlogHer ’09. Can you believe we don’t have a group shot from this year?

2.   I loved seeing all the women. It’s a very special experience to be at a conference for women, by women, particularly if you’ve worked in fields, like I have, where there are few women on the conference circuit.

doppelgangersphotoDoppelgangers? It’s been said that Alicia of The Soft Landing and I look alike. What do you think?

3.  It was a better BlogHer than last year from a sustainability perspective. Would I call it a Green Conference? Or even say, “BlogHer Goes Green?” Uh….no. But it was a huge step in the right direction. And I’ll have more to say on that in my next post.

swag exchangephoto

4. Great speakers. My favorite this year was the ending keynote. When I listened to the beautiful 70-year old Marie Wilson of The White House Project and Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, I was inspired.  Her vitality made me think,  “Wow, I’ve only just begun. I’m not so old after all. I have a lot yet to do and to give.”

MarieCWilson

5.  The Babies of BlogHer

6.  Great dancing. The dance floor rocked. How often do most of us get out dancing? Uh…never. (Except for my recent college reunion!)

7.  Pampering.

8. Never being asked to stop tweeting.

9.  Interesting people. The opportunity to strike up conversations is right in front of you all the time. Every woman there has a story. What’s hers?

bloganthropy photoWith Debbie Bookstaber, co-founder of Bloganthropy.  (Thank you, Corolle dolls for your sponsorship of Bloganthropy!)

10.  Wonderful venues. New York, of course, was amazing. So was Chicago last year (my first BlogHer conference). And next year, BlogHer ’11 will be in San Diego. I’ll be there. Will you?

newyorkphoto

– Lynn

Copyright 2010

The Babies of BlogHer: The Second Annual Round-Up

August 9th, 2010

In the second of what I hope to be an annual series of posts, I pay tribute to the Babies of BlogHer. Last year, I attended my first Blogher conference, and I marveled about how I’d never attended a conference with babes-in-arms. I spent twenty years working in the tech industry, where women at conferences were definitely in the minority. Babies? Fuhgedaboutit!

photo1_babyJoGreepHow appropriate that the first pic I snapped was of a doula – @outtajo aka of JoGreepChildBirth

As I blogged then,

Much has been written about BlogHer. How over-the-top everything was.  The big sponsors. The huge bags of swag. The blow-out parties.   The larger-than-life amazing, inspirational speakers. The networking.  It’s true – all of that was amazing.

But what really blew me away was something much smaller.

The babies. The babies of BlogHer.

They were everywhere you looked.

Though there were fewer than last year, the sight of all those gorgeous babies with their intrepid Mamas still blew me away.

photo6_babyatblogherunidentified

One of the first Mommy-Baby duos I snapped, Jen from Baby Making Machine and her Lil’ J were gorgeous! Those flowers make Lil’ Baby J look like a tropical goddess! (She’s only a month old!)

This year, I tried to include name tags in photos so that I could link back to the Mamas’ sites, but I’ve still fallen short! If you can identify one of the anonymous Mamas, please leave a comment so we know who she is!

EmilywithbabyBeautiful red-headed Emily (of ??) with her little sleeping moppet.

When I asked why there seemed to be fewer babies than last year, I was told it was because of reports about a baby being bumped at Blogher ’09. What a shame. BlogHer is a great place for babies, and I hope to see even more of them at Blogher ’11 in San Diego! (Particularly BlogHer co-founder Jory des Jardins’ baby!)

MorraAaronMele&friendwbaby photo

Morra Aarons Mele, right, and The Mama Bee with her adorable baby

Did I spot your baby? What was it like to bring your baby to BlogHer? Would you recommend it to other Moms? Leave a comment and share!

And if I snapped your pic, and it’s not posted…check back. I’ll be adding more to the post (including my own tykes) but I want to get up some other posts too! Oh…and real work!

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania