Earth Day Reverie

April 22nd, 2010

For a green blogger, what one chooses to post on Earth Day carries quite some significance.

I debated.

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I thought about adding my voice to those expressing disgust at the commercialization of Earth Day.  But I tried that two years ago.

And this year?

The same company that I took to task on Earth Day 2008 had their PR firm approach me about publicizing their tactless displays…

I thought about writing an update about  “A Travesty on Earth Day.” It was two years ago Earth Day when  a Bethesda developer chose to chop down eight beautiful, healthy, four-story high, towering trees in the heart of downtown to make way for a condo building….

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Two years later…and those trees are gone forever, with no luxury building in sight.

I thought about writing an update post on the launch of my client, Green My Parents.

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But heck, I spent the better part of the day tweeting about Green My Parents anyway!

Instead, I decided the best thing I could do for Earth Day was to get outside.

Watched as  my eldest boy admired a tree branch.

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Let my younger son think that leaves were a type of “toy” from the Earth.

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And me? There’s nothing like lying in the soft, sunlit grass – enjoying Mother Earth. (Even when reminders of the constant pull of our commercial culture are literally right at hand).

And your Earth Day?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Amazing Things Happen When a Community Pulls Together

October 5th, 2009

It’s hard to believe that it was  a year and a half ago that I wrote this post about the launch of a sustainability initiative in my community.  No one could have imagined that just 19 months later, we’d be cutting the (green) ribbon on a beautiful newly renovated  Community Center/Green Business Incubator in the heart of our city.

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But it happened, and the DC and Maryland press turned out en masse to hear Seth Goldman, TeaEO of Honest Tea, Ike Leggett, County Executive, and other assorted dignitaries celebrate the launch of Maryland’s first Green Business Incubator and the Bethesda Green  Center.

And how could I have imagined that my own business would be housed in this green and gorgeous new space?

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Back in March of ’08, I reported that:

In what may be the first effort of this type, business, government, community, and non-profit leaders are coming together to develop  programs that will reduce Bethesda’s carbon footprint, increase its recyling rate, and reduce landfill waste and pollution. And this is just the first phase of the project! In the second phase, Bethesda Green aims to encourage smart growth and green development and to green its business community.

Sounds like we more than hit our goals – with an outpouring of  community support from everyday citizens,  county government and area businesses like these sponsors.

Truly, amazing things happen when a community pulls together. If you’re in Bethesda, get involved! And if  you happen to just be visiting the Washington, DC area,  stop by for a tour of our Green Community Center!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Farmers, The First Lady & Me

September 27th, 2009
Those eyes! Those arms! It's First Lady Michelle Obama, a few inches away from me, shaking hands at the opening of the FRESHFARM Markets by The White House.

Those eyes! Those arms! It's First Lady Michelle Obama, a few inches away from me, shaking hands at the opening of the FRESHFARM Markets by The White House.

Yes, I was actually close enough to Michelle Obama to snap these photos. Shook her hand, spoke to her – it was an amazing high point after several weeks of work helping my client FRESHFARM Markets explore the new world of social media and its relevance to farmers markets.  (Check out this  Twitter stream for some of the results).

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By now you’ve probably heard that The First Lady exclaimed, “I’ve never seen so many people so excited about vegetables!”  But what you didn’t hear was the man next to me who shyly inquired, “What’s that purple stuff?” before learning it was kohlrabi.

People were walking around from stand to stand,  pointing and looking at  “exotic” produce specimens that typically aren’t available at the local supermarket. And they weren’t just looking, they were buying.  Some farmers ran out of food because the market completely exceeded their expectations.

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I couldn’t resist taking this photo of  handsome Sam Kass, the White House chef who oversees the White House garden.  As I tweeted, he was welcomed like a rock star –  after Michelle Obama, he got the loudest cheers from the crowd (or at least from the female contingent!)

Take a look at these other photos I snapped. I  made a point to walk by every one of the eighteen farmers stalls in order to try and capture the atmosphere on opening day. Like me, you may have been to many, many farmers’ markets before. But few people have ever been to a  farmer’s market that looks anything like this one…

It seemed like a dream, but it was true. This woman from Welsh Gardens kept beckoning people over for a lavender hand wash.

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Talk about a decadent pleasure. It was amazing. Inside the Welsh Gardens tent were a beautiful array of organically grown lavender soaps and herbs.

And here’s a shot of Blueberry Hill Farm.

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Do you see the beautiful marigold garland? The farmer’s daughter made The First Lady a lei from these marigolds.

One of the greatest pleasures at market is enjoying the samples that are freely passed out.  At  Clear Spring Creamery, below, @gplot mixes  a mean Blueberry smoothie for yours truly.

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The women of Endless Summer Harvest look so happy in the picture below, don’t they?

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I love their sign (below) welcoming Michelle Obama – although unfortunately she never made it to this stand. (She was actually shopping behind a security fence, although you couldn’t tell from most of the pix released that day).

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The picture below shows the beautiful display that greeted Mrs. Obama at The Farm at Sunnyside.

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And despite this amusing sign promoting Sunnyside’s beets, Mrs. Obama passed on the beets!

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Solitude. Many people were surprised  to find yarn at market. Perhaps some of the city folk forgot that yarn comes from the wool of sheep, which after all, live on farms! (Let’s forget about those synthetic yarns, shall we?)  This beautiful little shop – it really seemed more like a shop than a stand – reminded me of little stores in Ireland.

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Gunpowder Bison and Trading Company.

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I love the name of this market. It sounds like something from the Wild West, but this 70 acre farm is actually located in northern Baltimore County, Maryland.

Wollam Gardens. Beautiful. Just beautiful. What else can one say?

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Quail Creek Farm and Praline Bakery.
I don’t know about you, but when I first heard the term “farmers market,” I didn’t think of French pastries.

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But these  croissants aux amandes  looked to be straight from Paris! Instead, they were from Quail Creek Farm in West Virginia.

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And Praline Bakery, from my hometown of Bethesda, also had  the types of delectable pastries most people associate more with Paris than with a farmers market on a city street. So much for snacking on cut fruit and veggies!  ☺

Toigo Orchards – I didn’t buy a jar of bourbon peaches…but I regret it!

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Groff’s  Content Farm

I love this photo of Farmer Bob Bolton in his Groffs Content Farm hat, showing off some free range poultry.
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Chris’ Marketplace.     I’ve blogged before about Chris’ delicious crabcakes. This time I lunched on the empanadas and gazpacho, which were delicious.  You can see from the pic below that there was quite a line!

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The market was so packed, and I was so busy sending tweets, twitpix  etc, that I didn’t get to spend as much time at each stand as I would have liked.  Here I am demonstrating my best Tweeting technique with FRESHFARMs Market co-founder Bernie Prince.

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Here are a few stands that I had to rush by:

It was so packed at Firefly Farms that I didn’t get to try any of their artisan cheeses, but it looks fabulous, doesn’t it?

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There were so many choices for great cheese – here’s the stand for  Keswick Creamery.

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Spring Valley Farm – Spring Valley was actually one of the few stands that resembled a typical farmer’s stand. Tomatoes, apples, greens – nothing too fancy, just simple, great fruits and veggies.

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Not all of the stands take credit cards, but Everona Dairy does – and they advertise it prominently.

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I don’t eat pork, but if I did, I think this sign from Cedarbrook Farm would have me sold!

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And finally, one of the many happy customers I encountered along the way. He was  thrilled to have purchased the last of the carrots from The Farm at Sunnyside.

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Hope you enjoyed this “virtual tour” of the newest and perhaps the most famous farmers market in the world!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Disclosure: As disclosed above (so this is double disclosure), my company, 4GreenPs, was employed to manage FRESHFARM Market’s social media presence at the re-opening of the market, however this was not a paid post. I posted because I was just so darn excited. Wouldn’t you be? It’s great to have such wonderful clients!

Yes! I’ll Be at The Opening of the Farmers Market by The White House, Follow on Twitter!

September 17th, 2009
Chris Hoge of Bethesda Maryland sells Washington's best Blue Crab meat at the Foggy Bottom Market, pictured, and TODAY, at the new Vermont Avenue Market by the White House. Yum!

Chris Hoge of Bethesda Maryland sells Washington's best Blue Crab meat at the Foggy Bottom Market, pictured, and TODAY, at the new Vermont Avenue Market by the White House. Yum!

Very, very excited about helping  FRESHFARM Markets with the opening of their newest market, on Vermont Avenue by The White House. YES, THAT Market. The one that President Obama talked about? Yep. The one that The First Lady will check out today? Yes.

If you’d like to hear my impressions on the fly from the opening event, please follow the FRESHFARM Markets account on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/FRESHFARMMktsDC And if you’re in Maryland and want to keep up with local happenings from the four FRESHFARM Markets and the local food movement in Maryland, please follow: http://www.twitter.com/FRESHFARMMktsMD

And are you following me on Twitter? I’ve got three accounts:
@OrganicMania where this blog leaves off and @4GreenPs for tweets about Green Biz and Green Marketing and @GreenMoms for a feed of all the blog posts from my Green Moms Carnival sisters.

Enjoy the day! Eat well!

Lynn

5 Things You Can Do About Those National Organic Program Rumors Repeated in The Washington Post

July 3rd, 2009

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For some time now, I’ve come across rumors of troubles with the National Organic Program (the body responsible for bestowing the coveted USDA Organic Seal and Certification).   Whether it was comments from disgruntled farmers on message boards and blogs, grumblings from members at my biodynamic CSA, the time a Chilean woman came up to me at Whole Foods and laughed in my face for buying organic grapes before delivering  a lecture on how “organic” food is really grown, or a half-dozen or so similar encounters…well…I’ve wondered. But what was I going to do? Blog about rumors? Some blogs run that way, but I like to have facts on my side. (I’m still a former newspaper reporter, after all!)

Now those rumors have gained more credence with a  Washington Post article which makes the following allegations:

1.  USDA Organic does not mean pesticide-free.

  • According to The Post, “The original law’s mandate for annual pesticide testing was also never implemented — the agency left that optional…  In 2004, Robinson [ the administrator of the USDA Organics Program] issued a directive allowing farmers and certifiers to use pesticides on organic crops if “after a reasonable effort” they could not determine whether the pesticide contained chemicals prohibited by the organics law.”

2. The list of non-organic substances allowed in USDA certified organic foods has increased from 77 to 245 substances since the standard was created in 2002. As The Post says, “The goal was to shrink the list over time, but only one item has been removed so far.”

3. The Post alleges that there are quality differences in organic certifying bodies, with some practicing more stringent certifications protocols than others. One it singles out for particular criticism is Quality Assurance International (QAI).  The organic certifying body’s seal is on organic packaged items, although typically the seals and the country of origin are printed in very small type, so I’ve found that you have to look carefully to find these seals.

4.   USDA Organic may NOT even mean 100% GMO-free. This is particularly troublesome given that avoiding GMOs is one key reason people, particularly parents, pay extra for the organic seal.

So what’s a frustrated shopper to do?  I’ve taken the following steps.  And based on the Post article, I’ll redouble my efforts to do so:

1.  Find a local CSA or farmer’s market that you trust. Local is always better, because fresh-picked food retains more nutrients and because the carbon footprint involved in food transport is smaller. (Disclosure: I recently welcomed  one of the  nation’s leading farmer’s markets, FRESH FARM Markets, as a consulting client).

2.   Avoid imported organic foods from countries with questionable food safety, heavy pollution,  and lax regulations. For me, this means China.  Soybeans are particularly suspect. It can be a challenge to find USDA organic soybeans that are not imported from China.

3. Purchase frozen foods from countries with strong health and safety records. When I’m not buying fresh veggies,  I always look for frozen organic veggies produced in the US. Sometimes I  buy  frozen foods from France, as I blogged here. They may not be organic, but I know they don’t contain GMOs because they’re forbidden by law in the EU.

4.  Think about whether you really want to pay a premium for the USDA organic seal on processed foods. If you’re buying some chips for the kids as a treat, maybe the “natural” label or plain old conventional food will do.

5.  Demand accountability from Washington. The USDA Organic Seal should stand for pure, organic food free of GMOs, chemical pesticides, and synthetic additives.

I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment and share! I love my tweeters, but please leave a note too!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Nielsen’s Power Mom 50 & Me

May 10th, 2009

Twitter was buzzing on Friday about a new BrandWeek article on the power of “Digital Moms.” Another Nielsen Online study was out, and I was thinking that I really needed to read it for the benefit of my clients… Imagine my surprise when just a few hours later I received an email from my green mom friend @mcmilker with subject line: You Power Mom – You!!

I laughed.

Of course, I was thrilled too, to be named to this list of influential bloggers. What a great Mother’s Day gift!

But Power and Moms? Those two words are rarely used together. The Moms I know all feel just the opposite – powerless. Powerless over the craziness that comes with raising kids. The unpredictability of a good night’s sleep, the near-certainty that if you purchase non-refundable tickets to anything, your child will fall ill…the sudden realization that once you have kids, you really can’t control anything anymore.

But the fact is, Corporate America knows the power of moms’ collective purchasing power. Nearly $2 trillion a year is spent by Moms, who control 85% of household spending, according to the Marketing to Moms Coalition.

And where did I fit into all this? If anything, I’ve slowed my spending since leaving corporate America behind to start my consulting practice. But I spend a lot of time – on Twitter, through the Green Moms Carnival, during interviews, and here on OrganicMania and other blogs- advising women on which green and organic products are worth purchasing.

OrganicMania was included in Nielsen Online’s Power Mom 50 “mamaste” category of “mom bloggers who stretch beyond their spheres to explore going green, travel and spirituality,” along with fellow Green Mom carnival member Sommer Poquette of Green and Clean Mom and several other bloggers I’ll have to get to know: Traveling Mamas, Mormon Mommy Wars, Travel Savvy Mom, More than Words, Mom of Faith, and Happy, Healthy Hip.

I’m thrilled to be a “Power Mom.” Thanks to all who have supported me on this blogging journey, especially my sisters-in-arms at The Green Moms Carnival and @GreenMoms. Check out Nielsen’s Power Mom 50 report here.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!

Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Organic and Green Savings: A Great Time to Try Organic Kids Food

January 6th, 2009

Just wanted to pass along the news that my client Mom Made Foods is offering a great deal to celebrate the new year. Now when you buy any 4 Mom Made Meals or Munchies at SuperTarget by January 19th, you can redeem your UPC codes for a $9 SuperTarget gift card plus special savings codes from GDiapers and Bebe au Lait! Grab your rebate form and all the details here.

The MomMade Team! (L to R, Laura Waldron, Marketing Manager; Jennifer Mulchandani, Marketing Director; Heather Stouffer, Mom Made Founder; and Lynn Miller, Miller Strategic Marketing and OrganicMania).

The MomMade Team! (L to R, Laura Waldron, Marketing Manager; Jennifer Mulchandani, Marketing Director; Heather Stouffer, Mom Made Founder; and Lynn Miller, Miller Strategic Marketing and OrganicMania).

This $9 rebate offer is a great excuse not only to try Mom Made organic frozen foods, but to visit a SuperTarget! I tweeted a while back about the surprises I found on my “roadtrip” to a SuperTarget with the Mom Made team. I had no idea that SuperTargets had such an expansive organics section – including fresh organic produce, all at great prices, of course!

For more than a year now, I’ve been blogging about the need for more healthy, organic and natural products at prices that make sense. During this time, we’ve discussed money savings tips such as the expansion of Giant’s organic lines, great savings on Archer Farms house brand organics at Target, coupons from Whole Foods, and more. And now we see SuperTarget, recently named one of the top 10 healthiest grocery stores by Health Magazine, as another high quality option for organic foods at a good price.

Take a look – and let me know what you think!

And as for the Mom Made? Well, there are four options to choose from, but I’d be holding out if I didn’t tell you that Baby Boo and Big Boy prefer the Cheesy Mac (with peas!) and the Cheese Pizza. As for me? After a long day, I’ve been known to kick back with a Mom Made Bean Burrito and a beer!

Looking for more savings tips? Check these out over at Thrifty Thursday on greenbabyguide.com and these at Frugal Friday!

Bon Appetit!

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Buy Something that Makes a Difference Day!

November 28th, 2008

Last year at this time, I supported “Buy Nothing Day,” which encourages consumers to abstain from “Black Friday” shopping sales.

This year, it’s a different story. With “Going out of Business” signs all around the shopping centers, we see sad reminders of an economy in tatters.

I’m not suggesting you buy a bunch of useless “stuff” just to help the economy and save a few bucks for the holidays. But what I am suggesting is that whether you’re out and about today on “Black Friday” or cruising the Net on “Cyber Monday,” you can choose to make a difference with your purchases by patronizing those companies that help us to go green – either by saving energy, using organic farming methods, or insisting on recycled paper from well managed forests.

And yes, I have a few savings tips for you – all, I’m happy to say, from some great green companies I’m representing through my consulting business.

Savings Tip #1 – Free Organic Food for Kids (With Rebate)
Is there a SuperTarget near you? I visited for the first time last week and was impressed by their attractive display of organic produce, along with the increasing variety of eco-friendly products Target stocks – all at great prices, of course. The reason for my visit was to check out their new display of Mom Made organic foods. Now’s the best time to try Mom Made — for free. Mom Made will refund the purchase price of one Mom Made for Baby, Mom Made Munchie, or Mom Made Meal purchased at SuperTarget through December 10th. Just download this form for info on where to send your receipt and proof of purchase.

Savings Tip#2 – Free Shipping on Energy Efficient LED Lights
Think compact fluorescents are the latest and greatest in energy efficiency? Think again. LEDs are the wave of the future. Prices are coming down, and the energy savings are enormous. (Check out this comparison chart to get informed on the differences between incandescent, compact fluorescent, and
LED lighting for details). Now you can order that practical someone on your list the latest in LED lighting technology – with free shipping for the holidays. Check out Mr. Beams motion sensor activated SpotLight and StairLight, and read their great consumer reviews here.

Savings Tip #3 – 10% off Soft Organic Cotton Tees and Note Cards
Got a dog lover on your list? What about an environmentally conscious dog lover who wants to support dog charities? Check out these adorable, soft, whimsical organic cotton tees printed with water-based inks and the matching note cards, printed on FSC certified paper by an FSC certified printer in a carbon-neutral facility. Coordinating envelopes made from 100% recyclable paper, packed in biodegradable/compostable packaging with hemp string. Whether you choose to shake it off or live in the moment, there’s something for you at Fundamentally Dog! Use coupon code 1EM1108 to save 10% on your first purchase by 12/20/08. 

Happy Shopping…and remember, think carefully about how you spend…you can make a real difference by patronizing firms that are working hard to protect and preserve the environment. Want to take it a step further? Sign up for my friend Diane MacEachern’s “One in a Million Challenge,” and commit to shifting $1,000 of your spending to eco-friendly products. As Diane, author of The Big Green Purse, puts it “The more money you spend on green products, the more you encourage manufacturers to reduce pollution, save energy and water, use less packaging and protect natural areas.”

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Motrin®: I’m Appalled

November 16th, 2008

Like most Moms, I don’t go organic and natural all the time. I do use conventional medicines, with Children’s Motrin® being a favorite for those times when our kids need it.

No longer. As a Mom, I am appalled at the new Motrin “MOM-ALOGUE” ad, which is offensive to Moms who choose to carry their babies in slings or carriers, close to their bodies. Are we really all crazy cry babies, Motrin? Because that’s what your ad implies.

As a marketing consultant, I’m shaking my head. Did you focus group test this ad with the right audiences, Motrin? What were your brand managers thinking? Did you have a truly representative group of Mothers involved in developing this campaign?

The irony is that many Moms (and Dads) will admit that they suffered from back pain due to baby wearing. The message of this ad is not off-base, it’s the execution that is so insulting. Motrin could have communicated its message in a way that would have been truly helpful to parents, but instead Motrin opted for mean-spirited “humor” that is full of bad stereotypes and misinformation.

Motrin is owned by McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson. And guess what? This is the SECOND time in a year that J&J, marketer of many leading baby brands, has made a massive miscalculation when marketing to its core audience: new Moms. Last time around, J&J invited a bunch of blogging Moms to a retreat but forgot that Moms have – well, children! Not only did J&J make no provisions for childcare, but they barred nursing mothers from bringing their babies. Must have been because odds are, those nursing Moms were carrying their babies in slings! Or carriers! And now we know that J&J thinks those women are crazy!

But you be the judge. Here’s the text of the ad (thanks to NewsAnchorMom), and a link to the video.

Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion. I mean, in theory it’s a great idea. There’s the front baby carrier, sling, schwing, wrap, pouch. And who knows what else they’ve come up with. Wear your baby on your side, your front, go hands free.
Supposedly, it’s a real bonding experience. They say that babies carried close to the body tend to cry less than others. But what about me? Do moms that wear their babies cry more than those who don’t. I sure do! These things put a ton of strain on your back, your neck, your shoulders. Did I mention your back?! I mean, I’ll put up with the pain because it’s a good kind of pain; it’s for my kid.
Plus, it totally makes me look like an official mom. And so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why.

Check out this YouTube video of the outrage on Twitter. Advertisers, be warned: Never, ever offend a blogging, tweeting Mom!

What do you think? Leave a comment and share! Or send a tweet and tag it #motrinmoms! You can read the live feed here.

Online Environmental Activism? We’re Just Getting Started!

November 5th, 2008

It’s the day after the election, and I figured by now I’d be exhausted from staying up so late watching the returns. Or perhaps I’d be practicing the remarks I’m making on Green PR at DC’s PRSA meeting tomorrow.

But no.

Barack Obama is not the only one who immediately turned his attention to setting the agenda for his administration. My group of green online activist friends is already planning how to best advance the green agenda in the next administration.

This morning I received an email from Big Green Purse author Diane MacEachern, who has become a good bloggy friend since her interview on OrganicMania. Diane was reaching out to all of the Green Moms Carnival participants to invite us to participate in a new online forum she created called “The Prevention Agenda.”

Diane is hoping to create an agenda (or series of agendas) focused on preventing environmental and human health threats, rather than just cleaning up after them. As she says, “My hope is that the forum will help create a groundswell of support for changing our approach to threats to human health and the environment. Hopefully, response to the forum will be strong enough to lead to a series of Prevention Agendas on specific topics that can be presented to the Obama administration before the inauguration.”

I immediately jumped online and registered (Member #1), posing a question about one of my main concerns: the chemical soup of ingredients that are allowed in our personal care products. You can read and respond to my question here.

The emails started flying. The Green Moms are charged up. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

Come check it out The Prevention Agenda. Because as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

What do you think about this? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania