A Day In The Life: When Advocating for Green Is Easier Than Being Green

June 19th, 2010

I was amused last week when I saw these tweets from a California conference. “Green is Mainstream.”  “It’s not a differentiator.” “It’s just what everyone does.”

Really? Maybe I need another trip to California. (But of course, that wouldn’t be too green.)

For this month’s Green Moms’ Carnival, Beth of Fake Plastic Fish challenged the Green Moms to write about a “Day in the Life,” reflecting on the “green steps we take as well as the green challenges we face and the hard decisions we have to make.”

As luck would have it, I chose a day that ended up revealing a sad truth: sometimes it’s easier to advocate for green than to be green. Does that make me a hypocrite? Or does it just show how much more work we have to do before being green in Maryland is as easy as being green in California?

But back to my day….It was Wednesday, June 9th, cloudy and overcast, and threatening showers as I closed the front door. I was heading out  to the Bethesda Green Incubator, where my business is located. I was on time (mindful that running late invariably results in taking the car instead of walking), ready for an easy 15 minute walk.

But I hesitated.

The sky was dark. What if it rained? I  had my laptop, after all. I wouldn’t want that to get soaked, would I? I debated. I thought about Beth. I thought about the Carnival. I thought about water seeping through my bag, damaging my laptop. The minutes crept away. I was on the verge of being late. I took the car. It’s not a Hybrid.  It consumes oil, the very kind that’s seeping into the Gulf.

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At the Incubator, I walked out to our model-green reception area to meet Ariana Kelly, a Moms Rising advocate and candidate for the Maryland State House.

I told her the Bethesda Green story: how the community came together – business, government, and residents – to take on volunteer projects to make our community more sustainable. I pointed out the cork floors, the low VoC paints, the rain barrel displays, the permaculture exhibit, specimen seed library, and solar panels.

Then we walked across the street for lunch (so far, so good) and ate a lunch that assuredly was not sustainable. (After all, when it’s sustainably raised seafood they charge more for it and advertise it as such, don’t they?)  At least our conversation was green. We talked about all that Maryland was doing with B Corp legislation and the BPA ban, and the Bethesda Green Business Delegation that met in Annapolis recently.

The Bethesda Green Delegation was sure to snap a pic of Bethesda's own Honest Tea on the steps of the State Capitol

Then I ran out to retrieve my car, soon discovering the day’s first stroke of Bad Green Karma. A parking ticket.I should have walked. Not a drop of rain fell from the sky. And now I owed $40. My lunch had suddenly became quite expensive.

Later that afternoon, I picked Boo up from preschool, wincing as he carried some Pepperidge Farm goldfish in a plastic cup out the door. Every day, I dutifully packed reusable containers. Couldn’t they be used to pack up snacks?, I wondered. Must remember to bring that up to the teachers, I thought, as I dashed out the door to my car  (yet again). After all, we had to hurry to make it to the CSA pick-up, and then on to the end-of-year  Cub Scout picnic.

Soon, I stood at the CSA, hurriedly weighing  the fresh-picked biodynamic and organic produce. Scallions? Check. Apples? Natch.  Radishes, swiss chard, kale, fresh-baked bread, lettuce, they all went into my re-usable bag.

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I heard Boo fussing, and asked him to be patient and wait for Mommy.   I was in a hurry, after all, and there were four people behind me, waiting to use the scale.

Then I heard it.

CRASH.

Tiny bits of crushed Pepperidge Farm goldfish – all over the pristine garage  floor of the CSA. Ev eryone froze, looked at Boo, and then looked at me. I sighed and said, “That’s what happens when you dare to bring Pepperidge Farm goldfish to a biodynamic CSA. God strikes you down.”

After the laughter died down, a broom appeared, everything was swept up, and we were off on our way to the picnic.

I was in such a hurry, I didn’t bother to check directions before I left the house. And my in-car navigator (Big Boy) wasn’t with me….he had left ahead of time with his friends and their Mom. So I overshot the park. Sat, idling (burning more of that fuel) in front of an apartment building 1 /4 mile from the turn-off for the park, frantically navigating my iPhone, trying to figure out where I was supposed to be.

(Maybe at this point I should mention my DH was on Day Seven of an extended business trip. The one where he gets to hang out in a castle by the Mediterranean Sea. And I was spent from playing Single Mom for a week).

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Finally, we arrived at the picnic, eager to partake in the festivities. I frowned at the hot dogs and hamburgers, thinking of the heavy burden conventional farming techniques, especially those used to rear cattle and pork, place on our ecosystem. I helped myself to some salad, trying to ignore Boo’s pleas for a hotdog or hamburger, before finally giving in. Their father, the committed vegetarian, was out of town. And we so rarely had meat. They even had a grill! I ended up eating some myself.

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But the bottled water? That was just beyond the pale. I hurried out to my car to retrieve my stainless steel water bottle. At least I had remembered that! When I returned, my friend smirked and asked me to look closely at the bottled water. They weren’t drinking water, she said.

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I burst out laughing. Cub Scout parents surreptitiously drinking wine from empty water bottles? It brought back memories of alcohol snuck into parties when I was under-age. It was too funny. I had to have some! (Just on general principle!) But how? I only had my water bottle, and Boo needed some water. My not-so-green friend eyed me, amusedly. She knew exactly the calculation I was making.

“I’m not touching those plastic bottles!” I hissed.

I asked Boo if he wanted some more water.

“No, I’m fine,” he told me.

“Drink up, “ I urged. “There won’t be any more water.”

“I’M FINE!!!”

I dumped the rest of the water out of my re-usable water bottle and smiled contentedly as her husband filled it part way with the red wine. It wasn’t that good, actually, but it was the absurdity of the situation that made it worthwhile.

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“Mama, can I have some more water?”

That’s when I gave up and opened one of those darn plastic water bottles.

(And made a mental note to see if we couldn’t procure some large water jugs for the next Cub Scout picnic.)

And decided that I had more than enough material for a  decent “Day in the Life” post.

Easy to be green? Maybe in California. But not where I live.

What about you?

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Green Schools: Five Lessons Learned the Hard Way

August 9th, 2009

Editor’s Note: This post is for the Green Moms Carnival on Green Schools, which will appear here at OrganicMania on Tuesday,   August 11th. There will be great contributions from green women bloggers from all around the country, weighing in on green schools – from nursery school to college!

It seems like just yesterday that I squeezed into a seat at the kid-size cafeteria tables at my son’s new elementary school. I was there to participate in my very first PTA meeting, and while I was interested in many of the things going on at the school, what I really wanted to learn about were the school’s environmental initiatives. I wanted to get involved in the Green Committee.

Imagine my surprise when the PTA leadership didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. They invited me to become involved with the committee that watered the trees over the summer. Oh, and they  really wanted some help with a children’s garden.

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But I’m not much of a gardener. I may feel green, but my plants are brown. I wanted to focus on environmental issues like substituting  conventional school cleaning products with more environmentally friendly options;  introducing  waste-free lunches; eliminating the throw-away styrofoam trays used in our lunchroom;   replacing Sally Foster fundraisers with more eco-friendly options; and stopping the Cheap Plastic Crap giveaways used at school fundraisers.  And that was just for starters! Then I could see moving on to including walkable schools in our County and State Carbon Reduction Programs, retrofitting the school with solar or wind power, and more…

I think the other committee members went into overload just listening to my wish list.   Our principal suggested that the new parents hold back and watch and learn what went on at the school instead of jumping in with a million new directions.  So I did what comes unnaturally to this Jersey girl: I shut my mouth.

After the meeting, several other of the incoming parents approached me and said they understood and supported what I was proposing, and would be glad to help. The problem was that no one wanted to lead the effort. No one could seem to find the time.  I agreed to co-chair a committee, but soon found that coordinating with a co-chair and getting the committee off the ground fell by the wayside as I focused more of my energy on work, home, family, other volunteer work,  OrganicMania, and the Green Moms Carnival.

I blogged a bit about my Green Mom Culture Shock during this time and how I was Dealing with the Schools: Coping as  a Green Mom…but then I went all quiet on you. Didn’t say too much about what was going on…

So did we make progress this last school year? Yes, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. I did learn a few lessons, though, which I’m happy to share with other eager parents as they seek to navigate the new world of PTAs and public schools.  What about you? What’s worked for you? Please leave a message and share, because the new school year is about to start up and  we can all learn from each others’ experiences.  What’s worked for you as you’ve sought to green your school?

Lesson #1: Meet People Where They Are

Only months after that first meeting did I learn that the existing gardening committee had plenty of “greenies” involved who would have been happy to take on many of the other issues I proposed.  And had I volunteered first with that committee, proved myself, and learned how things worked at the school, our Green Committee probably would have had more impact.

Lesson #2 Get Support from Area Non-Profits

Through the Green  Schools committee of my town’s sustainable communities initiative, Bethesda Green, I learned that the Audobon Society’s Green Schools Initiative was  trying to reduce waste at my son’s school.   Several of the other committee members were from my son’s school, and we were encouraged us to go back and try again with the Green Committee, or just to do things on our own as we could fit them in.  The woman who led the charge? Probably the busiest one among us – she has triplets!

Lesson #3 Seek out Liked Minded Allies in the School Early On

Through the Green Schools committee, I met a teacher from my son’s school.  She was able to shed some light on mysteries like WHY the class buying lists contained so many plastic items, and how to get that changed for the next school year.

She was also able to explain that there were a bunch of different Green initiatives going on at school that would have more reach and impact if they were coordinated. Coincidentally, I heard the same thing from the PTA president at that time.  Soon we were able to get things a bit better organized, and on much sounder footing for this coming school year.

Having friends “on the inside” of the school really helps!

Lesson #4 Connect with other Local Schools and Learn  What’s Worked There

Some of the other schools here in Bethesda, Maryland  have had far greater participation in their “Waste-Free Wednesday” lunch campaigns than we did with ours. It may just take time for new ideas to take root, but  it would  have been ideal if we could have touched base with the green leaders at our town’s other schools to see how they achieved so much success.  Thanks to our community-wide Green Schools initiative, we’ll be connecting with those other green school leaders soon.

Lesson #5 Propose Well Thought-Out Alternatives

It’s not enough to say, “Get rid of the traditional school fundraising programs and  all of the “stuff” that they push on people!”   When well established fund raising programs are bringing in $20K or so for the PTA, you’ve got to have a plan to replace that money.  There are many new green school fundraising programs emerging, but how much money are schools actually making from these programs?  That’s one question I haven’t yet been able to answer to our PTA’s satisfaction.   (Perhaps a kind reader  will leave a comment here with that information!)

What about you? What’s worked and what hasn’t worked as you’ve sought to “green” your neighborhood schools?  Please leave  comment and share!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Green Moms Carnival is Up: Green Moms Spill Their Eco-Secrets

June 24th, 2009

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Head on over to visit Jenn Savedge’s site, The Green Parent, where you can read all about the “Eco-Secrets” of the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival.

While I don’t normally laugh at behavior that’s not mindful of the environment, I know these women – and I know that they live their lives with tremendous  concern for the environment.  Still, none of us are perfect. (Although I do think Beth of Fake Plastic Fish and Diane of Big Green Purse come awfully close to perfection).  Let’s face it, it’s human nature to want to know the “real scoop” and what goes on behind closed doors (or on vacation, in my case!)

As I read these posts, my initial reaction was to howl with laughter and self-recognition. But then these profound words from this OrganicMania  interview with  Seth Goldman, Tea-EO of Honest Tea,  came back to me:

“Still, it’s a challenge. We live in a consumer society. The definition of a consumer is to destroy, and the definition of sustainability is the exact opposite. How do you live a sustainable life in a consumer society? You’re setting yourself up for a contradiction.”

He’s so right, isn’t he?

What do you think? Please leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright  OrganicMania 2009

Photo Credit:  XKCD, reprinted under CCL.

Another Green Moms Carnival Is Up: World Environment Day and World Oceans Day

June 5th, 2009

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Head on over to The Smart Mama to see a small but mighty round up of posts on World Environment Day and World Oceans Day.

Interested in what we’re doing next? Check out the calendar, complete with submission instructions, right here. Hope you’ll join us again on  June 24th for Eco-Confessions with The Green Parent.

– Lynn

Gardening with the Green Moms: Talk About Stress Relief!

May 28th, 2009

boo-w-watercanphoto

Did this photo make you smile? Admittedly, I’m biased since that’s my “Baby Boo,” but how could it not make you smile?

That’s one of the greatest things about gardening (and children). They bring us so many smiles. And when our lives are full of the hectic everyday busyness that is modern life, plus the unexpected curve balls that life lobs at you every now and then, well, who couldn’t use some stress relief?

Want to know how to get started with your spring garden? Check out a round-up of great gardening posts from the Green Moms Carnival over at Green and Clean Mom. My own post about recycled seed starter pots was belatedly added to the carnival after its launch, because I was …well…stressed out dealing with child advocacy and green advocacy issues; an elderly, sick mother; stitches for Baby Boo; and the everyday craziness that all of us face as parents.

Have you started a garden yet? It’s not too late! Leave a comment and share!

And if you just can’t get around to it this year, take a walk and go enjoy someone else’s garden!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009 .

More on Spring Cleaning: Green Moms Carnival is Up!

March 11th, 2009

Be sure to check out the more than twenty submissions about green ways to clean at this month’s Green Moms Carnival on Spring Cleaning over at Tiny Choices.

– Lynn

Made with Love: A Video Tribute to the @GreenMoms Community

March 9th, 2009

Many thanks to fellow Green Mom Anna Hackman of Green-Talk who felt moved to put together this tribute video to the Twittering women of The Green Moms Carnival in honor of our winning the Shorty Award for Best Green Content on Twitter.

The video is 5 1/2 minutes long and provides an introduction to 15 of the 30-odd women behind the Green Moms Carnival. Among us are authors, environmental activists, Moms taking a break from the workforce, businesswomen, marketing consultants, LEED-certified attorneys, green building experts, entrepreneurs, educators, and more. We are Moms and we are “Mothers of the Earth” — no children of our own, but a responsiblity to everyone’s children to leave the Earth a better place for future generations.

Anna is a LEED certified attorney – she’s not a marketing or video whiz, but she took it upon herself to create and execute this video. What you’ll see is proof of an enormous amount of goodwill towards the Green Moms community and all we have accomplished and hope to accomplish in our fight to leave a better Earth for future generations.

Thank you, Anna, thank you for your hard work, kind words, and thanks to all the other women of the Green Moms Carnival, and thanks to those who support, inspire, and encourage us in our work.

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

About the Next Green Moms Carnival: I Believe

February 2nd, 2009

Normally the Green Moms Carnival runs the first Monday of each month, which means by rights you should be enjoying the posts today. Coming on the heels of our win for “Best Green Content” on Twitter in the first Shortys Award Competition, we’re eager to kick off the next carnival.

Eager but tired.

My friend Jennifer Taggert, aka The Smart Mama is hosting the next carnival over at her site next Monday. She and I were up until 3 a.m. EST/midnight PST sending out a stream of crazy tweets trying to round up the final votes in the competition. I don’t know about you, but it takes me a lot longer to recover from staying up till 3 a.m. than it did in my single days!

Many of you have contacted me asking how to participate in the next carnival. Here’s how:
1. Write a post on the topic of “I Believe.” As Jennifer explains it, “This is an open topic. The idea stems from a website I read a year or so ago that asked people to do post 500 words starting with the words “I believe . . . ” The particular website was a toxicologist’s website, so the various posts were all technical in nature.

But, the idea here is to talk about what we believe – do you believe small steps can change the world? the power of the big green purse (Diane)? that we can (or can’t) solve global warming? that Obama means a new era? You could talk about faith & being green, or whatever. It really is open. Just start with the words I believe and reflect from there. But keep it green or healthy or non toxic in the theme of our carnival.”

2. Be sure to link to the SmartMama’s site and to the Green Moms Carnival Home Page.

3. Submit your post to greenmomscarnival@gmail.com by Sunday, February 8th.

Please bear in mind that due to the volume of submissions, there is no guarantee your submission will be chosen. Posts are selected purely at the discretion of the blogger hosting each month. Rules are posted here on the home page.

And if you just want to check out the submissions, be sure to visit my friend Jennifer, who truly is one SmartMama, next Monday, February 9th.

Thanks for your interest!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

The Shortys: Thanks from the Green Moms of Green Moms Carnival

January 25th, 2009

UPDATE: SINCE THIS POST WAS WRITTEN, WE’VE LEARNED THAT IN FACT WE DID WIN THE SHORTY AWARDS COMPETITION! THANKS TO ALL WHO VOTED FOR US AND PLEASE JOIN US IN NYC FOR THE CELEBRATION ON FEBRUARY 11TH!

I’m just recovered from a late night of campaigning for a brand new award: the Shortys. The Shortys aim to honor the best content producers on Twitter. It appears my posse, my community, my gals – the Green Moms of the Green Moms Carnival ended up in second place among all the green twitterati on Twitter. It’s still a bit early to tell, but preliminary results make it look like the winner is Dr. Greene, whom we all adore anyway!

Thanks to everyone who voted for us.

Looking at some of the comments about why people voted was humbling. We’re so thrilled that you enjoy our tweets, learn from them and are inspired by them.

The Green Moms Carnival members are a very diverse group of bloggers who are united by our desire to help Mother Earth. Some of us are Mothers, some of us are child-free. Heck, we’ve even had some “Sons of Mothers” participate in our carnivals!

We’re published authors with popular books in the green space, stay-at-home Moms, law firm partners, business owners, grant writers, Sunday School teachers and non-believers. A few of us were at the forefront of the environmental movement 30 years ago, others came to understand the dangers of environmental degradation far more recently. Some of us blog for the sheer pleasure of it and refuse advertising on our blogs, whereas a few of us support our families with the money made through affiliate programs, advertising, and consulting.

We believe that together, our voices can make a difference in our collective stewardship of Mother Earth.

We thank you for your encouragement.

Members of the Green Moms Carnival: *

*Denotes Founding Member

Please join us or help spread the word! (Please bear with us if we don’t respond right away…this is an all-volunteer effort ).

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Check out the Green Moms Carnival: The Holidays

December 19th, 2008

Be sure to stop by The Smart Mama to read a baker’s dozen worth of wonderful posts about the holidays at the latest edition of the Green Moms Carnival. You’ll get insights on everything from reducing your plastic consumption to celebrating the winter solstice.

Come January, the Green Moms Carnival will tackle global warming. The carnival will be hosted by MC Milker at The Not Quite Crunchy Parent. To submit, just send your post to greenmomscarnival at gmail dot com by Monday, December 29th. Although we call ourselves the “Green Moms,” we welcome participation by anyone who’s a friend of a Green Mom! Read more about the carnival here.

– Lynn