Following is Part 2 of OrganicMania’s interview with Diane MacEachern, author of the new eco-best seller Big Green Purse. Part 1 is here.
Big Green Purse aims to inspire women to use their collective purchasing power to “create a cleaner, greener world.” Did you realize that simply by buying more green products, we encourage business to produce more green products? And of course, it’s not all about buying…it’s about reducing, reusing and recycling too.
OrganicMania: In the book, you provide an overview of many of the third party seals and certifications available for green and organic products. It can really be overwhelming. People are just getting used to the USDA Organic seal, and now they’re being asked to learn about the Green Seal, the VeriFlora label, Certified Humane Raised & Handled, the SMaRT Sustainable Standard, and at least nine other seals. On top of that, they need to sort out all the bogus “natural” and “organic” claims. Do you think there is true value in having so many seals?
Diane MacEachern: I do think it’s best defined, so that it’s not brand specific, but product specific. With regard to organics, companies are forbidden by law to claim they’re organic if they’re not. But there is a loophole. For example, they can say on their label that they have used organic lime juice or organic lemons and they can get away with implying that the product is organic. There is a very strict rule about how much of the product has to actually be organic in order to use the USDA Organic seal. But companies can include organic ingredients in their products and imply that the entire product is organic. The consumer may think the product is truly organic, but if it doesn’t have that seal, it’s not organic. This is one of those things that is so annoying and that undermines organic credibility in the marketplace.
(Editor’s Note: For an example of one of these “implied organic products, read this post.)
The best organic products have the Fair Trade seal and the Organic seal. And with coffee, chances are that if you see both these seals, it’s likely shade grown as well.
OrganicMania: Let’s talk about the role of environmental contaminants and health, particularly the impact of chemical ingredients in common household products and personal care products. You write about that extensively. Do you think that the US government will ever change the way it regulates chemicals, from looking at each ingredient separately, as it does now, to looking at interactions between various chemicals? I imagine it would be very complex to do.
Diane MacEachern: None of the presidential candidates are talking about human health impacts of the environment. It’s going to be tough. I think the best thing to do for now is to choose products with the fewest number of ingredients. That gives you a greater chance that you’ll be protected.
OrganicMania: This makes me think of the Precautionary Principle you discuss at length in your book. It’s something that I think a lot of us mothers believe intuitively, but may have no idea that there is literally something called the Precautionary Principle. Can you explain the Precautionary Principle?
Diane MacEachern: The Precautionary Principle was hammered out in 1998 by a conference of scientists, researchers, and citizens. They were concerned that industry was using the lack of absolute scientific evidence as a cover to produce products suspected of having serious health and environmental consequences.
The principle is grounded in the belief that we should not wait to protect ourselves or the planet until we’re absolutely positive, from a scientific point of view, that certain products or activities – think dioxin, the burning of fossil fuels, or even cigarettes – can indeed do damage.
The principle declares, “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”
OrganicMania: Thanks so much, Diane. It’s been great hearing your thoughts and getting more insight into your terrific book. And it’s so exciting to see so many women coming together to work on issues surrounding the environment and our health.
Diane MacEachern: Yes, it is exciting. Mary Hunt, the author of “In Women We Trust,” talks about how women are grouping to save the world. Women are using blogs to carve our thoughts into the Internet wall. ‘I was here and this is what I think.’
Copyright 2008 OrganicManiaFiled under Green Ideas & Stuff, Interviews, Organic Mommypreneurs, Organics | Wordpress Comments (5) |
If you’re anything like me, your list of “must read” books is longer than your list of “recently read” books! Prior to interviewing Diane MacEachern, author of the new eco-handbook Big Green Purse, I admitted that I might not make it through the entire book prior to speaking with her.
As the author confessed to OrganicMania, “None of us have any time! It’s hard to concentrate and read. The book is intentionally designed so that if don’t need to read the whole book, you can just check out the sections of interest to you.”
Imagine my surprise when a week or so later I had read a great deal of the book, which aims to inspire women to use their collective purchasing power to “create a cleaner, greener world.” Easy-to-read, informative, I could go on and on…but check out this review from EnviroMom.
Following is Part I of OrganicMania’s interview with Diane MacEachern. Check here for Part II.
OrganicMania: Some pundits dismiss women’s interest in the environment as just a passing fad. You’ve been writing about the environment for nearly 30 years now, so you’ve seen interest come and go. Do you think this latest upsurge in interest is a reflective of a real change in people’s priorities, or just the latest cool trend?
Diane MacEachern: I’m very optimistic. We suddenly realize how serious these environmental problems are. I don’t think this is just a trend because we are becoming so educated about the relationship between the environment and human health. It’s not just buying cool organic tee shirts, but it’s women recognizing that they need to buy products without phthalates so that my unborn baby has a healthy life and deodorant without parabens so I don’t get breast cancer. And this only will get stronger as more and more research goes down this path.
Another big issue is air pollution. Women suffer more heart attacks than men because our blood vessels are smaller. We’re more severely impacted by poor air quality. Our children are also suffering from more cases of asthmas because of environmental issues. The only way that will change is to protect the environment, or else we’ll have more heart attacks, more asthma, and more health consequences to every environmental problem that we’re looking at.
OrganicMania: There’s also a perception that this rising green consciousness is a very upper-middle-class phenomenon. There was a lot of sniping about that in the blog chatter about The New York Times article on Eco-moms. I was pleased to see your book included money saving tips, making it seem very accessible, like it was written for Everywoman. Do you see women from all walks of life embracing the green movement? Do you think this is a real shift that will embrace all women?
Diane MacEachern: I’ve been to a lot of bookstores for book readings, and my observation is that there are definitely people there who are interested in this topic who come from all economic levels. There are a lot of upper middle class women who will ask indignantly, “Isn’t this just for wealthy women?” I have two responses to that.
Everybody can do something. You can turn off your lights. Everybody can afford 99 cents for a reusable shopping bag. Anyone can shop at thrift stores. It’s fabulous. We need to dismiss this notion that eco-consciousness is only for wealthy people. Environmental degradation doesn’t affect only wealthy people.
But those who are wealthy do have a responsibility to be to be leaders and early adopters to protect the environment. They can ultimately help to drive down price if they buy these green products until supply and demand really kicks in, and prices decrease. I remember when I bought my first compact fluorescent bulb. It was $25. Today you can buy them for $1.99. I’m proud to be an early adopter, a woman who uses money to make a difference. That’s a really important part of the book.
OrganicMania: Big Green Purse talks quite a bit about the connection between phthalates and early onset puberty, but you don’t write about a possible connection between early onset puberty and hormones in milk. Many people use that possible link as a reason for buying organic milk. Do you disbelieve that?
Diane MacEachern: I didn’t have time to do all the research into the consequences of hormones and milk. I’m going to put that information on the Big Green Purse website, along with information about hormones in meat. The website will constantly refresh the book.
Go here to read Part II of this interview.
Copyright 2008 OrganicManiaFiled under Green Ideas & Stuff, Interviews, Organic Mommypreneurs, Organics, Pregnancy | Wordpress Comments (3) |
Part 1 of the OrganicMania Interview with Seth Goldman is here.
OrganicMania: Honest Tea’s kids’ tea, Honest Kids, is sold in plastic pouches that aren’t recyclable. I know you have information on the wrapper about your relationship with Terracycle, but it’s a bit hard to follow…you have to go to the website to get more information, for example. Not many tired Mothers have the presence of mind to do that before disposing of the packaging.
Seth Goldman: Actually, that plastic pouch is the most environmentally efficient packaging we have. By weight, the pouch is 97% product, and only 3% packaging so there’s very little waste. We’re not using fuel just to ship packaging.
Since we launched that line last year, several thousand pouches have been collected and turned into bags through our relationship with Terracycle. We are reaching 1,000 collection sites around the country, in places like schools, youth centers, and other places where kids gather.
(Ed Note: You can learn more about this re-use program here.)
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.
I just participated in a class discussion at the Yale School of Management, and I talked with the students about environmental impacts of business. What we can try to do is to take our environmental practices and our consciousness about our packaging and try to move things in a different direction.
OrganicMania: Still, when we were kids, we just didn’t use this much plastic. I remember paper straws, for example. Couldn’t you use a paper straw with the drink pouch instead of plastic?
Seth Goldman: Well, you need some sharpness to punch in the drink pouch and insert the straw. You couldn’t do that with paper.
OrganicMania: I see there are a lot of issues to consider when looking at which materials to use…it’s especially interesting to hear about the trade-offs between plastic and glass. I think most people are unaware of these trade-offs and just tend to think that plastic is bad and glass is good because of recycling. But as you’ve shown, you can save fuel and cut carbon emissions through plastic use and then encourage re-use of plastic through programs like the one Honest Kids has underway with Terracycle.
Speaking of kids, recently I blogged about what I call “Organic Kid Marketing” – organics companies that are using cartoon characters on packaging to market their products directly to kids. It’s notable that you chose not to do that with Honest Kids. In fact, there are pictures of fresh fruit on the Honest Tea boxes and drink pouches, yet it’s obvious it’s a kid’s drink because of the iconic plastic pouch shape that speaks to kids. Did you have heated internal discussions about whether or not to engage more directly in “Organic Kid Marketing?” And do you know the ages of typical Honest Kids consumers?
Seth Goldman: It was a deliberate decision not to do something like putting “Elmo” on the package, because we didn’t want to limit the age of the people who would be interested in drinking Honest Kids. In fact, I know a lot of adults who drink it. People write in and tell us, “I drink it in my office,” so it’s obvious it’s not kids who are doing that! We really don’t know the exact age range of most of the Honest Kids drinkers…our information right now is mainly anecdotal. Kids do like to be seen with it. We know we’re not losing opportunities with it because there’s not a character used to market it. In fact, use of a character probably would have limited the market for Honest Kids. I know there are kids in middle school drinking Honest Kids. You wouldn’t catch a sixth grader with a Power Rangers juice box! So while we don’t know the exact age, I think age 2 to 12 is probably the right way to think about it.
And that’s another positive part of our deal with Coca Cola. We’ll get a lot more distribution of Honest Kids, including, hopefully, at places like McDonalds.
OrganicMania: Obviously, your professional life is all about organics. What about your personal life? You have kids, too. How do they deal with all the focus on organics?
Seth Goldman: We’re vegetarian, we eat mainly organic, we have a composter in the back, we drive a hybrid, I ride my bike a lot…but that said we’re living in a consumer society so we deal with the same contradictions everyone faces. My kids are sometimes teased about it, but in a fun way.
OrganicMania: You’ve used your blog, Seth and Barry’s Blog, to address customer concerns about Coke’s investment in Honest Tea. When you’re not doing your own blogging, which blogs do you enjoy reading?
Seth Goldman: I like reading Emily Bazelon on Slate, I like reading some of the blogs on Inc.com and Stonyfield Farm’s blog.
OrganicMania: Thanks so much for your time, Seth! This has been a really interesting discussion – I think people will enjoy it.
Copyright 2008 OrganicManiaFiled under Interviews, Marketing, Organic Mommypreneurs, Sustainable Packaging | Wordpress Comments (6) |
Organic Frozen Baby Food? And Bloggy GiveAways! Interview with Heather Stouffer, Founder of Mom Made Foods, LLC
Many new Moms make a list of all the things they are going to do for their baby. Making home made baby food is often near the top of that list. But a lot of these new Moms find that time gets the best of them, and they simply can’t follow-through on everything they’d like to do. So they end up like yours truly, with an unopened “frozen baby food ice cube tray” collecting dust on top of the fridge, and jars of organic baby food sitting inside the kitchen cabinets.
Now there’s another option. Back when I posted about a sale on organic baby food, I heard from several companies making frozen organic baby food. Frozen organic baby food didn’t exist five years ago when I had my first born, and last year I left the grocery shopping to Darling Husband (DH), so I wasn’t aware of this new option until I heard about it through the OrganicMania community.
Following is an interview with Heather Stouffer, founder of Mom Made(Tm) Foods LLC and another “Organic Mommypreneur” in the spirit of Karen Gurwitz of Mothers & Menus, who was interviewed here as well. OrganicMania was curious about why a mother would choose frozen baby food, and Heather was more than happy to discuss this, along with a host of other interesting issues about organics and feeding a growing baby.
OrganicMania: We all grew up eating jarred baby foods. In fact, the icon of a happy baby was the perfect little “Gerber baby food baby.” What made you decide to look beyond the conventional, beyond jarred baby foods?
Heather Stouffer: When my son Emory, who is now nearly three, was a baby, I found it difficult to find the time each day to prepare home made baby food. I couldn’t find any freshly made, store-bought alternatives that I felt good about feeding him. So I started to think about making my own brand of frozen organic children’s foods. My brother is a professional chef, and he helped and inspired me.
OrganicMania: Why did you choose to focus on frozen baby food? What is it about frozen baby food that is special?
Heather Stouffer: My goal is to produce organic food products for children that are as close to homemade as possible. Freezing is our “preservative.” Research has shown that frozen food can be as healthy or even healthier than fresh food, depending on how long it takes fresh food to get from the farm to your table. It can be quite time intensive to go from the farm to a distributor to the store produce section.
This is in contrast to frozen food, which is picked at peak harvest and then either directly frozen or gently cooked, for example, blanched, to capture peak freshness, and then frozen. Of course, if you’re talking about locally bought produce from a farmer’s market versus frozen, the frozen food might be less fresh, but still pretty close to being on par with fresh food.
But then if you compare it to jarred food, there’s a big difference. The jarring process is very intensive. In order to jar food, you need to cook it at extreme temperatures. You can actually see the color change. The food is cooked to death, and natural nutrients are lost in this process. You see the difference in the color and the loss of texture. Jarred baby food has a “yuck factor” for parents when they feed it to their babies.
I believe babies and young children starting their journey into a lifetime of eating, should be fed the very best from the start – foods that we would welcome tasting along with them.
OrganicMania: So you’re suggesting that frozen baby food tastes better and is more nutritious than jarred baby food?
Heather Stouffer: Yes, it’s sheer delight. We freeze Mom Made products immediately after they are prepared. So it tastes like I’m biting into a fresh Bartlett pear right off the tree, and it tastes like a real sweet potato. It tastes like real food that adults eat, unlike the way jarred baby food tastes.
It sounds simple but after parents taste our food, I often hear them say something like “ooh, yum, it tastes just like a real apple!” It makes me laugh because it’s as though they expected it to taste awful. The great taste of Mom Made Foods means baby has a better experience learning to eat than is typical with jarred foods. It’s better for your baby too.
OrganicMania: You could have chosen to make conventional frozen food, which still would have been a new option for babies and would have provided the taste advantage you describe. Why did you choose to make an organic baby food?
Heather Stouffer: Your baby’s first year is the most important for growth and development. Organic food is best because your baby’s brain, immune system, and hormone system are still developing. Many non-organic fruits and vegetables contain pesticides and toxins, which can affect how our little ones grow and develop. Plus, organic food is better for the environment than conventional food, because farmers use natural methods like crop rotation and composting instead of chemicals.
OrganicMania: How much does Mom Made Foods cost as compared to jarred organic baby food?
Heather Stouffer: The retail price is $3.99 for two 3.5 ounce containers. The price difference with jarred is in the quality and care we put into making each individual serving. We use only fresh ingredients in our products and do not add any fillers, preservatives or junk.
[Editor’s note: This compares to the prices noted in this post of the non-sale price of $1.05 for a jar of Earth’s Best baby food, so this would be $3.99 versus $2.10 for roughly the same quantity of jarred organic baby food].
OrganicMania: Quite by accident, I’m starting an interview series focusing on what I call “Organic Mommypreneurs.” You’re the second interview, with more to come. Why do you think so many Moms are starting organic businesses?
Heather Stouffer: I have found that the organic message hits home with many of us moms once we are pregnant and have children. All of a sudden you’re responsible for this other little person. It’s something Moms are focused on, and so we identify the gaps in the market.
OrganicMania: How do you do it all? What advice do you have about combining motherhood and entrepreneurship?
Heather Stouffer: Focus is critical. At any one time, there are 67 things that need to be done. You need to pick out the top three strategic projects that you are doing and focus on them. Then, at the end of the day, if you didn’t get to a task that impacts one of your strategic projects, you need to ask yourself, what did I get done today? It can be really difficult some days…some days more than others.
Also, I always advise other entrepreneurs to seek out and maximize the existing resources for small businesses. You need to be able to pick up the phone and call people, which can be scary sometimes. But you need to get the word out there about what you are doing and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
OrganicMania: What’s next for Mom Made Foods?
Heather Stouffer: Right now, our products are distributed in the Mid-Atlantic region, but we’re in discussions now with national retailers. We’ll be launching new products and massively expanding our distribution this year.
Update 5/29/08 — Full disclosure: Lynn’s consulting biz, Miller Strategic Marketing, is now working on an assignment for Mom Made Foods. At the time this post was written back in February, there was no relationship between us. Pretty cool, though – we met through OrganicMania and now will be working together!
And leave a comment to win Bloggy Giveaways of a Mom Made Foods rebate coupon for $3.99, a baby spoon, and for those of you who aren’t yet convinced, my two trays of unused baby food/breast milk storage cubes – a $12 value! (I’ll even wipe the dust off the $12 price label!) I have 10 coupons to give away, so leave a comment with your address (no fears, the comments don’t show up till I enable them, so I’ll delete your address before posting your comment to the blog!) . I’ll mail the coupons out to you. The winners will be contacted by email.
Photo Credit Family Picture: Wirken Photo
Copyright 2008 OrganicManiaFiled under Baby, Food, Interviews, Organic Mommypreneurs, Organic Prices, Organics vs. Conventional Foods, Parenting, Pregnancy | Wordpress Comments (17) |
Quick Interview: Organics vs. Conventional Foods – Mothers & Menus Founder, Author of The Well Rounded Pregnancy Cookbook, Karen Gurwitz
New and expectant Moms in Manhattan enjoy fresh, organic, home-delivered meals, thanks to Mothers & Menus founder Karen Gurwitz. Fresh from her recent launch of The Well Rounded Pregnancy cookbook, Karen sat down to talk with Organicmania about the organics vs. conventional food debate.
Organicmania: I recall when Mothers & Menus first launched, you positioned your service as a “healthy” meal delivery service. Now some of your promotional materials describe Mothers & Menus as an “organic” meal delivery service. Why did you make the switch to organic?
Karen Gurwitz: Actually, that evolved over time when I was able to find a more complete range of organic products. But to me, the emphasis really should be on “healthy” versus “organics.” Sometimes fresh conventional produce makes more sense than organic food.
Organicmania: So you don’t think mothers should make a point of buying only organic foods?
Karen Gurwitz: You know, it’s not all or nothing. I think mothers, especially new mothers, need to do what works for them. Moms have to do what makes sense for them and for their families. And organics can be expensive. If a Mom can afford organics, great. If not, there are good conventional alternatives available. Eating real, whole foods is what is really important for good health.
Organicmania: What exactly do you mean by “whole foods?”
Karen Gurwitz: Whole foods are foods that are minimally processed and as close to their original form as possible. Whole foods are especially helpful during and right after pregnancy as they contain fiber, water, complex-carbohydrates and minerals. Whole foods are easier to process, alleviating you of the fatigue associated with digestion, and supporting optimum energy and health.
Organicmania: What do you think is the most important aspect of organic food?
Karen Gurwitz: First and foremost, the health benefits. To me, it makes more sense to eat food that hasn’t been tampered with in terms of chemicals and pesticides. I also love the gentle effects of organic farming on the earth. And, in the final taste test, I find that food tastes better with organic ingredients.
Organicmania: Karen, you’re a busy Mom with your own business, three kids, and a new book. How do you do it all?
Karen Gurwitz: I have a wonderful husband who supports me. And sometimes — I don’t do it all! I think that as moms we put too many expectations on ourselves. Some days are more productive than others. But in the end, I love what I do, and I hope to inspire my children, especially my daughters, to be all that they want to be.
Organicmania: What’s next for you, Karen? When can we get Mothers & Menus outside of the Big Apple?
Karen Gurwitz: Stay tuned. Mothers & Menus has already tested in Florida and Boston and gotten great results. It’s critical for me to maintain the food quality and a high level of customer service. I plan to make some announcements about that in the second quarter of 2008 – sign up for my newsletter for more information.
— By Lynn / Copyright Organicmania 2007Filed under Baby, Food, Interviews, Organic Mommypreneurs, Organics, Organics vs. Conventional Foods, Parenting, Pregnancy | Wordpress Comments (2) |