Last week I hosted a Healthy Home Party, a community event sponsored by Healthy Child Healthy World, LUNA and Klean Kanteen. You invite a bunch of folks to your home and discuss how to protect children’s health and development from common toxics.
As soon as I agreed to host the Party, I felt twinges of regret and perhaps a tiny bit of dread. Because hosting parties is not really my thing. Evangelizing about being green is not really my thing. I mean, sure, I have this blog, but I don't tell everyone I meet about it for heaven's sake. Half my family doesn't even know it exists. This is just where I dump information, which I hope will benefit those who are interested. In social settings, I keep most of my green opinions to myself.
Just sending out the email to ask who was interested was a stretch for me. I sent it to some friends from church, my preschool co-op, and moms' group. There were a couple of friends who I knew were into this stuff, but mostly I had no idea which of the people I invited would be interested. In the end we had a group of about 10 young moms. There were a few more who wanted to come but couldn't.
I kept it very simple because that's what I could handle and afford. The day of the party I picked up some organic grapes at my favorite stall at the Farmers Market and made some delicious whole grain cookies for the event. My friends came over on a Saturday night after dinner to my home. Although kids were invited, all the moms chose to leave their kids at home. My kids wandered in and out, but mostly played with my sister in another room (my husband had a previous engagement). We watched the DVD about the 5 Easy Steps to create healthy environments for children, and then we discussed. Some folks had a lot of say, others mostly listened. Here are some topics we discussed:
Managing mommy guilt, fear, and feeling overwhelmed. One mom said she felt horrible that she didn't start all this stuff until her third child. We talked about focusing on things we can do moving forward.
Crappy regulation. With my public policy background, I shared some insights into why regulation in general sometimes doesn't work, and why the current chemical regulation isn't effective.
Green washing. One mom expressed frustration with figuring out which products are actually green, now that everyone claims to be. Many terms (natural, biodegradable, organic cleaning and personal products) are unregulated, which means anybody can use them.
Sources of reliable information. And that led to a discussion of where to get information. Most people don't have time to research this stuff. It's nice to pick a few organizations you trust, and use them for information and recommendations. You can find resources I regularly use in this post.
Reluctant spouse. We also talked about how to make changes when your spouse isn't interested.
Cost. This was the big one. How do you pay for this stuff? Sure you can make your own cleaners, and buy fewer personal products, but what about food? Most of these moms are already pretty frugal, and already cook most of their own food. For all of us, switching to organic and natural foods was just going to cost more money. On the other hand, we talked about how cheap food does have hidden costs (environmental and personal).
Class. The cost discussion also led to discussing how others (including family members) sometimes view the green movement as elitist, an upper-middle-class luxury, or maybe just those crazy West Coasters. One mom from the South talked about how foreign all this green stuff was to her family.
Sharing information with others. This was the perfect topic for me, since I'm not super comfortable with talking about my green interests with people in real life. One mom shared her view that it's good to let your friends know that you are into going green, because then they can ask you for advice. She explained -- just like it's great to have a friend who is really into exercising, because she can tell you all about the gym and you can exercise with her sometimes and she can help you stay motivated. I thought that was a great comparison. This discussion inspired me to try to find non-judgmental ways to let people know that I am interested in all things green, so that they can ask me questions if they want to.
We ended with the educational materials, coupons and freebies (which we raffled off). The Klean Kanteen sippy cup was the first to go, of course. It was nice to end on that positive note. All in all, a very productive evening. One person later emailed me and said I'd done a good job of managing the discussion to moderate the guillts/fears that accompany change. Several said they felt inspired to take new steps in a green direction. We have been sharing information through email and conversations ever since.
And you know, it's nice to have a community of people in my real life, in addition to my virtual life, that are interested in healthier, eco-friendlier living. Now that it's over, I can honestly say that I'm glad I did it.
Want to host your own Healthy Home Party? Click HERE.
This is part of the Healthy Child Blog Carnival - an effort by Healthy Child Healthy World to help inspire a movement to protect children from harmful chemicals.