Party for a Change

Green Cleaning Party Kit

If you want to help those around you remove toxic substances from their lives, you don’t have to have a heavy conversation or make an inspiring speech. Lighten it up. Throw a party and make it fun for your friends to learn about green cleaning.

Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) is a great nonprofit that focuses on a clear mission (“eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health”) and a clear theory of how women can make change. They encourage women to come together around change—actually come together in person, as in house party!

Green Cleaning Party

WVE provides resources to help you throw a green cleaning party. Invite your friends over to make their own clean cleaning supplies. Talk about why you use basic household ingredients rather than buying toxic cleaners, but most of your party is just about making the cleaners. Then, everyone goes home with their own supplies. After they get a chance to try out their new clean cleaners, you can even invite them back so everyone can talk about how to make improvements.

The WVE Green Cleaning Party kit includes:

  • Supplies list
  • Video
  • Recipe cards for cleaners
  • Labels to attach to jars
  • Suggested agenda
  • FAQs
  • Background on chemicals
  • Action instructions

Download for free or pay for a hard copy (with DVD) to be mailed to you.

If your local green cleaning movement really takes off, you can become a Women’s Voices for the Environment Actionista.

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Communicate to Inspire Change

Last week I wrote about teaching children about eco-friendly living and about how to share your life changes with those around you. I want to share with you one of the people who has been trying to help those concerned with sustainability to inspire change: John Marshall Roberts, a behavioral psychologist who applies science to communications that create change.

For the most part, he’s talking to the nonprofit leaders and marketers, but I think his ideas will help you see how to inspire people around you to make their own changes. In the video above, he explains a very basic distinction that will help you to be a persuasive communicator.

If you find this idea helpful, check out some of his more polished videos on inspiring sustainability in skeptics (6:18) and the history of human thinking (6:04, a beautiful video). Both videos practice the kind of communications that inspire change.

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My Choices Are the Right Choices! and other ways to fail at sharing

Women sharing eco choices

If you are excited about the changes you are making in your life, you probably want to share. If you have shared your experience, you may have found that sometimes people really just don’t want to hear it. What is the best approach to sharing as you make big life changes?

Just like sharing your eco-friendly lifestyle choices with your children, we need to recognize that the choices and decisions all belong with the other person. Make sure you are sharing without judging. Don’t let your sharing become bullying.

My Lessons Learned from Birth Stories

I have become especially aware of the perils of sharing when it comes to birth choices. I love to share my experience of birth. I realized over time that just talking about my birth choices and experiences was seen by some as a judgment. I didn’t intend it that way, and I didn’t say my way is the right way, but people are especially sensitive about their choices. The result can be tense. So I am less likely, maybe even unlikely, to share unless asked, and I make an extra effort to keep myself more aware of how to share without triggering a negative response.

Also, when a woman is pregnant, she’s in the middle of her journey and doesn’t need my baggage on her trip.

Now, I’m always careful in how I ask about birth plans and expectations. I end a conversation with a pregnant woman about birth by saying, “I hope the birth goes exactly as you want it to.” My wish is sincere, and it doesn’t add my own expectations where they don’t belong.

My experience with birth stories helped me to share with greater compassion and understanding for the perspectives of others. My experience is just mine. I do want to connect with others, but I don’t want to impose my truths on them.

Your Baby Steps Aren’t My Baby Steps

Your eco baby steps aren’t necessarily my eco baby steps. I try to share my steps, and I want to hear what steps you are taking or aspiring to take. You’re out there taking steps that haven’t even occurred to me yet, and I want to know all about those as well!

Don’t let worry keep you from talking. The conversations are inspiring. We all want to take steps to improve home and world for our families. Sharing how we do that is a catalyst to new ideas and an inspiration to action. Making these connections is such a pleasure, and we develop new relationships around these conversations. So, talk!

Where to Start?

When you want to share your new choices, start by listening. Ask questions. Establish an understanding of what you share in common with others. Then share your experience where it differs after you have established a level of trust.

Sharing gently and genuinely is an art. I’m sure I fail every day, but I try again to improve.

I know from our recent customer survey that many of you want to find ways to educate family and friends without offending them. Next week, I will try to help you find those ways to share.

Image © Edward Bartel |

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How to Teach Your Children about Eco-friendly Living

Child talking to father outside

If you are thinking about how to teach your children about eco-friendly living, you may be wondering how to make those choices stick.

First of all, let go! Their choices will be their choices. Once you let go, you can be more easy going about the process of teaching your children.

Creating sustainable habits is an important start. By modeling eco-friendly choices and behaviors, your children will see WHAT to do.

To give your children tools they can use into the future, though, you need to help them understand HOW and WHY your family does what you do. Share with them your underlying reasons for your actions.

Start the conversation
Talk with your children. Share the decision making. Make sure they have power to make choices that will have real impact, so they feel responsibility for what they choose. They will remember the choices as well as the decision making process better if they are genuinely involved.

Encourage questions and curiosity
If you children ask questions, answer them with only as much information as they can take on using vocabulary they understand. Teach them how you get your information. Especially if they are older, invite them to do their own research and be part of the effort to reduce your household impact. They can deal with more information as they get older and have more points of reference.

Create points of reference
Read stories about sustainability, and bring those stories back to a family reference. For a place to start, check out 30 great books that teach children to be green. Your local library may even have a lot of these books grouped together on the shelf. When your child knows a lot of stories about efforts to lower environmental impact, it gets easier to see the relationship of those choices to self.

Hold family meetings on green topics
Family meetings give an opportunity for short, focused discussion on a topic. At one family meeting, my family gathered around our utility bills and asked how we could use less energy and water. Once we shifted from talking about it to giving the children a puzzle to solve, they were more curious and more engaged. They took ownership of their suggestions, and they remember better what commitments they made to meet our targets. Because they suggested not turning on the lights during the day, they are now more likely to sit by the window or go outside to read instead of turning on the light.

Don’t scare them
Children are sensitive. I made the mistake of giving too much information too early. Saying, “If the sea rises another meter, the lane in front of Granny’s house will be covered in water,” was a frightening concept to an 8-year old. Oops. What is just an interesting fact to you might be more than your child can comfortably process. Watch carefully as your child is talking and listening, and adjust as your discussion progresses to keep from making the conversation too scary. Sure, it’s important to be realistic, but you want your children to be motivated to take action.

The key is engagement. Give your children a little information at a time, and let them arrive on their own at the place where it clicks.

Image © Antikainen |

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Toxic Threats to Child Development

In Harm's Way Toxic Threats to Child Development

Are you looking for some substantial reading you can do over the weekend? I’ve been reading more about the toxic environment in which our children grow and develop. I’m not concerned about the good dirt and exposure to naturally occurring bacteria that help children build their immunity naturally. I’m concerned with the heavy toxins introduced into our environment through industrialization.

In 2000, a group of physicians released In Harm’s Way, a long, peer-reviewed study of toxic chemical influences on developmental disabilities. The study is written in more plain language that most medical studies, so it’s easier for most of us to read and understand.

Though trends are difficult to establish with certainty, there is a growing consensus that learning and behavioral disorders are increasing in frequency. These disabilities are clearly the result of complex interactions among genetic, environmental, and social factors that impact children during vulnerable periods of development. Research demonstrates that pervasive toxic substances, such as mercury, lead, PCBs, dioxins, pesticides, solvents, and others, can contribute to neurobehavioral and cognitive disorders.

Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility, “In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development,” 2000.

If you want to understand your child’s normal brain development and how chemical toxins alter development, you will find it in this study.

You can buy a paperback version of the 149-page study for $100+ or you can download it for free in pieces or as one long PDF.

The themes that emerged from this research were:

  1. Neurodevelopmental disabilities are widespread, and chemical exposures are important and preventable contributors to these conditions.
  2. Our initial understanding of the impacts of neurotoxic substances regularly underestimates the potential for harm.
  3. Carefully conducted, long-term epidemiological studies have proven to be much more sensitive measures of developmental neurotoxicity than animal studies.
  4. Regulatory policy has repeatedly failed to protect children from widespread harm due to exposures to developmental neurotoxins.
  5. The failure of the regulatory system to protect public health can often be traced to the influence of vested economic interests upon the regulatory process.
  6. Neurodevelopmental disabilities impose social and economic costs upon impacted families and the economy as a whole.
  7. Special interests are not merely tolerated but are actually an integral part of the regulatory process.

The conclusions point the way to improving a regulatory system that has not yet adequately protected children’s health. Who, though, is going to say that they don’t have children’s health as their goal? This is common ground we all share. Starting from there, we can look at what barriers stand in the way, name them out loud, and make the changes necessary to prevent such damage to our children’s present and future.

The project didn’t stop with the publication of this study. Training programs have been created to act on findings, and they have produced many more guides for clinicians and for parents. If you find yourself intrigued by this study, there is much more where that came from.

We have to be well informed as parents if we are going to make the best decisions for our children.

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