Tales of 3 eco-friendly moms



Estimated Reading Time 5 Minutes

When my son was in Grade 6, he told
me that all the kids at school threw
their juice boxes in the garbage,
so he couldn’t understand why I
wanted him to bring them home to
put them in the recycling bin (they
only recycled paper at school). So I
took it upon myself to teach him and
his classmates a lesson. I brought a
recycling bin to his class and all the
kids placed their juice boxes in the bin
for a month. We counted all the boxes
at the end of the month so they could
see all the waste. Then I brought that
load of drippy juice boxes home to
recycle. To my horror, the result was
that all of the kids, except for my son,
went back to throwing their juice
boxes in the garbage! Head, meet
brick wall. But I’m not alone. Here
are three other moms who go to great
lengths to be green.

Liz Alloul
Mother of two, Pointe-Claire, Que.

Liz led an eco-conscious lifestyle
long before she became a mom. She
says her eco-friendly habits are so
ingrained that she has to consciously
think about which of her habits are
for the planet’s sake.

For instance, as an early adopter
of cloth shopping bags, she often
had to fend off cashiers who would
automatically put her groceries in
plastic bags. Undaunted, Liz would
transfer her groceries into her cloth
bags, but to no avail. The cashier
would throw the used plastic bags
into the garbage!

When Liz became a parent,
she wasn’t prepared for the ecochallenges
of having twins, so she
(temporarily) adjusted her greencoloured
glasses. She tried cloth
diapers but the family and friends
who helped look after her kids
weren’t so keen. When the girls
were a little older and Liz got her
eco-groove back, she switched back
to cloth diapers in the daytime. But
the girls objected to them so much
that every diaper change became the
battle of poop. The eco-mom says she
felt guilty, but gave in to the kids and
continued her efforts in other ways.
Kids, 1. Planet, 0.

Liz cites her kids’ birthday parties
as particularly challenging. “One year
we asked our guests to bring only
used or recycled gifts but my friends
ignored it. They all told me, ‘Liz, you
can buy your kids recycled gifts, we
bought new things.’”

When Liz attends birthday parties
with her twins, her green instinct
kicks into action. At gift-opening
time, she plants herself next to the
birthday child, collects the wrapping
for the recycling bin and takes the
tissue paper home.

Tip: Small eco-changes add up. Add something
more ecological to your life every year or
month. Starting this year, I am not buying
purses made from plastic.

Alexa LeBlanc
Mother of two, Montreal

Alexa says she wasn’t all that environmentally conscious until
four years ago when she went back
to school to complete a Masters
degree. A course on the environment
and human rights triggered a slew
of changes in her family’s lifestyle.
Besides slowing down her family’s
consumption, she also gives talks at
schools about climate change.
Alexa’s family recycles and composts
but when winter rolls around, they
use a vermi-composter, a bin full of
red wiggler worms primed to devour
food scraps. “My husband thinks
it’s a bit extreme but I still do it.” It’s
reduced their garbage output by
about 75 percent. Raising livestock
is one of the biggest greenhouse gas
producers, so her family is about 80
percent vegetarian. “We eat red meat
about three to four times a year. The kids don’t like tofu or eggs, so we eat chicken
and a bit of fi sh about once a week. If it were
up to me, we’d be 100 percent vegetarian.” She
admits it takes more time to organize vegetarian
meals, but it can be done. “Initially, a lot of my
time was invested in trying to fi gure out recipes
that were appetizing.”

When it comes to eating organic, Alexa
admits she sometimes has to weigh her
aspirations with reality. “When organic green
beans are three times as much, the price factor
plays a role.” Fortunately a bit of shopping
around yields better prices, even for organic
food.

Her boys share her green values, but Alexa
has to be mindful that they don’t feel deprived or
left out. She struggles around expectations for
certain festivities and the traditions that come
with them. Last Christmas, for example, they
decorated a tall tree-like houseplant instead of a
real or artificial tree. The boys complained that
it didn’t smell or look like a real Christmas tree.

Alexa aims for litterless school lunches
by avoiding prepackaged snacks and using
refillable containers. Her older son’s school has
a “no garbage day” policy once a week, but not
her younger son’s school. When her kids ask
why they can’t have packaged single-serving
cookies like the other kids, she explains that it’s
too much packaging.

For the Leblanc’s annual trip to France to
visit family, they buy carbon credits for roughly
$200 to offset the environmental cost of air
travel. They also don’t own a car and use
public transportation or a car-sharing
service available in their community.

Tip: Shop at second-hand stores. Some
specialize in designer clothing and can
have hidden treasures. You can find
some really original clothes that are
both trendy and green.

Tovah Paglaro,
Mother of three, Vancouver

The “Queen of Green” blogger for the David
Suzuki Foundation says parenting has defi nitely
strengthened her earth-friendly views. She
believes one of the best things we can do for our
children is to help them feel connected to nature
so they will see how their actions influence
the planet. As a family, they organize outdoor
cleanups and discuss why they make certain
choices.

It’s easy for children to take food origins for
granted when everything they eat comes from
the grocery store or a restaurant. “When we
put food waste into the compost bin, turn that
material back into soil and use it in our garden to
grow things, the kids see the time and energy it
takes to care for such things.”

Tovah recommends making other small
changes like meal planning (to avoid excess
leftovers) and joining a food co-op where local
produce is delivered to your community. Her
family now eats about 90 percent organic. When
asked about the common misconception that
organic food is more nutritious, Tovah says,
“Organic is not more nutritious but avoiding
pesticides in our food is a healthier choice.”

Tovah concedes that eco-conscious parents
often wrestle with keeping celebrations green.
She suggests replacing birthday party lootbags
with small tokens like homemade crayons,
or instead of Valentine’s Day cards, heartshaped
birdseed ornaments. Her family has
also invested in a set of birthday party dishes
and reuses them for all three of her children’s
birthdays and other festivities. “I even keep the
party decorations so when the kids see the party
bag come out, it becomes rooted in tradition
instead of consumerism.”

Four years ago her family bought a live potted
Christmas tree, which they place on a stand
and decorate with all the trimmings. When
Christmas is over, they put the potted plant back
outside. Now that’s an evergreen idea!

Tip: Ease into organic. Start with the
Environmental Working Group’s guide for the
Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 (produce with
the least and most pesticide residue)
to guide your organic choices.

Voula Plagakis is an eco-inspired freelance writer.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2013.

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