Brood Awakenings: On parenting and health
Among environmentalists, a common rallying cry is to protect the planet “for our grandchildren.” It’s a lovely sentiment, and a powerful notion — that the choices you make today affect generations yet to come. But what about the generation spattering spaghetti sauce on your walls right now?
In this special series, Grist turns its focus to parenting, offering articles and advice for navigating the increasingly common and confusing environmental health issues every parent faces. As news emerges on everything from toxic plastics in toys to substandard food in schools, we take a look at the intersection of parenthood and planethood.
Which concerns should you lose sleep over, and which ones can you ignore (or at least push off till next week)? What’s the best way to balance the health of your children and the health of the environment? Over the next two weeks, we’ll offer expert advice, helpful guides, Q&As, and more. From twinkle-in-your-eyehood to tweenhood, we’ll help you rest a little easier.
Welcome to the Jungle: General Thoughts on Parenthood
- Reflections on protecting your offspring without losing your sanity
- Photos and advice from Grist readers and staff
- A few of our favorite parenting links
- How four green parents deal with the plastic scare
- This family is sticking with eco-alternatives
From the Grist vault:
- Baby steps to green parenting
- Can a mother survive without antibacterial wipes?
- A review of Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood
- Pedal parenting: my bike and kids
- Are greens overlooking a key constituency?
The Fertile Prescient: Reproduction and Pregnancy
From the Grist vault:
- Ask Umbra on having kids
- Ask Umbra on having kids, revisited
- When it comes to having kids, this global citizen can’t bear it
- Is too few people the new ‘population problem’?
Little Bundles of Joy (and Terror): Babies and Toddlers
- Easy, affordable recipes for baby and toddler food
- An interview with Mary Brune, founder of Making Our Milk Safe
- A guide to buying non-plastic baby products
- An interview with green pediatrician Alan Greene
From the Grist vault:
- Ask Umbra on plastics and kids
- Ask Umbra on diaperless parenting
- Ask Umbra on setting up a baby nursery
- Ask Umbra on baby gifts
- Watch out for scary chemicals in plastic toys for tots
- Fed up with breast-milk contamination, mothers form a national activist group
- An interview with the founders of gDiapers
They Grow Up So Fast: School-Age Kids
- Can a crusade against crap toys ever succeed?
- Where to turn when you’re sick of disposable doodads
- An illustration and explanation of today’s tainted toys
- A chat about Congress’ effort to restore environmental education funds
- Ecologist Sandra Steingraber explores the eco-causes of early puberty
- Time to reinvest in the school-lunch program
- The road to disodium inosinate is paved with good intentions
- Umbra on kids’ birthday parties
From the Grist vault:
- An interview with Richard Louv about the need to get kids into nature
- Do parents lose or gain by taking kids outdoors?
- Maverick chef Ann Cooper aims to spark a nationwide school-lunch revolution
- Searching for food in the school cafeteria
- Children, anxiety, and global warming
- Ask Umbra on synthetic clothing and kids
- Ask Umbra on water bottles
- A review of Silent Scourge: Children, Pollution, and Why Scientists Disagree
Stories in this series:
Click photo to launch slide show. To help kick off our series on parenting and health, we asked Grist readers and staff to send us photos of their little ones, along with advice on how to weave a green outlook into everyday life. Here’s what a few of them had to say — share your own ideas in the comments section below.
Kidhuggers. It’s a gag-me kind of word, too precious to be catchy. And it certainly won’t ever replace the slur-cum-badge-of-honor for enviros — treehuggers. But maybe it should. Illustration: Keri Rosebraugh The green movement has never been about people with an overfondness for bark and flora. Instead, it’s based on a natural protectiveness, an urge to defend all the vulnerable and vital things on earth. Water, air, wildlife, wilderness — and, OK, trees — fall into that category. But in the most profound way possible, so do children. A newborn, when you put it this way, is the ultimate pristine …
Talk about a double whammy. It’s challenging enough to be green when you’re solo, and then pregnancy comes along and gives you twice the eco-angst (not to mention more hormones than you know what to do with). Photo: iStockphoto The cause for alarm is real: pregnancy is the most critical time for establishing your baby’s well being. It’s also the time when you’re vulnerable to the alphabet stew of harmful chemicals in the world, which are increasingly making their way into women’s bodies, wombs, and breast milk. But there is good news: Simple measures like eating organic, nutrient-rich foods before …
Illustration: Keri Rosebraugh Feeling unusually infertile lately? You’re not alone: according to a December 2005 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 12 percent of American couples reported having a hard time conceiving a child and bearing it to term in 2002, up 20 percent from the 6.1 million couples reporting such “impaired fecundity” in 1995. Although the reasons are complex and overlapping, one major factor may be nonstop exposure to low-level environmental pollutants like pesticides, dioxins, and phthalates. Because these toxics are generated in ways and places beyond our immediate control, “You can’t shop your …
Never mind the intro, take me to the recipes! If you are what you eat, then the developing years are surely the most important time to eat well. As a parent, you may not be able to give your baby or toddler fresh, homemade foods every day — but there are real benefits when you do. Her face and your floor will enjoy homemade food too. Homemade food is more nutritious than commercially prepared baby foods: it retains more nutrients, especially vitamin A and B; it doesn’t contain additives like food dyes and thickening agents like cornstarch, flour, chemically modified …
OK, so David slew Goliath. He never had half the battle facing Mary Brune and her fellow mothers in their crusade against the $500 billion-plus chemical industry. In 2005, Brune and a trio of her friends in the San Francisco Bay area founded Making Our Milk Safe to raise awareness about the pesticides, lead, mercury, phthalates, perchlorate, PCBs, PBDEs, and other poisons invading human breast milk. Brune signed on as director and MOMS soon gained 600 members around the country — and political clout, too. This year, the group joined Friends of the Earth in the co-sponsorship of AB 706, …
Worried sick about plastic — or even feeling a teeny bit queasy? Here are a few alternatives for common baby items, and resources for where to buy ‘em. (And don’t forget, you could always make your own.) Squeaky clean and PVC-free. Photo: iStockphoto Bathtubs Non-plastic baby tubs seem to be hard to find; probably the best you can do here is to use a nylon mesh sling or recyclable polypropylene Tummy Tub in your sink or regular tub. Dedicated greens can reduce waste by siphoning used bathwater out the window and into the garden — just make sure not to …
Pop quiz time: plastic baby bottles are a) completely safe, or b) a risk to you, your baby, and every other living thing in the entire universe? The answer lies somewhere in between — but you wouldn’t know it from most media reports. Over the last year, countless stories have sprung up citing research about the dangers of endocrine disruptor bisphenol A leaching from clear plastic baby bottles. But more often than not, those stories go on to trot out assurances from industry and government that BPA is perfectly safe. Don’t hurry, don’t worry, and don’t forget to read the …
It’s possible to say a lot in a two-week series on parenting and health, but it ain’t possible to say it all. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of sites we’re finding pretty dang helpful and entertaining. They tell the rest of the story, and they’ll keep telling new stories after our series is over. Go ahead, poke around — and add your own favorite resources below. Photo: iStockphoto Parenting sites: Babble iVillage Natural Family Online The Green Parent Wee Generation Tips for Parenting in a Commercial Culture Fun blogs: Z Recommends Working Dad: An Unauthorized Guide to …
If you were to give a check-up to Alan Greene, eco-pediatrician extraordinaire, you just might diagnose him with ASHD — Attention Surplus Hyperproductivity Disorder. It isn’t a real disorder, of course. But whatever Greene’s got — whatever blend of vim and vision allows him to stay at the cutting edge of environmentalism and e-medicine while also writing books, doctoring, and being a 100-percent-organic-food-eating father of four — well, it’s something that’s helped the world get better. Dr. Alan Greene. Consider: In 1995, Greene and his wife Cheryl sat down at their kitchen table in San Mateo, Calif., and launched the …
Is it just me, or is anyone else sick of fairies? Because personally I am sick to hell of wee folk and their tiresome fantasy ilk — unicorns with rainbow horns, mermaids with cotton-candy hair, and tarty princesses. Oh, I’m especially sick of the princesses. Is there some unwritten law that princesses have to dress like down-market 1980s bridesmaids? Can’t today’s little girls take their cue from Camilla Bowles in her classic tweeds? Illustration: Keri Rosebraugh I know I sound grumpy, but the current fantasy-toy craze is making my job as an eco-mom more challenging. Try finding a poofy ball …
Block to basics. Photo: iStockphoto Keeping up with Ken and Barbie got you down? Check out these companies invested in making eco-friendlier playthings for your little ones. (And read about one mother’s no-crap crusade.) Dwelling These soft, handmade toys are created by a women’s knitting collective in Kenya, under the guidance of a nonprofit that helps connect artisans to international markets. All of the items are made with natural wool and colored with vegetable-based dyes, including this zebra hand puppet ($18) and these knit penguins (starting at $18). Where to buy: Branch HaPe HaPe is a Swiss toy company with …
Seems you can’t turn around these days without hearing about some trusted toy being yanked from the shelves. (Dora, we hardly knew ya!) If you want to keep on top of the latest recalls, check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission database or BabyCenter’s product recall finder. Meanwhile, we offer a graphic cheat sheet below, followed by explanations of some familiar characters’ risky business. Saucepan and wooden spoon, anyone? All of these toys have been recalled. To find out why, see below. Illustration by Keri Rosebraugh Rubber Ducky, You’re Not the One: Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores removed about 6,000 …
“Go outside and play!” It’s a simple enough command, but as a nation of teeth-gnashing parents and teachers will tell you, not enough kids want to unplug or log off long enough to heed it. Enter Congress. That’s right, Congress. The oyster is your classroom. Amid growing evidence that learning about nature and actually experiencing it can help children become healthier, happier, more engaged citizens, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) introduced the No Child Left Inside Act in the Senate and House this summer. The goal of the legislation, treading the path forged by author Richard …
Dear Umbra, I have a wonderful daughter who is just about to turn 5. She is currently the only grandchild and niece to our families, and therefore has everything she needs (still less than many kids we know, but plenty). Therein lies my dilemma: I don’t want the plastic detritus and clutter that come along with your traditional American birthday party, but the party itself I love. In years past, I have ducked this issue by suggesting parents adopt wildlife from Defenders of Wildlife (we did a fairy-tale party one year, and they adopted “Big, Bad” wolves, for instance). This …
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from “The Falling Age of Puberty in U.S. Girls: What We Know, What We Need to Know,” written by Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., and published by the Breast Cancer Fund. In the full report (downloadable here), Steingraber reviews several causes of and contributors to early puberty, including environmental factors. Are chemicals making girls grow up too fast? Photo: iStockphoto Over the course of just a few decades, the childhoods of U.S. girls have been significantly shortened. Girls get their first periods, on average, a few months earlier than did girls 40 years ago. But …
Mea culpa. That’s the only way I can honestly write anything about getting older kids to eat healthy foods. Because I’ve been a sucker for the look my 11-year-old gets on her face if I plop down a bowl of nuclear-orange SpongeBob mac-and-cheese in front of her. Sheer joy: that’s the only way to describe it. Ditto for the times she eats (can I admit this?) Cookie Crisp cereal, high-fructose corn syrup laced yogurt, and the occasional bag of Doritos — chips that look toxic enough to qualify as their own Superfund sites. Open mouth, insert junk food. Photo: iStockphoto …
At private schools across the country, good cafeteria food is becoming as de rigueur as French classes taught by native speakers, Associated Press reports. Schoolyard vegetable gardens bloom, tended by future Ivy Leaguers under the watch of “sustainability coordinators.” In the kitchen, trained cooks transform that bounty into food worthy of enjoying, not merely enduring. Unfortunately, in public schools, things remain rather grim. Debt, warmed over. Photo: whitehouse.gov Sure, there are wonderful groundswells of change, such as Ann Cooper’s transformation of lunches in the Berkeley public-school system, helped along by a grant from the Chez Panisse Foundation. But these exceptions …
This summer, my family and I took an overnight trip to Chicago that started out pleasant enough. We were well packed and tidy. Just before boarding our train, my husband took a few pictures of us, joking that this would begin our slow descent into madness. Consider the alternatives. Photo: iStockphoto Descent into madness. That turned out to be pretty accurate. We have a long and storied history of not doing things like other people. Instead of driving in a nice air-conditioned car complete with DVD for entertaining our daughters, we boarded a crowded Amtrak train. Instead of hailing cabs, …
The perfect ending is a gorgeous thing, all the loose ends neatly knotted, all the confusion gone. It’s a motionless bird on a wire — calm, brightly plumed, contented, with no need to fly off or find a worm or do anything but sit in the sun and enjoy the day. Illustration: Keri Rosebraugh If only parenthood were like that. That’s the kind of wistfulness I’ve been indulging in over the past few weeks as I’ve worked with Grist on its special series about green parenting. The project is jam-packed with tips and information about everything from safe bibs to …