Monday, June 02, 2008

Mom to Mom: Leslie Garrett

In my ongoing quest (or slow crawl) towards a greener life, I am often overwhelmed by it all. Vinyl shower curtains are clearly horrid as one can attest by the noxious odor produced by the carcinogenic off-gassing, but cotton gets moldy. Nylon isn't sustainable, but it's healthier, washable, doesn't mildew and lasts a LONG time.

It takes me forever to make a decision because I'm so bent on making a good choice. These decisions should be simple and not make my head spin, but research takes time and not all of us have the time because we're trying to keep our pips from scaling the kitchen counter.

Well, I found a mom who did the research!

Leslie Garrett is a National award-winning journalist and her new book, "The Virtuous Consumer" takes the guess-work out of going green in a well researched, highly organized guide.

Of: Sophie (9); Spencer (7); Charlotte (5)
Where: Toronto, Canada
Site: Virtuous Consumer

1. In what ways has becoming a mother changed you?

Wow -- where do I start? Well, for one thing, my abdomen has sure changed. My breasts are decidedly less perky. And my brain suffers from early dementia. I used to remember my own phone number, for example. No...motherhood has changed me profoundly. It has made me much more conscious of "tomorrow" -- the tomorrow that this my children's future and how what we do today will affect that future dramatically. It has made me even more concerned about such issues as child poverty, sweatshops, exploitation, abuse. Becoming a mother has heightened my sense of responsibility to all children and to all other mothers -- to ensure that the world they live in isn't negatively impacted by my own actions.

2. What is one tip you would like to share about mothering?

It isn't for the faint of heart. It's a tough slog through heartache, hormones and the full range of human emotions. And that's just before breakfast. I wish I didn't take it quite so seriously...I wish I didn't view every issue as potentially life-altering. Sometimes we just aren't our best isn't necessarily indicative of some personality disorder. I know that intellectually but when my kids are calling each other stupid-head or saying they'd like to set the other on fire...I find it hard to not believe they'll grow up to be serial killers.

3. As a Mother and National Award-Winning Journalist, Author and Editor, how do you find time to juggle these passions?

When I became a parent, I knew that would always be my priority. I love my work and would feel incomplete without it. But I've always tried -- and usually even succeeded -- at a balance. Childcare has always been part-time until recently when my kids started school and I do MUCH of my work at night when the kids are asleep. I've never felt that I'm necessarily doing my kids any favours by being around so much -- it's more that spending time with them is such a privilege. And it's something that so quickly comes to an end when school starts. I've been lucky enough to have the financial means to only work part-time...and to be able to spend time with my kid while they still want to spend time with me.

4. While doing the research for your new book, "The Virtuous Consumer", what was the most surprising thing that you learned?

I learned that there is no-one looking out for the safety and health of us and our children. I'm shocked -- and disgusted by the cavalier attitude of companies that purport to offer products to make our lives "better" or our kids "healthier". And it's nothing more than toxic crap created to earn shareholders profits. Makes me crazy that more people don't know this. Mothers would be outraged -- and no-one wants to see what happens when outraged mothers go on a rampage! Mary Brune is one of the founders of MOMS (Making Our Milk Safe) who's working passionately to educate other mothers about how products and our environment affects our breast milk, hormones and our children's bodies. I admire her enormously. She's someone we should all be listening to.

5. There is an on-going debate right now about the virtues of eating strictly vegetarian as opposed to a local-organic omnivorous diet. Is there any substantial evidence to support the claim that eating locally raised organic meat is earth-friendlier than eating a vegetarian diet?

There was a recent study that showed a diet with less then 2 oz of locally-raised organic meat a day, along with plenty of organic produce was actually the healthiest diet for the planet. There is certainly farmland that isn't rich enough to support crops, but that could support animals. I'll try and find the link and send it to you...Oh - here it is: Researchers from Cornell have published a study that reopens the debate over whether it's better for the environment to be an omnivore or a vegetarian. According to the study, a low fat carnivore diet with a limited amount of meat, dairy and/or eggs is actually a more efficient use of the land. The explanation is relatively simple: if you are trying to sustainably produce the maximum amount of food nutrients on a plot of land, the high value soil is better suited for food plants, whereas low value land can create more food via grazing livestock or wild game than by planting crops. Researchers noted that the average modern meat eater consumes levels of meat and dairy that are nearly three times what would be considered "efficient". Although specific geographical areas may result in varying equations, the study's land analysis found that the amount of omnivore intake for environmental efficiency is 2 cooked ounces per day. That amounts to around the size of two decks of cards every three days.

6. What, in your opinion, is one simple change that families can make right now towards greener living?

Eat less processed food and more locally grown/organic produce. Then -- as a family -- prepare a wonderful meal to enjoy together. Sit down, eat, talk...and listen.

7. Lastly, what moves you, grounds you, fills your well?

My family. Watching my dogs play in the park with other dogs. Sailing on Lake Huron in my little Hobie Cat. Paying attention to the incredibly brilliant minds applying themselves to the world's problems. Acknowledging the incredible strength of people to overcome adversity.

Happy Birthday, Leslie!

*Most Alive Monday will resume next week!

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posted by Wendy at 5:28 AM


Blogger denise said...



"I learned that there is no-one looking out for the safety and health of us and our children. I'm shocked -- and disgusted by the cavalier attitude of companies that purport to offer products to make our lives "better" or our kids "healthier". And it's nothing more than toxic crap created to earn shareholders profits."

Bravo, bravo. My husband and I were just discussing that (again) this weekend.

I'll have to check out the book - thanks! :)

3:10 PM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Great interview ... will have to check out this book. Thanks!!! I love these interviews you do, by the way ... I tend to lurk, oddly enough.

9:54 PM  

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