I grew up in a fairly bohemian home. Dr. Bach’s flower remedies were often a first suggestion rather than antibiotics, my parents were both vegetarians (although, for some reason, my love of lamb chops was indulged) and if you ask my Mother about potty training she will tell you that since we had lived in Europe (and my parents were hippies) when I was little, I was simply outdoors and naked most of the time so there wasn’t any need for “training”. No surprise that my parents were not much help when it came time for our kids to say goodbye to diapers!
When I was pregnant with our twins I had all sorts of plans about how “green” our house was going to be and how I was going to use cloth diapers. But I quickly got overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of having twin infants and my grand plan soon faded. If you are like me: somewhat overwhelmed by family life/work life/social life but would like a green home, to be able to cook healthy meals your family will eat, or have an interest in teaching your children about helping the environment, but don’t know where to begin with any (or all) of it, then keep reading; I am about to introduce you to Rachel Myers, owner of Green Hugs!
The Twin Coach: Let’s begin with an introduction of what Green Hugs is all about. Can you tell us about your background and what prompted you to start the company?
Rachel Myers: I have always been an environmentalist. I was a Community Organizer for the Sierra Club before I decided to stay at home and raise my own little activists. When I became a Mom, everything that I once thought was important about being a care taker of the environment, turned inward to my own nesting environment. I was able to channel my passions for health, sustainability and awareness to include the raising of my kids. I learned more and more about the hidden dangers in our products, food and nests. As information began to surface about chemicals in our plastics and carcinogens in our body care, it became harder and harder not to do something about it. One night I was on my favorite informative website, Environmental Working Group, researching toxins and babies. I came across an article about tests on umbilical cord blood. The results were life changing for me. The article stated that 232 chemicals were found in the cord blood of newborns. 9 out of 10 babies tested had BPA, a plastic component and synthetic estrogen. I knew then that I had to help families to avoid the toxins that have become so prevalent yet unnecessary in our daily lives.
I think sometimes people are afraid to seek out this information because it can be scary and depressing. I take the fear of knowledge away and replace it with a clear understanding of dangers and fantastic ways to navigate around those dangers. My motto is that if I tell you that one thing is unhealthy, I have to give you three good options to replace it with! There is nothing more beautiful and fragile than our nests. Teaching my class and knowing that I am directly impacting the health and well being of families is a wonderful gift. When I was trying to think of a name for my business, I asked my four-year old son, Parks, what he thought. He came up with, Green Hugs and the movement was born!
TTC: I notice that your Parenting Classes are really a mix of instruction on green living as well as teaching new parents about bonding, connecting and becoming advocates for this green lifestyle in their communities. Can you speak a little about what your classes are like?
RM: My classes are a mix of information, support and sharing. I feel like there is this collective unconscious out there of environmental buzzwords that we fear such as; Phalates, VOC’s and BPA. It is important to me that at the end of my class you understand these terms. It is equally important that we connect with one another and understand what we fear about this knowledge. My topics are roughly broken down into three categories: what you put in, on and around
your body. My goal is that by the end of my classes you understand that these are all the same things. What we breathe in, put on our skin, and use on our bodies all affects our general health.
Bonding, connecting and community advocacy are strong components of my classes. To me, green living is like an extension of attachment parenting. We are constantly teaching our kids while raising them to be stewards of one-another and the environment. Making healthy choices whether it is chemical vs. mineral sunscreen or organic vs. non-organic eating is one more attached and tuned in way that we can care for them. I also go over being the change you wish to see. It is difficult to send you out in the world as a new green nester and be met with resistance or fear. Parenting is a sensitive thing and nobody wants to feel different or isolated. I like working with couples because it is always important to make lifestyle changes together; if one person feels that things are being taken away from them instead of being empowered, I haven’t done my job.
TTC: Feeding our children is a major source of conversation from the minute the kids are old enough to eat solids; I see that you also offer vegetarian cooking classes. Many parents can’t imagine getting their picky eaters to eat one vegetable, let alone become a vegetarian…what can you tell us about these classes?
RM: Vegetarianism is a very personal thing for me. It is part of who I am. At a very young age I became aware of animal suffering and knew that I was going to try and live my life apart from that. I am raising my kids vegetarian, but my husband is a meat-eater. He is a veg by necessity at home though! Some people may think that this would lead to a very confusing up-bringing. It actually works well for us because it is a good and fair representation of life. People are different and make different choices. That is ok and we need to respect that.
Vegetarianism is so much more than eating vegetables. I believe that you should give kids the nutritional information about what is healthy for their bodies and that will help them grow. My kids know that their plate has to consist of whole grains, protein, fruits and veggies.
In my cooking classes I will come to your home and discuss nutrition, brain boosting fats and food combinations that actually work together to create better nutrient absorption. I don’t believe in hiding food to get kids to eat it. It may have a quick nutritional gain, but gives you nothing in the long run. The last component is discussion of your eater. Personality traits, tastes so far and what they naturally gravitate towards, if given choices, play a role in successful and nurturing feeding! Believe it or not, this starts as soon as kids are ready to eat solids. The biggest part of my cooking classes, Beyond Green Beans, is to have fun!
TTC: So many parents (including me) are motivated to “go green” when they have children, but get overwhelmed by the enormity of it. Where would you suggest parents start with a project like this?
RM: At the BINI Birth loft in North Hollywood for my Green Hugs class! Seriously though, I do think that this life-style change needs to be done in an informative and nurturing place with lots of discussion and support. Taking care of our families is the most important job that we have. When you first find out that choices you have been making may not be the best or the healthiest, it can be scary. In my classes, I don’t dwell on the negative. We learn, move on and make healthy, simple and cost-effective changes. I think you should start with what you are inherently drawn to. It can be food, toys, body products, cleaning products. That is the great part about all of this. Any small change can lead up to big health benefits. I am here to shift the question of, “What do we need?” to include what is it made out of and how will it affect the health of our home.
There are such simple changes we can make like omitting certain chemicals from our products, eating specific foods organically and making sure that we stay away from certain types of plastics. Once you gain the knowledge, making healthy decisions become second nature.
TTC: I notice that you advocate cloth diapers. When I was pregnant that was my preference too, but once I had infant twins it just seemed too much to deal with! What can you tell my readers (many of whom have multiples) about how to make this choice happen?
RM: Talking about tushies is one of my favorite topics! My class, Tushies: so Cute Yet so Complicated, is a wonderful and informative way to learn about everything from cloth to disposables and all options in between. I also talk about Elimination Communication as an early potty-training tool. Cloth diapering is one part of new parenthood where ignorance is really bliss. If you start out with cloth, it just becomes what you do. These days the options when using cloth are simple and affordable. You don’t have to soak diapers and deal with tons of parts; you put dirty diapers in a wet bag and you wash and dry them every night. I am not saying that it is easy. Nothing about being a new parent is easy. Yes, it is more difficult than throwing a dirty diaper in the trash. But when you consider, especially with multiples, the money you save in diapers and the possibility that your child will potty-train faster, it just seems worth the extra effort to me. Cloth diapers are an investment and actually have a wonderful re-sale market. Stores like Green and Greener in Valley Village, CA will buy and sell used cloth diapers. There are also diaper delivery services where you don’t have to be responsible for even cleaning them like Dy Dee Diapering Service.
With that said, there is nothing more important than your mental health. In order for you to be the best parent that you can be, you need to be sane and make sure you are not stretching yourself to the point of exhaustion. There are healthier and more sustainable disposable diapers on the market. I recommend Bambo diapers. Here is a link to a code that will get you 10% off! Bambo diapers are biodegradable, compostable and carry the, Nordic Swan Certification for their minimal environmental impact.
TTC: Your own children have grown up with this green concept, do you notice a difference between them and any of their friends about the way the approach things like food or the environment?
RM: Yes, my kids have been thoroughly green washed! My son actually walks through the market and holds things up asking me if they are healthy for his body. Sometimes I wonder if people around me think I am bribing him with candy to make me look good! The truth is that my kids are loving and sensitive. We have taught them to extend that attitude beyond just themselves into the world that they are part of. We make decisions every day to treat them mentally, physically and environmentally in a kind and sustainable way. They have thrived with that knowledge. Fortunately we live in a place where shopping at the farmer’s market, composting and healthy eating are the norm and that helps. I overheard a friend of my mom’s talking about me raising my kids vegetarian. She was very discouraging and whispering that it could be difficult for them later on to be different than everyone else. At first I got angry, but then I smiled to myself. We are living in a world and time where green living is not different. We also live in a time where different doesn’t have to be bad.
TTC: What would be your top 5 tips for beginners to start greening our homes?
RM: My tips are surprisingly easy and mostly free!
- Ma halo Style: Go shoeless in your home. This helps your indoor air-quality by not tracking particulates into your home.
- Flower Power: Invest in some houseplants that are safe for kids and pets. They are fantastic air-filters.
- Ventilate While you Create: Always run the fan over your (gas) stove while you are cooking. You will greatly reduce toxic gases in your home.
- Plastic Panic: Don’t microwave anything in plastic!! This reduces your chance of chemicals leaching into your foods.
- Watch Your Can: Try to buy fewer foods that are in cans and more fresh foods.
- TTC: Any suggestions for those of us with older children about how to get our kids involved in the process?
RM: I like to call composting the newest old thing. I think a wonderful way to get older children involved is to create a worm-composting aquarium. You can look up all of the components online and create your own little environment where kids can actually see the worms breaking down your family’s food scraps and turning it into soil you can then use to plant things in! Note: You must get worms that are specific to composting. There is a company at the Studio City Farmers Market that sells this aquarium and the worms.
TTC: Where are your classes held and what is your upcoming class schedule?
RM: I have found my teaching nest at a wonderful loft in North Hollywood called, BINI Birth. BINI is a space for support and education for both new families and birth professionals. BINI offers everything from Mommy and Me classes, Hypnobirthing, Yoga, monthly free parenting workshops and an intensive childbirth workshop weekend. It is a very nurturing space that Green Hugs is excited to be a part of. I teach my series one weekend a month at BINI and am also available for in-home private sessions. A lot of pregnant women and new moms like to get a group of friends together and learn out of their own homes. I’m teaching my Green Hugs classes at BINI Birth on the following weekends:
- November 27th Tushies: So Cute, Yet So Complicated — There are many levels of responsible diapering. We will explore them all and learn money saving, green options that are better for the environment and our favorite squeezable tushies!
- November 28th Organic Panic — What better way do we have to make our children stewards of the earth than to teach them how to eat well and enjoy life. I will also answer any questions about baby food storage or helping to green your picky toddlers plate!
- December 5th Safe Mamas Guide To Green Homecare — We will discuss the lethal 10 ingredients to make sure aren’t in your products. I will teach you how to make your own natural home cleaners and we will discuss some of the safest ones that you can buy.
- December 19th Will That Be Glass Or Plastic — We will discuss the pros and cons of glass bottles, discuss greener plastic alternatives and navigate through how to store food and liquids safely. I will show you some of my most favorite and innovative food storage systems made and used by proud moms everywhere!
- January 29th Spa Baby — Learn how to make some of your own child and parent friendly bath and body products! I will help you to navigate through the world of chemicals that should not be in your home. We will also discuss natural bedding and the importance of a clean, green sleeping space for your little one.
- January 30th Are You Attached — From breastfeeding to baby wearing and co-sleeping, let’s explore the benefits of this instinctual bond and how to deepen it safely and still look cute while you literally have another human attached to your hip!