Eco to the People is pleased to announce our Green Guest Series, a monthly feature in which eco experts and green gods and goddesses from a variety of fields have the opportunity to share their wisdom and practical advice with Eco to the People readers.
This week, we are pleased to welcome Lisa Frack, the online parent organizer for the Environmental Working Group. Lisa connects with parents online to share EWG’s research and activism opportunities on kid safe products, environmental health and toxics. She holds a BA in history from Princeton and a Masters in Public Policy from Duke. Lisa’s two young children inspire her to make choosing safe products a simple task for even the busiest of parents.
Calling All Parents: Let’s Pass the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act
by Lisa Frack
Long before working with the Environmental Working Group, I often visited the “For Parents” page on EWG’s web site. I appreciated and trusted the information there (and still do), but truth be told, what I really appreciated was that it was designed for parents like me.
It let me know that EWG understands how concerned we parents are, how very much we want our children to be healthy, how important we are in triumphing over this whole chemical mess. So now that I am on the “inside,” working alongside a bunch of other equally concerned parents at EWG (we have 27 young kids among us), I get to work within the American parent community to encourage environmentally-healthy choices at home by sharing our research and guidance, and – closer to my heart – empowering them to speak up for policy changes that will make all of our families healthier, from the very, very beginning.
Why are we as parents so important, you ask? Easy.
1: We establish practices and make purchases for our households that directly affect the environmental health of young children and pregnant women. Do we leave our shoes at the door, or track in toxins? Do we wash our hands often, and with what? Do we use green cleaners? Non-stick or cast-iron? And the choices go on – many of them critical to our environmental health.
2: We are constituents who can speak up for policy change. Strong, persistent constituent voices are often critical to policy change, since lawmakers, of course, serve at our pleasure. Because it’s parents who are uniquely poised to create the momentum we need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, the existing law that (barely) regulates industrial chemicals in the U.S. – chemicals like bisphenol-A, phthalates and Teflon, among many, many thousands of others.
About a year ago, Barbara Ehrenreich reminded me in a short piece she wrote that the “Great People theory of history” isn’t how change really happens. Nope. It’s the rest of us. You. Me. Your parenting group. Your children’s classmates’ families. Concerned grandmas. As Ehrenreich wrote, using one historical example:
“Women’s rights, for example, weren’t brokered by Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem over tea. As Steinem would be the first to acknowledge, the feminist movement of the ’70s took root around kitchen tables and coffee tables, ignited by hundreds of thousands of now-anonymous women who were sick of being called “honey” at work and excluded from “men’s” jobs. Media stars such as Friedan and Steinem did a brilliant job of proselytizing, but it took an army of unsung heroines to stage the protests, organize the conferences, hand out the fliers and spread the word to their neighbors and co-workers.”
This reminder from one of our country’s great social movements heartens me as parents from Seattle to Nashville, Pittsburgh to L.A. lift up their voices and demand change: we want safe products for our children and ourselves. We want to birth newborns without additives, nurse our babies with chemical-free breastmilk, and trust our government’s now very broken consumer safety system. For starters!
So my goal for 2009 – as a parent and EWG staffer – is parent power. I want to help foster it, support it, nurture it, partner with it, you name it. All to pass the Kid Safe Chemicals Act. It won’t be easy or quick, but we can do it. And it’ll be very, very worth it. Start now by learning about Kid-Safe, perusing our resources just For Parents, and signing The Declaration. We need all hands on deck – yours included.