Mother Earth

By Christine A. Krahling

An Interview with Kerri Mullen, Founder, EcoMom Alliance of the Lehigh Valley

Join us as we talk to EcoMom Alliance of the Lehigh Valley founder Kerri Mullen and see what these earth-friendly moms are doing to help our community keep its green sheen.

What is the EcoMom Alliance?

The EcoMom Alliance is an international non-profit organization of women who have come together because of their concern about pressing environmental issues and how those issues affect the health of our children and future of the planet. The organization was started in California in 2007, and now includes thousands of women across the U.S and Canada. The Lehigh Valley chapter was started in August 2008, and now has over 100 members.

After living in the Valley for one year, I started the group on Meetup.com. We gathered 13 women for our first meeting and {it was} a huge success {even though} we were a group of complete strangers.

As the founder and organizer, I wear many hats: I organize events for the group, keep in contact with everyone (including our sponsors) and I keep track of the group’s finances, input from sponsors and member dues and expenses.

Who are the “EcoMoms?”

The EcoMoms are an incredibly diverse group, {with} many shades of green, with some moms just beginning to explore sustainability in the home to moms who were raised “organically” on a farm and to whom canning their own food is second nature. More than half of the group is comprised of working moms.

How does your work as a biologist, ecologist and teacher help in your role in the EcoMom Alliance?

I think just understanding how science is achieved (and how difficult it really is to get consensus in any scientific community), helps me to tease out the facts in the media and put current issues into perspective. This is an especially useful tool when moderating and participating in any discussion, whether at the front of the classroom or hanging out at a coffee shop. Most people decide how they feel about an issue based on emotion, and it’s nice to be able to add perspective to hot issues, and to be able to distinguish facts from beliefs. A perfect example of this is when addressing global climate change.

You mentioned that while you were pregnant you became concerned about some of the environmental effects on fetal development. What can you tell us about that?

Actually, the first time I started thinking about these things was while trying to become pregnant. After trying for two years, I finally got pregnant, and soon after, lost that baby. I started doing lots of research on fertility and miscarriage, and found some disheartening information on links to poor water quality and pesticides. Finally, I had a successful pregnancy, and started paying close attention to development and health from the womb to the breast.

I think today, with the decrease in fertility rates, and the rise in childhood asthma, obesity, food allergies, autism, and learning disorders, many are definitely questioning the wisdom of letting many industries go unregulated. For example, there is currently no safety regulation on fragrances, some of which can be pretty nasty chemicals. These things are found in everything from air fresheners to body care products, even those intended for infants.

You talk about making “better consumer choices.” How do we do that?

In a world that increasingly values capitalism, global trade and promotes Western values, economics is everything. Because companies pay very close attention to what consumers want, women especially, who make around 80% of the consumer decisions for a household, have enormous power to affect change, simply by “voting” with one’s wallet. So if you think it’s important for farmers to use sustainable practices when growing crops or raising animals, then the best way to make that happen is to support the farmers who are doing those things.

How does the EcoMom Alliance work to create change on a local level?

Most of the moms in the group focus on affecting change through their consumer decisions. One mom is trying to get a car seat recycling program started. Currently, no one in the Lehigh Valley accepts car seats for recycling. A couple of moms are working hard to promote native landscaping for wildlife in the Bethlehem area.

What do you think the biggest misconception is that people have about “going green?”

That’s an interesting question. Let me answer it with a brief story. We had friends over for dinner recently, and while they were respectful of our food choices (mostly vegetarian) and general lifestyle, they are not exactly what I would call “green.” I found myself discreetly digging recyclables out of the garbage and trying to salvage compostable items from plates before they went into the trash. At one point, my five-year-old daughter exclaimed that we needed the leftover food to feed our worms. To demonstrate, she proceeded to show them our indoor worm bin. They looked a bit shocked, and one friend said something to the effect of “You guys look like such normal people!” So we look normal, but because we have a bin of worms in our house, we’re not.

That one comment made me realize that the biggest misconception about “going green” is image. I guess some people assume that you have to start dressing in earthy colors, stop shaving your legs and tweezing your eyebrows, forgo deodorant, let the lawn go to weeds, and stick a big rainbow peace sign bumper sticker on your hybrid to be “green.” But there are so many ways to be green, that one image or profile just doesn’t work well.

If there were one simple change that parents can implement to make the world a better place for their children, what would it be?

Buy as much fresh, local food as possible while it is in season. Buying local is a great way to keep our families and the environment healthy, and boost local economies!

To join EcoMom Alliance of the Lehigh Valley visit www.meetup.com/Lehigh-Valley-EcoMoms.

Christine A. Krahling is the editor of Lehigh Valley Marketplace.

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