I began writing the first edition of my book Spit That Out: The Overly Informed Parents’ Guide to Raising Healthy Children in the Age of Environmental Guilt in early 2010. My son was only four months old and after months of pregnancy and postpartum eco-anxiety, I decided to put my thoughts into action and produce a book to explore these issues.
It began as a self-published book in late 2010 with a revised version in late 2011. In 2015, I was offered the opportunity to do a complete revamp with the help of a REAL publisher! It was one of the most exciting times in my life, as I completely reformatted and reexamined the topics in the book with the help of so many experts, celebrities, and friends!
It was released in September 2016, just before the November election which changed the face of American society – along with the federal commitment to climate change and sustainability. Basically, all the optimism I ended that book with – “The Clean Power Plan! New FDA Regulations! Chemical Companies Newly Accountable!” – became dated folktales the moment the book came off the printing press. I remember sitting at sale tables in Barnes and Noble basically telling people that my book was about “the time of yore.” It was not the best time for my personal brand of humor, small steps, and optimism about composting. It felt…grim.
Still, I continued to promote my book, write blog posts on easy green living ideas, and try as hard as I could to practice what I preached. So much has changed in these years – state, city, and federal laws; the way in which we advocate and communicate; the ways corporations respond to consumer demand; and the way I operate in the world as no longer the parent of babies, but the parent of big kids making their own decisions in the world.
What’s Gotten Better?
Let’s start with the bright side. Corporations have begun to hold themselves more accountable and make positive change in their practices. Sometimes it’s economically driven, sometimes it’s due to consumer demand and pressure, and sometimes it’s due to legalities. Regardless of the “why,” it’s happening.
While it’s not regulated the way it should be, the “clean beauty” and “green cleaning” industries are booming. And while those labels are often taken advantage of, there are many truly better companies leading the charge and getting people to make better choices for their health and the environment.
Food companies are offering better choices at more affordable prices, and organic options line the shelves at Walmart, Target, and local drugstores.
We also have a booming sharing economy fueled by services like bike shares, car shares, random “stuff shares,” and the Buy Nothing Project groups.
Philadelphia finally passed a plastic bag ban after decades of advocacy by environmental groups. Climate activist teen Greta Thunberg was named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine. The 2020 elections are near and please God, let’s not let the U.K. ‘s election results be another harbinger.
What’s Gotten Worse?
Well, the Environmental Protection Agency is run by oil lobbyists and our President is still touting clean coal. From a federal legislation perspective, things are not good.
Unless the Democratic party can take back the presidency and Senate in 2020, concern for chemical safety, climate change, and clean energy aren’t going to be taken seriously by the federal government. And a recent big conservative win in the U.K. isn’t boding well for the planet either.
As individuals, there is really only so much we can do. But at the same time, awareness and personal choice are more important than ever since we are the ones left holding the ball. It just sucks that we can’t exactly control the air we breathe and water we drink.
How I’ve Changed?
My children are now 6 and 10. I can no longer micromanage their lives or their choices. If someone gives them candy, they are probably going to eat it, and if someone gives them cheap plastic toys, I can no longer hide them.
We still shop mostly organic at home and pack school lunches. But snacks, treats, parties, vacations, and, well, life, has forced me to let go of so much control. Managing a career, kids, and chronic illness has made me far less likely to make things from scratch or go crazy over labels. We stopped composting because we were mostly making a huge mess, but we still diligently recycle and reuse. Secondhand is our primary source for clothing, but we have been horrifyingly abusing the luxury of Amazon Prime for items we’ve needed in a pinch.
I strive to use my voice to advocate for change, and I wrote The Budget Activist to compile inspiring stories about individuals making both large and small changes. Reading these stories reminds me that change is still possible, and activism is not fruitless. And I am preparing myself to do everything I can in the most important battle of all – taking back the presidency and Senate in 2020. Because until we have the Democratic party in power – as imperfect as they may be – we have no real chance of environmental justice in this country.
I continue to write about environmental advocacy and political activism here and for other publications. But I have also peppered my blog and social media with other issues I’ve grown passionate about – living with chronic illness, parenting tweens, and even my own personal life.
I’m choosing to go into 2020 with absolute optimism that things will get better. I love who I am at 40, I love my work, and I love (most of) my life. And I am going to take all the energy I have into fighting for better leaders in the 2020 elections so we can get back the optimism, love, and power that’s been stolen from us. We all deserve so much better.
In 2016, I told you I was choosing to stay and fight. Thank you for sticking with me.