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When Julie McMahon Jones watched her first-born child climb onto the bus on his first day of kindergarten, she was a little emotional that her baby was growing up, a little nervous about his launch into a strange new world, and a little anxious about how he’d react to it all. And then she started worrying about the potentially harmful lawn chemicals and cleaning toxins he’d be exposed to.
“I am so suspect as to why there’s more asthma, autism, and cancer in the world today,” Jones says. “You wonder ‘Why, why, why?’ There just has to be a link to our environment.”
She didn’t want to make his life harder later because of mistakes she could’ve avoided making in the present, and she worried about possible health risks to her younger children, too, once they were old enough to join their big brother at school. (Today her kids are 8, 7, and 4.)
Rather than sit back and wring her hands over the injustice of it all, Jones took action. She joined the PTA and started asking questions about the all-purpose cleaners the janitor used, and then suggested a safe alternative—created with vinegar, Borax, liquid soap, hot water, and essential oil.
After reading an article about the EcoMom Alliance, a national nonprofit organization created to inspire and empower women to reduce the climate crisis and create a sustainable future, she was inspired to take her green consciousness to another level. She created the Minneapolis chapter of the Alliance and started spreading the word in her Edina neighborhood. She soon discovered that goals were the same among other moms: Fight back against materialism, unplug the kids and get them outside, and keep them away from potentially harmful chemicals.
As an EcoMom Alliance community leader, Jones has hosted eco-parties (the group has discussed everything from waste-free school lunches to recipes for nontoxic cleaning products) and—along with other EcoMoms—has been active in obtaining a $10,000 grant to “green” Highlands Elementary School in Edina. Thanks in large part to their efforts, the school will be the first green elementary school in the city.
She says she tries to “shop with a conscience” and considers the book, Big Green Purse, her “EcoMom bible.”
“Women are the purchasers in the household. That’s significant,” she comments. “We control 85 percent of what comes across our threshold.”
Mary Quinn-McCallum, over on the other side of the Mississippi, had been having similar thoughts, which prompted conversations with her neighbor Jose (pronounced Joe-zay) Brizard. In sharing the spirit and mission of the EcoMom Alliance, the two decided to create a group in their Mac-Groveland neighborhood of St. Paul that would meet once a month to discuss a wide variety of “green” issues, hence their name: Ecopaulitans.
“We got in touch with the EcoMom Alliance and started a local group about a year ago,” Quinn-McCallum says. “We completely support what they do, but our format is a little bit different. Most Alliance groups have parties where they discuss a variety of topics; our group tends to have a monthly speaker meeting, and we promote outings to local parks, farms, and have recently received a grant to support our Green School Initiative group.”
Past speakers have shared information including how to afford organic food, safe cleaning and skin care products, eating locally, sustainable travel, and the value of nature in a child’s development.
Quinn-McCallum has four daughters ranging in age from 2-14, and Brizard has four sons ranging in age from 5-9, and they felt time was of the essence when working toward a brighter future for their kids.
“Too often, when people feel overwhelmed, they shut down. We want people to realize that you can make changes. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming,” Quinn-McCallum says.
Like Jones, Quinn-McCallum and Brizard also feel strongly that, as consumers, we make choices every day that give us more power than we realize. “It’s not just about voting in an election, it’s about voting with your wallet and your fork. We all have that power.”
She encourages anyone in the community to check out the Ecopaulitans. You don’t have to be a mom and you don’t have to live in St. Paul, you just have to care enough to take action.
“It’s wonderful to network with others and see what sorts of things people are doing at the local level,” she comments. “When more people are involved, the ripple effect is quite powerful. It’s really very inspiring.”
For more information about the EcoMom Alliance, visit www.ecomomalliance.org.
For more information about the Minneapolis Chapter of the Alliance, visit http://mommytsunami.wordpress.com.
For more information about the Ecopaulitans, visit www.ecopaulitans.com. (The groups also have Facebook pages.)
The Ecopaulitans and Minneapolis EcoMom Alliance will be at the Living Green Expo May 2-3 selling zero-waste lunch kits. Stop by and say hello.