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Green Parenting Web Site: Good or No?
Emily Gertz, 7 Nov 07

I'd like to ask the parents in our readership: take a look at this green parenting site, and come back to tell us in the comments how useful and original it is for you in greening up your everyday decisions about how to feed your family. Is the info substantial? Does it seem helpful, or just prey on your anxieties?

"Green web sites" seem to be hatching by the dozen every week. And PR announcements about most of them seem to make their way to the WC general mailbox, from whence they depart to their final resting place in my Trash folder. A lot of them are "green is the new black" consumer sites; if they don't feature some pretty amazingly appealing and useful designs or new tools, or offer a comprehensive selection of very useful goods, they are not particularly worldchanging. Or they're light on news and useful info, heavy on ads -- capitalizing on the mainstreaming and monetizing of green. Nothing wrong with that de facto, but mostly interesting in the meta dimension of watching late adopter media try to keep up with the cultural zeitgeist.

But all that said...along came the email hyping Smart Foods Healthy Kids. While the "about us" page is very short on the professional backgrounds of its' staff, and long on twee job titles ("chief of belief"?), my interest was caught by this goal statement on the site's subscription page:

We want overwhelmed—but caring—parents to know what we know about creating healthier families.

As green moves into the cultural center, I suspect this gets right to the heart of the dilemma for many, many people as they become aware of the enormous scope of complex issues like persistent chemical contaminants in food: how the heck do I find the time to figure out how to help solve this problem in my everyday life? And protect my kids?

It's in the aggregation of these small decisions that a lot of progress may well -- or may not -- occur in the next 10-25 years, while (hopefully) the infrastructures beneath them are transformed into much more sustainable forms.

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Comments

I gave that site my best shot, really I did. But apparently having a four-year-old to raise hasn't much increased my ability to read the Web version of a cross between Redbook and the Mother Earth News. I'm just not earnest enough for this stuff--admittedly, despite my food coop membership, my diet is pretty far from sustainable, so I couldn't even bring myself to look at the pictures of food much.


Posted by: Dave Cutler on 7 Nov 07

Yes, this site seems aimed solely at mothers -- it's apparently a pure digital play of a women's service magazine (like Redbook, as you point out).


Posted by: Emily Gertz on 7 Nov 07

It was ok until i tried to look at a recipe and then had to pay! The vast majority of the population who really do not know about a well balanced diet need the information for free. I am all for free enterprise but alas if the site is all about sharing then share!

Also, do dad's not cook and care about the nutrition of their children? Having the dad testimony about how his wife's "cooking just got better" got me thinking this site was for and is made by upper middle class white stay at home moms in a US suburb somewhere where the house is large and there are many cars. Nice that the cooking is nice but what about the ecological footprint of the lifestyle. Much like the slow cooking movement. Again, wonderful but what do you do on a fixed income? And they are talking to a minority of the population, an influential minority, but one nonetheless.

I found common sense, decent vegetarian cookbooks with nutritional information on the back to have been my best strategy with my kids. Then look for food coops, organic farmers markets, go to the organic section in the grocery store or grow your own - urban agriculture. Talk to people in those places, you'll be amazed what you learn! In addition, many people are going to collective kitchens to cook together and to learn about different types of food. When it came to lunches basically i opted for as healthy as possible and no waste generation. It did cost me a fortune in lost containers though!

Regarding small decisions true, but we also need the big cheeze politicians to get behind it for a critical mass, or else it stays with a particular demographic. Imagine if the school boards budged and only provided healthy lunch food in the cafs? Remember the university caf? Gross! We need a big push for a big difference. We also need some dads talking about nutrition! And we need way more cultures and people of low income represented and recipes for free for people in a huge rush and fixed incomes.

Also green has always been cultural, just not many people thus a sub-culture! It is not difficult to find information, i was reading about this stuff over 20 years ago before the internet was available and the books i read were 10-20 years old at the time! I also lived in Japan for 10 years and the main topic was eating well for optimum performance. Mothers and wife's went crazy trying to make sure their kids ate the best to pass the ridiculous exams and to ensure their husband would stay healthy for the arduous 80 hour work week. I have never met a people more obsessed with food. I also saw some of the largest food coops in the world, membership up to 150 000. I used to get all my organic products delivered to me in the mail from these coops. We even had a mail order dry goods company called Tengu Foods which catered to the geijing community and imported tons of granola, raisins etc. The coops were so large that they were working with farmers in other countries to grow organic bananas and sugar in the philippines for instance. Critical mass does wonders for an issue.

Anyway luv your site but was not enamoured by the squeeky clean suburban mom feeling of the Smart food healthy kids site.


Posted by: Tracey on 7 Nov 07

I agree that the site has a yuppie tone, but that's the way to reach a certain segment of the population...a segment that's tempted to be wasteful because they can afford it! If squeaky clean suburban moms can be diverted from Clorox and Li'l Entrees to natural cleaners and organic beans, that's great!

It's annoying that some recipes are available only to paying members, but there are many genuinely useful tips on the site.


Posted by: 'Becca on 8 Nov 07

I agree that the site has a yuppie tone, but that's the way to reach a certain segment of the population...a segment that's tempted to be wasteful because they can afford it! If squeaky clean suburban moms can be diverted from Clorox and Li'l Entrees to natural cleaners and organic beans in cans that they recycle, that's great!

It's annoying that some recipes are available only to paying members, but there are many genuinely useful tips on the site.


Posted by: Becca Stallings on 8 Nov 07

I truly resent the implication that children won't eat vegetables unless they're tricked into it. We have our children help pick out fruits and veggies at the local farmstand and CSA, and they do eat most of what we do. At least on the veggie front - does anyone have any ideas on how to get kids to eat more protein?


Posted by: Kim on 8 Nov 07

Re: Kim: more protein for kids:
I warn you, I'm a lazy cook. My 2.3 and 4.5 year old like:
- lentils: vegetable stew/soup, mujedra, dhal
- chick peas: veg stew, korma, baked, sometimes straight out of the can- not hummus anymore though, sigh
- kidney beans: veg stew, sometimes straight out of the can
- black beans: scooped up with guac on tortilla chips
- grilled cheese
- eggs (my 4.5 year old has a Dalek egg cup and so wants soft-boiled eggs ALL THE TIME)
- yogurt
- sometimes cottage cheese, rarely hard cheese on its own- they used to love cheese sticks and those little Laughing Cow wheels but now they are out of favor
- baked tofu (Tofu Lin brand)- they would live on this
- peanut butter and soy nut butter
- veggie burgers and hot dogs


Posted by: xine on 13 Nov 07

More protein for kids? Try "power milk" on their cereal -- protein powder mixed into milk (cow or oat; soy may not be good for kids) with a whisk. A top from the book "Little Sugar Addicts" by Kathleen DesMaison.


Posted by: Chris on 13 Nov 07

More protein for kids? Try "power milk" on their cereal -- protein powder mixed into milk (cow or oat; soy may not be good for kids) with a whisk. A tip from the book "Little Sugar Addicts" by Kathleen DesMaison.


Posted by: Chris on 13 Nov 07

It didn't work for me. Maybe I didn't dig deep enough, but not only did it seem exclusively aimed at moms, but at full-time moms in less than urban settings. I can see how it could increase a mom's anxiety level. As a parent, it's so easy to feel that you're not doing enough or getting it wrong, and the site feeds into that in much the way of the "ring around the collar" commercials. I'd love to see a site that gives easy and useful information for working parents without blowing a household budget; as long as sustainable and environmentally sensitive options are only an option for the more affluent, green households will never become mainstream.


Posted by: Eleanor Lang on 14 Nov 07

It didn't work for me. Maybe I didn't dig deep enough, but not only did it seem exclusively aimed at moms, but at full-time moms in less than urban settings. I can see how it could increase a mom's anxiety level. As a parent, it's so easy to feel that you're not doing enough or getting it wrong, and the site feeds into that in much the way of the "ring around the collar" commercials. I'd love to see a site that gives easy and useful information for working parents without blowing a household budget; as long as sustainable and environmentally sensitive options are only an option for the more affluent, green households will never become mainstream.


Posted by: Eleanor Lang on 14 Nov 07



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