Saturday, April 26, 2008

An interview with Jenn Savedge, the author of 'The Green Parent'

Three weeks ago I reviewed here the new book 'The Green Parent: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Earth-Friendly Living' by Jenn Savedge, which is also the first book to be published under the Kedzie Press' Million Tree-A-Thon initiative.

Since I'm going to become a parent myself in few weeks, I wanted to learn more about green parenting and the book. Luckily, Jenn Savedge agreed to answer my questions and I enjoyed learning how green parenting is so much cooler now than it used to be and how being a green parent actually helps you saving money.

How did you come up with the idea of writing a green guide for parents?

Before my daughters were born, I was living a pretty eco-friendly lifestyle. I have always been interested in taking care of the environment, and I had the time, money, and energy to devote to this interest. So I was kind of thrown for a loop after my children were born and I was thrown into a world of disposable, plastic, battery-operated, planet-trashing stuff. And on top of all that, I suddenly had no time, no energy, and a whole lot less money than I had before to devote to making sure I made the most environmentally responsible choices. I went to the bookstore looking for a book that would show me how to raise my kids without trashing the planet and how to get them involved in taking care of the environment. When I couldn't find it…I wrote it.

What was the most interesting part of the work on the book?

I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing this book. This was exactly the information that I had been searching for, and I was thrilled to finally have it all together in one place and in a format that would be useful and accessible to other parents. My favorite aspect of the research was conducting interviews with green parents around the country. Bill McKibben, my long-time hero, was gracious enough to allow me to interview him, as were other green leaders such as Alan Durning, Timberly Whitfield, Leslie Garrett, and Colin Beavan. It was fascinating to talk with these folks and hear their anecdotes and advice from a green parent’s perspective.

If it makes so much sense to go green and be green parents, how come we don't see more green parents around? is it awareness, time, money or people just don't care enough?

I think there’s a misconception that green parenting is difficult to put into practice, and let’s face it, most parents are not really interested in adding extra work to their already busy schedules. The great news is that most parents I meet really want to go green; they just aren’t sure how to fit it in. So once they realize how simple it is, they are excited to get started.

What's the ability of parents to influence their children green attitudes, when the kids get different signals from their school, community, and other social circles that are probably still far behind?

The kids growing up today hear more about environmental issues, in their music, movies, and even in their video games, than any generation before them. And while not all kids are interested in going green, parents can help their own kids make eco-friendly choices by listening to their kids’ ideas and empowering them to protect their planet. In that sense, green living is not just something that children are being told to do; it is a pathway they are carving for themselves.

Have you noticed any change in green parenting in the last couple of years? are there any specific areas in particular?

Green parenting is so much cooler now than it used to be! When my first daughter was born, I could barely find any information about cloth diapering, and people thought I was a lunatic for wanting to make my own baby food. Now that information is everywhere as green parenting has hit the mainstream. I would say that organic foods and eco-friendly cleaning products have seen the biggest boom in sales because they address parents’ concerns about the health of their families and their planet.

How common is the myth that going green, and especially when it comes to children, is only for wealthy people? do you hope that your book will contribute to change that perception?

I think a lot of parents feel that if they can’t afford to put solar panels on their home or buy the latest model hybrid car, they shouldn’t bother going green. But the beauty of green parenting is that it essentially means using less stuff and being more particular about the stuff we do use. More often than not, that translates into spending less money. Green parenting can save parents a ton of cash on their energy, water, trash and shopping bills each month. And my hope is that parents who are on a budget will read The Green Parent and realize that going green is a very simple way to save money.

What's the most difficult practice to implement as a green parent? what's the easiest one?
That answer will be different for every parent. For instance, I have the hardest time remembering to turn off the water when I’m brushing my teeth. I was never taught to do that growing up and so it wasn’t until I was an adult that it even dawned on me how much water I was wasting. Now, even though it is an incredibly simple thing to do, I still forget sometimes because I am distracted or exhausted. So I have to leave myself a little note in the bathroom! What’s easy for one parent may be difficult for another…and vice versa.

I enjoyed very much the interviews in the book, many with known figures whom we know less about their green side as parents (at least I didn't..). Is there any story you've heard during these interviews that made a special impression on you?

Each of the green parents I interviewed for the book made a lasting impression on me and inspired me to be a deeper shade of green. But I think the story that inspired me the most was Alan Durning’s year of living “car-lessly” with his wife and three children. The level of commitment that his whole family showed to the project was outstanding and his honesty and optimism about his car-less way of life was both refreshing and encouraging.

What's the feedback you receive from your daughters on your personal efforts to practice green parenting?

My daughters are still young (they are 5 and 2 years old) so I am fortunate in that they are learning about going green and caring for the planet at a very young age. It’s great because they are very accustomed to things like recycling, turning off the lights, and walking instead of driving whenever possible. In fact, they remind me to do things like grab my cloth tote bag or fill up a reusable water bottle before I leave the house!

But in all honesty, they are still very normal little girls who love all things pink and sparkly and sometimes fawn over these types of products in the stores. Still, they listen when I tell them that these products are not good for them, nor are the good for the birds, bears, squirrels, and dolphins with whom we share the planet. They not always thrilled about it, but they know that if they can’t convince me it’s good for the environment, it’s not coming home with us!

The green world is changing very quickly with new developments coming every day - what would you recommend parents who read the book and would like to stay updated?

My website ( is a good start. The book gives parents all the information they need to go green and get their kids involved, and the website complements that by providing up-to-date news and information on green living. Another good way to stay informed about environmental issues is to keep track of what is going on in your locally community in regards to things like recycling, public transportation, and pollution.

Thank you, Jenn! The book is definitely recommended to all the parents out who wish to go green, or those who already taken steps in the green direction and want to learn more about green parenting.

Raz @ Eco-Libris