It let me know that EWG understands how concerned we parents are, how very much we want our children to be healthy, how important we are in triumphing over this whole chemical mess.
So now, from the "inside," working alongside a bunch of other equally concerned parents at EWG (27 young kids among us!), I get to work within the American parent community to encourage environmentally healthy choices at home by sharing our research and guidance, and - closer to my heart - empowering them to speak up for policy change that will make all of our families healthier, from the very, very beginning.
Why are we parents so important, you ask? Easy. 1: We establish practices and make purchases for our households that directly affect the environmental health of young children and pregnant women. Do we leave our shoes at the door, or track in toxins? Do we wash our hands often, and with what? Do we use green cleaners? Non-stick or cast-iron? And the choices go on - many of them critical to our environmental health.
2: We are constituents who can speak up for policy change. Strong, persistent constituent voices are often critical to policy change, since lawmakers, of course, serve at our pleasure. Because it's parents (really) who are uniquely poised to create the momentum we need to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act, the existing law that (barely) regulates industrial chemicals in the U.S. - chemicals like bisphenol-A, phthalates, and Teflon, among many, many thousands of others.
About a year ago, Barbara Ehrenreich reminded me in a short piece she wrote that the 'Great People theory of history' isn't how change really happens. Nope. It's the rest of us. You. Me. Your moms group. Your children's classmates' families. Concerned grandmas. As Ehrenreich wrote, using one historical example:
Women's rights, for example, weren't brokered by Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem over tea. As Steinem would be the first to acknowledge, the feminist movement of the '70s took root around kitchen tables and coffee tables, ignited by hundreds of thousands of now-anonymous women who were sick of being called "honey" at work and excluded from "men's" jobs. Media stars such as Friedan and Steinem did a brilliant job of proselytizing, but it took an army of unsung heroines to stage the protests, organize the conferences, hand out the fliers and spread the word to their neighbors and co-workers.
This reminder from one of our country's great social movements heartens me as parents from Seattle to Nashville, Pittsburgh to L.A. lift up their voices and demand change: we want safe products for our children and ourselves. We want to birth newborns without additives, nurse our babies with chemical-free breastmilk, and trust our government's now very broken consumer safety system. For starters!
So my new year's resolution, as a parent and EWG staffer, is parent power. I want to help foster it, support it, nurture it, partner with it, you name it. All to pass the Kid Safe Chemicals Act. It won't be easy or quick, but we can do it. And it'll be very, very worth it. Start now by learning about Kid Safe, perusing our resources just For Parents, and signing The Declaration. We need all hands on deck - yours included.
So Happy New Year! May 2009 bring us that much closer to a chemical policy that puts people first. I'll raise my glass of organic apple cider to that - you???