by Kerri Mullen
As a mother, a biologist and ecologist, and a teacher, I believe it is important to find a supportive community within which to share thoughts and ideas on living sustainably for the health of our children and our precious environment. I have been aware of the connection between environmental and health issues for years, but when I became pregnant with my first child, I became increasingly concerned. After learning about environmental effects on a developing fetus and child, I became depressed and felt powerless over my baby’s future. Gradually, I came to see knowledge as empowering, as it leads to open-ended discussions, better consumer choices, and political activism, all of which affect change.
I recently moved to the Lehigh Valley, and with two small children and no family in proximity, I felt isolated. Even as I met other families in the community, I rarely felt a deep connection with other mothers. After months of trying to engage with others about my concerns, I decided to start organizing a local group to bring progressive-minded women together. In August 2008, I founded the EcoMom Alliance of the Lehigh Valley.
Our group is part of an international group of EcoMoms, but we are completely autonomous in how we hold our meetings, topics, and events. Locally, we are focused on creating a supportive and sustainable parenting community among current, expecting and future mothers. Our activism is primarily non-confrontational. Instead, we directly engage with individuals, businesses, schools, and other community organizations to promote change. For example, we are helping to reduce our community’s carbon footprint by encouraging the support of local farms and by nourishing our own families with locally-grown and -produced goods. Some members are learning to grow their own organic shiitake mushrooms as a result of a winter workshop! We are helping to reduce waste and give back to our community by hosting seasonal clothing, book, and toy swaps. Our members periodically swap gently used items for new treasures, and what is left is given to those in need. We have hosted speakers on potty training (moving beyond diapers prevents additional waste from entering the waste stream), as well as green interior design, illuminating several ways to sustainably and healthfully design and decorate one’s home. Sometimes, we skip the formal agenda and simply sip organic and Fair-Trade coffee while our children play.
Our monthly meetings occur over coffee at a local sustainable business or a member’s home. During these informal gatherings, our conversation is guided by the concerns of the time. When one mother considers using cloth diapers, we offer ideas and encouragement. Another mother is discouraged by the rising cost of organic and healthy food, and we offer support on how to give her child the best start possible. That is why we gather: to inspire and empower each other to healthfully nourish our families, and as a direct result, minimize our carbon footprints and create a sustainable future. In the process, we forge meaningful friendships. Together, we seek to share and gain knowledge, and find and offer support for even the smallest effort and progress.
Throughout history, during times of fever, flood, famine, or flu, women have stepped up to do what must be done. Our community and our planet need that now more than ever. Our developing and impressionable children need it, and the future of all species depends on it. As both role models and a powerful market force, women in the Lehigh Valley are quietly mobilizing to foster an environmentally, socially, and economically vibrant and healthy future.
Kerri Mullen, founder of the EcoMom Alliance of the Lehigh Valley, is the Biology Lab Coordinator and an adjunct at Moravian College, where she teaches Zoology and Environmental Studies.
(Published in the 2009 edition of Sustainable Lehigh Valley)