Green Etiquette 101

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Over at the G&CM forum the topic of “green etiquette” came up. I’ve decided to share with you my experience surrounding this topic because who would have to thunk it, there would be etiquette for going green? To me, it’s more like common sense.  Except when you get excited and passionate about something it’s easy to go overboard.  Let me paint a picture for you of something I just witnessed:

It’s a sunny day and there’s a group of moms at the park. One mom suggests that they put sunscreen on the children. The moms go to the diaper bags and begin to pull the different sunscreens out of the bags and call the children over. I’m not with this group of moms so I just observe. As the children begin to be lotioned up I see one mom whisper something to another mom. This same mom then leans over and points at a bottle of sunscreen and tells this one mom that her brand of sunscreen isn’t safe. The mom is taken back and confused, I could tell by her face. I hear her ask why but the other moms just smile and from what I could hear begin to tell her about parabens and toxic chemicals.  This poor mom was trying to protect her son from being sunburned and now she was feeling like a horrible mom.  I witnessed lots of judgment and guilt taken place over sunscreen.

In my opinion, the moms using the so-called “safe” sunscreen weren’t bad friends and they didn’t mean any harm. They were just passionate about safe personal care products and wanted to share this with their apparently “uninformed” friend.  I’m going to guess that the uninformed friend will do one of two things. She will either buy the safe sunscreen to fit in with her friends and maybe research it more for herself or two, she’ll be turned away because of her interaction.

I’ve worked with moms in social settings for past employment. I held playgroups for groups of moms for a state of Michigan grant. I saw this type of scenario over and over but the subject would just be different but the outcome was usually one of the above.  The reason being, moms are somewhat competitive.  Regardless, there is some common sense or basic etiquette that needs to be used.  If moms want other moms to listen to them, to hear what they are saying, to respect them, they need to not feel judged for the actions they are taking.  Then sometimes, even if they don’t feel guilty or judged, they still won’t listen or change. Most likely because they don’t want to or they aren’t ready.  Badgering, pestering, or making them feel bad won’t help.

Personally, my dad told me to not use plastic baby bottles, four years ago. He even sent me an email with links to websites.  He tried to not be judgmental, tell me what to do, or make me feel guilty. He just gave me the information and let it be. He gave it to me a few times but in my case; I didn’t want him to be right and me to be wrong. I didn’t want to believe what I was being told. Can plastic baby bottles really be dangerous? That was my thought. Boy, do I feel dumb now.

Moms going green, getting toxic chemicals out of the house or off the body, helping the environment, and eating organic, we’re passionate. No two ways about that!  I don’t recommend curbing that passion or bottling it up, hence, my blog!  Here are my common sense/green etiquette tips:

1. Be subtle verses yelling from the rooftop. More people will actually hear your message when you talk versus yell.

2. Bring literature and information to playgroups so you aren’t the know it all, the information is.

3. Use topic starters such as this to open up dialogue:

“The other day I was reading about BPA in sippy cups. Scary stuff! Does anyone else know about this”

4. If you have a product you love that is a non-toxic alternative, give a friend a sample. Let her see that it works as well as the toxic stuff. Let her be the one that figures it out. You’re just a good friend sharing the information and a product you love. Moms love this!

5. Lead by example and either they will ask or they won’t. Maybe they’ll even follow and become leaders themselves! If you’re passionate about buying organic do so and when friends come over and you have organic this or that, maybe they’ll ask you. Maybe then you can explain because they asked verse you lecturing.

6. Forward them Green & Clean Mom!!! LOL! I had to write this because it’s exactly what I do! I forward my blog and several others to people because I think they would love, appreciate or really learn from the content. Here’s a few of my favorite to share with friends a family: Healthy Green Mom, Mommy Green Guide, 5 Minutes for Moms Going Green, Crunchy Domestic Goddess, Eco Child’s Play, and Big Green Purse.

  • 7. Loan a good book to someone like, Gorgeously Green, Growing Up Green or Green Clean . Tell them you read it and loved it. Then they can decide for themselves what they want to be passionate about. Maybe something that struck a cord with you won’t with them. Everyone is different, embrace this.

With all my education and experience working with other moms I have learned to tred lightly versus being outspoken, and opinionate. This doesn’t mean I’m not these things but being them around a group of moms, doesn’t help me make friends or spread my message.  Please, don’t squelch your passion for being green or doing things differently, just recognize…not all moms are ready when you are and are on the same page.

9 thoughts on “Green Etiquette 101”

  1. Great post! I do worry about turning other parents off when talking about green things. I like the “conversation starter” technique the best. I am not sure about bringing pamphlets and books, unless you can think of a natural way to introduce them to a friend. “Oh, I just so happen to have a great little brochure about parabens,” might not go over so well!

  2. Rebecca,

    Hey, G&CM here! I think it’s how you bring on the books, pamplets and info. If you attend a playgroup that offers resources you can ask the facilitator to add the resources to the table of information and books. In my area, that’s how it works. Or start a resource area yourself and invite others to share information for free. Old books, magazines, etc. It’s really more about how you do things.

  3. Carrie at Natural Moms Talk Radio

    Wow, great post.

    I think this is one of those times we need to avoid being dogmatic or bombastic or whatever. Just because someone is uninformed doesn’t mean they should be embarrassed or shamed. I like your recommendation to bring things up in a non threatening, kind of questioning way.

    Carrie at Natural Moms Talk Radios last blog post..Calico Salad

  4. Hi Rebecca,
    I thought you had some great recommendations. I don’t think as a mom I would ever begin to tell someone about the dangers in a product. They might already know and might have made a different choice. For example, I researched tons of different sunscreens for ingredients that I thought would be baby-safe. You know what? I ended up buying a cheapie product, but have minimized the number of times I use it on my daughter. I try and keep her indoors during the hot sun hours and avoid sun exposure all together. I choose not to buy some of the more expensive ‘alternative’ products out there, when I am not even convinced that they are healthy. I like to think that people are educated enough to make their own decisions. If someone leaned over to me and began a conversation re: green living with “You know, you should …or you shouldn’t …” I would think that they should go kiss-off. However, when you begin a conversation with open-ended statements (like you recommended), such as “I just read …” or “Did you know ..” those are A-OK with me!

  5. P.S. I think carrying ‘green’ literature around is over the top. I’m all about minimizing print publications. People will research things online if they are really interested.

    The best literature is word of mouth via open-ended conversation.

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