UPDATE: As of 6/14/10, we have VERY much changed our habits and are eating sooo much better! I also enjoy Alexandra’s Facebook updates- like her page, here
You know, it is not often that you can change your entire life in a month. However, around here, we have basically done just that. This all began with a simple giveaway kit from Seventh Generation and a book called The Conscious Kitchen from Alexandra Zissu…
Yes, I have another kit to giveaway, but stick with me a little bit.
First off, I have to admit, while I always felt guilty about it, I was not very environmentally conscious. When my youngest was born almost 5 years ago, I realized her birthday coincided with some cool Earth Day festivities in our town. So, I paid a bit more attention. You know how once you “see” something, you see it everywhere? Well, I had that going on. So, I visited health food stores and began attempting to recycle.
Sadly, I have to admit, my feeble attempts to get “greener” never lasted. I have 5 kids and making drastic grocery changes seemed so hard…so maybe that played a role? Is it because I am ADD? Oh, and we are not rich or really hippie, so maybe that was it? In my mind, I rationalized all kinds of reasons why I could not be more environmentally concerned.
Then I read Alexandra Zissu’s book, The Conscious Kitchen. And I changed. Because…well, I could. I suddenly got it. Now, I am just sorry I did not understand some of the concepts earlier. I feel bad that I was not one of the pioneers. Because this is worth doing and it is not hard anymore.
I was lucky enough to get to interview Alexandra! I totally recommend reading her book (You can buy it on Amazon, here). The clear writing with specific examples about how to have great tasting food and maintain a green and healthy kitchen made going green the most natural thing in the world for us!
This interview will give you some great ideas about how to get started. As you will see in the interview, Zissu is very smart, down to earth and kind:
1) Alexandra, I am a busy mom of 5 children. I am also a lousy cook. I try to buy organic food and I download articles about cleaning with vinegar (but I have not done that)…I have begun to buy Seventh Generation products often. But, I have to admit that is about all I have done to “green my kitchen” What would you consider the main steps for “going green” in feeding your family?
First of all I’m sure you’re not that lousy of a cook! If you’re buying local food in season, you’re off to a great start — stand back and let the ingredients shine. Secondly, no need to download another article on vinegar. Just do it. Stick some in a spray bottle and use it the next time you want to wipe a counter down. Simple as can be.
Here are some other thoughts: Steal away from the five kids and peek through The Conscious Kitchen. It’s a friendly and accessible guide (I hope!) to methodically working through the kitchen. Anyone can turn their kitchen into a safe, non-toxic environment for the whole family. Source the best, purest, most local produce, meat, seafood, and dairy products you can find. Cook in and store food in tried and true materials (cast iron, enamel coated cast iron, stainless steel, glass) that aren’t known to leach harmful chemical components into your food. Keep the kitchen well ventilated. Clean only with natural products. Filter your tap water if needed. Avoid plastic whenever you can. Repair, reduce, reuse, recycle, compost.
If you can’t do all of this at once – and who can? — choose what you’re willing to do and add more steps as it makes sense. It’s a process, but a very worthwhile one.
2) What would you consider a number one, first step for “going green” in choosing cleaning products for your kitchen? Does your answer change if there are toddlers involved?
I like to say that if I won’t eat it, I won’t clean with it. Chemical residues for cleaners can and do remain on surfaces for a long time after you clean. I don’t want these getting on my food. I spend time and money making sure my food doesn’t have pesticides on it, so it wouldn’t make sense for me to then prep my food on surfaces that have been disinfected with pesticides.
This approach doesn’t change for me if there are toddlers or infants or puppies or grandparents: natural cleaning products are better for the whole family. But certainly the smallest among us are the most vulnerable. Pound for pound their exposure to toxic chemicals is higher than for us adults. Of course you always want to make sure you have a lock on the cabinet you’re storing cleaning products in, especially if there is a toddler around.
3) I have a large family–I feed 7 people each day. I worry about costs–for cooking and cleaning. What two products–one for cleaning, one for cooking would you consider essential? (ie, like skillet?)
There are cost-effective ways of getting organic local foods. Have you ever heard of buying a share in a farm through a system called Community Supported Agriculture? I talk about it in The Conscious Kitchen. It’s also a great thing to get the kids involved in. Or, if you have the space, time, and desire to plant a vegetable garden, that’s another great way to bring costs down.
Green cleaning products don’t cost more than conventional cleaners, and many of them are multi-taskers – you can use an all purpose product for just about anything, even mopping (dilute in water). And there’s pretty much nothing in a kitchen that cannot be cleaned with warm water and natural dish soap.
I have a few pots and pans that really never leave my stove top I use them so much, including an enamel coated cast iron dutch oven. There’s nothing I can’t make in there, and they’re great for stews and soups that can feed large families. These can be expensive to buy new, but might be something you could find second hand. Cast iron versions are less expensive and also very safe to cook in. I also really like a stainless steel pressure cooker for when I need to feed a lot of people well and quickly.
4) And, what one or two things would you consider important to teach your children about being green in the kitchen? My teen son, who loves to cook, asked me to ask you–“what oil do you use?”
That’s too sweet about your son! The number one thing I always say is to involve kids in the discussion so that they will be interested in being green, and identify themselves as green. Teaching by example is key. Getting children involved with cooking is among my favorite things to do, hands down. There are many important lessons in understanding what food is and where it comes from – that it’s not just something that appears on your plate or comes out of a package. And it’s a great way to introduce many flavors. Please tell him that I use many oils but my favorite is organic olive oil. I try to eat mainly local food and sadly we don’t live near any olive groves. But I love it and it’s good for you. I use other oils, too, to flavor various dishes, and some of these are more local than others: pumpkin, sunflower seed, sesame. If you’re using canola, it’s always a good idea to buy organic. It’s made from a crop that tends to be genetically modified (GM). USDA organic regulations do not permit GM foods.
5) I hardly ever cook fish. My husband does not like it and I am not a great cook–and need to have 7 servings of everything. What would you recommend as an organic and easy way to add fish into our diet?
Seafood can be very contaminated with things like mercury and PCBs so whatever you choose, choose wisely. Fish is one of those things – some people just really don’t like it. If you’d like to add it to your diet, I’d suggest looking up a handful of species on an environmental website that lists safe fish (like OceansAlive.org – I list many others in The Conscious Kitchen), and then tasting through them to see what you like. If you live near waterways, and they’re not contaminated, always buy local wild fish that has been caught in a sustainable fashion. It’s really hard to go wrong if you bake a piece with olive oil, fresh herbs, and sea salt in a glass dish. Just don’t overcook! That’s the main mistake that happens with fish.
For more information, visit Alexandra’s website and Seventh Generation.
Thanks to Alexandra, and also to Seventh Generation. I loved the “Disinfecting Cleaning Kit” that included the new Botanical Disinfectants–disinfecting multi-surface cleaner, bathroom cleaner, wipes, my copy of The Conscious Kitchen, a cleaning caddy made from recycled plastic, and two rolls of 100% recycled, unbleached paper towels…the cleaners worked so well and I prefer the lavender scent.
You can sign up and get coupons from Seventh Generation on their site, here
I get to giveaway this Great Earth Day gift pack!
For your main entry, leave me a comment telling me what is the best thing you have done for the environment this year–or something you plan to do!
Additional Entries: (please leave a separate entry for each)
My trial products, the gift pack and information were provided by Seventh Generation through MyBlogSpark.