Green Mama Manda Aufochs Gillespie

Manda Aufochs Gillespie has always been interested in living sustainably. While pregnant with her first child she launched the website, The Green Mama, creating a resource for parents interested in raising happy, healthy, and green families. Also the author of two books on green parenting, Green Mama, and Green Mama to Be, we chatted with Aufochs Gillespie about her work, how her daughters (age seven and 11) feel about their eco-lifestyle, and why it isn’t always easy being green.

What sparked your interest in green living?

I started my career working in ecological design in Cleveland, Ohio, a relatively poor and struggling city. I worked primarily in low-income communities around issues of access to transit, walkability, affordability, and all these early green planning concepts.

That’s interesting, because I think there’s a common perception that you have to be wealthy in order to live a sustainable life.

Right. We were dealing with people who couldn’t afford to feed their families, so what would they care about being green? I myself was raised poor, and I come from that same background. The reality is that the poor and disenfranchised always experience most of the fallout of issues that are fundamentally green — such as lack of access to transit and healthful food — but they have other things to worry about.

When I started doing the Green Mama stuff, I’d be in this classroom with all these new parents who really wanted to be there, and they weren’t just all white and middle-class. Although that is always the people who have the most time and luxury to think about it. Lots of people are on to the fact that this really matters, and that goes across all backgrounds and economics. People want to keep their kids safe.

But often products and services that help us live greener lives aren’t that accessible to lower income families.

There has been a great disservice done in the developed world where we have allowed the powers-that-be, the ones with money, and with a podium to speak from, make it seem like ecological issues — particularly as they pertain to health and family — are issues of choice. Like you’ve done something wrong, you made the wrong choice. If you want to shop for organic you can shop for organic. But we shouldn’t be putting known carcinogens into food for anyone. Why is that a choice? Do you have to have endless amounts of money and have access to research in order to keep your kids safe?

Instead they keep saying it’s fine lets focus on the bottom line and say that everybody should eat more vegetables. Yeah sure, everybody should eat more fruit and vegetables but can we talk about the fact that we shouldn’t be letting untested chemicals be dumped on everything? That isn’t a personal choice. Anyway, that’s my soapbox.

What do you love about being the Green Mama?

I love that I get to do research and share that information all across Canada and the world. It feels good to be connected to other conscious parents, and to feel like there are people out there who value and care about the now and our futures.

What do your kids think about what you do?

My kids totally love it but sometimes they’ll give hysterical feedback like, “Of course you won’t let me have that little bit of plastic because you are the Green Mama, I wish you were the plastic mama.” One of things I like about living where I live now [on an island off the coast of BC], which is so remote, we have no stores except a co-op. There’s nowhere to buy anything so I don’t have to be anxious about saying no to everything at the stores!

What’s the hardest thing about what you do?

Well, some of the things I write about will bring on the haters. I’ve been met with kindness and love and people saying beautiful things, but it’s also met with some of the underbelly of the internet where people have said mean things about the choices I have made or they have gone after me on social media. They’d never do that to my face, of course.

But it’s worth it to you?

Yes. I’m continually inspired by the mothers that I meet through Green Mama. These are people that weren’t raised green but they have so many questions and want to learn to parent their children the best that they can. That’s super engaging and inspiring.


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