When I received my review copy of Healthy Child, Healthy World, I admit I was a bit put off by its cover. Not by the picture of the child on it, of course, but by the block that told me: “With contributions by Gwyneth Paltrow, Brooke Shields, Tom Hanks, Tobey Maguire, Kate Hudson, and Erin Brockovich.” Great, I thought. I’m supposed to go green just because the celebrities do? Even though I can’t afford a fraction of the things they can?
This first impression could not have been less accurate. Although a few mention buying things like bamboo floors and organic mattresses, most–startlingly–come across only like other mothers whose names you happen to recognize. “I could easily use organic shampoos and face products but I don’t, not yet,” writes Jenna Elfman. “For now I’m sticking with what’s worked for me all these years.” Brooke Shields agrees, “You do all you can, but there are particulars to your own life that you must respect.”
It’s a view espoused by author Christopher Gavigan, CEO and director of nonprofit organization Healthy Child Healthy World, who encourages readers to start small, prioritize goals, negotiate changes: “Just as nothing slams the brakes on progress more than a sense that you’ve failed right at the start, nothing spurs progress like having milestones, no matter how small, that you’ve reached.”
Indeed, the beauty of his book is that it contains solutions both large and small, and he remains ever mindful of the fact that most of his readers will be budget-constrained. Rather than beat you over the head with eco-guilt, Gavigan presents facts about manufacturers and chemicals, then provides alternatives. For instance, Chapter 2, “Cleanup Time,” provides a number of recipes for easily made, natural cleaners that use ingredients like vinegar and baking soda–which also happen to be much cheaper than most chemically based cleaning products.
In fact, Gavigan’s book is so chock full of useful information that it’s impossible to highlight any. He covers everything about normal life, from cleaning and cosmetics to gardening and pets. His features include:
“copy and carry” pages about plastics (good vs. bad), produce (the Dirty Dozen vs. the Cleanest 12), and others
“Healthy Bytes” of information, such as the Ecology Center’s website, which features a searchable database of 1200 popular lead-tested children’s toys (healthytoys.org)
Contributions not just from celebrities, but also from doctors and scientists
Names–of responsible manufacturers who have moved toward making greener, healthier products. In fact, an appendix in the back of the book contains a comprehensive list of responsible cosmetic, pesticide, textile goods, toy, food, and other manufacturers.
In short, although I walked into this book skeptical, I walked out with a desire to change. I won’t be able to implement many changes at first–despite the reminder that I will likely save long-term costs in catastrophic health events, my current tight budget is what it is–but there are far more changes that I can make that I would not have expected, and I don’t even have to embrace a “hippie” lifestyle to do so.
That, ultimately, may be the strongest message of Gavigan’s book: individuals can make the world a better place–without giving up so many of the comforts that savvy marketers have convinced us we need.