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Green Mama hits it big with must-have guide for sustainable parenting in the real world

Manda Aufochs Gillespie takes healthy parenting from Vancouver to the rest of the world with "Green Mama: Giving Your Child a Healthy Start and a Greener Future”.

Green Mama
Manda Aufochs Gillespie: Parenting in a non-plastic world. (photo: Vanessa Zises Filley)

Less is more in the healthy-parenting game

Manda Aufochs Gillespie has been sharing household and child-rearing tips with her Downtown Eastside neighbours for years, and her new book “Green Mama: Giving Your Child a Healthy Start and a Greener Future” brings those tips out of Vancouver and into the wider world.

The wider world, it seems, is ready to listen: wholesale copies of “Green Mama” sold out before the US launch date; Gillespie describes this as “a small disaster or a huge success or some of both.”

“Green Mama” is a how-to book, but it’s also a manifesto of sorts: a manifesto declaring that no corporation or manufacturer is the boss of you, and that you have more control over the development of your family than an advertise-and-buy economy would have you believe.

Imagine that you’re part-MacGyver, part-Martha Stewart. That's how Gillespie rolls with her community of parents on the Downtown Eastside, and she believes that you can benefit from her research and experience.

Days of future past

Gillespie points out that the Green of 2014 is actually quite retro: back in the day, people just called it “using what you already have”. Also, we now live in a world where you need a reference list of chemical-name acronyms (page 12); that was not always the case. The book’s 184-page length suggests that being a green parent means more than shopping at Kitsilano boutiques.

“But who hasn’t thought, ‘Well, it can’t be that bad or it wouldn’t be allowed?’ But really, how can we still think like this after the recalls of dangerous toys, headlines proclaiming ‘Toxic baby bottles!’ and the various food scares? It’s easier to believe that companies, the government, or someone else is watching out for us. But when it comes to consumer protection, they often aren’t. We must mother ourselves.
Every time I research an new issue, I prepare myself for the horror of everything I have been doing wrong. I find this one of the hardest things to deal with as a parent.

So will you. A closer examination of her child’s living space can easily make mommy feel like Mommy Dearest. This, Gillespie assures us, is a normal reaction.

The Green Mama: photo by Vanessa Zises Filley
Photo: Vanessa Zises Filley

Mama don't preach

The voice of “Green Mama” is its most effective weapon. Gillespie doesn’t sit back with her arms crossed, making clucking noises at your shitty parenting. No, she is one of you:

One day, my two-year-old daughter decided to finish off her eggs with a little gnawing on the table. Later, she got under the table and ate a few blueberries that had fallen on the floor (at least, I hope they were blueberries!).

The language is clear, straightforward and non-textbooky. I could easily imagine hearing many of these paragraphs as conversations on the bus.

The section titles are also refreshing. Some examples include:

  • Worry Smart
  • Greening the Bum
  • Secrets of a Produce Detective
  • Greening the Boobs
  • Think Like a Breastfeeding Scandinavian [actually this is also a good name for an album]

The photos in "Green Mama" convey texture, place, and lives lived in a certain way. Some of the shots of all-natural babies look almost like stock images... until you lean in a bit closer, and then these lovely little character moments emerge.

It's refreshing to step away from Ikea-looking furniture against antiseptic backgrounds and get a sense of how kinetic small children really are.

Where are the Green Daddies?

However, fathers and male guardians are conspicuous in their absence from these images. The only dude pictured is way at the end, and his face is out of focus.

Conversely, there are a lot of Green and would-be Green Daddies out there: even with the mom-centric title (more effective than “Green Parent”, to be fair), a book like this is its own marketing tool, and marketing in some way to dads would have been a good move.

Allergic to broke

Healthy eating means scarfing down foods without multisyllabic ingredients; which is, funny enough, usually more expensive than foods that look like they were created in a factory. They don’t call Whole Foods “Whole Paycheck” for nothing.

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