Our Story, Part III: How Eczema Made Me a Granola Mom

This is Part III of a four-part “Our Story” article. In this part, I explain how the journey to remove detergents from our environment led me to be concerned about so many other timely issues, and made me into a “granola mom”, something I never thought I’d be. In other parts, I discuss:

Our Story, Part I: Finding and Believing solveeczema.org
Our Story, Part II: Results After Switching to Soap
Our Story, Part III: How Eczema Made Me a Granola Mom
Our Story, Part IV: What’s this Blog About?

How I Came to Care About More than Detergents and Eczema

When we began the journey towards problem-solving away our kids’ eczema, I could not have foreseen that it would ultimately change the way I look at the world and its problems. I became more conscious and choosey about the products we use and the way our food was grown and processed, initially to avoid detergents. But what I found when I began digging under the covers were movements concerned about other damaging chemicals and practises.

While my greatest concern was immediately in-my-face (eczema and allergies), once I started making intentional choices and changes, I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with others who cared about variations on the following themes:

  • safe personal care and cleaning products
  • safe home (building materials, furniture, linens, appliances, toys)
  • hormone-disruptive chemicals (e.g. organic food movement)
  • sustainable farming
  • whole foods / nutritional value of foods / processing of foods
  • holistic approaches to health
  • environmentalism

My life was a patchwork of connections with various communities who cared about different causes. I initially shared only the sliver of space where our interests bisected; for instance, I held a community-sponsored agriculture farm share for vegetables so that I could have produce that had not been washed with detergents, while the family picking up their veggies beside me did so because they supported sustainable farming. Over time, I came to understand and agree with tenets of these other communities. And, as I discovered the underlying commonality and relationship between the increasing number of communities in which I found myself, I developed a new perspective on the problems of the world, and how I want to effect change as a singular person.

It isn’t so useful to trace how I gradually came to personalize each of the concerns I listed above. It’s rather hard to trace, actually, because a handful of overarching convictions influence all the choices I make.

Hormone-Disruptive Chemicals

Early in our problem-solving journey, I became convinced of the dangers and prevalence of hormone-disruptive chemicals (for e.g. see “Our Stolen Future” book and site and Suzuki definition of Obesogens). I didn’t want to allow detergents into my home, but I couldn’t allow those compounds, either. This led me to the organic standard and organic food movement, primarily to avoid pesticides (hormone-disruptive) and other biocide residues in our food.

Whole and Traditional Foods

A desire to have knowledge of and, to some degree, control over how our food is grown and processed led me to relationships with a handful of meat and vegetable farmers. There we discovered a community of people who believe in whole foods, and a return to traditional methods of farming and food preparation (e.g. Weston A. Price Foundation). While I’m not 100% convinced of all their perspectives, many of their arguments and research are compelling, and I find myself much more open to the possibility that the way I’ve been doing things in my urbanized, modernized upbringing, may benefit from traditional knowledge and practises.

Relationships with Farmers and Sustainable Farming

I was also introduced to viewpoints on the importance of sustainable farming, and to people who believe everyone should be invested in knowing where their food comes from and how it is grown and processed. It was definitely a novel experience to have a relationship with the farmers who grow the food we eat, to know about their lives and families, and have them know about ours. And it was a wholly refreshing experience to be able to speak to the producers directly, to have them look me in the eye and understand what I was asking, why I was asking it, and for them to give me a straight, transparent, honest answer. I have had one too many experiences with large, commercial food companies who market towards the “granola, organic, tree-hugging” contingent, but have been staggeringly evasive when I have asked a simple question about how their food is processed, even when I have explained why I am asking.

Environmental Stewardship

Tying all of these perspectives together has been the thread of environmental stewardship. Everything we do to the earth, we do ultimately to ourselves. “Our Stolen Future” so compellingly illustrates how issues we see in animal populations are echoed (sometimes decades later) in human populations. I was surprised to discover that part of the ubiquity of detergents comes from the fact that they are used in many industrial applications, from breaking surface tension in pesticides and herbicides to being the active pesticidal agent (as e.g. see here), so in our zeal to control our environment and our reluctance to consider the impact to the ecological universe on which we ultimately depend, we have ended up ultimately hurting ourselves. My convictions are now more aligned with environmentalists as I have seen a more obvious relationship between our lack of care for the environment and the ills we are experiencing.

How Can I Make a Difference?

Ultimately, this journey has convicted me that even as one person, I can make a difference. It may not be a huge difference, but each of us making a difference in our immediate surroundings can amount to a big difference, a movement that transforms a society. And one of the most powerful ways I make a difference is by voting with my dollars. It is more costly to choose the products, lifestyle and companies I have chosen, but I choose them partly to keep my family safe, and partly to ensure that those companies will succeed and prosper. I prioritize spending more on these choices which means spending less on other, more negotiable, wants.

Grateful for the Compelling Reasons to Change

Decades ago, and especially before becoming a mother, I would not have believed I would become a bit of a caricature of the “granola mom”, making conscious, sacrificial choices about the environment, supporting sustainable farming, reading product labels, valuing cooking whole, farm-fresh and organic foods from scratch, being more open to looking at the whole person and sources of the health problems we face in less traditional ways, spending significantly more for quality products and food, and trying to make a change, however small, to make this world safer. A significant part of this change happened because I had a compelling reason to: well, two compelling reasons — the well-being of my two beautiful children. It is not an easy journey, but I am glad for being compelled to become a more responsible world citizen and, I’d like to believe, a better mother because of it.

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