Robin is a stay-at-home mom who blogs about finding eco-friendly food options.
What inspires you to live a green lifestyle, and what kind of things do you do to go green?
My biggest inspirations are my family and my faith. I want my children to grow up with an environment that’s not harmful and for their children to have the same. As a Christian, I believe God created this world for us and we’re to take care of it.
When I first started going green, I did common things like using reusable bags, switching to cloth napkins and buying a Prius. It all had a lot to do with buying things. Now, I realize that what my family consumes is directly related to the Earth’s health. So being green for us often means not buying things or buying used things. Of course, we do a lot of organic and local food and grow a garden. It’s an imperfect combination of things that I believe help us be greener, but there’s always room to be a little greener every day.
How did you become interested in eco-friendly food?
The connection between food and the environment was actually one of the last pieces to fall into place when I started to change things for my family. Reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" made all the difference. By the time I was through I was planning an organic garden and Googling the dates of local farmers markets. I knew organic was better for my family’s health, but it had never occurred to me that it was better for the Earth.
What’s one of your favorite healthy summer recipes?
In early summer the New Jersey sea scallops come in fresh every day. They’re incredible. I love to get bacon from the farmers market and grill the scallops wrapped in bacon. I’m not sure that’s the healthiest thing, though. A few recipes that I love that use lots of seasonal vegetables are honey chicken kabobs, sourdough panzanella with summer vegetables, and fresh salsa.
Do your kids have a favorite recipe you make for them?
It would be wonderful if I could say that my kids’ favorite dishes were quinoa salads, raw vegetables and smoothies, but they’re not. Until four years ago, my boys were fed the typical American diet of chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and a handful of green beans. I now bread and lightly fry natural chicken pieces, and they love that. We still do spaghetti and meatballs a lot, but now it’s made with whole wheat pasta and organic sauce, and I make the meatballs using grass-fed, local beef.
I’m trying to introduce new foods, and I talked about The Great Sweet Potato Fry Experiment I’ve got where I’m going to introduce the food 12 times to my boys over six months to see if they develop a taste for it. I’m fortunate that they’re both very good vegetable eaters. I can’t get either of them to put a mushroom in their mouth, though. Someday…
What food issue are you most concerned about?
If you go by the stack of books in the “to read” pile right now and the number of times I’ve mention it in my blog posts, the biggest issue for me is family meals — gathering my whole family around the table for healthy meals and intimate conversation. My boys are almost 9 and 12 now, and my husband and I make it a priority to make sure we connect with them every day and teach them how to have face-to-face conversations with people where screens (TV, phone, gaming systems) are not allowed. With all of the evidence that exists about the benefits of family meals, I feel like I need to be writing about this a lot. I heard Laurie David say recently that there isn’t an environmental problem that doesn’t cross her family’s dinner plate, and she’s right. In addition to being important for my family’s relationships with each other, the dinner table is a great place for environmental topics to naturally come up.
What’s a good way to start greening your diet?
Start with what you consume most of. If you go through a lot of milk in your house, buy organic. If you drink a lot of coffee, make it yourself and buy fair trade, organic coffee.
Get familiar with the dirty dozen, the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide load on them.
Grow something. I think the biggest bang for your buck is herbs, and they can be grown anywhere. Parsley, basil and chives are great ones to start with, and you’ll save a lot of money by not having to buy them every time a recipe calls for them. If you can grow a whole garden, figure out which vegetables you eat the most of, and grow those.
Eat less meat and eat better meat. Animals raised for meat consumption take a huge toll on the environment. When you do eat meat, eat less of it and get it from animals that were raised humanely and fed the right food.
Get rid of soft drinks, and drink water from the tap — use a filter if your tap water isn’t up to your standards. There’s no need to buy one-time-use water bottles either. Purchase BPA-free reusable bottles and make them a habit.
What do you like best about blogging for MNN?
I just returned from a food-blogging conference, and when I told other bloggers about my job, they wanted to know how to get a job like mine and I realized just how rare an opportunity I have. I’m given the freedom to chose my own topics, and MNN has given me a voice beyond my community. Plus, my editor, Benyamin Cohen, and everyone else at MNN, is very supportive. I could go on and on about why it’s perfect fit for me, but I don’t want to make it sound so great that people will try to steal my job…