Susan Hunt Stevens
Almost four years ago, I tossed my first bottle of conventional baby lotion and banned plastic from our microwave. My toddler son had just been diagnosed with a whole range of food and environmental allergies. This got us reading labels — and we quickly learned a lot about the impact that chemicals, hormones, antibiotics in foods, and other nasty stuff have on us and our kids. The process was confusing, time-consuming, and complex–and it was filled with a lot of contradictory information. And that was just the cleaning, food, and personal-care stuff! When we decided to embark on a major home renovation focused on other ‘green’ things — like saving energy, saving water, reducing waste, and selecting products and services that were better for us and the planet — it got REALLY hard. So hard, I decided to do a graduate program in sustainable design to understand it better! I learned a lot about LEED® in my courses. LEED is a system for developers, builders, and architects to earn points for incorporating green features into buildings. If they do a really good job, their projects become LEED Silver, Gold, or even Platinum. LEED® has sparked a boom in green building. What I especially loved about LEED® was its framework, which made it easier to understand what to DO to live healthier and greener. There was only one problem with LEED®. It wasn’t helpful for the majority of decisions I was making on a daily basis as a mom. How many points for bringing bags to the grocery store? How many for ditching my petroleum-based lipstick or switching to cloth napkins? When I do these things, am I still just barely green or have I improved a lot? I wanted LEED® for moms like me, my neighbors and friends. And that’s the vision for Practically Green: a new online service that figures out where you are today and provides a personalized list of what you could be doing to “move up”.