For many families, the prospect of starting a greener life can be a bit daunting. There is so much information out there, that often one is unsure where to begin. It's been our experience that small, simple steps are usually the most effective -- and encouraging. The book 25 Ways to Raise a Healthy Family and Planet does just what the title suggests, it offers 25 ways to begin living in a more eco-conscious way. We recently had a chance to speak with the author, David McGrath.
Dave McGrath is an educator living in Chicago who came upon the inspiration for writing 25 Ways... while working on his thesis for Yoga seminary. Discussing everything from hybrid cars to organic foods to meditation, the book is the culmination of 10 years of research and living the life described within the pages.
How did you come about writing the book? Was it something you'd thought about doing or something unexpected that was a total surprise to you?
It did start out that way. I came to realize then that this was probably my main passion in life. That is protecting the environment and helping people understand what it takes to live a healthy life.
What kind of research did you do for the book? Was most of the information culled from your day-to-day living?
There's too much misleading information out there and most of it is intentional. I did a lot of scientific research along with implementing these findings into my life. I wanted to practice what I was preaching. And the truth is, I haven't been sick in any form since then. It's been about 8 years.
Were you discouraged at all by any nay sayers, family, friends, etc.?
I didn't get too much of that from family and friends. I think they all thought I was just going through a phase. My best friend of 15 years has recently gone vegan. He has lost tons of weight and is once again enjoying life. My family is excited about the book.
That's great! When you say you started implementing your research into your daily life, what was one of the first things you did? Which one did you find was the easiest?
The first thing I did was go vegan. I was stricken with tremendous sadness learning what humans where doing to animals. The hardest part of this was giving up cheese but I learned many, many vegan recipes during this time and actually became a personal chef. This made the transition quite easy.
So many people say, "I want to help the environment...I want to change" especially once they have children, but they may not know where to begin. Take into consideration, changing an entire family's way of living is more difficult than just one person's life, what are some simple things people can do -- easy things to start out with?
It starts with a first step. Maybe something like skipping a fast food meal and replacing it with a pre-planned meal. It definitely takes planning in the beginning to do it. I would say skipping a meat meal and replacing it with something plant-based.
It gets easier with time, of course. I would also say that the steps taken should never stop, no matter how slow they are. We should consistently try to improve ourselves, our families, and the world.
I know some women may say, "Well my husband is never giving up meat." What would you say to them? Especially if this is, indeed, the case.
Be the example and let time do the telling. You change and watch others follow. This is so true in my life. People come to me; I no longer approach them about any of this. And when a health-scare comes into someone's life, he or she will certainly want the information. I think it's life's way of waking us up.
I love the fact that you say you no longer approach them. It seems to sink in and mean more when someone is searching for an answer and it is their time, than to have someone proselytize.
It doesn't really work. I tried in the beginning to no avail. Even I can learn!
In your book, I know that you recommend driving less, having a vegan organic diet and using natural cleaning products. What are some of the other things you recommend in the book?
Here's a list of some of the things I would recommend:
- Conserving energy by using Energy Star products, using things like compact fluorescent light bulbs, and generally learning to use less
- I would definitely suggest purchasing wind power to offset one's carbon footprint
- Plant trees
- Recycle everything you can (a minimum of 75% of all trash can be recycled)
- Reuse things you have already such as bags and plastic ware
- Support companies that care about our health and the environment
- Exercising regularly
- Becoming regular - nearly every person in the U.S. is constipated. We should be going three times a day. Who's doing that? We are clogged and it's causing most, if not all, of our ills
- Become hydrated. Put down the sodas and sports drinks and drink purified water. A student of mine lost over 50 pounds by doing this. No joke!
- And I would say to take some time to get to know yourself. You can do this by reflecting on your life and maybe through learning meditation.
Finally, what are some ways you recommend getting children involved?
Once again I would say that the parents need to be the examples. My daughter, Molly, is now 11-years-old and becoming more interested in all of this on her own. I'm the example and not the coercer.
I don't really spend much time talking to her about it. Just through living with a "strange" dad, she knows the difference between major brand products and healthy alternatives. For instance, she calls lip balm "lip balm" and not "Chap Stick"; toaster pastry is toaster pastry, not "Pop Tart."
What is the one message you want people to get from the book -- even if they don't follow all 25 things?
The one thing I would say is this: it is our responsibility to ourselves, our families, and the entire planet to become more conscious of the consequences of our actions. For instance, to become more aware of the harmful effects of eating a hamburger. This hamburger was once a beautiful animal that had a family and was probably slaughtered with her children watching. Heavy, I know.
We have what we need to do this. We have to begin to care about these things though. Let's start doing good things and have the consequences be good.
Thanks for taking some time to chat with us, David.
For more information on David McGrath's book 25 Ways to Raise a Healthy Family and Planet, visit his Web site at 25Healthyways.com.