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Proper Green: Sustainable Food Wars

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It’s not easy to instill green eating habits in your children when you’re the only one enforcing the rules. Proper Green advises on how to maintain a sustainable menu for kids while also maintaining all your most important relationships.

Dear Proper Green,

I try my best to feed my children (ages 5 and 8) in the healthiest and most sustainable way possible. I make sure that their meals consist of organic and local produce whenever possible and feel as though I'm building good habits that they'll keep for the rest of their lives. Whether they're at home, at school, or at friends' houses, proper planning is all that's needed to keep them on track — EXCEPT when they visit Grandma's house.

No matter what I do — pack snacks, beg and plead for synthetic junk food to be off the menu — my mother-in-law refuses to adhere to any of my dietary rules. She calls me overprotective and calls my sustainable living "hippie baloney", but I think she's disrespecting my parenting. I've tried to sit down and walk her through the health and environmental benefits of eating local and pesticide free, but she ignores it. It's getting to be such a sore subject, I don't feel comfortable letting the kids stay over. I feel like she's poisoning my kids with her out of the tube cookies! Help!

-Eating Me Up Inside

Dear Eating Me Up Inside,

First — kudos to you! Instilling good green habits in your children at an early age is often times more difficult than it should be. From the produce they encounter on a lunch line, which has often been frozen and shipped from thousands of miles away, to other adults in your life who don't see the harm in treating your child to a heavily processed snack or two, it can seem at times that the world is against you and your attempts at eating local and organic. So, good on you for sticking to your green guns and taking the time to prepare against the obstacles.

Now, let's talk mother-in-laws! It sounds like you've taken the right first step. Having a dialogue about why eating sustainably and healthily is important to you is a good start, but it sounds like the conversation may be falling on deaf ears. I often find that when people are totally against a green lifestyle choice without just cause, it is because they feel that their own choices are under attack. Think back to your initial conversations with the MIL, how did you approach it? Did you tell her to stop serving her world famous Red Dye #5 Red Velvet Cake because she was "poisoning" your kids? Or said something similar that may have seemed like a criticism of her grandparenting skills?

If this is possible, take a step back and consider how to reapproach the situation. Make her feel inclusive in this move to living smarter, instead of an outsider who doesn't get it. Tell her you love when she bakes for your kids, but you'd love it even more if you and your children can be part of the process. Help her get ingredients that you feel comfortable with, and have cooking or baking be a fun time for your kids to learn great lessons in sustainable and healthy eating, but also quality grandma time!

If you feel like you've been as accommodating as possible to your mother-in-law's feelings, than it may be time to call in the secret weapon — her son. It may be easier for your MIL to accept and understand your dietary rules for your children if she knows both you and her beloved boy are on the same page. Have your husband take a shot at explaining to his mother why organics and local eating are important to the both of you and your family. She might just be more willing to bend when the request comes direct from his mouth.

If all else fails, try a bit more patience. Your MIL has most likely had over 20 years of parenting experience, but considering whether or not something has too large of a carbon footprint to serve, is something new you are asking her to grapple with. As you continue to have discussions with her, keep driving home the end message. Eating organics help us ingest less chemical pesticides, but also causes less of the pollutants to get into our soil and atmosphere during the farming process. Eating local allows us to not only understand where our food is coming from, but offers a smaller carbon footprint alternative to produce shipped in from across the country and around the world. Hopefully you'll find that with time she'll be more receptive to this information.

We often say in the Recyclebank offices, "Respect every shade of green". Your Mother-in-law, with your help, is on her way to become a light greenie. She just might not know it yet.

About Proper Green

Proper Green is all about good manners in a green world. Ideas about what constitutes proper behavior within the green movement are still evolving; we aim to help smooth the way, so you can lead a greener life and so we can all be respectful of all shades of green. Good manners, like our planet, need care, attention, and dedication. Proper Green is here to help and inspire!

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Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more