Need some real talk? Turn to Kristen Bell. The actress and mom of two just gets it. She gets that you want to play nice with the planet but also want to keep your home as germ-free as possible (and that that task sometimes comes with using not-so-nice chemicals). She gets that your brain needs a break even if you have work and soccer practice and planning a birthday party on your mind. And she gets that we all just need to let. It. Go.
Parents editor-in-chief Liz Vaccariello had the chance to sit down with Bell recently and get her take on what it means exactly to live green, how she's cutting down on her own carbon footprint, and what we can all do to sneak in simple stress-free changes to our daily routine.
Do you find it harder or easier to be 'green' as a parent than before you were a mom?
Harder. Definitely. There are certain things you have to do when you have a newborn, like make sure your house is sterile. And preschoolers are petri dishes. You really have to be sure that you're not taking antibiotics all the time, so you might look for remedies that don't sacrifice the efficacy of what you're trying to get done. I'm not too "voodoo" when it comes to everything, but I teeter. We down oregano oil when we get sick or feel like we're getting sick. It tastes awful. The kids won't drink it, so I rub it on their feet or in their armpits. It genuinely does, when absorbed, kill bacteria in your body.
What's the one 'non-green' thing you can't give up as a parent?
I mean, listen, I'm far from perfect. There are a lot of non-green things I use. My husband owns a couple cars—that's very non-green. But I drive an electric vehicle to neutralize his carbon footprint.
How are you teaching your kids to be good citizens on this planet?
I am teaching them to be aware and to not feel a crazy amount of pressure, because you can get such a headache from trying so hard and feeling so worthless and not doing it right or perfectly. So, I teach them to "let it go," for lack of a better phrase. I try to lead by example and do good things with my life.
What are some easy ways to start being green as a parent?
I'm always so inspired when companies that have a really broad impact make really good decisions, like Tide and the World Wildlife Fund did with creating a clean pledge. I love the World Wildlife Foundation—it's protecting resources and animal species everywhere—and Tide is answering demands from their consumers to have a plant-based detergent. Go to tide.com and sign up for the clean pledge, which gives you really helpful tips about how to keep your home green. For example, you can wash your clothes in cold water, pay attention to labels so your clothes last longer and don't end up in a landfill, and use a high-efficiency washing machine if you can. For every person that signs up for the clean pledge, Tide will donate five dollars to the World Wildlife Fund.
It's all about baby steps and what you can do. I don't think the stress of living green or being the perfect parent looking like you have it all together should kill anybody. Forgive yourself. Know that if you're washing your counter tops and try the vinegar solution, like I did, and then realize it makes your kitchen smell like vinegar, it's OK to then try and find a more organic actual cleaning product. I think everybody has to land somewhere on the spectrum, but as long as you're trying you're doing great.
Do you practice mindfulness, meditation, or taking mental health breaks with your kids?
They're so young, so I think it's more leading by example. But I've been looking into mindfulness recently, because if huge companies like Google are doing it, it probably has some serious data behind it helping not just employees but the state of mind of human beings. My husband and I took a class on transcendental meditation before the kids were born and started meditating together. We do not do it everyday—probably not even every week—but you're supposed to do it twice a day. Oprah does it. Ellen does it. Howard Stern does it. All of these people do it to stay balanced and efficient, but we use it when we can. Really, any sort of meditation or slowing down is just a little brain massage. It's just like a shoulder massage. Mindfulness, meditation, yoga—whatever works for you. I think we underestimate how often we need to slow down.
Do you find that children naturally are more mindful than grown-ups?
No, children are feral. But yes. Mindfulness sounds like it would have the same definition as conscientiousness, which is not true. From my understanding, it's about knowing where you are physically and taking stock and checking in and not thinking five steps ahead or being on your phone. So, in that sense, yes, kids are practicing mindfulness more than adults. They know where they are. They're not thinking about whether or not that email has come in and they shouldn't, because their brains are growing. They should be focusing on eating avocado and playing with their toys.
Is there a family favorite snack that you've developed that's become a ritual?
We're lucky to live in California where there are a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in the garden. Companies are acknowledging that our food supply no longer resembled food, so now there's a lot of natural snacks like natural fruit roll-ups. My kids love them and they don't know the difference, because they never had that real good stuff like when we were little. I really think without regulations and the protection of some sort of government oversight, it's all up to the consumer. I get so excited when consumers make their demands or requests known to companies. They will listen. It's why we had success with the "no kids" policy in the media. It's why Tide developed Pur Clean. If people are demanding something better, it will get made.