Saturday, February 28, 2009

the most renewable source of food for babies

These days most young mothers try really hard to breastfeed despite the fact that it isn't often easy or pleasurable!

But, being one of those women for whom it was actually a source of incredible pain and illness, I thought it was worth a post on one of the many secondary reasons why we should persevere beyond it all to continue breastfeeding. (Naturally, the primary reasons are the optimal health of our baby and our bonding with it).

Breastfeeding actually reduces our carbon footprint.

That's because breastmilk is the most sustainable human food source around, and has the least impact on our environment.

Infact Canada, Canada's breastfeeding advocate, points out that infant milk formula requires deforested land for cow pastures (and alternatively soybean crops), fuel, electricity, transport and processing, antibiotics and hormones, water, cleaning agents, labels, bottles, and rubber nipples, not to mention extra health care and medication for those babies for whom formula isn't suitable (I can attest to this - I was a formula baby, and suffered continually from chronic indigestion - or colic - for the first year of my life).

The same source calculated that to replace breastmilk, it would take 135 million lactating cows to make the artificial milk required to feed the babies of India alone. That's a lot of hormone and antibiotic-fed, methane-producing animals! Meanwhile, a lactating woman would only need a few hundred extra calories a day - easily met by wholegrains and locally-grown vegetables and fruits - to feed her child.

And that if half of Canadian babies were bottlefed for six months, that would send more than 15 million tin cans to landfill.

All good reasons.

It's a worry that breastmilk has been found to have concentrated amounts of environmental toxins. But it's still best for babies on every count of health. Moreover, concentrated infant formula is also likely to be contaminated with similar toxins.

Friday, February 20, 2009


No one with a heart could witness the terrible ordeal families were put through in Victoria this month, with the 'superfires' down there, without grabbing at that heart in a spasm of sympathetic pain.
It's also painful to think that 'green' policies are being blamed by conservative columnists for the fires because they stopped landowners preemptively burning vegetation on their properties months in advance of the fires..
We have also chosen to live in a bushfire-prone area - Blackheath in the Blue Mountains of NSW.
It's mainly for the abundant bush environment that we moved here, and I wouldn't want it to be tampered with on the hope that that might keep fires away.
Instead, I think every street should be provided with a concrete fire-proof bunker. This engineer thinks reinforced underground car parks could serve as shelters for members of the community to wait out fires.
Under Swiss law governments are required to provide nuclear-safe shelters for every citizen. How civilised.

Book on its way to the printer!

I finalised the last things on the manuscript for the book this week.
Having said that, there is little you can actually change on a manuscript once the indexing is done... Perhaps fortunately! Otherwise perfectionists like me would still be rewriting a year later.
This has been a really edifying experience - you can't know what it's like to write a book until you actually do it. It's also been a lot of fun!
I am looking forward to going back on the radio to talk about Sustainable Baby and doing other 'publicity stunts'!

Monday, February 9, 2009

shopping organic on a budget

Did you know you could dramatically reduce your family's pesticide exposure more cheaply by following an organic shopper's guide?

Like many mothers, I suppose, when it was just my husband and me and we both had our regular-paying city jobs, I had no problem with buying everything organic. Now that there are three of us living off much less money, I am much more sympathetic to the lament that, "oh we'd like to buy organic, but it's so expensive...."

Now, I personally believe that the only way to make organic produce less expensive is to buy more of it. It makes sense - the price of organic food in Italy, for just one example, has dramatically dropped over the years, along with demand dramatically increasing (14% of Italians now buy organic regularly). If we don't continue to demand something, supply will never go up and prices never go down.

However, a family budget is a family budget, isn't it.

I was interested to find a couple of NGOs in the US which have conducted their own studies on the pesticide levels in conventionally-grown produce, and written their own 'shoppers guides', accordingly.

Click on links to 'shoppers guide' and 'pocket guide' here and here.

I would say that although agricultural practices do vary between the US and Australia, these studies are still reliable guides for us down under, in the absence at any rate of any similar local studies (I will post a link to such a study as soon as it is published!).

Some of the findings should not surprise you - for instance peaches, nectarines, strawberries and all those lovely soft-skinned fruits appear to hold a lot of pesticides, peaches being the #1 worst. So buy these organic - hang the price! Unfortunately these are some of the more expensive organic fruits, precisely because they are so delicate and vulnerable to pests that they need more careful protection.

Apples, those great worm-housers, come second after peaches for being high in pesticides, when conventionally grown.

But it may surprise you to know that potatoes and carrots, despite their protective skins and living below ground, are still bad for pesticides (probably because the soil by now harbours so many chemicals). These are worth buying organic - in my opinion the taste factor for organic potatoes alone makes it so. On the other hand, chillies (or 'hot peppers') surprised me by coming quite high up on the list - I would have thought their heat would deter pests all by itself.

On the other side of things, if you need to economise this week (or every week), you might care to know that onions, avocadoes, mangoes and pineapples, asparagus, kiwi, blueberries and bananas are among the lowest (out of 45 kinds of garden produce) in terms of pesticide load, according to the Environmental Working Group study.

That's good news for mango lovers - even conventionally-grown mangoes are pricey this year :(