ShiftCon was a game changer. Not only am I filled to the brim with awe and inspiration after meeting so many revolutionary mamas but I literally purged my kitchen of toxic crap on Sunday when I returned home! Here’s why.

I am pretty crunchy; on the eco conscientious spectrum I consider myself very informed: I eat an organic plant-based diet, am a life long vegetarian, have never owned a microwave, recycle everything, and use cloth diapers. So how is it that I’ve been living on the dark side, giving my baby plastic sippy cups (BPA-free, mind you, but nonetheless not safe), using a Teflon-lined egg poacher (WTF Sur La Table), blending hot soup in my VitaMix lined with endocrine disrupting plastics, and putting lead laden lipstick on for the occasional party?

This was the first ever ShiftCon organized – the progressive equivalent of BlogHer. I was blessed to learn, dream, cry and conspire with 250 of the most effective change-makers and luminary mom bloggers in North America. These no bullshit women, many of them mothers, shared their courageous stories and strategies in the realms of children’s health, toxic chemicals, & food system activism like eliminating GMOs and driving demand for organics. I was reminded that the women of the world are powerful, forging new paths, serving as the real stewards of the land and protectors of the den. Indeed it’s the women that are making the difference in agriculture all over the world.

The Food Babe

The Food Babe

My favorite speaker of the weekend, hands down, was Vani Hari. Known as “the Food Babe” (for good reason – she is a total babe and is on fire with passion, wit and guts), Vani shared her moving personal account of how after 20+ years of eating junk food and battling many food-related illnesses she was inspired to launch her career as a food activist and now goes toe to toe with some of America’s biggest consumer facing food companies to demand transparency and better ingredients.

The Food Babe started her blog and social media only three years ago and already has 3 million unique followers a day! She has taken on and won campaigns targeting Kraft to remove food dies, Subway to remove the toxic yoga mat ingredient from bread, Starbucks to remove the known carcinogen caramel color #4 from it’s latte, Chick-Fil-A to remove antibiotics from its meat and Chipotle to make its ingredients public. Talk about a woman on a mission! The food revolution is finally starting in this country. Thank goodness, given the state of America’s food system and our resulting public health crisis.

CAFO: depressing

CAFO: depressing

As our collective work to demand changes in our food becomes increasingly effective, backlash from the Big Food interests she’s rattling grows. In response to the Food Babe’s concern about the personal attacks, a friend told her, “Do you think all the evil fuckers of the world are going to let us waltz in and turn their world upside down? Of course not.” Changing corporate America and the industrial agribusiness system is not going to happen over night! The chemical companies and biotech companies and industrial ag/meat companies are all in bed together. If only we could lock them up in a CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operation), shoot them up with daily antibiotics, stuff them full of GMO feed, tear away their babies at birth and feed them to the richest 1%!

Not only am I more fired up than ever to get pesticides and GMOs out of our food supply, transform the meat industry, and empower moms the world over with this information to protect their precious families, but also increasingly compelled by the inter-connectedness of the food and environmental movement. If we’re going to reverse climate change we must start tackling one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions: agriculture.

The United Nations currently estimates that livestock production alone is responsible for 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. (One 2009 analysis by World Watch put the number significantly higher, arguing that “the life cycle and supply chain of domesticated animals raised for food have been vastly underestimated as a source of green house gas emissions (GHGs) and in fact account for at least half of all human caused GHGs.”)

Women healing the earth

Women healing the earth

Therefore it’s no surprise that the two of the most credible sources on the science behind climate change, United Nations Environmental Program and Nature Climate Change, suggest that “the fastest way to address climate change would be to reduce significantly the amount of meat that people eat.” Animal-based foods (meat, dairy products, and eggs) are resource-intensive, inefficient, and polluting. Their production requires massive amounts of water, land, and energy. The byproducts of animal agriculture pollute our air and water and contribute significantly to global climate change.

I digress. So, I wanted to share some of the major takeaways from ShiftCon. I hope this is as helpful for you as it was for me!

Pesticides & Food System

  • children are most at risk from pesticide exposure
  • strongest science out today proves that pesticides harm the developing brain and nervous system, linking to obesity, lower IQ, ADHD, autism and asthma
  • New study by Mt. Sinai on how pesticides impact children
  • cows eat raw cottonseed – it’s very toxic and farmers spray it until the last day before harvest: conventional milk is toxic! So important to buy only organic milk products.
  • conventional milk: pesticide residues are regularly found in US conventional milk that are listed as carcinogenic, neurotoxic, hormone-disrupting or as a reproductive or developmental toxicant!
  • 8 of the most toxic pesticides are used on 94% of the strawberries produced in the US!
  • 60-80% of rain in Iowa & Mississippi contains Roundup
  • 64 countries in the world label GMOs, not the US!
  • 75% of agricultural land in the US is used for meat production! There is something very wrong with this picture.
  • In 1995 74% of hogs were raised outside in pastures. Today, 95% are raised in CAFOs – our food system is moving in the wrong direction
Generation Rx

Generation Rx

Toxic chemicals in home & personal care products

  • VitaMix is lined with endocrine disrupting plastics (not BPA) – don’t blend hot soups in it!
  • get Teflon out of your home, it’s ruining all of your good quality food
  • conventional tampons have 8 different pesticides in them (cotton is toxic and companies don’t have to tell us what’s in their feminine hygiene products!)
  • PCBs were banned in the 1970s and yet they still regularly show up in babies’ blood at birth
  • 1300 chemicals that are used in America are banned in Europe
  • bleach is a pesticide, don’t use it! Linked to asthma
  • avoid scrubby cleaners, there are 100 undisclosed ingredients in Comet alone
  • dryer sheets and softeners contain quaternary ammonium compounds which are linked to asthma, even fragrance free
  • avoid synthetic fragrances, which use 3k-8k chemicals (95% made from petroleum). Use essential oils instead.
  • scented candles are chemicals burning into your home environment, especially the ones at Whole Foods!
  • Triclosan is a hormone disruptor and in Colgate Total toothpaste. Parabens, formaldehyde, lead and mercury all serious toxins as well. In 2011 FDA reported that 90% of lipsticks sold on the market contain lead. Lead passes through to the fetus!
  • Guides to safest skin care products: Environmental Working Group and Women’s Voices for the Earth

Keeping your baby safe from toxins

  • Lead poisoning causes neuro psychological damage, ADHD, autism, ADD, etc. 1 in 3 kids have unsafe levels of lead in their life. For example, 90 ppm+ lead is illegal in kids toys and a vintage pyrex dish has 110,000 ppm.
  • New moms should pay closest attention to these areas of toxicity reduction:
    • Moms can reduce highest levels of childhood toxicity through diet – make sure your kids’ food is organic, especially meat and dairy!
    • Buy organic cotton clothes, soaps and creams without fragrance or artificial additives, and minimize products
    • Inside air is 5x more toxic than outside air – open windows at night and in the morning
  • Paint off gasses for years – if you’re painting inside your home make sure to get paint with No VOCs
  • Avoid particle board (pressed wood) and any furniture made with formaldehyde
  • The mattress should be your splurge item, go organic for sure as new mattresses off gas serious chemicals for years
  • Put a HEPA filter air purifier in room where baby sleeps
  • Buy organic cotton, wool or hemp clothes when possible, especially PJs as kids spend half their young life in them and synthetic fibers are often sourced from coal or oil and treated with pesticides and flame retardants; made-in-USA and hand me downs are good seconds
  • Orbit, Britax and Graco are leaders in removing flame retardants from car seats