Category Archives: Harriet Shugarman – Climate Mamas and Papas

Like most of the Climate Mamas and Papas featured on, Harriet has worn many hats over the course of her life. She has been a ski instructor in Western Canada, an orchard worker in Israel, and a member of her college sky diving club! Harriet has spent most of her professional career working as an economist, policy advocate and educator. Harriet worked with the Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario governments in Canada, and spent 13 years at the United Nations as a representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Harriet followed many of the United Nations environmental and sustainable development committees and conferences for the IMF – including the first UN Earth Summit – at United Nations headquarters in New York and around the world.

In the spring of 2007 Harriet was selected from thousands of individuals across
the country to participate in a training program conducted by Former Vice President Al Gore and sponsored by The Climate Project. Harriet is one of the first 1000 individuals from around the world who have been personally trained by Mr. Gore to educate the public on climate change. Harriet will tell you this has been a transformational time in her life. Harriet has spoken with thousands of individuals around the United States on climate change and global warming on behalf of The Climate Project. Harriet is proud to be a Climate Project Presenter and credits her work with TCP for inspiring her to create and launch, Harriet´s passion and adventure!

Launched in late 2009, is a climate change education, advocacy and advisory organization, targeted at parents of all ages who want to learn more about climate change, what it´s all about, and what THEY can do about it! Harriet works with colleges, school children and their parents, educators, businesses, PTA groups and houses of worships that are interested in learning more about what actions they can take to help make our world a better place.

Of the many “hats” Harriet wears, she will tell you that the most important hat is one she put on in 1998 and continues to wear to this day, and that is Mom to her two children. Becoming a mom heightened Harriet´s desire to find a way to “make the world a better place”, not only for her children, but for all the children around us, even the grown up ones. Through her work on Climate Change, Harriet feels she has found her passion, her opportunity and the ability to help raise awareness on THE most important and challenging issue any of us will face in our lives.

Working at a grassroots level, Harriet has successfully spearheaded a program to bring recycling into her local school district. She “brought to life” an outdoor classroom at her children´s elementary school, coordinating the design, planning and fundraising for the project. Harriet serves as the chair of her town´s Environmental Commission and sits on and chairs several community based environmental groups. As well, Harriet works with local and national organizations helping houses of worship “green” their programs and is a vocal advocate for legislative action on climate change and renewable energy.

Harriet lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children who are her passion and inspiration for everything she does. Harriet loves hiking, skiing, traveling and all things outdoors

How to Recycle Your House


I want to share a special story, about my dearest friend and BFF Lynn, her husband Rob, and their 3 children, who live in the town of Katonah, New York. Theirs is a tale about mindfulness, giving back, and recycling…

I have known Lynn for more then half my life. We attended graduate school together many, many years ago and Lynn and I were roommates in New York City in our “wild and crazy” single years, after graduate school and before marriage, houses and kids. Lynn has always been a “go-getter” and a planner. Lynn is a person who is able to figure things out and make them happen when others can’t, she is also someone who stands up to adversity and doesn’t let it slow her down. Lynn will never ever say “no,” or “it can’t be done;” she always figures out a way.

For years, Lynn and Rob (and especially Rob who is an architect) have planned and dreamed of building a unique, safe and special home; a place to build memories, and raise their family. In fact, I have listened to Rob and Lynn talk about this with ernest, since 2001, when they were forced from their home in New York City, which was damaged in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Lynn and her young daughters were bravely rescued and evacuated from their apartment in Battery Park City, directly across the street from where the World Trade Center buildings fell. This fact is
an important one, for later on in Lynn and Rob’s story.

It took Lynn and Rob a number of years and some moving around before they found the perfect property and the spot where they could envision building the home that their family would live, grow and make memories in.

Rob, founder of Robert Siegel Architects, had a real vision for the perfect home for his family that would showcase his design style as well as the lifestyle his family leads.

The property couldn’t sustain two homes, nor was this a practical option. So, while Rob was busy designing their new home, Lynn – who is the founder of Charity Panda and an involved parent closely connected to her community – went to work figuring out how to “give away” their old home. This idea, in fact was Lynn’s first thought. As their house was a perfectly good structure, she felt strongly that another family should and could benefit from it. Lynn tried for months to figure out a way to have the home moved to a location and place where another family could use it. This idea isn’t unheard of, and does occasionally happen. But in Katonah and it’s neighboring communities,
with their overhead power wires, and narrow country roads, this move proved to be impossible. Lynn, who never gives up, really, really tried to make it happen; but it wasn’t to be.

Lynn’s next idea was to donate everything in the home that could be removed, down to the frame of the house; a significant, time consuming, but incredibly worthwhile “recycling” project. Lynn ended up teaming up with A-Home, a local Westchester
charity that is committed to providing affordable housing to seniors and disabled individuals. Again, over a number of months, with close involvement and oversight from Lynn, A-Home removed many items from Lynn and Rob’s home, that could be useful to their clients in both the short and long term. This includes things like: cabinetry, plumbing, mechanical systems, appliances, and furniture.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

From my vantage point, (and I know from Lynn’s) this was a wonderful and important project to teach life lessons to Lynn’s children – Lucy, Molly and Cody – and also to share these lessons with many of their family friends on how to “give back.” We live in such a “throw away” society, where many people have so much more then they can use, and sadly many others simply don’t have enough, even in a country like ours. The old adage, “one person’s garbage is another’s treasure” too often gets forgotten. But this is something that was not forgotten by Lynn and her family. In this case, with some careful planning, perfectly usable items were put to good use, by people who needed them. Unfortunately, in most instances, most people don’t take this “extra step” and usable items often simply end up in landfills.

As part of the US Green Building Council’s “LEED” program, you are encouraged to use, recycle or re-purpose as much as you can. Lynn and Rob took care of this task, with thoughtfulness and to the best of their abilities. “Out of sight, out of mind” is how
many of us feel about what goes into our trash. Yet landfills are “filling up” around our country at an incredibly fast rate. As many of our Climate Mamas and Papas may know, landfills also are a significant source of methane emissions, one of the most potent greenhouse gases that contribute to our changing climate.

Katonah Fire Department Live Burn Training

For the final step, Lynn let herself go back and remember, what still and will always be a painful and difficult memory, the events of September 11th, 2001. Lynn came up with a creative way to “give back” and honor the men and women who were her shinning light in what was one of her darkest days. Lynn reached out to the Katonah Fire Department who organized, along with several other neighboring fire departments, training days, to use Lynn and Rob’s home for valuable search and rescue training. After several weeks, the training culminating in burning down the house! The chance to practice, in a real home, in a simulated emergency situation, is a very rare and useful learning opportunity.

Katonah Fire Department Live Burn Training

And as only Lynn can, she turned the final “burn down” as well as the search and rescue days into parties – creating memories for not just her family, but many others in her community (including in fact Martha Stewart,who is one of Lynn and Rob’s neighbors!) Lynn served hot chocolate and cookies to all, and offered her friends and neighbors the rare chance to watch and cheer on our first responders – incredibly brave men and women – who help us at our greatest times of need. It was also a chance to explain more about how and why they chose to “recycle” their house.

I am so pleased to be able to tell this story, and have the opportunity to publicly and loudly thank Lynn, Rob, Lucy, Molly and Cody for sharing their experiences with us. They have created an incredible example of how, with some effort, giving back and “recycling” – important things to do on so many levels – can also serve as memorable and important learning opportunities!


Climate Mama


Photo Credits:

Lynn and Family – With Permission Brian DeCubellis 
Twin Towers – Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Fireman and House Burn photo – With Permission Gabe Palacio
Seigel home and party – With Permission Gabe Palacio

Climate Change, Palm Oil, Your Health and The Snack Food 20

Hey Climate Mamas and Papas, did you know that rain forests and our oceans are two of the earth’s largest carbon sinks? This means that they help control climate change by storing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, the number one cause of climate change. However, as the global demand for palm oil has increased, rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia are being irresponsibly cultivated and are becoming HUGE drivers of climate change.
Rainforests are razed to create industrial palm oil plantations, releasing massive quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So instead of acting as a “sink” to store carbon, this deforestation is actually releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This deforestation accounts for eighty percent of Indonesia’s CO2 emissions, making it the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Who knew?!

Now for some good news. We are thrilled to partner with the Rainforest Action Network to help bring this critical issue to your attention. As well, we are pleased to share with you ways that YOU and your family can make a difference to protect the rain forests and helps slow down climate change.

RAN has a wonderful campaign, that as parents, we can support by joining in and telling the Snack Food 20 (many of the large food companies whose products we are sure you currently, purchase) that it’s important to us that they do all they can to protect the world’s rain forests, and that they stop contributing to climate change – or you won’t buy their products!

Share RAN’s Snack Food 20 campaign with your friends and family. In case you need more reasons to say no to conflict palm oil, we are also very happy to share with you this wonderful guest post by Climate Mama extraordinaire and RAN Palm Oil Campaigner, Ashley. Grab the kids in your life and share this post with them too!

Is Palm Oil Healthy For Your Family? Dr. Weil Weighs In
by Ashley Schaeffer Yidliz

Now that we’ve added trans fats to the list of ingredients to look for – and avoid – in supermarket labels, and the FDA is poised to ban them from the food supply altogether, we’re good, right?

Not so fast, warns Dr. Andrew Weil, America’s leading expert in integrative medicine.

Conflict Palm Oil is often used to replace those artery-clogging trans fats. It makes a good substitute because palm oil, like partially hydrogenated oil, is solid at room temperature. But is it actually healthy?


According to Dr. Weil, “Fresh palm fruit oil, sometimes called ‘red palm oil,’ is a nutritious and beneficial oil. However, it’s important not to confuse this raw oil with palm kernel oil, or the highly processed versions of crude palm oil that are commonly used as ingredients in the industrially produced packaged foods found in most Americans’ diets. These types of palm oil are unhealthy for the human body. And their irresponsible cultivation in tropical areas is unhealthy for the planet.”

Dr. Weil joins a chorus of voices expressing concern that, when it comes to replacing trans fats, we may be jumping out of the frying pan and into the deep fryer. The World Health Organization; the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service all recommend against consuming palm oil and other tropical oils because of their high content of artery-clogging saturated fats.

Beyond the health issue, environmentalists and human rights activists are concerned that the FDA ban on trans fats will lead to a repeat of the mistakes companies made ten years ago when the FDA mandated the labeling of trans fats. That mandate led to a 500% increase in demand for Conflict Palm Oil, which is produced in ways that cause large scale rainforest destruction and human rights abuses.


In fact, palm oil can now be found in roughly half the packaged food products sold in grocery stores. It is added to teething biscuits, baby formula, granola bars, peanut butter, crackers, you name it. When we feed our kids food that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind, chances are they’re eating palm oil.

As a mom, I’m pleased to see the FDA taking steps to eliminate an ingredient from our food supply that is unhealthy for my family. But as a Palm Oil Campaigner for Rainforest Action Network, I know that replacing trans fats withConflict Palm Oil won’t do much for people’s health and will cause dire consequences for the planet. In fact, not one of the nation’s top 20 snack food manufacturers can verifiably ensure that their products do not contain Conflict Palm Oil. I know that my baby boy would never forgive me if I told him that the hidden ingredient in his teething biscuits were the reason he’d never be able to see an orangutan in the wild.

That’s why I’m so passionate about ourConflict Palm Oil campaign to pressure the Snack Food 20* group of companies to eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their products. And I’m pleased to report that it is working. A few months ago, palm oil mega-giant Wilmar International – which controls 45% of the global trade in palm oil – adopted a conflict-free palm oil policy. On Valentine’s day, Kellogg released a strengthened palm oil purchasing commitment, joining industry peers Nestle, Unilever and Ferrero. But we’re still waiting for several other kids’ snack makers to step up to the plate, including Kraft, PepsiCo, Heinz, Campbell Soup, ConAgra Food and Cargill.

So, what can moms do to make a difference?

1) Keep reading labels. Palm Oil goes by many names, including Palm Kernel Oil, Palmitate and Glyceryl Stearate. You’ll be amazed how ubiquitous it is, once you learn to recognize its many names.

2) Read RAN’s Conflict Palm Oil report, which outlines the health, human and environmental impacts of this destructive product and lays out exactly what we are asking shoppers and companies to do to eliminate it.


3) Take action online to tell the Snack Food 20: Don’t replace trans fats with Conflict Palm Oil.

Thanks to the support of RAN activists and allies, we are making progress and gaining traction. But we’ll need to keep pushing to reach the tipping point. I am convinced that moms have the power to provide the added momentum we’ll need to remove conflict palm oil from our food supply.

*The “Snack Food 20″ group of companies are: Campbell Soup Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; Grupo Bimbo; Hillshire Brands Company; H.J. Heinz Company; Hormel Foods Corporation; Kellogg Company; Kraft Food Group, Inc.; Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Corp.; Mars Inc.; Mondelez International, Inc.; Nestle. S.A.; Nissin Foods Holdings Co., Ltd.; PepsiCo, Inc.; The Hershey Company; The J.M. Smucker Company; Toyo Suisan Kaisha, Ltd.; and Unilever.

Ashley Schaeffer Yildiz is in charge of the Palm Oil Campaign for RAN. You can find more post by Ashley here.

Mind the Store Campaign: Removing Hazardous Chemicals from Products We Us Every Day

The Precautionary Principal: When the health of humans and the environment is at stake, it may not be necessary to wait for scientific certainty to take protective action. The precautionary principal is codified into law in many European countries, particularly when it comes to unproven chemicals and their potential long term impact on our health and the health of our children. In these countries the burden of proof that these chemicals may cause harm falls on the producer rather then the consumer. Yet here in the United States, land of the free and the brave, that burden of proof too often falls on all of us. As parents who want to make smart, healthy and safe choices this can be an impossible burden.

What does this really mean to you and I? In simple terms, it means that there are as many as 80,000

Credit: Safer Chemicals Healthy Families

chemicals that have been created by the chemical industry since the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) was enacted in 1976, yet these chemicals have never been fully assessed for their toxic impact on human health or the environment. These chemicals may be found in the clothes our children wear, the furniture our children play on, the shampoo our families use, and the products we use to clean our home.

Unbelievable but true. While we wait for legislation to update the TSCA, we at ClimateMama are honored to join with Safer Chemicals and Healthy Families and many parents around the country to ask the 10 largest retailers in the country, companies we all support and frequent, to help us MIND THE STORE and get the “worst of the worst” the Hazardous 100+ Chemicals out of their stores and protect our children and their health from from the impacts of these chemicals.

At ClimateMama we all do our best to shop wisely, check labels, and buy organic as often as we can. Yet, too often we can’t even pronounce half of the chemical names listed on products we buy, let alone know what is and isn’t tested, safe or hazardous. A long time ago, when my children where just learning to read, I decided that if they couldn’t pronounce the ingredients in a product I was buying, it likely was something I shouldn’t buy. My children are now teenagers and don’t regularly come shopping with me anymore. I want to trust that if there is a beauty product or cleaning supply for sale at my local store, that it is safe and I can grab it and go. Unfortunately too often this isn’t true, particularly here in the USA. Many products formulated for our use regularly use chemicals from the Hazardous 100+ list, yet when these same products are sold in countries like Sweden or Germany, these chemicals are removed!!! Say it isn’t so…but sadly it is…

Credit: Safer Chemicals Healthy Families

As a concerned parent, join us as we use our collective power to get these chemicals off our local store shelves.

Here’s how you can get involved: go toMind the Store at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families right now and send a letter asking the nations top ten retailers to reduce, eliminate or safely substitute for, chemicals of high concern from our everyday products. It’s easy, and something you and the kids in your life can do together, today!

Check in with us next week, as I will be visiting a local outlet of one of the TOP TEN retailers with a letter and an “ask” that they help me and my family by “Minding the Store.” I look forward to sharing my story and my experience with you. I hope that you too will join me and politely let your favorite stores and brands know that because you have your family’s health and safety in mind, you’ll be reading labels and voting with your dollars every time you go shopping. Let us know how your visit to the store went, and if your favorite retailer will help you “Mind the Store”…



PS What does this have to do with Climate Change? Simply, many of the Hazardous 100+ are derived from petrochemicals (fossil fuels). More complicated but equally relevant to me is the fact that my children and I seem to be part of a big “experiment” and at the mercy of companies that aren’t really sure “how harmful” their products are, but are willing to bargain with my health and that of my children while we all wait to find out. This same attitude and lack of adherence to the precautionary principal is ingrained in the production, distribution and transportation of fossil fuels and “big agriculture” products where the “experiment” not only involves my children’s health but that of our planet’s as well.

No one is “minding the store” as these billion dollar companies scar our earth, our environment, and poison our air and our water. We have allowed many of these companies to be “exempt” from rules that are set up to protect us. We assume that our government officials are regulating industry and looking after our health, welfare and “minding the health” of our planet for our children and future generations to come. In fact, too much is left to industry to self-police and too many unknowns aren’t answered.

The Mind the Store Campaign is a great starting point. It empowers us by giving us the tools to make a difference in a simple but meaningful way. Through our collective power I firmly believe we have the strength to help heal our planet and move us in the direction of a sustainable future and away from the precarious cliff we are standing on….

Mind the Store Campaign: Getting Toxic Chemicals Out

As part of the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families blogging team, I am thrilled to be part of the Mind the Store Campaignlaunched on April 11th, 2013. The goal of the program is to get the nation’s top ten retailers to avoid carrying products containing the “Hazardous 100+” chemicals; long term we need to fix our broken laws on toxic chemicals. Over the past week, we have visited local stores in 11 states across the country, spoken to people at corporate offices of the “top ten retailers,” and reached out to national and local press to help us “get the word out” about the Mind the Store Campaign. Have a look at this short video I made just before I set out to visit my local CVS store.

So how did my visit go? I think it went really well! I spent some time with Katie, one of the Assistant Managers at my local CVS store. Katie shared with me many of the sustainable initiatives that CVS is incorporating into their programs for staff and for customers. She told me that their store regularly interacts with “corporate” and that she was “pretty sure” we would get positive feedback on our letter, for which we have asked for a response by June 1st. I hope she is right, and in the meantime we will continue to “keep the pressure on!”

Credit: Safer Chemicals Healthy Families

It’s “DO SOMETHING WEDNESDAY” so why don’t you join meby sending your own letter to the nations top 10 retailers – it’s easy just “click here.”Also, on your next visit to one of these retailers, consider asking to talk to the manager and let them know about your concerns too. Bring the kids in your life with you, show them the power of “people” to help right wrongs and make positive change. Feel free to download the list of the Hazardous 100+ and take it with you. Check out the list of of the ingredients in some of the products you buy for your family. The disturbing part is that many of the chemicals on the Hazardous 100+ are in the products we use everyday.

Stay tuned, we will update you regularly on the campaign.


Climate Mama

P.S. So what does this have to do with Climate Change you may be asking? Simply, many of the Hazardous 100+ are derived from petrochemicals (fossil fuels). More complicated but equally relevant to me is the fact that my children and I seem to be part of a big “experiment” and at the mercy of companies that aren’t really sure “how harmful” their products are, but are willing to bargain with my health and that of my children while we all wait to find out. This same attitude and lack of adherence to the precautionary principal is ingrained in the production, distribution and transportation of fossil fuels and “big agriculture” products where the “experiment” not only involves my children’s health but that of our planet’s as well.

Google Doodle Contest: My Best Day Ever!

Google is a ubiquitous part of our culture. We all regularly “Google something” when we want to know a fact or prove a point and the Google logo and “doodles” are not only part of our lives, but familiar and identifiable to millions (maybe billions) around the globe.

How cool would that be if your Google “doodle” was displayed on Google’s home page for the world to see? Or better yet, what if the doodle of one of the kids in your life was? AND, what if one of the kids in your life also received a $30,000 college scholarship as well as a $50,000 technology grant for their school. AND what if they had their art work displaced prominently in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where they were personally honored at the opening event showcasing their work of art! Pretty cool right? Stay tuned as we share with you how this all could come true!

In the meantime, here are some “real life” professional Google Doodlers, in their own words, giving advice on the what they feel makes a great Google Doodle:

I know you are now asking yourself why we are sharing all of this with you on ClimateMama and what does a Google Doodle have to do with climate change? Easy! First of all this contest sounds like SO much fun and we think it REALLY is an amazing opportunity so we wanted to share it with you. Second, why not make it about climate change?

I recently got to talk to Krisztina Radosavlievic-Szilagyi, Google’s Manager for Global Communications and Public Affairs about the 2013 Doodle 4 Google Contest. Grab the kids in your life and share with them some of the things I found out from Krisztina.

Me: Tell me a little about the contest?

Krisztina: This is the 6th year we have been running the Doodle 4 Google contest, and every year we are amazed and incredibly impressed by the creativity of kids and the beautiful, cool and amazing art they make. The 2013 Doodle 4 Google contest has the theme: “My best day ever” and the contest is open to US citizens and permanent residents from kindergarten through 12th grade. Kids are encouraged to use their imagination and create a Google Doodle of “their” best day ever, which could be a “real” or imagined day from their past, present or future.

Submissions are divided into 5 grade groups with one winner selected from each of the 50 states. While there will only be one “grand prize” winner, each state winner will also win prizes, be invited to New York City and have their Google Doodle showcased at the American Museum of Natural History! The contest is open now, and closes on March 22nd. State winners will be announced May 1st and the grand prize winner will be announced at the National Awards Ceremony in NYC on May 22nd.

Me: How and who judges the submissions and what are you looking for?

Krisztina: Goggle employees judge the contest with the help of special “guest judges” too. Our own professional doodlers tell me they are regularly “awed and humbled” by the kid’s submissions. In judging the doodles, we look at how the kids uniquely express themselves through the doodle, how they incorporate the Google logo into the theme, how well they use their imaginations and how they make their their “wildest ideas” come to life. In this regard, we also carefully read and review their 50 word written submission which explaining their doodle. In other words, it’s really how the whole “enchilada” comes together (my words not Krisztina’s!)

If you have more questions that weren’t answered above, you will likely find the answers on the Doodle 4 Google page.

Here are some kids sharing their ideas on what “their best day ever” looks like.

My “best day” ever? I imagine my best day ever will be a day in the “not too distant future” where I will be sitting at a big table, with President Obama at the head, and with other moms, dads, kids, scientists, politicians, business and faith leaders in the room and around the table too. We will all be discussing and sharing our different but complementary ideas for addressing and roles for implementing – solutions to the climate crisis. I have the doddle all figured out in my head!

Unfortunately I am too old for this particular Doddle competition which is only for kids in K-12th grades. But the good news is that Krisztina tells me Google is always open to new ideas. In fact, she told me that anyone can send doodle ideas directly to Google at anytime throughout the year from anywhere around the world. She told me that “you never know” what you might see and what Google might choose to showcase. So why don’t YOU join me in asking Google to help show what climate change solutions might look like! Hey you never know!

Also, as an FYI and for something to look for….while researching this post we learned a lot about what Google is doing to reduce their own company’s carbon emissions and how Google is fighting climate change directly too. Stay tuned for more on this in an upcoming post…


Climate Mama

Climate Change, Montchevre Goat Cheese, T.V. and the Movies

Who knew that a goat cheese company had a serious plan for fighting climate change? Now I do, and we ALL should be making it our business to know more about the companies behind the products we buy, consume and use. Our “purchasing power’ is one direct way of fighting climate change. By supporting companies that are trying to be more sustainable in the “here and now” and that make corporate social responsibility part of their long term planning, we can actively make a difference.

But I digress. Let me tell you what I recently learned about Montchevre, an American goat cheese company, and their sustainability goals. As many of you know, I blog for Lifetime TV’s The Balancing Act. From time to time, the show makes a point of alerting me to companies that the Balancing Act is working with – those companies that have sustainable business goals and ideas – that they think our Climate Mamas and Papas might be interested in learning more about. One of these companies is Montchevre.

Here is a quick look at Montchevre’s Mission Statement:

To grow the goat cheese market by offering outstanding cheeses a the very best value;
To promote sustainable farming for all our milk producers;
To provide a safe and pleasant work environment for all our employees with fair wages and great benefits;
To respect our environment by investing in renewable energy, reducing waste and limiting our carbon footprint;
To be socially responsible and invest in charitable and sustainable projects.

I found out as well that Montchevre makes A LOT of goat cheese, around 12 million pounds of goat cheese annually, actually. This goat cheese is made in large part by collecting 85 million pounds of goat milk from 340 independent family farms. Making 12 million pounds of goat cheese also translates into about 35 million pounds of wastewater, or, according to Montchevre, 16 truckloads of wastewater a day.

Creating this amount of waste daily didn’t fit in well with Montchevre’s sustainability mission, so as of October 2010, Monchevre has put in place a system that transforms their wastewater into energy. In fact they were the first goat cheese manufacturer in the US to use this type of wastewater treatment which is called an Anaerobic Digester. According to Montchevre, the digester “uses microscopic organisms to break the treated wastewater into carbon dioxide, methane and cell biomass.” The methane gas that is created is used to produce up to 335 kilowatts of energy an hour, enough that it could power over 200 homes in the area where Montchevre is located! Montchevre uses the energy it creates to power the anaerobic digester and to meet most of the energy needs of the company. Any excess energy produced can then be fed back the grid. Share these amazing facts with the kids in your life!

Monchevre products at my local grocery store!

By connecting the dots between what we eat, buy and use, and how these products are made, and by whom, helps us understand better our own carbon footprint, the footprint of the company, and what we need to do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change (without having to give up our goat cheese in the process!)

And FYI, and in case you were wondering, I received no financial compensation for this post, rather a lovely

Me and Montchevre display at the 4th Annual Green Screen!

donation from Montchevre for our 4th Annual Green Screen Film Festival and some cheese for my family to taste as well! I can tell you, not only is the company a “good one” aka sustainability and energy use, but their cheeses are great too!


Climate Mama

GOING PAPERLESS IN 2013: A Resolution & Personal Way to Fight Climate Change

Paperless2013. What does that really mean to me? I was born into a generation where we “touched and felt” everything, including what we read and what we wrote. In fact, something wasn’t real or proven unless you physically “had it” in your possession. For example, as a Representative of the International Monetary Fund at the United Nations, when I was covering the annual

Credit: Shutterfly

United Nations General Assembly, if I could get a “paper” copy (there were no other kinds of copies then….) of a head of state’s speech, before it was delivered live by that country’s leader, it was considered an incredible “coup.” I would then rush back to our office to make “paper” copies and hand out to “key contacts” or “fax” it around the world, one paper at a time, so we could share it with our staff abroad. I hate to tell you how many years ago that was though, as it definitely “dates” me.

Now I am the mother of two teens who use “paperless” social media to share their work and play on an “every minute” basis via their smart phones, tablets and computers. As the founder of a website and blog, I see where and how technology has moved us, whether we were ready or not, to a time where “digital information” is key – information which we can transmit, save, share and store electronically. As an environmentalist, I regularly remind people that when they do use paper to consider where it came from and it’s recycled content, from toilet paper to paper towels at home, and then for all office supplies, mailings and paper they use in their office – large or small.

When I was asked to support a New Year’s campaign called Paperless2013, a move to advance in a real way the ”paperless office,” I didn’t think twice and just said, “sure, I’m in!” The program has been created by a group of Silicon Valley companies I admire, including and among others, Google, Hello Fax, Manilla, Xero and Expensify. As someone who runs a small education and advocacy business on climate change, you would think I would have figured it out by now, but unfortunately I am still “swimming” in a needless pool of paper.

As I see it, Paperless2013, a pledge to go paperless in our offices, is what I need to jump start my year, and “unfreeze me” from the state of panic I find myself in every time I walk into my office. I need to steel myself to look away from the piles of paper that envelope me, many of which I haven’t looked at thoroughly in months.

The Paperless2013 campaign is a simple one, sign up at Paperless2013, pledge to go paperless and begin receiving a short list of tips and ideas on how to be successful. Use the #paperless2013 hashtag, follow Paperless2013 on twitter and facebook. Be one of the first of your friends or colleagues to join this new campaign and let some of the “experts” in going paperless help you manage your family or small “business” paper load today! Let us know if you sign up and how and if you think going “paperless” is important and will help you.

I will keep you updated on a regular basis on my progress here at ClimateMama as I work to “clean up” my act and organize my own office and life!

As an aside, I have to say that as I researched this program, I was surprised that this simple “feel right” and straightforward campaign has generate an uproar and strong attacks from some voices in the printing industry. There is a need and requirement that certainly still exists for paper and it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon.

However, in many developed countries the paper industry is often the 3rd or 4th largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation has many problems, not the least of which is our planet’s loss of trees – trees which act as important carbon “sinks” or “absorbers” of the carbon dioxide we humans emit. Every industry, as technology and times change, should revisit its mission and business practices and figure out how to be more effective and efficient. It would be foolish for us not to consider how to better store, use and save our documents. And in this regard, it is also important for those companies that do help us be more effective in the digital world, to think about their carbon footprint and energy use too.

Grab the kids in your life and tell them about your PAPERLESS2013 pledge today. Ask them to share their thoughts with you on paper, going paperless, and being more energy efficient and energy wise…


Climate Mama

Saving Energy, Money, and the Climate This Holiday Season!

Credit: Skeptical Science

“The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…” Or is it? As we prepare for the holidays and cooler temperatures in most of North America, our tendency is to “turn up the thermometer” to make sure our homes are “warm and delightful” places to be…However turning up the thermostat often comes back to “bite us” in the form of high energy bills and can have a direct negative correlation to our impact on our environment as well.

So, grab the kids in your life and show them this cool graphic that Energy Star has just released. Show your kids how our use of energy impacts our environment and can contribute to climate change. At the same time Energy Star offers us some great tips for helping us save on heating this winter too! For the younger set, show them how the Lorax is working with Energy Star to help protect the climate! Join the Energy Star team and get some great ideas on ways your family can save energy and help the planet at the same time.

Credit: EPA Energy Star

Did you know that the average American home uses 12,800 kWh of electricity in a year, or the equivalent of about 25,500 pounds of carbon dioxide? If even 1 in 10 homes in the US switched to heating and cooling equipment certified by Energy Star, this could reduce emissions in the US by 13 BILLION pounds, or the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road. These are really significant numbers with really powerful impacts; something that each of our families can be a part of influencing. So, when you kids ask them how they can “make a difference” in our fight against climate change, let Energy Star give you some real concrete ideas how each of us can help.

As we celebrate the holidays this year and consider our New Years resolutions, talk to the kids in your life about Climate Change and how each of us and our families CAN make a difference. At the same time, we know that we need changes to take place not just in our homes but at all levels including in our communities, State, businesses and at the national and international levels too. Help your kids feel good about the fact that they can be part of the solution and then keep reminding them and showing them how we can all help encourage our political, spiritual, community and business leaders to join us in solutions too. Check out our current campaigns and let us know what you and your kids are working on so we can share your ideas with others too.

Make sure to visit the EPA’s Energy Star program often for tips, ideas and family plans on how we can all make a difference in our battle to slow down, adapt and mitigate climate change!


Climate Mama

Thanksgiving and #GivingTuesday: Making it Personal

“Giving Tuesday is a counter narrative to Black Friday and Cyber Monday because it reminds us that the spirit of the holiday giving season should be about community and not just consumerism. The most meaningful gift we can give each our children, loved ones, friends and neighbors is the commitment to work together to build a better world.”

Kathy Calvin, CEO, UN Foundation

When I was asked by our friends at the UN Foundation and the Global Team of 200 to help promote Giving Tuesday, I thought what a wonderful concept and important! And then my frenetic “life” took over, and both at home and here at ClimateMama we have focused on other things. But, on the eve of this Thanksgiving holiday, and one week out from the launch of Giving Tuesday – November 27th, 2012 – Kathy Calvin’s words above, and events of the past month have collided in “my universe” to give this day and this opportunity so much importance and relevance to me and my family. I am honored to join so many wonderful organizations and individuals to bring this idea to your attention and help us all bring Giving Tuesday to life.

Why giving Tuesday makes so much sense to me: In North America, many of us get so caught up in our fortunate lives that we tend to put blinders on when looking beyond and outside at the rest of the world. Most of us have easy and seemingly secured access to food, water, shelter and so much more – things that we take for granted and which I have found out personally, can easily be taken away. Around the holidays we are inundated with ads and information every where we look, telling us to “show our love by buying things” for our friends, colleagues and loved ones. I am not advocating being a “scrooge” during the holidays and I love getting and giving gifts as much as the next girl. However, in the midst of what has been happening this past month in our lives, my family and I will re-evaluate our giving traditions and reconfigure the 2012 holiday season to clearly show that giving includes making clear personal and family commitments to building a better world.

I live in the metro New York City area where our lives and the lives of many of our friends, relatives and neighbors have been turned upside down by Mother Nature – with a strong push by the thoughtless actions of humankind. We have documented our tales and travails here on our ClimateMama blog, but it goes without saying that many lives have been changed forever by Hurricane Sandy. This storm was our real life look at climate change in action – a harbinger of our future – mother earth’s warning to us. Being a part of 24 Hours of Reality, the timing of which was eerily perfect, also intensified the urgency and brought home the realities of Climate Change for our family and for many families around the world.

Peace: Jordan/Israel Border October 2012

Across the Atlantic and in the Middle East, a fragile peace and a war long simmering are reigniting and there is suffering on all sides. My family was in Israel in October 2012, to celebrate a joyous wedding with family and friends. Life in Israel seemed so “normal, familiar and safe.” Now, many families in both Israel and Gaza are in and out of bomb shelters every day, angry, upset and scared. Peace must be THE answer and the world needs to recognize the obvious, there are no winners in war.

At a time of Thanksgiving in the United States and at the beginning of a holiday season in many parts of the world, filled with goodwill and good cheer, it is time we stopped and took a long look into our children’s eyes and the eyes of our parents so that we remember what is important in our lives. Our planet is reeling and in pain, hatred is fueling war and bloodshed around the globe. It’s time to make a real and renewed commitment to work TOGETHER to build a better world.

Around our Thanksgiving table this year and we hope around yours, we will be talking about and make a commitment to Giving Tuesday something real, tangible, personal and important to us – a cause, organization, program or event we can hold close, understand and relate to and that will or is already part of our life. What the past month has brought home to me personally is how fragile our hold is on our own personal reality – how in a second this can be changed, and how much we take for granted. While social media opens up the world to us, it also allows us to easily login but just as easily logout.

Make Giving Tuesday a real start to staying LOGGED IN on a real plan and opportunity that you and your family can create that will help make our world a better place. At ClimateMama and in my immediate family, our family plan revolves around actions, speaking out and winning the conversation, and working to support policies that will slow down and mitigate climate change and that will help us adapt to our new realities. We have taken the Pledge and are defining our actions. Your plan may be different then ours, but hopefully with the same outcome: building and creating a safer, more sustainable, secure future for us and for our children.

With Gratitude and Thanks,

Sustainable High Fashion: “Rent the Runway” Instead!

****Fashion Alert for all my Eco-Fabulous Climate Mamas! ****

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

As Climate Mama’s and Papas, life is often a juggling act between trying to live more sustainably – really walking the walk – and not just talking the talk. While I am extremely conscious of all the efforts my family makes to be more sustainable, we haven’t stopped going to parties or going out to dinner. On some of these occasions I DO want to look extra “fabulous”…which often involves feeling the need to search outside my own limited “closet” for something new…..

Friend’s closest often do the trick as do some amazing thrift and consignment shops. However, when those fashion magazines “beckon” me from the grocery store check out line, I do wonder what it would be like to throw “carbon footprint caution to the wind” and to wear some of those amazing high fashion clothes?! Not wanting to buy something I will wear only once, let alone spend the $100, or even 1000’s of dollars that some of these high fashion outfits command, regularly stops me cold in the grocery store and far away from the designer’s showroom, store or outlet.

Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway (RTR) to the rescue!! A few years ago I discovered what has now been duped by some as the “Netflix’s” of high fashion, Rent the Runway. This company has allowed me to indulge, with much less eco-guilt, in my “secret fantasy” – wearing fantastic designer clothes. As I chronicled back in March of 2010, a few months after Rent the Runway launched, the company’s website allows users to choose high fashion items from the privacy of your home – saving time, gas, resources and energy. This not only saves you multiple trips to multiple stores but could also impact the energy and resource intensive production and development that often goes into making the clothes in the first place (one dress made instead of 10?!). As well, it offers you the chance to wear some amazing clothes at a tiny fraction of the actual cost of the outfits. An added bonus for me is knowing that the clothes will be reused again and again which fits in nicely with my sustainable sensibilities.

Over the past 2 years I have rented dresses from RTR close to 10 times, more often then not staying with designers that I knew looked good on me and ones that I have been lucky with, with sizes and fits. The RTR policy of getting a ‘second’ size of the same dress for free is a big help! Rent the Runway also has stylists “on call” that I have consulted on the phone for input and advice.

Rent the Runway Showroom: NYC

For those of us that live in and near the New York City metro area, a new RTR feature that launched in August 2012 is the RTR Showroom. I was lucky enough to visit on opening day and loved my experience! I booked 3 dresses for an upcoming extremely special family weekend occasion. Not only did all three dresses cost me less then one dress would have cost, I would not have chosen 2 of the 3 dresses from the website as they were outside of my “safe go-to designers.”

With the help of my new BFFs at Rent the Runway, I know I will look “FABULOUS” for my upcoming special occasion. I look forward to visiting the showroom again and talking to their staff about how to make my “shopping” experience even more “sustainable. ” Btw, RTR also has accessories – jewelry and bags – another new RTR “reuse” expansion! What will be next….?

With some ideas for a little fun and self indulgences for all my eco-fabulous Climate Mamas….


Climate Mama