Motherhood & Sustainable Living IRL: Q&A with Jess Campagna – The Wise Consumer

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Motherhood & Sustainable Living IRL: Q&A with Jess Campagna

September 17, 2019

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“It’s not about being perfect – it’s about doing what works for you. And I think it’s really important to remember that living sustainably and making eco-conscious choices come at the cost of time and/or money and everyone has to make choices that will be manageable and sustainable for them. Small, lasting changes are more important than big, fleeting ones.”  – Jess Campagna

Meet Jess Campagna, mother to two little girls (aged 2 & 5) from Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Here’s what she has to share about her zero-waste journey.

Q & A with Jess Campagna:

1) City of residence: Las Vegas, Nevada

2) Place of birth: Las Vegas, Nevada (but grew up in Pittsburgh, moved to PA when I was an infant)

3) What is one thing about motherhood/pregnancy that you were least expecting?

Pretty much everything. If you asked me about almost any parenting topic when I first became a mother, I probably am living the direct opposite now.

4) How has motherhood/pregnancy changed you?

It has made me get real with myself in a way that I hadn’t prior to motherhood. It takes all your rough edges and smooths them over time. It also highlights the capabilities and strengths you didn’t know you had.

5) How long have you been living a low-impact/zero-waste lifestyle? What inspired the shift?

I suppose we’ve been living a more zealous low-waste lifestyle for the past 2 years (after having my last baby). But for me, it has been an incredibly subtle shift over the decades — we’ve been composting for about ten years, eating organic/no dairy for almost 20 years, and pretty much have always used natural products.

But, having kids and realizing the severity of global warming and such, definitely caused me to become even more intentional about my consumer/lifestyle habits. Things we had never given much thought to, such as our homeschooling materials, kid’s toys, toilet paper, etc. all changed after having kids.

(Photo Courtesy of Jess Campagna)

6) What three things have you found to be the most challenging when it comes to living sustainably (eco-friendly, ethical fashion, etc.) & raising children?

  1. One of my biggest challenges is ALL THE FREE STUFF. Kids are offered free stuff basically all the time (stickers at checkout, goodie bags at parties, trinkets at the dentist and doctor’s office, etc). None of it is really meant to last and inevitably ends up in our trash rather quickly. But explaining to my 5-year-old why the trinkets are junk and harmful to the environment is just a battle I can’t win. When she was younger, a polite no or leaving before it was offered seemed to work, but now that she’s hip to it, it’s a challenge.

  2. I can’t make everything from scratch. I can cut up veggies but I don’t have time to make hummus. It’s a balance between eating as much as we can fresh and preparing our own meals and snacks while also realizing that I can’t do it all and that packaged bars are a shelf-stable snack I can take to the park.

  3. And honestly, the mental load of weighing the many, many choices that we face as parents against not only what is best for us right now but also best for the environment and the future health of the planet. While it’s awesome that there are so many options now for living sustainably, deciding which to say yes to and what changes to make takes a mental effort that I don’t think is discussed much. One in particular, for me, is weighing the toxicity of vintage/used items with the manufacturing impact of new items.

7) What three tips (things that worked best for you) can you share with other parents to help them along their eco-conscious/slow fashion journey?

Three things that worked best for me as far as raising kids in an eco-conscious way so far are probably breastfeeding/ baby-led weaning, cloth diaper/ elimination communication (EC), and simplicity. 

Breastfeeding obviously because it is truly zero waste. Baby-led weaning worked really well for us and we never bought (or made) any baby food. The kids just ate what we ate. Cloth diapering and EC reduce or eliminate the need for disposable diapers (and bonus! your kids potty train super early!). Simplicity is one that has really had a large impact. We have a very curated collection of toys. It’s a win-win in that it keeps things pretty minimal and by having open-ended toys, you really don’t need that many or to keep purchasing new ones since they aren’t outgrown for years. It’s also been shown that slowing down and simplifying is good for children.

That said, while those things really worked for ME, I think it’s all about what works for each individual. Obviously, EC full time is not an option if your child is in daycare. Breastfeeding isn’t for everyone for various reasons, etc. But everyone can pick one thing and build on that. It’s not about being perfect – it’s about doing what works for you. And I think it’s really important to remember that living sustainably and making eco-conscious choices come at the cost of time and/or money and everyone has to make choices that will be manageable and sustainable for them. Small, lasting changes are more important than big, fleeting ones.

8) Living an eco-friendly/slow fashion lifestyle isn’t always convenient or easy, but why does it matter that we at least try our best (there’s no such thing as perfection).

We should do our best because our planet and species depend on it. I’m not willing to look at my children and say I didn’t at least try to mitigate the future damage to our planet. Of course, we aren’t perfect (see junky trinkets above^) but we should be mindful of our waste and impact on the environment and lessen it when we can.

9) Bonus question: 
“I don’t believe we as individuals should be held responsible for our consumer and lifestyle habits — it’s nearly impossible to live a sustainable lifestyle and honestly, I have other things to worry about — I am a busy mom! Rather, I believe it’s up to our governments and businesses to lead the way, to change their policies, etc. Climate change, ethical fashion, plastic pollution, child labor, etc. these are top-down issues, not bottom-up issues, my choices won’t make a difference.” Agree or disagree? why or why not.

I wholly disagree with that statement. Businesses and governments work for us – the consumer and the voter – and if enough people speak up about issues that they believe are important (or better yet, talk with money), those entities will change. That said, businesses and governments aren’t leaders – they are reactive. Change has always come from individuals. I am a quote collector and one that really speaks to me about this is by Mother Teresa. She said, “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” I think that’s how effective change happens – over time with individual people influencing others in small ways that eventually snowball into big changes. Eventually, businesses react to those changes in order to continue to make a profit but we shouldn’t depend on businesses to lead.

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