Monday, October 21, 2019

ECO MAMA MUSE: Suzanne Price : From San Francisco to Your Home

"ECO MAMA MUSE"is a series I created to turn the spotlight on rockstar mamas who are working hard to make non-toxic living easier for parents like you and me. Today's Eco Mama Muse is Suzanne Price, a pioneer in non-toxic retail and someone who has served as an inspiration and source for products for my own baby, when I started my own non-toxic living journey over 10 years ago.  

Today Sprout is both a brick and mortar store and online source for non-toxic items focusing on babies and children.  Sprout currently has stores in:  California (3 stores with a new Santa Monica store opening in the coming weeks), Chicago and Brooklyn. What I personally love about Sprout is their dedication to educate their community.  Suzanne is not only a wealth of knowledge on all things relating to environmental toxins, but her stores and sales staff (there are many across the US) also provide customers with the support and  knowledge to help them (especially sleep deprived mamas!) choose safe and useful products for their family's.

Aida:  What inspired you to open Sprout San Francisco?

Suzanne: I was working at an investment bank, over ten years ago, and my role was to learn about the emerging organic industry for consumer products. The more I researched, the more I realized that there were serious concerns to be had with the mainstream products that were being marketed for children, from toys to mattresses to personal care. I also found, from my peers having their first babies, that it was extremely difficult to find good information on what was safe and what wasn't. I felt that as a Research Analyst, I was skilled at interpreting complicated information and disseminating it in an easy to understand format. I decided that I could create a company that would not only help new parents easily find safe products, but would help them learn about what to look out for at the same time. 

Aida:  How is Sprout  different? 

Suzanne: I do an extensive amount of research to stay on top of the latest information on chemicals to avoid in children's products. Through our formal advisory board as well as our close relationships with the leaders in environmental health research such as the Center for Environmental Health and Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, we are making sure that we stay ahead of concerns that have not yet made major news. For example, when we opened our first store in 2009, we proudly declared "no triclosan here!" Most customers had never heard the word. When we explained that triclosan was an endocrine disruptor used in most antibacterial soap, we were often told "if it was that bad, it would be banned." Well, last year the FDA did ban triclosan in antibacterial soap, though it remains in toothpaste and other products. So our fight continues. Currently, there are still many who believe that plastic is safe for your child to drink and eat from if it says "BPA free". What they don't realize is that there are a long list of other bisphenols (BPS, BPF, BPZ, etc) that are likely just have bad and have replaced the BPA in many plastics. So we strive to inform and to make the best choices in the products we carry so that customers don't have to do that research themselves. 

Aida: What are you three non- toxic- can’t live without- essentials? 

My two daughters, ever since they were one, have not been able to fall asleep without these Organic Fleece Lovies. They are just as soft as some of the more well known lovies that are made out of polyester, but cotton is breathable whereas polyester as not. Since they are organic cotton, I never worried about them ending up in the girls' mouths, as so many things do with little ones. Now that they are older, they fall asleep rubbing their fingers on the soft silk. We can't go anywhere without these. 

One of the first things I have completely changed in our household is our cleaning products. I am all too aware about the endocrine disruptors in fragrances, the 1/4 dioxane in laundry and dish detergent, and the quats in disinfectants. Quats are a group of chemicals commonly found in disinfectants, that are thought to be allergy and asthma enhancers and may even cause birth defects. I am extremely conscious of the products I use to wipe down surfaces that my children will touch and of what goes into the air that they will breathe in. One wonderful product to have on hand are these Dapple wipes that do not contain quats or any other scary chemicals.   

Along those lines, we are also extremely careful of what we put on our skin. There are such terrible endocrine disruptors, like parabens and phthalates, in the personal care we buy in the US, some of which is even banned in Europe. There are, however, some great alternatives. Since my daughter has eczema, we always have to have with us a good moisturizer that won't burn when she puts it on. I also don't want to use anything petroleum based so we keep jars of Baeo Butter or Zoe Cream on hand. We also make sure to always have sunscreen with no oxybenzone on hand. ThinkBaby is a family favorite. 

Aida: A new mother is overwhelmed with the concept of non - toxic living.  She has been reading that toxins are in seemingly everything and she does not know where to start.  What is your advice?

Suzanne: Don't be overwhelmed! There is a lot of information, but take it in pieces and do what you can do. It's better to be knowledgeable than to throw up your hands and say "it's too much to take in". Make small changes, little by little. I always tell new moms that the number one most important thing is the crib mattress. Babies spend up to 16 hours a day in their cribs, and many traditional mattresses are made of polyurethane foam, which breaks down and releases particles into the air. Often this foam is sprayed with flame retardant chemicals that the baby is then breathing in. An organic mattress is always worth the investment. After that, focus on the chemicals they are breathing and touching, like the household cleaners and personal care products I mentioned before. 

Aida: How has your view of 'non-toxic living' changed from the time you became a new mom to today?

Suzanne: When my babies were first born, I of course wanted to keep them in a little cocoon and control everything that they were exposed to. I realized pretty soon that that wasn't realistic, especially now that they are in elementary school, and going to all sorts of after school activities, birthday parties, etc. I don't worry so much about what they do when they are out and about. I figure I can only control what I can control. If I make their home environment as safe as it can be, that is still way better than if they were being exposed to scary chemicals out in the world AND at home. I always tell our customers, "Do what you can do. Less is better than more, when it comes to exposures." 

Now that they are old enough, I also teach them what to look out for so that they can make smart decisions for themselves, what to eat, what to chew on, what to take a big whiff of. One of my proudest moments recently was when my girls were doing a project one of them had gotten as a birthday present, and they stopped in the middle. It was a bath bomb kit and it had come with a vile of "fragrance" that was supposed to be added. My daughter came to ask me, "We shouldn't use this because we don't know what's in this fragrance, right?" Hopefully her generation will demand better products and better transparency and we won't have to worry about hidden chemicals in our products some day. 

Aida:  I so agree with Suzanne that the key to non-toxic living and parenting  is being informed, finding a balance and educating the next generation.  Having a trusted source like Sprout San Francisco available,  helped me when I first became a mother and it is undoubtedly helping  make non-toxic living easier for all parents.  

Thank you so much, Suzanne, for allowing me to feature you as this month's 'Mama Muse' and for your hard work with Sprout and beyond!!!  

If you are in the LA area great news!   Sprout San Francisco is opening a store in our neighborhood!  The new store will officially open on Nov 2, 2019 in Santa Monica

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