|Deirdre Imus is a mix of sunshine and lightning — though I’m not sure she’s aware of it. From a distance you notice the blond hair, perfect complexion and easy, genuine smile. But then you listen to her and she can scare the wits out of you, especially if you’re a parent (or grandparent) of young children.
She has been researching and acting on the health threats to children — mercury or aluminum in vaccines, pesticides on fruit, toxins in our household cleaners — for so long that she throws around terms like “volatile organic compounds” and “carcinogens and mutagens” without feeling their weight. Recently I heard her address a crowd at the Westport Library. I walked in as an editor, but within five minutes I was just a mom. It came to me in a flash: I hadn’t checked what type of plastic was used to make my babies’ bottles. And their toys — what number plastic are they made of? What was I thinking using bleach to clean their tub? Most frightening, I had had my kids vaccinated — had I even hesitated before doing it?
Maybe it was only me, but I sensed a slow bristling of panic in the air — you know, the kind you feel right before a lightning storm? Thankfully, Ms. Imus did everything possible to ease the mood and reassure us that she just wants us to have information on which to base our decisions.
I can sympathize with her position. She interacts with children facing serious illness, such as cancer, at her Imus Ranch in New Mexico and at the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center in New Jersey. If I were her, I’d want to shake people awake and try to stop short of scaring them into immobility.
Small steps, she reassures us, is the key. Since reading her first book, Green This, I took a few steps myself. I use green cleaning products at home, and my family and I are now eating more locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. Mostly, I see packaged foods and bleached white linens differently.
Slowly it adds up to a healthier environment.
Our towns are greening up, too. The Wilton school system uses eco-friendly, kid-friendly cleaning products, town vehicles are clean hybrids, homeowners are embracing solar panels.
I used to wonder, pessimistically, how long it would take before the surge of all things green (after Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth hit the populace) began to retreat. In fact, though, something else is happening — environmental consciousness is taking root. We’re not afraid to address the problems or alarming facts; instead, we believe if each one of us makes some small changes, it will add up to a big improvement.