Meet Colleen & Gillian. The moms behind The Eco Mamas Blog. Colleen is originally from the north shore of Chicago and Gillian grew up in Cohasset. These beautiful ladies live with their families in Cohasset.
Colleen has three boys, ages 6, 4 and 10 months and Gillian has a two year old and a 10 month old as well.
◇ What do you love about Cohasset?
Colleen: The people. I always say to my husband (who is from here) that I’ve been so touched by the sense of community here. We’ve met a lot of awesome people. The views aren’t bad either.
Gillian: Yes, the community as well! Growing up in Cohasset and now raising my family here, the sense of community– especially one I’ve been apart of for 30 years– is really special!
◇ What do you love to do with your kids around town?
Colleen: Walks in the woods at Wheelwright Park. Sandy Beach on Friday nights in the summer. We also just love to wander through the village and down to the harbor. Family walk + scavenger hunts are a favorite.
Gillian: We love taking our dog to the beach on Saturday mornings. They let dogs on the beach before 8am… or walking down to Atlantic Bagel and stopping at the playpark! Anything where we aren’t rushing to or from something.
◇ What is one of your favorite moments as a mom to date?
Colleen: It’s so tough to think of just one. I guess I’ll pick a recent one that struck me. It was simple. I came into the family room and saw my husband and three boys sitting on the couch. He was watching a Bruins playoff game. The baby was stripped down to a diaper (pre-PJs), and he was watching his older bros who were huddled over the same book. All of them together… heaven.
Gillian: I love watching my kids play with other children when they don’t know I’m watching. I like to peak into daycare before they see me and just watch how they interact as real little people! Seeing them grow up has been such a privilege.
◇ What is the toughest part about being a mom?
Colleen: It’s also tough to think about just one hard part ☺ I hate feeling like I’m kind of not good enough at anything—at being a mom, friend or employee. I also tend to snowball when I worry about something. Like if one of the kids is struggling with something, or I feel like we’ve had a whiny, combustible kind of day, I easily spiral into thinking everything is going wrong. Sometimes a good night of sleep helps.
Gillian: Lack of sleep!
◇ What is the best advice you have ever received about motherhood?
Colleen: It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. That and enjoy it! Kids are young for like a day. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Gillian: My mom always tells me when I’m stressing about this or that, “it’s all temporary,” eventually they get potty trained, sleep through the night, stop biting at daycare, it’s all temporary.
◇ Okay, tell me one thing you never leave the house without?
Colleen: Right now? Diapers—and wipes. Also lip balm.
Gillian: Definitely diapers/ wipes and a change of clothes for everyone!
◇ What would be your icebreaker fun fact?
Colleen: When I was a kid I wanted my name to be Blitzen for awhile. It was the 80s. I saw that one taking off on the name charts.
Gillian: A lot of people are surprised to hear I work as a construction manager in Boston. I’m small, so you wouldn’t guess that right away. I have worked for the same construction firm since I was in high school.
◇ Blitzen, I mean…Colleen, tell us what you do.
Colleen: I’m a marketing strategist. I currently work for Digitas on a project basis and as a freelance consultant.
◇ It’s Monday. What’s your Coffee Order?
Colleen: Black. Iced or hot, doesn’t matter. But no cream or sugar. Super hardcore.
Gillian: Medium, Cream & Sugar in my reusable coffee cup 😉
◇ You have a morning to yourself – what do you do?
Gillian: Clean! I’m always cleaning it feels like.
◇ Describe mom life in one word.
◇ Funniest thing your kids have ever said?
Colleen: My four-year-old stalls a lot at bedtime. He loves to ask us ‘one more question.’ It’s honestly hard to pick a favorite, but a recent hit was, ‘What would happen in a world with no cats?’ How do you answer that??
Gillian: My two year old always says “this is mine” as all toddlers do. My father told him that he was headed to Miami for the weekend and he said “ NO! That’s MY Ami” 😊
◇ Biggest Fear?
Colleen: Oh… everything? When it comes to my kids, probably anything I can’t control. I don’t think I helicopter, but I’m a worrier. I’m working on that!
Gillian: I really do worry about what this planet will be like for them. That is what has motivated us to do this blog.
◇ Favorite must have product for moms?
Colleen: A good, leather tote bag that you can take to the park, office or out to dinner… ideally one that keeps getting better with age. At The Eco Mamas we buy for keeps. This is mine. It was handmade in Portland, OR. We’ve been together for three years and going strong.
Gillian: Yes, agreed a good bag for carrying everyone’s everything!
◇ Must-have product for expecting moms?
Colleen: When I was pregnant with my first, I loved Hoba Care Organic Jojoba Oil for stretch mark prevention. Jojoba oil is really similar to your skin’s own oil, so it’s a great, absorbable moisturizer. By my third, a prenatal support belt for those last few weeks ☺ I liked this kind.
Gillian: The Bellaband to make your regular pants fit a little bit longer before maternity clothes become necessary!
◇ Favorite Quote?
Colleen:“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” –Mother Teresa
Gillian: “If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t trying.”
◇ Finish this sentence: I’ve come to realize that what I need the most is….
Colleen: Quality time with people I love. If I can get that, the rest will figure itself out. And depending on the day, caffeine also helps.
Gillian: My family!
◇ Let’s talk about The Eco Mamas and how it came to be.
Colleen: It all happened over Lunchskins (which are great reusable ‘baggies’ by the way—check them out)…
Gillian and I are neighbors—we actually only live two houses apart—but even though we swapped mom stories, baby tips and sleep woes, we never realized that we were both really passionate about sustainability and worried about climate change. It can be hard to break the ice on things like that, and they just didn’t enter into the conversation.
On the side, I’d been thinking about starting a sustainability website and posed a question about eco-friendly living to my Facebook friends. Gill noticed and (months later when the site was still a pipe dream) popped by my house with a set of Lunchskins to try. That broke the ice. We started talking about sustainability and after a good 20-minute vent session about the world we were creating for our kids, we decided to do something about it.
Gillian: We’re busy. Everyone we know is busy. We’re pulled in a lot of directions by kids, work and other commitments. We get that living sustainably can seem hard. We also know that the idea of climate change can create more fear than action. We saw this blog as an opportunity to not just inform but also celebrate how living sustainably could be fun, fashionable and easier than it initially seems. We also want to highlight all of the amazing things people are doing– not just dwell on what we aren’t. There are a lot of ways we can take action in our own lives without buying Teslas (though we would love one). So here we are!
◇ What can we expect to see on The Eco Mamas every week?
Colleen: It’s a work in progress! Above all, we want to find fresh, highly doable ways to live sustainably. We’re hoping to learn from our friends and readers too, so please send us your thoughts and ideas!
To start we plan to post on the site about four times a week. Sundays we’re going to share recipes that are good for you and low-impact on the environment. Low impact on the environment means heavily plant-based eating, which is something a lot of people are getting into for health reasons, too. We’re big on using what you already have around the house when possible, so our recipes should be really accessible.
Then on Mondays we’ll dive into a topic with a longer post. We’ll talk about things like sustainable fashion, how you can clean out your closet responsibly, best snacks with less packaging… things like that. On Wednesdays we’ll share an #EasyThing—a simple tip with big impact. If you want to do the most for the environment with the least effort, these are for you. And on Friday, we’ll share a #FabFind. Fab finds are products, services and organizations that are making sustainable choices better and easier. Gillian has a bunch of great ones lined up to share.
◇ What are some small ways you feel that you make an impact daily?
Colleen: I’m learning every day! Right now our family doesn’t eat a lot of meat, and we make an effort not to waste food—food waste is a big eco-problem that we’ll talk more about on the site. We try not to buy single-serving snacks—or save the ones we do buy for on-the-go “emergencies.” We try to limit single-use plastic—like saying no to plastic utensils and straws when we’re out to eat. We use reusable grocery bags—the plastic bag ban forced us to get serious about that. I’ve also started to buy a lot of secondhand clothes—including kids clothes (loving the options we have).
Gillian: One of the biggest ways as individuals we can make an impact is to reduce what we buy. I’m a self-admitted shopper, so this blog has challenged me to consume less. I wrote a post recently about buying my golden retriever bow ties through Amazon, which was totally unnecessary! In order to break that cycle of online impulse buying, I took the app off my phone. It was hard at first, but it really did help. I did put it back on my phone, but now I only use it for things we really need at our house, and we have seen a reduction in how much we bring to the dump each week. We are all so busy it’s hard to make time to get to the store, and going shopping with two little ones can be a nightmare!
◇ What (and how) are you teaching your kiddos about sustainability?
Colleen: I’m so glad you asked this question! Making kids a part of this lifestyle is one of the most important things we can do—for their own lives, and because it makes us more accountable when we know they’re watching. My kids are little. Our main message is that a lot of people and animals have to share the earth, and if we don’t keep it clean, we won’t have a nice place to live. They love animals, so that clicks with them.
We try to find little teaching moments in everyday life. When we see trash at their park or at the beach, we point it out and pick it up. When we say ‘no thank you’ to straws at a restaurant, we tell them why. When we decide to walk instead of drive, we explain the decision. We also read books about sustainability—look out for a post on our favorites, coming up soon!
We spend a lot of time outside too, and we’re trying to get involved around town more. I recently took my 6-year-old to a local earth day clean up. It was the first time we had been a part of something like that in the community, and it was so cool for us both to see how many other people turned out for the event. I’d love to do it again soon!
Gillian: What has been amazing and so inspiring to me is to see this generation of high school students really taking action for the planet they are inheriting, like Greta Thunberg, the young girl leading the way on the school climate strikes. Even here at Cohasset High School, there is a climate action group called the Green Team. My kids are two and 10 months, so talking to them about Climate Change is obviously over their heads. Our children watch and listen (believe it or not) to everything we say and do though, so the best way we can teach them is by putting these ideas into practice. We also love activities like going bug hunting in our backyard or visiting Holly Hill Farm! Little kids also love running faucets and flushing toilets and finding funny ways of relating that to something they might understand is always interesting! Now when my two-year-old flushes the toilet just once he’ll say “keep the water for the fish, Mom?”.
◇ How can TSSM get more involved on a local level?
Colleen: Another great question! There are so many ways to get involved. Some are simple. Talk to your kids about eco-friendly choices. Talk to your friends. Ask what they do. Word of mouth is such a powerful motivator without even needing to leave your house.
You can reward businesses that make eco-friendly behavior easier and ask for more of those options. Compliment restaurants that are using compostable containers and paper straws—or even better—saying no to disposables altogether. Take a picture. Post it. Ask restaurants if they source local or sustainable seafood or if they work with local farms. Spread the word on the ones that do.
Walk when you can, if you can. Spend time outside with your family and friends to build an appreciation of the world around us. Organize a clean-up—it’s as simple as getting a few friends together with trash bags. Do something fun after, if you need an incentive.
We also love the idea of getting together and sharing stuff with friends vs. buying new things. Gill’s book club gets a book club kit from the library. We’ve been talking about a clothing swap too. It’s fun to get new things without spending a dime—especially if you have friends with great style!
But above all, talk about it and keep talking about it. That’s how movements gain momentum. We’re inspired by each other.
◇ Favorite eco-friendly product?
Colleen: I love making my own all-purpose cleaner for around the house. My favorite scents are spearmint and lemongrass, and I love making my whole house smell like them. I mix 1c water, 1 c vinegar and 10-20 drops each of lemongrass & spearmint essential oils in an empty spray bottle. I use that on counters, tile, glass, kitchen tabletop. It takes about two minutes to make, and I feel like it lasts forever.
My mom also loves to sew and has been making me cloth wipes to replace paper towels. They’ve changed my life. They’re sturdy, great for cleaning up kid messes, and I rarely buy paper towels anymore. Etsy has a ton of paper towel replacement cloths that are really cute, too. I’m looking to expand my collection and start using cloth napkins, so I’ll be shopping around for some of those. We’ll make sure to share any good ones on TheEcoMamas.
And finally, it’s not a specific product, but ThredUp has changed my life. About 75% of the clothes I buy are now used—sometimes with tags still on them. I’m saving money, saving resources and the stuff I’ve gotten is adorable. I could go on for days.
Gillian: Yes we LOVE ThredUP! Lunchskins Reusable bags have been a game changer for plastic consumption at our house. Another personal recent favorite of mine is Dypers – bamboo diapers that are 100% biodegradable. I’ve used them for the past few months. I was a Pampers only kind of girl before, but I’ve switched over completely. They are softer and I have experienced less leaking, especially at night!!