The old adage “charity begins at home” has taken on a new twist for two Westside mothers, whose tag line could read “green living begins at home.”
Jessica Tuck and Annie Barnes believe that mothers are often the first wave when setting the tone for the vision and the rhythm of family households, and with that in mind they created a Web site that encourages, explains and displays methods that families can employ to live in a sustainable and environmentally conscious way.
Their aim, as they state on their Web site, is to “create a supportive online community with local flavor to inspire the greening of families in Los Angeles.”
Their site, www.inspirethechange.com/, has local green resources that the women recommend, as well as environmentally friendly products that they use in their homes and it links to various green events.
Tuck and Barnes, who are cousins, launched the site earlier this summer in an effort to make a more conscious effort to green their own homes and they soon decided to expand the concept to their respective neighborhood schools.
“‘Inspire the Change’ is our attempt to put some framework to be more (environmentally aware),” Barnes began in an interview at a Mar Vista sandwich shop recently. “How do you do it in your own homes and your own lives, and also how do you do it in your greater community.”
Tuck says that the women bonded over the subject of greening their lives in large part because of their children.
“Both of us have an inclination towards sustainability and a green way of life because we were brought up around it. It’s been in our consciousness, so it’s not as much of an effort for us to do it because we already think in that direction anyway,” Tuck explained. “And the more that you can involve your kids in it, the easier it will be for them going forward as well.”
The mothers believe that the home is the easiest place to initiate green living. Barnes noted that mothers are often targeted by advertisers for new household products, so it comes as no surprise to them that women frequently are the ones who take the lead in community greening campaigns.
“When you become a mom, one of the things that you become amazed at is the barrage of new products that you’re being encouraged to buy,” she said. “I think that there’s a moment of opportunity when people are in a natural life transition to becoming parents and they are also concerned about the future.”
Tuck noticed that after she became a mother, she joined a sorority of other women who share many of the same needs and desires, and that is where she and her cousin have found an audience that is receptive to their green message.
“When you become a mom, you start to show up at mommy events or at your preschool and you are brought together in a way that is a great opportunity to share ideas and resources,” she said. “It’s a perfect time to start building a village around turning your life in a more green way and being more sustainable.”
The communities where they live — Tuck resides in Santa Monica and Barnes lives in Mar Vista — are already receptive to the idea of sustainable concepts, they say. Santa Monica has a long history of environmental activism regarding recycling, beach cleanups and water filtration initiatives. The city government has instituted one of the most stringent anti-smoking laws in the state and has a municipal department, the Office of Sustainability and the Environment.
Mar Vista hosted a Green Garden Showcase tour of several homes in April, which featured sustainable gardens and homes that had solar panels, native plants and water saving features. In May, the community held a Wise Water Use Expo at the Mar Vista Recreation Center.
Barnes and Tuck have drawn the attention of Sherri Akers, the co-chair of the Mar Vista Community Council’s Green Committee.
“I’m so blown away by what they are doing in the schools,” said Akers, who helped to organize the water expo. “It’s so inspirational.”
Local schools are a place where the two moms have found converts to the green cause or in some cases like-minded parents.
“We have a great audience there,” Tuck, an actress whose credits include “Judging Amy,” “True Blood” and “High School Musical,” said. “You can easily disseminate information because you’re talking to all the moms.”
Barnes agrees, saying, “We’re both very involved in our schools’ green teams, and we’re looking at these areas of their life where they are already involved, and where they can be involved in a greener way.”
At Mar Vista Elementary School, where one of her two sons attends, the Green Team is in its first year. “It has spread like wildfire,” Barnes said. “In October, someone organized a Halloween swap where a week before Halloween, kids donated their old costumes, and we sold them for $5 and made a lot of money.”
Kate Anderson has twin five-year-old daughters who attend Mar Vista Elementary and she admires how Barnes and Tuck have helped bring a greater awareness about green living to the school.
“I think ‘Inspire the Change’ and the work that Jessica and Annie are doing is fantastic,” Anderson, who is the co-chair of the community council’s education, culture and arts committee, told The Argonaut. “They come in and help educate the kids on recycling and what it means to be green; all the things that kids today should be growing up with.”
Akers says she admires how the cousins are beginning in their own neighborhoods.
“I really believe that change is being accomplished through grass roots efforts like theirs. Annie is a leading force in this incredible pool of activist parents that we have in Mar Vista and they aren’t waiting for LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District),” she added. “They are hands on, boots on the ground, making things happen.”
Anderson added, “There are real synergies here, and what’s great about Jessica and Annie is that they’re real networkers and they’re taking advantage of those synergies, and I think they are serving a part of the community that hasn’t been served.”
For now, because the Web site is in its nascent stage, Tuck and Barnes are confining their efforts to schools and other families in their respective communities.
“The opportunity for green is an opportunity for community, creativity and fun,” Barnes said.
“It’s also a great opportunity to connect with your kids,” added Tuck, who often gardens with her daughter. “We love that time together.”
Barnes mentioned that “Inspire the Change” derives from a quote by Mahatma Gandhi, which states “You must be the change you see in the world.”
“So for us, ‘Inspire the Change’ is not only being that change, but helping others see how attainable it is,” she concluded.