Green Living at Gretchen’s House
At Gretchen’s House, promoting physical health and caring for the environment are principles on which our curriculum is centered. As with any business or family decision, we must do research and balance our actions with what is reasonable and affordable. The following items are some of the ways we constantly strive to provide a healthy environment for children and staff and be part of a socially responsible community.
We have adjusted our menus to include more locally grown fruits and vegetables – each center has expanded garden space and they eat what the children grow. In addition, we tried a partnership with a local farm as source of fresh vegetables. We avoid products with high fructose corn syrup and have almost completely eliminated prepared foods from the menu. We do our own preparation, so we know what’s in the food we serve.
For years we’ve only purchased milk with no hormones or anti-biotics. We actually purchase the milk through Washtenaw Dairy, as part of a larger effort to support local businesses. We know this is important for the local economy and helps cut down the environmental impact of so much shipping, etc, which takes place when “big box” stores are the primary source of goods.
Gretchen’s House used cloth diapers until just a few years ago. The diaper service we were using could no longer keep up with the supplies needed, and licensing required us to use an outside service. In the end, there were also studies showing that the cleaning and transporting of the cloth diapers was actually more harmful to the environment than disposables.
There are new sources for cloth diapers, and new technology to make their use more “green.” Unfortunately, the services we have investigated would cost seven times more than what we are currently paying. We’re continuing to look for a more cost-effective program.
In 2009, the Mt. Pleasant center moved to using baking soda and vinegar instead of commercially prepared cleaners. In addition, we carefully read product labels in order to purchase the safest, least toxic choice for cleaning. Since the Mt. Pleasant pilot program worked so well, all of the centers are now using the “green” cleaning products. We still use bleach to sanitize, as required by State licensing, but we are investigating alternative sanitizing solutions that are easier on our lungs and don’t stain clothing.
We test toys and equipment (including crib mattresses) for lead and other chemicals. We’ve learned flame retardants are particularly toxic. We’ve actually replaced most of our crib mattresses and are eliminating a lot of rubbery toys that contain chemicals we want to avoid. Our next step is to find a local source for more “green” gym and nap mats.
We use a natural yard spray to reduce mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks in our wooded areas (the secret ingredient is garlic!).
We are fortunate to have parents who support our efforts and have developed a good working relationship with experts in the community who provide resources and information. These include the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor and GH parent Matt Grocoff of Greenovation TV.
Julie Morrison (Director, GH-Mt. Pleasant) and Nan Mastie (Director, GH-Stadium) head up our “green team” and have put a lot of extra time and effort into this endeavor. Please let us know if you’d like to participate in this discussion, or if you have expertise in this area. We’d love to hear from you!