Meet Janna Hockenjos, from Pine Beach, New Jersey in the United Sates
Follow Janna on Instagram - @theimperfectgreenguide / @jannacabana
Meet an Eco Parent! This is the another post in our very special "Meet an Eco Parent" series, which gives you a chance to meet a parent who considers themselves an 'eco parent' or a 'green parent'; those parents who really think about sustainable impacts when raising their children, and are dedicated to their families and to the environment.
Thank you to Janna for answering these questions!
My name is Janna. I love the ocean, black coffee, living my yoga, and supporting people in making choices that are in more in harmony with our Earth. I live with my husband, 3-year-old son, 1-year-old daughter, and golden retriever in a little town called Pine Beach in New Jersey. We're a block from a river and twenty minutes drive to the beach. At present, my family is creating a little oasis in the backyard of our cape style home with as much food forest as we can fit into not even an acre of land. With our wood chips and our Earth flag we're a bit different than our neighbors. We have veggies, fruit trees, berries, pollinators, flowers, herbs, mushroom logs, and a beautiful greenhouse we hired two hard-working men to build last fall. It would have taken us years with work and kids to do it!
Our family is doing all that we can to be an eco-friendly household, but we are not perfect, hence why I'm @theimperfectgreenguide on Instagram. We do what we can when we can, and we're learning that one thing builds on the others. Things do get easier and we find ourselves less dependent on conveniences and disposables and plastics by the day. Five years ago, neither my husband or myself would believe we'd be making our own bread or have solar panels or would use flannel squares for toilet paper in one of our bathrooms!
What does a day in your life look like?
It sounds like our son yelling, "Dad! Mom!" from downstairs the minute his clock turns green at 6:30 a.m. And then the day begins with that morning rush of young kids, an excited dog, and coffee that you can never seem to sip while it's still hot. Either my husband or I will take our son to preschool. With the exception of the one to two days a week my husband goes into the office, we both work from home and our daughter stays home with us. He's an insurance underwriter (working on green tech accounts!) and I'm a freelance book editor and yoga teacher, and my free time is currently spent writing and piloting an environmental awareness program for preschoolers at my son's school. When he gets home, it's snack time and then playtime inside or time to wander around the garden and do projects outside, followed by Octonauts (a show) when either mom or dad cook dinner. We're a family that "doesn't eat animals," as we say, so dinner is a grain or homemade pasta plus veggies, which are always more delicious from our garden. Next is baths for kids, comfy pants for adults, and lately "a nighttime apple," which is sliced and shared by all. When the kids are in bed, the two of us may spend a few quiet moments by our wood stove or listening to a podcast or sneaking dessert, but most nights we go to bed too. It's lame, but we're tired parents, and we're telling ourselves it won't be like this forever.
Would you describe yourself as an ‘eco parent’?
Oh yes. I was an eco-person before I was an eco-parent, but becoming a parent has bolstered our eco-friendly lifestyle for sure. This way of living feels non-negotiable when you look at the world you're leaving your legacies. When I see the world we are leaving our children, and all children, I cannot fathom why any parent would not want to make changes that are in the best interest of planet and people. Yet, I understand there a myriad of social constructs that keep us hooked on convenience. But we are definitely eco-parents.
What is your top eco hack for babies / kids / family?
Hmm... hack. That's an interesting question. I would say my top hack is not about how to do one thing, but how to approach all things. I was born in 1982, which means I grew up in analog. Nothing was digital. Mail order was a treat. Amazon, big box, social media... none of it existed. And generations before me there were no disposables or batteries or all kinds of other conveniences. So... (I swear I'm getting somewhere with this!), when my husband and I run into some of the eco-parenting challenges, we remind ourselves that it can be done and it has been done before. We don't actually need all the things we are told we need by society and marketing, and convenience is actually what is killing us and our natural world. So we take a deep breath, override convenience and it helps us to choose things like: cloth diapers, toys without batteries, no screen time (TV is okay), second-hand clothes, buying fewer toys, letting our kids be bored, choosing to be outside in all weather.
There are a lot of amazing aspects of modern technology (like this connection here!) but there are many ways that it is holding us all back when we don't even realize it.
Do you have any advice for parents hoping to avoid plastics (and other materials with toxins) in baby / family products?
Oh plastic. It's everywhere in everything, so do what you can. Same goes for toxins, which seem to go hand-in-hand with plastic.
When it comes to products like soaps, personal care, house cleaning, labels with the least amount of ingredients are always better and have no or far fewer toxins. We shop for products at refill shops, and if we can't find it there, we choose low to no waste products, as those companies are usually ethical in a 360-degree fashion, caring about people and planet. Last resort is choosing products in either glass or aluminum containers. But, we are not 100%. Sometimes we can't find something and other times we just have to have Lysol to battle these awful viruses. And in the kitchen we use beeswax, silicone bags, and glass tupperware for food storage.
When it comes to toys, most of our toys are wooden or an organic fabric or aluminum. About 20% are plastic, and they've usually been gifted to us. For linens and clothes, organic cottons and hemp are our favorites. Careful of bamboo that's been turned into cloth, as it's a far more chemical / energy intensive process than companies let on.
And yes, non-plastic and/or chemical free may cost a bit more, but the products are generally higher quality and last longer. Less is definitely more here!
Do you talk to other parents about your own sustainable choices?
Yes, all the time. Does it come up in every conversation everywhere? No, but I have an Instagram account dedicated to becoming an imperfectly green household and I feel that one of the responsibilities we have as humans who want to get back in harmony with Earth is to have the hard conversations. I've been having hard conversations since I was a kid, because it is my hope that people can change. Other parents and friends also ask me my opinion on things or how they can start or change something, and that is what I love! I'm here for all of it, and I will not judge you. I may go on about cloth diapers, but I will not think you are a lesser human if that's not your choice. Nothing will change if we top things off with guilt or judgement.
What is the biggest challenge that you face as an ‘eco’ parent?
The biggest challenge is that the way we are raising our children is not the norm. It can make you feel like an outsider when you send your kid in with birdseed hearts for Valentines day but he comes back from preschool with a different baggie of toys each week. Or when we hang out with other parents and out come our cloth diapers or we pass on pre-packaged snacks. As our almost four-year-old Cameron makes his way in the world he's introduced to all kinds of things through his friends and often we have to share with him why we don't do that, or why we don't buy that. So we always keep the conversation open and honest with him, because we want him to be curious about things rather than obedient to his mom and dad.
What are your favourite eco friendly baby / family products?
Okay, well I'm in the US so some of these companies might not be available in the UK, but still worth a share!
- diapers: Essembly
- second-hand kids clothes (and some for mom too!): Kidizen
- baby bottles: Mason Bottle
- Toys (if you need toys): Lovevery or Melissa & Doug
- dish soap: No Tox Life
- highchair: Trip Trapp
- skincare (for mom): The Rebrand
- carpet: Flor
- mattresses: Avocado Green Mattress
- as parents, we LOVE this bed: Thuma
We also get a lot of our personal care and cleaners from refill shops!
Do you have any advice for parents who want to raise an ‘eco’ baby / child?
You can do it. Be weird. Be different. Live a wildly inconvenient life. It feels like going against the grain at first, but stick with it and you will soon discover there is so much beauty and connection and ease to be found when you slow down and do (and buy) things with purpose and intention for your family. And when it gets tricky, because it will, reach out to a like-minded friend (or me!) and let them remind you of your why. And be that for someone else. Community is part of what makes this easy and fun and lasting.
What is the best thing about being a parent?
Being a parent has brought me back to being a kid. It feels full circle in a weird kind of way. I think I'm more fun and silly and I care less about little stuff and have more confidence in myself. To think we have the pleasure of sharing our lives with our two little beings it's just pretty magical on most days. Kids bring back the wonder. I love being curious about the world as they learn and also teach me things. Sure, there are days were I want to cry in the shower (and do) or when we wonder how we'll survive, but all-in-all it's grounding. Parenting asks you to be present.
Has being a parent changed you?
I'm not sure. I don't think it's changed me as much as it's made me more of who I am. Like I said before, I'm more confident. Like, I'm the most Janna mom I can be. I feel as though my two kids picked me (and their dad) and it's the ultimate freedom (or some days responsibility) to be the best damn human you can be. But don't be anyone else. You're their mom. Be you. I will say though that when I had my daughter it was like she lit my intuition on fire. That's pretty cool. I alway knew it was there, that I could be far more intuitive than I was, but it wasn't until Larkin that I could really tap into it.
How do you pass along advice for sustainable living to your family / child(ren)?
We live it. We have conversations all the time. We don't just tell them what to do, but why we do it. Why we garden, make our own food (when we can), say no to toys at the store, eat only animals... all things. We keep it in conversation. We invite questions. And on a bigger scale, I'm teaching a preschool program on environmental awareness at my son's school. The 20-minute lessons are weekly and it's intended to allow young children the space to learn about and love their planet, all the beings on it, our food, and our things. I believe some adults have a hard time making changes because how can you try to save what you don't yet love and how you can fight for something you don't understand. With children, we can foster the connections to our natural world and our neighbors that have been broken in adults.
Anything else you’d like say?
Thank you so much for including on my your blog. I love when fellow eco-parents share our lives and lifestyles, because I think an open and encouraging dialogue is what will help support so many other families. As we are reconnecting with nature, we are also reconnecting with each other.