One thing I’ve noticed since becoming a mom is that as my family grows, so does our impact on the Earth — which is obvious in theory but can be staggering in practice. Anyone who has hauled yet another bag of trash outside (while the baby naps) and wondered "Where did all this STUFF come from?" knows what I mean.

Luckily, I recently discovered the perfect book for the green-minded mom, called Happy-Go-Local: The Smart Mom's Guide to Living the Good (and sustainable) Life!” by Linsly Donnelly, eco-expert and mother of three kids under the age of 5 (her third child is a mere 7 weeks old). 

The book is divided into 14 chapters that target different areas — there’s food, personal care, your closet and the rest of the house, car, work, community involvement, money, pets, vacations and other entertainment. It may sound like information overload, but I promise you won't get lost in word soup. Donnelly arranged the book into concise, brief sections, allowing the reader to flip through as time allows — an important feature for busy moms.

Perhaps the most convenient part of the book are the checklists at the beginning of the book, which outline the important points and suggestions offered in each chapter and serve as the perfect tool to analyze your family’s needs, get started and stay organized. The author uses the lists herself. “I have to use the cheat sheets or else I couldn't get it done,” she confesses. “The areas we've implemented the most address food, personal care products, investing and home setup. But, there are things in every chapter which we've put into our family plan.”

According to Donnelly, the idea for “Happy-Go-Local” originated from two goals behind becoming a new mama — wanting to find a career to pursue from home and being concerned about her son’s future. “Having a child hammers home the importance of leaving behind a world thriving across all dimensions. Protecting and rebuilding the physical viability of our world became a priority for our family,” she says. “But it seemed the avalanche of eco-information out there was a virtual quicksand.”

In an effort to shape the piles of information she collected into something useful, Donnelly utilized a tool kit from the job she’d held in her former (read: pre-mom) life, in which she’d been a Bain management/strategy consultant. “[I tried] to synthesize all of the factoids and recommendations around living a more local and eco friendly life, and then organize them around basic ‘life arenas’ (such as eating, working out, investing, vacationing, etc.). Then I wanted to set the book up to be a ‘hand guide’ or user manual with a consistent set of tools to define, measure and track success against whatever initiatives suited the reader's family — and she then could choose to pursue in amping up her eco-life.” 

One of the most difficult parts of writing the book, Donnelly says, was to present fresh and useful information to the seasoned eco-mom while still being accessible to the potentially overwhelmed newbie. She accomplishes this challenge with a matter-of-fact, friendly, conversational tone, and organized information. The book is as easy to navigate as a menu (although, of course, considerably longer). 

Since the release of “Happy-Go-Local,” Donnelly has received great feedback from other moms. “That is the most fun of all — to hear how moms pull out whatever nuggets resonate with them and put baby steps in action. I've been immensely lucky in the number of moms and friends of friends who've wanted to help spread the message in the book.”

When asked about the future, Donnelly sighs. “The future ... mmm ... right now, seven weeks into baby number three, I'm hoping the future holds a bit of sleep.”

Beyond that, however, another book is on the horizon, the subject matter of which addresses a theme common to moms everywhere: the struggle to balance work and family life, which is something Donnelly wrestled with daily while writing “Happy-Go-Local.” The new book will hit the stands sometime next year.

MNN homepage photo: chihhang/iStockphoto

Eco-mom shows the way to 'Happy-Go-Local'
Author and mother of three kids under 5 years old Linsly Donnelly shares her tips for taking care of her family and the planet -- while maintaining sanity.