June 4, 2009 at 8:51 a.m.
WEI staffers, who continually work at developing environmentally-friendly programs such as a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, decided there was a void in educational programming being offered.
"We were aware of the need to reduce toxic exposures to children and families, so the idea of bringing home the initiative through home parties seemed to be a natural one," EcoAware Project Coordinator Connie Minowa said.
Minowa and WEI colleague Emily Moore began hosting parties in 2007, and the program has grown ever since.
EcoAware parties are free of charge, in large part due to sponsorship from WEI and The Healthy Legacy campaign. They are hosted by either Minowa or Moore at a personal residence, community center, business, or anywhere the host would like.
Participants who attend will learn five simple steps to follow to keep their homes and families healthier: avoid pesticide use, cleaning safely, helping children breath easier, providing healthy food and using plastic wisely.
"Hosting a party is very simple," Minowa said. "You could think of it as a potluck, only with a presenter."
Minowa said they speak with party hosts about inviting friends and family members for an hour or so of social time before sitting down and listening to the eco-aware presentation.
EcoAware parties appeal to all ages, but may be particularly timely for people with children. Minowa said baby showers are a perfect setting for introducing safer products in the home, and finding eco-friendly alternatives for everything from cleaning products to groceries.
"We'd like to give these presentations to parents, child care providers, ECFE groups, healthcare providers, school officials and community leaders," Minowa said. "We want to make an impact where it's most helpful to the families and communities that need it."
The parties have been very well-received, both in the Chisago Lakes area and greater Minnesota. Generally, Minowa concentrates on presenting at parties in outstate Minnesota, while Moore attends parties in the metro area.
"Participants come away from these events feeling empowered to make changes and keep their families healthy," Minowa said. "They have more tools in their toolkit and are confident that they can effect their children's environment for the better."
The Women's Environmental Institute also leads The North Circle Project at its farm campus in Almelund. The project seeks ways to put more money back into small organic farms through new, collaborative business strategies to attract consumers to buy locally grown organic food and promote value-added products.
WEI currently has nine part-time staff, three seasonal staff, several interns, seven board members, and many volunteers and supporters.
For more information on hosting an EcoAware party, call Minowa or Moore at: 651-209-3934 ext. 4, or visit the Women's Environmental Institute website at: www.w-e-i.org.