We spoke with Alexis Butler and Sam Stedman, Editor in Chief and Publisher at EcoParent Magazine. EcoParent is a national print magazine filled with advice and inspiration for eco-aspiring and eco-savy parents alike. We found out why they’ve gone print in a digital age, how to be an eco parent on a budget, and why they named their baby Ransom.
What came first, eco or parent?
Sam: Parent. (Though I did try to live a ‘conscientious’ life before…just not with nearly the gusto that I do now!)
Alexis: In my case, I’d say “eco” actually – although, like Sam, the “parent” part certainly raised the stakes! I was always outdoorsy, never drove a car, opted for real food and certainly practiced the 3 R’s. (I was a bit of a neo-hippy in under-grad, too!) But having Ransom brought me back to such issues with new focus, resolve and a commitment that I didn’t previously have.
In a digital age, how can you possible justify starting a print magazine?
Sam: Busted…not! Print is not yet dead, and with a saturated digital landscape, it’s hard for parents to find the trusted resources they need. We’d love to go just digital someday, but the world still needs print. Of course, we do understand the implications of printing tens of thousands of magazines every year – so we print on Canadian-manufactured, 100% post-consumer waste paper stock. It’s literally made from the very paper products that you put into your recycling bin. We also have a fully digital edition, for those who love their tablets and reading online. (Preview the fall 2012 issue)
Alexis: Did Sam really say “Not!”… oh my… I still prefer to write with a pen on paper than to type and stare at a screen. These mediums engage us differently. The bulk of our subscribers opt for print. That says it all.(Get your print or digital copies here!)
What does eco mean to you personally? And what does it mean to your magazine?
Sam: To me, eco is a BIG idea. Not only does it encompass the typical ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ notions that we all know so well, but it’s also about a generalized consciousness toward making things better (hence our slogan: “making better choices happen”).
In terms of the magazine, this means providing the resources and perspective to not only reduce exposure to toxins, and preserve the environment, but also to inspire a new paradigm for how we think about raising the next generation. I like to think that the magazine follows on our own family motto: “Courage. Compassion. Responsibility.”
Alexis: Couldn’t say it any better. I agree 100%. (You can see how well they get along!)
How did you get started in the business? What were your last careers?
Sam: I was feeling quite disillusioned by my career as a university professor (my doctoral work focused on theatre and ethics), and growing downright sad about the day to day of it all. Then we got pregnant. I was underemployed for most of the pregnancy, so I spent my time obsessively researching online, and totally freaking myself out in the process. I’m a darned good researcher, but even I found it challenging to figure out where to find what I was looking for, and who to trust. There was definitely a gap in the flow of information for aspiring green parents in this country. So, we decided to rectify the situation.
Alexis: I’ve been a professional actor for about 20 years and a university and college theatre professor for about half of that. I’m also an OGS & SSHRC awarded Doctoral candidate at the U of Toronto – if I may toot my own little horn just a bit. What I’ve always been most passionate about is helping others learn to think creatively and to challenge their assumptions, habits and preconceptions about the world. I love to think – to learn – to challenge myself intellectually. So, for me, magazines are just a new medium with which to explore and share my greatest passions. That EcoParent is devoted to helping families make better choices, offers me a way to give back as I’ve never been able to before. This is a tremendous gift that I take very seriously.
Can you be an eco parent on a budget?
Sam: Absolutely! Being an EcoParent is just about making the best choices you can under your circumstances. So, if you don’t have a lot of money, that’s okay. Things like cloth diapering will actually SAVE you money, by comparison to disposables, so that’s a no brainer on the cost front. And we really advocate buying less, and buying better, rather than buying all kinds of crap that you don’t really need (which is what most expecting parents do, because we’re told that we need all of this crazy gear, much of which you’ll never use!).
Alexis: DITTO!!! Buy BETTER and BUY LESS – and teach your children to buy less too! This might be the #1 best way to save money, green your family, and to live a better more engaged life while you’re at it. Plus, we all really need to get over the “new toy” phenomena, folks. Share, swap, up-cycle, hand-me-down…. Whatever. If you buy quality it’ll still be worth sharing once you’re done with it – right? I mean, would you rather have tons of pieces-of-junk that cost you tons of $$$, or FREE, quality, hand-me-downs and the bucks to go and do something fun as a family?! No-brainer, indeed…. I digress … My advice? Wait and see what you actually need when you get there – then, if you opt to purchase new, buy quality and plan to pass it on once you’re done with it. This is also an opportunity to have our “stuff” mean something to us once again!
9 months isn’t a lot of time for first time parents to prepare for a new addition. Where’s the best place to start?
Sam: I’d recommend a subscription to EcoParent magazine. And we’ve just launched our new website, with all kinds of green parenting resources.
Alexis: Sam, always the salesman. But he’s right! We genuinely do our best to bring our readers current, useful and doable information and ideas for better, more conscientious living. I would also recommend taking the time to discuss what you really, truly value most as soon-to-be parents, and what kind of a world you want for your child. Then decide upon, and commit to, actionable steps towards getting there. Aim for better – not perfect – but do not compromise on your commitment. This is how we came to our family motto (that Sam mentioned earlier) and to our magazine.
What is the best parenting lesson you’ve learned so far?
Sam: Perfection is not possible. Just do the best you can under the circumstances. Freaking out only makes things worse. And kids pick up on stress – so it’s important to breathe every once in a while.
Alexis: I’m trying to apply that lesson right now, in fact… breathe, Alexis…. Breathe….
What are your 3 favourite baby shower gifts to give?
Sam: Alexis is the gifter extraordinaire in our family unit. I leave this one to her.
Alexis: I’ve actually been to only a handful of showers, believe it or not! Typically, I would opt for: books; art or other handmade items; experiences – not necessarily in that order. A collection of Beatrix Potter books, original art work, or a parent & baby yoga class. I just prefer to let all the layette be someone else’s domain (layette = baby clothes, in case you were wondering too). These are also what I tend to ask for when it comes to Ransom’s birthdays, holidays, etc.
Ok, we need to ask. How did you choose your son’s name?
Sam: We agonized, read thousands of baby names out loud to each other, and finally narrowed it down to Ransom. We liked that it’s arty without the flakey, and macho without the meathead. Perfect for our little cowboy poet.
Alexis: That’s part of it – His name is Ransom Frost, by the way. We went camping for a week or so in the fall of 2010 with the goal of finding his name. We hiked and read names aloud, as Sam says. We both liked Ransom right away. Then 2 things really sealed the deal (& forgive my spookiness here…): 1) We found out that it means “Redeemer – son of Randolph”… my oldest family name is Randolph. I had shivers. 2) His first and middle names are also the last names of 2 very famous American poets – both of whom wrote about nature! John Crowe Ransom, and Robert Frost. It was destiny!
Would you accept advertising dollars from a company that is not eco?
Sam: We’ve really struggled with this question, and I like the answer at which we’ve arrived. For us, it’s not the company, but the product or service. We need to embrace green efforts made at the corporate level, otherwise we’re shooting ourselves in the collective feet. So, we want to advertise products and services that represent ‘better’ options. This obviously requires case-by-case analysis. For example, if General Motors came to us and wanted to advertise their brand in general, we’d have to do the due diligence to see if GM is actually a ‘better’ overall option than its competitors (Ford, Toyota, etc.). But if GM came to us to advertise the Chevy Volt, that’s a very different story – we’d take a look at the Volt in comparison to the baseline profile of typical contemporary mid-size vehicles…and the answer would surely be that the Volt represents a ‘better’ option than the typical car. So, even if GM weren’t ‘best-in-class’ as a brand, we’d accept the ad because of the product in question. We anticipate all kinds of challenging discussions moving forward, as we generate more corporate advertising interest – and we’re ready to adapt and refine our vetting to meet future challenges. (We hope the Chevy Volt gives you a large ad commitment!)
Alexis: Yep – we really mean it. We’ll do our best here because it really does matter. (Find out more about advertising your amazing product or service in Eco Parent Magazine here!).
For more information on EcoParent Magazine, visit them online at ecoparent.ca. Tweet with them @EcoParentMag, and Like them on Facebook too!