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30 Minutes with Anna Clark

For Dallas-native Anna Clark, recycling the Sunday paper is good but not good enough. As the author of Green, American Style and the president of EarthPeople, a sustainability communications firm, Anna has successfully turned her passion for green living into a lifestyle and a livelihood. We recently caught up with the mom of two (Jordan, 8, and Ryan, 6) in her LEED Platinum certified home (only the second in Dallas) to chat about motherhood, career and going green. Here’s what she had to say:
 
What’s your parenting style? 
I’m really relaxed. I let the kids make decisions and make mistakes. I’m not a helicopter mom. I try to lead by example. I’ve noticed that they follow what I do. When I don’t turn out the lights, they come to me and say, “Why didn’t you do that?” It reminds me that they’re learning all the time. If we’re inconsistent with the small things, it’s a missed opportunity. 
 
Is there anything you do for yourself to stay sane? Any hobbies or indulgences?
I think my hobby is my work. That’s my passion. I’m also the co-chair of the Dallas Interfaith Power and Light group. I do a lot of work as an advisor for organizations that are interested in sustainability initiatives. I do kickboxing. I love going to the art museum; that’s my escape. I sometimes see movies – if I can stay awake. I enjoy drinking wine. 
 
Did you always want a career in the green sector?
My dream was to go into diplomacy or something international. I did an internship at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina after college, but then I got married and knew that that wasn’t going to be realistic. So I did a lot of other things up until 2005 when I had this awakening about the environment – the same year I had my daughter. 
 
What triggered the awakening?
It was like a lightning bolt experience. I had been interested in the environment; I just hadn’t been doing much about it. I started reading and there was an article in Sierra magazine about the melting polar region, specifically about a mother walrus who was trying to help her cub get up on the ice floe but the ice floe was breaking and melting. As a new mom, it was completely heartbreaking. I was struck. I started wondering, “Why is this happening?” Then I realized that – as a consumer – I was contributing. It got me started on a journey of learning how to stop being a consumer and start being a sustainer. 
 
What do you do to stay green? 
I chose to run my business out of my home, which anyone can do. It kept me in the neighborhood. I realized I had to start orienting my life locally, because that is a core tenant of sustainability, keeping it local. 
 
Instead of spending our money on stuff that we’re going to throw away, we go to the Dallas Museum of Art. We go to the Dallas World Aquarium. We go to the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park. We try to make it to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. I’m trying to teach my children to get excited about activities and experiences rather than material items. 
 
We compost. We rinse things out. I try to encourage the kids to eat natural things. A lot of it is typical healthy principles that any mom uses. I also use cleaning products in refillable bottles. It’s not terribly complex stuff. I try to cook a lot of vegetarian. I limit meat intake, but we do eat meat in this family. I think what’s encouraging is the small things. For instance, if every American would reduce their meat intake by just 10 percent they’d be much healthier and we’d have a lot of food left over for others. 
 
Do you get any pushback from the kids?
I can’t say that it’s 100-percent effective yet. They still like to go to the gift shop more than anything. As much as I try to strip them of the impulse to consume, it’s in us and we just have to learn. I try not to expose them to advertising; we try to turn off commercials. We have a small garden patch outside. I found that even a small garden plot teaches them the principles of agriculture. 
 
If you had to choose, what would you say is your proudest achievement thus far?
Well other than having the kids, which should be obvious … I think writing a book. That was pretty exciting. 
 
For more on EarthPeople and Anna’s book Green, American Style visit earthpeopleco.com.
 
Published September 2013