Welcome to another episode of “10 Words or Less,” in which I ask brief questions of interesting people and ask brief answers in return. I met today’s guest when I attended her session at a green expo years ago, and she's come into my view often enough that I knew we should talk, so here we are. She’s an author, an advocate for personal eco-consciousness and action, and recognized speaker. Remember, “10 Words” is an ethic, not a limit, so to those of you at home, please, no counting. If you think it’s so easy, let’s see you do it, especially on the fly.
[This is an edited version of this interview, conducted on video March 10.]
Name Kristi Marsh
Born when, where Portland, Oregon, in 1970. Soon after, I moved to California, where I was raised in Sacramento. Spent some time back up in the state of Washington, and then I've spent the last 20 years here south of Boston.
Family circumstance "I am raising a family. From 2 to midnight, I’m a stay-at-home mom, raising three teenagers. My husband is in retail."
Occupation "I’m an educator of mainstream women who are curious and want to learn more about this whole movement about how the products we bring into our homes can have an impact on our health."
What did you want to be when you grew up? "A Rockette. That didn’t work out. An animal trainer at an amusement park. That didn’t work out. By the time I was a teen, I realized I had a connection toward training. In college I studied human resources, and went into the world of retail as a trainer at Target and a beauty-industry store in malls. That’s where I found this connection to be working with women and bringing them along in a process.
An early influence outside your immediate family The outdoors. From camping, to being raised as a preteen having a horse as my sense of independence."
A hero today, also outside your immediate family "I spent most of my life knowing the name Rachel Carson, but it wasn’t until my late 30s that I learned more about who Rachel Carson was, as an author, as a scientist, as an advocate for women. I read ‘Silent Spring' and I know that it is an impactful book on my generation, but being raised in my generation, I had no idea what it was about. Once I read it and learned more about Rachel Carson’s legacy, i think it influences me greatly. I have deep admiration and respect for the change she created, not only in the 1960s, but the ripples it created throughout the 1970s."
What’s your book called, and how can people get it? “'Little Changes, Tales of a Reluctant Home Ecomomics Pioneer.' It is a paperback on any normal online paperback site. It’s also an e-book. And it can also be purchased directly through choosewiser.com."
Something you like about being an author "The interaction with readers. I wrote 'Little Changes’ in a very humble way to try to resonate with readers, to really connect with them, and after they read, or during, and they reach out to me with an e-mail, that’s what it’s all about for me."
Something you don’t like "Writing. I don’t care for it. I find it very painful."
A skill you never expected to have "Speaking. I joined Toastmasters about 9 years ago, to find out if I even had what it takes to speak. And an incredible journey unfolded form there. Since then, I’ve been asked to speak at Boston University, Purdue University, national conferences, and at the Senate building in Washington, D.C. It’s been pretty amazing."
An unexpected outcome of your cancer "Coming out the other end of chemotherapy provided me with a different sensation of letting go how people view me, and really sticking to the core inside parts of me. Having to wear a headscarf due to toxins being put into my body, you learn to rely on your inner true self."
Please define sustainability "In my world, understanding how the environment around us impacts our bodies, and then trying to make decisions as a consumer about the products we bring into out our home. That can spread out to a zillion different paths — everything from the ingredients in cosmetics, to the foods we choose, to containers such as plastic, and how they interact with our bodies and our health."
How do most people define it, do you think? "In the evolution of our generation, we started to think about how our decisions are impacting our environment, kind the reverse of what I just said. in terms of recycling, resources, and what we’re using, and how that affects us. This isn’t taking it to a different level, it’s just a different way of viewing it. When I think of the limited recourse and how we affect the world at large, it can be overwhelming, and I’m not sure the impact that just I can have. But when I look at the impact I can have on the health of me and my family, it’s a little more satisfying.
What did Michelle Obama thank you for? "When I was invited to speak at a press conference in the Senate building, to press an ongoing struggle in our government on toxin reform, on the idea that we don’t have enough information on harmful chemicals that are in our products. As I was able to make a presentation, and then spend the day talking to senators, I left a copy of 'Little Changes' in all the Senate offices. I left one in my home senator’s office with a special note to our first lady. Everyone around me giggled and laughed, but I thought, 'what could it hurt?' A few weeks later, I received a call from the first lady’s office asking for my address, and a note followed, thanking me for my efforts."
Read or watch? “Read."
Hike or swim? “Hike."
A crowd or alone? “Yes. I'm very much both of those."
Someone who deserves more attention "Our teens. In my line of work, educating moms and women, it’s a struggle knowing our teens are impacted more by all the social pressures of the world and from their friends than they are by us, and we often give up on educating them. It’s easy to give up and hand them over to the world, but I think we need to keep our hearts open."
Something that people don’t understand "Endocrine disrupters."
Wow, that’s a good one. Tell me more. "Within my generation, we have really started to unfold this topic, that chemicals and ingredients can behave like hormones in our bodies. Hormones have very important jobs, but when we have excessive ones or influences of them in our bodies, it manipulates our bodies. This is an unfolding topic right here and now, and I wish every woman and mom knew this so they could take action."
The change you want to see “That we’re advocates for our own bodies. I believe over the '60s and '70s and ‘80s, we became very trusted and branded, because it was easy, convenient, and helpful to be able to trust. But we’re shifting back to the other side now, where we have to be advocates for our own bodies."
A change you think might still be coming to you "I have been a very amazing journey with Choose Wiser of the last almost 10 years, But I know my greatest impact is still ahead.”