VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers


Tip #6 for Our 44th President: Listen to Your Mother-In-Law

by Emily Main

Based on the interview he gave to 60 Minutes after he was elected, Obama doesn’t really need to be told this. Still, it’s great that his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson, is moving in to the White House with the rest of the family, and he should take advantage of all she can offer.

Grandmothers and mothers-in-law have always been valuable sources of advice for all things green, having grown up during a less wasteful era when conservation was key and waste was a sin. If it weren’t for my grandmothers, it would never have occurred to me to use cardboard toilet-paper rolls as extension-cord organizers or food scraps as fertilizer.

In honor of these wise women, we’ve compiled a list of some of the nation’s former First Ladies (and grandmothers and mothers-in-law) and their contributions to a better planet.

Abigail Adams: Her green contribution: line drying laundry in the White House’s East Room. Yes, that was standard practice in a pre-clothes-dryer world, but if all of us followed Mrs. Adams’ example, we’d cut our fossil-fuel-dependent energy use by 4 percent.

Edith Wilson: In 1918, the second First Lady of Woodrow Wilson decided to bring a flock of sheep to the White House both to provide wool, which she auctioned off to support the war effort, and to keep the lawn trimmed. Of course, gas-powered lawn mowers hadn’t been invented then either, but even today, it’s a great form of organic lawn care. And with all that wool, you’ll be able to turn the thermostat down a few degrees in winter.

Lou Hoover: While her husband may not have a great reputation for how he handled the economy, Mrs. Hoover was an avid nature lover (she earned a geology degree from Stanford), and she was heavily involved in the Girl Scouts, getting girls to love the outdoors as much as she did. This year, along with “Take Your Daughters to Work Day,” institute a “Take Your Daughters on a Walk Day” and get them excited about science and the environment.

Eleanor Roosevelt: The woman who planted the first Victory Garden, on the White House grounds in 1943, faced serious objections from the USDA and agriculture industry, who complained that she was hurting food sales. Her reasons for the garden were patriotic, but it’s green, too: Growing your own food (and knowing which pesticides, if any, were used, and how many miles, or feet, it traveled from garden to table) is an eco-friendly habit we can all adopt. You can sign a petition encouraging the new President and First Lady to start an organic food garden at www.eattheview.org.

Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson: She may be best known for her efforts to decorate the nation’s highways with wildflowers and native plants (which foster biodiversity, feed the soil and contribute a number of other environmental benefits to the landscape). But Ms. Johnson lobbied her husband quite extensively for better environmental protections, like air-pollution controls, and against destructive practices like strip mining. Plant a wildflower in her honor this spring.

Hillary Clinton: Technically, she’s neither a grandmother nor a mother-in-law, but she’s still made (and continues to make) major moves on the environmental front as First Lady, Senator and now Secretary of State. She was recently involved in establishing the New York Partnership for a Green Afghanistan, an initiative to replant trees to revitalize Afghanistan’s orchards, nurseries, woodlots and greenbelts. Planting trees, says Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai, is the best thing any of us can do to help foster a healthier planet.

Laura Bush: Our last First Lady incorporated green elements into the Bushes’ Crawford ranch, which was built in 2000, including geothermal heating and cooling and permeable landscaping that allows rainwater to be recycled as irrigation water. If you can’t remodel your home or re-do your landscaping, you can still incorporate some energy-saving habits into your daily routine, or save water by collecting your “warm-up” water to use on plants.


  1. fang
    July 23, 2010, 6:35 am

    we offer ghd hair straighteners online,
    happy shopping mbt shoes
    and cheap nfl jerseys, max 90 and
    air max 95 are hot sell recenltly,
    welcome to come to our website, soccer jerseys for world cup
    and ghd iv styler enjoy much discount

  2. dressing
    June 18, 2010, 11:40 am

    Dresses, evening, cocktail, prom dresses, formal gowns from eiDress. Homecoming dresses and bridesmaid.
    discount Evening Dresses
    Prom dresses, evening wear, daywear and accessories from celebrity designers and exclusive ranges. Buy online or visit our prom dresses stores
    prom dresses
    discount prom dresses
    New Style Moncler,Moncler jackets,Moncler coats online
    Moncler coats
    Moncler jackets,Moncler,Moncler coats,Moncler vest,discount Moncler outlet, moncler polot shirt Moncler Men Moncler Women Moncler Children Moncler Hats.
    Moncler Jackets
    UK Moncler

  3. joup
    June 18, 2010, 4:27 am

    cbvgjhdrgtf dfg Buy cheap Links of London jewellery at online links of london store,links of london, links of london sweetie bracelet, links of london bracelet, link of london limited edition
    links of london
    links london
    links of london charms
    Links of London Jewelry online store. Buy cheap Links of London jewellery at CooLinks UK store, including Links of London.
    tiffany jewelry
    Choose, buy and shop for on sale tiffany jewelry including Tiffany & Co Silver Necklace, Pendants, Bangles, Bracelets, Earrings, Rings and Accessories.
    tiffany co
    tiffany and co
    UK Tiffany Jewellery Sale Outlet provides designer Tiffany Ring, necklaces and other jewelry in wholesale price. UK Tiffany specializes in
    Tiffany Bracelets,
    tiffany jewellery

  4. Linda
    June 7, 2010, 3:08 am

    Yes Jake I agree with you. But not all mother-in-laws are as bad as you say. Since they are elder, they have more experience than us and in some ways they are right.
    Chicago Movers

  5. jake
    May 3, 2010, 11:01 am

    not really. the mother-in-law is not a good person usually