Every new parent expects that the birth of their child will be life changing. But when Jennifer Hankey’s second daughter was born with eczema and 19 food allergies, her role as a mother was accompanied by a new mission: to help educate people on making healthier choices in their homes and lives. It was this mission that led Jennifer to create Healthy Green Schools, which provides "green" education to teachers, administrators and parents and helps schools affordably remove toxic chemicals from their establishments.
Jennifer is a regular contributor to news outlets, blogs, and magazines sharing her knowledge and research in the field of natural living. Responding to a gap in the market, Jennifer start Green Queen: Nontoxic Services in 2015, which provides full service natural home care from lawn and pest control to home cleaning.
Jennifer lives in Atlanta with her husband, Brett, and their two daughters.
Without further ado, here are 5 questions with Jennifer Hankey.
Like many women, your interest in natural living started when you were pregnant with your first child and intensified when your second child was born with eczema and food allergies. Many new parents might have relied solely on doctor’s opinions and prescription creams. Were there any other contributing factors that influenced your openness to and curiosity of natural living?
When I was pregnant, I started to think about the foods I was putting in my body and the products I was putting on my body. What were these ingredients on these labels, anyway? When had everything changed to all these chemicals? So I was already on the path when my second daughter was born ill. When Hayden was so sick, it really had me in a crisis mode where I needed to know what was causing her issues. We were given the standard medical advice of steroids and antihistamines. The doctors didn't know what caused eczema and said she may or may not outgrow it. That was it.
I think it's incredibly difficult to do something different than what a doctor advises. With many incredibly respected physicians in my family, I don't discount the importance of a talented and caring physician, or the amazing things that modern medicine can accomplish. But what I learned as a new mom is that when it came to autoimmune issues and chronic health conditions, the medical model offered nothing but immuno-suppressants and never sought to find a cure or the cause. This was non-negotiable for me... to find the cause! Seeking of root cause has really been my driving catalyst.
As an ambassador to natural living, what’s the biggest hurdle you face when talking to a group of individuals who are curious about this lifestyle?
I think a lot of times moms who are more natural are considered super crunchy, or crazy over the top. The vast majority of moms who are interested in learning about more natural living are regular moms who are worried about the chemicals in our products or are sick or have a sick child that has led them to explore more natural options.
Aside from the obvious less exposure to potentially harmful chemicals, what excites you about this industry?
I love that that the “weird crazy healthy moms” are now becoming the “normal” moms! This was my goal all along -- to make more natural options the norm. It shouldn't be the norm to not know what's in your products. The whole thing is about education!
You’ve start an educational program, a natural home services company, and you continue to contribute to the industry through appearances and public speaking events, not to mention having a partner and children. You’re obviously a busy woman! What does self-care mean to you and how do you practice it in your own life?
That's been the hardest part, especially with having such a sick child for so long. I'm just now getting back on track after noticing that my health was taking a toll due to stress. They say stress will kill you faster than anything. It's true. That's why I teach to not overhaul your whole life in a day. Take baby steps that are doable and sustainable. Even if it's just tossing out your traditional dryer sheets... that's a win!
I also love what I do and feel God has taken me down this path to help other moms going through the same thing. Educating, in a lot of ways, is self care for me!
Based on your experience, where do you think the future of natural living is headed? What’s next for this industry?
That is a great question! I do see a lot of huge companies buying out little companies. They know where this industry is headed and are trying to buy their way into the space because they can't recreate their images. The problem is that large corporations are always, first and foremost, worried about their bottom line so reduction in quality and even reformulations are inevitable.
I hope this industry continues to support the local, small business movement. I believe consumers will continue to buy from people and companies they can trust. For now, at least, it is easy to be “tricked.” But the power of moms is the greatest power on the planet. We vote with our dollars. And when moms tell companies “do better,” it will be heard!