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About Small Footprint Family
“In our way of life, in our government, with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the Seventh Generation to come. It’s our job to see that the people coming ahead, the generations still unborn, have a world no worse than ours and hopefully better.
When we walk upon Mother Earth we always plant our feet carefully because we know the faces of our future generations are looking up at us from beneath the ground. We never forget them.”
—Oren Lyons, Iroquois tribal leader
Welcome to Small Footprint Family™!
Our goal is to empower and inspire you with the tools and ideas you need to reduce your family’s resource footprint so that you can save money, consume less, produce more, and live a more meaningful, healthy and sustainable life.
The first step in creating a more sustainable, just, and healthy world is in becoming conscious of the personal choices we make (and don’t make), and their effect on the lives of our children and grandchildren.
In other words: Sustainability starts at home.
On this site you will find tons of information about:
saving money while conserving water, energy, oil, trees and other natural resources;
whole food nutrition and eco friendly food choices (including tons of grain-free and dairy-free recipes);
DIY and sustainable family living;
non-toxic homes and natural healthcare;
gardening, homesteading and permaculture, and
giveaways and discounts on the healthiest and greenest products, classes and books.
Plus, we have a neat little Sustainability Shop where you can find green living products that will make a big difference for your health, your wallet, and the planet.
We also recently published a highly-regarded e-book where you will find hundreds of tips, tricks and inspiring ideas that will help you save you thousands of dollars while living a simpler, more sustainable life.
Our aim is to give you the resources you need to make powerful choices that improve your health and well-being— and thereby the health and well-being of the only planet we’ve been blessed with.
Be sure to sign up for my monthly blog update so you don’t miss any exciting new articles, recipes, gardening tips or giveaways for great eco-friendly products! You’ll also get a free chapter from my e-book!
My name is Dawn, and my main occupation is currently Mama to a beautiful, 5-year-old girl we call Babyzilla (because of her awesome T-Rex impression), partner to a dedicated and creative man we call Papa, and a primary caregiver for my mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s. But this was not always so.
In my former, work-a-day life, I was a Master Gardener and Master Composter, horticulture teacher and extension agent, as well as a certified arborist and Permaculture designer.
I founded one of the first greenroof companies and social enterprises in the nation, and have spent most of the last 15 years developing award-winning workforce training programs for “green-collar” environmental jobs in tree care, low-impact development, sustainable landscaping, and urban agriculture.
My company was sponsored by the USDA, the EPA, the D.C., Virginia and Maryland governments, the Ford Foundation, the Aspen Institute, and more, as well as featured in The Washington Post, American Gardener magazine, the Washington Business Journal, and other publications. I was at the top of my game.
But everything changed after I had my daughter.
Chasing a Mystery
After a stressful, vomit-filled pregnancy that culminated in a challenging, 63-hour home birth, the “new mom exhaustion” I experienced after giving birth to Babyzilla just never went away.
In fact, it grew worse and worse as the months of breastfeeding progressed, until in her seventh month, I grew so ill that just the act of getting up to go to the bathroom would give me frightening heart palpitations, spots before my eyes, and shortness of breath.
I ended up mostly bed- or couchridden for almost five years. My digestive system quit working properly, my detox system sputtered out turning my skin yellowish and blotchy and covered in cysts and rashes. My hair went very gray, very fast. And, as you might imagine, I felt as lost and depressed as I have ever felt in my life.
I even lost a tooth as my reserves depleted more and more. It crumbled right out of my mouth.
Meanwhile, my newborn daughter developed severe colic, terrible poop issues, horrible eczema, and cried unconsolably from about 7pm to midnight, every night.
As a researcher by trade, I began frantically looking for possible solutions, and I learned that, because my digestion was so compromised, she could be allergic to foods that I had eaten because their poorly digested proteins were in my breastmilk.
Over the course of a couple of months, I eliminated and reintroduced dozens of foods and food groups into my diet in search of the secret combination that would eventually stop the awful pain in my dear baby’s gut and skin.
It turns out Babyzilla was sensitive to almost everything I liked to eat most! Finally I found the answer to her miserable colic, eczema and green poop, but it required eliminating anything artificially flavored or colored, all grains, all dairy, most tropical fruits and nuts, soy and most beans, cane sugar, most fish and seafood, onions and garlic, celery, and a handful of other odd things.
And, as I cut these foods out of my diet so they wouldn’t be in my breastmilk, Babyzilla’s colic and her horrible eczema rapidly disappeared. Just like that.
And to my surprise, I discovered that I felt a lot better without those foods too, and enough of my energy and health returned that I could get out of bed and do a few chores every day. Just like that.
But living the rest of our lives on such a restricted diet was just not acceptable to me, and while no longer strictly bedridden, I still had less than half of my usual energy back.
Mainstream medicine had nothing to useful to me but diagnostic testing. I didn’t want drugs or creams because I knew they wouldn’t work. I had to learn why we were allergic to everything, why my gut was leaky as a sieve, and why I barely had enough energy to pump my heart if I ate or did the wrong things. As a gardener to the core, I wanted to get to the root of things.
I had to learn to cook and I had to learn to heal.
Thus began our real food journey.
Because my daughter has severe food intolerances, I have chronic fatigue, and my mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s, I have come to truly understand why Hippocrates said that food is the first medicine.
My “early retirement” forced me to put most of my precious energy into learning to deeply, restoratively nourish myself and my family, remove all toxins from our home, and sustain my household without my former income.
This means my environmental expertise and passion have necessarily shifted from the public sphere to home and hearth.
Sustainability starts at home, after all.
In the third year of my illness, after seeing dozens of practitioners who told me it was “all in my head” or that they could not help me, I was finally accurately diagnosed with a genetic disorder present in about 10-20% of the population called pyroluria, which, untreated, causes chronic fatigue, exhausted adrenals and fried mitochondria.
But treatment was only moderately successful. Something was still missing…
Finally, in August of 2013, an angel of a nutritionist who practices Nutritional Balancing found the root cause of all that ailed me: Copper poisoning.
Most of us have too much copper in our bodies, causing a wide array of minor health problems. But for me, the combination of years of a high-stress life, a low-zinc vegetarian diet, prenatal vitamins, copper water pipes, pyroluria, coloring my hair, and other lifestyle factors, I had so much copper in my body that my heart literally couldn’t generate enough energy to pump the blood required to hold my body upright, my mind was increasingly losing its grip on reality, and my organs were slowly shutting down.
Copper toxicity also explained my daughter’s colic and severe food allergies.
In a few more years, without adequate treatment, I would have died!
My daughter and I have begun Nutritional Balancing treatment for pyroluria, copper toxicity and healthy mineral restoration, and she and I are now finally—gratefully—on our way to a careful, slow recovery.
I believe the paradigm of “better living through chemistry” is an arrogant folly that denies our inherent interdependence with all things and our natural birthright to healthy food and a clean environment.
Food should come from farms and forests, not from factories.
We are on a first name basis with the market farmers who grow our food, we belong to a CSA, and we also grow as much of our own as we can. We value whole, organic, local food, pasture-raised animal products, and traditional fats. And I will show you how to grow, purchase and use these important foods in your own home.
I am still working the copper out of my system, and healing my burned out adrenals, and I genuinely don’t have the energy to do a lot of cooking. Nevertheless, I must offer nutrient-dense, allergen-free, whole food meals to help heal my family. So, you’ll find that the majority of my recipes are in-season, very nutritious, and simple and quick to prepare—which is how we like to eat. I bet you do too.
All recipes are grain and soy free, and the majority of them are Paleo/Primal, GAPS-legal and/or raw vegan. I offer grain-free, dairy-free Paleo meal plans too.
Like many modern, “green” American families, my family aspires to live in an eco-friendly, “off-grid” home powered by renewable energy. Toward that end, I will show you tons of ways to make your home less toxic and more resource efficient too.
We used cloth diapers, keep our money in a credit union, buy a lot less, and reuse and produce a lot more. We can’t imagine life without an organic garden and compost pile, and we choose nutritional and alternative therapies over pharmaceutical drugs whenever possible. Many of my articles will show you how and why you might want to do the same.
I sincerely hope you enjoy what you read, and maybe even take something away that creates more abundance in your own life.