DIGHTON — A nonprofit dedicated to informing women about the importance of purchasing everyday household products free from harmful chemicals is hoping to establish a presence in town.
Dighton resident Margie McNally will be in charge of the town’s Savvy Women’s Alliance chapter, which is set to hold its first meeting on April 23 at 7 p.m. at the Dighton Public Library.
Savvy Women’s Alliance Executive Director and Easton resident Kristi Marsh founded the nonprofit as a means of helping to introduce women to what is known as the “environmental health movement,” which calls for consumers to move away from using and purchasing products that contain materials that are potentially toxic to humans.
“As I learned and made changes in my own home and with my family, I wanted to take it to another level,” said Marsh, describing the lifestyle changes she made amid a battle with breast cancer at the age of 35.
“I wanted to take action to eliminate these chemicals for good, but I needed support in figuring out how to do that. This is why I launched Savvy.”
According to Marsh, the organization as a whole works to combine online social forums with “real face-to-face” interactions among members at its chapters set up in communities across the country.
So far, there are more than a dozen Alliance chapters in states including Arizona, California and Rhode Island, according to the nonprofit’s website.
Dighton’s Alliance chapter is one of 10 in Massachusetts, mostly based in the MetroWest and South Shore region.
Along with its work to introduce concerned individuals to the environmental health movement, the nonprofit’s chapters also organize local events such as workshops and clean-ups, including one along the Charles River organized by Holliston’s chapter scheduled for later this month.
McNally, 62, said that she plans to start off Dighton’s chapter meetings by introducing attendees to the goals of the Savvy Women’s Alliance, possibly by reading Marsh’s book “Little Changes” or hosting workshops and guest speakers.
“When (Marsh) started the alliance, I wanted to do a chapter at the time but never got around to it. I recently moved to Dighton and got notifications about new chapters opening and decided to start one,” she said.
“There aren’t a whole lot of signups right now, so I’m not sure how many people we’ll be having…the meeting will be to introduce people to the local place where they can go for information and also for us to hear what people are looking for in the chapter.”
Having worked as an interior design consultant specializing in “healthy” design choices (such as using paints without volatile organic compounds) since the early 1990s, McNally has also worked as a licensed interior designer at Interior Elements during that time emphasizing sustainability, resource efficiency and good indoor environmental quality.
In addition, McNally, who is LEED certified, teaches an online course for the lighting trade industry as an adjunct faculty member at Boston Architectural College focusing on energy efficiency, facility audits and controls.
“People used to say I was ahead of my time with what I was talking about in the nineties,” she said.
McNally said that the advice offered through the Alliance mainly encourages members to substitute potentially harmful products (such as plastic cups) with ones that are manufactured with materials proven to be safer for humans (for example, glass and stainless steel).
Based on her own work in interior design, McNally said that healthy choices should also be made when considering one’s living conditions and how they can impact both physical and mental health.
For instance, McNally said that the wrong lighting setup in one’s home could have a negative impact on their 24-hour circadian rhythm, also known as the biological clock.
“You assume some of these products are OK just because they’re on the shelves…(The Alliance) offers lots of little tips for household and everyday healthy living,” she said.
“I suffered with asthma as a young adult and I believe by changing my environment and product choices, I overcame it.”
Like Marsh, McNally has had her own experiences with cancer in her family. Her father passed away at the age of 59 from lung cancer and her mother is a breast cancer survivor.
While undergoing treatment for her cancer in 2006, Marsh became aware of what she describes as the links between toxic chemicals in certain products and negative health effects that include reproductive harm, developmental problems and infertility, among others, she said.
Marsh said that in the average American home, women make approximately 85 percent of consumer decisions, which is why the nonprofit is geared specifically towards them as opposed to men.
“I designed the Savvy Women’s Alliance to nurture women’s strengths to truly make changes in their own lives and the lives of their families on a bigger scale,” said Marsh.
McNally said that she believes the information promoted by the nonprofit is important for all to hear and invites both men and women to join the new Dighton chapter.
McNally and Marsh first met in 2008 when they were serving together on a board for the Project Green Schools organization.
“I’m always logging into Savvy to work with Kristi and recently decided I wanted to do something more local to help out,” said McNally.
“Let’s educate people and open it up to those looking to protect themselves, because I truly believe a lot of (health conditions) are affected by what we use in our everyday lives.”