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Beyond the Organic: A Safer Home for Our Kids

Before the Hamptons welcomes Healthy Child Healthy World’s first summer luncheon, DuJour chats with CEO Gigi Lee Chang

Any parent knows that the health of their child is of the highest importance, but in a city like New York—where ultra-convenient lifestyles thrive—the tools, resources and valuable information needed to keep them safe aren’t always as easily accessible as the nearest Whole Foods. More than ever, parents want to protect their children from toxic chemicals and other harmful substances found in their food, their toys and their own home, and Healthy Child Healthy World, a non-profit on the scene for over 20 years, is empowering parents with the knowledge to do so by raising awareness, translating the science and identifying healthier habits.

The organization is heading to the Hamptons on August 20 for its inaugural summer luncheon, bringing together over 150 like-minded tastemakers, parents and influencers including moms Molly Sims, Kelly Rutherford and Tiffani Thiessen. DuJour recently chatted with Gigi Lee Chang, CEO of the organization and a New York mother herself, to find out what’s in store.

How did you get involved with HCHW?

I came to hear about the organization eight years ago when I was starting my own company. I had founded an organic food company, which was and continues to be a supporter of the organization. And then about three years ago, I joined the board of directors. Then last year, we had a transition in leadership so they asked me to step in and be the CEO.

How have you seen the work of HCHW grow since your start up until this point?

I think that in the earlier days of the organization, there was more focus on advocacy and legislation. And in recent years, there’s been much more of a push towards educating parents. I think we’ve come to realize that that’s how you really create change. You want to give parents the tools so they can feel empowered to take action, and through those actions, you can affect the marketplace.

It’s kind of this push-pull where certain organizations focus on the legislative and the advocacy piece—the push side—and then we focus on the consumer education so they demand different products, better regulation and more control to pull the market. You really need both, and we found that for us, with the voice that we have and the history being started by two parents, we  wanted to focus there.

This is HCHW’s first Hamptons luncheon. What’s the idea behind it?

The organization, historically, was started in the L.A. area and our headquarters are still in L.A., but in the last three or four years, we’ve gotten more of a New York base. So we wanted to have an event where we can bring together our supporters and highlight the organization, because you can do a lot of things virtually, but people always like an event. And then summer in the Hamptons is just such a natural [idea].

So are you seeing more and more people New York with similar values?

In New York, there are people who are aware and this-way minded, but there’s not as many as say, Los Angeles.

Why do you think that is?

I think generally it’s the New York lifestyle. We’re not so close to nature, we’re not in mid-70 degree weather everyday, 360 days a year. So people aren’t thinking about these issues as much as when you have a garden or you have access to the outdoors. I think also New York convenience plays a larger role than anything. For example, if you’re out of dish soap and your local bodega doesn’t have [anything non-toxic], you’re just going to buy what’s there because you need dish soap. It’s just convenient.

The flip side is that there are people with similar values here, but there hasn’t been a way to bring them together. I’ve met a lot of people here who have always lived this lifestyle. One of our hosts, she’s in the fashion world, and her parents are big fashion people, and she’s one of the most committed, dedicated people. She makes her own home cleaner. You wouldn’t have necessarily thought that, but when I first met her, it was just one of those things where she was just like, You’re my people!

There’s going to be a panel at the event. Are there any hot topics right now that you’re hoping will be discussed?

We have four really great panelists. Each of them will really cover their own topics, so we’re going to talk about food, allergens and GMOs, which is a hot topic as we start going into fall. There’s sort of this catch-22 that people think if you have allergies, you need to keep things extra clean, but often times the cleaners themselves have ingredients that can be irritants and can also trigger allergies, so I think that’s really important for people to realize.

Then we have somebody who’s going to talk about beauty and personal care. Sixty percent of what’s put on your skin is absorbed into your bloodstream, which is another important thing to realize. For example, the EU has banned 1,300 chemicals from being used in cosmetics. Guess how many the U.S. has banned? Eleven. Just another example of important things we don’t realize.

Click here for more details and ticket info for the Healthy Child Healthy World Summer Luncheon on August 20.