RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Explorer Alexandra Cousteau has embarked on many expeditions, her first when she was just 4 months old, with her father, Phillipe Cousteau (son of legendary explorer Jacques Cousteau). For the last several years, she's been crisscrossing the planet, helping people make the connection between water issues and human health. But in just a few weeks, Cousteau will begin the biggest journey of her life—she'll bring her first baby into the world.
And if the plans play out, Alexandra and her husband will start exploring with their new child in no time. "The plan is to keep on going once she's here. Once she's a few months old and strong enough to go with me, I'll just strap her to my back, and with the support of my husband, mom, and team, keep moving," Cousteau says, who adds that Belize will likely be the first adventure together as a new family. Her own earliest memories involve growing up with more than a dozen people caring for her, helping cooks at the table, and seeing animals from a Jeep during African safaris. "Going up on expedition and traveling is a really special way to grow up—the camaraderie and the sense of purpose and adventure," she says. "It's part of why I do what I do today. It feels like home."
Alexandra Cousteau is expecting a baby girl in the
next few weeks. In the meantime, she's eating organic
and choosing nontoxic baby products.
But from now until delivery, Cousteau will resist the urge to visit these exotic places and is settling in at home base, in Washington, DC. While she has always been an advocate for natural living, since Cousteau learned of her pregnancy, the explorer says she's been paying even closer attention into what goes into her home and her body. And that's a tough task, given the recent data finding more than 250 industrial chemicals in newborns. "Babies are marinated in those chemicals as they become little people," she says. "I think that's something every mother should consider in every choice that she makes."
In each purchase she makes (and she says she's not going overboard), Cousteau aims to make sure the product will be good for her baby—and the planet. Here are some things she is doing to help make sure both mother and child are as healthy as possible:
• Veering away from VOCs. When searching for a crib, Cousteau looked for wood sourced from sustainably managed forests (Forest Stewardship Council, or FSC, is a good option). With baby furniture, she looked for items made of untreated wood. To prevent toxic exposure from formaldehyde, toluene, and other VOCs, she looked for solid wood items. If anything contained glue, she made sure it was nontoxic. (As a general tip, avoid items made of pressed woods like plywood or particleboard.) She also chose no-VOC paint for the nursery.
• Eating an organic farm-based diet. Cousteau is a member of a community-supported agriculture program, a CSA, meaning she gets a box of organic produce each week. To round out her home menu, she taps the Farmer's Market at Dupont Circle on Sundays. When she's eating on the run, she likes Sweetgreen and Java Green, sandwich and salad shops that source local and sustainable meats, fruits, and produce. "I've become even more careful about making sure what I eat is healthy and balanced—that means the meat I eat doesn't have steroids, hormones, or antibiotics," says Cousteau. "It's not industrially farmed."
• Cutting out fish. While not a huge fish-eater in the first place—she says she prefers to see them in the water, not on the plate—Cousteau decided to completely cut fish out of her diet once she became pregnant. "When you know what's in our oceans [contaminants] and making its way into the fish we eat, it didn't seem like a reasonable choice to feed that to a baby," she says. (Cousteau is supplementing her diet with a fish oil made from wild-caught Alaskan salmon, which is low in contaminants and high in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids important for a baby's development.)