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As a child, I was quite the environmental activist. I paraded around my neighborhood with my “Save the Whales” poster, frequently checked our faucets and toilets for leaks and was horrified at our city’s lack of recycling resources. Then I became a teenager.

Flash forward to my life as a parent, when I realized that my choices, actions and attitude now affected the world times three (then four, then five). And I started to care again. But more than that, I had an interest in protecting my family from the harsh chemicals that contaminate our food, air, water and homes.

I am by no means an expert and I have a lot more to learn but here are some of the efforts my family is making:

Recycle

This is probably the easiest way to get started. Paper, plastic and glass goes in their own bins in the house and then out to the blue recycle can. My son has become more involved (read: pushy) about this since he started kindergarten. (Heads up, preschool moms!)

Reuse

If there is an option, we try to always go reusable. If we get plastic bags from the store, we use them for trash bags (I have yet to hear of an alternative to using trash bags) but we try to remember to bring our own cloth bags. In fact, I’ve become somewhat of a collector and have bags from just about every store in the Valley, and then some. I even made my own bag using a grocery bag as a pattern.

Some other ideas:

  • Use reusable water bottles, especially stainless steel.
  • Give cloth diapers a try. Find more information on this trend here.
  • Put items in your home to a different use.
  • Keep plastic food jars to store leftovers, LEGOs or crayons.
  • I use those big, Coscto-sized Ziploc boxes to organize papers and other items.
  • See if an artist or crafter in your area can use your baby food jars for mixed paints, buttons or beads.
  • Find new homes for your old toys and clothing. Many local families are in need of these items!
  • Use the backs of old schoolwork, flyers and office papers for coloring paper. My kids go through stacks of paper when they’re allowed to so I usually set a limit and then let them work through scrap paper but I encourage the use of their new (re-purposed train table) chalk table.

Garden

Buying your produce in-season and from local sources whenever possible reduces the number of miles your food will travel and the volume of resources used getting it to you. To make an even bigger impact, grow your own produce. I would say that this may not be possible for everyone, but hey, we live on a college campus in the desert. If we can do it, so can you. Not only will a garden greatly reduce your family’s carbon footprint, but it will save you money and jazz up your dinner table. We throw a little cilantro into every salad because we can, make pesto and salsa and eat peas fresh right off the vine. Jealous yet? Get digging! If you are really low on space, give Square Foot Gardening a try as we have done here.

This list is in no way comprehensive and there are many more way your family can make a difference. For more ideas, check out a couple of my favorite blogs on the subject, The Green Parent and Green and Clean Mom. And please comment with ideas of your own!

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