Happy Earth Day! This is one of my favorite holidays because instead of a holiday focused on gifts, candy and consumerism, this is a holiday that offers the opportunity to do something good. To teach our children about how to be better stewards of the environment. How to care about something other than themselves. If the planet is not healthy, we will not be healthy either. There has never been a more important time to get children excited about green living. Climate change is a huge threat to the safety and health of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. What we do today matters. Every little bit helps. Here are some of the ways that my family and I are trying to be more green:
1. Planting trees. We have planted about ten trees in our backyard since we have moved into our house and we have plans to plant more. We are lucky enough to have a big backyard in which to be able to do this, but even if you have a small patch of grass, you can do something like have a hanging tomato plant, some flowers, or herbs growing. They will invite bees and butterflies and remove harmful carbon dioxide and turn it into more oxygen for us to breathe.
2. Using reusable grocery bags. In 2007, my New Year’s resolution was to be more green and one of the very first things I did was go out and buy a bunch of reusable grocery bags. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I am still using the majority of the bags that I purchased 7 years ago. I’m starting to replace them now because they are starting to fall apart, but I have use them religiously for 7 years. I’ve forgotten to bring them to the store maybe only a handful of times. Think of how many plastic bags I have saved from polluting the environment! My next step is to try to remember to bring one when I go to other kinds of stores so I can cut out my consumption of plastic bags almost entirely.
3. We only have one car. This may seem like an unpopular choice, but for our family it works. We went down to one car about 4 years ago and we have not regretted it at all. It has saved us a lot of money in gas, inspections, registration, repairs and insurance. My husband turned in his lease and bought a bike with what would’ve been his car payment. So he bikes to work and I keep the car to drive the kids around and get groceries. We rarely drive when we don’t have to and we have only put 24,000 miles on it in almost 4 years. Having only one car on the road doesn’t work for everyone as people live busy lives and have many different places to be, but we have cut down on carbon emissions by a lot by only having the one car.
4. Packing lunches using reusable containers. I had some nice velcro-sealed sandwich and snack bags made from a local woman and I use those when I pack my daughter’s lunch in the morning. I have instructed her not to throw them away, and if they are being cleaned and I use a plastic bag, she brings those home too so I can wash and reuse them. She also brings a hello kitty lunch box instead of a brown paper bag which she will have to throw away. I normally pack her water in a reusable bottle instead of a juice box that she will have to throw away when she is done.
5. We find new purposes for our stuff. The other day we decided that we were going to start giving my older daughter some money to do some chores around the house and we were talking about needing to find something to put her money in. She suggested that we use the tissue box that was just recently emptied. She plans on decorating it and making it her own special place to keep her money. It’s very cost effective, innovative, and environmentally friendly. On the same note, we try to give all our unwanted things a new home by selling them, donating them, or passing them on to a friend who might enjoy them instead of tossing things into the trash.
6. We don’t litter. We have taught our daughters from a very young age that we do not litter. If they have something to throw away and there is not a garbage can nearby, we hold onto it until we find one. One day on a walk around the block, my daughter just started picking up all the litter she saw until she came home to throw it away or put it in the recycling bin. I’m very glad that my daughter already has the sensibility at 5 to want to clean up her neighborhood.
On that note, there is going to be a park cleanup on Sunday, April 27th at noon at Brietbeck park. There will be gloves and bags available and all are welcome to bring a picnic lunch and play on the playground afterwards. You can sign up at CMOO.org or on their Facebook page. Come help keep our park looking wonderful for all to enjoy! I’m sure the squirrels and birds will thank you too.
There are so many ways to help keep our earth healthy. Some are difficult and unattainable for a lot of families, some are as easy as writing an email to a congressman about an issue facing our environment, or using less paper towels or taking shorter showers. Whatever you can do is a help. So don’t feel bad if you can’t do everything, feel good about the things you are doing to help. Your kids will appreciate it and learn how to do things better too.