In case you didn’t know it, today is EARTH DAY! Today (and on every April 22nd since 1970), there will be thousands of environmental awareness events going on in communities worldwide. Schools, libraries, workplaces, and parks will be buzzing with festivals, workshops, and eco-friendly activities geared towards promoting education about environmental issues. For our family, it’s a good reminder to reevaluate the efforts our family has (or has not) been making to protect the earth for the past year.
Why is the message of environmental stewardship important for families? On a personal, spiritual level, I believe that one of our jobs as functioning members of Creation is to be caretakers of the Earth. On a long-term, global level, I want to ensure that my son (along with the next generation), has the chance to explore and discover the same natural wonders that I’ve been blessed to recreate in. And on a somewhat selfish level, the eco-friendly choice is often the more wallet-friendly one as well.
But while our family is certainly nowhere close to environmental perfection, there are a few easy changes we’ve made over the years that have made an impact on our local community, on our wallet, and hopefully on our son’s world view. Most of them were/are pretty simple in both concept and practice…
1. Cloth Diapers: Well the old adage about cloth-bottomed babies potty training faster than their Huggies counterparts has NOT proven true in our family…but that’s a different post entirely. What HAS proven true for us however, is that cloth diapering (and wipes, and handkerchiefs…) is an easy and healthier alternative that has saved us thousands (!) of dollars. More on cloth diapering in this archived post.
2. Switch to CFL or LED Light Bulbs: Did you know that if every American household replaced just ONE light bulb with a more energy-efficient model, it would save enough energy to light 3 MILLION homes?!?
3. Turn Lights Off When You Leave the Room: This is an easy one to do, as well as to get your kids involved in. C LOVES climbing the diaper table to turn off the light in his room before we leave.
4. Recycle: For a lot of folks this is a no brainer chore that’s done on auto-pilot, but if you’ve got kiddos make sure to take the opportunity to explain WHY some “trash” goes in the green bucket versus the black one.
5. Composting: We just started this last fall (spurred on by leaf-raking season), and I have been amazed at how many items we are able to keep out of the landfill just by having a simple compost bin. Two bonuses – not only is it a good science experiment for C, but we’ll eventually have loads of nutrient rich goodness for our garden!
6. Grow Your Own: Speaking of the garden, grow one! Whether it’s veggies, fruit, herbs, or simply flowers, having a garden is a great lesson for kids in where food comes from.
7. Re-use: Whether its bags at the grocery store, food containers in a lunch box, or drinking vessels in a backpack, there are numerous household storage vessels that can be used over and over again.
8. Eco-commute: For distances closer than 3 miles, we always try to bike or walk when the weather is nice. (But as I said we’re far from perfect – on cold, rainy, or even rushed days we don’t hesitate to hop in the car!)
9. Use the Library: This one is pretty subtle on the surface, but can turn into a big money-saver. Borrowing books from the library means your child has thousands more reading options without taking up any more space in your house. While you’re there, be sure to check out the free literacy activities offered for kiddos – there may actually be a lot your tax dollars are helping to pay, so you may as well partake!
10. Shower Less: Though it might seem out of the question for some , skipping a couple of showers per week may actually be HEALTHIER for your body – and it most certainly saves on water! Not convinced? Check these 5 reasons out.
11. Choose a Gas Efficient Vehicle: A few years ago we weren’t expecting to buy a hybrid car, but we got an offer we couldn’t refuse and have never regretted it. We save so much money on gas that we are hoping to be able to go hybrid for our next car as well!
12. Purge your Closet: Imagine how much more room you’d have in your closet if you got rid of stuff you never wear?!? At the start of each season make a Goodwill run – you’ll gain extra space as well as help out someone less fortunate.
14. Support Local Businesses: Buy local where you can, and not just for food. Local businesses generally have a much smaller carbon footprint than their corporate counterparts.
15. Teach (and Model) Respect for Nature: This is the underlying one that actually encompasses all the others. Tell (and show!) your child not only how to care for the earth, but also why it’s important. Take advantage of all those endless questions and use them for teachable moments.
For those of you that strive to “green up” your lifestyle more and more, are there any big ones that I’ve missed? Like I said our family is far from perfect so I’d love to hear more ideas and strategies for getting a little greener one step at a time.