Five Easiest Green Changes

Amy Rees
April 18, 2012

1. No more bottled water in regular plastic jugs. Drink from glasses, filter your own water, use refillable jugs (see every option at www.reusablebags.com). Do something other than give into those tempting little 12-oz. plastics from the corner store that pile up landfills faster than toys during a playdate.

2. Deputize your kid as the Light Switch Police Officer. Start with lights off and graduate, perhaps, to power strips for the tv. Kiddo can also moonlight as Toaster/Coffeemaker Unplug Monitor if he can see (but never touch) the outlet. They love to point out our failings, so let them, at least a little. (We're sure you don't let the tap run while you brush-a, brush-a, brush-a those teeth. You do?! Add that to the deputy's responsibilities.)

3. Miss the meat for a day a week. (Except you won't.) Toast and eggs for breakfast, grilled cheese and veggies for lunch, special night -- breakfast for dinner (pancakes and fruit)! Didn't even notice, did you?

4. Use fewer paper towels. To cover things in the microwave, use an inverted plate instead. Stock up on rags you can use you clean your counters. Put together a stack of small napkins that the kids can use with their meals.  Whew, you just saved a bunch of trees.

5. Stock the trunk with canvas bags. Try to answer "Paper or plastic, ma'am?" with "My own!" Stash a bunch in your trunk or near the pile of shoes/raincoats/mail near the front door. Our kids will someday think going to grocery store without your own bags is as weird as talking on a phone that's tethered by a long, tangled curly cord to the kitchen wall.

Bonus points:

6. Do something else. Anything at all you think will help. Just resolve to do X and actually do it. Buy only organic dairy products. Shop at the local farmers' market once a month. Switch to unbleached recycled paper towels. Make a change, even a tiny one, and stick to it. For a fantastic list of ideas, check out the NRDC's www.simplesteps.org site and look at the brilliantly organized "Got a Minute/Morning/Month" ideas.

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From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    Fabkins makes really cute kids cloth napkins instead of paper towels. I just picked up a few at a local street fair. My son loves the surfer themed ones. Super cute- just toss in the wash. Alice Koesterich

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    How about sandwich bags? I use "disposable" containers over and over for lunches, but still find myself needing some baggies. Are there any recyclable/recycled options available? I've only seen garbage bags from recycled materials.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 3

    1) Clean Green - Did you know that the makers of household cleaners do not have to disclose what their products are made of? If you don't know what sorts of chemicals are in them, then why do you want to "clean" your house with them? My kids roll around on the floor, put their faces on the windows, pull up on the counter tops, eat off the dishes. I want to know exactly what their little bodies are coming in contact with! Household cleaners are chalk full of petroleum, phosphates, corrosives, and bleach, all of which can be extremely toxic and harmful to people, especially tiny ones. Good old soap and water, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, etc. clean and disinfect just as well, cost less, smell fresh, and do not cause health risks to your family. The internet offers tons of natural "recipes" for cleaning just about anything. Or, try Seventh Generation products. 2) Recycle - Once you make it a habit, you will never go back to filling up your trash can. Your kids will even remind you! It is such a simple task to place some items in one can, and some in another, but it all makes a huge impact on your child, the landfill, and our earth! You will be amazed at how little trash you have and how many things can be recycled! 3) Refuse the Bag - My friend gave me a little nylon pouch containing a matching shopping bag. I thought, "I will never remember to use this." Boy was I wrong! After pulling it out of my purse a few times at Target to hold my purchases, I was hooked! I love telling the cashier, "I don't need a bag. Thanks anyway." They look at me in amazement, like I am a crazy person. They cannot believe I don't want a bag, much less that I brought my own! It is such a great feeling not having all those plastic bags piling up in my recycle bin. I just roll up my shopping bag and place it back into the tiny pouch. These great bags can be found at container store, www.reusablebags.com, and www.envirosax.com. 4) Change that Light Bulb - It was always such an annoyance to me when I would turn on the light switch and…nothing. Another burned out bulb. I had a whole shelf dedicated to different kinds of light bulbs for all my fixtures. Not any more! I have switched to compact fluorescent bulbs and no longer have to change them. CFLs not only last way longer than traditional light bulbs (about 5-10 years), but they also use less energy. These bulbs have come a long way in their appearance too. There are many different shapes and sizes and the light they put out is much more warm than it used to be. You still have to wait a few seconds for them to reach their full brightness, but they are so worth it. Save yourself the changing, the extra shelf, and lots of energy! 5) Eat Organic - Conventional food it grown with pesticides. I don't want my family consuming pesticide. End of story! Buying and eating organically grown crops is good for family farms, your body, and the planet. They look and taste delicious and fresh. They may cost a little more than conventional foods, but it is worth it to me knowing that I am not putting chemicals into mine or my children's bodies. Buying organic also sends a message to retailers and corporations that people demand quality food grown the way food is meant to be grown, naturally. 6) Wear Organic - Cotton growers use some of the most hazardous pesticides available to treat their crops. It takes about 1/3 pound of pesticide to grow enough cotton for 1 t-shirt. Yikes! No thanks! Finding organic clothing is a little trickier than finding organic food. Thankfully, however, endless choices are only a click away on the internet. Search "organic cotton" on eBay and you will get thousands of hits. There is a huge selection out there of adorable, affordable, organic cotton clothing for babies, kids, and adults. Save the planet pounds of chemicals every time you put on your cute, organic cotton tee! 7) Grow Organic - Don't you just love spending time outside, watching the kids and dog run around in the soft, green grass of your front lawn? Smelling the flowers, playing in the leaves. Stop for a minute and think about what you or your lawn company is spreading all over your idyllic green space. Chemical fertilizer? Chemical weed control? Chemical mosquito spray? Chemical insecticide? Do we really want our children and pets frolicking in the chemicals? Every time it rains or you water your lawn, the chemicals also run off and pollute the storm drains and your neighbors' yards. There are eco-friendly alternatives! Visit your local nursery and ask about natural and organic fertilizer, weed & insect control, and plants. Get on the internet and find eco-friendly pest control companies that use essential oil or borax based treatments. These changes to your surroundings do not take lots of time and effort, but they sure give you peace of mind that your children are playing in a safe and healthy environment. 8) Toss the Plastic - This one may take some getting used to! Are you ready to recycle your Tupperware? Just do it! Plastic containers, especially older ones, can leach chemicals into your food. Heating and freezing them can make it worse. Not to mention the piles of plastic trash that are generated. Try replacing some of your storage containers with glass alternatives. Pyrex makes great bowl sets with plastic lids. The lids keep them sealed tight, but don't touch your food. Try using more foil and less plastic wrap and baggies. There is a great little reusable fabric sandwich wrapper you can use for the kids' lunches that will save endless amounts of baggies! Use SIGG aluminum bottles for toting around water, instead of buying individual plastic bottles. They even make party ware out of corn and sugarcane! If you have to use plastics, try to buy ones that are made of recycled plastic, and/or recycle them after use. For other ideas, go to www.reusablebags.com.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 4

    Great tips. Never thought of the microwave one. Thanks for sharing.

    over a year ago

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