I truly believe in the notion that every little bit counts, and I find this philosophy particularly important to hang on to when I read reports on the plight of the planet. The news can feel overwhelming and discouraging, but it’s crucial to keep on trucking with the little acts of greenness. Here are 10 easy green tips to cultivate your family’s awareness about the earth and its limited resources. Enjoy these for Earth Day and beyond:
Nurture your little reader. Kids love stories, so books offer an easy way for parents to introduce basic and more complex nature topics to children. Many bookstores and libraries currently have collections dedicated to nature themes. A couple of our current garden-inspired favorites include Zinnia's Flower Garden and The Gigantic Turnip.
Visit your local zoo or aquarium. I actually tend to feel a little conflicted seeing animals in captivity, but zoos and aquariums offer a wonderful way to introduce kids to animals. You can use these experiences as a springboard for conversations about endangered species, and the importance of protecting animals and undeveloped land. Just yesterday, Laurel visited the Boston Aquarium for the first time and she couldn’t stop talking about all of the amazing sea creatures she saw; we ended up spending the afternoon making an underwater mural.
Plant a seed. Whether it’s in a cup, window box, or garden plot, gardening is a wonderful way to teach kids about nature. Marigolds are great if you want to experiment in cups or window boxes – they are easy to grow and kids love how colorful they are. If you have a garden plot, last year we successfully grew radishes, beets, and peas with no experience whatsoever (and Laurel went crazy over the beets and peas), and later in the summer we grew zucchini, which were even less maintenance.
Consider composting. We became hooked on composting following the kind offer from our neighbors to share in their composting space. Our slow and lazy composting method is ridiculously easy, and it is extremely gratifying to see our produce scraps turn into garden material. Composting also is possible in more contained spaces; the folks over at TreeHugger have some recommendations for compost bins that will fit in small spaces (e.g., kitchen, deck, balcony).
Go green under the sink. Pull the toxic cleaning supplies from under your sink and replace them with green alternatives. More and more biodegradable, chemical free cleaning products are being made available at competitive prices. Also, inexpensive every day items like baking soda and rubbing alcohol can be amazingly effective for everyday cleaning.
Recycle from your recycling bin. The recycling bin can be a treasure trove for craft materials – whether it’s scrap paper or magazines (for doodling and collages), toilet paper rolls (for craft projects), or yogurt cups (for planting seeds).
Bring your own bags. We derive considerable peace of mind by bringing our own bags to the grocery store. Many stores offer their own inexpensive brand reusable totes, or if you wish to have something a little more chic, check out Reusable Bags; they have a great selection of shopping, produce, and lunch bags, as well as reusable bottles.
Rethink your commute. Commuting car-free can be difficult if you live off of public transit, but consider carpooling, or driving to the nearest transit station that has a day lot. For errands, consider walking, biking, or taking public transport instead of using the car. Laurel has become a big fan of riding the bus; it has proven a neat way to talk with her about different ways people can move from point A to point B.
Reduce paper mail. I am a huge fan of GreenDimes (which I reviewed earlier this year), an inexpensive online junk mail reduction service. Yes, sometimes the catalogs are pretty to look at, but at the end of the day, the reality is that I don’t tend to shop based on paper catalogs; I just shop when I want to (for better or worse…). Also, get on the online bill paying train to cut down on paper waste in the mail.
Make your dollars count. Consider even a small donation to an environmental organization (but ask them to not include you on their mass mail distribution to save on the follow up paper flyers). Also, more and more eco-conscious retailers are sprouting up where you can make your shopping dollars count. For example, Ecoist is a cool place to get handbags and accessories made from recycled candy wrappers and recycled movie billboards, and they plant a tree for every item they sell.
Image credit: Posh Peacock (original illustration)