Words like “green” and “sustainability” may make you feel like you are jumping on a trendy bandwagon, but the principles behind these concepts have been around for years. While we are all probably aware of human impact on the earth and its environment, the need for all of us to tend to environmental matters is becoming more and more urgent.
Along with all the other mom responsibilities we must uphold, we are liable to instill values of caring for the earth to our children. This can be an overwhelming and daunting task, but there are small things we can do in our homes to begin to teach our children to think beyond themselves and their own needs. Simple environmental habits are easy to impart and ease into your family’s daily lives. Your family won’t feel a tremendous difference, but Mother Nature will.
School lunches. A great debate exists between aluminum foil and plastic wrap. Some say foil is better to use because you can wash it, reuse it, and – finally – recycle it. Others say that plastic wrap is the better choice. Despite not being able to recycle it, plastic wrap leaves a much smaller footprint when it comes to manufacturing. One solution? Try not to use either. There are many reusable products created specifically for lunches and snacks. If you wait for online sales, you can reduce the cost significantly and even end up saving money in the long run. You may not get rid of all the foil and plastic wrap in your household, but decreasing your use will end up having a positive impact on the environment.
Laundry. Washing clothes in cold water instead of hot will not make a difference in the cleanliness of your clothes but will make a difference in your bill and your impact on the environment. Make sure your washing machine is full before running a cycle. While it may require a bit more energy, it’s less than running two smaller loads. Watch your drying time – over drying clothes wastes energy. Better yet, invest in a clothesline and dry your clothes outdoors. Connect with your power company and find out what hours of the day are best for doing laundry. Many washers have pre-programmed starting times and making use of this feature can also cut your spending costs and costs on the environment.
Dish Washing. With a family of six, I can easily run three dishwasher loads a day. I hate doing dishes, and the guilt Mother Nature throws my away is something I am not comfortable with. I go back and forth between paper plates and less dishwasher loads or more dishwasher loads and saving trees. But, the one thing that helps preserve - both - my sanity and my hatred for doing dishes is making my family reuse their drinking cups. We all drink water, and I have relinquished the need to wash cups after every meal. Everyone maintains the same cup throughout the day – and sometimes longer – as long as it’s clean, used for water, and doesn’t get mixed up with someone else’s cup. I’d like to think this small action not only makes a difference in our household but, somewhere, some Higher Power is beaming at me for a little action that makes a big difference.
Local food. Would you believe that eating locally grown food is not only more nourishing and exciting for your family but it helps 1) stimulate the local economy; 2) reduce the amount of fuel needed to get the food from the farm to your table; and 3) supports farmers who value proper treatment of the land. Whether you start your own garden, visit a weekly farmer’s market, or participate in a community supported agriculture program – your involvement in a local food movement is a great way to “live green”.
Reusing. It’s difficult for most of us to give up entirely on foods wrapped in plastic packaging. But, if we are going to continue to consume those products, we can also take additional steps to reuse the packaging they come in. Plastic containers made from BPA-free plastic can be used to send lunch items to school. Additional containers are great for storing Legos, small toys, or hair accessories. In addition, start saving other items (egg cartons, scrap paper and used up crayons, for example) for art projects. There are so many great websites that share recycled craft ideas, and they are perfect for creating holiday decorations!
Vegetarian for a day. Did you know that going meatless for a day will have a positive impact on the earth – as well as on your health? The consumption of animal products escalates the impact your actions have on the environment. Compared to a vegetarian lifestyle, it requires a higher amount of fossil fuels to raise cattle than it does to grow vegetables. There is also an increased amount of waste, a greater consumption of water, and more pollution entering the atmosphere to sustain a meat-eating diet. Join forces with Meatless Monday and you will decrease your family’s health risks while decreasing your impact on the environment.
We all need to step up to the responsibility of caring for our earth. Our actions are essential to ensuring that there will be a future for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. The seemingly daunting task can be eased by taking small steps that will not only make a difference in the future of our planet, but it will make a difference to your family’s health, the values you choose to impart to your children, and their lifestyle choices when they are no longer living in your home.
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