Parents can take steps to curb consumption and go easy on the earth. As a bonus, by choosing to go green as parents, we are able to save money, something every parent needs. We’re also teaching our kids important lessons about protecting the earth and being conscious.
1. Serve organic and locally grown food at home and try to limit processed food. Food grown with pesticides can impact a child’s development, and locally grown food will be fresher and in season and will help give your child a taste for fresh fruits and vegetables.
2. Cut down on lunch packaging. Use refillable drink containers instead of juice boxes, and fill your own containers with applesauce and yogurt. And limit the amount of plastic bags and packaging by filling your own snack containers with crackers, pretzels and other snacks instead of buying “snack sizes.”
3. Buy nontoxic toys. Choose toys from local U.S. companies, check on recalls and choose wood or hard-plastic toys over the soft-plastic toys (like rubber ducks) that contain PVC, which is known to impact hormone development.
4. Turn waste into art. Have the kids reuse materials that would otherwise be wasted: Turn old socks into puppets, plastic jugs into watering cans and paper towel rolls into shakers. Using old materials is a great way to get creative and learn about protecting the planet.
5. Get outside! Kids are suffering from “nature deficit disorder.” On average, kids spend just 30 minutes of unstructured time outdoors each week—but they spend 40 minutes a day in front of the TV. Whether hiking and camping as a family, or simply running around the backyard, regular outdoor activity can have huge positive health benefits.
6. Use nontoxic cleaners. Read the labels on cleaners and make sure that they disclose the ingredients, and buy from companies whose products you can trust. Cleaners should not contain ammonia or bleach or even artificial fragrances that can cause reactions in kids, particularly those with asthma. You can also make your own safe household cleaner from distilled white vinegar and water (it’s great for mirrors!).
7. Carpool. Kids are going to so many different lessons and events, but that’s no reason to make tons of separate car trips. New online services such as dividetheride.com are making it possible for parents to use less gas, save on stress and help conserve energy.
8. Plant a garden. Even a few tomato plants grown outside in pots can help teach kids about the process of growing; the importance of soil, water and sunshine; and the reward of caring for plants that then produce flowers and food.
9. Cut down on consumption. Instead of always buying the latest gadgets, get involved in swapping toys with other parents as kids outgrow them, purchasing used toys, or making alternative toys, such as playhouses, out of cardboard boxes.
10. Get active! Encourage your local school to serve healthier lunch options in the cafeteria, campaign to get soda companies out of the schools and to use nontoxic cleaners in the classrooms and organic lawn products on the playing fields. See sustainabletable.org for ideas.
This first appeared in E/The Environmental Magazine.