Each year since 1970 nations around the world have celebrated Earth Day, a day dedicated to education and support for environmental protections. We’ve all heard the song “Recycle, Reuse, Reduce” and many of us participate in these practices in our own homes.
Protecting the environment is important to a lot of people, especially families. I want my children to have a future filled with the beauty of the world around them and its natural resources. One of our family mottos comes from an old pioneer adage: “Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, Or do without.” While we aren’t perfect at it, this phrase helps keep us focused and prioritize the things we consume.
One of my favorite books on this topic is Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. While her zero waste lifestyle may seem extreme to some, the principles and ideas she shares have helped us become more aware of our impact on the environment. At the beginning of the book she outlines the overall process that leads to a Zero Waste Home: “Refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do not need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse; and rot (compost) the rest.” (pg. 15)
Here is a Top Ten list of ways we can make small changes in our families that have big results for the environment. This is by no means an all inclusive list but rather a jumping off point for those looking to encourage these principles in their own home.
- Buy used. In this digital age you don’t even have to go to the thrift store to search for a used item. Freecycle and Craigslist are a good place to start.
- Pack your children’s lunch and snacks in reusable containers. Or as Bea’s children do, use a cloth napkin (see her website http://zerowastehome.blogspot.com/2011/04/how-to-make-zero-waste-lunch.html for a video from her son on how he packs his lunch).
- Learn as a family. Read books and watch media that teach about the beautiful world we live in. Disney Nature and BBC Earth are both good documentaries that show various aspects of our world.
- Recycle. Find out what recycling programs your city offers. Involve your children in creating bins to house recyclable items.
- Explore the world around you. Go on a hike or nature walk and talk about the different plants and wildlife you see. Get out of your house for a while, you don´t have to go anywhere you can just relax on your outdoor patio furniture to disconnect from social media a while.
- Start a garden. If you don’t have room for a large garden you can plant some herbs or flowers in a small pot. Take care of the plants together as a family.
- Reduce the amount of papers coming in. There are several online “opt out lists” for credit card offers and direct mail. Use Mind Organization for Moms to help organize the papers you need to keep and what you can reuse or recycle.
- When gifting, give experiences rather than things. Instead of a new toy maybe gift a class your child has been wanting to take or a play they’ve been wanting to see.
- Buy in bulk. Cut down on food packaging by bringing your own reusable container and choosing items from the bulk foods section. Check with the store first to see what containers they will accept.
- Learn to make DIY home products. There are great recipes and tutorials online for making your own cleaners, detergents, and soaps. Two of the best householder cleaners, baking soda and vinegar, are probably already in your pantry.
Bea says, “Teach our kids (i.e. future generations) to care for their environment and conserve resources; teach them to live simply and thrive within a life rich in experiences versus one filled with stuff.” (pg. 183) We are blessed with a beautiful world and I want my children to enjoy all aspects of it, including taking care of it. Remember, small changes produce big results!
Question: What ways can we teach our children to protect and appreciate the world around them? How do you incorporate environmental stewardship in your home? We’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas in the comments below.
Challenge: Plan a family activity around one of the 5 Rs. Maybe a trip to the recycling center, learning about composting, or donating less used toys/clothes to a local charity.
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